We've been on a Leica kick around here lately, and people are starting to complain. Hey, look at it this way: if I weren't a little obsessive-compulsive, I could never, ever keep this blog going day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, could I? Everything's good for something.
Anyway...maybe you're among those who think the best lens money can buy says "Leica" on it.
Nope. Sorry. Guess again.
The best lens it's currently possible to put on a camera (well, aside from the cameras in satellites—a commercially-available camera, let's say) is this one*.
And you know what's really magnificent about that? The review. I take a professional interest in the quality of lens and camera reviews (how many people do you know who actually have favorite reviews?!?), and that is one of the best-crafted lens reviews I have ever read!! Anywhere, by anyone.
Fer oncet and fer all
To answer another question that's come up—how to do a "Leica Year" if you just absolutely cannot afford a Leica, any Leica, no how, no way...I had thought that the "Secrets of the Leica" thread answered that one. That was sort of the intention of that post. But, in case it didn't, and even though I know very few people need this information, here, explicitly, is what I recommend:
A Pentax MX with a Pentax SMCP-M 50mm ƒ/1.4 lens. (And Tri-X, of course. I love Tri-X.)
Although the ƒ/1.7 is no slouch, and, really, just as good.
If you're patient, you should be able to get away for under two hundred bucks—for both, not for each. Take care of it for the year and who knows how little you'll lose. Maybe nothing.
Didn't need to hear my opinion on that, again? Getting tired of the subject? I understand.
I'm just sayin'.
(Thanks to Ctein)
*Or maybe not. See Andrea Blum's comment below.
Send this post to a friend
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Rod S: "Mike, I'm pleased that you've finally named the Pentax MX as the next-best substitute for a Leica.
"The MX was the most highly-evolved manual 35mm Pentax camera, the last of a kind. It combined a revision of the proven, very reliable, traditional Pentax shutter mechanism with an outstanding high-magnification viewfinder and never-repeated intuitive viewfinder display of shutter speed, aperture and 1/2-stop increment LED meter display, all housed within a small, Leica-sized body that nestles in the hand.
"Later cameras, including the LX, were optimised for aperture-preferred exposure automation, which, in my view, gets in the way during hand-held work where maintaining a minimum shutter speed is important. In addition, the LX exposure display offers only full-stop increments.
"The mirror mechanism is very well damped by a pneumatic piston, and, as a result, the MX mirror imparts much less vibration than a normal 35mm SLR such as a Pentax K1000.
"I bought my first MX in March 1977, shortly after its release, and added a second body a year later, for many years using them with either the 50mm or 85mm lens on one, and a 28mm on the other. In 1995, I moved to the 6x7 format for much of my photography, but continue to use the MXs for casual snaps.
"The combined rotary shutter-speed and 1/2-stop meter display is a genius design. The shutter speed display rotates as the shutter speed dial is rotated, so you always know which direction to turn it. The 1/2-stop LED display synchs with the 1/2-stop clicks on the lenses, and the display changes instantly. No subsequent camera offered such quick, intuitive operation. It's better than automation."
Featured Comment by Dennis Huteson: "The best lens in the world is always the one somebody else has."
Featured Comment by Andrea Blum: "About that Coastal Optics 60mm ƒ/4—
"It is a very specialized macro lens built to shoot visible, ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths without focus shift. Someone not well-versed in shooting outside the visible range should know some basics:
"1. To use the CO60mm in visible light, you will most likely need to use an external UVIR-blocking filter on the lens to prevent contaminating UV or IR rays from hitting the sensor even though DSLRs have an internal UVIR-blocking filter. That internal filter is stonger in newer DSLRs, but it is not perfect. IR-contamination at its worst leads to a low-contrast, 'washed-out,' skewed-colour effect in visible wavelength shots.
"2. To shoot UV with the CO60mm, you need an external UV-pass lens filter that does not leak IR. (IR can contaminate a UV photo just as it can contaminate a visible photo). And you need a UV-capable camera, of course. Not all DSLR sensors have good native UV-sensitivity. For those that do, you must first have the internal UVIR-blocking filter removed and replaced with a clear filter capable of passing UVIR as well as visible wavelengths. Similar remarks hold for shooting in IR.
"3. The CO60mm has a hotspot flaw at magnifications 1:4 or greater. I was the unfortunate discoverer of that hotspot. I later corresponded with Lloyd Chambers and sent him my hotspot sample photos so that he could add a correction to his review—which, of course, he promptly did. Eventually (!) the manufacturer of the CO60mm acknowledged the hotspot problem and suggested the use of extension tubes to mitigate the hotspot. Extension tubes work in most cases. The original reviewers of the CO60mm did not find the hotspot because they did not test it at high magnifications. My personal decision upon discovery of the hotspot was to immediately return my copy of the CO60mm for a refund. For that kind of price I felt that a macro lens needed to be 'perfect' at macro distances from the subject."