lunes, 5 de diciembre de 2016


Lisl Steiner inside Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie, Vienna (Austria) on November 26th, 2016, day of her 89 birthday, walking beside the picture of Jimmy Carter that she got thirty-nine years before.

September 7th, 1977. The United States President Jimmy Carter is at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C, about to speak to the press the day he signs the new Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty primising to give control of the canal to the Panamanians by the year 2000.

Sol Linowitz and Charles L. Schulze (top economic adviser to Jimmy Carter) have arduosly been negotiating this agreement with the Panama President Omar Torrijos for a lot of months.

The expectation is huge, because 6 percent of world trade passes through this inter-oceanic waterway at the time.

The place is overcrowded with photojournalists from different newspapers, magazines and picture agencies, along with cameramen from a number of TV channels.

Jimmy Carter is next to the microphone installed for the occasion and getting ready to deliver a speech.

He´s momentarily immersed in his thoughts and trying to concentrate on the words and subjects he´s going to deal with.

Lisl Steiner, a photojournalist working for Life magazine and Keystone agency is at a distance of around 4.5 meters from Jimmy Carter.

The president is surrounded by some security members and perhaps she will not have new opportunities to photograph the president from such a near distance.

She is holding a Leica M5 rangefinder camera loaded with Kodak Plus-X 125 ASA and coupled to a Leitz Canada Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 lens (manufactured between 1964 and 1974), designed by Walter Mandler and featuring 5 elements in 5 groups, with a diaphragm of ten blades and a close focus of 1 meter.

Her almost twenty years experience as a photojournalist since he began her career in late fifties makes her grasp that this is the defining instant.

She chooses a horizontal framing to get the face of the U.S president filling a significant percentage of the picture and presses the shutter release button of her Leica M5 rangefinder, capturing Jimmy Carter in introspection, with a perfect timing, shooting at f/5.6, taking advantage of the abundant available sun light and getting great image quality thanks to the compactness and low weight (345 g) of the Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 and its optimization to easily attain perfect focus shooting handheld and obtain sharper pictures than the previous 5 elements in 3 groups Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 (made between 1959 and 1974, sporting a weight of 335 g, prone to flare, featuring a 12 blade diaphragm and rendering a worse bokeh).

Bearing in mind that the effective base length becomes longer on increasing the image magnification and the RF base size, a better choice to get the most accurate feasible focus would have been the Leica M3 with its 0.92x magnification viewfinder and a RF base length of 68.5 mm (effective one of 63 mm), but the Leica M5 0.72x VF magnification and its RF base length of 68.5 mm (effective one of 49.32 mm) in symbiosis with the very small size, light weight and short length of the Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8, prove to be an efficent combination for shooting hand and wrist and getting precise focus, something which speaks volumes for Walter Mandler´s insight on designing his lenses, because the Leica M rangefinder system excels on focusing 28, 35 and 50 mm lenses, while on using longer lenses (75 mm, 90 mm and 135 mm) or shorter ones (24 mm and 21 mm) you need preferably cameras boasting 0.85x/0.92x VF magnifications or 0.58x magnifications respectively.

Anyway, the eye of the photographer, her experience and gift to see the picture, her sense of anticipation and to be at the adequate place at the right moment, approaching as much as possible, are the key factors.

Lisl Steiner sitting at the lounge of the Kaiserin Elisabeth Hotel in Vienna with a 30 x 40 cm copy on photographic paper of the President of the United States Jimmy Carter she made on September 7th, 1977 at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C.

Golden Medal of the Österreich Photographische Gesellschaft (PhG), top award of the Austrian Photographic Society bestowed to Lisl Steiner in 2015.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2016

Solms Camera Fair: A Paradise For Users, Collectors And Traders Of Classic Photographic Gear

Twenty-two years after its foundation in 1994 by Lars Netopil, the Solms Camera Fair held at the Taunushalle (Taunus Hall) of this city of the Land of Hessen (Germany), located at around 80 km from Frankfurt, has turned into one of the most important photographic fairs of classic and vintage cameras, lenses and accessories in the world, as well as a twice a year landmark international event within its scope,

by dint of a great effort fulfilled by a number of professional exhibitors from both Germany and many other countries of the globe, sharing a love for their trade and a passion for this type of top-notch stuff featuring an amazing level of mechanical and optical technology, along with second to none standards of reliability, duration in time working flawlessly for many decades and a timeless beauty.

A first-rate service and painstaking attention paid to the customers

(who are allowed to thoroughly check the correct and full operating state of the items together with their cosmetic appearance) as top priority for exhibitors, along with a craving for offering highly competitive prices, make up a very interesting additional bonus for the visitors, who in increasing numbers have gathered at the Solms Taunushalle (venue of this one of a kind relishing rendezvous for any enthusiast of analogue photographic equipment) for more than two decades.

As a matter of fact, the very recent edition held on November 26th, 2016 has been an outstanding success, with 100 exhibitors from a number of countries (Germany, United Kingdom, France, Japan, United States, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Spain and others) and around 500 attendees who arrived at the Solmser Fotobörse not only from Germany but also from worldwide to have unforgettable experiences

and acquire top quality cameras, lenses and accessories.

In this regard, the Solms Camera Fair epitomizes the feature that has traditionally turned this professional sphere events celebrated in Germany into world class encounters:

the very good condition (often in A/B, near mint or mint condition and perfect functioning to get pictures at every diaphragm and shutter speed) of a high percentage of the articles on sale, not only Leica ones (though the legendary German photographic firm is the core of the fair) but also from other prestigious brands in the History of Photography like Nikon, Canon, Zeiss Ikon, Ihagee Exaktas, Voigtländer, Rollei, Mamiya, Minox, Kodak, Hasselblad, Zenza Bronica, Alpa, Olympus, Pentax, VEB Pentacon Dresden Prakticas, Linhof and many others.

Kine Exakta Version 4 from 1938 with rectangular magnifier and 6 elements in 4 groups and Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 5.8 cm f/2 lens with 12 blades, whose design dates back to 1927 and sports and asymmetric Double Gauss formula with 6 elements. It shares the same features (with the exception of the Vacublitz bipolar plug which was modified, with the addition of a third threaded flash hole) as the previous models that began with the historical Kine Exakta Version 1 Round Magnifier from 1936, the first 35 mm format single lens reflex camera in the world, created by Karl Nuchterlein (design engineer at the Ihagee Kamerawork Steenbergeen & Co. Dresden) which meant a revolution that anticipated in around thirty years breakthrough concepts that would change the worldwide photographic market from late fifties onwards and even boasted flash synchronization for every shutter speed

Undoubtedly among the most beautiful cameras ever made with their distinctive trapezoidal shape, the Kine Exaktas have a wonderful mechanical shutter with horizontal travelling cloth curtains in which the shutter speeds are handled with two dials:

one located on the left of the camera (for 1/25 s, 1/50 s, 1/100 s, 1/150 s, 1/250 s, 1/500 s , 1/1000 s, B and Z)

and another one twice larger on the right with a black scale of figures showing times of 1/10 s, 1/2 s, 1 second, two seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 5 seconds, 6 seconds, 7 seconds, 8 seconds, 9 seconds, 11 seconds and 12 seconds, id est, an amazingly comprehensive choice of mechanically controlled long exposure times, available after turning the smaller shutter speed dial on the left to the Z position.

This is a milestone accomplishment for a camera created in 1936 and probably the technological pinnacle ever achieved in the field of mechanical shutters along with the groundbreaking concepts incepted by Peter Loseries and Otto Domes while improving the focal plane shutters of the Leica M cameras (firstly designed by Ludwig Leitz, Willi Stein and Friedrich Gath for the Leica M3) during middle and late sixties through their in-depth research on swinging sector camera shutter including first and second swinging sectors, with each swinging sector featuring a number of aligned bearing studs and many lamellae mounted for rotary motion with respect to the axis of a corresponding bearing stud on the working of the shutter and the functioning relationship of a pin and slit mechanism linked to the lamella of each sector bringing about the driving of the sectors.

Suffice it to say that the red scale of figures on the top right side of the 24 x 36 mm format Kine Exakta cameras enables to choose delaying shutter speeds of 1/10 s, 1/2 s, 1 s, 2 s, 3 s, 4 s, 5 s, 6 s and 12 s for the self-timer.

Therefore, it is a gorgeous masterpiece shutter and a true horology device whose birth was inspired by the movements of A. Lange & Söhne watches of the time, so the unutterable sound begotten by the different models of Kine Exaktas (above all when using the slow speeds of the large dial on the right of the camera top panel, which must be winded) belongs to the realm of top-drawer clockwork.

Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 fourth version (manufactured between 1979 and 1994) and sports the same optical formula as the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Fifth Version (1994-2013).

It is one of the greatest feats in the history of photographic lenses.

Featuring 6 elements in 4 groups and 8 blades, it was designed by Walter Mandler at the Ernst Leitz Canada factory in Midland, Ontario, managing to reduce the weight (195 g) in comparison to the 6 elements in 4 groups and 10 blades 3rd version (200 g), beating the resolution of the Summicron Rigid 50 mm f/2 (1956-1968) and simultaneously improving the contrast a great deal, doing it without any aspherical or floating elements, reducing the manufacturing cost by means of the use of flint glass in the first bigger element in addition to other elements inside the objective in synergy with the last two elements made of top class high index lanthanum glasses, keeping the doublets cemented (taking advantage of the mechanical design advantage that their mounting means), applying common radii all over the lens to foster the use of a very low figure of grinding and polishing manufacturing tools to a limit of four, and stretching the classic Double Gauss scheme to its feasible scientific and physical boundaries, according to the parameters set forth in his mythical dissertation Über die Berechnung einfacher Gauss-Objective at Giessen University (Germany) in 1979.
Metabones Leica M to E Mount adapter. Built according to very high levels of mechanical quality, precision and noble metals, it makes possible to take advantage of the superb full frame 24 x 36 mm CMOS sensors (boasting 24, 37 and 42 megapixels, depending on the model) of the Sony A7 series cameras coupled to the Leica M lenses featuring great luminosity and excellent opto-mechanical performance, making up a very compact binomium able to deliver impressive image quality along with possibilities of enlargements to king sizes without picture degradation. It features a flocked interior to eliminate any possible flare and focuses flawlessly to infinity.

Through Leica M adapters, this tiny lens has proved its great symbiosis with professional digital cameras, both in the 24 x 36 mm format  (Sony A7, A7II, A7R, A7RII, A7S, Leica M9, Leica M, Leica M Monochrom and others), APS-C (Fujifilm XT-1, Fujifilm XT-2, Fujifilm X-Pro 1, Fujifilm X-Pro 2, Fujifilm XE-1, Sony NEX-5, Sony NEX-6, Sony NEX-7, Samsung NX series) and Micro 4/3 ones (Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus OM-D EM-5, Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II, Olympus PEN-F, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4, Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8), delivering superb image quality, even at maximum f/2 aperture, with high contrast and crisp detail on almost the entire picture area, in an stunningly compact and light combo resulting in very comfortable handheld shooting throughout many decades of intensive use, thanks to its first-rate mechanical construction.

Needless to say that coupled to analog rangefinder 24 x 36 mm format Leica M cameras like the Leica M3, Leica M2, Leica M6, Leica M7, etc, it also renders extraordinary results with chemical b & w and colour films alike, having traditionally excelled among others with the Kodak Tri-X 400.

It´s no wonder that many of the visitors of top-of-the-line classic camera fairs like this, are not only analog cameras users, but also owners of mirrorless and reflex digital ones which they connect to manual focusing classic and vintage lenses to get very special and different image aesthetics, colour renderings, 3D character and bokehs impossible to achieve with more perfect modern aspherical lenses in which aberrations are better corrected and whose optical formulas are particularly optimized thinking of getting the best possible resolving power and contrast together with uniformity of performance at every diaphragm aperture.

Therefore, the arrival of digital photography has brought about a very important worldwide revival of classic and vintage manual focusing lenses with great personality, beautifully made, more reliable than modern lenses (which often feature failing electronics and are easily decentered because of their complex optical designs), manufactured during the XX Century and often - particularly the large aperture primes obtaining an image quality in a class all by themselves- at very affordable prices , as well as preserving their value within time much better, like:

- The Leitz screwmount and Leica M lenses (Leitz Elmar 3,5 cm f/3.5, Elmar 50 mm f/2.8, Leitz Summarit 50 mm f/1.5, Leitz Summitar 5 cm f/2, Leitz Thambar 90 mm f/2.2, Leitz Hektor 73 mm f/1.9, Leitz Summarex 8,5 cm f/1.5, Elmarit 90 mm f/2.8, Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8, Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1, Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4, Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 in its different versions.

Metabones LTM39 to Leica M adapter with 6-bit coding. Made with uncompromising precision with highly accurately machined brass covered with chromium plating, this is cutting-edge Canadian manufacturing technology of noble metals, with the most exacting standards of craftsmanship, enabling to use any screwmount Leitz Leica lenses made since mid twenties of the XX Century onwards with rangefinder Leica M digital and analog 24 x 36 mm format cameras, preventing any focusing errors and enhancing the correct optical alignment, with the added benefit of a very sturdy construction, true electronic integration of aperture diaphragm and a 100% precise focus at infinity.

- The Leica R lenses like the Summicron-R 50 mm f/2, Summilux-R 50 mm f/1.4, Apo-Summicron-R 100 mm f/2, Vario-Apo-Elmarit-R 70-180 mm f/2.8, Summicron-R 90 mm f/2, etc.

Novoflex Leica R to Leica M adapter. Made in Germany. This long standing firm has always excelled in its products, and its adapters are not an exception: made with painstaking workmanship, peerless accuracy and choosing the best available metals, enabling utter accuracy at infinity focus and featuring the 6-bit coding.  

                      Novoflex Leica-R to Sony NEX adapter.

- The legendary Asahi Takumars and Super-Takumars from sixties and seventies in M42 mount (Asahi Kogaku Takumar 50 mm f/3.5, Super-Takumar 50 mm f/1.4, SMC Macro-Takumar 50 mm f/4, Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50 mm f/1.4, Super-Takumar 55 mm f/1.8, Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55 mm f/2, Super-Takumar 55 mm f/2, Super-Takumar 85 mm f/1.9, Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 85 mm f/1.9, Super-Multi-Coated Macro-Takumar 100 mm f/4, Takumar 100 mm f/2, Super Takumar 135 mm f/2.5, Super Takumar 135 mm f/2.5, Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 300 mm f/4).

Rayqual M42 to Canon EOS adapter. This is another of the current world class manufacturer of these amazing devices making possible to enjoy the use of legacy lenses on modern digital cameras with sensors of different sizes. The Japanese firm manufactures its adapters with exceedingly high precision, very tight tolerances and the highest level of engineering, allowing infinity lens focusing and TTL metering at the real shooting aperture, often with centerweighted metering offering manual focus, AE exposure and TTL flash with a wide range of digital camera bodies from different firms. Stephen Gandy has been the foremost promoter of these Japanese superb adapters whose most significant goal has always been to avoid the poor fit and incorrect focus, so they´re precision made and tightly fitting to remarkable standards of quality, with awesome finish in black matte colour and use of noble metals.

- The AI and AIs Nikkors and Micro-Nikkors from seventies and eighties (AIs Micro-Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 AIs, Nikkor 50 f/1.2 AIs, Nikkor 35 f/2 AIs, Nikkor 105 f/2.5 AIs, Nikkor 105 mm f/1.8 AIs, Nikkor 24 mm f/2 AIs, Nikkor 135 mm f/2 AI, Nikkor 180 mm f/2.8 AIs,
Novoflex adapter to connect Nikkor classic manual focusing lenses to Micro 4/3 cameras.

- The Olympus Zuiko from seventies, eighties and nineties (Zuiko 24 mm f/2, Zuiko Macro 50 mm f/2, G-Zuiko Auto-S 55 mm f/1.2, Zuiko Auto-T 85 mm f/2, Zuiko MC Macro 90 mm f/2, Zuiko Auto-T 100 mm f/2).

- The Canon lenses in FD mount like the Canon FD 50 mm f/1.4 S.S.C, Canon FD 55 mm f/1.2 S.S.C Aspherical, Canon New FD 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon FD 85 mm f/2L, Canon FD 135 mm f/2).

- Unique lenses like the MC Rokkor PG 58 mm f/1.2 manufactured by Minolta during seventies, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80 mm f/1.8, Nikkor H.C 50 mm f/2, the Carl Zeiss Biotar 75 mm f/1.5, the Tokina AT-X 90 mm f/2.5 Macro, the Minolta MD 50 mm f/1.2, the Helios-40-2 85 mm f/1.5, the MC Jupiter-9 85 mm f/2, the Tamron SP 90 mm f/2.5 Macro in Adaptall Mount, the Vivitar 135 mm f/2.8, the MC Volna-3 80 mm f/2.8, the Carl Zeiss Jena Prakticar 300 mm f/4, the Primotar 135 mm f/3.5, the Tele-Megor 180 mm f/5.5, the Orestegor 200 mm f/4, the Orestor 135 mm f/2.8, the Fujinon 55 1.8, the Minolta 100 2.8 Soft Focus, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 85 mm f/2.8 T*, Voigtländer Macro-Apo-Lanthar 125 mm f/2.5, Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8 AIs, Carl Zeiss 85 mm f/1.4 T*, Minolta STF 135 mm, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 Pre-Ai, MC Flektogon 35 mm f/2.4, Pentacon 135 mm f/2.8, Pancolar 80 mm f/1.8, Spiratone 105 mm f/2.5, Vivitar 90 mm f/2.5 Macro, Vivitar 85 mm f/1.8 preset, Aetna Coligon 100 mm f/2.5 preset, Leitz Macro-Elmarit-R 60 mm f/2.8, Canon FD 85 mm f/1.2 SSC Aspherical, the Leica Apo-Summicron-R 180 mm f/2, the diffraction limited Leica Apo-Telyt-R 280 mm f/4, the Nikkor-P 105 mm f/2.5, the Canon FL 55 mm f/1.2, the Jupiter 11-A 135 mm f/4, the Contax Makro-Planar 60 mm f/2.8, the Carl Zeiss Jena Biometar 80 mm f/2.8 MC, and others.

On the other hand, the silky smooth focusing rings of a very high percentage of classic manual focusing lenses associated to the distinctive image quality and gorgeous out of focus rendering they generate, has turned them into real highly coveted jewels in the scope of HD and 4K video recording, coupled to the most updated digital 24 x 36 mm, APS-C and Micro Four Thirds photographic cameras boasting that function, being possible to obtain filmic results making good use of selective focusing, specially the ones boasting fast apertures and being able to capture wondefful still and video imagery.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza