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I finally 'get' the enthusiasm for the 40mm focal length


colint544

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These past 18 months, I've been shooting a project in my city, using a Plaubel Makina 67. I had heard that to use this camera is to make friends with your local repair shop. It's absolutely true. My copy gave me the gift of 15 blank rolls of film. It would click and wind, but the shutter wasn't properly re-cocking. Lost some unrepeatable shots, but I've grown to love this camera so much, that I forgave it. I now get my films developed one at a time, just to be sure.

I realised that one of the things I love about the Plaubel is that the lens is the equivalent (in 35mm film terms) of a 40mm. There is something just 'right' about that perspective. I've been shooting 35mm film cameras for 40 years, and I have only now realised this. You never stop learning when it comes to photography. 

I finally understand the people on the forum, who covet the 40mm Summicron that once came with a Leica CL. I never got that before. I guess Leica won't return to that focal length because it messes with the framelines. But I'm beginning to think it's a shame that they aren't making a contemporary 40mm lens.

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I have a Voigtlander 40mm Nokton which has yielded some very nice results with my MP. It is a lovely, lightweight lens but it is a bit of a pain to frame, if I need to be careful will work the frame selection lever with my left hand while focusing. For most situations I just use the 50mm lines and "guesstimate" the added coverage. The image below I used the frame lever to make sure the bow was included in the image.

I bought it for travel so instead of my normal 35, 50 and 90 mm thought I'd try just 40 and 75 lenses.  So far, so good but of course with COVID travel has been limited to local day-trips.

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Edited by Sailronin
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5 minutes ago, Sailronin said:

I have a Voigtlander 40mm Nokton which has yielded some very nice results with my MP. It is a lovely, lightweight lens but it is a bit of a pain to frame, if I need to be careful will work the frame selection lever with my left hand while focusing. For most situations I just use the 50mm lines and "guesstimate" the added coverage. The image below I used the frame lever to make sure the bow was included in the image.

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A pleasing image, and it very much has that 40mm vibe.

Edited by colint544
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51 minutes ago, colint544 said:

I realised that one of the things I love about the Plaubel is that the lens is the equivalent (in 35mm film terms) of a 40mm. There is something just 'right' about that perspective. I've been shooting 35mm film cameras for 40 years, and I have only now realised this. You never stop learning when it comes to photography. 

I accept the maths, Colin, but I'm not sure that a 40mm on 135 format is much of a substitute for an 80mm lens on 6x7 film. The latter can look glorious in a way that the former doesn't. Something about the longer focal length for a similar field of view, plus of course the much larger piece of film, seems to make all the difference IMO.

For example, Jamie Hawksworth's recent fine book, The British Isles, was shot, I understand, solely on an RZ67. It might still have worked on 35mm but I don't think the photographs would have the same "look" which IMO comes from using the longer focal length (80mm or 110mm) for a 'normal' (40mm or 50mm in 135 terms) field of view.

Edited by wattsy
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51 minutes ago, wattsy said:

I accept the maths, Colin, but I'm not sure that a 40mm on 135 format is much of a substitute for an 80mm lens on 6x7 film. The latter can look glorious in a way that the former doesn't. Something about the longer focal length for a similar field of view, plus of course the much larger piece of film, seems to make all the difference IMO.

For example, Jamie Hawksworth's recent fine book, The British Isles, was shot, I understand, solely on an RZ67. It might still have worked on 35mm but I don't think the photographs would have the same "look" which IMO comes from using the longer focal length (80mm or 110mm) for a 'normal' (40mm or 50mm in 135 terms) field of view.

Thanks very much for that. I've seen that book promoted, but not seen much on the contents. I'm intrigued though. There are some superb photo books around at the moment. Anything by Dan Wood or Iain Sarjeant currently get my vote.

I completely agree that anything shot on a 6x7 negative just hits differently to the 35mm frame. There's depth and smoothness that 35mm simply doesn't have. But there is something about the 40mm focal length too. It's like a Goldilocks focal length. Nikon, Canon, Pentax, et al all make/made 40mm lenses for their 35mm cameras, and Ricoh have just released a 40mm equivalent GR camera.

I'm wondering how long it will be before I get a warning from the moderator about straying away from the Leica brand. Was not my intention!

(Thank you for that link. Some wonderful work there)

Edited by colint544
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I rather like 40mm on "35mm full frame" - no idea why, maybe it just matches how I see the world. It shouldn't really be much different from 35mm but somehow it is. I used to use Olympus OM film SLRs and found a copy of the 40mm f/2 pancake and really enjoyed using it. It's not the sharpest but it delivered some nice pictures.

John

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11 minutes ago, Bikie John said:

I rather like 40mm on "35mm full frame" - no idea why, maybe it just matches how I see the world. It shouldn't really be much different from 35mm but somehow it is. I used to use Olympus OM film SLRs and found a copy of the 40mm f/2 pancake and really enjoyed using it. It's not the sharpest but it delivered some nice pictures.

John

See, I too thought that there was virtually no difference between 35mm and 40mm, but it turns out that there really is.

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16 minutes ago, wattsy said:

The Leica Minilux was of course a convenient (if imperfect) way of shooting a Leica 40mm lens on 135 format film. If they weren't so prone to failure, those cameras might have been a real classic.

I've read that people have cannibalised the lenses from old Miniluxes, and converted them to work on other camera systems.

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I agree with Sailronin...............I've the Voigtlander 40mm Nokton too, had it for some 15 years or so I think, and it's one of my favourite lenses. You should try a copy Colin, not expensive, has some quirks of course, I find it better on film than digital, ( but that might be just my "older" copy ), but overall it's clearly a "keeper"

Edited by petermullett
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Also, on your rediscovery of the 6 x7 format, I too this year have dragged out and dusted off my Pentax 67.........What a great camera that is, now using it again I am ashamed of ignoring it and leaving it in the dark for so many years.

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10 hours ago, Sailronin said:

I have a Voigtlander 40mm Nokton which has yielded some very nice results with my MP. It is a lovely, lightweight lens but it is a bit of a pain to frame, if I need to be careful will work the frame selection lever with my left hand while focusing. For most situations I just use the 50mm lines and "guesstimate" the added coverage. The image below I used the frame lever to make sure the bow was included in the image.

I bought it for travel so instead of my normal 35, 50 and 90 mm thought I'd try just 40 and 75 lenses.  So far, so good but of course with COVID travel has been limited to local day-trips.

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Port Townsend ?

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1 hour ago, petermullett said:

I agree with Sailronin...............I've the Voigtlander 40mm Nokton too, had it for some 15 years or so I think, and it's one of my favourite lenses. You should try a copy Colin, not expensive, has some quirks of course, I find it better on film than digital, ( but that might be just my "older" copy ), but overall it's clearly a "keeper"

I'm hearing a lot of good things about this lens. I've looked it up, and it even looks nice, i.e. - like it would balance nicely on an M body. Nokton seem to have really got their act together with their M range of lenses. My 6x7  photo project is taking up most of my spare time at the moment, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. When I've got this in the bag, I can see my attention returning to shooting Leica M again, and will investigate this lens further. The Leica M is a system I'll never stop shooting. 

I have a friend who has a Pentax 6x7, and he uses it a lot. He shoots nothing but black and white film. Aside from the size and weight, he has no complaints about it, he loves it. You really can't find anyone who shoots that camera, who has a bad word to say about it. And it seems to be over-engineered and reliable.

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The 40/1.2 Nokton is even more more medium format like in it's rendering than the 1.4 , and is remarkably small for the speed.

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3 hours ago, colint544 said:

I'm hearing a lot of good things about this lens. I've looked it up, and it even looks nice, i.e. - like it would balance nicely on an M body. Nokton seem to have really got their act together with their M range of lenses. My 6x7  photo project is taking up most of my spare time at the moment, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. When I've got this in the bag, I can see my attention returning to shooting Leica M again, and will investigate this lens further. The Leica M is a system I'll never stop shooting. 

I have a friend who has a Pentax 6x7, and he uses it a lot. He shoots nothing but black and white film. Aside from the size and weight, he has no complaints about it, he loves it. You really can't find anyone who shoots that camera, who has a bad word to say about it. And it seems to be over-engineered and reliable.

 

4 hours ago, petermullett said:

Port Townsend ?

Hi Peter,

No, it was The Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union right in downtown Seattle.  

I love Port Townsend and drive up there probably three or four times a year from Seattle but this one was just downtown.

Dave

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With wooden boats it had to be Port Townsend or Lake Union, I just guessed at the wrong one!

I'd used spend a lot of time in the Seattle area, for work mainly as it's there downtown where I had a lot of my film transfer work done up to only a few years ago, but I still have great friends out on Bainbridge Island and Port Townsend was a favourite "haunt".

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5 hours ago, colint544 said:

I have a friend who has a Pentax 6x7, and he uses it a lot. He shoots nothing but black and white film. Aside from the size and weight, he has no complaints about it, he loves it. You really can't find anyone who shoots that camera, who has a bad word to say about it. And it seems to be over-engineered and reliable.

Me too, just B&W, primarily TriX. I love the mechanics of this camera, a friend used to say that when the shutter was fired it sounded like something had fallen off the bookshelf! The VF is terrific too, especially with WA or long FL lenses. I have a 50mm pretty much bolted on all the time.

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I grew up with fixed 42mm lenses on my old rangefinders in the 1950-60s and can appreciate the enthusiasm for a 40 on the Leicas. For many years after getting my 1st Leica I only used a 35 but really missed the slightly longer reach, and couldn't quite appreciate the 50mm side of things. Perhaps I'll give the 40 a shot now. BTW, really like the Wooden Boats shot. My brother and I used to own a place on Bainbridge Island inherited from our father, but being  midwesterners with businesses there, didn't get out to the Seattle area often enough to keep it - now regretting it in my old age. 

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How can it be that 80mm on the 6x7 format is equivalent to 40mm on 135 format?

The aspect ratios are quite different (4:5 vs 2:3).

...unless one crops one format to make it have the aspect ratio of the other??

Edited by BradS
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