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Leica M2 with Summaron f2.8

If you want to hop down the page these are links:  Leica 1  Leica M2   Leitz 35mm Elmar   Leitz 35mm Summaron

There's a bit of history as to how I ended up with the M2/Summaron combination I now use...

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Leica 1
I am a long-time admirer of the work of James Ravilious, and in reading up about him I found out that he used the old, uncoated, Leitz Elmars and the 28mm Hektor. Being a bit dim it took me a long time to realise that I had an uncoated Elmar on the front of an old Leica 1 that I could call on which is my step-father's camera. I borrowed it and it seemed to wind on and the shutter operated, so I put some Tri-X in and gave it a go.

Leica 1 with captive 50mm f3.5 Leitz Elmar

The photographs that I took with the Leica 1 seemed to be taking me along the right lines.

Leica 1|Tri-X|HC-110

Leica 1|Tri-X|HC-110

Leica 1|Tri-X|HC-110

There are loads more, but I can't go on forever. In any case, there's still some way to go.

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Leica M2
I prefer wider angle lenses than 50mm, and so, if I was to pursue the old uncoated Leitz course, I would need either need a Hektor 28mm or a 35mm Elmar. And, of course, as the 50mm Elmar on the Leica 1 is captive, I'd need a newer Leica... The cheapest way in was for me to buy an M2. So I did.  I had it serviced to make sure the shutter speeds were good, and now it's all super spiffing. The viewfinder is so bright, and the rangefinder patch so clear compared to other rangefinders I've since tried that I can't imagine a better camera that takes a Leitz rangefinder lens. I do find the absence of metering a bit of a pain, but I can't afford a more modern Leica and I'm not sure I would want to get away from the mechanical M2 in any case; there's less to go wrong. And I like cogs and sprockets and clockwork, and the craftsmanship manifested in the M2 is just such a nice thing to work with and now be part of.

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Leitz 35mm Elmar
The Hektor, although I prefer 28mm to 35mm, has f6.3 as it's maximum aperture which is clearly a bit restrictive, so I tried to track down an f3.5 35mm Elmar. The first one, luckily, I had on approval as it was sticky in operation and the glass was a bit cloudy, but the second one is perfect, even though it dates, I believe, from the 1920's!

Leitz 35mm f3.5 Elmar

These Elmars are not that common, especially in good condition, but neither are they prohibitively expensive compared to other Leitz lenses, largely, I suspect, because Leica/Leitz's more recent 35mm lenses are so good rather than because the Elmar is bad. A lens is only worth what someone will pay for it, though, and I have become aware that Leicaland is populated by collectors and not necessarily photographers...

Leica M2 with Leitz f3.5 35mm Elmar

Now we're talking:

Leica M2|Leitz 35mm Elmar|Tri-X|HC-110

Leica M2|Leitz 35mm Elmar|Tri-X|HC-110

Leica M2|Leitz 35mm Elmar|Tri-X|HC-110

Leica M2|Leitz 35mm Elmar|Tri-X|HC-110

I could go on, but although the images are just what I want, living with the Elmar wasn't easy. The aperture lever is on the face of the lens and I was using a slip-on lens hood, which had to come off so I could push the aperture lever about. I had also made the hood into an effective rectangle with some plastic tape, which did good things (and I never had any flare issues with either Elmar even though this is supposed to be problem) but which I had to reorientate each time I focused as the whole lens turns and the rectangle needed to be returned to square after every focus adjustment. So I began to look for a lens that might give me the Elmar look but which was a little more modern in terms of design. I didn't want (and couldn't afford) a modern Leitz M-Mount lens as I was keen to retain a "vintage" approach to both the look of the images and to my photography as a concept because I was enjoying using these older lenses for their own sake.

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Leitz 35mm f2.8 Summaron

 Leitz f2.8 35mm Summaron

Leica M2 with Summaron f2.8 and Gossen Lunasix_Pro F

Using the M2 and Summaron I just feel that every time I press the shutter there's going to be something good at the end of the process.

Leica M2|Leitz 35mm Summaron|HP5|Perceptol

There's a luminosity to the tones, an unobtrusive pin-sharp resolution right across the frame, no vignetting... As far as the images are concerned It's all just perfect. I'm wondering if the Elmar didn't lend a different tone to affairs, but the Summaron is sharper across the frame. My sample is actually dreadfully stiff in focus operation, but I like this as I can set the focus at a point that I know will, for a given f-stop, still leave infinity in focus and it becomes a bit of a point and shoot situation. If the focus was less stiff this may not work!
In case there's any doubt, if I want a picture to be as good as possible, and a 35mm lens would do the job, I would want to use the Leica. At this point I could include any number of further images and they would all look good and they would all demonstrate why it is that my Summaron lens is the best I shall ever own. That doesn't mean it's the camera/lens combination I always use, but that's another story.

I'm not a big fan of rangefinder focusing I'm afraid. It just seems to take me long time. With an SLR I don't think it takes me any time at all, and, together with the whole metering with a separate meter the business of taking a photograph becomes a bit of a labour. The camera in its bag, with my meter, is quite bulky. So, why continue? Why not just use the OM's? Or some other camera? Well, the M2 is the only way I have of using the Summaron, and even the Elmar, come to that. For that reason it's the last camera I'd part with - apart from the Trip 35! I know, crazy, huh? But you should read up on the Trip!

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