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User Buyer's Guide:

Leica Screw Mount Lenses: aka LTM Lenses

Background, Forward Compatibility, Pre-War/Post War, Most Commonly Found, What to Look For, Best Buys


Point of View:

This Not-So-Objective Buyer's Guide is for the user, not the collector.   Rare lenses and variations are generally not mentioned here. There are a ton of collector's books for that. This page is for the person who, for whatever reason--nostalgia, love, or insanity--wants to actually shoot pictures. I highly recommend an older edition of the LEICA MANUAL which covers the Screw mount camera system (aka Leica Thread Mount or LTM). Leica catalog reprints from the 30's/40's are also available.  Read Marc Small's book on European LTM lenses  if you are serious about all the possibilities.

Background:

Leica Screw Mount cameras were such a runaway success in the 30's to late 50's that many other companies made (and in some cases continue to make) Leica "Copies" using that mount, and of course the lenses for same. The most outstanding Leica Copy camera was the long lived line of Canon Rangefinders. Nikon, while not using the LTM mount for its own cameras, also made superb LTM lenses until the late 50's. In all, hundreds of different lenses were made in LTM. Many photogs of the 50's and 60's thought the Nikon and Canon lenses better than the Leitz, so take a close look before you pass them up. This buyer's guide will only cover the most well known of them, the ones you are most likely to encounter. Remember, this is a User's guide, not a collector's guide.

Other maker's LTM lenses can be researched in Marc Small's new book "LTM Lenses," Canon Rangefinders by Peter Dechert, Nikon Rangefinders by Robert Rotoloni, Leica Copies by HPR, and 300 Leica Copies by Pont & Princelle.

The pre-war Leitz optics left the factory uncoated.   However, sometimes you find coated pre-war optics which were sent back to the factory for updating.    Post-war optics are all coated.    Pre-war lenses were either black, nickel, or sometimes chrome.     Most Leitz LTM post war lenses are chrome versions (sometimes with leatherette trim).

Leitz chrome lenses from the 50's are very prone to "fogging" or "hazing."  Check the M lens profile for all the details.     This is especially true if they have been stored for years by the original owner in the proverbial closet.     The first thing most camera dealers do with such lenses is send them to the repair shop for disassembly and cleaning.    Occasionally you will encounter damaged  glass which can't be cleaned.

Holding the lens up to the light often doesn't tell you its true condition.  Take a small flashlight and shine it through the lens in both directions.  You may be in for some nasty surprises.

Many of the post-war Leitz LTM lenses have soft front surfaces which can easily be scratched even with lens tissue. The Summicrons and Summitars are so soft  that it's unusual to find one without scratches.   Despite their reputation, Leitz lenses of the 50's generally did not age as well as their competitors from Nikon and Canon.

The early Nikon "Nikkor's are chrome and very heavy. They were generally replaced in LTM by chrome and black versions. The 105/2.5 was an exception, since all were black and chrome lenses. All lenses are coated, with good hard coatings and generally have very little trouble with optics or coating. Generally the most desirable are the later and lighter black and chrome lenses.

The early Canon lenses have the "Serenar" label and are chrome. They were replaced by chrome "Canon" lenses. In most cases, the chrome Canon lenses were replaced with black versions. All except the very early pre-war versions are coated, and generally have very little trouble with the optics or coating. Generally the most desirable are the later black lenses.

Russian Lenses often contain great glass copied from Zeiss designs and very mediocre mounts and mechanics. I once bought four of them and returned three within minutes because they would not even screw onto a body!!!  The vodka ration was apparently a little too high that day on the assembly line.     The best of the lot from a standpoint of consistency, in my experience, is the 20/5.6 Russar. Buy them with a return privilege in case you got a new pet (aka dog) instead of a lens. Generally the earlier Russian lenses are chrome, and the later black. The first two digits of Russian lenses generally indicate the year of manufacture. To be more objective about it, Marc Small is a big believer in the excellence of the Russian Lenses. I agree that they can be excellent, but I have big problems with their mechanics.


Forward Compatibility

Virtually all LTM lenses (except the very earliest) will work just fine on your M series cameras with full rangefinder coupling. English Translation: LTM lenses offer low priced alternatives to new Leitz M lenses.

All you need is the proper Bayonet adapter to pull up the correct framelines on your M. Of course, if you can live with the wrong frameline automatically presenting itself (requiring manual correction with the frameline lever), you can use any bayonet adapter on LTM lenses.   See Profile

The later Leica M cameras have newer optically improved  M mount lenses, but the M lenses can't be used on the earlier screw mount cameras.   Early M lenses were Screw mounts with an adapter so they could be used on either series of cameras. Eventually the bean counters figured they could sell more new cameras lenses if their new lenses were ONLY in M mount. (A Big Thank You to the Leitz Marketing Dept)


User LTM Lenses

The classic big three LTM manufacturers are Leitz, Canon, and Nikon. Note that the early pre-1955 Canon lenses have the Serenar label. Although I have shot with a lot of the following lenses, I admit I have not used all of them. The following ratings are based upon the lens's general reputations.   If you think some of the opinions are in left field, let me know and I will re-evaluate. This is intended as a User's Guide, not a written in stone commandment.

Remember most of these classic lenses are 40-50 years old.  Because of modern technology, improvements in lens coatings, and improvements in optical formulas and manufacturing, it's a fairly safe bet most if not all of the modern LTM lenses introduced in the late 1990's are sharper than their classic counterparts.

The lenses listed here are either the most commonly found, or are noteworthy to some degree. No attempt has been made to make a complete LTM listing.  As a rule of thumb, earlier lenses up to the mid 50's are of heavier chrome construction, later lenses are black and are considerably lighter.   Most if not all Russian lenses have aluminum barrels, and the first two digits of the serial number indicates year of production.  Left out here are  longer than 135 lenses which require reflex housing for use.

12/15/19/20/21 mm Very few LTM lenses were available in super wides, until the introduction of the Cosina made Voigtlander screw mount lenses.  All are relatively hard to find except the new Japanese Voigtlanders.   A viable alternative may be using your Canon FD or Nikon F or Pentax Screw mount lenses on your LTM body with adapters, see profile.

12/5.6  Voigtlander Ultra-Wide Heliar: The widest production lens ever made for 35mm cameras went on sale in Japan 9/1/2000, made in Leica screw mount.  Not rangefinder coupled, it is sold with superb quality finder, a detachable metal black crinkle paint lens hood, and a front cap that fits over the outside of the lens hood.  Smallest aperture f/22.  Accessories  include a black crinkle metal 77mm filter attachment which replaces the regular lens hood, and an ingenious "spirit bubble level" intended to be mounted along side the accessory finder on the Voigtlander double accessory shoe. Available in chrome or black.  Made in Leica screw mount, add a bayonet adapter for your M.  

15/4.5 Voigtlander Heliar Aspherical introduced 1999 for the Japanese market.  Formerly the    widest lens ever made in Leica Screw Mount until the introduction of the 12/5.6 Voigtlander Wide Heliar.    Produced in both chrome and black versions, with separate black finder.  Made by Cosina for their new LTM camera, the Voigtlander Bessa L. One of the best LTM lenses ever made.

15/11-22  Panomigon   Late 1999 saw the introduction of the French made PANOMIGON 15MM - f / 22.    It's a f/11 lens with a fixed effective aperture of f/22, selling for about twice the price of the much faster 15/4.5 Voigtlander Heliar.   Perhaps I am missing something here, but at that price I don't see the point for such a slow lens.

19/3.5 Canon: This is a rare lens sought by both collectors and users. Black for the late Canon 7s. The widest lens made with RF coupling in LTM. Excellent finder. Three versions: with RF coupling, for FD mount and separate finder for use with mirror locked up, and a TTL viewing version in FD. Middle 70's production, excellent lens for the time.  Strangely enough, the 19/3.5 FL lens with a different optical design,  intended for mirror lock up on Canon SLRs,  tested noticeably better than the 19/3.5 RF version. 

20/5.6 Russar: Inexpensive Russian lens w/o RF coupling. Optical quality may vary greatly from example to example, but may be very sharp. See Profile  

21/4 Leitz Super Angulon(1958-1963) : Some LTM left the factory, but most of these are the M mount versions with the bayonet adapter removed. Not as sharp as the later 21/3.4 Super Angulon or 21/2.8 Elmarit, but they are not available in LTM. Watch out for fogging.

21/4 Voigtlander:  Introduced in 2001, rangefinder coupled, a great performing compact lens at a low price.  An excellent 21 brightline finder is also included.

21/2.8 Japanese Kobalux: current production, sold under different names with a bayonet adapter. I've got reports that this is a very sharp lens.  See Profile

21/3.5 Ricoh GR, 6 groups 9 elements, only for the Japanese home market, production 1,000 chrome, 110,000 yen, with finder/hood/hood cap/rear cap  and  limited 700 black paint, 115,000 yen, with finder/hood/hood cap/rear cap,   available March 26, 1999  and quickly sold out.  It is VERY well made, beautifully made in fact.  My Thanks to Yoshi for the information.

Another way to go is the mirror lockup versions of 21's made for single lens reflexes. These are early non-retrofocus designs, generally made in the middle 60's to early 70's. These lenses have the advantage of having a 21 finder made for them. Basically you have to find the appropriate adapter/s to mount them on a LTM or M body. You will lose RF coupling, but with a lens this wide, this is really NO problem.

21/3.4 Super Angulon R, made for the original Leicaflex. This is superb lens, and Leica made an adapter to put it on your M!

21/4 Minolta. This came with an excellent brightline finder. After much searching, I found a Minolta MD to Leica S adapter.

21/4 Yashica. With its standard Pentax type mount, fitting it to your Leica body with common adapters is no problem!

Another way to go is to adapt your SLR's 15 to 24 mm lenses via adapters to scale focus on your Leica LTM or M body. Just pick up the finder separately.

25 mm

25/3.5 Canon: excellent finder with a good reputation. Less than half the cost of the Nikon 25. Chrome only.

25/4 Nikkor: A collector's lens with a poor original finder. Better left for the collectors, unless you pick one up for $20 like I once did. Chrome only.

25/4 Voigtlander Skopar introduced in January 1999 for the Japanese market.  Made in both chrome and black, with a separate black viewfinder.   The first 25 LTM lens since the classic Nikkor and Canon.     Made by Cosina for their   Voigtlander Bessa L. One of the best LTM lenses ever made.

28 mm

28/1.9 Voigtlander Ultron Aspherical,  will be introduced at Photokina 2000.  Leica screw mount,   9 elements, 7 groups, closest focus .7 meter, 46mm filter size, chrome or black.   The fastest 28 ever made in Leica screw mount.

28/2.8 Canon: A relatively good lens with a good reputation, chrome only

28/2.8 Ricoh from the GR-1, introduced in the Japanese market for 1998.    Production is limited to 3,000 lenses.  A small, lightweight, relatively inexpensive lens, but not quite up to Leica lens performance.  Same lens as on the GR-1.  Regrettably Ricoh exited 35mm cameras in 1999, to concentrate on digital cameras.

28/3.5 Minolta introduced in late 1998, chrome mount.  Five elements.  In keeping with Minolta's reputation, probably a great performer.  an instant collectible.

28/3.5 Canon: Black, an excellent lens but hard to find

28/3.5 Nikkor: At least as good as the Canon, but higher priced due to collectors. chrome or black/chrome

28/3.5 Japanese Kobalux, current production. also sold under Avenon and Pasoptic brands, made by YK optical in Yokohama.    See Profile

28/3.5 Voigtlander, new compact lens announced in 2002. Users seem very happy with its light weight and sharp images.

28/5.6 Leitz Summaron(1955-1963) and 28/6.3 Leitz Hektor (1935-1955): slow and high priced, best left for the collectors. Watch for fogging.

28/6 Russian: for the adventuresome, based upon the Zeiss Topogon.  Low priced but spotty quality control.  It has a rather amazingly large rear element.

35 mm

35/1.5 Canon The fastest lens for the 35 LTM. not the sharpest. black only

35/1.7 Voigtlander Ultron: announced June 1999, available 8/1/99.  Modern design, 6 groups in 8 elements, with one aspherical surface.  10 diaphragm blades, rangefinder coupled.  One of the best LTM lenses ever made.    Made by Cosina for their Voigtlander Bessa L.

35/1.8 Nikkor: This lens is rare and fast, and the most plentiful of the super speed LTM 35's faster than f/2. A good shooter, but hard to find. black/chrome only

35/2 Leitz Summicron ASPH    August 1999  Amazingly Leica is releasing a limited production screw mount just for the Japanese market, chrome only.   These are sure to become instant collector's items, and are doubtless the sharpest 35's ever made in LTM mount.    Alas, inexpensive they are not.

35/2 Canon Black: the last and best of Canon's 35mm lenses

35/2 Leitz Summicron(1958-1962) : a very rare and expensive classic lens for the collector, most made in M mount. chrome only.  Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

35/2.5 "Compact" and "Pancake" Voigtlanders introduced in 2000, optics the same in both.   The compact version is built in the small 25/4 barrel, with a convenient focusing lever.  The pancake version is misnamed in my eyes, a conventional focusing barrel but too big to be a true pancake lens.

35/2.5 Nikkor: in chrome or the later black versions. A very sharp lens. chrome and black/chrome versions

35/2.8 or 3.5 Canon: or Serenar. OK but not great reputations, chrome or black versions

35/2.8 Russian: a copy of the pre-war Zeiss Biogon.   Low priced but spotty quality control.

35/3.5 Leitz Elmar(1930-1950) : Prewar versions uncoated, coated postwar. See above comments on the delights of uncoated lenses. Earliest lenses Nickel,  most chrome.  Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

35/3.5 Nikkor: in chrome or the later black. the most numerous 35 LTM Nikkor

35/3.5 Leitz Summaron (1949-1960): OK but not outstanding. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

40 mm

43/1.9 Pentax:  Sept 2000 Pentax announced their first Leica screw mount lens ever, the same optics as their 43/1.9 Aspherical in SLR mount.  Made for the Japanese home market only, announced production is 800 chrome and 1200 black, with finder.      I wonder if the other Limited edition Pentax lenses, the 31/1.8, 50/1.2, and 77/1.8 will also be made in Leica screw mount.   This lens has a fanatical following amongst Pentax users.  With its modern Aspherical design, it's almost certainly the sharpest 40mm lens for your Leica CL or Minolta CL, just add the screw mount to bayonet adapter.  List price a not to so inexpensive 150,000 yen.

50 mm

50/.95 Canon: The fastest production 50mm lens yet made. Reputation for poor sharpness, special bayonet mount to fit only the Canon 7 and 7s, included here as a footnote.  The rather small shade is also hard to find.

50/1.1 Nikkor: a rare collector's lens. Sell it to me. Black / chrome only.   The Nikon 50 brightline was made for this lens.

50/1.2 Canon: black only. poor reputation, but some people really like it, often encountered with cleaning marks.  This is far and away the lowest priced 1.2 lens in Leica screw or M mount.  Be sure to ask the seller if they have the hard to find shade. 

50/1.4 Leica Summilux   August 1999  Amazingly Leica is releasing a limited production screw mount just for the Japanese market, chrome only.  Recognizable from earlier 1950's lenses due to "50" on lens barrel. These are sure to become instant collector's items, and are doubtless the sharpest 50/1.4's  ever made in LTM mount.    Alas, inexpensive they are not.

50/1.4 Nikkor: all chrome version and  later chrome with black f/stop ring. Focuses to 16". One of the best classic  50/1.4 in LTM. Some people say the best.

50/1.4 Canon: one of the best classic 50/1.4's in LTM. Black only. Some people say the best classic 50/1.4.

50/1.5 Leitz Xenon (1936-1950) and Summarit (1949-1960):  Leica's first super speed 50, chrome rigid lenses.  Pre-war Xenons left the factory uncoated, though they may have been coated by sending them back to the factory.   The Summarit is said to be the same optical formula, just coated. Not a great reputation on sharpness, but many users really like this lens. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches. 

50/1.5 Voigtlander Nokton:   Aspherical modern design, 5 groups with 6 elements, 2 aspherical surfaces, 10 diaphragm blades, rangefinder coupled.   Announced June 1999, available 9/1/99.   One of the sharpest LTM 50 lenses ever made.     The original 1950's German Voigtlander  50/1.5 Nokton in Leica screw mount is highly sought by collectors.

50/1.5 Russian: coated copies of the prewar Zeiss Sonnars.  Later ones are black.  First two digits of serial # indicate year of production.   Low priced but spotty quality control.

50/1.8 Canon Black: a fine performing, and relatively inexpensive lens

50/1.9 Canon: chrome, rigid and collapsible, in Canon and earlier Serenar forms. The other 50 Canons are better. Chrome only.

50/2 Leica Summicron:  August 1999  Amazingly Leica is releasing a limited production screw mount just for the Japanese market, chrome only.  Recognizable from earlier 1950's lenses due to "50" on lens barrel.  These are sure to become instant collector's items, and are doubtless the sharpest 50/2's ever made in LTM mount.    Alas, inexpensive they are not.

50/2 Leitz Summicron (Collapsible 1953-1960, Rigid 1960-1963),  Chrome lenses which set new performance standards.  Rigid version quite rare.  Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

50/2 Leitz Summitar (1939-1955) Much improved sharpness over the Summar, chrome collapsible lenses only, post war lenses coated.  Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

50/2 Leitz Summar (1933-1940): Universally disparaged, I think it's a treasure.  These lenses give a wonderful semi-soft focus effect when shot at wide apertures with color film. Very beautiful, great for scenics, women, nudes, romantic images.  All chrome collapsible lenses. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.   All left the factory without coating, though some were sent back to the factory for coating post war.

50/2 Nikkor: earlier chrome versions, the later chrome with black f/stop ring, and the early collapsible version. Again, one of the best lenses for LTM.

50/2 Russian: coated copies of the prewar Zeiss Sonnars.  Later ones are black.  First two digits of serial # indicate year of production.   Low priced but spotty quality control.

50/2.4 Konica Hexanon: Collapsible 1998 limited edition of about 2000 lenses, retro styled much like Leitz 50/2.8 Elmar Collapsible

50/2.5 Leitz Hektor (1931-48), Leica's first "super speed" normal lens. Collapsible, chrome. Uncoated.

50/2.5 Voigtlander, new compact lightweight 50 with a classic Leica style focusing tab.

50/2.8 Leitz Elmar (1957-1962), harder to find than the 3.5 Elmars, chrome and collapsible only, reputation as being better performer than 3.5 Elmar.  Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

50/3.5 Leitz Elmar (1931-1959): This is the lens that initially made Leica famous. Many versions, all collapsible to make an amazingly small carrying package. Uncoated prewar versions, coated postwar versions.  Earliest lenses Nickel, most chrome,  all  collapsible. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

50/3.5 Micro Nikkor: a very sharp and rare collector's lens. Sell it to me. Black /chrome only

50/3.5 Voigtlander Heliar:  a limited edition lens introduced in 2000, sold only with the Voigtlander 101 Heliar Anniversary Bessa T set.   well made lens a bit like the classic 50/3.5 Leitz Elmar in appearance, tested by Popular Photography in March 2002 and found to be the "best lens" Popular Photography had ever tested

60 mm

60/1.2 Konica Hexanon, 7 elements in 6 groups, announced to be available for sale in March 1999.  With finder, hood and caps, it will sell for a modest 190,000 Yen --- or about $1600 at a 120 exchange rate.  Production is 800 units.   Konica made two hand made brass M cameras, but the story I have been told is that the big brass decided against production because the market would be too small, making an instant collectible. See PICS

73 mm

73/1.9 Leitz Hektor(1931-1946), Leica's first prewar high speed portrait lens.  Not a particularly sharp performer by today's standards, a collectible.  Black, uncoated,   watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

75mm

75/2.5 Voigtlander Color-Heliar: Modern multi-coated design with 6 elements in 5 groups.  10 diaphragm blades.    Announced June 1999, available 9/1/99.  Chrome or black, rangefinder coupled.     Made by Cosina for their Voigtlander Bessa L.    

85 mm

        85/1.5's were made by Leica, Nikon, Canon.  All were expensive new and are now expensive collectibles.            The slower lenses outperform them as shooters.

85/1.5 Leitz Summarex (1943-1960): rigid, large lens shade, rare and expensive lens.  pre-war lenses black, post war chrome. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches

85/1.8 Canon: Black, undoubtedly the best of the Canon 85's, and one of the best 85 LTMs ever (if not the best)

85/1.9 Canon, 85/2 Canon: including Serenars, not as good as the other Canons. Chrome.

85/2 Nikkor: in black or chrome. Both superb, but the black is preferable due to much lighter weight.

85/2 Russian: a copy of the pre-war Zeiss 85/2 Sonnar. Later ones are black.  First two digits of serial # indicate year of production.  Low priced but spotty quality control.

85/2.8 Steinheil Culminar: A friend of mind swears by this inexpensive lens

90 mm

90/2 Leitz Summicron(1957-1962): very rare in LTM. best left to the collectors since there are better buys for the users. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.  Lens head removable for Visoflex reflex housing.

90/2.2 Leitz Thambar(1935-1949):   legendary soft focus lens, wonderful shooter, expensive collectible. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches

90/3.5 Voigtlander ApoLanthar:  introduced at Photokina 2000.  6 elements, 5 groups, close focus 1.2 meter, filter size 39mm, smallest aperture f/22, black or chrome.      The only multi-coated 90mm screw mount, very sharp.

90/4 Leitz Elmar(1931-1963): uncoated prewar black versions, and chrome coated postwar versions. See above comments on the delights of uncoated lenses. Watch for fogging.    Lens head removable for Visoflex reflex housing.  Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches

 

100 mm

100/2 Canon Black: a great lens. one of the very best.   Lens head removable reflex housing.

100/3.5 Canon: two versions: black and chrome and black. Very small and light, a delight. My favorite is the all Black version -- which strangely seems to be very susceptible to some sort of permanent lens coating damage -- a factory design flaw??

100/4 Canon: all chrome, predecessor to the Canon 100/3.5

105 mm

105/2.5 Nikkor: This focal length was popularized by this very lens, legendary. One of the best LTM lenses ever. black/chrome only

105/6.3 Leitz Elmar(1932-1937):   the lightweight 1930's hiking lens.  a collectible.

125mm

125/2.5 Leitz Hektor(1954-1963): a high speed collectible today, but with an excellent reputation for sharpness.  This is a short mount lens which is designed to be used on a bellows for focusing, which also means it is easily adaptable to other bellows, other camera makes.

135 mm

135/3.5 Nikkor: in chrome or black versions. One of the best 135 LTMs

135/3.5 Canon: in chrome or black versions. One of the best 135 LTMs.

135/4 Russian: a copy of the pre-war Zeiss Sonnar, usually chrome.  Low priced but spotty quality control.

135/4.5 Leitz Hektor(1933-1960):  Leica's best LTM 135.  Uncoated Black pre-war   or Coated post-war chrome.   Lens head removable for Visoflex reflex housing. Watch out for fogging and cleaning scratches.

135/4.5 Leitz Elmar(1931-1936): an early uncoated black lens. Not great in the sharpness department, but it can give interesting effects. Watch for fogging.   Lens head removable for Visoflex reflex housing.

200 mm and longer

200/4.5 Komura: this 1960's Japanese made lens is the only 200 LTM RF coupled lens I am aware of.   Although this focal length exceeds the camera's ability to focus it at close distances,  you will probably be using it for distant subjects anyway...where the lens will focus near infinity just fine.  A good idea, it is unfortunate  Leica did not make their own rangefinder coupled 200.  A 200 brightline finder was also provided.  By reputation the lens is an adequate but not great performer at medium to small apertures.

Guess what?  At infinity, all lenses are in focus.  Just turn the focus ring to infinity and shoot.     This means if  you have an adapter to use your SLR lenses on your Leica body, you can use your 100-300 zoom on your Leica FOR DISTANT SUBJECTS at medium to small apertures -- without rangefinder focusing of course.   Better forget about those close up macro shots though.  

TeleConverters

There are only two LTM Teleconverters that I am aware of, the Russian TK-2D and the Japanese made Komura, both 2x.  Of course you could add a bayonet mount to them and mount LTM lenses on M bodies.  The Russian Teleconverter is the rarest.  Marc Small reports excellent results with it.  The Komura converters were made in the 70's, complete with viewfinder in a red line case. I've got good results with it.  It too, is hard to find.    Like the rangefinder coupled 200, it is unfortunate Leica has never made production Rangefinder 2x converters.  

Over 135 mm Lenses are usually reflex non-rangefinder coupled lenses for the awkward Visoflex system which I dislike so much.     It's not really that is such a terrible system, it's just that with so many modern SLR's, it makes no sense to me to use it.   A fine alternative is the Viso 4,  aka the Canon T90.   Another possibility is using Visoflex lenses on your favorite SLR, See Viso 5.   Nevertheless, Visoflex fans do, in fact, exist.  See Gary Elshaw's Visoflex Page.


Buyer's Guide: What to Look For

Overall Mechanical Condition: Most of these lenses are old enough to vote now. Some are old enough for social security. Don't buy one that has been trashed unless you are looking forward to possible special effects. Turn the diaphragm ring and make sure it turns freely without binding. Also look at the diaphragm blades to make sure none are out of position. Rotate the lens barrel several times from the close focus position to the infinity position to make sure it rotates freely without binding. Put it on a body and make sure the RF mechanism couples properly.

Post War Vs. Pre-War:

Pre-war Leitz lenses are generally UNCOATED. The exceptions are mainly lenses that were sent back to the factory for coating after the war. Most modern Leica books criticize the optical abilities of these uncoated lenses to the point that many of today's photogs consider these lenses unusable. In my opinion, this is a big mistake.

Uncoated Lenses MADE Leica a runaway success in the 30's. Without these early lenses, there would be no M's or R's today. They must have been doing something right.

Today these early lenses generally need a good cleaning because they have a lot of fogging inside. With or without the fogging, I say shoot them and get ready for a new photo experience. Muddy gray tones, lots of flare, muted colors. But that may not be a bad thing!!!!

Great photography is about the visual effect upon the viewer, not sharpness. Try using uncoated lenses with modern films and you will discover a new style. Granted it is not for everyone, but neither is the Countach. By the way, virtually ALL screw mount lenses can be used beautifully on later M mount cameras with the proper Leitz adapter. If you want to play around with this effect, your M6 will do just fine. Early M lenses were Screw mounts with an adapter. Eventually the bean counters figured they could sell more new cameras if they their lenses were ONLY in the M mount.

Nikon optics of the era had a much harder front coating than Leitz. You will very seldom find cleaning marks on Nikon Rangefinder Lenses.    In contrast, cleaning marks are very common on Leitz lenses of the same era. Likewise, Nikkor lenses are usually clear as bell after decades of storage.    Leitz lenses of the 50's and 60's are often very foggy after years of storage.  See details in M Lens profile. 


Best Buys: $ Vs Value

Keep in Mind the following recommendations are made at RETAIL prices. Obviously a bargain price could give you lots of other Best Buys. Also remember these lenses are old enough to vote or even accept Medicare. Condition has to have a bearing on your choice.

Voigtlander 12/5.6, 15/4.5, 21/4, 25/4, 28/3.5, 35/1.7, 35/2.5, 50/1.5, 50/2.5, 50/3.5, 75/2.5, 90/3.5: In my opinion, these  new  lenses made by Cosina are incredible bargains.  Due to their modern and innovative optical designs, always multi-coated and frequently incorporating Aspherical lens elements, it's very difficult to argue these are not uniformly the best dollar to performance of all Leica screw mount lenses.  Some of the older classics may indeed cost you less money, but you will also likely be getting less performance.  Four of the designs have aspherical elements -- the only LTM lenses to do so.  For less than the price of a collectible Nikon 25mm finder, you can get the new Voigtlander 25  and finder -- which performs better than the old Nikon or Canon 25.   My thanks to Yoshi for keeping me updated on the Japanese market.  See PICS

SLR Wide Angles on your Leica: If you are on a limited budget and already have a SLR wide angle lens that you like,  why not use it on your Leica ?    How about an adapter which allows you to use your Leica R,  Contax SLR, Nikon F, Canon FD, or Pentax Screw Mount wide angles  on your Leica M or Leica Screw mount body?     Click Here

Leitz Lenses: 50/2 Summar, 50/3.5 Elmar, 50/2 Summitar, 90/4 Elmar, 135/3.5 Hektor

Canon Lenses: 50/1.4, 50/1.8, 105/3.5, 135/3.5 Black

Nikkor Lenses: 35/2.5, 50/1.4, 50/2, 85/2 (chrome), 105/.5, 135/3.5, these are excellent lenses, but have turned into collector's items, which means higher prices than a few years ago

Russian Lenses are generally copies of pre-war Zeiss designs.    They are often very inexpensive and can be excellent performers,  but you have to be careful to find lenses with optics and mechanics in good working order.  On this Quest, remember to take into account the value of your time.    The first two digits of the serial # indicate year of manufacture, black lenses are later than chrome lenses. The 20/5.6, 35/2.8, 50/2, 85/2 enjoy good reputations.   In my experience, I've found Russian Contax mount lenses of overall better mechanical quality than their Russian screw mount counterparts.   

The once and future LTM King?

August 1999, Leica is releasing a few limited edition 35/2 ASPH, 50/2 and 50/1.4 in chrome for the Japanese market only.    Hopefully Leica will make all   Leica M lenses available in LTM once again.   August 2001:  so far the new LTM Leica lenses have been limited to expensive low production optics, better for collectors than shooters.  Oh well.


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Revised: March 01, 2004 Copyright  1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.