The Birth of the Standard Lens
The Ur-Leica, created in 1914, served as the precursor to the first line of cameras that used film in the 24 x 36mm format. At least three UR Leicas were built by Barnack, who also experimented with lenses, including the retractable Mikro-Summar 42mm f/4.5.
Traditionally, a standard lens is one whose focal length roughly matches the diagonal of the film. For a standard 24 x 36mm format camera, this equates to a focal length of approximately 43mm. In reality, the actual focal length designed by Ernst Arbeit for the Ur-Leica seems to be closer to 43mm.
For the Ur-Leica, Max Berek calculated the Elmax 50mm f/3.5 lens, with “Elmax” standing for “Ernst Leitz and MAX (Berek).” The 42mm lens was replaced by the optically superior Elmax 50mm f/3.5 in the production Leica I.
Since then, the 50mm lens has become the standard lens, although some companies do offer lenses that are closer to a 43mm focal length, such as the Pentax 43mm f/1.9 and the Contax 45mm f/2.
Safe and Comfortable
I have a fondness for the compact and collapsible 50mm Elmar f/3.5. I tend to be a bit reserved when it comes to using larger lenses for street photography, but the Elmar’s small size puts me at ease. When shooting in well-lit conditions, I typically set the aperture to f/5.6 – f/8, and with an ISO 400 film loaded, I’m equipped for some serious street photography. Overall, the Elmar’s convenience and reliable performance make it a trusted companion for my photographic adventures.
This Tessar-type lens was considered one of the best of its time, consisting of four elements in four groups, but it does suffer some loss in the outer zones when used wide open. However, I have found that the Elmar f/3.5 is sharper than the Summar and Summitar when stopped down, even by just a stop or two. In addition to its sharpness, the Elmar f/3.5 also boasts better contrast compared to uncoated lenses which tend to have lower contrast and flares, making it ideal for black and white photography. The smallest aperture for my collection of f/3.5 Elmars is f/18, except for the last series which has f/22 and the red scale.
On Digital Ms
The lens can be adapted for use on digital Leica M cameras with an L39-M adapter. However, it’s important to note that collapsible lenses may contribute to sensor dust, and I have observed this happening more frequently when using f/3.5 Elmars. In my experience, the Leica M9 sensor appears to collect more dust than my DSLRs with built-in automatic sensor cleaning.
One possible reason for this is that collapsing or uncollapsing the lens may create a pumping effect that introduces air and dust into the camera mount. To avoid this issue, it’s best not to collapse the lens while it is attached to the digital M camera.
Personally, I prefer to use non-collapsible lenses on digital M cameras to minimize the risk of sensor dust. If you are concerned about sensor dust, you might want to consider shooting film instead.contact: email@example.com © 2020 Zhao Zhenguo. All Rights Reserved.