Last Sunday, despite the wet and wintery weather, The Significant Other and I headed into the local woods to catch some fresh air. For me an opportunity to bring along my old Leica M (Type 240) and the vintage Yashica Auto Yashinon-DX 1:2 50mm lens I have on loan from a friend.
It was my first spin with this M42 mount, vintage “nifty fifty” lens made in Japan, attached via an adapter to my (for digital also vintage) rangefinder Leica M. And I have to admit I struggled a bit making this combo work together. The challenge is getting the focus right, especially when shooting wide open (which is the reason in the first place to shoot a vintage fixed aperture f/2 lens).
It’s not the manual focusing per se, because my Leica is all manual anyway. The thing is that these vintage non Leica lenses, when attached via adapter, don’t couple with the cameras rangefinder mechanism, which would allow proper focusing in the Leica’s optical viewfinder. So to be able to focus at all, I have to rely on the live view of the camera. And here’s the problem with that. As said before, also my digital rangefinder is sort of vintage, having been released in January 2013. That’s nine years old. And, for digital, that is kind of stone age old.
I love my Leica M, I love the image quality from this wonderful sensor. But the biggest deficit of this camera is the LCD screen on the camera rear. It is simply unusable for determining exact focus when shooting wide open with a fast lens. It does have focus peaking, but it doesn’t help much. So, on location, focusing is a bit of a guessing game. For many images, only eventually viewing it on a computer monitor will show whether you nailed the proper focus pane.
What would kind of solve the problem is using my attachable electronic viewfinder to the Leica, but I forgot to bring it….
But enough of ranting about using the Yashica Auto Yashinon-DX 1:2 50mm with my Leica. What is evident from these sample images is the character of this lens when shooting wide open. I love the bokeh. It creates a wonderful background for the subject when shooting at f/2 or f/2.8. And this for a lens that can be found for less than 50 USD / EUR on the used glass market.
I also did a few test shots of this wood stack, stopping down. This image was taken at f/5.6. The sharpness across the image is quite amazing. Then it really started to snow. And as there is no such thing as weather sealing in this old camera or in the vintage lens, I packed it away.
But even with these few test shots I was quite impressed. Image quality of the Yashica Auto Yashinon-DX 1:2 50mm is really acceptable. Sure it won’t match the IQ from my 50mm Leica Summicron f/2. But the Leica original lens is also more than 30 times as expensive, even as a used specimen. Next opportunity I will do some side by side comparisons so you can judge yourself.
Have a great Tuesday and stay safe