Shooting with a 60 year old lens

Winter Portrait of a Lady
1/125 sec | f/4 | ISO 1600

I was very much looking forward to this, shooting with a 60 year old lens. My Dad gave me a vintage 90mm Leica Summicron F/2 for Christmas (thanks, Dad, for the awesome present). The beauty of the Leica M system is that you can attach any lens from the Leica (M)esssucher (=rangefinder) system introduced back in 1954 to modern Leica digital cameras with an M-Mount. And as I have acquired a (for digital camera standards also vintage) used Leica M (Type 240) about a year ago, the 90mm is a great addition to my small collection of Leica prime lenses.

Leica Summicron 1:2/90
Leica Summicron 1:2/90

This old lens is made of pure metal and heavy as a brick (the camera is heavy as a brick too). But craftsmanship and optics are truly sublime. Those lenses can take a beating and still function perfectly. This is why even older Leica lenses still cost quite a bit of money, and the after market prices of modern Leica lenses are not much lower than what they cost new.

Mainly due to the bad weather we were having since Christmas, and thrown in our total Lockdown, there wasn’t much opportunity to try the new (old) kid on the block. But the other day, The Significant Other and I escaped to the ruins of a nearby medieval abbey where I took a few test shots.

Shooting all manual (this is what the Leica rangefinder system is all about) takes some getting used too. And, after the first tries, I have to admit that shooting 90mm will require some more practice. Shooting wide open, this fast Leica lenses have a very shallow depth of field and the focal pane, where everything is sharp, is super narrow. And focusing (with me wearing glasses) through the optical viewfinder of the rangefinder system is kind of hard.

There is focus peaking in the M240, but at least in the low light of a cloudy and snowy late afternoon, I had a tough time getting the eyes of The Significant Other properly in focus. And using the LCD back screen did not help either, as the camera and (long) lens combo (without any stabilization) was just too heavy to hold it steady in the waning light and still get fast enough shutter speeds to avoid any camera shake. I do have an electronic viewfinder that I can put onto the hot-shoe of the camera, this probably would have made things much easier.

Winter Portrait of a Lady
1/350 sec | f/4 | ISO 1600

But the 90mm is an awesome portrait lens and thus a welcome addition to my Leica arsenal. The dreamy bokeh, even at f/4, is so beautiful. And this lens has F/2. At next opportunity, I will take the 90mm Summicron for another spin, this time with the electronic viewfinder.

Wish you a great Wednesday

Marcus

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20 thoughts on “Shooting with a 60 year old lens

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  1. Good for you, for taking that heavy lens out. I love the color rendition and the bokeh in these shots. I hope you keep playing with it. When I began using a 50-yr-old Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens I had a terrible time trying to see what I was doing and getting the image in focus. It’s still rather hit and miss but when it works, it’s lovely, just as you have shown here with the Summicron. Well worth the effort!

  2. What an awesome gift to add to your collection. Dad did very well and it looks so retro and cool.
    Also love the picture and as always I am a fan of your work. Best wishes and greetings to both of you. Hugs

    1. Thanks so much, Maj. I’m fully invested in buying only used gear for a couple years now. I never got a bad lens or body, and as after market prices are very stabile, you can try lenses or cameras and then sell them again, without making loss.

  3. Cool lens! Lovely portraits. I too look around now and again for old Minolta glass (or any other a mount lenses) to use with my camera.

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