Camera & lenses combo is like pairing a meal with the right wine.:hinting
My camera choice depends on my mood of the day. The requirements for work or for leisure, and how heavy a kit I want to carry are all subjective factors. I generally pick between between a few of my favorites: a lighter Panasonic GM1, a compact Sigma FP, a Leica M10 or a Leica SL2. For this November day in 2019, I was out for a casual walk and wanted to take my time, so I picked my rangefinder M10 + Grip + fingerloop.
With my vintage lenses, I categorised them by suitability for weather. For example, the Summitar is my cloudy day lens, and Elmar screw mount is my sunny day lens. My pick was an old Elmar 35mm this sunny Summer day in Sydney.
The Elmar 35mm F3.5 Screw Mount Lens is released in 1930. This was the first interchangeable lens that Max Berek designed for the original Leica (I learnt from Erwin Puts’ Leica Lens Compendium)
I don’t have a lot of experience with this 35mm lens, but it is tiny, looks like a retractable Elmar 50 but cannot be extended. I used it for portraits previously on Olympus OMD EM1/Panasonic GM1 and didn’t like it, as it was a blend performer on the crop sensor. Just unremarkable photos. I want to test it on the full-frame 24mp M10 sensor and see the lens character / fingerprint properly. This is an odd pairing of old lens with new body, that I frequently do.
I set my Leica M10 on Aperture Priority, and the Elmar between F4.5 – F9, and set it on hyper-focal and want to do some street photography around the old Powerhouse museum. Unfortunately the area on the weekend was really quiet, so it was rather uneventful on the street.
Took a few more steps and turned the corner, I saw the UTS Business School by Frank Gehry. I was there last time at is original open day a few years back. I could not get to the back of the building then, because the area was under construction and incomplete. Now the old train track at the back of the building is renovated as the Sydney version of the New York’s Highline. It provided me a direct access to the sculptural brick facade.
35mm focal length is wide but not too wide, so I was encouraged to move in closer and closer to the building. Under the Summer high angle Sunday, I circled around the building at different angle and distance, try to capture the essence of the form. Surprisingly it is the reflection of the sky on projected windows, rather than the interesting geometry guided my shots.
Looking up to the leading lines compresses contrasting interests that filled the frame, and got me focused on the composition. With the hyperfocal setting, I worked the scene without fiddling with any settings and purely concentrated on framing the pictures. It was all about searching on the viewfinder to match what my mind desires to capture.
I had a great session on the day, but the Leica M10 back LCD screen do no justice to the actual raw file. The Fotos app connected to my phone and I am already seeing great jpgs, but I was unsure about the quality of image from this 90 years old lens in detail. Not until I got back home to import the files onto Lightroom, I cannot be sure.
The files off the M10 sensor is typically a touch more vibrant than other cameras I used and it is no different to this set. The vintage lens is sharp, epecially closed down in aperture. It renders the texture of the bricks wonderfully. The raw file is flat but full of information. Vintage lens like these has slightly lower contrast, as it provide a more malleable base for post-processing, similar to log profile in video files. It is the reason why I call the Elmar a Sunday day lens, as it will not crush the shadow or bloat-out the highlights. Essentially it is lowering the dynamic range, which is very handy in a high contrast scene like this. With quick tuning and adjustments on saturation and contrast, content captured is full of structure and micro details.
May be it is the simpler lens construction of the Elmar with four glass elements in three groups, there is a sense of transparency and liveliness that I don’t get with newer lens.
Optically this lens is not perfect, but I will say the ways it renders is emotional. Considering this lens was designed for one of the earliest film cameras, its performance is outstanding on a modern Leica digital.
Photos from this session is definitely not my typical ultra-wide angle shots and I am happy with the results.
I hope you like them too.
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