martes, 14 de junio de 2016


One of the highlights of the 29th Westlicht Camera Auction held at Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie in Vienna (Austria) on June 11th, 2016, was the Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA´, manufactured in 1980.

It is one of the five factory modified prototypes OM-1 cameras for the NASA, of which three were supplied to the Goddard Space Flight Center for the Space Shuttle Missions.

It is an all black camera featuring special, non-outgassing paints and high tech lubricants specified by the NASA, aside from lacking the leatherette, which comes separately, and belonged to Mr. Terry L. Walpole, former owner and Olympus sales manager in United States, as is certified by the letter of authenticity and provenance coming with the camera.

Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ with its mirror in normal position.

As explained by Mr Terry L. Walpole, his until now camera is unused and doesn´t sport any focusing screen, because the Olympus OM-1 NASA was conceived to be used in the mirror lock-up mode.

Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ in mirror lock-up position once the mirror lock-up lever (located above the self timer lever, slightly on its right as it is seen in the image) has been turned approximately 90º until it stops.

As revealed by Mr. Terry L. Walpole, the five factory modified prototypes manufactured by Olympus Optical CO., Ltd. were intended for being used in this mode when shooting. 

In the same way as had happened with the MF Hasselblads EL during late sixties and seventies, the aim was to get as much depth of field and sharp areas as possible in an easy way for the astronauts while holding the camera in front of their chests, their elbows stuck to their bodies and using such manual focusing lenses as the very compact 7 elements in 7 groups Olympus G-Zuiko Auto-W 28 mm f/3.5 wideangle (featuring a weight of 180g, a diameter of 59 mm and remarkable sharpness and contrast together with a very good flare control) and the likewise very small 7 elements in 6 groups G. Zuiko Auto-W 35 mm f/2.8 (featuring a weight of 180 g and a diameter of 59 mm, as well as delivering good sharpness in the center and softness in the corners at the widest f/3.5 aperture, albeit it didn´t matter because the preferred diaphragm to shoot was f/5.6). 

And in spite of being far from reaching the levels of definition, contrast and detail of the MF Hasselblads, the 24 x 36 mm format Olympus OM-1 ´NASA ´ boasted some important advantages: the much greater depth of field than the 2 1/ 4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format Hasselblad, a much smaller size (136 x 83 x 50 mm), a much lower weight (510 g), the reduction to the utmost of the shutter vibration getting pictures shooting handheld always in lock-up mode (with the astronauts being unable to see the image and frame during the photographic act, but using their front chest areas to aim the camera with the aforementioned attached wideangles, whose big depth of field enhanced even more the inherent large capabilities of the 24 x 36 mm format to get maximum depth of field and resolving power between f/4 and f/11, a lesser fatigue in the astronauts after long periods using the cameras, a higher number of shots per roll (36 exposures a 35 mm roll while 12 exposures a 6 x 6 cm 120 roll), etc.

Minimalist top panel of the Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´, identical to the one featured by the standard Olympus OM-1, with only the necessary dials and controls. From left to right we can see the rewind knob for camera back release, the rewind crank in resting position, the meter switch lever, the hot shoe socket, the ASA film speed dial with the very small button just on its right to activate it, the threaded shutter release button with socket for cable release, the film advance lever and the exposure counter window.

But, how did the story of this Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ camera begin?

Which were the reasons that made the most prestigious aeronautic and space organization take the decision of using the OM-1 in both their ground photographic training and flights if they had previously used such top-notch cameras like the 24 x 36 mm format Zeiss Contarex during the second Gemini mission, the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format Hasselblads 550C — during the Mercury missions in 1962 and 1963 and the Gemini spaceflights in 1965 and 1966 —  and the Hasselblads EL with Carl Zeiss Planar 80 mm f/2.8 and the Hasselblad Electric Data camera with Carl Zeiss Biogon 60 mm f/3.5 with 70 mm perforated black and white Panatomic-X film and also perforated 70 mm Kodak Ektachrome SO-68, Kodak 2485 and Kodak Ektachrome SO-121 colour films during the Apollo XI mission in 1969 and some more throughout seventies?

Yoshihisa Maitani, the most influential photographic engineer ever along with Oskar Barnack. He began to design cameras in 1943, when he was 10 years old and built a hand-made box camera, and joined Olympus in 1956. © Olympus Optical Co., Ltd.

It all started seven years before, in 1973, when Yoshihisa Maitani, chief photographic engineer of the Olympus OM Series of Cameras and Lenses Project created the Olympus OM-1, with difference the smallest and lightest 35 mm format reflex camera in the world.

Maitani´s approach when tackling the design and construction of 24 x 36 mm format cameras is an utterly new one, a radical concept departing from the Nikon, Pentax, Canon and Exakta 35 mm reflex cameras which have held a sway over the photographic market since late fifties.

Yoshihisa Maitani, born in 1933, has been a tremendous enthusiast of screwmount Leicas since 1948 (he had got a Leica IIIf when he was fifteen years old and belonged to a school club of photography, inscribing four camera design patents the following year) and of M bayonet Leica rangefinder cameras since  1954.

He knows by heart every design of 35 mm RF cameras, shutters, cams of speed control, escapements for slow speeds, gear trains, ball bearing fittings, etc, incepted by the mechanical Leica pundits Oskar Barnack, Ludwig Leitz, Willi Stein and Peter Loseries,

He loves the Leica rangefinders, particularly the screwmount ones like the Leica II (Model D), the Leica III, Leica IIIa and Leica IIIF Red Dial with their amazingly small size and exceedingly light weight, able to deliver great image quality with their also tiny lenses like the Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5, as well as the M series RF Leica cameras like the M3, M2, etc, with their M lenses, many of which are optical benchmarks in their focal lengths, like the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.

Top view of the Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ . The black dial surrounding the lens mount is the ring for selecting shutter speeds with marks for B, 1 s, 1/2 s, 1/4 s, 1/8 s, 1/15 s, 1/30 s, 1/60 s, 1/125 s, 1/250 s, 1/500 s and 1/1000 s,

But the very brilliant Japanese photographic engineer, a technological and mechanical driving force in himself, grasps the limitations of Leica rangefinder cameras featuring RF coincidence viewing distance determination mechanism regarding microphotography, macrophotography and use of medium and long teleobjectives, so he has been working since 1967 in a revolutionary photographic system whose fundamental keynote is to strive after transferring the legendary Leica rangefinder traits of incredibly small size and stunning low weight to a unique reflex system: the Olympus OM series of cameras, lenses and accessories, which has meant to all intents and purposes a turning point in the scope of 24 x 36 mm format photographic cameras and lenses.

Maitani´s boundless resourcefulness has given birth in 1972 to the Olympus OM System, the most comprehensive reflex one for 35 mm format ever created, whose first camera and flagship is

                                             © Olympus Corporation

the Olympus OM-1, introduced in 1973 featuring tiny measures of 136 x 83 x 50 mm and a weight of only 510 g, turning it into the smallest and lightest  24 x 36 mm format camera in the world, which is accompanied by nothing less than 30 lenses and 12 interchangeable focusing screens.

It´s an utterly mechanical professional camera, very robust, quiet and unobtrusive when you want to be unnoticed, able to endure the hardest use for decades, convenient to handle and extremely competent to flawlessly work under any photographic environment.

Besides, following instructions by Yoshihisa Maitani, Yoshisada Hayamizu, Chief Designer of Lenses of the Olympus Co., Ltd. Optical Department has created a comprehensive array of amazingly small and light top-notch quality lenses rendering excellent sharpness and contrast, in collaboration with other top class members of the formidable Olympus optical team like Toshihiro Imai, Nobuo Yamashita, Toru Fujii, Hiroshi Takase, Yoshiaki Horikawa, Tadashi Kimura and Fumitaka Watanabe.

Meanwhile, the NASA has been painstakingly studying the camera for some years, and in 1980 it takes the decision of acquiring three Olympus OM-1 — two more will be made, one kept by Terry L. Walpole, Olympus sales manager in United States and another one whose whereabouts is unknown — to get pictures during the Space Shuttle missions (scheduled to be carried out from April 12, 1981, with the launching of Space Shuttle Columbia and the subsequent ones at the Goddart Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, 10.5 km in the northeast of Washington D.C ), both throughout the photographic tests and learning of techniques on ground and inside the aircraft in flight.

The NASA experts in photography know well not only the revolutionary traits of the Olympus OM-1 camera in terms of incredible compactness and light weight, but also its great sturdiness and extraordinary reliability in all kind of environments, photographic contexts and extreme temperatures.

They also fathom Yoshihisa Maitani´s tremendous knowledge on materials properties that has enabled him to significantly improve the reliability, durability and optomechanical performance of the camera through the use of breakthrough engineering techniques, a compartmentized assembly design, newfangled materials, modification of the setup of some mechanical areas and replacement of the traditional brass screws for lighter and stronger stainless steel ones, which greatly lower the weight and volume.

And in 1980 there´s available an extensive array of tiny and very light Zuiko lenses boasting built-in depth of preview button for the Olympus OM-1, among which highlight: the 11 elements in 9 groups and 250 g Zuiko 21 mm f/2 (superbly crafted and with a length of only 44 mm), the 7 elemets in 7 groups and 185 g Zuiko 21 mm f/3.5 (delivering high resolving power with outstanding contrast even at full aperture), the 10 elements in 8 groups and 280 g Zuiko 24 mm f/2 (one of the best lenses ever made in this focal length and luminosity), the 9 elements in 8 groups and 245 g I Zuiko Auto-W MC 28 mm f/2, the 7 elements in 6 groups and 230 g G-Zuiko Auto-S 50 mm f/1.4, the 5 elements in 4 groups and 200 g Zuiko Macro 50 mm f/2 (delivering top-drawer resolving power and very good bokeh), the 7 elements in 6 groups and 310 g G-Zuiko Auto-S 55 mm f/1.2, etc.

This way, Olympus Co., Ltd is asked by NASA to manufacture five Olympus OM-1 prototypes including some modifications:

a) The mechanical components of the camera will bear state-of-the-art lubricants specified by NASA, very carefully selected to avoid the risks of normal lubricants which could boil off in vacuum and condense on the optical elements.

b) The cameras will be covered in a high-tech non-outgassing special black paint.

c) The cameras will not feature the usual leatherette cover.

d) The cameras will be used by NASA astronauts in mirror lock-up mode, both on the ground tests and within the Space Shuttles during the missions

The last one, id est, the top priority of using the Olympus OM-1 specially made for NASA in mirror lock-up mode, reveals that the aim is to increase even more the already impressive smooth and low noise operation of the OM-1 shutter release button on being pressed.

As a matter of fact, Olympus had already introduced in the OM-1 since 1973 scads of innovative ideas to reduce the noise and shock brought about by the shutter button release on being pressed, including an air damper to absorb the vibration generated by the mirror movement.

But the NASA wanted to go beyond the awesome handheld shooting stability and silkiness of the horizontally travelled focal plane shutter operation of the Olympus OM-1, making the astronauts steadily shoot hand and wrist using the camera in mirror lock-up position, trying to guarantee to the utmost the obtention of sharp pictures, specially in the range of shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/2 second, where the definition loss is much more frequent.

Top back view of the Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ , identical to the standard Olympus OM-1. In the middle we can see the pentaprism (with the hotshoe on it) and under it the eyepiece of the OM-1 viewfinder, the best ever made for a 24 x 36 mm format camera and with which focusing is easier, because the genius Yoshihisa Maitani loved the 0.92x magnification viewfinder of the Leica M3 in symbiosis with a 50 mm standard lens, and managed to insert into the tiny Olympus OM-1 an extraordinary optical VF also with a 0.92x magnification and showing around 97.5 % of the real image field thanks to the combination of a wideangle VF optics and a very large VF screen, it all with the invaluable help of a top-notch pentaprism — the system enabling the greatest optical image quality of all the existing ones — .

This wonderful exceedingly large, bright and crisp optical viewfinder designed by Yoshihisa Maitani for such a small camera like the Olympus OM-1 is the best VF ever made for a reflex camera (projecting a huge 30% bigger image than the rest of SLR models from other brands) and one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of photography, to such a degree that it has kept on being the reflex VF flagship since its creation in 1973 until now, and only the also extraordinary viewfinder of the reflex Leica R8 from 1996 and the Leica R9 from 2002 (much bigger and heavier cameras) designed by Manfred Meinzer approached it in terms of image quality and viewing convenience.

Notwithstanding, it wasn´t used in the Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ , which was conceived to be operated in lock-up mode.

This was a bit odd handheld way of getting pictures, because the mirror lock-up mode is above all used with the camera on a tripod for reproduction work, macrophotography and photomicrography, flipping the mirror up before the shutter opens, which makes the vibrations extinguish before exposing the film.

But while the mirror is up in locked position, the photographer can´t see the subjects through the viewfinder, so he/she is bound to compose the photograph before activating the mirror lock-up  and prevent the camera from moving, in addition to the fact that a cable release is often used.

But NASA knowledgeable professionals on photography knew the score and firmly relied in the startling performance of the Olympus OM-1 camera shooting handheld without trepidation at low speeds thanks to its pocket-size dimensions, very low weight, special strings of the cloth curtain shutter and a highly advanced air damper enduring the mirror movement shock, it all in synergy with scores of also tiny and very good performance lenses, to such an extent that professional photographers had attained durinng the previous years very good results shooting at 1/30 s and even 1/15 s without tripod getting sharp images.

Thereupon, the National American Aeronautic Administration decided that the Olympus OM-1 prototypes manufactured for the Space Shuttle Program should always be operated in the lock-up mode, trying to get sharp pictures even in low light environments, with the astronauts holding the cameras attached to wideangle lenses obtaining great depth of field at intermediate f stops (mostly the Zuikos 28 and 35 mm) at the height of their chests, their arms firmly stuck to their lateral ribs and pointing their bodies to aim the cameras in order to reduce any possible vibration to the utmost, even at shutter speeds between 1/15 s and 1/60 s, shooting at diaphragms f/4-f/11 depending on the luminous conditions, which would enable to get as much depth of field as possible and make sharp photographs with the best low sensitivity colour emulsions available at the moment: the Kodachrome 64 K-14 (rating it at ASA 80, underexposing a bit to get the best feasible colour saturation, as well as having some margin to recover details from the shadows, something easier to attain than with blown-out highlights), Ektachrome 64 and Ektachrome 200, as well as the best b & w emulsions like the Kodak Panatomic-X ASA 32 (rated at ASA 64) and Kodak Plus-X 125 ASA.

The astronauts were also recommended not to cary the cameras in direct sunlight, because it could damage the shutter curtains.

The exceedingly sturdy oversized bayonet lens mount of the Olympus OM-1 approaching the whole height of the camera enables the use of long telephoto and large diameter lenses, for the body flange is manufactured with 18,8 nickel chromium alloy making possible a long lasting durability.

And in 1980, there was available a very wide raft of top-notch OM Zuiko lenses for the Olympus OM-1 camera, most of them created by the Japanese optical wizard Yoshisada Hayamizu, chief designer of lenses at Olympus Co., Ltd, who has managed to attain the most difficult task for an optical designer: the vast slew of top-notch manual focusing Zuiko lenses boast an incredibly short length, tiny front diameter of the first optical element, very small overall dimensions and reduced weight (roughly a 35% less size and weight than the equivalent primes with identical f stops of other brands).

And what´s most important: many of them deliver excellent resolving power and contrast.

Therefore, Yoshihada Hayamizu has successfully achieved the assignment ordered to him by Yoshihisa Maitani: to generate exceedingly small and light lenses able to rival if not beat the cream of the crop of Nikon, Canon and Pentax lenses, but simultaneously matching the tiny size and weight of the Olympus OM-1.

This has been in my opinion the greatest opto-mechanical feat ever accomplished within the 24 x 36 mm format sphere of reflex cameras and lenses, approaching in their level of exceptional miniaturization to the ones featured by the screwmount Leicas, the smallest and lightest 35 mm format cameras with interchangeable lenses made hitherto.

Besides, in order to deal with the design and manufacture of the Olympus OM System of cameras, lenses and accessories, the engineering and optical minds at Olympus took also advantage of the immense previous know-how in the manufacture of microscopes
                                   © Olympus Corporation

The  first-rate Olympus Photomax (LB) Premier Universal Microscope from 1966 ( launched into market the same year in which Maitani started his Olympus OM System of Cameras, Lenses and Accessories) with an automatic winding 24 x 36 mm format camera on top which was used with the Olympus Plan Achromatic series of lenses (designed for clinical laboratory or examination applications, providing excellent field flatness of up to F.N.22 when using brightfield observation in a transmitted illumination system) that would also be used in the early period of the reference-class Olympus Vanox AH Universal Microscope from 1972 that later on used the PlanApo (Plan Apochromatic) Series lenses and the LB (Long Barrel) Series ones for biological use, rendering excellent resolution, improved contrast, outstanding film flatness, increased working distance, a 23% increase in visual field, and parfocal distance of an extremely low power objective. 

that the Japanese firm had developed since 1920, when Takeshi Yamashita (who had founded the brand in 1919) created the first Olympus microscopes Homare, Asahi and Fuji, followed by world class models like the Seika GE from 1927 (equipped with an Abbe coindenser and able to reach a magnification of 1400x, as well as featuring a rack and pinion mechanism to move the samples up and down), the Mizuho LCD from 1935 (which featured a magnification of 2000x, a highly acurate mechanical stage and an apochromatic lens that provided high resolution and reduced chromatic aberrations to negligible levels), the Homare UC (made between 1935 and 1959, with solid and monocular design which made it very appropriate for photography and image projection for microscope specimens), the DF Biological Microscope from 1957 (the first one boasting an external light source instead of using a miror to observe the samples, aside from greatly easing the attachment of a photographic camera to the head, and making available three microscope head choices: monocular, binocular or trinocular, depending on the application or attached objective), and the Photomax (LB) Premier Universal Microscope from 1966 (one of the best in the world at the moment, with a fully automatic photographic device, a colour temperature adjustment function for colour photography and a built-in colour illumination system enabling that every type of specimen could be seen using special accessories of fluorescent, dark field and phase contrast microscopy, to such an extent that it was possible to get pictures for a number of aims by means of the fully automatic exposure control and an also wholly adjustable colour temperature correction.

Upward view of the Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA´ where we can see from left to right: the right strap lug, the rewind release lever, the mirror lock-up lever (half of it visible on the right of the rewind release lever — as it is seen in the image —, slightly under it), the big self-timer lever under both the rewind release lever and the mirror lock-up lever, the very large diameter and robust Olympus OM mount, the flash sync socket with a switch to select which flash mode to use (albeit the OM-1 ´ NASA ´ was intended to be used shooting handheld in mirror lock-up with available light) and the left strap lug.

View of the Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ baseplate showing from left to right the battery chamber, the guide pin hole just above it, the motor drive socket cap, the tripod socket and the motor coupling terminal.

On top of it we can see the lower part of the self-timer and the exceedingly rugged oversized lens mount.

Looking back to 1980, it seems incredible the catalogue of mechanical and engineering deeds that had been achieved by Yoshihisa Maitani as a chief designer of cameras ( and his mechanical team made up by Kazuyuki Nemoto and Kunio Shimoyama) since seven years before, because he was able to create a significant market niche for the masterpiece Olympus OM-1 (of which the OM-1 ´ NASA ´ is a modified unit) since 1973, year of its introduction, until late eighties, thanks to a huge expansion of the system as a main goal and a virtually unbeatable price/quality ratio painstakingly studied on every single component by Yoshihisa Maitani who had as top priority to manufacture top-notch quality and simultaneously saleable cameras, lenses and accessories with a great price/performance ratio, because the contest with the Nikon F2 (introduced in 1971), Canon F1 (also introduced in 1971), F1 New (introduced in 1976) and Pentax LX (introduced in 1980) was fierce, but this small entirely and metallic wonder was along with the superb and likewise masterpiece wholly mechanical Nikon F2 (sold between 1971 and 2000) the best reflex 35 mm camera in the world during seventies and eighties, and as a matter of fact, they go on being for many experts, already in the digital age, the two reference-class reflex cameras within the realm of 24 x 36 mm format ever made, and in spite of its petite size and weight, it is a real workhorse capable of fulfill any professional photographic assignment, including astrophotography, a sphere where the Olympus OM-1 has been the yardstick since 1973.

© Text and Pictures of Olympus OM-1 ´ NASA ´ camera: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

sábado, 23 de abril de 2016


Born in 1951, since his teenage years in Budapest, Zoltán Fejér was exceedingly attracted by classic analogue photographic cameras, particularly the large format ones and the 24 x 36 mm format Leica rangefinders. His love for this photographic scope was such that he began to increasingly buy cameras, lenses and books, boosting his knowledge little by little until in mid sixties he learnt the basic principles of photography and in 1969 he joined Kelly Zsigmond with whom he learned a great deal about the secrets of photography and how to best use old classic cameras featuring different formats and sizes, along with the mastery of light.

From mid seventies he decided to become a historian of photography and went on buying a number of large format and 35 mm cameras, including his first Leica rangefinder, a Leica M3.

He turned into an indefatigable great connoisseur of different LF and 24 x 36 mm format cameras, lenses and accessories, delving into even the most minute details and deeply studying the various properties and image aesthetics of an assortment of black and white chemical films, experiencing with different developers inside his home darkroom, as well as acquiring a remarkable knowledge on optics and the traits and image aesthetics delivered by a slew of LF and 35 mm lenses.
Between 1985 and 1993 he is the editor of the Képzőművészeti Kiadó magazine, focused on high quality black and white photography.

Since early nineties starts the international projection of Zoltán Fejer, consolidating a brilliant career as a photojournalist working for the Városi Fotó Vállalat (Budapest Photography Co. Agency) and becoming a well-known photo art collector and photo artist member of the Photo Artist Association, participating in exhibitions all over Europe, and from around mid nineties he is recognized as a world-class expert both in the field of large cameras, lenses and accessories and in the 35 mm cameras and lenses domain, becoming a phototechnical columnist of Fotóművészet, one of the best photography magazines in the world, and publishing articles on a number of cameras and lenses, also including in-depth researches on the Hungarian Bilux exposure meter, patented in 1938 and of which the Hungarian Optical Works made thousands in 1941.
In 1997 Zoltán Fejér publishes two books Fototechnika: Történet, Petzval József, Mihályi József, Riszdorfer Ödön, Dulovits Jenö with Műszaki Könyvkiadó publisher and

Magyar fényképezógépek 1856-1966 with Soós Kereskedés Editorial with Műszaki Könyvkiadó publisher.

On the other hand, Zoltán Fejer has been since 2001 a member of the Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie panel of experts along with James E. Cornwall, Paul-Henry van Hasbroeck, Jim McKeown, Lars Netopil, Ottmar Michaely, Dr Bahman Bawendi, Peter Göllner, Larry Gubas, Mayumi Kobayashi, Uli Koch, Dr, Milos Mladek, Dr. Wolfgang Netolitzky, Bernd K. Otto, Dieter Scheiba and others.

Some of his large format pictures of architecture appear in the book Building the State: Architecture, politics and state formation in post-war Central Europe written by Virág Molnár in 2013 and published in United States and Canada by Routledge.

He is a member of the European Photo Historical Society and in 2011 he was bestowed the Hungarian Photographers Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

Zoltán Fejér holding a very beautiful Thornton Pickard Royal Ruby 5 x 7 inch (13 x 18 cm) large format camera from 1925 with complete brass fittings and a Roussel 210 mm f/6.3 brass lens featuring iris diaphragm and two shutters.

The gorgeous mahogany body of this camera is a ravishing sight for any enthusiast of old classical large format cameras and lenses.

Zoltán Féjer holding the Thornton Pickard Royal Ruby with Roussel 210 mm f/6.3 lens featuring iris diaphragm and two shutters. The elegance and presence of both the wooden board, back area and low part of this camera and the brass of fittings and lens is a relish to see.

Zoltán Fejér watching the back part large ground glass focusing screen on which the image is focused and composed.

This breed of large format cameras are not for getting quick pictures, but to take the necessary time to make the composition, framing, focusing and liberating the shutter, with frquent  exposure times of a lot of seconds and with the camera always supported on a sturdy tripod to guarantee maximum stability during the shots.

Therefore, users of large format cameras need more time to do things, the LF cameras and lenses are heavier and bigger than 35 mm format and medium format cameras and lenses, but the obtained results are amazing and second to none in terms of resolution and contrast and particularly in tonal range and bokeh.

Zoltán Fejér painstakingly checking the correct adjustment of the left brass fitting of the front board of the camera, whose lens has been drawn to also inspect the innards of the camera.

A great advantage of Westlicht Photographica Auction is that the customers are allowed to check the condition of the photographic gear before making the purchases, which provides a high level of security added to the usual good or very good state of the items sold by the Viennese firm.

Zoltán Fejér thoroughly checking the condition of the pleated thin leather bellows — whose mission is to minimize the size and weight— .

In large format photography to get an accurate fosusing is something of great importance.

When focusing subjects located at long or medium distance, the space between film and lens is short or medium, while when getting a picture of a very near person or motif, there must be a great distance between film and lens.

The compactness of the Thornton Pickard Royal Ruby 5 x 7 inch (13 x 18 cm) large format camera after being utterly folded by Z.F is really stunning for a camera using 5 inch (13 x 18) dry plates able to get such an impressive level of detail that most times you work with contacts on various photographic papers.

To properly grasp what we´re talking about, suffice it to say that experienced professional drum film digitizing experts like Danny Burk are able to make 16-bit scannings of 725 MB 2000 dpi, which means immense possibilities for creating great prints from top-notch quality digital negatives, aside from the steady chance of also getting fabulous prints at home through different top-notch analogue large format enlargers and enlarging lenses — depending  on the specific LF format of each camera — from the original negatives in traditional darkroom:

- For 4 x 5 " (10 x 12 cm format negatives): Beseler 45, Beseler 4 x 5 MX with black and white head, Omega D2 and De Vere 54 enlargers, with Schneider Componon 135 mm f/5.6, Schneider Componon 150 mm f/5.6, Schneider Componon-S 135 mm f/5.6, Scheneider Componon-S 150 mm f/5.6, EL- Nikkor 135 mm, EL- Nikkor 150 mm f/5.6 and the Rodenstock Rodagon-G 150 mm f/5.6 — designed to make ultra large prints of between 20x and 40x with very high contrast even at maximum aperture — enlarging lenses.

For 5 x 7" ( 13 x 18 cm format negatives): Zone VI 5 x 7" and 5 x 7" Omega enlargers, with Rodagon 210 mm f/5.6, Schneider Componon-S 210 mm f/5.6 and 210 mm El Nikkor 210 mm f/5.6 enlarging lenses.

Z.F examining a Kieser & Pfeufer München 24 x 30 cm large format German travelling camera from 1890 in very good condition with a Voigtländer Euryskop 4 brass lens and original Waterhouse stop. This model offers rising and shifting front and tilting back.

Z.F next to the back area of the camera with the huge ground glass screen of 24 x 30 cm on which the image is focused and composed.

Z.F is about to insert the Waterhouse stop in the slot placed in the Voigtländer Euryskop 4 brass lens.

Z.F holding with one hand the valuable f/10.5 Waterhouse stop which came with the camera and lens, something rarely frequent and one more aspect that reveals why Westlicht Photographica Auctions is the world reference in this kind of events, since vast majority of times all the camera lots are highly complete with all the accessories and everything in good or pretty good condition.

A Waterhouse stop is a diaphragm made from a strip of brass, with a round hole cut in it and which must be inserted in a slot cut in the lens.

                   Z.F inserting the Waterhouse stop in the lens slot.

Z.F has already introduced the Waterhouse stop roughly up to the middle inside the slot.

     The Waterhouse stop is now completely inserted in the lens slot.

Logo of the Kieser & Pfeufer München firm located on top right of the lens board of the camera. The Marienplatz (Munich) based firm was specialized in the manufacture of large format cameras and photographic gear of the time.

Z.F with a 16.3 x 16.3 large format T. Dörffel Wet Plate Camera. This is a very interesting model, because the wooden camera itself was built in Germany in 1990 but the lens attached to it is a 24 cm brass E, Francais Paris lens from 1870 featuring radial focusing, as well as coming with one film holder, an original shutter cap and 5 Waterhouse stops.

Lateral view of the 24 cm brass E, Francais Paris lens from 1870 showing the American style focusing knob, the slot for inserting Waterhouse stops and the focusing helicoid. The beauty of the brass highlights all over the vintage lens.

Detail of the American style fluted focusing knob attached to the 24 cm E. Francais Paris lens through a very solid brass shaft with the thread in its middle area and making up a whole piece with the very sturdy and thick brass receptor disc reinforced by three screws. This exceedingly strong mechanism ensures a smooth and accurate focusing for many decades.

     Z.F focusing the lens by turning the American style fluted wheel

Detail of the 24 cm E. Francais Paris vintage brass lens from 1870 boasting on the left the slot for inserting the Waterhouse stops and on the right the precise focusing helicoid.

Z.F grabbing the wooden plate holder for wet plates of the 16.3 x 16.3 large format T. Dörffel camera. The lens cap and the Waterhouse stops can also be seen on the table, in the same way as the back area of the camera with the large ground glass screen for composing and focusing.

The complete set of five Waterhouse stops for the 16.3 x 16.3 cm large format T. Dörffel Wet Plate camera. It can be seen that each Waterhouse stop features a different hole width, as to all intents and purposes they work as diaphragms from the narrowest apertures to the maximum one.

Z.F verifying the different width of each one of the Waterhouse stops five holes.

Z.F with the wooden glass plate holder of the 16.3 x 16.3 cm large format T. Dörffel camera  between his hands in front of the appealing combo E. Francais Paris vintage 24 cm brass lens from 1870 and the wooden camera built in 1990.

The charm and careful manufacture and finish of the wooden glass plate holder speaks volumes for the quality of this camera and a common feature of every LF camera: They´re handmade photographic tools created by highly expert professionals who love their trade and constitute the very embodiment of top-of-the-line craftsmanship within the scope of photographic gear in any format.

Z.F looking at the back area of the of the 16.3 x 16.3 cm large format T. Dörffel camera wooden glass plate holder.

Z.F holding a plate before inserting it in the wooden glass plate holder.

              Z.F inserting the plate in the wooden glass plate holder.

Left view of the E. Francais Paris vintage 24 cm brass lens from 1870 with its cap. The dazzling appearance of the brass and the splendid polishing of the noble metal surfaces are truly a riveting sight.

Top view of the E. Francais Paris vintage 24 cm brass lens from 1870. The overall outstanding sheen of the large format objective is matched by the superb finish of its cap, which gets incredibly smoothly into the front area of the lens.

                                                 © Zoltán Fejér

Franz Joseph Bridge on the river Danube, Budapest (Hungary), seen from Buda. This picture was made on August 19, 2014, 175th Anniversary of Photography. The image was created with a 5 x 7 " (13 x 18 cm) Lechner-Werner Austrian made field type large format camera cm with a relatively big brass Petzval type Voigtländer lens from  1870 that only covered up to 7 x 10 cm, so it didn´t cover the 5 x 7 " (13 x 18 cm) picture format. Bromide paper. This is a contact to another bromide paper, so it´s a positive image.

                                                       © Zoltán Fejér

Tree on the Margaret Island. Budapest (Hungary). Linhof Super Technika 4 x 5 inch (10 x 12 cm) large format camera with Voigtländer Apo Lanthar 150 mm lens. Czech Foma cutfilm. Blende 18, enlarging to a bromide paper.

Tree on the Margaret island, Budapest (Hungary). Linhof Technika 4 x 5 inch (10 x 12 cm) large format camera with Schneider Xenar 300 mm f/5.6.

                                                 © Zoltán Fejér

Trees in Margaret Island, Budapest (Hungary). Linhof Super Technika 4 x 5 inch (10 x 12 cm) format with Wollensak Verito 5 inch soft focus lens. Blende 11, 9 x 12 cm cut film enlarged to 8 x 10 inch (20 x 25 cm) bromide paper.

                                                        © Zoltán Fejér
Studio picture created with a French-made wet plate 13 x 18 cm large format camera of Tailboard style with a Petzval type lens without any maker name. Bromide sensitive paper and contact to another bromide paper. Exposure time was 48 seconds.

                                                   © Zoltán Fejér

Entrance to the open air Theatre in Margaret Island, Budapest (Hungary). Linhof Super Technika 4 x5 inch. Wollensak Verito 5 inch Soft Focus Lens. Blende 11-16, using a relative big Wörsching lens shade. 9 x 12 cut fil  enlarged to 8 x 10 bromide paper.

                                          © Zoltán Fejér

Franz Joseph Bridge in Budapest (Hungary), seen from Pest. Graflex Peacemaker Speed Graphic 6,5 x 9 cm format. Wollensack Verito 5 inch soft focus lens. Blende 11, using a 6 x 9 cm roll film holder. Ilford FP4 black and white negative film enlarged to 5 x 7 inch (13 x 18 cm) bromide paper.

                                         © Zoltán Fejér

Margarette Island taken from the Margaret Bridge, the Riverside of the Danube. Budapest (Hungary). Graflex Peacemaker Speed Graphic 6,5 x 9 cm format. Wollensak Verito 5 inch wide open. Ilford FP4 black and white negative 6 x 9 cm roll film enlarged to bromide paper.

                                                   © Zoltán Fejér

Margaret Island with the Margaret Bridge, the river Danube and the building of Hungarian Parliament in the background. Budapest (Hungary). Graflex Peacemaker Speed Graphic 6,5 x 9 cm format. Wollensak Verito 5 inch soft focus with small aperture f/22 to get maximum depth of field. Ilford FP4 black and white negative 6 x 9 cm roll film enlarged to 5 x 7 inch (13 x 18 cm) bromide paper.

                                                       © Zoltán Fejér
Under the Margaret Bridge, Budapest (Hungary). Linhof Super Technika 4 x 5 inch (10 x 12 cm) with Voigtländer Apo Lanthar 150 mm. Ilford FP4 cut film. Blende 16. Enlarged to 8 x 10" (20 x 25 cm) bromide paper. In the background can be seen some buildings  on the Danube riverfront, in Buda area

                                                      © Zoltán Fejér

Under the Margaret Bridge, Budapest (Hungary). Linhof Super Technika 4 x 5 inch (10 x 12 cm) with Voigtländer Apo Lanthar 150 mm. Ilford FP4 cut film. Blende 16. Enlarged to 8 x 10" (20 x 25 cm) bromide paper. In the background can be seen part of the Riverside of Margaret Island.

                                          © Zoltán Fejér

A part of the Margaret Bridge, Budapest. You can see in the background some buildings on the Riverfront of Danube in Buda area. Linhof Super Technika V 4 x 5" (10 x 12 cm). Scheneider Tele-Xenar 270 mm f/5.6 at widest aperture. Ilford FP4 cut film enlarged to 8 x 10" (20 x 25 cm)) bromide paper.

Since eighties, the photo historian Zoltán Fejér has imparted a lot of lectures on large format cameras and lenses. This is the next one, scheduled to be held in Budapest on April 30, 2016, and elaborating on the vintage large format cameras and how to use them nowadays.

Z.F perusing his book Fotogram, a scientific profile work published in 2008 by Arcus Gallery.

Z.F showing two of the pages of his book Fotogram, a very interesting work including black and white pictures made with LF cameras and b & w chemical emulsions.

Tudós Fotós, a Z.F´s remarkable work on scientific photography, published in 2010 by the Hungarian Museum of Photography.

Hungarian Cameras, a milestone book made by Zoltán Fejér, published by both Hogyf Editio Budapest and Lindemanns Verlag Stuttgart in 2001 with text in German and English, and the fruit of 20 years of very hard work and research by the author who proved that since immediately after the end of the Second World War, Hungary was able to developed its own photographic industry with a number of very interesting and high quality cameras and lenses made through sheer ingenuity and knowledge, with very few means.

It features a 21 x 29 cm size, 180 pages and 254 pictures in black and white and 22 in colour.

On the right of the image is one of the most famous pictures of the Hungarian Uprising in Budapest between October 23 and November 10, 1956, against the Soviet Occupation, depicting the body of a killed colonel of the Hungarian secret police of the Communist regime (the AVO) with his feet tied by a rope and being dragged along the ground by some members of the Hungarian resistance surrounded by a crowd of people.

Zoltán Fejer was five years and a half old when these dramatic events happened and he remembers very well those days and what happened in the Budapest streets.

Two of the pages of Z.F,´s book Hungarian Cameras. On the left one we can see a picture of the Duflex 24 x 32 mm picture format, the first one in the world within the reflex 35 mm domain in series production with eye level horizontal viewfinder giving unreversed upright picture, automatic diaphragm and instant return mirror. It usually came with an Artar 50 mm f/3.5 lens or and Gammar 50 mm f/3.5 lens. It was designed by the famous Hungarian photographer Dulovits Jeno, was able to expose 40 frames with a normal 24 x 36 mm film roll and its first working prototypes were made by Gamma Works, Budapest, in 1944, two years before the original design of the Nikon I 24 x 32 format rangefinder which was completed in September of 1946 (though the camera was launched in 1948) and the Minolta 35 rangefinder launched by Chiyoda Kogaku in 1947.

Other two pages of the book. On the left one we can see part of the patent of the Momikon camera, while on the right is a the drawing of a Gauss-type 35 mm wideangle lens designed by Márta Gallé.

Two more pages of the book Hungarian Cameras by Zoltan Féjer. We can see two different drawings for a semiautomatic camera with integrated light meter together with the lens, from mid thirties, work of Ödön Riszdorfr and Miklós Vajta. Subsequently, Agfa bought the licence of this camera and made the first prototype of the Agfa Karat 35 mm camera, strongly inspired by the Hungarian design.

Other two pages of the same highly interesting book.  On left page there are one picture of the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 " ( 6 x 6 cm format) Momka camera and two of its later version called Fotobox featuring a Galilei finder and an achromat 75 mm f/7.7 lens, also for 6 x 6 cm roll film, all of them manufactured at the MOM (Magyar Optikai Muvek factory in Budapest). On the right page is a 24 x 32 mm format Momikon rangefinder with an Ymmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens. This camera is able to expose 40 frames with a standard 35 mm film and was likewise made at the Budapest MOM factory

                    Z.F with his 35 mm Leica M3 rangefinder camera.

Back view of Z.F Leica M3 rangefinder. This is probably the best 24 x 36 mm format Leica RF camera ever made, mainly thanks to its extraordinary and exceptionally bright glass rangefinder coupled to a 0.92x magnification masterpiece viewfinder — with a baselength of 69.25 mm and an effective baselength of 63 mm — which gets a crystal clear vision and turns this camera (optimized for use with 50 mm, 75 mm and 90 mm lenses) into the best combination ever between a 35 mm camera and a 50 mm lens.

The M3´s exceedingly large viewfinder (visible in the image on top left area of the camera back area, on the right of the strap lug) is the most accurate and contrasty of any Leica VF ever made and enables the very comfortable and exact use of even 90 mm and 135 mm lenses, projecting big, bright and complete framelines.

Aside from featuring the best and biggest finder ever made for a Leica, the M3 offers the possibility of using 35 mm lenses by means of special goggles put in front of the RF and VF windows, as happens here with Z.F´s Leica M3 attached to an almost symmetrical 6 elements in four groups and ten blades diaphragm Leitz Summaron-M 35 mm f/2.8 with IROOA shade.

The Leitz Summaron.M 35 mm f/2.8 is a very good lens, particularly for black and white photography and features an excellent optical correction with near zero distortion.

The special goggles adapt the 50 mm base viewfinder to the field of view of the Leitz Summaron 35 mm f/2.8, so the 0.92x magnification factor becomes a 0.64x.

Also important is the minimalist but highly efficient camera top panel with only the necessary dials and knobs: speed shutter dial, advance lever with shutter button and frame counter.

Aerial fron view of Z.F´s Leica M3 with special goggles for the Leitz Summaron-M 35 mm f/2.8 made in Wetzlar (Germany) with its IROOA shade.

The appearance of this historical camera with which Leica started its M series is certainly glittering, since it was made with the best materials available and almost 100% handcraftedly manufactured with painstaking attention to every detail.

On the other hand, this mirrorless with rangefinder camera features an unmatched hitherto horizontal focal plane mechanical shutter, a masterpiece created by the genius Ludwig Leitz, made of rubberized silk and with a shutter lag time of only 16 ms, far superior in this regard to the best digital current professional cameras both in the reflex and mirrorless field.

This way, unlike reflex cameras in which the subject is hidden to the photographer during the shutter firing sequence, not being possible to see what he is photographing at the instant of exposure, with the Leica M3 and other rangefinders you can see what is happening throughout the whole exposure and know exactly what you have captured on film.

To name only a few examples, superb digital professional full frame reflex cameras like the Nikon D800 and the Nikon D4 feature a shutter lag time of 209 ms, whereas the Nikon D4s sports a shutter lag time of 204 ms.

On its turn the excellent 24 x 36 mm format digital mirrorless without rangefinder cameras Sony A7II and Sony A7rII with highly miniaturized dimensions and weight along with a great price/quality ratio, feature shutter lag times of 221 ms and 212 ms.

Upward view of Z.F´s Leica M3 showing the firs-class precision in the mechanizing and finish of every component, specially glaring in its rounded contours and the baseplate.

Aerial top view of the black crackle finish goggles, the Leitz Summaron 35 mm f/2.8 lens and the IROOA Sonnenblende.

Z.F holding a Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens cutaway in vertical position at Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie. This 8 elements in 5 grups lens became a turning point in the history of standard f/1.4 lenses since the very moment of its launching into market in 2004, after being designed by Peter Karbe, who created a new benchmark that beat the non aspherical 7 elements in 5 groups Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 designed by Walter Mandler in 1961 that had been the yardstick among 50 mm f/1.4 lenses for 43 years and which on its turned had improved the optical and mechanical performance of the 7 elements in 3 groups Carl Zeiss Sonnar 5 cm f/1.5 designed by Ludwig Bertele in 1932.

The 9 blade diaphragm Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH features an aspherical surface in the fourth element and a floating group made up by the last two elements next to the film or digital sensor. It results in an exceptional image quality at every eperture — even at the maximum one — and distance, including the nearest focusing ones without any decrease in contrast, also boasting a mechanical construction of the highest level and a very light weight for its f/1.4 aperture of 335 g, along with a very small diameter of 53,47 mm.

Regarding fall-off, it is visible at f/1.4 (with corners being a full stop darker than the center), moderate at f/2 and disappears at f/2.8.

Its reduction of chromatic aberration to almost zero levels is really commendable, in the same way as its correction of distortion, whose levels are negligible (only an exceedingly small pìncushion one in the corners, virtually imperceptible).

On the other hand, the centering of the optical cell in this lens is impressively accurate and a key factor to attain its stunning performance, because the tolerances narrow as the aperture increases.

Z,F´S Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH attached to its Leica M3 rangefinder camera.

It is a lens designed and manufactured to last many decades of hard use under both extreme weather conditions or normal ones, and its top-drawer mechanical construction enables flawless expansion and contraction under such environments and continuous professional use, thanks to the perfect alignment of the optical cell and an extensive know-how in the choice of metals and alloys to use in each component of the lens mount, without forgetting a very difficult to achieve uppermost balance in the correction of the spherical aberration and distortion.

And the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH is above all a stellar performer in low light photographic contexts, being able to capture excellent sharpness across the image surface, along with full shadow detail and absence of coma even in areas with neon lights at night.

To put it in a nutshell, this lens is one of the most significant feats in the history of photographic lenses, since Peter Karbe had to tackle the most difficult task for an optical designer: the creation of a very small and light f/1.4 lens rendering superb performance, so he had to make a more than strenuous effort for years to implement manual adjustments far beyond the optimization programs to avoid a large size and weight through sheer tremendous knowledge, experience and ingenuity.

Therefore, it is much more difficult to design and manufacture a very small and light lens like the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH featuring a diameter of 53.47 mm, a length of 52.5 mm from bayonet flange and a weight of 335 g delivering superb optical and mechanical performance than to design a lens in whose manufacturing parameters there wasn´t any limit to size, weight and length, as happens with the Zeiss Otus Distagon T* 55 mm f/1.4, which is the world benchmark on tripod with its stratospheric definition, contrast and bokeh inherent to a medium format very long Distagon design applied to 35 mm format, but the exceedingly small and very low weight of the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH gives it the upper hand in photographic contexts where the photographer has to shoot handheld, both in results and comfort, because in real picture taking environments without a tripod, it is much more difficult to draw the immense potential of the Zeiss Otus Distagon T* 55 mm f/1.4 (weight of 1030 g, diameter of 77 mm and considerably larger dimensions of 9.25 x 14. 38 mm), and the same would happen if the handheld comparison were made with the formidable 7 elements in 6 groups AI and AI-s Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1,2 ASPH produced between 1977 and 1997 featuring a diameter of 74 mm, a weight of 465 g and a splendid manually ground aspherical surface located in the outer side of the front element.

Diagonal left view of the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens cutaway held by Z.F. We can see the intricate mechanical design with 8 elements in 5 groups and an optical cell in which every space has been filled to the utmost to get a remarkable level of miniaturization, with a praiseworthy reduction in both size and weight and simultaneously getting an extraordinary opticasl and mechanical performance, something which is by far the most exacting task for a lens designer.

This is a 100% metallic lens, with the exception of the high quality plastic focusing knob.

We can also see the brass focusing helicoid which makes possible an admirable smoothness of the focusing mount, and surrounding it the black wedge cam whose mission is to couple the lens with the rangefinder of a Leica M camera.

This is a pinnacle of optical and mechanical engineering.

Back area of the Summilux-M 50 mm f1.4 ASPH lens cutaway held by Z.F, who shows the brass focusing helicoid which makes possible an admirable smoothness of the focusing mount, and side-by-side to it the black ring wedge cam aimed at coupling the lens with the rangefinder of a Leica M camera.

On the other hand, the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH includes a number of exotic and very expensive optical glasses sporting unique refractive properties that in synergy with the aspherical surface, a handmade excellent assembly of the metallic components, the floating element (which apart from increasing optical performance at closer ranges eliminates the focus shift) and an extraordinary mechanical build bring about a first-rate image quality and turn it into a stellar all-around performer.

Z.F holding a 5 elements in 4 groups and 20 blades diaphragm Ernst Leitz Telyt 20 cm f/4,5 lens cutaway in M39 screw mount cutaway, with SFTOO finder, extension tube and UVA filter. Introduced in 1935, it was produced between 1935 and 1960, featuring a weight of 550 g and a minimum focusing distance of 3 meters.

The SFTOO finder is a very small telescope RF/VF and is inserted in the camera shoe or PLOOT and can be also used on the extension tube TZFOO with Telyt 20 cm f/4.5 without Visoflex.

It was an extensively used lens with SFTOO finder by the great Austrian photographer Lothar Rübelt (one of the pioneers of sports photography), particularly during the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin (Germany) with amazing images of the diving contest, Jesse Owens in the 100 m competition and others, throughout the Winter Olympic Games in St.Moritz (Switzerland) in 1948, and during the Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki (Finland) 1952 where he got great pictures of Emil Zatopek — gold medal in the 5,000 m, 10,000 m and marathon —  in addition to covering a lot of football matches with it, displaying an incredible gift to get wonderful sports pictures with this not very luminous lens.

Z.F examining the air-spaced doublet located very near the rear of the Telyt 200 f/4.5 lens cutaway.

Lateral vertical view of the Telyt 200 mm f/4.5 lens cutaway with its SFTOO finder, extension tube and UVA filter. It can be seen the great thickness of the lens front cemented doublet making up the first group, the large air space separating it from the crown meniscus lens and aperture diaphragm and the air-spaced doublet next to the rear of the lens setting up the last group.

Z.F admiring the beauty of the Telyt 200 mm f/4.5 with its SFTOO finder, extension tube snd UVA filter,

forming a really gorgeous cutaway outfit in perfect cosmetic condition, as a homage to a golden period embodied by the genius Oskar Barnack and the lens designer Max Berek, who began the legendary photographic path of the Leica brand at the Leitz factory in Wetzlar (Germany).

Z.F looking over a 7 elements in five groups and 16 blade diaphragm Leitz Summarit 5 cm f/1.5 in screw mount lens cutaway.

Manufactured between 1949 and 1960, it features the same optical formula as the uncoated Xenon 50 mm f/1.5 ( made between 1936 and 1950 ), but with the addition of an anti-reflection single coat.

This Xenon 5 cm f/1.5 design had been created in 1934 by the great British designer W.H.Lee from Taylor & Hobson, and its optical scheme was subsequently adopted by Schneider in 1936 — which gave it the name Xenon — and Leitz Wetzlar — for which Schneider made the lens —.

The Summarit 5 cm f/1.5 following a classic highly luminous Gauss design, was mostly manufactured at the Leitz factory in Wetzlar (Germany), while the last batch was made at the Leitz Midland Factory in Ontario (Canada).

It isn´t an all-around performer at all, because the contrast is very low, particularly at the widest f/1.5 aperture and up to f/4, as well as featuring a lot of flare.

But is a very robust lens, mechanical construction is excellent with a super smooth focusing, and above all, it can deliver wonderful fifties style vintage pictures in color and specially in black and white, a kind of unique dreamy and romantic image highly useful in spectacular and different portraits, with a really nice look.

Another view of the Summarit 50 mm f/1.5 in thread mount lens cutaway grabbed by Z.F. This is a very beautiful chromed brass objective that boasts a highly dictinct character and vintage look.

Obviously, it lags very far behind the resolution and contrast of any pre-aspherical Sumillux 50 mm f/1.4 and the most modern Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH, or any pre-aspherical Summicron 50 f/2.

But if in good condition (id est, lacking noticeable fog between elements and without cleaning marks in the front elements) it is a specialized stunningly good lens in portraiture where the aim is to get that special glow and old character inherent to some screwmount Leica lenses from thirties, forties and fifties, with softness in edges and creamy tonal range at the widest apertures,, above all in black and white images where the spherical aberration is visually more appealing — , something that is not easy to define with words but truly makes a difference in terms of image aesthetics (including an exceedingly and unique exceedingly beautiful swirling and melting bokeh) compared to the quite scientific and perfection biased designing philosophy of cream of the crop primes regarding definition and contrast like the Leica aspherical 50 mm lens, the pre-aspherical Leica Summilux 50 mm f/1.4 and the pre-aspherical Summicrons 50 mm f/2.

On the other hand, it was one of William Eggleston´s preferred lenses.

Z.F watching a Leitz Summarex 8.5 cm f/1.5 lens cutaway featuring 7 elements in 5 groups and a 17-blade diaphragm, designed by Max Berek in 1936 and produced between 1943 and 1960, most of them in chrome since 1948. It is one of the most beutiful Leica lenses ever made.

And last but not least, throughout recent years there has been an incredible upsurge in the sales of both old screwmount and M bayonet Leica vintage lenses, mainly because of two factors:

a) There is still a significant percentage of black and white enthusiasts of classical chemical photography having darkroom at home and second hand professional 35 mm format enlargers like the

Leitz Focomat V35, Kaiser VP5305 BW, Leitz Focomat Valoy II, Kienzle A35. Kienxle T35, Kaiser VP 6002 Black and White, Kienzle T35, Beseler Printmaker 35, LPL 700 MX, Durst M 301, Durst M805, Kaiser VPM3505, LPL C7700, Kaiser VP 7005 B& W, Durst M605, LPL 7700 B & W,

Kaiser VPM 6005 Multigrade, Meopta Opemus 6a ( with a very good quality/price ratio, built primarily for enlargements of black and white negatives and with a filter drawer provided with a diffuser glass for reduction of excessive contrast or for optional insertion of special colour filters to correct colour or multigrade black and white pictures) and others.

These lovers of chemical films (specially the black and white ones) and the traditional darkroom develop their own films and get excellent results with analog screw mount Leica rangefinder cameras in perfect working condition like the Leica II (Model D) 1932-1948, Leica III (Model F) 1936-1950, Leica IIIc 1940-1951, Leica IIIF Red Dial 1954-1957, Leica IIIg 1957-1960 and M series Leicas as the Leica M3, Leica M2, Leica M4-2, Leica M4-P, Leica M5, Leica M6, Leica M7, Leica MP, and old Leitz lenses like the Summarit 5 cm f/1.5, the Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 in screw mount 1924-1961, the different versions of preaspherical Summicrons 50 mm f/2 in screwmount and M bayonet, the Elmar 50 mm f/2.8 1957-1954, the Summitar 50 mm f/2 1939-1955, the gorgeous Summarex 8.5 cm f/1,5 in screw mount 1943-1960, the Thambar 90 mm f/2.2 1935-1949, the Summaron 3.5 cm f/3.5 1946-1960 in screw mount/1956-1960 in M bayonet, the Summaron 35 mm f/2.8 1958-1974, the Summitar 50 mm f/2 1939-1953 (a very high performance lens with two personalities: firstly at full aperture f/2 and up to f/2.8 is a great lens to get very beautiful vintage style portraits, smoothing skins and rendering the subjects with a lovely soft look that modern aspherical lenses can´t do, and secondly, it is a great performer as to resolving power in center at f/4, f/5.6 and f/8, approaching in this regard to the resolution of the preaspherical Summicrons in the center at those diaphragms).

Particularly the black and white chemical films are enjoying an unexpected revival, because of the special image aesthetics inherent to b & w emulsions and the relish of using old Leica rangefinder cameras (masterpieces of optical and mechanical engineering and precision)

An early chrome unit of the Summicron-M 90 mm f/2. Featuring 6 elements in five groups following a Double Gauss variant optical scheme and a 15 blade diaphragm, it was manufactured between 1957 and 1979, being another of the most beautiful Leica lenses ever made, with an extraordinary finish in chrome and dual focusing scales.

and lenses in perfect working condition.

Besides, the whispering shutter sound of these RF cameras enable  unmatched levels of discretion and many types of attainable images with different black and white films appearances of emulsions in synergy with the character and type of image delivered by each lens.

In this regard, aside from the Kodak Tri-X 400, Fuji Acros 100, Ilford Delta 100, Ilford Delta 400, Ilford FP4 Plus 125, Ilford HP5 Plus 400, Ilford Pan F 50 Plus and other more known b & w films, the efforts made by firms like Adox, creating excellent black and white 35 mm films like the

Adox Silvermax 100 (with high silver content and dedicated developer), Adox CH 100 II ( Adox CHS 100 II (featuring a very large exposure latitude and a very classic b & w look along with a very harmonic tonal separation)
Adox CHS 100 II, a great b & w film delivering a vintage aesthetics of old black and white, with a nice balance of mid tone contrast as well as shadow detail, mostly thanks to its response to blue and red colours stemming from its special sensitization which separates key elements of the pictures.
Adox Rodinal developer, a great tool for those photographers looking for the best possible acutance in their pictures, enhancing the definition of contours. It is a highly versatile developer inspired by the classical Agfa Rodinal (both of them sharing a very similar chemical formula and performance) and which gets top-notch results with the Adox CHS 100 II and the Adox Silvermax 100 b & w films.

and Rollei manufacturing its

Rollei Retro 400s (featuring very low grain thanks to the two-layer structure of its emulsion, and top detail in shadows), Bergger BRF 400 Plus (also with great exposure latitude), Fomapan 100 Classic, Fomapan 400 Action (featuring low granularity, high acutance and contours sharpness), Orwo TC 27 400, Rollei RPX-100 (compatible with many developers and boasting barely visible grain, broad exposure latitude, wide tonal range with good contrast and very good sharpness), and others.

b) An even more amazing factor, something that would have been unthinkable only ten years ago: the arrival of the digital 24 x 36 mm format Leica M9 and Leica M rangefinder cameras, along with the introduction into the photographic market of the digital full frame mirrorless EVF Sony A7, Sony A7 II and Sony A7R, together with EVF mirrorless cameras with Micro Four Thirds sensor (Olympus and Panasonic) and EVF mirrorless cameras featuring APS-C size sensors like the Sony Nex-5, Sony Nex-7 and others,

7 elements in 4 groups Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 rigid from 1960 with large scalloping focusing ring.

has been decisive in the current sales boom of old screwmount and M bayonet Leica lenses (as well as manual focusing old primes from other phptpgraphic brands like Carl Zeiss Jena, Asahi Pentax, Olympus OM, Nikon, Canon FD, Minolta, etc), that can be attached to these little cameras with special adapters, making up exceedingly small and light combos often getting very good and distinct results compared to modern lenses, both in colour and black and white, and with the added chance of improving their images with professional image softwares like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop and the great advantage of being able to work with them at much higher isos than with chemical films.

Z.F has always been a believer in black and white photography, and aside from having taken pictures with large format and 35 mm cameras for more than 50 years, he has often visited b & w exhibitions all over Europe, in addition to being an experienced curator.

The amazing survival of black and white analog photography with more and more films steadily appearing in different formats, with their unique vintage image aesthetics inherent to formulas searching for vintage look, fostering of acutance, very wide tonal ranges (the Adox Silvermax b & w ISO 100 film can reproduce up to fifteen tones) and creamy bokehs enhancing the subjects at full aperture, does prove the quality of the B & W chemical photography as a way to capture images which has been in the market for more than 150 years, and whose filmic aspect goes on being chosen by a slew of artist photographers who strive after attaining a different look in their pictures.

© Text and Colour Pictures: José Manuel Serrano Esparza