Two Leicas and Some Busted Flip Flops

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!

Sony A7R II w/ Leica Hektor 135mm f/4.5
Sony A7R II w/ Leica Hektor 135mm f/4.5

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.

Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5
Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5

Here is another shot made with the Summaron 35mm.  Both the lens and the A7R II handled the scene well.

Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5
Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5

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.

Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5
Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5

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. 🙂

Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5
Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5

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.

Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5
Sony A7R II w/ Leica Summaron 35mm f/3.5

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.

6 thoughts on “Two Leicas and Some Busted Flip Flops

  1. Tom- In your last post, you were questioning your whole place in the scheme of things as an artist. This post, you were 100% an artist in almost every word you said- and certainly- AS ALWAYS- in every picture you posted. It’s like telling my daughter what an amazing voice she has- you just don’t realize how good you really are! Other people can see it….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank very much for your review on digital rev about zeiss24-70mm. Almost bought that lense then stopes my self and checked your website. Would say have seen few best picture in my life.

    Recently I bought Sony A7ii. Wanted to ask for suggestion… Which adaptor and lense should I buy… It would be really great help if you could suggest me from your busy time…
    Once again thanks very much.




  3. Hi Azad,
    Thanks for stopping by to check out the website. I certainly can give you a few recommendations if you’re interested in going with the manual lenses. In my collection, I have MD/MC Minoltas, Olympus Zuiko OM, and now Leica M. I believe that the best, most interesting lenses I’ve come across have been the Minoltas. They’re a little larger than the Olympus and Leica but they make up for it in their quality. The best thing about the Minolta lenses is that they’re still fairly easy to find on eBay and relatively inexpensive. Here is a short list of lenses and adapter I would look for:
    Adapter – Fotasy MD-A7II. This adapter costs $15 on Amazon and it adapts both Minolta MD or MC lenses to your A7II.

    Wide-angle – Minolta MD Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8 ($300-450 USD) or Rokkor-X 28mm /f2.8 ($65-125 USD) The 24mm costs a lot more than the 28mm due to popularity. The 28mm is a very good lens, it just didn’t get the same following as the 24mm so the prices stayed low on it. Be aware that the 24mm also comes in a ‘VFC’ version which has an extra ring for controlling the look of the out of focus area. This is a great lens but really it’s a collectors item. Save the money (about $650) and pass on the VFC version of the lens.

    Medium – Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.4 ($70-90 USD)

    Medium-Tele – Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 135mm f/2.8. This lens is sharp and has the creamiest bokeh.

    Walk around Zoom – Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 Macro (3rd Gen) This one is hard to find but if you find one, it is stellar even by modern standards. It’s so good that Leica consulted Minolta to use their optical design to make their Vario-Elmar 35-70mm. Its the same lens, internally, as the Minolta but costs way more. The 3rd Generation Minolta version of the lens had nice modern coatings and a Macro mode which allows for 1:4 close-ups. I’ve found that this lens spends the most time on my camera when I’m traveling. It’s flexible and performs well wide open at any focal length.

    Interesting lens – Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f/1.4 or f/1.2. I own both and they’re amazing lenses. While not the most contrasty lenses wide-open, they make beautiful images. Stop them down one or two clicks and they get razor sharp! The f/1.2 is harder to find than the f/1.4 version. I’d start with the cheaper f/1.4 version and if you like what you see with that, then go hunting for the f/1.2. They both share a similar “feel”.

    When buying any of these lenses, try to find ones that include all the peripherals like a hood (if one was ever made for it) and case and caps. I’ve bought lenses that didn’t come with a hood only to later buy it separately. I’ve paid dearly for this as some of these hoods sell for as much $200 due to their rarity. If you ever want to resell the lens, it’ll sell faster and for more money if you have hood, caps and case.

    Websites I use for buying lenses: (Best rating system for used equipment. Five-star company with the best customer support over the phone) (risky as to what you may get but at least eBay protects the buyer) (good rating system on their used equipment) (good rating system on their used equipment) (good for lens adapters)

    I hope that gives you a decent start. If you’ve not shot with manual lenses before and need a little help getting started, let me know and I’d be happy to give you a hand.




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