Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Successful Experiment: Pentax Takumar 24mm Lens on my Leica M2


When I travel overseas and need to pack light, I often take my Leica M2 rangefinder camera with its compact 35mm and 50mm f/2.0 Summicron lenses (and light meter, filters, and hoods). But recently, I have been thinking wide, which must go along with my increasing girth. Some options:
  1. New Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux-M lens. $7500 in USA. (Wow)
  2. Used (OK, "pre-owned") Leica 24mm f/2.8 lens. About $1800. (Lesser wow)
  3. Used Zeiss Biogon 25 mm f/2.8 ZM lens. About $750.
  4. New Skopar 24mm f/4.0 lens. About $400
Of course the genuine 24mm M lens or the 25mm Zeiss would be best, but realistically I would not use them all that often. But we have a clean Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 24mm f/3.5 lens for the Pentax Spotmatic in the cabinet. It has a longer register distance to the mount than true M lenses, making room for an adapter. So I bought a $20 Fotodiox M42-Leica M adapter from Amazon and did a test run. (Note: all the M42 thread-mount Pentax Takumar lenses are excellent performers on film.)
Chinese specialty companies make adapters to fit just about any older manual SLR lens to most so-called mirrorless digital camera bodies. This gives new life to many beautiful classic film lenses. Most longer focal lengths, around 50mm or more, perform really well on digital bodies. The wide angles sometimes have problems with digital sensors, but in that I was using film, I was going to use a lens designed for film on the correct sensing media.


The good: The optical results were better than I expected. I do not have a genuine Leica 24, so I have no basis for comparison. Sure, it is not as "sharp" as my 35 Summicron, but so what? Sharpness phobia consumes pseudo-photographers on digital camera web pages. For $20, I am pleased.

The clumsy: Framing is a problem. If I move my eye left and right and up and down the maximum extent across the M2's eyepiece, I think I see most of the 24mm coverage. The lens blocks part of the view, and using the genuine Takumar hood is hopeless. To do: buy a 24mm auxiliary finder. Focus is totally manual.

The heavy: The Takumar with its Fotodiox adapter is a bulky and rather heavy cylinder.

Here are some examples from Romania and Greece. The film was Fujifilm Acros, exposed at EI=80. Praus Productions in Rochester, New York, developed the film in Xtol. I scanned the film with a Plustek 7600i scanner using the Tri-X 400 profile (the SilverFast software does not have an Acros profile).
Rooftops, view from Kronhaus B&B, Braşov, Romania, 24mm Takumar lens. 
Room with a view, dormer window at Kronhaus, Braşov, Romania. Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron lens. 
Room with a view, dormer window at Kronhaus, Braşov, Romania. Takumar 24mm f/3.5 lens. 
Our room at a bed and breakfast in Braşov, Romania, had interesting views over the old tile roofs in the historic center. The two photographs above show the difference in coverage between the 35mm lens and the 24mm. The exposure is a bit different, and I think the 35mm Summicron does a slightly better job at distinguishing subtle tonal variations.
The view of the upper town and the Gothic tower of the Lutheran Cathedral of Saint Mary in Sibiu, Romania, is from the Council Tower. I used a yellow filter on the 24mm lens to darken the sky. The photograph is through glass, which you see in the upper left.
This abandoned hotel, possibly once called the Angela, is in Nerantza, Greece, a few km west of Corinth on the Gulf of Corinth. I have photographed here in 2011, but the 24mm lens with black and white film gives an appropriately gloomy look to this 1960s hulk.
Never-complete hotel, Nerantza, Greece


The 24mm Takumar lens works well on the Leica M2. Framing is clumsy and you need to guess the distance of your main subject, but that is not too critical with a wide angle lens. I already had the 24mm lens, so $20 for an adapter was a bargain way to get wide angle coverage. A 24mm auxiliary finder would be helpful.

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1 comment:

Mike said...

I've had one of those 24mm Takumars for many years and have gotten a lot of use for it beyond my original goal of using it for indoor architecture. Pretty amazing you can hook it up to a Leica M2. Also nice that you can get a Spotmatic these days for little more than the cost of that adapter.