Saturday, March 8, 2014


The Leica rangefinder cameras are primarily known as fast acting cameras with lenses up to 135mm.  Close up photography with few exceptions is limited to the focusing range of the lens.  This field of photography is generally reserved for single lens reflex (SLR) cameras or mirrorless digital cameras.

However, that does not at all mean that close up and long telephoto photography cannot be done with a Leica Rangefinder camera.  This has been the case almost since the the Leica was first marketed in 1925.

We used to have a cabin in central Wisconsin.  One day we discovered a rather large hornet nest in a big pine tree next to the building.  The hornets appeared unusually large and seemed to be overly aggressive.  So we gave them a lot of space.  But I wanted to take the opportunity to take some pictures of them.  Conventional close-up equipment was out of the question.  So I decided to use my trusty 560mm f/6.8 Telyt.  I was using a Leica M5 that day with a Visoflex 3.  I wasn’t surprised to see that the Telyt couldn’t focus close enough to obtain any useable pictures.  Luckily I had a Leica Bellows 2 along.  Adding that to the set-up allowed safe close-up photographs from a safe distance.

Needless to say that we removed the nest after the photographs had been taken, but that’s another story.

The picture was taken from a distance of about 20 feet on Agfachrome 64

Leica M5, Visoflex 3, Leica Bellows 2, 560mm f/6.8 Telyt

This picture, I feel, is not so much of interest because of its pictorial excellence but rather because the somewhat unusual circumstances under which it was taken and because of the unusual Leica equipment combination it was taken with.

Since I was using both Leica M and R equipment at the time, I bought all long lenses and close-up equipment in Leica M configuration.  That allowed me to use it both with the Visoflex as well as with the Leica R cameras with the 14167 adapter.

The Visoflex has long been discontinued, but it will still fit even the latest Leica rangefinder cameras, including the Leica M.  The release lever is slightly offset because of the slight difference in size of the Leica M compared to older models, but it still functions properly.  But the advanced features and accessories of the Leica M makes a Visoflex unnecessary for this type of photography.  Instead the new Electronic Visoflex is a better choice.  It allows direct viewing and focusing with all attached lenses, including a large number of lenses from other manufacturers via an adapter.

The new Leica M is truly a system camera that does not need to fear comparison to anything else on the market.


  1. Wouldn't a lens made for close up photography have rendered better results?

    1. Of course. Any lens is optimized for its primary use, thus the 560 Telyt is optimized for use at relatively long distances. However, in this instance I wasn't about to get any closer to those critters than necessary. As it was, even at the approximately 20 foot distance it wasn't exactly a comfortable working environment. Those hornets were very aggressive.

  2. It would have never occurred to me to do close up photography with such a long lens.

    1. Me neither. I guess this is an example of necessity being the mother of invention.