The "charm" of vintage lenses

The "charm" of vintage lenses

My Leica Elmar 9cm collapsible lens was made in 1957, making it nearly 70 years old, and it shows. The front element is hazy, causing images to be very low-contrast. Here’s an example (mounted on the SL2-S)…

Hazy self-portrait with Leica 9cm f/4 collapsible

It’s like a real-world Instagram filter and I don’t care for it. If it were in better condition, I might like the overall softer look for portraits.

I have a few other older lenses that I’ve almost accidentally collected over the years. There’s an Olympus OM 85mm f/2 which is wonderful and makes a good excuse for using my beat-up but adorable OM-1n. The Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 is legendary, (mostly because it was used by Steve McCurry to make the Afghan Girl photo), but I’m not blown away by it. I have a 1960s thread-mount Canon 50mm f/2.8 from 1958 and I like it for the IIIf but otherwise, it gets very little use.

Taking advantage of the “character” in old lenses is an attractive idea, but in practice, I gravitate toward “better” lenses. I made the photos of lenses in this post using the APO Summicron-SL 75mm and good lord what a lens. It’s hard to ignore the difference in technical quality and just let the old lenses charm me. Perhaps if I was going for a specific look for “my work” but mostly I’m just taking snapshots, so the charm of vintage lenses is often lost on me.

Leica Elmar 9cm f/4 collapsible ready for disassembly.

Still, I’m going to take the Elmar apart and clean that hazy front element and see where it gets me.