Leica lenses (Standard and Wide Angle)

Tomei Collection

Since some long lenses are in fact "normal" lenses, I refer to these as "standard" which include all 5cm focal lengths.  All shorter than 5cm are refered to as "wide-angle" in keeping with the conventional use of the terms as set by about 1955. Even so, it was often held that true wide-angle lenses had acceptance angles of 75 degrees or more, which means a focal length of 2.8cm or less for the 35mm format.  However, these terms are somewhat arbitrary in their usage.


Here are several wide angle and normal lenses produced by Leitz as well as other manufacturers between 1932 and 1955.  Additional lenses can be seen mounted on individual cameras featured on other pages of this exhibit.


The normal 5 cm Elmar lenses are presented in most of the pages that present the various models.  Russian fake Elmar lenses, referred to as "Elmarski's" by van Hasbroeck, are relatively common and should not be confused with the genuine Leitz product.  Although the Russian fake Elmars are based upon the same Tessar design, a variant of the Cooke triplet, the iris diaphragm of the Russian lenses is located a full 6mm farther back than in the Leitz Elmar.  In the real Elmar lens, the iris is placed behind the first element, whereas, the Russian lenses place the iris behind the second element.  The Russian Elmars have more crude mounts with poor quality control being clearly evident.  Their performance varies from fair to atrocious as a consequence.


Below are some of the other normal and wide angle lenses produced through the early 1950's.

The Hektor 28mm f/6.3 lens (HOOPY) was the first truly wide angle lens produced by Leitz.  Introduced in 1935, this model was available for the next 20 years before it was eventually replaced by a newly designed lens.  It was a rather expensive lens and in 1936, it sold for £10.18.6 in chrome, the equivalent of about $875.00 today.  This example was built in 1936.  Only 9694 28mm f/6.3 lenses were produced making this lens uncommon, though clearly not rare. 

* * * * *

The AHOOT reflecting viewfinder had been introduced in 1935 for the 28mm lens. However, the introduction of the VIOOH universal finder in 1938 provided the opportunity to extend its application to include the wide-angle lens.  To do this it was necessary to incorporate the 28mm adapter attachment to provide for the 76 degree image angle.  Although the VIOOH was available as early as 1938 with a threaded nose to accept accessory optics, the TUVOO 28mm adapter did not appear in catalogs until 1942.  This adapter is clearly cumbersome but it provides an excellent full viewing field.

* * * * *


The Summaron 35mm f/3.5 lens (SOONC) was introduced in 1949 as a replacement for the earlier 35mm f/3.5 Elmar that had been produced since 1930.  By the time production ended in 1960, over 80,000 were produced. The examples shown here were built in 1951 (R) and 1953 (L).  Note that the focusing scale was available in either meters (L) or feet (R).  Both represent the earlier A36 type mount with minimum focus at 1 meter, or 40 in.











* * * * *

The 5cm f/2 Summicron lens was officially introduced in 1953 eventually replacing the Summitar model. Due to the extensive correction of aberrations and vignetting as well as the incorporation of lanthanum crown glass, it is still considered to be one of Leitz's finest lenses and almost 58,000 were ultimately produced by 1963.  However, it's performance is marred by a distinct tendency to produce flare especially when used without the lens hood and UV filter. This particular example was built in 1955.



Non-Leitz Lenses

Cooke Amotal Anastigmat, Taylor Taylor Hobson Ltd, Leicester, England

One of the best known producers of fine lens optics since 1893 was the TTH company. TTH produced the Cooke lens with which virtually every feature film was made during the first half of the 20th century. During WWII they were called upon to provide lenses for several companies such as Kodak and  Graflex for large format photo-reconnaissance cameras and others for cinematography. Following WWII, TTH designed and built the Amotal Anastigmat lens originally for Bell & Howell to be mounted on their Foton 35mm camera, an especially fine and costly camera that today commands highest prices. The lens shown here was produced briefly in the late 1940's and early 1950's equipped with a Leica screw mount manufactured by an Italian machine shop commissioned by Peerless in New York according to information kindly provided by Dan Fromm. The Leica thread mount is of soft aluminum which proved to be less durable than chrome plated brass. However, the lens is still considered today to be one of the finest and most desirable.








Nippon Kogaku K.K.

Leica Thread Mount lenses were also available from Nippon Kogaku.  One of the most remarkable was the seven element 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor-S (Septem).  I say that this is the most remarkable because of build quality but the optical performance was no better than the Zeiss f/1.5 Sonnar, which is still very good, of course.  This lens shown here mounted on a LTM Nicca 3-S was built in 1957.