lunes, 5 de diciembre de 2016


Lisl Steiner inside Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie, Vienna (Austria) on November 19th, 2016, day of her 89 birthday, walking beside the picture of Jimmy Carter that she got thirty-nine years before.

September 7th, 1977. Almost eight months after taking the oath of office, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, is at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C, about to speak to the press the day he signs the new Panama Canal Treaty and Neutrality Treaty promising to give control of the canal to the Panamanians by the year 2000.

Sol Linowitz and Charles L. Schulze (top economic adviser to Jimmy Carter) have unwearidly been negotiating this agreement with the Panama President Omar Torrijos for a lot of months.

The expectation is huge, because 6 percent of world trade passes through this inter-oceanic waterway at the time.

The place is overcrowded with photojournalists from different newspapers, magazines and picture agencies, along with cameramen from a number of TV channels.

Jimmy Carter is next to the microphone installed for the occasion and getting ready to deliver a speech.

He´s momentarily engrossed in thoughts and trying to concentrate on the words and subjects he´s going to deal with.

Lisl Steiner, a photojournalist working for Life magazine and Keystone Press Agency is at a distance of around 4 meters from Jimmy Carter.

The president is surrounded by some security members and perhaps she will not have new opportunities to photograph him from such a near distance.

Lisl Steiner´s Leica M5 top panel (including from left to right the automatic frame counter, the shutter speed selector ring with the shutter release button just on it, the rapid transport lever, the accessory shoe with X flash contact, the film plane indicator mark, the ASA/DIN film scale speeds, and the illumination window for internal meter readout) and upper front area (including also from left to right the small RF window under the first three letters of the word Leica, the illumination window for bright-line frames and the 0.72x magnification VF window). It was the first rangefinder camera with TTL metering.

She is holding a Leica M5 rangefinder camera with viewfinder bright-line frames for 35, 50, 90 and 135 mm lenses, loaded with
Kodak Plus-X 125 ASA black and white film and coupled to a

Leitz Canada Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 serial number 2287014 with scalloped focusing ring used by Lisl Steiner to get the picture of Jimmy Carter wih a Leica M5 rangefinder camera. This exceedingly short and compact tele lens would be also used by her many years later, from early XXI Century, with a Leica M7 (partially seen in the image) likewise with VF 0.72x magnification.

Leitz Canada Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 lens (manufactured between 1964 and 1974), designed by Walter Mandler and featuring 5 elements in 5 groups, with a diaphragm of ten blades and a close focus of 1 meter.

Her almost twenty years experience as a photojournalist since she began her career in late fifties makes her grasp that this is the defining instant.

                                    © Lisl Steiner/Keystone Pictures

She chooses a horizontal framing to get the face of the U.S president filling a significant percentage of the picture and presses the shutter release button of her Leica M5 rangefinder camera, capturing Jimmy Carter in introspection, with a perfect timing, shooting at f/5.6, taking advantage of the abundant available sun light and getting great image quality thanks to the compactness and low weight (345 g) of the Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 and its optimization to easily and fastly attain perfect focus shooting handheld and obtain sharper pictures than the previous 5 elements in 3 groups Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 (made between 1959 and 1974, sporting a weight of 335 g, prone to flare, featuring a 12 blade diaphragm and rendering a worse bokeh).

To begin with, a 90 mm lens can be difficult to focus on a rangefinder camera and focusing has to be carefully done, because the rectangle showing the frame lines that correspond to this focal length in a 0.72x magnification VF like the one featured by the Leica M5 (in which the 35 and 135 mm frames appear as a pair) is somewhat tiny.

Therefore, bearing in mind that the effective base length becomes longer on increasing the image magnification and the RF base size, a better choice to get the most accurate feasible focus would have been the Leica M3 with its 0.92x magnification viewfinder and a RF base length of 68.5 mm (effective one of 63 mm).

Detail of Lisl Steiner´s Leica M5 front area with the RF small window, the illumination window for brigh-line frames and the large window of the 0.72x magnification VF. This camera features an excellent TTL spot metering with an 8 mm circular CDS cell.

But the Leica M5 0.72x VF magnification and its RF base length of 68.5 mm (effective one of 49.32 mm) in symbiosis with the pretty small size, light weight, short length and very long throw of the Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8, prove to be an efficent combination for shooting hand and wrist and getting precise focus.

In addition, this lens exhibits an impressive balance of optical aberrations masterfully conceived to simultaneously achieve outstanding sharpness and a great smooth bokeh with beautiful soft edged round blur circles, avoiding distracting backgrounds and highlighting the main subjects in focus), something which speaks volumes for Walter Mandler´s insight on designing his lenses, because the Leica M rangefinder system excels on focusing 28, 35 and 50 mm lenses, while on using longer lenses (75 mm, 90 mm and 135 mm) or shorter ones (24 mm and 21 mm) you need preferably cameras boasting 0.85x/0.92x VF magnifications or 0.58x magnifications respectively.

Anyway, the eye of the photographer, her experience and gift for seeing the picture, her sense of anticipation, the image impact, that it says something and to be at the adequate place at the right moment, approaching as much as possible, are the key factors, along with two further sides often explained by Bruce Gilden: controlling the space as a part of the game and to get strong emotional content.

Lisl Steiner sitting at the lounge of the Kaiserin Elisabeth Hotel in Vienna with a 30 x 40 cm copy on photographic paper of the President of the United States Jimmy Carter she made on September 7th, 1977 at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C.

Golden Medal of the Österreich Photographische Gesellschaft (PhG), top award of the Austrian Photographic Society bestowed to Lisl Steiner in 2015.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Fidel Castro photographed by Lisl Steiner in New York in September of 1960

Martin Luther King Funeral April 9, 1968: Lisl Steiner in Action

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,

(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.

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, 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 epitomizes the feature that has traditionally turned this 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, 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.

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 because of their complex optical designs), 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 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)..

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.

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.

Those were the days.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza