|At the Parthenon, Athens, Greece, 1955. Photograph on Kodachrome film with this Leica IIIC|
|With permission from The Online Darkroom|
|With permission from The Online Darkroom.|
The Summitar lens was in production from 1939 to 1953. The war-time production lenses were uncoated, but were anti-reflection coated from 1946 on. The construction was a complicated design of 7 elements in 4 groups. It must have taken a heroic effort to compute the ray paths by human computers using mechanical calculators and trigonometry tables. The central sharpness is superb, but the edges fall off, and there is some field curvature. This can be used creatively, and regardless, "sharpness" is not normally the factor that makes a photograph successful.
These older Leica bodies have a screw mount for the lenses. The thread is 39mm × 26 turns-per-inch or threads-per-inch (tpi). This was a Whitworth threading standard, which was common in microscope manufacture in the early 20th century. Hundreds of different lenses from German, English, and Russian companies were made for this 39mm mount, but focal lengths other than 50mm require an auxiliary viewfinder to show the correct frame. This is a different 39mm than the 39×0.75 thread used for large-format Copal 1 and many other shutters. And it is different than the 39F pitch used for 39mm filters that screw into the front of many Leica lenses. Confusing? Yes, of course.
The Summitar lens is a bit quirky. My example (and maybe all of them?) has a lot of field curvature, so the edges of a flat object will be fuzzy. But a typical scene with the subject near the center has smooth out of focus area around the edges. This out of focus appearance is known as bokeh. Thirty years ago, almost no one thought about it, but now digital photographers are obsessed with the topic. The newer Type 2 and Type 4 50mm f/2.0 Summicron lenses that I use on my Leica M2 body are "better", but I rather like the old Summitar. It feels good to have my dad's camera in operation again. He would be pleased.
|Village Elders, Siran Danda, Gorkha region, Nepal.|
|School girls, Dhulikhel, east of Kathmandu.|
|Young ladies of Nepani, Gorkha District, Nepal.|
|Cooking pots at Thubten Choling Monastery, Solu Khumbu region.|
|Tools at Serlo Monastery, Solu Khumbu region.|
|Hanging around in Kathmandu. Note: most mannequins in Nepal are European ladies (but maybe made in India??).|
For an earlier article about how I have used Leica cameras to record urban decay, click this link. Thank you!
Mike Johnson, former editor of Camera & Darkroom magazine and now author of The Online Photographer, wrote an excellent article in 1992 about Leicaphilia.
35MMC has a useful article titled 7 Reasons You Should Own a Thread Mount Leica. I agree with the author that these cameras slow you down and make you think. You just can't spray and pray like the digital crowd and then doodle around with Lightroom for weeks culling files, pretending that you are an artist.