Words and photographs by Jim Hughes
I beg to differ a bit with Bruno Masset ("Two Reasons...," Oct. 16), who proffered a well-reasoned warning about adapting wideangle rangefinder lenses to digital cameras. Okay, I know that he, and other commenters, said that certain lenses "might" cause problems with certain sensors. I also realize he was addressing primarily so-called legacy RF wideangle lens performance on full frame sensors, and not specifically APS-C, which is what I have in my Fuji X-E1. And I certainly appreciated all the knowledge he imparted, much of which I can't say I fully understood.
Nonetheless, I think my recent experience sheds a little more light (okay, pun intended...) on this issue. Back in mid-July, tired of carrying around a beer-can sized (but otherwise excellent) 18–55mm zoom lens that came with my compact X-E1, and exasperated by the inordinate wait for the new (and still large, not to mention expensive) 23mm (35mm FOV equivalent) ƒ/1.4 lens from Fuji, I decided to give my ancient (vintage 1956!) and truly minuscule 25mm ƒ/3.5 Canon RF lens (above right) a trial run. In truth, over the years I had used it very sparingly on my Canon rangefinders. My wideangle focal length of choice for FF has always been 35mm. For me, in fact, the 35mm focal length served as my "normal," and the 50mm was my "moderate telephoto."
As you might guess from the picture of it, much of the 25mm lens protrudes into the camera and, even mounted in an inexpensive Fotodiox adapter, comes close to the sensor (but never strikes anything). The steeply-curved front element is deeply recessed, which is why Canon never released a lens shade for it, or even advised the use of one. But while the lens is coated, point it toward a bright sun and you do get flare. On the other hand, for me a few spectral highlights just add to the retro feel of the imagery produced. As does this lens's rendition of color, contrast, and definition across the APS-C field. Moreover, the Canon somehow imparts a feeling of illumination from within—I don't know how else to put it.
In 1956, by the way, this Canon was regarded as a fast ultra-wide. David Douglas Duncan was said to have raved about its qualities. Its design was based upon the even more venerable Zeiss Topogon. Basically, a cutaway shows it to be similar to a marble—a glass sphere, split in two. Canon added a flat element at the back, perhaps more for protection than anything else:
Bokeh considerations aside (not much of an issue with wideangles as far as I am concerned), ƒ/3.5 is not a limitation for me, given that most of my photographs are made outdoors, generally on the street, as they say. ISO 800, not particularly fast these days, takes care of my exposure needs. I tend to keep the aperture stopped down to ƒ/8, and have encountered no difficulty focusing manually at that setting.
And I have come to love the way this lens gathers and interprets light. I am always working on several bodies of work, pretty much simultaneously. People, architecture, modes of transportation, etc. Anything involving evidence of the hand of man. One of my longest running series involves automobiles in color (45 years and still counting). Below are a few recent examples, all shot with the Fuji X-E1 / Canon 25mm since July 15th.
I saw this beautifully restored old car turning down the hill toward the parking lot at the Camden public landing, where the windjammer fleet docks. I ran after it and shot off a few frames before the owners returned and wordlessly drove off to their next destination, ice cream cones in hand.
Shelby Cobra. The front end design screams "speed." The hood was still hot to the touch. I believe this to be a first-year 1962 due to its not having the telltale air scoop on hood. The owner was not there to ask.
It should be noted that all of these vehicles were photographed just as I encountered them, parked on a public street in Camden, Maine, which I have come to believe must be the car capital of, if not the world, at least New England.
The moral here: don't be dissuaded from trying wideangle rangefinder lenses, even older ones, on mirrorless digital cameras. The results may surprise you. Fortunately, in my case, I just didn't know any better.
(Image credits: lens photo, yaotomi.co.jp;
block diagram: Canon Camera Museum)
Text and photographs ©2013 by Jim Hughes, all rights reservedFor many years, Jim Hughes was the editor of Camera 35. Later, he was the founding editor of Mike J.'s all-time favorite photo magazine, the original Camera Arts. His books include the superb biography W. Eugene Smith: Shadow and Substance—The Life and Work of an American Photographer, and the monograph Ernst Haas in Black and White. Retired now, he writes occasionally for TOP (see his other articles by finding his name in the "Categories" list in the right-hand sidebar). He lives in Maine.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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