Can you be a practical “Leica Man?”

OK. So why would you care if I am using budget lenses versus more-expensive-than-a-car Leica glass? Shouldn’t I be investing in the glass and not the camera?

In the real world, most of us can’t afford to own an entire suite of Leica glass to cover all photography situations. Until I win the lottery, I certainly can not. Given the need for multiple lenses options, but a few that will rarely get used and a limited budget, here is my solution.

Fairy travel. 28mm Ultron.

Clearly, one of the joys and benefits of shooting a rangefinder m-mount camera body is that you can attach such optically superior Leica lenses to it. I feel fortunate to own two examples, a 35mm Summicron (20 years old) and a 50mm Summilux (40 years old), which are both fabulous. I really love the look of the images produced on my R-D1 and M9 and these lenses. These two lenses account for upwards of 80 per cent of my photography. What about the remaining 20%?

When I decided to make the move away from my D3 and to shoot exclusively with the M9 and R-D1, I calculated what the sale of the Nikon camera body and lenses could generate and realized that I could just about afford to purchase a used M9. However, with just the 30mm and 50mm lenses to use, I wanted to have something longer for portraits and close-up work. And having a wider option would also be nice, particularly with the crop factor on the Epson.

Yet, there wasn’t much (any?) budget to fund even a 90mm Tele-Elmarit or the more desirable 90mm Elmarit-m. For the amount of use the 90mm will get, I really wanted a budget option, which would mean an even older Leica lens, a Konica or the Voigtländer. With this focal length, I don’t need a fast lens. In order to have a reasonable depth of field, I will shoot portraits between f4 to f8. Even at f8, the background goes nicely out of focus if I’m close enough with the 90. And if I use it on the R-D1, which has a shorter rangefinder than the M9, focusing accuracy with a 90mm lens bottoms out at f3.5. Well then, it was a no brainer when a seller answered my WTB ad with a CV 90mm f3.5 APO-Lanthar for sale.

Garden colour abstract. A littile DOF. 90mm f4.

The APO-Lanthar sells new for around $400, which is really inexpensive by Leica standards. I got it for enough less to make me feel good about the purchase. I guess this doesn’t make me a real “Leica Man,” in the words of the always entertaining and pedantic Ken Rockwell. However, as Mr. Rockwell points out in reviews of many budget Nikon lenses, why spend so much more on the faster versions Nikon sells if the lower cost versions will work for your needs? Why indeed.

And a nice thing happened on the way to buying the CV 90: the seller also had a fast 28mm f1.9 Ultron lens for sale that I purchased along with the 90.

Stuffing the zebra: end of the night. 28mm Ultron.

The R-D1 only has framelines for 28mm, 35mm and 50mm. I already had the 35mm and 50mm options. As you might have read here, I use the 50mm Summilux on it to give me a 75mm focal length when I shoot work events. Coupled with the M9 sporting the 35mm Summicron, this is a great two-camera setup. On the street, I use either the 35mm Summicron or a CV 35mm f1.7 Ultron that came with my Bessa. With the new 28, a lens that even Mr. Rockwell considers to be nearly the equal of it’s Leica counterpart for real world photography, I have a slightly wider option for street shooting on the Epson and a wide option for the M9.

Did I mention long exposure? Guess not. Well, I’ve been missing the option to shoot daytime long exposures since my ND filters fit the much bigger filter ring on my former Nikon lenses. With the addition of a $12 step-up ring, I can now attach my ND filters to the 46m filter threads on the CV 28mm. I can hardly wait.

Not quite a long exposure. 28mm f16 1/30s.

All this for less than the cost of a beat up, 50 year old 90mm Elmarit. Of course, the curse of shooting with the M9 will always be that one can use all of the fantastic lenses that Leica has produced over the years. Yet, real world considerations take precedence for now as I am happy to have the new-to-me Voigtländer 90mm and 28mm lenses to use. Guess that makes me something other than a “Leica Man.” It makes me somewhat practical.

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