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Does the Leica lens look appear most at a certain focal length?


CharlesL
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Lenses I think are special and have dpeth, wonderful Bokeh and I think encapsulate what you describe are between 21 and 75,in my experience, the closer you get to knowing a lens the more different its characteristics become and essentially unique. I have no doubt this quality is not exclusive to Leica, so I think the answer to the question is no

 

Having said that a number fit the bill at 35mm. I also think the Leica build, size and aesthetics play a part. I am sure if an old Zeiss was somehow redressed as a rare Leica model many would say it had that Leica magic and look.

 

I am fully bought into Leica and rarely drift to any other brand if Leica cover that focal length (exceptions being VC for 15 and 12) 

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The 'Leica look' is generally speaking a qualitative substitution concocted by photographers when they've given up on taking a good photograph. Look at the work of Bresson, they could have been made with a Contax, look at the work of Larry Burrows, his Leica photographs run seamlessly with his Nikon photographs.

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Without trying to define the look of Leica lenses, .....

 

That's the problem, nobody can define it, which is probably because it doesn't exist.

 

IMHO the 'Leica look' refers to the style of photography which the earlier photographers use of small Barnack Leica's resulted in at a time when sheet film and MF cameras were the norm - more casual, closer reportage photography. Of course after the 35mm format became more popular that style could be taken with many other cameras, and now phones too.

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"The Leica Look" IMHO is a definition fueled by of the imagination of less well informed photographers and art directors. It seems to have been achieved or be able to be achieved by lenses of a series of manufacturers who design lenses with wide apertures, overall central sharpness fading toward the edges of the frame  which also exhibit fine edge definition in the center of the field and good to excellent micro contrast. Leica was a leader, but it certainly extends to Zeiss as well as others.

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In agreement what others have hinted above, one thing that Leica's do is encourage you to get a little closer. Someone who appreciates my photography said my photography was different when I first starting using the Leica. He was being kind - it was worse for the first few months. Now he says my photography is magic because of the Leica. I can see/feel the difference too (before my M9, my favorite digital was a Canon 5D). I think the lack of an AA filter is part of that.

 

But considering film and different camera brands, one thing is that I tend to use 35mm and 50mm lenses. With my other (AF DSLRs), I was typically shooting at longer focal lengths.

 

I see many of you with excitement with 15mm lenses. So whether there is a Leica look or not, the focal lengths are typically wider.

 

--------------

 

Because my friend noticed my photography was "magical" once I was comfortable with the Leica, is that evidence that the Leica look exists?

(I believe it does, but also that it does not need to come from exclusively from Leica lenses/cameras)

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No.

Yes.

besides, I think that it is perfectly possible to define the special characteristics/fingerprint of Leica lenses and it is pure mystifying the stone to state that it can't be grasped

Edited by otto.f
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Any Leica 'look' is probably more to do with the photographer learning how to use a simplistic camera either initially or again (as in M series) rather than any specific of the lens(es). Having used SLR/dSLR constantly for many years, using a Leica rangefinder forces a total rethink in how I approach taking photos (not all the time, but often enough). So my photography with M series Leica's is often significantly different to that with my dSLRs - hardly a surprise. But a Leica 'look' actually constant and specific to the marque - I think not, despite the continuous desires of those who champion its cause. So to answer your second question - focal length is of course irrelevant.

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Think of all the variables in a workflow from picture capture to finished and displayed print, including the scene itself, all capture and editing techniques, materials used (film/sensor, paper, inks, etc)  and lighting/display conditions.  Consider, too, variations in camera gear by any given manufacturer, including Leica, over many years.  Oh, yes, and the small matter of the photographer.....style, talent, choices, etc.   Now try to guess the lens manufacturer.  Good luck.

 

Jeff

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The 'Leica look' is generally speaking a qualitative substitution concocted by photographers when they've given up on taking a good photograph. Look at the work of Bresson, they could have been made with a Contax, look at the work of Larry Burrows, his Leica photographs run seamlessly with his Nikon photographs.

And, for instance the photographs with Contax by Ansel Adams, or Robert Capa

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What was unique about the first 35mm Leicas?  The 50mm lens that was very close to what we see naturally, viz., a natural rendition - - and not one that resulted from a wide angle or telephoto lens. 

 

A hypothesis: The "Leica Look" resulted from the 50mm lens photographs that emulated what we normally see. It was different from photographs taken with equipment that ranged from the ubiquitous Brownie and Speed Graphics to the MF of Margaret Burke White, or to the  LF beloved by Ansel Adams.  "Yes! That's what I saw." can lead to yes, that's "The Leica Look."

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Without trying to define the look of Leica lenses, if you think you know it when you see it, do lenses at wide angle, normal, or mild telephoto achieve that special look with the most strength? Or is focal length irrelevant?

 

If we don't define it, then we aren't all talking about the same thing.  There needs to be a definition, or it's not a thing.  As far as I can tell, Leica makes high quality lenses that happen to be very small, but not a "Leica look".

 

 

What was unique about the first 35mm Leicas?  The 50mm lens that was very close to what we see naturally, viz., a natural rendition - - and not one that resulted from a wide angle or telephoto lens. 

 

A hypothesis: The "Leica Look" resulted from the 50mm lens photographs that emulated what we normally see. It was different from photographs taken with equipment that ranged from the ubiquitous Brownie and Speed Graphics to the MF of Margaret Burke White, or to the  LF beloved by Ansel Adams.  "Yes! That's what I saw." can lead to yes, that's "The Leica Look."

 

Normal lenses exist in nearly every format.  Every camera maker has made lenses very close to what we see naturally.

Edited by zlatkob
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What was unique about the first 35mm Leicas?  The 50mm lens that was very close to what we see naturally, viz., a natural rendition - - and not one that resulted from a wide angle or telephoto lens. 

 

A hypothesis: The "Leica Look" resulted from the 50mm lens photographs that emulated what we normally see. It was different from photographs taken with equipment that ranged from the ubiquitous Brownie and Speed Graphics to the MF of Margaret Burke White, or to the  LF beloved by Ansel Adams.  "Yes! That's what I saw." can lead to yes, that's "The Leica Look."

Actually the first 35 mm Leicas were not unique - they were a great commercial success for various reasons, but there were plenty of others both before and during that time. As I said, Ansel Adams shot his casual work with a Contax. The Contax Look is quite similar.

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In my view at least the following lenses define the "Leica look", in random sequence (this means at least that there is no such thing in the same focal distance in other brands)

APO 180/3.4 for R

Elmarit 135 R

Macro-Elmarit 60 R

Summilux 80 R, Summilux 75 M

Noctilux 0.95 M

Summicron 35, IV M and its R sister

Summilux 35 aspherical, asph, probably

Summicron 90 apo asph and probably the pre-asph also

Summicron 28 asph, both 'old' and new

APO Macro Elmarit 100 R, although the Zeiss/Contax version comes very close

APO-Elmarit 180 R

Elmarit 24, probably, although Zeiss/Contax's 25mm is astounding too

This is mostly about smooth bo-keh, typical nice transitions from focus to out-of-focus, sometimes about excellent sharpness/MTF-curves, and sometimes about unique flare-resistance. 

 

During summing up, I see that there is no 50. This is probably because Zeiss, Nikon and Canon made beautiful 50s too.

Edited by otto.f
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I do hope its ok to re post a comment I made on another thread ...I think I commented in the wrong place?

 

 

 

I always enjoy a good discussion regarding "The Look"......I really don't think it exists ......or ever did........ at least not intentionally?
 

However  as Pico suggests :
"it  occurs in my opinion  when using an early soft  lens, usually 50mm with a large aperture with strong side-light. The film of the time was as responsible as the lens for the look"
 

There is a "special" combination of sharpness ,contrast and warmth, that appears on my M240 and my new summicron  lenses (35&50) .....It doesn't happen on my secondary market brand lenses...and I'v no experence with used Leica lenses ...yet
 

I am no expert on Leica and its history. I am an expert in that I have used many,many brands of cameras over 40 years. Nikon Hasslelblad, Mamiya, Canons, combinations of view camera lenses , etc. all look different.

Professionally I would seek out equipment/lenses that had qualities that had a special look, beyond being the correct focal length for the shot
 

IE:  T* Zeiss Hasselblad had a great look.....in B&W (FP4) and Ektachrome (EPP).
There is nothing like an 8.25 Gold Dot Swiss Dagor on Ektachrom (EPP)

Nikon's "look" always need something, either in print or filtering and many of their lenses were different from each other. Some were great.... some not
 

That said today's Leica and Leica's choices in manufacture coatings and firmware do produce a more desirable "look" than my current Nikon's....At lease to me.
 Yet another reason I prefer shooting with my 240.....I just love  the quality of the pictures ....even before I tweak them...in LR or PS
 

I'm giving you all  my two cents because I'm putting together my Leica kit and want to tap into your wealth of experience ....Near as I can tell all the reasonably current film and digital lenses have special qualities because Leica has tweaked their sensor to work and look great with all their stable of lenses old and new.
 

From the way this forum has answered my lens questions .....there is not a bad lens in the bunch....just different great qualities......And you guys are a picky bunch;-)


 

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