Today, while I was out with the family running errands, I decided to stop by a camera shop I had never been to before. Camera Works, in Durham, NC, has quite the collection of old cameras and lenses. The owner, Sebastien, was very helpful and we enjoyed a bit of conversation. While there, I decided to buy two old Leica M-mount lenses. A Summaron 35mm f/3.5 and a Hektor 135mm f/4.5 were fairly priced and in good condition. The 35mm could stand to have some haze removed but it’s not so much that I believe it will negatively impact my ability to make images with it. The 135mm appears nearly perfect. Excited to try them out on my new A7R II, later this evening I took a drive over to one of the lakes near the house to do a little walkabout with them to see what I could see.
Before leaving the house I made this shot of one of my daughters, using the Leica Hektor 135mm f/4.5. The out of focus area is gorgeous. It’s 15-blade aperture makes some really nice, soft, round highlights. Sharpness at f/4.5 leaves no reason to stop down unless you need the extra depth-of-field. I’m very pleased with the lens for portraits. Color is good, contrast is great, and handling is simple. The bokeh of this lens at f/4.5 is not what I was expecting. I usually choose a faster lens to get the kind of separation seen here. I have no idea what Leica did to make this lens behave so well but I’ll take it!
Below is one of the first shots I made with the Summaron 35mm. Sharp in the middle and a little nervous looking in the out of focus areas. There is some particulate on the aperture blades that may be contributing to some of this but that’s just a guess. What really interests me in a lens is its character. If you’ve read any of my previous posts where I’ve used the old Minolta and Olympus lenses, you’ll see that I regularly mention that. The summary of my perspective on lenses is, character trumps perfection. This 1950-something Leitz Wetzlar Summaron certainly has that in spades. Far from perfect corners but it does create an excellent atmosphere. The nervousness of the out of focus areas does add a bit of tension but not to the point of being a distraction, as long as the composition’s subject is strong and well placed.
This bit of stump standing out of the sand along the lake’s shoreline was of interest to me. I like the lighting, the natural diagonal of the subject in contrast to the repeating horizontal lines of the water breaks and the convergence of the distant sections of land on the horizon. The photo certainly won’t win any awards but I love it! That, in the end, is all that matters.
Here is another shot made with the Summaron 35mm. Both the lens and the A7R II handled the scene well.
I just love black and white photos. I don’t think they’re better than color, they just better suit my personality. This evening while chatting with my Dad, who prefers color, I made up this comparison to explain my preference: “Black and White vs Color is like the musical equivalent of the difference between a small Jazz trio vs a Big Band. They both are important and they both play good music but one is pensive while the other tends to playfulness.” Black and white photos, to me, are like the small jazz trio. With not but a piano, an upright bass, and a drummer using brushes on the snare, much is said with little. I’ll recommend to you an evening well-spent: Pour yourself a drink, load up Alan Broadbent’s album ‘Every Time I Think of You’ and play his rendition of Miles Davis’ ‘Blue in Green’. While listening to that, take your time looking through some good black and white photos. You’ll find your state of mind drifting away from the busy day you had and into a relaxed, thoughtful place where the left side of your brain gets to enjoy some attention while the right gets a little rest. A spa day for your senses.
This image does it for me, finding relevance in its simplicity.
I’m not decided on this one. An overturned tree along the shore revealed its roots in a particularly interesting way but I couldn’t find a good shot that really made it stand out as a subject on its own. There was a large blank area between the roots that I chose to use instead as a frame. I probably should have left it off this post but I’ve already typed all of this so… whatever. Take it or leave. 🙂
This little outing turned into quite the mess. The low water line in the lake permitted me access to some shoreline I’ve not previously been able to reach. Most of the shoreline was dense enough that I could walk on it without issue but the further I wandered the softer it got. I was determined to reach a distant point where a sandbar had formed. I thought it would make an excellent spot to stand for shooting the shoreline from further out in the water. Good idea, wrong shoes in which to execute it. I got about 200 yards from it when quite suddenly the ground went from muddy to darn near quicksand. Next thing I know, my feet have disappeared into a primordial ooze and I’m sunk calf-deep. I almost lost my balance, falling forward with camera and lens. I did manage to get enough push with my hands in the mud to keep my camera out of the muck. In an attempt to free my legs, I managed to rip apart my brand new flip flops. I dug the busted flops out of the mud and crawled back in the direction I came. Now barefoot and filthy, with a long hike back to the car, I was concerned about cutting my feet to pieces on razor clams and broken glass. Low and behold, a divine gift floated ashore before me – a large, lady’s flip flop with a sort of zebra pattern made out in glitter. I’m a man with a beard and nine kids – I can rock this girly shoe! Now, in my compromised state, reaching the sandbar was completely out of mind. I started the long awkward walk back to the car. A few hundred yards back down the shoreline, tucked back in some long grass, I came across the partner to the used, blinged out flip flop I was wearing on my right foot. With both my hooves well-shod, I got back to shooting.
Nearing the end of my hike, a warm.. ok a HOT sunset cast its beautiful light upon the waters. I’ve pushed the effect in post for this shot. The Summaron, internal haze and all, performed well with such strong lighting.
It’s going to take a lot more shooting with both of these new-to-me Leicas but, from what I’ve seen so far, there is a lot going for them to possibly be awarded the honor of place in my travel bag. I typically load out my bag with 3 lenses. Two in the hold and one on the camera. This keeps things light and limited. I like limits when I’m out shooting because it forces me to be more creative and intentional in my pursuit of capturing images worth sharing with you.
I hope you enjoyed the photos and post. If you have any questions about anything I talk about on my website, please don’t hesitate to ask. There is a comment section provided below and I read every one of them.
One last thing: The A7R II is an awesome camera! Sony bought back my original A7R and I used that money toward a pre-order of the A7R II. I really liked my A7R but this 42-megapixel replacement is top-notch, scoring the highest of any camera ever tested by DXO Labs. Image quality aside, the improvements to the EVF and lens mount are warmly welcomed. I think my favorite feature is the addition of the sensor-based image stabilization. This makes my entire collection of old manual lenses, stabilized lenses. Since I don’t usually travel with a tripod, this will be a noticeable improvement to my image-making process. I could have really used it when I shot that temple inside Batu Cave in Malaysia.
Next up, I’ll be sharing some images from a recent outing where I put an old Minolta MD mount Kiron 70-150mm f/4 lens through its paces with some surprising results.