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In praise of the Mandler lenses


adan

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This deserves to be read and reread.

 

Ruben: I guess it just comes down to how one defines "miles ahead".

 

Some APO/ASPH Solms lenses definitely improve some shortcomings in the earlier generation lenses: the 35 Summilux ASPH does much better in terms of coma and off-center sharpness than either the 35 'lux or 35 cron v.4; the 90 Mandler Summicron shows more green/purple fringing than the APO version; the 50 f/1.4 ASPH @ f/1.4 is astonishing in the right light.

 

Others have made strides in reducing size - the 28 'cron, Elmarit ASPH and previous Elmarit are much smaller than my v.3 Midland 28, and the 21 ASPH cut the diameter to 55mm from the Midland 21's 60mm.

 

But when it comes to the overall feel of the image, especially in digital or slide photography, I still find the Mandler designs to be "miles ahead" in terms of rich tonality and the handling of color rendition (as opposed to color correction). For me, it's as clear a difference as that between a Beaujolais and a Bordeaux - one is bright and gay, but the other has infinite depths.

 

It has been my consistent experience with the M8 that the current designs (except the f/1.4s) push detail off the ends of the tonal scale, where even raw processing cannot recover it. It is normal with them to have exposure set to -1.00 (using ACR), shadows to 0, contrast to 0, and still have a "hot" image. Whereas with the Mandler designs, the same lighting will give exposure "0", or even plus a bit, shadows at 5 or higher, and the midtone contrast can be set as high as 50, giving a boost to midtone separation and saturation. In other words, at least a stop, and more like two stops, of additional dynamic range. And generally a bit less noise, through not having to dig into the shadows as much in post-processing.

 

I also find the older design telephotos to be more forgiving for RF use. They usually have longer focus throws, which allows for a more precise vernier touch in putting the RF images together carefully.

 

And the residual spherical aberration means that while they are not always as precisely sharp as the APO teles at full aperture, the zone of "reasonably sharp" covers a slightly wider depth of focus at the image plane. The width of the bright area, left to right, in this example: File:Spherical-aberration-slice.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

All this is why I posted this thread in the first place - on MFT charts, and in some imagery, the new advanced designs from Leica are certainly state-of-the-art - or even ahead of the art, when it comes to the 21 and 24 Summiluxes.

 

But over and over again, I have gotten pictures that please me more, technically, from the Mandler designs. And ultimately, it is those pictures, not the MFT charts, that I publish or hang on my wall.

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Marac

Excellent review.   I have been lucky in my Leica ownership. I now find myself with a fantastic Monochrom camera and a decent selection of glass that is apparently Mandler strong.   35 cron v4 50 cron v4 75 lux v2 Canada (my all time favourite lens bar none) 90 tele-elmarit Thin   I consider this a wonderful collection and I really enjoy the results I have been getting.   The included photo is a snap in natural light at ISO2000 with the 50 cron direct from camera only resized for uplo

adan

Next up is the "version III" 28mm Elmarit. It has a touch more macro contrast than the 21, but quite a bit less than the 28 Summicron ASPH. Frankly, while I can appreciate the qualities of the 'cron, especially in a 28mm f/2 lens - I have tried it 3 times and always gone back to this Elmarit, because the 'cron is just too red and harsh (IMHO) to achieve the pictures I want.   The Elmarit (III) does have slightly less smooth bokeh, although fairly neutral. It is also the largest of the M 28s, a

adan

I love the lenses designed by Walter Mandler at E. Leitz Canada, and especially the M-lenses that I discuss below. I just want to bring them to the attention of all Leica shooters, because I think there is a place for their distinctive familial properties in the world of pricey ASPH and APO lenses (not that those are not equally distinctive in their own ways).   LCT, I believe, is working on an essay about Walter Mandler, so I'll just briefly describe his place in Leica lens design. Mandler wa

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It has been my consistent experience with the M8 that the current designs (except the f/1.4s) push detail off the ends of the tonal scale, where even raw processing cannot recover it. It is normal with them to have exposure set to -1.00 (using ACR), shadows to 0, contrast to 0, and still have a "hot" image. Whereas with the Mandler designs, the same lighting will give exposure "0", or even plus a bit, shadows at 5 or higher, and the midtone contrast can be set as high as 50, giving a boost to midtone separation and saturation. In other words, at least a stop, and more like two stops, of additional dynamic range.

But HOW is this achieved? I'm not disagreeing, in that I too observe a difference in Mandler and aspheric Leica lenses, but lenses don't operate by magic (unfortunately) so there must be a reason why this seems to occur. Can anyone attempt to explain it?

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But HOW is this achieved? I'm not disagreeing, in that I too observe a difference in Mandler and aspheric Leica lenses, but lenses don't operate by magic (unfortunately) so there must be a reason why this seems to occur. Can anyone attempt to explain it?

 

Thorsten von Overgaard relates a story in his Noctilux entry (perhaps apocryphal), that the glass for this lens spends a year liquified in a fiery crucible before slowly cooled and moulded into its final form. Grind down a Mandler and analyze the magic dust...

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This thread resurrection cost me £925.....

 

I already have a 21 Elmarit ASPH f2.8, I now have the pre ASPH 21 Elmarit f2.8

 

Just getting to know it and liking it. I'll get my tripod out and do a comparison. I'll stick to real scenes as test charts are uninteresting.

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But HOW is this achieved? I'm not disagreeing, in that I too observe a difference in Mandler and aspheric Leica lenses, but lenses don't operate by magic (unfortunately) so there must be a reason why this seems to occur. Can anyone attempt to explain it?

 

If they're not magic, why are they so damned expensive, I thought I was paying for small lens fairies that made everything more awesome!

 

In reality, it is because they are less corrected, so some light "spills" from the highlights into the shadows. I use "spills" for want of a better word, but it can be from internal reflections, aberrations, flare, ... contrast (and as a consequence resolution) is reduced and a scene with higher dynamic range can be captured.

 

These days resolution is king, but you give up the "glow" of the older lenses. There's no free lunch.

 

I only have on Mandler, a v3 50 'cron from '71. I concur that this thread looks like being an expensive one.

 

Cheers,

Michael

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If they're not magic, why are they so damned expensive, I thought I was paying for small lens fairies that made everything more awesome!

 

In reality, it is because they are less corrected, so some light "spills" from the highlights into the shadows. I use "spills" for want of a better word, but it can be from internal reflections, aberrations, flare, ... contrast (and as a consequence resolution) is reduced and a scene with higher dynamic range can be captured.l

 

Well, perhaps these days fairies demand too high wages;). But to quote a post of mine from another thread:

 

Lens contrast is the lens's ability to deliver the contrast of the scene onto the sensor - in practice always less than 100% due to some, albeit small, degree of flare. However the scene contrast can be way beyond the sensor's capability to record at either extreme. A high contrast lens will deliver more usable tonality than a low contrast lens, whether or not the scene is of high or low contrast. The lenses' contrast will not influence exposure to any great degree unless it is of really low contrast indeed.....

 

So I can't agree with you as light 'spillage' would affect the shadows as well as mid-tones and highlights and would reduce overall contrast (which it does on earlier designs and to a slight extent on some Mandler designs). But as you say, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and allowing flare to reduce contrast to extend the dynamic range that can be captured isn't a viability I'm afraid (if it was lens designers would design such lenses and use software to readjust the contrast after....).

 

So I'm still interested in an explanation regarding the smoothness of tonality from Mandler lenses.

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I think we may agree, but are using different words to explain the same thing. I find it tricky to explain in forum posts sometimes without talking in person, drawing diagrams and the like.

 

So I can't agree with you as light 'spillage' would affect the shadows as well as mid-tones and highlights and would reduce overall contrast (which it does on earlier designs and to a slight extent on some Mandler designs).

 

Of course it can. As you say, "- in practice always less than 100% due to some, albeit small, degree of flare." So a large degree of flare would reduce it more than a small amount. Although what you call flare, I generalised to "spillage" to include other aberrations.

 

But as you say, there's no such thing as a free lunch, and allowing flare to reduce contrast to extend the dynamic range that can be captured isn't a viability I'm afraid (if it was lens designers would design such lenses and use software to readjust the contrast after....).

 

Of course it is. A lens that reproduced the contrast in a scene perfectly would render a scene with 15 stops of DR as 15 stops, and therefore clip one or both ends. A lens with reduced contrast (by whatever means) would render the scene with less contrast. It is the same principle as pre-exposing film to bring up the shadows while the highlights remain in check. They did design such lenses, such as the rigid summicron, which had higher sharpness and lower contrast than the lens that replaced it. Contrast can only be increased after the fact however, a clipped highlight or shadow is clipped. But then the no free lunch thing comes to bite you and people want more contrast, better flare suppression, and so on.

 

So I'm still interested in an explanation regarding the smoothness of tonality from Mandler lenses.

 

My explanation is that the Mandler lenses are at the sweet spot of lens design, with just enough correction but not too much. They are not clinical, but not "glowing", they are in my opinion the goldilocks lenses.

 

Cheers,

Michael

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A lens that reproduced the contrast in a scene perfectly would render a scene with 15 stops of DR as 15 stops, and therefore clip one or both ends. A lens with reduced contrast (by whatever means) would render the scene with less contrast.

The problem is that the flare ('spillage') is responsible for adding light throughout the scene, (ie both to the highlights and to the shadows) and this is added to the image as it passes through the lens, so it is the sensor image which suffers the loss of contrast relative to the original scene. Its somewhat akin to pre-fogging a film as the flare content is in the imaged scene, regardless of the original scene contrast (15 stops or whatever). In other words there will be a loss of data and it the exposure is adjusted to ensure that highlights are not clipped, the data loss will be in the shadows -regardless of the dynamic range of the original scene. There is no free lunch!

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The problem is that the flare ('spillage') is responsible for adding light throughout the scene, (ie both to the highlights and to the shadows) and this is added to the image as it passes through the lens, so it is the sensor image which suffers the loss of contrast relative to the original scene. Its somewhat akin to pre-fogging a film as the flare content is in the imaged scene, regardless of the original scene contrast (15 stops or whatever). In other words there will be a loss of data and it the exposure is adjusted to ensure that highlights are not clipped, the data loss will be in the shadows -regardless of the dynamic range of the original scene. There is no free lunch!

 

Agreed! Compressing 15 bits into 12 results in a data loss, I find it more atheistically pleasing to not clip the highlights. I think a small amount of this effect is what contributes to the images we love from these lenses. They're not perfect, but they're not far off.

 

Cheers,

Michael

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My explanation is that the Mandler lenses are at the sweet spot of lens design, with just enough correction but not too much. They are not clinical, but not "glowing", they are in my opinion the goldilocks lenses.

I'm starting to wonder if Mandler designed lenses do occupy, as you say, a 'sweet spot of lens design'. Their pre-aspheric design, small size and other physical characteristics/attributes might just produce a subtle difference in image which has not been repeated. At mid-apertures my Mandler designed lenses, and others that I have used, show a subtlety of tonality which I am not sure that I have seen from many other lenses.

 

I first really noticed this on a large (A2) print of the Menai Suspension Bridge in warm late afternoon light (the file is with Getty or I'd post it!) from an 80/1.4 shot at f/8~11ish on a Canon 1Ds. The fine detail was beautifully clear but not harsh in any way, simply smooth tonal transitions in fine detailed areas - quite different to files from the Canon 85/1.2 which whilst stunningly sharp wide open (it was always tricky to achieve absolute focus with) had acceptable, but nothing more, performance at mid apertures. My 90/2.8 Elmarit-M shows similar, though not quite as smooth, detail as the 80/1.4, as did both 35s (f/1.4 and f/2v.4) along with the pre-aspheric 50mm v.2 Summilux . I suppose the bottom line is that Mandler was a superb lens designer who worked in he right place at the right time and who appreciated more than simply the mathematics of lens design from what I have read about him.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Im late to the party but a big thanks to Adan for starting this thread

 

The more APO ASPH lenses I bought and shot, the further back in time I went looking for the "look" that had me hooked to Leica in the first place.

 

No surprise, Dr. Mandler was the creator of most of these light interpretation devices that are truly outstanding - even in this time and age.

 

And I guess, may remain so forever.

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I have been reading and re-reading this thread for years and continue to find the ideas and experiences expressed here to be in line with my own experience and thoughts starting with b&w (Technical Pan and its predecessor), Kodachrome 25, 64 and much later with the M8, M9 and M240.

 

Over the years I have admired the originator of this thread because of his knowledgeable and well documented contributions, many of which I have bookmarked for reference.

 

I own many of the Mandler lenses and have sold only one, the 135 2.8 - which I bought back at a higher price shortly after selling it - and have not repeated that error!

 

Many years ago I purchased a 66/2 Elcan #283-0010 and find it performs excellently and also has the Mandler "signature". The Telyt 180/3.4 has been used more and more with the advent of the M240 + the Leica R/M adapter.

 

I use the Mandler lenses for their rendering and the later Kölsch and Karber lenses for their higher micro contrast and different rendering where I feel it is called for.

Teddy

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  • 4 weeks later...

Here is an interesting article about the impact of Messr. Mandler's comtributions to Leica camera. Without his genius and his prolific work, Leica could have taken a very different path:

Walter Mandler - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

I am fortunate in that I own one Mandler lens, the f/1.0 Noctilux. Acquiring a copy of his 75mm Summilux is high on my bucket list.

Edited by Carlos Danger
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  • 2 months later...

I recently purchased a Elmarit 21/2.8 pre-ash (60) and have been using it with a Monochrome and M-P 240 and have been enjoying the images. 

 

Being pleased with the images, I wanted to know more about this fine lens and doing some research which lead me to this wonderful thread. Loved the comments and the links provided.

 

Thanks to Adan and all that contributed over the years. 

Edited by seakayaker1
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Next up is the "version III" 28mm Elmarit. It has a touch more macro contrast than the 21, but quite a bit less than the 28 Summicron ASPH. Frankly, while I can appreciate the qualities of the 'cron, especially in a 28mm f/2 lens - I have tried it 3 times and always gone back to this Elmarit, because the 'cron is just too red and harsh (IMHO) to achieve the pictures I want.

 

The Elmarit (III) does have slightly less smooth bokeh, although fairly neutral. It is also the largest of the M 28s, and early lens hoods do not have cutouts, since they were designed at a time when the M bodies did not include 28 framelines, so viewfinder blockage was ignored.

 

In MOST cases I find this lens to produce as much fine detail as the 'cron - with good, clear micro-contrast. Especially on slide film or a digital sensor. On color neg film the extra snap of the 'cron or the Elmarit (IV) may work better.

 

(BTW this image contains so much detail that I had to boost the jpg compression to upload it - take that into consideration, especially in the red areas)

I will chime in here as I do own this lens and the 28 Cron. Andy, if I am not mistaken, was shooting the v3 on the M8, where it is at it's best since the edges and corners are not visible. My M9 does not like the v3 much, but loves the Cron.

 

To my eye the v4 was the sweet 28 elmarit

 

At 50 I agree, the old cron is a marvel. And the 75 Lux is one of my favorites also, wistful WO but pretty darn sharp by f/2, with great close focus for an M lens.

 

Puts is a very good source of information but as we see with the Q, he can be grumpy LOL. He has 2 totally different views of the 75 lux: 1} nothing special, you need it, you own it. 2) great great great. I love him anyway.

Edited by uhoh7
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  • 7 months later...

Recently Leica 'updated' their 28mm f2 & 2.8 and 35mm f2.8 lenses, with what appears to be minimal design changes, to suit the flatter (at the edges) digital sensor as apposed to the slightly 'curved' edges of a film sensor.  Prior to that they appear to have been introducing FLE versions (the 90mm f2 to come).

 

I wonder if it would make business sense for Leica to re-release the old Mandler lenses but for the flatter digital sensor?  

 

The whole internet is about pixel peeping but it's how the image fits together that's important (the so called 'Lieca look') & I feel that we are getting technically brilliant lenses at present but that destinctive 'look' is being lost.

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I wonder if it would make business sense for Leica to re-release the old Mandler lenses but for the flatter digital sensor?  

 

Nothing to do with flatness, but rather with the filter stack on the sensor affecting the optical path.

In any case, this is an educated guess because Leica hasn't made any official statement.

 

I don't think Leica will ever re-release the Mandler lenses, especially because users who are obsessed about corner performance want modern Karbe designs.

That is unfortunate, as I would like the old Mandler designs remade with newer equivalent glass and coating for greater color rendition.

 

By the way, I just bought a used Summicron-M 90/2 (pre APO) at 1/5 the price of a new APO, and I am starting to love it. Colors apart, I like how it renders much better than the APO.

 

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