Monday, January 21, 2013

Russian lens for M8 / X Pro 1

Leica Summicron 2nd gen. "rigid model" 50mm, F2.0, 1956

Sad to say I sold my old Summicron today. I've had it a couple years and enjoyed messing with it. I really felt I shouldn't be shooting the M8 without Leica glass. I can't exactly afford Leica glass but I got this one relatively inexpensively and got it cleaned up by Youxan Ye. By now, though I need to free up some cash and since I didn't use it extensively, it had to go. If you collect cameras or lenses I'd say the best financial investment is lenses over cameras and mechanical lenses, like this Leica, likely will only increase in value. This is the opposite of digital cameras which continually depreciate. Not so much lenses, especially good quality mechanical. Of course the fact that you can use these lenses on digital cameras, makes a big difference. Older great lenses which can't mount on modern cameras are not in high demand, in general. The point of this post, however is this weirdness: The M can make many lenses look pretty good with a little post process sharpening. If you leave them alone they look like film. If you sharpen them up they look like the output from a more modern camera.

JUPITER-8 2/50 Russian USSR Zeiss Sonnar Copy Lens M39 (same as saying LTM)

You'll need an LTM to M mount adapter which you can get pretty cheaply on ebay to mount it on an M8/9. It is blasphemy but here's the result:

 Not saying it's extraordinarily good but it's a $50 lens, eh? How much better is the $750 lens. Not $700 worth.  I will say the build quality of the Leica is $1,000,000 better. One's a joke and the other is an amazing work of art. So if you like your lens for build quality, always get the Leica. I would say if you buy one of these for fun and put it in an adpater, you might want to put a drop of blue loctite on the threads to hold the lens in the adapter. If you don't the lens will likely unwind out of the adapter and getting the adapter out without a lens attached is a chore.

Now, here's another thing that's hard to admit. The M8 is my favorite all time camera and part of it is about the build quality, which is unexcelled. I've also always said that the image quality is very, very good and very, very unique. Now, what follows is a shot from an X Pro 1 using the Jupiter with adapter adapted to the X mount with an M mount to X mount adapter. This shot is straight out of camera with no post processing whatsoever.
 The fact is the out of camera image is "better" showing more micro contrast. It's true that the M8 image is more filmlike with the older lens (un post processed). What's amazing is how good this image is from this cheap Russian lens right out of the camera. Focusing the M8 is likely better with the rangefinder patch system. The X Pro you have to enlarge the image and eyeball it which is a bit harder to get right. The truth is though, that ANY ltm lens, even ones that don't rangefinder couple can be focused on the X-Pro. Something to think about.
One more thing for those of us who aren't professionals but want to take the best photos we can. I had the X-Pro set to select it's own ISO up to 1200 or something. I do shoot manual a lot because I want to decide how to expose most of my shots. By setting the ISO to float, I lost some of that control. It is vitally true that letting the ISO float will rescue you from guessing badly wrong on an exposure and if you really, really need to get the shot, it is a safety net. I was exposing from 1:60 to 1:125 here to gauge the exposure and my forehead gets blown out, either way. I had to reduce the ISO to 200 and then adjust the shutter speed to get the shot I wanted.
 Man, that is one fugly build aluminum lens but the fast glass still does the trick. Also goes to show how good the sensor is on this camera. They used to say you had to have really good lenses to make a really good sensor shine. I've also found out that really good sensors make even mediocre lenses look darn good.
 Here's a shot from the 35mm CV Color Skopar at f2.5. This is a modern multi-coat lens that can render really well on most sensors, including the M8. I use it like an index. I think the shot from the Jupiter looks pretty darn good in comparison. Since this is more or less a portrait, it makes sense the longer lens will do better. The 35 would be better for other things. Maybe I'm paranoid but the camera is still losing highlights on my forehead even at the proper exposure.

Why the cameracide (shooting yourself with a camera)? I can tell more about how a camera's going to render a shot for color, exposure, micro contrast, low lighting, etc. this way than any other I've tried. I can also then post process to see what I can get out of it consistently. Just my index. Shooting books across a room or the mountains outback just can't give you the camera's ultimate capability, at least for my type of shooting. I do really like Jeff at dcresource's shots from inside a church in San Francisco he takes for most of his reviews. That tells me a lot about what capabilities a camera has. I don't shoot without a flash. Enough of all this trivia.

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