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.

An attendee to the Solms Camera Fair looking over a Leica M3 with a 4 elements in 3 groups Elmar 50 mm f/2.8 lens in bayonet mount.

The Leica M3 is the best rangefinder camera ever made along with the Nikon SP, and with difference the best choice to attach it standard 50 mm lenses thanks to its extraordinary 0.92x magnification viewfinder and an effective rangefinder base of 63.71 mm. 

On its turn, the Elmar 50 mm f/2.8 (manufactured between 1957 and 1954) is an exceedingly small and light (220 g) retractable lens with a superb entirely metallic (chromed brass) mechanical construction, excellent correction of distortion and vignetting to negligible levels, and features a circular 15 blade diaphragm resulting in an exquisite and smooth bokeh at full f/2.8 aperture, though its sweeting spots are at f/4 and f/5.6, where both sharpness and contrast are excellent (the latter being particularly better than at f/2.8).

Front top area of the Leica M3 where we can see the window of its 0.92x viewfinder (on far right, providing the main image for the VF and being combined with the bright-line frames, the rangefinder metering field and the LED indicators), the brightline illumination window (in the middle, gathering ambient light to produce in the VF the brightline frames for lenses of different focal lengths) and the rangefinder window (on far left, providing the image for the very bright rangefinder metering field). 

Sixty-two years after its launching into market in 1954, the Leica M3 keeps on boasting the best viewfinder made in the world hitherto (far superior to the cream of the crop of current digital professional cameras with different sensor formats in the reflex and mirrorless scope alike), followed by the top-notch viewfinders of the also analog cameras Nikon SP, Olympus OM-1, Leica R8 and Leica R9.

A first-rate service and painstaking attention paid to the customers — one of whom can be seen in the background, telling by ear the accuracy of a Leica M shutter, in the purest Peter Loseries style —

(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.

One of the tables of the Solms Camera Fair on which can be seen among other cameras and lenses two historical black painted Robots II Luftwaffen-Eigentum cameras with collapsible chromed brass Schneider-Kreuznach Tele-Xenar 7,5 cm f/3.8 in very good cosmetic and working condition. 

This camera, manufactured by Otto Berning and Company, Düsseldorf (Germany) between 1940 and 1945, was deployed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War in different aircraft like the Messerschmitt BF 109, Messerschmitt 110 and Focke Wulf 190 on reconnaissance or firing control missions, getting 48 24 x 24 square format pictures on a standad 35 mm film roll inside special film cartridges.

It was inserted in a black housing with a double spring device working automatically and without shaking (in the FW 190 it was installed inside a cradle under the right wing and connected to the guns), albeit it could also be used handheld by the crew. 

The standard Robot II camera had been launched into market in 1938 and already featured a lot of improvements fulfilled by Heinz Kilfitt, including a viewfinder located in the lens axis and another one at 90º for spy work and the motor driven by a spring wound up with the large knob placed on the upper area of the camera.

This was a small but heavy camera, lacking any RF or light meter but with a comprehensive range of lenses manufactured by Schneider-Kreuznach and Zeiss for it between 30 mm and 400 mm and featuring 26 mm screw mounts.

On the other hand, the small 24 x 24 mm  format was also featured by the Isographe (precision photographic device)  24 x 24 invented by Lucien Baudry, coupled to a Som Berthiot Paris Flor 40 mm f/3.5 lens and manufactured between 1945-1947 according to horology parameters, with brass alloy parts supplied by watch wholesalers and boasting a high precision shutter as well as a large frame viewfinder and the unique trait of a sight through the objective.

An experienced German dealer showing a 4 elements in 3 groups A. Schacht Ulm Travenon R 135 mm f/4.5 first version (preset lens with 40.5 mm filter, made between 1960 and 1970) in M42 mount and very good condition to a visitor of the Solmser Fotobörse. 

The appearance of this utterly metallic long-focus lens boasting an excellent mechanizing and a minimum focusing distance of 1.5 m, is simply gorgeous and its state-of-the-art 16 blade diaphragm created by its designer the genius Ludwig Bertele (who knew that it would have been exceedingly complex to handle such a big number of blades with a mechanism featuring auto aperture) enables to get a very beautiful and distinctive bokeh resulting in pictures with unique vintage aesthetics of image, with the added bonus of its light weight (279 g) and a length of 11.4 cm. 

It was manufactured in Exakta and M42 mount, and the possibility of currently using it coupled to both 35 mm analog cameras and digital cameras of various formats and brands is a true relish for any lover of portrait photography, as well as being highly appreciated for full HD and 4K filmmaking. 

From an optical viewpoint, its scheme was a display of ingenuity by Ludwig Bertele, who departing from a Tessar type managed to get all the elements and groups into the front area of the lens hollow tube (as a matter of fact the whole opto-mechanical forward assembly goes threaded into the tube and can be uncoupled turning it on the left) , so avoiding the intricacies inherent to the building of a real tele lens design, on placing the whole optical cell inside an expanded stretching of the focusing, begetting a very capable performer which will have to be used with a shade on it when getting pictures or shooting contrejour to avoid reflections, as often happens with vintage lenses like this.

An early black painted screwmount uncoated Leitz Hektor 135 mm f/4.5 lens (manufactured betwen 1933 and 1960) featuring 4 elements in 3 groups, built-in tripod bush and a chrome focusing scale being observed by a visitor. It delivers a great bokeh thanks to its 15-blade circular diaphragm.  

As a matter of fact, the very recent Solms Camera Fair 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 embodies the trait that has traditionally turned these classic photography 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.

The presence of visitors from Far East was very abundant during the Solmser Fotobörse November 26th, 2016. Here we can see a Chinese collector and great enthusiast of classical cameras and lenses gleaning information on a black early Leitz Summarex 8,5 cm f/1.5 lens from 1943.

This time the object of desire is a 6 x 12 cm panoramic format Widelux Model 1500 Super Wide Angle camera using 120 roll films, while a dealer gives advice and supplies as much information as possible to the potential purchaser. 

This is a highly professional environment in which knowledge and honesty do perform a pivotal role, since the future trust of the customers becomes a major aim. In the meantime, a 4 elements in 4 groups Asahi Pentax Super-Multi-Coated 500 mm f/4.5 lens in M42 mount (manufactured between 1971 and 1976, featuring a weight of 3,5 kg and a minimum focusing distance of ten meters) is witness to the dialogue.

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, with the Dresden firm subsequently bettering itself in 1950 on fulfilling a commedable development of the system through a new interchangeable viewfinder introduced with the Ihagee Exakta Varex that enabled the photographer to choose between the original waist-level screen or an eye-level pentaprism.

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, A7SII, 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, so however incredible it may seem, truth is that world-class photographic fairs of classic analog cameras and lenses like this are also helping to sale more digital cameras from different brands of the photographic market, both in the amateur and professional scope. This fact has been very apparently clear in recent years not only with 24 x 36 mm Canon DSLR full frame cameras but also with the Sony Alpha 7 different models of full-frame mirrorless ones, which have been attached by pros and discerning photographers to fabulous lenses like the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Version 4 or 5, Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated, Takumar 55 mm f/1.8 Super-Multi-Coated, Takumar 85 mm f/1.8 Super-Multicoated, Canon FD 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon FD 85 mm f/1.2L, Olympus OM Zuiko 21 mm f/2, Olympus OM Zuiko 50 mm f/1.2, Olympus OM Zuiko 85 mm f/2, Olympus OM-Zuiko Auto-T 100 mm f/2 (a stellar performer in image quality at full aperture as well as boasting sensational bokeh) and others drawing a great potential of the superb Sony 24 x 36 mm sensors and properly matching the reduced size of the camera body thanks to their tiny weight and dimensions, in addition to getting extraordinary image quality.

In this regard, the insightful articles How to Use Vintage Lenses on Mirrorless Cameras written by Jim Fisher on August 10, 2011 in and Old Glass: How to Use Old Film Lenses with New DSLR cameras written by Adam Welch in highly revealing and cleverly envisaged what was going to happen, which was utterly confirmed siz years later by a further enlightening article titled This is Why Film Photography is Making a Comeback written by Laurent Olivier in Time on January 26, 2017.

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 and with which is much more difficult to preserve image quality and durability within time, because of their complex optical designs together with AF and image stabilizing modules inside barrels), 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 manufacturers 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 DDR 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.

Kodak Retina 1a with 4 elements in 3 groups Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenar 50 mm f/3.5 lens (Tessar variant) and Synchro-Compur shutter featuring speeds between 1 second and 1/500 sec and Bulb.

Designed by Dr August Nagel and manufactured between 1951 and 1954, the mechanical construction of this small 35 mm format folding camera weighting 500 g is a wonder of precision and the image quality delivered by its sharp lens (which improved the performance of the previous Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 5 cm f/3.5) is very high.

It hasn´t got any rangefinder (which would be introduced in the Kodak Retina IIa, made between 1951 and 1954) or exposure meter (featured by the Kodak Retina IIIc, manufactured between 1954 and 1960 ), so the focusing must be made by means of a distance scale and the metering through estimation.

The whispering almost inaudible leaf shutter (able to synchronize flash at all speeds up to 1/500 sec) boasted by this really beautiful camera manufactured in Germany by Nagel Kamera Werke factory at Stuttgart (Germany)..

Solms Photographic Fair has always displayed a large number of top-notch quality M42 mount Asahi Pentax products from sixties and seventies, second to none in optomechanical quality/price ratio and epitomized by such commendable items like the Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated, the Takumar 55 mm f/1.8 Super-Multicoated, the Takumar 85 mm f/1.8 Super-Multicoated, the Takumar 300 mm f/4 Super-Multicoated, Asahi Pentax 15 mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated and others.

During sixties and seventies of XX Century Asahi Pentax was along with Leitz and Zeiss the leading manufacturer of very high quality lenses for 35 mm format cameras, reaching a formidable know-how and expertise in the designing of first-class objectives.

This way, the strenuous efforts of its élite trio of optical designers Ryohei Suzuki, Yashuo Takahashi and Kazamaki Tomokazu, Asahi Pentax managed to even sometimes try to equal the results of some the cream of the crop of lenses in different focal lengths made by Leica and Zeiss (and designed by Walter Mandler, Helmut Marx and Erhard Glatzel), as well as attaining virtually unbeatable price/quality ratios.

And they also achieved incredible optical feats.

Suffice it to say that in June 1976, Dr. Sadau Okudaira (another Japanese optical wizard of the firm, whose insight and advice were frequently used) was able to redesign the legendary Pentax SMC 15 mm f/3.5 ultrawide lens from 1975 created by Erhard Glatzel, originally designed by the renowned German optical designer in 1972 as a M42 Asahi Pentax Super-Takumar 15 mm f/3.5 lens (either in M42 - only 400 were made - or K mount both of them are landmark and ultrawide designs for its time, with exceptional build quality and getting excellent sharpenss and amazing colour rendition, specially in blues and greens) and featuring an aspherical element in its optical formula, making a new one without any aspherical element, significantly reducing the production cost, utterly preserving its rectilinear nature and with an image quality loss of only roughly a 0,5 %.

Diagonal right view of a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format Rolleicord VB TLR Version 2 (manufactured between 1966 and 1970) camera in very good cosmetic condition and perfect working at every speed and diaphragm, with Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75 mm f/3.5 taking lens and a Deckel Synchro-Compur XV/CR00 shutter offering speeds between 1 second and 1/500 s + B and X Flash synchronization.

The big fluted wheel visible on the left side of the camera is the focusing knob surrounded by the film indicator with the corresponding numbers for setting the ASA or DIN rating, and under it is the film knob which must be pulled out to insert the roll film from the right.

Though a classic per excellence model, the thouroughness of its mechanical construction made for a lifetime and the timeless beauty of its design turn medium format TLR cameras like this into real icons able to deliver great image quality and pictures in the hands of both professional and connoisseur photographers, with the added advantage of the waist level hood (visible unfolded in the image) fostering discretion to the utmost in photographs taken from very near distances.

Back view of the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format Rolleicord VB TLR Version 2 camera, using 120 roll films with capacity for 12 shots.

The finishing of the metallic surfaces is stunningly painstaking, in the same way as the accuracy of the grooves in the main dials and buttons.

On top of it can be seen the resting enlarging loupe to ease the focusing precision.

In the middle back of it can be seen the exposure table, with the subject brightness of different possible contexts indicated in its upper half, the film speed shown on the left in ASA figures and at the right in DIN values, the exposure value numbers in the column below the subject brightness and in the row for the appropriate film speed, while the exposure value corrections are displayed in the botom rows of the table.

The visible large knurled wheel on the right is the winding knob.

The 400 % larger size than 24 x 36 mm format inherent to the 2 1 /4 x 2 1/ 4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format enables any photographer to get great image quality and the possibility of making both very big enlargements and selective reframings of specific areas of the pictures without losing image quality.

And if the negatives are digitized with professional scanners like the Hasselblad Imacon Flextight X1 and Hasselblad Imacon Flextight X5 results could be truly breathtaking regarding quality and detail, thanks to the laudable resolving power of their Rodenstock lenses, the mechanical precision and the top quality of the filters.

Rolleiflex TLR medium format camera, a classic in the history of photography and still able to deliver great image quality and many decades of impeccable working thanks to its excellent Carl Zeiss Jena lens and its stalwart mechanical construction. On the right of the image can be seen a Leica finder for 21 mm lenses in its original box.

The 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format (specially with different types of 6 x 6 cm Rolleiflex TLR cameras) was masterfully used in the photojournalistic (Alfred Eisenstaedt in his mythical reportage on the farewell between American soldiers going to war and their girlfriends and wifes in 1943 at the Pennsylvania Station, New YorkWerner Bischof — particularly his iconic images of the Boy Playing the Flute in the Valle Sagrado of the Urubamba river in the Peruvian Andes and the picture of the Hungarian child crying in Hajduhadhaza (Hungary)Robert Capa essay in Haifa (Israel) between 1949 and 1950 and his iconic colour image of Pablo Picasso holding his son Claude between his arms inside the waters of a beach in the coast of Vallauris, France and others), street photography (Robert Doisneau) and artistic technical with mastery of light and impeccably composed domains (Irving Penn - although he mostly used large format cameras inside studios- in his Cuzco Children portrait from 1948Lisa Fonsagrives portrait from 1950Richard Avedon in his Dovima with Elephants in evening dress by Dior, Paris, August 1955, his high key enhanced Elizabeth Taylor portrait in New York on July 1, 1964Veruschka dressed by Kimberly in New York in 1967 and many others.

Logo of the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format Rolleiflex TLR camera on top front.

The comprehensive range of instruction manuals on sale at the Solms Camera Trade Fair is another of its most beckoning aspects.

Medium Format Widelux Super Wide Angle Model 1500. A truly stunning Japanese panoramic photographic camera featuring 150º diagonal view and 140º horizontal one (using 50 x 122 mm - 6 x 12 cm format to practical effects - frames on a 120 roll film giving six exposures and a 50 mm f/2.8 variofocus lens) which was used by the NASA in some of its missions in late eighties and nineties, in addition to movie director Stanley Kubrick and actor/photographer Jeff Bridges.

It is an utterly manual model not requiring any battery, able to focus from 90 cm to infinity with seven distance settings and three shutter speeds: 1/8, 1/60 and 1/125, as well as having a shutter that must be cocked before firing.

A complex camera, it is important to check its functioning before acquiring it, because sometimes there are units from the first batch of early nineties with uneven filmplane and rotation, along with occasional banding.

Anyway, this is a great medium format panoramic camera which becames a real treat for those photographers having a penchant for getting exceedingly beautiful and exotic images with very beautiful and curvaceous appearance.

Leica M7 Test Camera from Belgium. Its main difference with respect to vast majority of M series 24 x 36 mm format analog rangefinder models boasting mechanical escapement was that it pioneered the autoexposure in aperture priority mode, id est, the photographer sets manually the aperture on the lens and the camera chooses the shutter speed.

Therefore, the shutter of the Leica M7 (redesigned with two different levels of pressure: one to lock the automatic exposure reading and the other one to release the shutter) is electronically controlled, though the mechanically operated speeds of 1/60 s and 1/125 s have been preserved to be able to keep on getting pictures if the battery fails.

Launched in 2002 by Leica Camera AG, it can be considered an evolution of the Leica M6 TTL (they´re almost identical in look), and as a matter of fact, the exceedingly reliable and quiet cloth focal plane shutter inherent to the analog Leica M breed of cameras goes on being essentially the same, and only the speed control mechanism is electronic, though Leica made a commendable effort with the viewfinder of the M7, which is clearer, more brilliant and more contrasty than the excellent VF of the Leica M6 TTL.

The Leica M7 includes more than a thousand components and its assembly takes approximately 16 hours, with a further thorough calibration of the viewfinder on a measuring bench.

Needless to say that the manufacturing methods and technologies to make this camera (in the same way as the rest of analog Leica M models) are state-of-the-art, with all the metallic pieces being put together mostly by hand by highly skilled and experience employees, in synergy with CNC controlled milling machines and highly complex mechanisms like the ones featured by the mask frames whose bright-lines for the chosen focal lengths are reflected into the viewfinder, with different positions of them with respect each other, so variously sized windows are generated and a pair of luminous frames is visible at the same time.

Hasselblad Super Wide C (version 1959-1969) with a single coated 8 elements in 5 groups Carl Zeiss Biogon 38 mm f/4.5 and metallic external viewfinder.

This 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format camera along with its fabulous Carl Zeiss Biogon 38 mm f/4.5 makes up one of the best combos ever made for architectural, landscape, photogrammetric, aerial, industrial, archaeology and indoor photography, thanks to its permanently attached superwideangle lens (equivalent to a 21 mm objective in 35 mm format) featuring fluted metallic focusing ring and delivering exceptional optical performance in terms of lack of distortion, absence of vignetting and impressive uniformity of sharpness and contrast in center, borders and corners of the image, even at full aperture.

Unlike most Hasselblads which are slr cameras, the Hasselblad Super Wide C is a viewfinder camera.

The Hasselblad Super Wide Concept started in 1954 and bears DNA of two foremost German optical designers:

a) Hans Sauer, a inspired optician, former assistant of Ernst Wandersleb (Optical Designing Chief at Carl Zeiss Jena before Second World War) who adapted the already existing Biogon optical formula to a create a 38 mm lens to be coupled to a medium format camera using 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) film.

Hans Sauer, who went to Oberkochen after the Second World War, had already a huge experience facing difficult challenges and extreme designs, because among other accomplishments, at the end of thirties ha recalculated at Jena the 1896 excellent original symmetric 6 elements Planar by Paul Rudolpth (Zeiss), designing a new 5 elements Planar with innovative original coating which greatly solved the excessive proneness to flare of the excellent original Planar, though undoubtedly his masterpiece was the Carl Zeiss Biogon 38 mm f/4.5 for the different diachronic models of the Hasselblad Super Wideangle cameras.

b) Ludwig Bertele, a true genius, who was the designer of the original Zeiss Biogon 21 mm f/4.5 formula in 1934 for coverage of 24 x 36 mm format films for the Zeiss Ikon Contax II mirrorless with rangefinder cameras (launched into market in 1936) and had also been applied in large format cameras for aerophotogrammetry and topographic aerial reconnaissance, equipped with the fabled Zeiss Topogon (created by Bertele at the beginning of thirties, from which there was a wondrous Zeiss Topogon 25 mm f/4.5 version with a 82º coverage angle, manufactured in very few units for the 35 mm Contax rangefinders) and Zeiss Aviogon (likewise designed by Ludwig Bertele at the beginning of fifties) super high quality resolution, derived from the Biogon and boasting excellent Carl Zeiss coating and new ultramodern optical glasses developed by the Schott factory.

To sum up, the Carl Zeiss Biogon 38 mm f/4.5 design of the different models of Hasselblad Super Wide camera lineage stands for a mechanically and optically superb lens stemming from Ludwig Bertele´s unique large format Zeiss Topogon and Zeiss Aviogon lenses for large format aerophotogrammetric cameras, adapting the optical scheme to the image surface of the 6 x 6 cm negative format of the Hasselblad Superwide, in such a way that a very high resolving power of 200 lines / mm is achieved to capture even the most hidden details, together with a high contrast to make up for the atmospheric fog, a practically non existent distortion to assure the geometric fidelity in the image, a very wide covering angle of 90º allowing to photograph large spaces in all their width and sumptuosity, an exceedingly even illumination on all the frame area so as to obtain an amazing resolution from corner to corner and a maximum lens aperture enabling fast enough shutter speeds to avoid shaking.

Besides, the Carl Zeiss Biogon 38 mm f/4.5 stands out among a lot of other parameters because of its extraordinary depth of field — encompassing from 3 meters to infinite at full aperture, from 1,2 m to infinite at f/11, and from 66 cm to infinite at f/22 — and because of its uncommon capacity to capture light, fairly beautiful contrast and very wide tonal range.

With the modern optical designs helped by very powerful computers, specific top quality softwares optimized for optical correction of lenses and the use of aspherical lenses, the retrofocus designed super wideangles have significantly approached to the level of the true super wideangles regarding attained sharpness, but their distortion correction doesn´t attain the peerless perfection of the non retrofocus ultra wideangle designs or its level of excellence for the carrying out of architectonic and photogrammetric photography, since the non retrofocus super wideangle lenses are smaller in size and sharper than retrofocus super wideangle designs, and their rear elements are located very near the film plane.

It all is highly revealing from an optical viewpoint, because the non retrofocus Zeiss Biogon 38 mm f/4.5 lens of the Hasselblad Super Wide cameras goes on being — having elapsed 62 years since its appearance — the second best medium format super wide angle lens in the world, only slightly beaten by the fabulous super wideangle Mamiya 43 mm f/4.5L with external finder of the Mamiya 7 rangefinder 6 x 7 cm format mirrorless with rangefinder camera, thought it´s important to highlight that this Japanese lens follows the original 10 elements formula of the Biogon.

Things of this level can´t come cheap, but classic camera fairs like Solms one become a great chance to acquire them in very good cosmetic and working condition at much lower prices than during their halcyon days, and their opto-mechanical quality and durability throughout many decades (they´re built like tanks) turn them into a very interesting choice.

Contarex Bullseye 24 x 36 mm format camera, one of the apexes of the German photographic industry ever, coupled to a Carl Zeiss Tessar 50 mm f/2.8, while in front of it can be seen from left to right a Carl Zeiss Distagon 35 mm f/2, a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 85 mm f/2, a Carl Zeiss Distagon 35 mm f/4 and a Zeiss Ikon B56 Contarex 50-135 mm metal lens shade.

Designed by Zeiss Ikon engineer Edgar Sauer (whose original patent for this camera with coupled exposure meter dates back to May 15, 1962), it was launched into market in 1960 (production lasted until 1966), this was by far the best 35 mm camera in the world (so the main goal with which it was built was attained), boasting a superb mechanical quality and a number of technological innovations that it pioneered roughly 22 years ahead of time, something really impressive for a camera whose first conceptual draft was presented in Stuttgart (Germany) on August 21, 1959.

It was an utterly mechanical camera manufactured with uncompromising parameters in terms of building level excellence, without any constraint in production costs and state-of-the-art technological breakthroughs, using the best available noble metals and a massive quantity of ball bearings, gear trains, sheaves, etc, and it is a highly reliable camera in spite of its great complexity, with the added benefit of its exceedingly bright and clear viewfinder featuring a highly evolved Fresnel lens with ground glass ring and split-image RF in the center surrounded by a very well devised microprism collar, eight years after the invention of the Fresnel lens screen by Edgar Sauer himself and Dr Hans Rühle in 1952.

Suffice it to say that as unveiled by the world-class expert Jean Loup Princelle in a historical article in the number 57 of September-October 2001 of the legendary Cyclope French magazine, the Contarex Bullseye needed more than 4,000 different operations for its assembling, including 1100 parts created under 0.001 mm tolerances by taking advantage of special tools.

On the other hand, the Contarex Bullseye sports a horizontal cloth roller-blind shutter and a specific large size bayonet (making it up a system camera with lenses between the Distagon 15 mm and the Mirotar 1000 mm, some of them truly stratospheric like the Carl Zeiss Biogon 21 mm f/4.5 and the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 85 mm f/2, together with scores of accessories), since it is a completely new model whose most distinctive trait is the "bullseye" selenium cell holding an ultra sophisticated mechanism of miniature diaphragm coupled with the diaphragm of the lens.

Moreover, apart from the standard back, this camera could use interchangeable backs which could be preloaded by the photographer and switch quickly when needed, as well as enabling to change film types mid-roll.

Carl Zeiss Dustagon 35 mm f/4 for the Contax Bullseye 24 x 36 mm format slr camera and one of the best lenses ever made in this focal length and aperture both from an optical and mechanical viewpoint. On both sides of the lens focusing ring can be seen the two lobes (characteristic of the Carl Zeiss lenses in Contarex bayonet mount) helping to get an accurate focus.

The Contax Bullseye and particularly its comprehensive assortment of lenses designed and manufactured for it were built like nothing before them, with everything made to the highest specifications feasible at the moment from a scientific, mechanical and optical viewpoint, to such an extent that however incredible it may seem, the precision and smoothness of their focusing helicals approach very much to the ones of some Leica top-of-the-line highly luminous M lenses of nineties and first decade of XXI Century designed by the mechanical wizard Andre de Winter, as well as exhibiting a gorgeous satin chromed bright aluminium finish which is the reference-class one in the history of photographic lenses.

The Carl Zeiss lenses designed and created from scratch for the Contarex Bullseye meant a revolution in the slr domain for their unmatched optomechanical performance (to such a degree that for a significant percentage of optical pundits they go on being the best primes made hitherto for slr cameras as to sharpness and contrast achieved), their extremely beautiful rendering of colours, their commendable minimum focusing of 30 cm and their fabulous cosmetic appearance.

Additionally, the Carl Zeiss Contarex lenses have a further utterly innovative hallmark for the time: they lack aperture ring, which is set on the camera aperture wheel, anticipating in more than thirty years a trend that would prevail both in the lenses for 24 x 36 mm format slr professional cameras of analog cameras during nineties and early XXI century and the current lineup of lenses for digital cameras (dslr, mirrorless without rangefinder and mirrorless with rangefinder with sensors of different formats well within the XXI century.

Leitz Focomat Ic 35 mm enlarger, a masterpiece of German engineering. This fabulous and very sturdy device exuding a highly appealing retro look was manufactured between 1950 and 1977. Built like a tank to endure a lot of decades of hard professional use, it still works like a charm well within the XXI Century and will provide great satisfaction to its owners, particularly the enthusiasts of black and white.

Entirely made of metal and wood of the highest leve, it was the common choice of the foremost illustrated magazines and newspapers worldwide (id est, it became the photographic industry standard for 24 x 36 mm format in contexts where maxium feasible image quality and speed of operation were of utmost significance) during the second half of XX Century.

Both the Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 and the Leitz Focotar 50 mm f/4.5 (enlarging lenses that can be used with the Focomat Ic, in addition to the Focotar 40 mm f/2.8 originally created for the Leica Focomat V35 enlarger, Schneider Componon-S 50 mm f/2.8, EL-Nikkor 50 mm f/2.8 and others) get superb image quality in synergy with the stalwartness and precision of the overall mechanism, the simplicity, elegance and smoothness of the whole device, the top-of-the-line Leitz condenser and the impressive quality of light source (being born in a large domed housing half of which has a matt semi-silvered inner area and is directed onto the negative via the single focusing condenser, which simultaneously acts as a pressure plate) resulting in a praiseworthy balance between very enhanced sharpness and tonality (though dust specks, scratches and negative defects will have to be more painstakingly removed than with diffuser enlargers) which has been of invaluable help for many of the best printers in the world (having also been extensively used by world-class photographers like Jane Evelyn Atwood), specially in the black and white sphere.

But albeit buying this true engineering tour de force profesional 35 mm enlarger can currently often be a bargain compared to the steep prices it reached throughout its halcyon days, it is very important to previusly check the condenser condition (specially the bottom area landing on the film, which mustn´t have any scratches or nicks) before making any purchase.

Upper view of a Leitz Wetzlar 90 mm f/4 lens head on a OUAGO/16467 focusing adapter for use with Leica Visoflex II or Visoflex III reflex boxes. It was manufactured between 1959 and 1983.

Lateral view of the same 3 elements in 3 groups Leitz Wetzlar 90 mm f/4 lens head on a OUAGO/16467 focusing adapter in Leica M bayonet for use with Leica Visoflex II or Visoflex III and enabling the focusing from 1 meter to infinity.

This combination is a masterpiece of German optical and mechanical expertise and its cosmetic appearance can only be defined as exceptional, enhanced by the painstakingly accurately made scalloped focusing ring and the amazing machining precision of the Visoflex helical focusing mount of the OUAGO adapter.

It delivers a first-class image quality (very sharp, with good contrast and great colour rendition) even to today standards, both with analog and digital cameras, and its exquisite focusing smoothness, small size (length of only 3.5 cm, diameter of 5.9 cm) and low weight (174 g) turns it into a very interesting choice for Full HD and 4K recordings.

Linhof Super Technika IV 9 x 12 cm large format camera.

Made with great precision, heavy and expensive, the Linhof LF cameras (in adition to the likewise tiptop 6.5 x 9 cm format Linhof Super Technika V have always belonged to the élite of this photographic scope, particularly in the fields of landscape, architecture and portraiture.

It features a Carl Zeiss Planar 135 mm f/3.5

A bubble level mounted on the hotshoe can be seen on top of the camera.

On top left of the camera as shown in the image, you can glimpsed part of the upper rangefinder window of the multifocus rangefinder, which boasts a base of 90 mm.

Back area of the Linhof Super Technika IV LF camera with its foursided all leather focusing hood with depth of field scale on cover.

Just behind it is the hinged focusing hood that can be swung open to permit use of magnifier directly on ground glass.

The image quality which can be achieved with this kind of cameras featuring such large negatives is unbeatable in terms of resolving power, amazing detail, contrast and tonal scale, without forgetting a unique image aesthetics and frequent stunning swirling bokehs at the widest apertures.

Suffice it to say that a 4 x 5 LF original negative (and results would be even better with 5 x 7 — 13 x 18 cm —  and 8 x 10 — 20 x 25 cm — cameras) LF can reach the figure of 1700 MB at 4000 dpi and 16 bit without noise in shadow areas digitized with a professional drum scan, while the extraordinary Hasselblad H4D-200 MS (the most powerful digital medium format camera made hitherto, as well as boasting a breakthrough True Focus technology enabling the photographer to focus the image on a particular point and then moving the camera to recompose the shot) with 36.7 x 49.1 mm sensor, has a resolution of 200 megapixels.

Schneider-Kreuznach Large Format lenses with Copal shutters.

For any knowledgeable large format photographer the Solms Camera Fair is a thrilling chance to find top quality LF lenses like Symmars f/5.6 between 80 mm and 300 mm focal lengths, Apo-Symmars L, Xenotars, Angulons, Super-Angulons, Tele-Xenars, Apo-Symmars, Apo-Tele-Xenars, etc (able to get reference-class image quality as to full detail, precision, resolution, contrast, sharpness, brilliance, subtle colour reproduction, very wide tonal range, etc) at very interesting prices (often half or even less) in comparison with their vry steep original prices, which is something truly enticing, because large format lenses are masterpieces of craftmanship and precision which are among the most difficult to calculate optical systems on tackling the avoiding of spherical aberrations, astigmatism, coma, curvature of field, distortion, etc, which increase with the angle of view

As a matter of fact, this German photographic firm has been the optomechanical leader in the LF field for almost a hundred years in which it has reached an extensive experience in the construction of high performance lenses with large image circles, displaying an optical prowess that has set the image quality standard until now.

The quality controls of Schneider-Kreuznach LF lenses regarding a number of sides ( grinding, polishing, centering, coating, manufacture of the mounts and other mechanical parts, assembly of all the components into complete systems, etc) is commendable.

And of course, the visitors can find LF lenses from other high quality brands like Nikon, Fuji, Rodenstock, Carl Zeiss, Wollensak, Cooke, Voigtländer, Bausch & Lomb, Dallomeyer, Pinkham & Smith, etc.

Therefor, attendees

One of the diachronic prides of the German photographic industry: the exquisite Leica CM manual compact camera for 24 x 36 mm format film, produced between 2004 and 2006, a benchmark of design and craftsmanship.

It was created by the Berlin Art University and member of the German Design Council Achim Heine, whose constructive keynote was to achieve a great compact camera excelling at its contours profile, stemming from plenty of handmade manufacture and fitted to a superb 6 elements in 4 groups 40 mm f/2.4 lens noticeably improved through multicoatings at the forefront of technology.

To properly grasp the qualitative and visionary gist of this camera, suffice it to say that its viewfinder display was built using the Leica M7 VF as a reference, and all the significant functions can be operated while looking through the viewfinder.

Moreover, the camera body is made of solid titanium surrounded by a leather cover in two thirds of its front, lateral and back area.

Obviously, particularly from a front glance, it seems to be a kind of small Leica M, but this is an electronic camera, as revealed by its back with an LC interface, function keys and scrolling wheel.

It is an exceedingly posh compact camera, with character and personality to spare, and making up a breed apart in itself, fairly comfortable to use (with a weight of 300 g and 117 x 65 x 36 mm dimensions) thanks to its choice of automatic program, time priority and shutter speeds from 99 s to 1/1000 s, in symbiosis with its passive phase detection autofocus and AF auxiliary light working in poor lighting conditions.

In addition, the camera is provided with a built-in guide 14 flash.

The coming into being of this camera meant a not always easy interaction between the designer and the engineers able produce it, since it was necessary to create new tools and to specify a number of parameters related to the materials, the angle for mill cutting, the height, the diameter, the shape of the riffles, etc, so it was difficult to avoid changes, though it paid off in successfully resolving the challenge of translating the manifold technical restrictions into shape, strcuture and above all a really alluring look.

And somehow, with its large intelligent screen on the back boasting four buttons to the side enaling the photographer to scroll through the different options simply pressing the buttons, this camera conceptually envisaged with ten years of anticipation some of the electronic traits of the APS-C format digital Leica T.

Praktica  PL nova IB, one of the most quitessential 35 mm cameras made by VEB Pentacon Dresden.

Manufactured between April 1967 and January 1975, it is fitted with a 3 elements in 3 groups and automatic six blade diaphragm Meyer Görlitz Domiplan 50 mm f/2.8 lens.

It has a mechanically controlled horizontally travelling rubberized cloth shutter with speeds between B, 1 s and 1/500 s, and on middle front top of the camera is visible the distinctive pentaprism with Fresnel lens and microprism rangefinder as focusing screen, with a metering system consisting of a selenium cell exposure meter located in front of the pentaprism, and a shuitter speed meter beside the rewind crank.

The Meyer Görlitz Domiplan 50 mm standard objective is far from being a good performer from the viewpoint of resolving power and contrast, whose values are acceptable in the center but very low on the edges where it exhibits tons of aberrations, low sharpness and often renders blurry areas, so it is better to replace it for the cheap and much better M42 mount 4 elements in 3 groups and slightly heavier (175 g) Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar 50 mm f/2.8 lens — made between 1952 and 1978 — delivering not stellar but very good sharpness and contrast along with great colours (since the " eagle eye " ADN harks back to a highly reliable and proved old achromat triplet construction), with the added advantage of getting a more favourable minimum focusing distance of 0.35 m (0.75 m the Meyer Görlitz Domiplan).

Though obviously not reaching the qualitative levels of the most prominent 35 mm photographic brands of the market, the saga of Practika cameras for 24 x 36 mm cameras made by VEB Pentacon were highly reliable and sturdy, utterly mechanical and sported well-proved horizontal-travel focal plane shutters with cloth curtains, so with the help of their low price they become very widespread between early fifties and mid seventies, being even sometimes used by professional photographers like Robert Doisneau, that already in 1953 had used a Praktiflex FX 35 mm camera with a Carl Zeiss Jena Fern-Objektiv 500 mm f/8 T superteleobjective to get pictures from the attic of a very high building in Paris.

One of the most coveted items in the panoramic photography scope: the Brooks-Plaubel Veriwide 100 6 x 10 cm medium format camera getting a 100º degree diagonal angle of view coverage (similar to a 18 mm lens on a 35 mm format camera) and fitted with a 6 elements in 4 groups Schneider-Kreuznach Super-Angulon 47 mm f/8 lens featuring a five blade diaphragm with settings between f/8 and f/32.

It was designed in New York by Frank Rizzatti for Brooks Burroughs of New Jersey and manufactured by Plaubel & Co., of Frankfurt (Germany) between 1959 and 1965, with a total production of approximately 30,000 units.

Having a capacity for seven 56 x 92 mm images on a 120 medium format film roll, this is a very compact camera in which the film winds backwards from right to left.

The shutter speeds range between 1 second and 1/500 s, with flash synch up to 1/500 s and M synch for flashbulbs, with the added bonus of a slef-timer that is activated pushing the sync lever to V after cocking the shutter).

This is a very high quality panoramic camera with which spectacular results can be obtained, always understanding that any photographer will have to take his/her time to do things, since there isn´t any rangefinder or groundglass whatsoever, so focusing distance must be guesssed and set on a scale calibrated from 2.3 feet (70 cm) to infinity, with a working way comparable in this regard to the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm)  Hasselblad SWC with Carl Zeiss Biogon 38 mm f/4.5 

Beaulieu R16 movie camera using 16 mm format film. On the left of the image can be seen the eyepiece of the viewfinder.

Lower area of the same Beaulieu R16 cinema camera attached to a Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated lens through M42 mount adapter, a highly efficient combination since the small surface area of the 16 mm format chemical cinematographic emulsion needs truly top quality lenses to draw its full potential.

Not in vain, the 7 elements in 6 groups Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated is one of the best 50 mm lenses ever made, particularly if we bear in mind its incredible price/performance ratio with a resolving power of 89 lines/mm, excellent contrast and a great bokeh, its small size and weight (230 g and a length of 43 mm), its 8-blade diaphragm, its excellent 7 layer multicoating bringing about a praiseworthy resistance to flare and ghosting, along with a a solid entirely metallic mechanical construction, virtues turning it into a keeper both in the photographic and filmmaking arena, analog and digital alike (within the latter one it has already proved its worth in Full HD and 4K recordings), where the accuracy and smoothness of its focusing helicoid work like a charm and allow substantial creative possibilities playing with depth of field.

Voigtländer Vito 1 Post War with Color-Skopar 50 mm f/3.5 lens, an anastigmat Tessar type with apertures between f/3.5 and f/16 calculated for colour film, unlike the original pre Second World War version designed for use with black and white film.

This lens is sharper and more contrasty than the Color-Skopar 50 mm f/2.8, since the enlargement of widest aperture up to f/2.8 pushes a bit the Zeiss Tessar design from which every Color-Skopar lens is greatly a clone.

A good folding 35 mm German camera, it was produced by Voigtländer & Sohn AG, Braunschweig between 1947 and 1950.

It features a Prontor-S shutter shutter with speeds between 1 s and 1/300 s.

Though not boasting a very fast lens, this camera is exceedingly compact and light (371 g) and becomes a relish to use.

Regarding the Color-Skopar 50 mm f/3.5 lens, it´s a top quality and very beautiful prime delivering excellent conttrast and color after stopping down from f/4.

On the other hand, the high quality black leather covering more than 80% of both the front and back area of this camera confers it a really elegant appearance.

A visitor to Solms Camera Fair checking a 7 elements in 6 groups Canon FD S.S.C 50 mm f/1.4 in very good condition.

This is one of the best standard lenses ever made regarding price/performance ratio along with the Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated and some East Germany Carl Zeiss Jena lenses.

Though suffering from coma and a bit soft contrast wide open, the Canon FD 50 mm f/1.4 S.S.C is a keeper making up a highly efficient bynomium with such top class cameras like the Canon F1, Canon F1 New and Canon T90 (the three are extraordinary cameras, and the latter one is one of the most beautiful cameras ever made, with a visionary and gorgeous design made by the visionary genius, 3D philosopher and aerodynamics pundit Luigi Colani, as well as sporting a lot of features and specifications that turned it into the sire of all subsequent models of AF Canon cameras, both in the analog and digital realm until now).

It´s very sharp from f/2 onwards, and its uniformity of center/borders/corners results between f/2.8 and f/11 is truly commendable, and its 8 blade diaphragm renders a beautiful bokeh with smooth out of focus highlights at the largest apertures.

Another image of the same lens in which we can see its solid mechanical construction entirely made of metal, unlike the plastic modern kit zooms attached to most digital cameras, which in addition are far less luminous, so the viewing quality on watching through the VF is much lower.

The precision mechanical coupling breech-lock mount inherent to Canon FD lenses and optimized to prevent any mechanical wear, since on attaching the objective, there isn´t any rotation of the contact surfaces between the body and lens, and the same happens with the signalling mechanisms.

The available second hand assortment of Canon FD lenses include such great performers as the Canon FD 55 mm f/1.2 S.S.C Aspherical, the Canon  New FD 50 mm f/1.2L, the Canon FD 85 mm f/1.2L, the Canon FD 135 mm f/2 (which gives an extraordinary image quality on a par with L lenses), the Canon FD 200 mm f/1.8L, the Canon FD 300 mm f/2.8L, the Canon FD 400 mm f/2.8L, the Canon FD 500 mm f/4.5L and others.

British Monorail MPP Micro Precision Products 4 x 5 large format technical camera from 1967 with a coated Kodak Supermatic 127 mm f/4.7 lens and a shutter release cable to minimize vibration during the photographic act.

The MPP large format cameras, manufactured between 1963 and 1982, were superbly engineered.

The design is essentially that of a field camera, but its designation as a 'technical camera' indicates it could make most of view camera movements.

Detail of the coated Kodak Supermatic 127 mm f/4.7 lens with Graphic Supermatic shutter and speeds of T, B, 1 s, 1/2 s, 1/5 s, 1/10 s, 1/25 s, 1/50 s, 1/100 s, 1/200 sand 1/400 s, with an aperture range between f/4.7 and f/32.

On top left of the image can be seen the shutter release cable in the area where it gets into its socket.

The very old wooden large format cameras with brass lenses have also their space at the Solms Camera Fair.

Here, we can see a German Hugo Stöckig & Co LF camera from late XIX Century with

a very beautiful Union Aplanat brass lens derived from the original Rapid Rectilinear designed by J.H.Dallmeyer in 1866 (with two identical front and rear components, but whose performance was limited by astigmatism in borders and corners of the image surface because of the Petzval sum, id est, the image curvature of its optical system was apparent) and the simultaneaously and independently exceedingly similar Aplanat design created by Dr. H. A. Steinheil, both of them with a common principle: the two glass types chosen (a light flint and another one being dense) for its construction had to differ as much as possible in refractive index but be similar in dispersive powers, with a configuration in which the lower index positive elements were inside, near the diaphragm, and the higher index negative elements were outside.

In late XIX Century, Hugo Stöckig & Co firm had its manufacturing locations in Dresden, Bodenbach and Zurich, often selling its cameras with the band name Union, and from 1901 to 1907 all union cameras were made by Ernemann.

The Rapid Rectilinear or Aplanat design was a seminal optical scheme in the History of Photography and reigned supreme throught 24 years, between 1866 and 1890

The large format Union Aplanat brass lens appearing in image and fitted to the Hugo Stöckig & Co LF camera boasts two types of glasses in its optical formula: a dense barium flint in wise symbiosis with a common crown glass, inspired by Steinheil´s original Univesal Aplanat design, and though expensive to make, it had a remarkable opto-mechanical performance for its time, with a praiseworthy correction of distortion and a very good control of optical aberrations over a wide range of object distances.

Robot Vollautomat Star II Model 2, a very pretty viewfinder camera for 24 x 24 mm frames on 35 mm film.

It is fitted to a Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 40 mm f/1.9 lens.

This camera boasts two bright-line finder frames for 40 and 75 mm focal lengths.

Manufactured between 1958 and 1969, the Robot Vollautomat Star II Model 2 brought the proven technology and features of the Robot Vollautomat Star II Model 1 with tall wind knob in a completely new and integrated housing.

The 6 elements in 5 groups Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 40 mm f/1.9 lens is a special one, because it was very luminous for its time, delivered high image quality, and became exceedingly cheap on being produced in massive quantities

Two great 35 mm cameras from fifties:

a) Nikon S2 rangefinder — with Albada 1x RF— for 24 x 34 mm frames on 35 mm film, produced by Nippon Kogaku between 1954 and 1958.

It is coupled to a 7 elements in 3 groups, 12 diaphragm blade and 90 mm minimum focusing distance Nikkor-S 5 cm f/1.4 lens, launched into market in 1950, a stellar performer for the time and very light (with a weight of only 150 g), whose designing aim was to strive upon beating the image quality delivered by the best highly luminous 50 mm standard Zeiss and Leitz German lenses of the period in terms of contrast.

And it was attained (although regarding resolving power it was slightly inferior, something particularly visible on borders and corners), as proved during the Korean War by such recognized war photojournalists as David Douglas Duncan, Jun Miki, Horace Bristol, Carl Mydans, Hank Walker, Michael Rougier, Max Desfor and others, who realized that the amazing contrast rendered by the Nikkor-S 5 cm f/1.4 lens (whose optical formula was optimized to give maximum feasible resolution and contrast performance in the center, intentionally preserving a bit of pincushion distortion and strong vignetting at f/1.4 and f/2 ) in synergy with its excellent single coating got once and again better printed results of the photographs on paper, even in large sizes when the negatives and slides were used in photomechanics of the most important illustrated newspapers and magazines, thanks to its superior contrast and visual feeling of sharpness, in spite of not reaching (albeit approaching it, above all in the center) the yardstick resolution in pairs of lines per mm of Ludwig Bertele´s Carl Zeiss Jena 5 cm f/1.5 and Max Berek´s Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5.

On its turn, the Nikon S2 was a milestone of innovative design and a far better camera than its predecessor Nikon S, since its body was made of light-alloy diecast, boasted a much bigger RF/VF for the 50 mm field of view, with a bright life-size 1:1 finder lacking parallax correction but being by far the best 50 mm viewfinder of any Nikon rangefinder ever made, a much smaller and lighter body, a single bottom opening key easing the change of film, PC Sync, along with faster Lever advance and rewind replacing the earlier rewind knobs, a top shutter speed of 1/1000 s instead of the 1/500 s of the previous models and a wisely improved flare baffling inside the film chamber.

Besides, it was the first Nikon camera to use the standard 24 x 36 mm film format, which enable the definitive worldwide expansion of the brand, particularly throughout the United States key market and the unswerving work and insight of the great entrepreneur and Nikon distributor Joe Echrenreich.

b) Asahiflex IIa, a 35 mm camera featuring a great historical significance, because it was manufactured between 1955 and 1957, being one of the first models for 24 x 36 mm format made by Asahi Optical firm from Japan and the first one of the brand introducing the slow speed dial (visible in the lower middle area of the image) making possible to use speeds from 1/2 s to 1/25 s on the front of the camera and conceptually inherited from the Leicas III, IIIa and IIIf screwmount rangefinder cameras and the Canon Hansa.

It´s undoubtedly a riveting sight, since its constructive philosophy and contours greatly resemble a kind of mixture between a Leitz Leica III rangefinder and a Praktiflex.

The folding waist-level finder of the Asahiflex is folded in the image.

A remarkable for the time trait of this camera is that unlike the rest of SLRs of the time which had to be wound on to get the mirror down again, it sports a quick but not instant return mirror, whose possibility of being used eye-level is fostered by a small optical viewfinder located on top of the camera with the angle of view of a standard 50 mm lens.

The knurled big wheel visible on far top right panel of the camera is the film winding and shutter cocking knob, with the shutter release button beside it.

The camera is fitted to a 5 elements in 3 groups, 12 blades diaphragm and 230 g weight Asahi-Kogaku Takumar 58 mm f/2.4 in M37 screw mount (which can be adapted to M42 with an M37 to M42 adapter ring), manufactured between 1954 and 1957, featuring a 41º angle of view and interesting because it isn´t the widespread Gaussian design but a unique Heliar original optical scheme stemming from a design developed by Voigtländer optician Hans Harting in 1900.

Its minimum focusing distance is 60 cm.

The choice of a 58 mm focal length was because it was easier to design than a 50 mm or 55 mm, since in early fifties, when the first prototypes of this objective were designed, the Japanese optical industry barely had computers optimized for optical design, so vast majority of calculations had to be done by hand, with slide rules together with calculation and logarithm tables.

Though not a stellar performer, it is a sharp lens from f/2.8 and a bit soft in the corners at its widest f/2.4 aperture, boasting a small size and delivering perfectly circular aperture at every diaphragm.

With this camera every lens must be used with preset aperture.

Out of the image, just on the right of the lens (as seen in the picture) are the synchronizer terminal F and synchronizer terminal X for flash.

Top and upper front areas of a Leica M2 in near mint condition.

This is one of the most representative models of the M lineage of rangefinder cameras.

On the lower half of the image can be seen from left to right: the window of the rangefinder, the luminous frame-lines for 35, 50 and 90 mm lenses and the viewfinder.

Manufactured between 1958 and 1967, the utterly mechanical Leica M2 features a 0.72x magnification vewfinder designed by Willi Keiner in early fifties and optimized for its use with highly luminous 35 mm lenses — with specific bright-line frames — , the most widely used in photojournalism, so it greatly fostered this photographic genre during late fifties and the decade of sixties through the synergy between the photojournalist´s know-how, acquired sense of anticipation and the advantage of using a 35 mm format mirrorless Leica rangefinder camera featuring a crystal clear 0.72x magnification direct optical viewfinder integrated with the rangefinder boasting an effective base length of 49.32 mm.

It all enables the photographer to see exactly what is happening while pressing the shutter release button at the moment in which the image is imprinted on the chemical emulsion (unlike a reflex camera in which the sight is lost when the mirror´s up) and composing in a geometrical way, with the added bonus of the exceedingly silent noise brought about by the mechanical shutter of the M2 and its amazingly short 12 ms shutter lag, all of these aspects being insrumental to hold sway over the control of te moment and get the pictures.

It is important to say that though the Leica M3 manufactured between 1954 and 1966 has been the best Leica M rangefinder camera ever made (with an exceptionally accurate RF — designed by Willi Keiner, Heinrich Schneider and Erich Mandler — made up by more than 150 high-precision parts, entirely made of top-notch glass and whose 0.92x viewfinder magnification effect on the effective measuring base delivered by far the greatest accuracy ever attained with 50 mm, 90 mm and 135 mm lenses), its production cost was very high, so the Leica M2 turned into a more affordable alternative, and the Leica M2 design style has defined the appearance of every Leica model since 1958, both in the analog and digital era, including the Leicas M9, M9-P, M Monochrom and M10.

Bolta-Werk Photavit viewfinder camera for 24 x 24 mm format square image on 35 mm films inside special metallic reloadable cassettes.

It was manufactured between 1947 and 1948, being very tiny and light, to such an extent that it was announced in 1948 as the smallest camera for 35 mm film in the world.

A very well engineered German camera produced by the firm Photavit Werk GmbH with great mechanical prowess, it boasts a sprocket wheel making possible the uniformity of spacing between frames.

On the top left panel of the camera can be seen the big round knob for making the film advance and next to its base is the little knob for closing the camera back.

The socket for cable shutter release can be seen on the top plate, beside the window of the viewfinder.

And behind it is a separate frame counter.

A highly exotic photographic device with an uncoated 3 elements Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 37.5 mm f/2.8 , Synchro-Compur shutter and a range of speeds between B, 1 s and 1/500 s.

The camera has a beautiful depth of field table on its back area.

On top middle area of the lens is the little socket for bulb flash synchronization cable, with the small bolt to cock the shutter just on its left (fluted and with its inner area in green colour) as seen in the image, while the little silver knurled lever for setting the diaphragms is on its right as seen in the image (with the letter B under it, slightly on the right) and the long and thin bolt with golden top area protruding on middle right of the lens has the function of moving the metric ring.

Visoflex II and III OTVXO simple 5x magnifier 16461 vertical in its original box.

It is a finder with focusing eyepiece for the compensation of visual defects within the range of + 1.75 to - 2.5 dioptres.

The superb mechanizing of the metallic anodized surfaces and the top fluted chromed round area along with the outstanding accuracy of the Leitz Wetzlar Germany letters speak volumes abour the thoroughness with which the legendary German photographic firm makes things.

Number 3 of VIDOM, the great magazine of the Leica Historica e.V Deutschland. This lavish illustrated publication started some decades ago as a small black and white bulletin with few pages to subsequently become the worldwide reference-class editorial item in its scope, featuring 80 colour pages with top quality paper, gorgeous photographic quality of images and extraordinary articles written by recognized experts in the Leica brand like Dr. B. Bawendi, Lars Netopil, Stefan Thonesen, Herbert Mouget, Knut Kühn Leitz, Hans P. Rajner, Claus Walter, Dieter Dosin, Michel Specklin, Ottmar Michaely, Georg Mann, Carsten Schouler, Jerzy Wasowicz, Axel Rosswog, Hans-Günther von Zydowitz, Wolfgang Sauer, Alexander Decker, Norbert Oertel, Marc Hoch, Georg Steinmetz, Olaf Nattenberg, Dr. Heinz-Georg Nordmann, Dirk Daniel Mann, Rolf Adam, Walter Michel, Ulrich Möller and others.

On the right of the image you can see the silver metallic cylinder with ball and socket head set of a Leica tabletop tripod, which provides effective stability with low speed shots under 1/15 s and has three robust extending legs (out of image).

It is a sturdy and compact very high quality item made of aluminum and can be easily set up in a wide range of places.

Leitz Visoflex II reflex housing for Leica M rangefinder cameras.

It fits on any Leica M rangefinder camera like an interchangeable lens.

With the Leitz Visoflex System Leica tried to enhance the versatility of its RF cameras by adding a mirror housing, turning them into a kind of SLR models provided with ground glass viewing and focusing inserted between the camera body and either special short Viso mount lenses or the lens heads of different rangefinder coupled objectives, as well as enabling the use of long focal length objectives.

Manufactured between 1959 and 1962, the machining and finish of the anodized metallic surfaces is first-string in the same way as its smart appearance, with a painstaking manual grinding work until getting those admirable rounded contours, particularly on its upper area.

On middle top of the image you can see the release lever of the Leitz Visoflex II mirror reflex housing, milled with utmost care and thouroughness, in the purest " Made in Germany" style and perfection.

The distance between this release lever and the camera release button must be approximately 1 mm to make sure that the mirror always swings out of the way before the shutter runs down, even when releasing quickly.

It weighs 480 g and sports an optical depth of 40 mm.

On top left of the image: Leitz Entfernungsmesser " Fokos" in its original box.

This type of attachable rangefinder was introduced in 1933 with a short base of 7.5 cm for horizontal mounting on the Leica Standard, subsequently being manufactured in eight different versions, all of them giving a good approximation of the zone focus.

You must use the window beside the wheel for focusing, and there is a bright circle in the middle showing two images, which will eventually coincide on turning the wheel, and if the photographer doesn´t see the bright circle at first, he should move his / her eye position to reveal it.

Under it there´s an E. Leitz Wetzlar 35-135 mm Universal Viewfinder VIOOH Lyre Shape.

This viewfinder replaced the VIDOM and was introduced at the Leipzig Fair in 1940, being taller and shorter than its one prism predecessor.

It has two prisms in the eyepiece, so that the image is both upright and right way round, not being necessary to rotate the eyepiece to get upright pictures.

In addition, it is fitted with a parallax adjustment lever.

It was the Leitz universal finder until 1962/1963.

Leitz Hektor 135 mm f/4.5 in Leica M bayonet mount showing its socket for tripod. Manufactured between 1954 and 1960, it has 4 elements in 3 groups. It is a long lens design with non rotating lens head during focusing and click-stop diaphragm.

It features a 15 blades circular diaphragm, so its bokeh is splendid, but its optical formula is optimized for portraits at f/4.5 and f/5.6, so on shooting at those two widest apertures the center is sharp but the performance in borders and corners varies between blurred and soft.

Its mechanical construction is superb, with an awesome cosmetic appearance in the satin chrome of most of its barrel and the vulcanite of its lower third, albeit it is a very prone to flare lens and a shade should be permanently used.

Anyway, for contexts not belonging to the portrait domain (in which it can excel in the hands of an experienced photographer knowing what he´s doing), this lens isn´t a top class choice at all for other manifold contexts, because of its lack of sharpness at the two largest apertures, rendering of dull colors, low contrast and the aforementioned proclivity to flare, though the possibility to couple it to a number of digital cameras in different formats with which photographers can get pictures shooting handheld stopping down between f/8-f/11 at high and very high sensitivities between ISO 800 and 3200 without noise (avoiding shake pictures and preserving very good quality of image thanks to the state-of-the-art sensors), has fostered its versatility,  and a certain revival of this lenshas taken place during recent years, although best results will be obtained doing portraiture at f/4.5 and f/5.6.

Nevertheless, the 4 elements in 4 group Leitz Elmar 135 mm f/4 (manufactured between 1960 and 1965) is a much better alternative as an all-around performer, because of its far superior sharpness at all apertures and its top-drawer 12 blades diaphragm, so it´s a keeper in terms of optical performance, image quality attain and achieved results in portraiture, as well as having a price tag often turning it into a bargain.

One of the highlights of the Solms Camera Trade Fair: a Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH black chrome edition with scalloped focusing ring. Only 500 units of this coveted lens were made, resembling the first non aspherical type of this lens from 1959

It features 8 elements in 5 groups, one aspherical surface (in the fourth element), one floating group and exceedingly small dimensions (length of 52.5 mm with largest diameter of 53.5 mm) and weight (335 g) for its high luminosity and stratospheric performance, it is by far in practical handheld photography the best standard 50 mm lens with f/1.4 maximum aperture created until now in the world in terms of resolving power, contrast and awesome uniformity of performance at every diaphragm, including f/1.4 and f/2.

Yes, it is true, within the stratospheric realm, the 10 elements (one being aspheric and six more featuring anomalous partial dispersion glass elements) in 12 groups Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T* lens from 2013 delivers even better performance in virtually every significant parameter and is currently the reference-class lens in this focal length.

But in my humble viewpoint, it is important to bear in mind some key factors:

a) The Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T* lens was designed with no compromise whatsoever as to its size and weight (141 mm length x 92 mm diameter, with a weight of 1030 g in its ZE mount for Canon EOS and 970 g in its ZF.2 mount for Nikon F), so accurately focused handheld shots (particularly in the range 1/15s - 1/125 s) are much more difficult to attain with the Carl Zeiss benchmark lens than with the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH (335 g), and besides, the Otus will be front heavy virtually with every camera fitted to it.

Though being apparent that the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is a non retrofocus design enabling the objective to deeply get into the camera body, with its back element being very near the sensor (as well as making possible to reduce the number of lens elements) unlike the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T* which is a retrofocus design having to save the swivelling movement of the reflex mirror, we shouldn´t forget that the most difficult by far goal to attain for any optical designer when trying to create a large aperture top-notch lens is the combination of small size and weight, because all the lens creating softwares (including the most advanced ones handled by Leica and Zeiss) will generate a large and heavy lens if excellent parameters of image quality are introduced, and a very large and heavy one if parameters aim at generating a stratospheric optical performance.

b) The Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T * lens bears the medium format ADN of the highly successful and proved Distagon medium format retrofocus optical scheme for 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) format and whose entrance pupil is significantly smaller than the exit pupil.

That´s to say, it is a very brilliant adaptation of a medium format original optical formula mostly used for wideangle lenses, optimizing it for its use with Canon and Nikon full frame 24 x 36 mm format dslr cameras, particularly the Nikon D800E, whose excellent sensor needs really top-notch lenses to draw its full potential, which is surpassed even at full aperture on borders and corners by this yardstick lens.

That´s why its bokeh its extraordinary and amazingly smooth bokeh — enhanced by its nine blade diaphragm — is unbeatable in the 24 x 36 mm format photographic scope, in the same way as happens with its really commnendable correction of aberrations, its wonderfully subtle drawing of tonal gradations, the three dimensional quality in the look of the images it generates and the quick transition between focused and unfocused areas, without forgetting its tremendous resolving power based on a first-rate apochromatic design.

c) It must be added that the unrestricted design of the Zeiss Otus f/1.4 from the viewpoint of size and weight has also enabled to get a telecentric behaviour (with the exit pupil being further away from the sensor surface, so the light rays arrive at the sensor more perpendicularly, thereby minimizing microlens articfatcs, as well as reducing vignetting) in the five elements rear telephoto group — of which the nearest to the 24 x 36 mm digital sensor is a first-class double-sided aspheric one —, by far the most important one to achieve the second to none image quality delivered by this lens, in synergy with its also incredible control of flare and coma, in addition to extraordinary coatings in the aforementioned rear elements making them less sensitive to the relections from the shiny sensor.

d) The viewfinders of the best professional Canon and Nikon full frame format don´t reach the qualitative levels of easy focusing of professional analog cameras like the Olympus OM-1, Nikon F2, Canon F1 New, Leica R6, etc, so any photographer using the manual focusing Zeiss Otus f/1.4 handheld will not have easy to consistently get accurate 100% focus with the usual focusing screens nowadays featured by the cream of the crop 24 x 36 mm format Canon and Nikon dslr cameras.

Therefore, in my humble viewpoint the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH launched into market in 2004 and designed by Peter Karbe is a much more praiseworthy f/1.4 lens than the Zeiss 55 mm f/1.4 (which had the advantage of being designed almost ten years later), because it is much smaller and lighter (almost three times shorter and three times less weighty) and its designing parameters were geometrically more stringent and difficult to accomplish, opening a new era beyond the extraordinary designing solid designing foundations set firstly throughout seventies by Dr. Helmut Marx with his COMO optimization program (improved during eighties and nineties by Dr. Wolfgang Vollrath, Sigrun Kammans and Michael Heiden) and Horst Schröder with his 01 Analysis Program during nineties, as well as being a mechanical feat, because the Head of Optical Development at Leica Camera A.G managed to solve the great difficulty of fitting it into the existing Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 mount.

In addition, though not reaching the even more stratospheric optical performance of the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4, the very compact Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH ( whose superb image quality is at full f/1.4 aperture almost on a par with Mandler´s Summicron 50 mm f/2 Versions 4 and 5 at f/2 and clearly beats it in the reproduction of details in the areas beyond the image center) will most times deliver the best image quality in handheld not controlled photographic contexts. and is a lens that needed a far superior level of optomechanical precision, with a movement of the focusing helical that had to be paintakingly coordinated with the movement of the floating helical featuring a very short travelling distance of two millimeters, and the whole mechanism had to be installed into the existing lens body to ensure the top class smoothness of the focusing ring, along with an overall improved approach in development and assembly and an inevitable big production cost of the expensive special glass of the third element from the Leitz glass lab.

Furthermore, the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH design was strongly rooted in the 8 elements Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Version 6 Project.

On the other side, the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH meant to all intents and purposes in 2004 (year of its market introduction) the evolutive pinnacle of 48 years of Leica know-how in the scope of aspherical technology which started in 1966 being the first firm in the world making aspherical lenses featuring aspherical surfaces (when Gerd Bergmann and Dieter Jung were able to develop a copying grinding machine used with virtually handcrafted parameters, huge knowledge and devotion to enable the creation by Prof. Helmut Marx of the first Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1.2 Asph) and was subsequently greatly improved by Stefan Dahlhaus and Michael Thomas during late nineties regarding the precision in the grinding and polishing of aspherical lenses, under the global supervision of Lothar Kölsch, Horst Schroeder, Peter Karbe and Sigrun Kammans who made up the world benchmark competence center for aspherical technology until 2002.

Anyway, it is very clear that working under controlled conditions, both in studio and outdoors, with the lens on a tripod, the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 will deliver the best results.

But if the legendary world class Leica expert Tom Abrahamsson doubted if most Leica photographers could ever use the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH to its full performance, you can imagine the exceedingly good technique and experienced necessary to get only the 90% of the Zeiss Otus f/1.4 potential, since it is probably the best lens in any format made in the world hitherto (along with the almost diffraction limited 15 elements in 11 groups Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 23 mm f/5.6 for digital backs, 112º angle of coverage — equivalent to a 16 mm lens in 24 x 36 mm format — ,with  an amazing large image circle of 70 mm and delivering extraordinary image quality on the whole image area, even at full aperture without any vignetting, with the advantage of a flange focal length of approximately 45 mm allowing infinity focus with vast majority of technical cameras and a state-of-the-art multicoating achieving outstanding transmission of the light, laudable contrast and a virtual freedom of ghost and flare; the Leica Apo-Telyt-R 280 mm f/4 and the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 300 mm f/2.8 for 4/3 sensors), getting superlative qualitative levels of sharpness, contrast, sharpness and image field illumination, as an evolutive apex of one of the best performing designs in the history of optics: the Distagon, whose first top-notch family members were the first Distagons designed during fifties with very little computer support.

Not in vain, the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T* lens includes a significant percentage of Erhardt Glatzel´s DNA, since the great German chief optical designer of Carl Zeiss improved very much the optical performance of the Distagon scheme concept of retrofocus lens both for 24 x 36 mm format and 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format during sixties and seventies, through a symbiosis between the use of increasingly fast computers, lens creating programs and his tremendous knowledge, creativity, intuition and resources of all kind, epitomized by such legendary lenses like the Distagon 35 mm f/2 for 24 x 36 mm format Contarex from 1965, the Carl Zeiss Distagon 35 mm f/1.4 lens for 24 x 36 mm format Contax cameras, the chrome Carl Zeiss Distagon C 60 mm f/3.5 C from seventies (which already at this time delivered very good image resolving power and contrast, laudable correction of distortion and outstanding microcontrast), the 10 elements in 9 groups Carl Zeiss Distagon CF 60 mm f/3.5 (with a weight of 1375 g and dimensions of 125 mm length x 104 mm diameter) for 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) format, the 7 elements in 7 groups Carl Zeiss Distagon CFi T* 60 mm f/3.5 T* (also for square medium format), the Distagon T* 35 mm f/1.4 for 24 x 36 mm format Contax cameras and others.

But the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T* lens has meant a quantum leap in optical designing because in terms of mechanical and above all optical performance it has gone far beyond two of the greatest milestones in the history of photographic lenses:

a) The best Carl Zeis Distagon lenses for both 24 x 36 mm format and 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) format designed by the genius Erhardt Glatzel with his steadily enhanced adaptive optimization method in lens design using computers and specific softwares to subsequently add his ingenuity and optical wizardry of his own.

It´s important to bear in mind that vast majority of Erhardt Glatzel´s Distagon designs (particularly the ones for medium format cameras) from mid sixties onwards are very adequate for photogrammetric and aerial photography.

b) The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 55 mm f/3.5 for Contax 645 medium format camera, which delivers excellent image quality across the entire image field, with an amazing uniformity of optical performance between center, borders and corners at every diaphragm, along with a paiseworthy correction of distortion.

c) The 4 elements in 3 groups Carl Zeiss T * Superachromat 250 mm f/5.6 for 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) format, one of the most perfect lenses ever made (almost diffraction limited — on a par as to it with the likewise almost diffraction limited Leica Apo-Macro-Elmarit-R 100 mm f/2.8— and only surpassed in this regard by the diffraction limited Leica Apo-Telyt R 280 mm f/4), a world-class flagship of unique sharpness, resolving power and contrast, in addition to not needing any infrared correction and boasting an unbeatable perfect color and secondary spectrum correction.

To properly understand what the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T* lens for 24 x 36 mm format has meant, it is fundamental to know that it beats the Carl Zeiss T *  Superachromat 250 mm f/5.6 regarding the correction of residual aberrations inside the Rayleigh limit of focusing uncertainty.

But there isn´t an there won´t be any perfect objective. Every lens has got its strong points and drawbacks and both telecentric lenses and those ones using telecentric schemes (opposite to symmetrical designs in which their exit pupils are near the image,plane) in specific groups of their optical formula will need to be very big in size, heavy and with large bayonet diameters, as happens with the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4, which is a full-dress no compromise at all lens boasting a tremendously high sharpness across the entire frame at every aperture, a remarkable absence of coma, a reduction of longitudinal chromatic aberration to negligible levels, second to none flatness of field, a silky smooth focusing ring, a state of the art mechanical engineering and construction, an unbeatable bokeh in the realm of the 50-55 mm f/1.4 standard lenses for 24 x 36 mm format (and only very slightly bettered in this regard by the Minolta MC Rokkor 58 mm f/1.2, the Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Pancolar 80 mm f/1.8, and Mandler´s Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4, Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1 and Summicron-M 90 mm f/2), a very complex optomechanical design with massive use of bearings, a true and exceptional apochromatic design correcting the three colours of light (red, green and blue) and focusing each one at the same point to avoid any colur fringing, an awesome uniformity of optical performance between center, borders and corners, an impressive correction of distortion (reducing it to almost zero as to pincushion and to roughly 0.80 % barrel).

But the extraordinary potential of this lens (which will excel in controlled both indoor and outdoor environments, particularly in studio) is not easy at all to obtain on shooting handheld, because it is a very bulky and heavy manual focusing lens with a weight of one kg and exceedingly large dimensions, so in my humble opinion, excellent highly luminous and much smaller and lighter lenses like the 390 g Zeiss Planar 50 mm f/1.4 ZE in both Canon EOS and Nikon mount (a top quality lens featuring a great price/optomechanical performance ratio), the 470 g Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1.2, the 205 g Takumar 55 mm f/1.8 Super-Multi-Coated and the 395 g Summilux-R 50 mm f/1.4 Version from 1967 will deliver much more consistent results in terms of focusing accuracy and stability with handheld shots.

And the focusing accuracy is fundamental to get high image quality and an absolutely key factor to be able to draw as much as possible of the Zeiss Otus 55 1.4.

Updating September 2017: The extraordinary 11 elements (two of them aspherical) in 9 groups Leica Summilux SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH Autofocuslens designed by Peter Karbe for the Leica SL mirrorless full frame camera and presented approximately a year after this article was written, has clearly become the new world benchmark standard lens in terms of image quality, with a weight of 1065 g (very similar in this regard to the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Distagon T* lens), but outperforming it as an all-around performer regarding indoor (including studio) and outdoor working contexts, both in controlled environments and in outcontrolled ones shooting handheld, thanks to its very accurate AF and its much higher rate of consistent results.

Nikon F2S Photomic with Nikkor 50m mm f/1.4 standard lens, one of the variants of the superb Nikon F2 slr camera which reigned supreme within the realm of photojournalism throughout seventies of the XX Century.

It is an utterly mechanical camera built like a tank and boasting a horizontal travelling titanium shutter, depth of field preview, mirror lock-up and a remarkable self-timer between 2 and 10 seconds, in addition to having a wide assortment of interchangeable focusing screens and meter prisms available, along with more than 50 excellent manual focusing Nikkor lenses.

This camera was designed and manufactured to last a lot of decades of professional hard use in a number of photographic genres, didn´t  most times need any kind of repairing and vast majority of them work nowadays like a charm.

On middle top of the camera you can see the Photomic DP-1 prism featuring exposure meter with outer window and a button to check the battery charge.

Nikon reached the glory during seventies and eighties with world dslr flagships like the Nikon F2, Nikon F2S Photomic and the electronic and also superb Nikon F3, as well as manufacturing cameras with an incredibly good price/quality ratio like the Nikon FM2, another entirely mechanical camera featuring very compact size and weight (540 g), shutter speeds between 1 second and 1/4000 s and B, an extraordinary titanium shutter and flash synchronization up to 1/200 s (which would be subsequently improved by the legendary Japanese photographic firm until reaching 1/250 s sync speed in the Nikon FM2n launched into market in 1984), so it was used in plenty of different photographic assignments, including wedding photography, a field in which it was wisely chosen as a very competent photographic tool in symbiosis with the excellent Nikkor and Micro-Nikkors lenses until mid of the XXI Century decade.

Just behind it there´s an Olympus OM-3 manual camera without any automatic exposure modes and an entirely mechanical shutter. A real workhorse and one of the most advanced 35 mm cameras ever made, fruit of the immense talent and ingenuity of the Japanese engineer Yoshihisa Maitani (the greatest ever genius in this scope along with Oskar Barnack), creator of many influential and visionary cameras like the landmark Olympus OM-1, the Olympus Pen-F and the Olympus XA, whose mainspring was a very small size and weight in symbiosis with an uncompromising image quality, since Maitani was a full-fledged Leica M cameras admirer and devoted his life to steadily fighting tooth and nail trying to transfer the unmatched virtues of Leica M cameras and lenses in terms of tiny volume, very low wieght and top flight image quality achieved to the realm of 24 x 36 mm format reflex, much more versatile than the Leica M System, with the possibility of using a vast slew of long teleobjectives beyond 135 mm and a wide range of lenses and accessories for micro and macro photography.

And if it were not enough, it isn´t so known — that though being able to attain it because it was simply impossible — the legendary Yoshihisa Maitani strove with all of his soul after designing a viewfinder equalling the crispness and contrast of the unbeatable 0.92x VF of the Leica M3 rangefinder, creating the extraordinary viewfinder of the Olympus OM-1 (also featuring a 0.92x coverage with a standard 50 mm lens) which has been the best in the world in this regard for 46 years hitherto, even beating the first-rate 0.8x magnification VF of the Leica R6 from 1988, the 0.86 VF of the Nikon FM2n from 1982 and the 0.77x magnification of the Canon T-90 (one of the most influential slr cameras in history, with a gorgeous timeless designm and highly ergonomic profile made by Pier Luigi Colani) .

Those were the days.

5 elements in 3 groups and 135 g Non-Ai Nikkor-P Auto 105 mm f/2.5  Telephoto lens in reflex F Mount with a minimum focusing distance of 1.2 meters.

One of the best medium telephoto lenses ever made, excelling at getting pictures with very natural perspective, a key factor in portraiture, live concerts photography, etc.

It was introduced in June 1959 for the Nikon F and delivers exceptional image quality and contrast along with very good bokeh — enhanced by its 6 blade diaphragm —, as well as featuring a great mechanical construction, and it became exceedingly popular among the professional photographers of sixties, seventies and eighties, many of whom have kept it as a real trove all around performer lens hitherto.

This awesome lens inspired by the Zeiss Sonnar 250 mm f/5.6 design and boasting a scalloped focusing ring, a small rear element and a first-rate single coating, was extensiely used by Amalie R. Rothschild (probably with the Leica M user Jim Marshall the person who got more pictures of prominent personalities and bands in the golden era of rock and roll), a renowned award winning filmmaker and photographer, with her 24 x 36 mm format Nikon F during her coverage of the mythical six week Bob Dylan and The Band 1974 tour throughout January and February of that year in United States, getting pictures in 21 cities and 40 concerts, and in subsequent years making photographs of Chuck Berry, the Beach Boys, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Miles Davies, Roberta Flack, Dizzie Gilespie, Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Mick Jager, Elton John, B.B. King, John Lennon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Thelonius Monk, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Santana, Nina Simone, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, The Who, Neil Young, Frank Zappa and many others, always discerningly striving after not pointing the camera at strong light sources to avoid the proneness to flare of this telephoto lens, and nowadays keeps gorgeous prints of them made on photographic paper in traditional darkroom with top level enlargers.

And six years before, she had already made with the same camera and lens an excellent black and white head and right shoulder picture of Bob Dylan on the stage in 1969 in the Isle of Wight which was published in the number 43 of the Rolling Stone magazine of October 4 of that year.

6 elements in 4 groups Leitz Wetzlar Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Third Version.

It is a very interesting lens created by Walter Mandler in Midland, Ontario, Canada, as a derivative if its 6 elements in 4 groups and 290 g Summicron-R 50 mm f/2 for Leicaflex cameras, having beeen produced both in Wetzlar (Germany) and Midland, Ontario (Canada).

It has a weight of 200 g, a 10 blades diaphragm, minimum focusing distance of 0.7 m and delivers an excellent image quality in which top priority was to get the best feasible contrast and sharpness in the center, at the cost of slightly reducing the resolving power rendered by the previous 1st and 2nd versions of the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 giving medium contrast and higher resolution which were the best choice for black & white photographers.

The Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Third Version (manufactured both in Germany and Canada) meant a transitional turning point in the history of the Leica M traditional flagship lens par excellence, since it was by Walter Mandler, who with his well-known tremendous optical background, exceedingly comprehensive knowledge of the different optical glass types, an impressive insight and an outstanding grasping of the photographic market circumstances, realized that Leica needed a top-notch quality standard 50 mm f/2 lens optimized for micro contrast and colour film.

And he clearly achieved that goal with this lens, which within time would turn into the technological, mechanical and optical launching platform for the future masterpiece non aspherical 6 elements in 4 groups Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Fourth Version (manufactured between 1979 and 1994, and featuring identical optical formula to the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Fifth Version made between 1994 and 2014), that would reign supreme as benchmark of optical and mechanical quality for 34 years until the introduction of the stratopsheric Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH in 2013.

Walter Mandler accomplished the amazing optical feat of taking the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Double Gauss formula without any aspherical or floating elements whatsoever to the scientific boundaries of the physically possible (the margin for improving the optical performance of this non aspherical scheme is exceedingly small, as proved by Peter Karbe in thorough research made by him between 1989 and 1991 which proved that going beyond Mandler´s " Uber die Berechnung einfacher Gauss-Objektive " 1979 Doctoral Dissertation at Giessen University was virtually an exhausted way, since the driving force of Ernst Leitz Midland, Ontario, Canada had drawn most of its potential to practical effects, with a continuous sagittal red line of contrast for 10 lp/mm geting a value of 92% in the center, 72% in the borders and 54 % in the corners, along with a tangential discontinuous red line with a value of 92% in the center, 86% in the borders and 80% in the corners, in addition to having achieved simultaneous stellar values of contrast (superior in this regard to the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Version 3 from 1969) and resolution (similar to the Summicron DR Type 2 from 1956).

The current Head of Optics Development at Leica Camera AG and best optical designer in the world managed to improve Mandler´s 1979 non aspherical Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 optical formula with his non aspherical  8 elements Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Version 6th 1989-1991 Project, increasing its contrast value for 40 lp/mm over 50% at f/2 on the whole image surface, and at the same time raising the ability of detail and nuances capturing at such widest aperture, likewise solving the lack of suitability of highly refractive optical glasses to correct colour aberrations using special kinds of glasses featuring anomalous partial dispersion in the elements 1 and 2, keeping intact the very small size and exceedingly light weight of Mandler´s Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 with only 4 mm more of focal length than it and an optical formula whose elements located in front of the diaphragm resembled the ones sported by Mandler´s Summicron-M 50 mm f/2, while the ones placed behind it would follow the scheme of the Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4 Asph, reaching an amazing contrast value of 75% at 40 lp/mm in the image center and adjacent areas and more than 50% on the corners, supported by its great colour correction.

But once more, Walter Mandler´s visionary grasping of the affordable manufacturing costs limits according to the market context proved to be decisive, and the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Version 6 with eight elements was finally abandoned because of its very high production cost and lack of commercial feasibility.

Not in vain, to begin with, Walter Mandler priority was based on an integral philosophy of cost reduction without losing any optical and mechanical quality (even slightly improving them), avoiding the use of the expensive LaK9 glass — replacing it with an exceedingly skillful combination of flint glass elements — and only two types of optical glasses, of which just one (with a refractive index of 1.8) was special and expensive, coming from the Leitz Glass Laboratory.

Mandler could do it with a host of ingenuity, experience and tricks of himself: he applied common radiii throughout the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 1979 Fourth Version 1979 lens, reduced to four the number of sets of grinding and polishing tools, made identical the first and last surfaces of the lens, in the same way as the outside convex surfaces of both doublets and their inner surfaces, while devising different different diameter, thickness and glass types for those doublets, whose cemented mounting was a mechanical design advantage, significantly dropping the cost of machining and lens elements centering as well as succesfully avoiding internal reflections, glare and flare, in addition to exhibit an stunning optical performance, resolving 40 lp/mm at 60% contrast across the film diagonal.

Another of the most significant mainstays of the Solms Camera Trade Fair is the vast array of illustrated magazines, books, brochures, instruction manuals, booklets and all kind of photographic literature on sale at very affordable prices, particularly related to the Leica firm.

In this regard, attendees can often find numbers of vintage magazines like Curt Emmermann´s Die Leica (edited between 1931 and 1942), Leica Photography (with samples dating back to thirties), Leica World ( directed by Hans-Michael Koetzler) and other ones being more modern like ViewfinderLFI, M, S, the Japanese Camera Magazine and others.

Here, on the left of the image, we can see the 1960 book Leica und Leica-System, dealing on the photographic experiences and know-how with Leica gear gained throughout years by its author Theo M. Scheerer, who appears on the cover holding a Leica M2 with a Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Rigid Type 2 (manufactured between 1956 and 1968) featuring a scalloped focusing ring.

It is a great 186 pages work published by Umschau Verlag in 1960 and providing any Leica enthusiast with lavish information on all kind of aspects related to the German photographic firm at the time along with his enlightening proficiency on the Leica M System and its virtues.

On the right of the image, out of focus, can be seen an original Leitz Wetzlar box with a 16499P viewfinder for Visoflex III inside it.

Three visitors watching a green Leitz Leica R3 Safari Electronic 24 x 36 mm format camera attached to a 8 elements in 7 groups Summilux-R 50 mm f/1.4 with its shade.

Right middle top area of a Paillard Bolex H-16 Reflex camera from 1959 working flawlessly nowadays, featuring focusing and viewing through the lens, variable shutter and the possibility of making perfect fades and lap dissolves to blend the end of a scene with the beginning of the next one.

Bolex is a magical word in the realm of 16 mm and Super 16 mm cinematography (in addition to some models of the Swiss brand which were designed for use with 8 mm and Super 8 mm film formats) with second to none very high quality cameras and lenses designed for these smalls formats and an exceedingly accurate spring-wound clockwork power system.

Specially the Bolex H-16 Reflex from 1956, Bolex H-16 RX-5 from 1966, Bolex H16-SB and SBM from 1970, Bolex H-16 EBM from 1971 and Bolex-H16 EL from 1975 became the standard of the movie making, above all in both the documentary and news coverage spheres, because of some important factors:

a) Their superb entirely mechanical working along with a very sturdy metallic construction able to endure a lot of decades of professional use.

b) The impressive image quality delivered by their famous Kern-Switar prime lenses in both bayonet and C Mount featuring high luminosities: Kern-Switar 10 mm f/1.6, Kern-Switar 16 mm f/1.8, Kern-Switar 25 mm f f/1.5 (delivering an excellent bokeh wide open), Kern Vario-Switar 12,5-100m f/2 multicoated, Macro Switar 26 mm f/1.1 RX, Kern Switar 75 mm f/1.9 and the widespread Angenieux 12-120 mm f/2.2 zoom lens.

c) The reliable standard 100 feet spools which could be replaced by 400 feet magazines.

d) The possibility of convert the Bolex 16 mm format cameras to Super 16 mm format giving superior image quality and fostering the possibilities of blow-ups to 35 mm standard film and the new wide screen TV technology.

Throughout roughly forty-five years (between early fifties and late eighties) Bolex cameras became the benchmark, and particularly in symbiosis with the extraordinary Kodachrome 40 16 mm film, they were able to shoot some of the most legendary movies ever made, like the Oscar winning Walt Disney Production The Living Desert  (1953), the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games official film and David Attenborough´s acclaimed The Private Life of Plants (filmed in 1995 with four Bolex 16 mm cameras with electric motors on their sides and which made extensive timelapse shots that revealed aspects of plants biology unknown until then.

Even currently, well within the XXI century, professional moviemakers and discerned amateurs go on making wonderful films with their Bolex 16 mm cameras loaded with superb films like the Kodak 50DKodak 250D and Kodak 500T getting fantastic results with that unique filmic image aesthetics inherent to the best chemical emulsions.

Paillard Bolex H16 camera with Som Berthiot Tele-Cinor 75 mm f/2.5, Som Berthiot Paris Cinor 25 mm f/1.5 Som Berthiot Cinor 17 mm f/1.5.

Once more, the fascinating digital era in amazing fast evolution has enabled something  absolutely impossible to imagine before early XXI Century: to improve the XX Century previously known remarkable image quality of the 16 mm format up to roughly a 400 % thanks to a breakthrough scientific advance: the Digital Intermediate technology, consisting in shooting on chemical film, scan it into a digital top-notch quality format and record the final master back to film for printing.

It has currently turned into one of the most exciting and fastest growing technologies in the digital post production of motion picture films, giving the cinematographer creative possibilities so far only experienced in colour correction for TV and video release, with the added advantage of creating several negatives which are used to generate the release prints avoiding any further quality degrading duplication, to such an extent that the digital mastering preserves the valuable camera negative and there is no need to duplicate material for opticals, as well as allowing more editorial flexibility, because last minute changes of the cut are possible.

And since the original camera negative is scanned in extraordinary quality, the different formats for the digital distribution channel (HD, SD, DVD, Blu-Ray, 2K, 4K) can be created from a single digital master in fabulous and unprecedented high quality grounded in a collaborative working environment for visual effects, colour correction, editing and mastering, in addition to a commendable transferring to intermediate and print film of the tonal composition of scenes recorded on 16 mm films, with the added bonus of much easier to attain chroma key composites in comparison to optical printing and more powerful colour correction tools than with simple three colour printing.

Digital Intermediate gives even far better results in image quality than the best telecine post production scannings (often converting film reels into a lesser quality standard video stream SD 525i, HD 720p or HD 1080 p ) unilike D.I technology in which each roll of film is scanned into a sequence of high resolution, pin registered, discreet image files, mostly in uncompressed DPX format.

If we add to this state-of-the-art further postproduction tools like DaVinci Resolve 4K colour correction, Digital Vision Phoenix film restoration, Lasergraphic ScanStations getting impressive image stability and dynamic range compared to traditional telecines and others, we can properly grasp how Digital Intermediate has enabled not only the survival of the gorgeous 16 mm cinematographic film format, but particularly the incredible levels of improvement in its image quality, so any lover of movie making can relish it with clockwork Bolex, Bell & Howell, Beaulieu, Krasnogorsk, etc, 16 mm cameras.

The quality and versatility of the Digital Intermediate is so amazing that often blow-ups made from 16 mm to 35 mm format have endured acceptably their projection on cinematographic theatres, so in this regard the Super 16 mm format is a better choice, because it features approximately a 20% bigger surface than the standard 16 mm, on augmenting the exposed negative area, extending it over the zone of the film which was reserved for the optical soundtrack of the standard 16 mm, and as a matter of fact it was created to shoot feature films for 35 mm exhibitions with a lightweight 16 mm camera, and it delivers an increase in image quality between a 20% and a 65% depending on the aspect ratio, with a significant improvement in definition and veing very adequate for its blown up to 35 mm cinematographic format, specially with the intermediate digital system.

Detail of the three Berthiot Paris cinema lenses of the Paillad Bolex H16 movie camera with the three aforementioned lenses.

A real jewel: the legendary Minolta MC Rokkor 58 mm f/1.2, one of the reference-class optics ever produced in terms of wonderful bokeh. Featuring 7 elements in 5 groups, a weight of 478 g and an 8 blade diaphragm, it was manufactured between 1966 and 1973 and boasts such a superb entirely metallic mechanical construction that in spite of the almost five decades elapsed since its introduction, it currently works flawlessly, being a stellar performer in portrait genre, as well as having preserved its silky smooth and highly accurate manual focusing ring and delivering good contrast and nice color.

This sample appeared at the Solms Photographic Fair 2016 is the Version 1 with radioactive lens coating and silver aperture ring made between 1968 and 1969.

Needless to say that the drawing, image aesthetics, subtlety and magic (particularly in the bokeh at the widest apertures, with the double choice of using f/1.2 for splendid softness and typical high levels of vignetting in portraiture and between f/2 and f/4 — the best results will be obtained at f/2 —  also to highlight the main subjects with out of focus backgrounds, but with remarkable sharpness and contrast) rendered by this unique lens (in the same way as happens with other historical flagships in this regard and oozing character like the Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Pancolar 80 mm f/1.8 MC, Walter Mandler´s gorgeous non aspherical manual focusing Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4 and Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1 and others) are impossible to emulate with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, though they can be optimized with them.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza