Best Vintage Lens For Black And White Photography

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Best Vintage Lens For Black And White Photography

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Best Vintage Lens For Black And White Photography.

I have to say this really is the best £15 I have ever invested in my photography, the lens is sharp (as long as I manage to focus properly!!) and beautifully soft at the same time.

Pico: Good question, I will try to answer. This definition states generally what I was looking for: “an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average”, but in this case as it relates to creating black and white images.

It is not necessarily IQ, sharpness or contrast, but the overall look. I am starting to do more black & white with my M9 and was curious if experienced B&W photographers considered any lens better than others.

I understand that finding a good subject in the right light and getting the proper exposure and composition are some of the keys to any good color or black & white image. However the lens, film (now the sensor) are also important.

If some lenses draw a black and white image differently, it might be helpful to know and I could then decide which, if any, might help me with my photography. If it turns out that all Leica lenses work about equally well for black & white, that is also good to know and I would have one less thing to consider.

My subject matter covers landscape, travel, urban/street and people, which in the end is likely more important in the lens choice than black & white or color. Thanks Bob

Are there any Leica lenses or Leica compatible lenses that stand out as the best overall lens or lenses for B&W photography?if so, is it the same lenses for digital as for film Leica’s?

Thank you for clarifying your meaning of ‘best’.Choosing a lens that gives you what you want requires that you actually use the lens for some time so that you know how it renders under various conditions.

It is not the same as choosing a lens for flat repro work where MTF and rez tests might suffice. But you know that.The only Leica lens that has never disappointed me is the rigid 50mm Summicron. I consider it the gold standard for B&W and color.

Another interesting lens that I’ve used for decades is the 35mm Summilux, Version 2. (I’ve had two). It is considerably soft wide-open and sometimes gives a pleasing glow under the proper lighting; stopped down it is adequately sharp.

This week I am using a 50mm Summitar (coated with round aperture), wide-open at distances of about a 1.75M. So far the images have been surprisingly sharp with pleasing transitions, however it’s on a digital camera with a crop factor so I really do not know how it is performing on film.

My darkroom is freezing cold right now. Bottom line – hope to be lucky enough to try a lot of lenses.

And if you are a photographer and haven’t already come across the Guild of Photographers or Aspire Photography Training I can highly recommend both organisations for the support, motivation and training that they offer.

Bill, very nice color work with the M4. What are your film preferences?

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The arrival of the lens coincided with a day at Aspire Photography Training organised by The Guild Of Photographers. Any visit to Aspire is guaranteed to inspire and motivate and I decided this would also be the perfect opportunity to try out my new lens. After all I wouldn’t want to experiment with it on a client shoot and find it wasn’t as good as I was hoping.

Generally people say multicoated lenses best performance in color and single coated lenses are best for black and white. Now Voigtlander produce two different versions of the 40mm f/1.4, MC and SC. This second version was made for better performance with black and white.

IMHO simply do not exist lenses for B&W and lenses for “Colour”;)

Are there any Leica lenses or Leica compatible lenses that stand out as the best overall lens or lenses for B&W photography? if so, is it the same lenses for digital as for film Leica’s?Thanks Bob Robert Coles Photography

Hi Jeff, Thank you. I don’t shoot colour film that often, I must confess. I use 400CN for monochrome and Portra 160 NC for colour. I “understand ” how both those films behave. I am not a “film tart” – once I am happy with an emulsion I stick with it, learn how it reacts under different conditions, and come to trust it to deliver for me.

Oh, and it’s an MP4, not an M4 – it’s an a la carte MP .85 with only 4 framelines :cool:Regards,Bill

There’s no such thing as best. Some prefer high contrast and sharpness whereas others would say that an uncoated vintage Summar is best.Not to mention the vast amount of variables in terms of material, exposure and post processing.

It’s basically down to what you prefer and what is best for you.

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Don’t know for you but a good B&W lens must not be too contrasty to me so i prefer pre-asph and pre-apo Leica lenses for this purpose personally. For instance late Summilux-M 35/1.4 pre-asph; Summicron-M 35/2 IV; late Summilux-M 50/1.

4 pre-asph; pre-1994 Elmar 50/2.8; Summilux-M 75/1.4; pre-apo Summicron-M 90/2 and the like. Now some current lenses are less contrasty than others like Elmarit-M 21/2.8 asph and Summicron-M 28/2 asph for instance.

Matter of tastes anyway.

The best lens for b+w white photography is the one that’s on your camera.The visualisation you bring as a photographer is more significant than any lens choice. Once you truly see in b+w then considerations about lenses aren’t important, except as tools for composition.

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I shoot B&W film pretty much all the time. I love my old Elmar 50mm 2.8. It’s not so much a better or worse thing but that old lens has, to my eyes a very pleasing signature. Just a bit lower contrast than some of my newer lenses.

That’s exactly what happened to me last week, I set out to catch up on reading a few emails, one link lead to another, I disappeared down the internet rabbit hole and emerged a couple of hours later having ordered a vintage Russian lens and an adaptor plate from eBay!!

I’d thought I may only use it for black and white work but the colours are beautiful, the image above hasn’t been edited other than a tiny crop and converting to a JPEG!

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Lots of folks like the older lenses for B&W work, claiming that the aspherical lenses are a bit clinical. With the caveat that great pictures can be taken with any lens, I’ve heard a seen good things about the Zeiss 50mm Sonnar and I’ve always liked the current 50mm Summicron.

And in retrospect, the 35mm Summicron (ver. 4) looked nice with B&W. Wish I still had it.I shoot a lot of B&W and rarely does the lens make or break the picture (if ever).

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Old soviet lenses are great for B&W due to their lower contrast. They are sharp enough and very cheap. I’m very happy with the Jupiter-12 35mm f/2.8 on my Leica M8. Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Aspherical is also great for B&W, better than my 50mm Summilux ASPH.

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Overall look. I am rather fond of the image I get from my last version 50 2.8 and 90 4.0 current and probably last. They are my go to lenses along with 35 2.0 version IV.I could make a case for any Leica lens created since 1950 also.

My screw mount cameras have a 35 Summaron, 50 1.5 Summarit 50 3.5 Elmar 50 2.0 Summitar, 90 4. 135 4.5. I enjoy using them also.My advise is any of these will make you looklike a good photographer if you know what you are doing.

But on a test bench, the newer the better, but lower the mechanical construction quality. The 1950 60 70`s was the peak for mechanical perfection.

Bill, thank you for posting your link. Reading through the thread, I really didn’t have an answer, I’ve never considered the question.But your results with the C-Sonnar are very close to what I achieved with a 1950s model in Contax RF mount.

Lower saturation, contrast and plenty sharp.It also reminded me as I don’t have a 50 and sometimes want one, this is the lens I want in M mount.Cheers-jac

After much pondering and research on a similar subject I went off and bought a new Zeiss Sonnar. Is it a “best” lens for monochrome? I neither know nor care. What I do know is that the rendition it gives suits the way that I like to see the world.

Here is what I mean. As has already been said a number of times, this is a very personal choice.Hope this helps.Regards,Bill

– – – – – – – – – – – – -The world is going to pieces and people like Adams and Weston are photographing rocks! – Henri Cartier-Bresson (during the 1930’s)

For the photographers reading who are probably desperate to know, the lens is a Helios 44-2. Its a 58mm focal lens with a widest aperture of f2 and all the images are shot wide open. It’s a totally manual lens and I needed to buy a £2.99 mount adaptor to fit it on my Sony. And I’m sure lots of photographers would wonder why on earth anyone would stick an old £15 lens on quality digital camera but there’s nothing like using something unique to really push your creativity and allow you to work in your own unique style.

In general the qualities one wants of a lens for black and white photography are identical to those one wants for colour. In other words the best lens for one will be the best for the other. I’m sure there are a few exceptions, but only one comes to mind just now.

This is that when working in b&w one has to rely more on selective focus to separate the subject from the background than when working in colour. So at least in principle there are situations where in b&w it is really important that the lens render an out-of-focus background in a pleasing (to you) way, while in colour you could just stop down and let the colour do the talking.

To that extent, “good bokeh” is a little bit more important in b&w than in colour – but not, I think, enough to justify saying that X lens is better for b&w while Y lens is better for colour. There’s more room for discussion about the best lenses for digital vs the best for film, where there are two separate issues (or bundles of issues).

(a) Some lenses behave differently with film and digital sensors, especially wide angle lenses with short back focus. This has been discussed many many times in this forum so let’s not start it again.

( Digital sensors have a smaller dynamic range than colour or monochrome negative film and behave quite differently at the extremes of the range. This means that, for subjects with a long dynamic range, a lower-contrast lens (generally an older design) can sometimes be preferable to a high-contrast one.

Reversal film (colour or monochrome) has a dynamic range closer to digital sensors than negative film, so ( applies there too.

I’ve been very pleased with the tones I can extract from Neopan 400 and TMY-2 using the 50 Cron (latest version) and 28 Cron Asph. Neither of these lenses are particularly contrasty, thus preserving the extremities of the curve.

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