LTM 50mm Summitar & Fortepan 100

June 8, 2009

090503 ford forte 100 summitar BLOG

I bought my Leica M6 a few years ago along with a modern Summicron 35mm f/2 lens. That is my most used focal length so I was quite satisfied to only have the one lens for this camera. Having the one lens saves any complications that arise when trying to decide which lens to use. Also, if I was going to get a second one it would be hard to decide whether to go wider to a 28 or 24/25 or a bit longer to a 50. I was also aware of the price of modern M lenses; even second hand they are expensive enough that I’d want to be certain it was a lens I’d use a lot. There was also the possibility that a second lens might lead to the purchase of a second body, so I kept things minimal and simple with one lens and body.

Things changed a little when I started to learn about the older Leica lenses, generally referred to as LTM (Leica thread mount) or LSM (Leica screw mount). These were made for the rangefinder cameras that preceded the M models. I’m no historian but I believe the LTM lenses date from approx 1930s to mid 1950s. A few aspects got me interested in buying one of these older lenses. First they are quite cheap compared to the modern ones; the lens I bought cost approx $200. Secondly they have a different look to modern lenses due to the different coatings. Third, they are quite easy to fit to an M camera by using an adapter. I bought my LTM to M adapter from an ebay dealer in Hong Kong for around $20. It works fine, just make sure you get the right one to bring up the correct frame lines in the viewfinder.

The lens I bought is a 50mm collapsible Summitar f/2. Based on the serial number I dated it to the early 1950s. I’m pretty happy with it, certainly like the look it brings. The example above was shot around f/4 using Fortepan 100 ISO which was processed in Xtol. Unfortunately the Forte films are no longer available. The factory in Hungary closed a couple of years ago & the supply chain seems to be empty.

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