By José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Two years have elapsed since the sad passing away of the world-class Leica expert Tom Abrahamsson (who was also an international authority on Nikon and Cosina Voigtländer cameras and lenses) on January 6th, 2017.
Two years have elapsed since the sad passing away of the world-class Leica expert Tom Abrahamsson (who was also an international authority on Nikon and Cosina Voigtländer cameras and lenses) on January 6th, 2017.
THE LEGEND GOES ON
The death of this visionary man in a comprehensive array of technical and optical aspects and featuring a tremendous stature as a human being, was a huge loss to the world of photography.
He has left an indelible imprint through his amazing technical skills in the sphere of gorgeous CNC machining of aerospace alloys with his world famous Classic Softreleases and Minisoftreleases for a number of different cameras and brands, his masterpiece Rapidwinders for Leica analog RF cameras, tons of experience, insightful and practical approach on getting pictures as a first-class black and white photojournalist using rangefinder cameras to share space with his subjects and beget interactions in reportages and images teeming with life, and above all by virtue of his human qualities and kindness who turned him into a reference-class benchmark wherever he was, being beloved by all the ones who had the privilege of meeting him and learning very much listening to both him and his wife Tuulikki Abrahamsson.
Tom Abrahamsson and his wife Tuulikki during the 2008 LHSA Annual Meeting in Louisville (Kentucky), standing near the main entrance of Woodford Reserve Distillery, inside which the legendary maestro tested a prototype of the Elmar-M 24 mm f/3.4 ASPH lent to him by
Leica Camera A.G.
From left to right : the photographer Richard Wasserman, Tuulikki Abrahamsson, Tom Abrahamsson, James Lager (greatest expert in Leica cameras, lenses and accessories ever along with Theo Kisselbach and Las Netopil) and his wife during a dinner in Louisville (Kentucky) in 2008.
A TOP-NOTCH ARTISAN AND INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER DEVOTED TO THE IMPROVEMENT AND EXPANSION OF 24 X 36 MM FORMAT RANGEFINDER CAMERAS CAPABILITIES
Following the creation of his firm T&T Abrahamsson – One-Off Industrial Designs in Vancouver (Canada) in 1987, Tom Abrahamsson started to design, manufacture and sell his well-known Rapidwinders (highly functional gadgets significantly increasing the shooting rate of Leica M analogue cameras and featuring a thorough attention to detail) in 1989, after a very hard self-teaching of machining from late seventies, until by dint of strenuous work, love for the well made products and an unswerving commitment to spread out the photographic possibilities of rangefinder cameras, he gained breathtaking proficiency with all kinds of small and large lathes, drills, Dremel devices, jewelry file sets, milling machines and a wide range of tools of every size and shape in symbiosis with CNC milling machines which enabled him to improve the precision of cases machined from alloys and progressively upgrade parts and designs, subsequently founding www.rapidwinder.com in 1998.
Abrahamsson Rapidwinder Classic for Leica M4-2, M4-P, M6, M7 and MP.
A product oozing impressive quality and sturdiness, handcraftedly made by Tom Abrahamsson with first-string noble metals (high tensile strength alloy, stainless steel and brass) machining inside his famous workshop in Vancouver (Canada).
This very well built device replaces the base plate on Leica M cameras and allows the rapid advance of the film inside the camera using your left hand on the folding lever located on its base to pull it outwards, so the photographer doesn´t have to take his/her eye away from the viewfinder.
The drive is a reinforced toothed belt quieter than the original chain drive of the Leicavit MP, and optimized for avoiding stretching, and the multiple pin clutch used in it allows the photographers to shoot very fast, in the 2-2,5 frames/second range, a mechanical accomplishment in the scope of 24 x 36 mm format analog rangefinder cameras.
Abrahamsson Rapidwinder for Leica M4-2, M4-P, M6, M7 and MP with the lever folded inside it.
Unlike loud and bulky motordrives, it doesn´t use any batteries, remains utterly integrated with the body of the rangefinder camera (it only adds 1,4 cm to the height of the camera along with 125 g more) and preserves its small size and weight, as well as working in a very smooth way.
Abrahamsson Rapidwinders were and keep on being breakthrough contrivances for increasing the shooting rate of analogue Leica rangefinder cameras.
They boast quality, ruggedness and reliability as a minimalist design (with less than ten individual parts in comparison to the very complex design of the original Leicavit MP featuring more than fifty components).
Such was the usefulness of Tom Abrahamsson´s rapidwinders, that the great Leica technician Reinhold Mueller, another preeminent expert in machine work and custom fabrication of instruments ( among many other devices he was one of the designers of the altitude meters used during the NASA first moon landings) and who in mid nineties had already a long background of 25 years in Canada as a Leica service specialist, made some modifications to Leica M2, M3 and M4 cameras (the M4-2, M4-P, M6, M7 and MP 2003 don´t need any changes) to enable them to be coupled to Tom Abrahamsson´s Rapidwinders for professional photographers.
Some years later, in 2005, Tom Abrahamsson manufactured a limited series of three hundred M2 Rapidwinders fitting the Leica M2 and Leica MD cameras without having to do any modifications.
On the other hand, a further reason for the international sales success of Tom Abrahamsson´s Rapidwinders was the exceedingly careful quality control carried out by his creator, including the testing of each individual device with three different bodies with black and white film inside.
The mythical Mr Barnack softie, which has currently become a cult object among users of 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder cameras all over the world. The highly appreciated and very special cat passed away on August 4, 2010, after twelve years of loyalty to Tom and Tuulikki Abrahamsson.
It was often placed among many others on the Leica M2 and original M3 black enamel cameras repainted in black semi-gloss finish by the great Japanese artisan Shintaro Yaginuma.
A REMARKABLE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHER WITH TONS OF INGENUITY, LOVE FOR LEICA BRAND AND AN IMPRESSIVE WORKING ABILITY
Tom Abrahamsson, a towering figure in the XX and XXI centuries history of rangefinder cameras and black and white photography knowledge, in addition to being a great zealot of the Leicas as top-notch photographic tools to be used.
After having begun his career as a photojournalist for a Swedish newspaper during sixties, working with a repainted in gray Leica M2, he subsequently travelled worldwide throughout seventies and first half of eighties until he settled in Vancouver (Canada) in 1987.
His indefatigable labor was instrumental in the Renaissance of RF cameras since mid nineties, along with other keepers of the faith in that scope at that time like Roy Moss, Joseph K. Brown, Julius Foris Jr, Harry Soletsky, Roger Pelham, Sal DiMarco Jr, Fred Sternenberg, Ed Etzold, Vahan Shahinian, Steve LeHuray, Lucian Niemeyer, Randol W. Hooper, Jim Kuehl, Donald B. Chatterton, Ted Grant, Folke Kristiansson, Mervin Stewart, Eric Bohman, Shin Yasuhara, Hirofumi Kobayashi, Ed Schwartzreich, Seth Rosner, Bill Grimwood, Carl Merkin, Roger Hicks, Hans Ploegmakers, Rick Oleson, Jason Schneider, Stephen Gandy, Michael Agel, Will Wright, Eli Kurland, Daniel Zirinsky, Ron Johnson, Raymond Piganiol, Stan Tamarkin, Igor Reznik, Terry Maltby, Stefan Daniel, Dick Gilcreast, David Spielman, Jim W. Vestal, Bill Thomas, Albert Bruce Knapp, Richard Gladden, Bill Rosauer, John Patterson, Dick Santee, John E. Hayden, Bill Caldwell, Norm Woodward, Al Wolsky, Doug Richardson, Thomas Campbell, Alex Shishin, Shiniziro Mizuchi, Stephen Wright, Rob Clayton, Terance Dixon, John Lehmann, Terry Cioni, Pierpaolo Ghisetti, Eric Baker, Richard Wasserman, Howard Cummer, Craig Semetko, Dr. Michael Schwartz, Henning Wulff, Shinichi Nakamura, Brett Prestidge, David Young, Edward Kowaleski, Toru Tanaka, Hans Pahlen, Kaeru Nakayama, Bob Baron, Greg Lorenzo, Mark Rabiner, Kjell Kullsten, Jim Shulman, Joseph Yao and many more on the five continents, after almost twelve years in which
the Leica M6 was the only 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder camera in production until the arrival of the Contax G2 (1996), the Yasuhara T981 (1998), the Konica RF (1999), the Bessa R with Leica screwmount assortment of lenses (1999), the Bessar R2 with Leica M bayonet mount (2002), the Rollei 35 RF (2002), the Bessa R2S in Nikon rangefinder mount (2002), the Bessa R2C in Contax rangefinder mount (2002), the Leica M7 with aperture priority (2002), the Bessa R2A in Leica M mount (2004, with 0.7x VF magnification and framelines for 35, 50, 75 and 90 mm lenses and automatic exposure), the Bessa R3A in Leica M mount (2004, with 1x VF magnification and framelines for 40, 50, 75 and 90 mm lenses and automatic exposure), the Zeiss Ikon (2005), the Bessa R2M in Leica M mount (2006, equivalent to the R2A but with utterly manual exposure), the Bessa R3M in Leica M mount (2006, equivalent to the R2A but totally manual exposure), the Bessa R4A and R4M in Leica M mount (2006, featuring a 0.52x VF optimized for use with 21, 25, 28 and 35 mm wideangle lenses, as well as enabling to easily use standard 50 mm lenses).
This ten year stage between mid nineties and 2005 was fundamental for the preservation of the very small 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless with rangefinder concept camera coupled to first-class tiny and very light highly luminous lenses, optimized for handheld shots without trepidation even in dim light conditions at very low shutter speeds, with amazing operating smoothness, keeping of eye contact with the subject right through the moment of exposure thanks to the lack of a swivelling mirror, the invaluable help of the area visible outside the framelines, particularly in the Leica and Cosina Voigtländer rangefinders, to anticipate unpredicted moving subjects that may enter the frame and an exceedingly short shutter lag.
All of it turned the RF cameras into the best by far choice for street photography and people photography from short distances) before the definitive consolidation of the digital Leica M concept, firstly embodied by the Leica M8 and
since 2009 by the full frame digital rangefinders Leica M9, Leica M9-P (2011), Leica M Typ 240 (2012), Leica M Monochrom (2012) and the slim Leica M10 ( 2017), Leica M10-P (2018) harking back to the original M System gist conceived by Willi Stein and Ludwig Leitz with the Leica IV Prototype in 1936 (which though keeping the standard Leica screwmount, featured a built-in combined viewfinder/rangefinder along with small body dimensions and weight, in synergy with the first focal plane shutter including the main traits of the future Leica M cameras and patented in 1934) which meant a seamless analog to digital transition (preserving the classic keynote of intuitive handling and concentration on only the essential functions, with fast access to the settings relevant to photography) accomplished by the charismatic Leica Camera AG owner and Entfernungsmesser believer Dr Andreas Kauffmann, who saved the German photographic firm, turning it into a profitable and very solid company in only four years since the beginning of his tenure in 2006.
Needless to say that Tom Abrahamsson was a fundamental figure in the further spreading of the rangefinder camera philosophy during eighties and nineties of XX Century and of XXI one until 2017, embodied by Leica and Cosina Voigtländer RF cameras, thanks to his indefatigable toil with both the LHSA and Cosina Voigtländer as a highly experienced photographic guru, as well as having been a great promoter of the concept of affordable 24 x 36 mm rangefinder camera featuring Leica M mount epitomized between 2002 and 2006 by the Bessa R2, Bessa R2A, Bessa R3A, Bessa R2M, Bessa R3M, Bessa R4M and Bessa R4A cameras.
In addition, he was a man boasting a tremendous visual culture, having thoroughly seen hundreds of thousands of pictures throughout his existence, since he was a great admirer of master black and white photographers, had a personal friendship with some of them, and visited a raft of photographic exhibitions all over the world during his lifetime.
ABRAHAMSSON´S SOFTIES AND MINISOFTIES : MASTERPIECES OF PRECISION ENGINEERING AND MINIATURIZATION
Tom Abrahamsson shooting with his black Leica M2 coupled to a non aspherical 8 elements in 6 groups Voigtländer Nokton Classic S.C 35 mm f/1.4 lens. The camera has got a black color softie screwed in the shutter release button threaded socket and it is being pressed by the maestro with the special technique recommended by him to greatly expand the handheld shooting capabilities of rangefinder cameras in subdued light conditions, enabling to safely get pictures using very low shutter speeds of 1/8 s and even 1/4 s and 1/2 s to experienced photographers once they get the hang of it.
From scratch, they were made to the highest standards of quality, solving the problems inherent to previously available softies from different companies and countries, made in cheap cast aluminum, which had too small diameter or featured a concave surface resulting in the need to use the tip of the finger, exerting pressure on the shutter release button of the camera, so on shooting with slow and very slow shutter speeds, there was frequent trepidation and blurred images.
That´s why Tom Abrahamsson took the decision of striving upon stretching the handheld capabilities of Leica rangefinder cameras when getting pictures at low and very low shutter speeds, conceiving his own softies with a bigger diameter (15mm) and a dome convex shaped upper area, in addition to using the most adequate stuff to manufacture them: an expensive top quality very tough and resistant aerospace metallic alloy assuring maximum strength, durability and utter preservation of its very beautiful original cosmetic aspect, as well as avoiding any snapping or getting stuck of the softies in the cable release thread and simultaneously enabling to engrave and anodize them in a wide range of colors.
Gorgeous Tom Abrahamsson´s softie manufactured to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the LHSA during the Annual Meeting held in Louisville (Kentucky) in 2008. The polishing of this thoroughly engineered tiny product is simply stunning, flawless, without any hint of imperfection, paint rugosity or any minute metal cranny. A real masterpiece of miniaturization accuracy, boasting a very beautifil cosmetic look which enhances the appearance of the camera. Likewise first class is the high resistance of its very special ultralight aerospace alloy which makes possible the engraving of all kind of inscriptions, logotypes, drawings, diagrams, letters, etc, a long lasting permanence being achieved through an avantgarde technique based on laser beam.
Lateral view of the LHSA 2008 Annual Meeting softie made by Tom Abrahamsson showing the painstaking accuracy in the machining of both the knurled edge, the screwed tip for inserting the softie on the thread for cable release socket of Leica rangefinder cameras and its exceedingly sturdy base. In addition, the polishing of the Classics Softies is absolutely gorgeous, flawless, without any hint of imperfection, paint rugosity or minute metal cranny. A full-fledged masterpiece of miniaturization accuracy, boasting a very beautiful cosmetic look which enhances the charm of the camera, also adding touches of exoticism.
From the beginning, manufacturing these masterpieces of machining work proved to be a technological tour de force, particularly if we bear in mind that it was an utterly private venture, far from any craving for huge revenue and based on the keynote of top-notch craftsmanship, making use of the best materials in existence, and fulfilling a personal control unit by unit of each softie and the different stages until completing them.
The Abrahamsson LHSA 2008 Annual Meeting softie showing its tiny dimensions and gorgeous beauty on a Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Fourth Version designed by Walter Mandler.
A self-made man in many a respect, Tom Abrahamsson´s iron will and his impressive know-how and prowess on machining of metals and alloys learned the hard way since mid eighties (when he began to thoroughly study the design of the first ones of his famous rapidwinders) were pivotal in the beginning of the Abrahamsson Softrelease Classic devices production on July 23, 1998, and the turning of this great photographer, artisan and Renaissance man workshop into a highly innovative production center using CNC machines.
Abrahamsson softie for the 39th Annual Meeting of the LHSA held in Rochester (New York) in 2007, featuring an engraving of the Ur-Leica from 1914, the first 24 x 36 mm format camera ever made, designed and manufactured by Oskar Barnack in Wetzlar (Germany), a staggering photographic tool for the time and the most influential camera in history from the viewpoint of design along with the professional slr Nikon F from 1959 and the Canon T90 from 1986 devised by Luigi Colani.
Abrahamson softie for the 39th Annual Meeting of the LHSA screwed on the shutter release button threaded socket of a Leica M6 rangefinder camera.
Abrahamsson softie for the 39th Annual Meeting of the LHSA resting on the cover of a vintage Leitz brochure and showing its amazing enamelled surface, accuracy of machining and painstaking drawing of the Ur Leica engraved with laser beam.
A Leica M3 mirrorless with rangefinder camera. The mythical Mr B softie appears threaded on its shutter release button.
These state-of-the-art little wonders enable to extend the handheld safe shooting capabilities of the rangefinder cameras up to a shutter speed of 1/8 s with lenses between 50 and 90 mm without trepidation, while on using lenses between 21 and 35 mm a photographer can often reliably work hand and wrist at 1/4 s and even 1/2 s.
As a matter of fact, Tom was able to shoot indoors at a shutter speed of 1/8 s with a Cosina Voigtländer Bessa R4M rangefinder camera coupled to a prototype of the Elmar-M 24 mm f/3.8 Asph lens during the LHSA visit to the Woodword Bourbon Reserve Distillery in 2008.
He was always spellbound by the enthralment of taking pictures utterly handheld, without using any artificial light, an environment in which Leicas M have been in their element for ages.
Before the arrival of Tom Abrahamsson to this technological scope, there had been a lot of types of Softreleases (made in cast aluminum ones featuring dish shape - which usually broke off in the cable release thread-, small plastic ones with camera names on them, and even one complex specific model made by Leica - loaded by means of a tall spring-), but they sported too much height and most times a concave surface, which prompted directing the index finger towards the middle area of the Softrelease and pushing the camera downwards.
This forced searching for the center of the shutter release button made the photographers wasting very valuable tenths of seconds, as well as turning them fidgety in decisive moments.
This way, Tom Abrahamsson decided to design his own Softrelease, realizing that it was necessary to find a workable solution, kept at it and started to thoroughly study the whys and wherefores of the problem, until it dawned on him that the key factor was changing the concave surface to a convex one, since the quoted dish shaped versions softreleases made by other respected companies required to use the tip of the index finger to squeeze the release.
The aim was firstly to avoid any anxiety to press the center, instead of it using the second joint of the index finger to gently touch the Softrelease on the edge to attain quick shots, simultaneously controlling the pressure on the release, and secondly to counter the problem of very frequent breaking of soft releases made by different brands and the subsequent jamming of the release it brought about.
The materials used in the manufacture of Abrahamsson Classic Softies are of the highest quality, to know very special aerospace alloy, which results in maximum strength and durability (preserving a brand new appearance for decades), minimum weight (compared to stainless-steel or other metals) and resistance to scratches, along with a very reduced friction on being screwed around the cable release socket.
When you touch an Abrahamsson Softrelease for the first time, the experience is unique and even somewhat shocking, since they´re so incredibly light that you can wrongly believe they are made of plastic or average aluminum. But they are truly state-of-the-art aerospace alloy, as thousands of customers all over the world can attest in a body.
On the other hand, the superb quality of the ultralight high resistance metal alloy allows the production of Abrahamsson Softies in a lot of different colours, together with the engraving of all kind of inscriptions, logotypes, drawings, diagrams, letters, etc, a long lasting permanence being achieved through a breakthrough technique based on laser beam.
It must also be underlined the impressive perfection of the groovings surrounding the Classic Softies -all of them are knurled- something exceedingly instrumental to easily unscrew them if required and to prevent the finger from slippering, insuring at the same time the decisive lateral pressing so as to get the lowest possible hand and wrist shutter speeds with minimal ISOs in search for top quality. Exactness is paid superlative attention in Abrahamsson Classic Softies and Minisofties, because the smallest mechanizing inaccuracy could cause either loosening of them or harm to the cable release socket due to undesired rubbing.
Tom Abrahamsson´s softies are with difference the best in the world, with a very high production cost, because their popular ´mushrooms´ are not made with cheap stamped procedures like other models existing in the market, but through state-of-the-art CNC machining of very high end and expensive aerospace alloy.
That´s why they will not bend and break off from your shutter release and will easily endure the elapse of decades working flawlessly and keeping their beautiful original cosmetic appearance.
Tom Abrahamsson getting a picture of Bill Rosauer, Editor of Viewfinder magazine (the reference-class illustrated international publication on Leica along with LFI and Vidom and current organizer of the Total Experience Guided Tours of Wetzlar and Leitz Park) at the Graham´s Cafe and Bar in Louisville in 2008.
Tom Abrahamsson, a true gentleman, was always one of the Viewfinder magazine flagships with his superb articles about Leica and Voigtländer cameras and lenses, whose pictures and texts (he was also a gifted writer who made unforgettable chronicles with lavish information on such international fairs like Photokina Köln, Bièvres, Tokyo Camera Show, Takashimaya Show, Mini-Camera Club in Tokyo, Vancouver Camera Swap Meet and many others) were a true relish for any enthusiast of photography, also leaving his distinctive mark in the acclaimed Friday Zen gatherings of photographers at Vancouver´s Zen Café every Friday morning, with fascinating conversations about a myriad of photographic aspects and personal stories
Friday Zen was an informal gathering of photographers who met each Friday morning for coffee at Vancouver´s Zen Café, bringing about a fascinating time with lots of interesting conversation.
Tom managed to make it into an international meeting point and shrine of professional photographers and lovers of photography, to such an extent that there were oodles of people travelling many thousand kilometers inside a plane to be able to attend a Zen Gathering in the British Columbia´s city.
He was a great lover and authority on black and white photography and the concept of latent image, with a tremendous knowledge on the specific traits of every kind of b & w chemical emulsions (which he tested once and again, often making his own developers), having a gift to choose the right subjects for each film, getting a lot of pictures on a daily basis and treating them in different "soups", specially his beloved Beutler high definition developer (delivering excellent sharpness, medium grain and low contrast, as well as being very economical, since the two stock solutions were diluted to make 12 liters of working solution) which was also used by Leica for many decades from mid fifties to get maximum image quality in its promotional prints and show the performance of its lenses.
Tom Abrahamsson was a real maven on b & w films, to such a degree that that he was even able to shoot Kodak Plus X movie stock exposed between 80 and 100 ISO and then develop it during 6.5 minutes (which he reduced 30 seconds if the pictures had been taken under scorching sun conditions) in 1:1:10 diluted Beutler to get fantastic outdoor results regarding smooth grain, midtones and highlights, since he perfectly controlled the superior grain edge of Beutler in comparison to the classical 1:100 Agfa Rodinal.
Moreover, he used a slew of black and white films like the Kodak Panatomic-X (developed in Rodinal 1:75), Fuji Across 100 (developed in FX-37), Efke 25, Kodak Super-XX rated at iso 250 and developed in D96 (a lower contrast version of D76 used for movie stock) , Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford Delta 100 (developed in FX 37), Spurs DSX, Fuji Presto 400 (developed in D-76), Ilford SXF, Kodak T-MAX 100, Arista Premium 400 (developed with Pyrocat HD), Kodak T-MAX 400 (usually developed by him with HC110) and of course
Kodak Tri-X 400, a black and white film with which Tom Abrahamsson made a myriad of experiments during his life, managing to expose it even at 6 ASA and 6,400 ASA and all the imaginable sensitivities in between, reaching the conclusion that on being rated from 100 ASA to 1600 ASA results were most times good or very good and printable. Such is the formidable exposure latitude of this legendary b & w chemical emulsion, and as explained by Tom Abrahamsson, the arrival of this black and white high speed film in 24 x 36 mm format in 1954 (then featuring ASA 200) to the photographic market meant that in combination with a rangefinder camera like the Leica M3 (also launched into market that year) with highly luminous top class M lenses like the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Type 1 (1953), Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Type 2 (1954) and the Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 (1958), allowed the professional photographers to take pictures that would have been difficult if not impossible to get before, in addition to establishing the Leica M as the leading camera for available handheld shots.
the Kodak Tri-X 400 (which he rated at ISO 320 and most times developed with Kodak D76 diluted 1:1 and 10 minutes for decades, as well as with Agfa Rodinal 1:25 and 1:50 for 14 minutes as a practical travel developer, and in some specific occasions rating it at ISO 250 and developing in Microdol X to minimize the grain), having the knack of optimizing results with each one by means of painstakingly tested developing times, adequate agitations and a vast choice of homegrown solutions he always liked sharing with his legion of worldwide admirers.
The upshot of it is that in addition to creating the best possible black and white images according to his talent, experience, intuition, remarkable quickness and exceedingly accurate timing on shooting (Tom was consistently able to get pictures of people from a very short distance going unnoticed at the defining moments), he was an unwavering upholder of the significance of tonal range, feel, acutance and visual perception of sharpness in synergy with contrast over the resolving power of a lens, so using films with the least amount of grain wasn´t his priority.
Instrumental for it was his very deep discernment on the chemical properties of every b & w film in existence and particularly his long lasting know-how in the sphere of chemical emulsions and the analysis of black and white negatives and the resulting images on photographic paper.
Therefore, Tom Abrahamsson had an enormous interest in the transitions between edges and differences in density which vary with the subject matter, lighting, exposure, contrast and other aspects, including the relevance of Mackie lines to acutance in pictures when they´re born at gradations between areas of different densities, it all being influenced by the developers and agitation techniques used, a further realm in which Tom Abrahamsson was a full-fledged authority.
A Leica M3 mirrorless with rangefinder camera. The mythical Mr B softie appears threaded on its shutter release button.
A HIGHLY EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER
When he was only fourteen years old, Tom Abrahamsson started getting pictures in Sweden with a second hand unit of a Leica M3 entirely metallic photographic tool attached to a Summicron M 50 mm f/2 Dual Range and fell in love with the Leica M System of cameras and lenses, a passion which would keep on throughout his whole lifetime.
The milestone Leica M3 camera (the best ever made along with the Nikon SP) , launched into market in 1954, has an extraordinary 0.92x magnification viewfinder whose crispness, contrast and clarity is far superior to the viewfinders of the cream of the crop of excellent current 24 x 36 mm digital slr full frame professional cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EOS 1DX Mark II, Canon EOS 5DS R, Canon EOS 5DS, Nikon D810, Nikon D810A, Nikon D850, Nikon D5, Pentax K-1, Sony full frame mirrorless and rangefinderless EVF digital cameras with a very good price/performance ratio and top of the range sensors like the Sony A7, A7II, A7R, A7S, A7RII, A7SII and A7RIII (though to match the amazing compactness and low weight of these cameras and avoid very large and heavy objectives in comparison with bodies, the best choice when it comes to getting top image quality is coupling to them manual focusing Leica M, Leica R or Asahi Takumar Super-Multi-Coated lenses) and even better than the VFs featured by the Leica SL, Leica M10 and 10-P cameras.
Tom Abrahamsson often explained that digital mirrorless EVF (electronic viewfinder) cameras are utterly different to rangefinder cameras, because
rangefinder cameras have had since 1936 with the Zeiss Ikon Contax II and since 1954 with the Leica M3 and go on having superb optical viewfinders in which the VF and the rangefinder (an engineering masterpiece made up by 150 high precision components) are combined and work integrated, so a mirrorless digital camera lacking rangefinder and featuring EVF (for example all the varieties of excellent Sony A7, the Fuji X-Pro 1, Fuji X-Pro 2, Fuji XT-1, Fuji XT-2, etc) or any digital camera with " electronic rangefinder simulation " like the also excellent Fujifilm X-100T, Fujifilm X-100F and other models, are not rangefinder cameras, but very different things, not only in terms of optomechanical quality and materials used but also in a much lower production cost.
Therefore, to go out to the street with a digital mirrorless without rangefinder camera or a
Leica M mirrorless with rangefinder camera (whether 24 x 36 mm format analog or digital one) is not the same thing or similar experience at all, of course always understanding that anybody is free to buy the camera or lenses from the brand he/she wishes.
To properly understand what the maestro was speaking about and the real differences, suffice it to say that only the optical rangefinder (a masterpiece of engineering precision featuring more than 150 parts and much more expensive and complex to manufacture than an electronic viewfinder) of the mirrorless with RF current digital 24 x 36 mm Leica M10, M10-P, M10-D and M Monochrom RF cameras is worth approximately the selling price of a Sony Alpha 7II, a Fujifilm X-T2, an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II or a Panasonic Lumix GH9, while the state-of-the-art entirely made of glass and best ever rangefinder of the Leica M3 featuring an RF effective base length of 63.71 mm would presently have a far superior price tag.
On the other hand, the Leica M lenses set the standard for quality shooting handheld with very compact and light objectives in the 35 mm photography field (delivering excellent sharpness and contrast at their widest apertures, and on stopping down, at every focusing distance, so stellar performance uniformity is very similar and you only gain more depth of field) and always stand the test of time, as well as sporting exceedingly small size, very short diameter and amazing low weight for their very large apertures (something much more difficult and expensive to design and manufacture than building lenses featuring big size, long front diameter and heavy weight), and their specifications defining base parameters, mechanical tolerances and optical system performance are the most exacting.
That´s why Leica M lenses deliver superb results coupled through adapters to a very comprehensive range of mirrorless professional cameras from different brands and 24 x 36 mm, APS-C and Micro 4/3 sensor formats.
As a matter of fact, Tom Abrahamsson was able to foresee with many years of anticipation that Leica M lenses would yield superb results coupled through adapters to future top-notch full frame mirrorless EVF cameras like the
The common L-Mount ( featuring 51.6 mm in diameter and a flange distance of 20 mm) shared by the Panasonic S1R mirrorless EVF full frame camera with the Leica SL enables the use of identical adapters to couple Leica M lenses to them.
Panasonic S1R and others, in the same way as when being attached to first-class APS-C format cameras like the
or Micro Four Thirds like the
Olympus OM-D E M1 Mark II or the
Panasonic Lumix GH9, providing unmatched levels of compactness, low weight and optical performance.
A Leica M2 with Summicron-M 5 cm f/2 Rigid Dual Range with shade and goggles for near focusing range. The camera has a Tom´s Abrahamsson´s black colour softie screwed on the shutter release button thread for cable.
Since his years as a teenager in Sweden, his native country, Tom Abrahamsson became a great reader of old Life, Camera, Du, Look and other prestigious magazines from thirties, forties and early fifties including extraordinary black and white pictures, mostly made with Leica rangefinder cameras and 50 mm lenses, acquiring a breathtaking visual and compositive culture, until becoming an accomplished photographer holding sway over technical sides and honing a discerning style whose core was an uncommon gift to capture defining moments, something which was enhanced by the support of a relative of his father, who was a press photographer, and in 1957 gave him a Leica M3 coupled to a Summicron DR 50 mm f/2 and some rolls of the just released three years before 35 mm format Tri-X black and white film featuring ISO 200 at the moment.
This way, when Tom Abrahamsson was only 14 years old, his everlasting relationship with Leica started and within a very short span of time, he was already a guru on RF cameras and imagery, driven by an unyielding passion for black and white photography and an adamant penchant for taking to new limits the already huge potential of Leica rangefinder cameras shooting handheld with available light at very low shutter speeds without getting blurred images.
But in spite of being a great admirer of the standard 50 mm lenses (he used all of them, particularly the Summicron Rigid 50 mm f/2, the Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 in M mount, the Carl Zeiss Sonnar C 50 mm f/1.5 for the Zeiss Ikon camera, the Carl Zeiss Planar 50 mm f/2 for the Zeiss Ikon camera, the non aspherical Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4, the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 Asph, the Voigtländer Heliar 50 mm f/2, the Voigtländer Skopar 50 mm f/2.5, the non aspherical Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 versions 4 and 5, the Heliar 50 mm f/3.5 from the Bessa T limited edition, the Summitar 5 cm f/2 and many others) and the iconic historical pictures made with them by the foremost b & w photojournalists in history like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Brassaï, André Kertész, Arthur Rothstein, Izis Bildermanas, Robert Capa, David Seymour "Chim", Inge Morath, Werner Bischof, Elliott Erwitt, W. Eugene Smith, David Douglas Duncan, Eve Arnold, René Burri, Larry Burrows, Nick Ut, Phillip Jones Griffith, Erich Lessing, Paul Fusco, Constantin Manos, Garry Winogrand and others, Tom Abrahamsson was a world class guru of wideangle and super wideangle lenses, with a tremendous gift for shoosing subject matters with interest in the foreground near distance as well as in the middle distance.
Hence, the main and most used lens by Tom Abrahamsson (who also loved the Summaron-M 35 mm f/2.8, the Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 ASPH, the Summicrons 50 mm f/2, the Super Angulon-M 21 mm f/3.4, the Voigtländer Ultron 21 mm f/1.8 ASPH, the Carl Zeiss Biogon 21 mm f/4.5 from 1957, the Elmar-M 24 mm f/3.4 ASPH, the Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH, the Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4 and others ) was always
7 elements in 5 groups and ten blades Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 (1979-1996). An exceedingly small (26.41 mm length x 52 mm diameter) and light (160 g) lens, very convenient to use coupled to any Leica M camera, whether digital or analogue, to shoot handheld. It yields a second to none correction of distortion and a fabulous mechanical construction, particularly in the gorgeous brass focusing helicoid visible in the image, delivering an excellent sharpness, not reaching the stratospheric levels at widest aperture attained by the 7 elements in 5 groups and eight blades Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH, but it was a stellar performer in the black and white pictures made by Tom, a scope in which this tiny lens excelled.
the non aspherical Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 Classic (so the Leica M2, optimized for this focal length, was his favourite camera), because he considered the 50 mm lenses as short teles, while the 35 mm was the par excellence photojournalistic focal length and with which he took roughly 80% of pictures throughout his lifetime, without forgetting his frequent use of under 35 mm lenses like
Carl Zeiss Biogon 21 mm f/4.5 late model from 1957, one of the most admired superwideangle lenses by Tom Abrahamsson. It is an extraordinary 90º coverage lens even to current standards, and was originally designed by the genius Ludwig Bertele in 1954 for 24 x 36 mm format Contax rangefinder cameras, being at the time the widest lens ever made for 35 mm photography. As opposed to the Distagon lenses used in single lens reflex cameras and featuring reverse telephoto designs, it is a true super wideangle objective with superior potential to greatly minimize optical aberrations, delivering impressive sharpness, aside from sporting a non retrofocus design with a correction of distortion in a class by itself, superb colour precision and tight clearances making possible an exceptional centering of the optical elements. It can be adapted to a Leica M by an experienced repairman.
the 1957 Zeiss Biogon 21 mm f/4.5, the Elmarit-M 21 mm f/2.8, the Zeiss C Biogon 21 mm f/4.5, the Super Angulon 21 mm f/3.4 (by far the superwideangle lens most used by him during his life), the Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21 mm f/4, the Ricoh 21 mm f/3.5 in screw mount and other 35 mm lenses like the Summaron-M 35 mm f/3.5, Summaron-M 35 mm f/2.8, Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4, Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 Aspherical, Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35 mm f/1.4, Zeiss C Biogon 35 mm f/2.8, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 35 mm f/2.5, etc.
COSINA VOIGTLÄNDER ADVISER AND WORLDWIDE AMBASSADOR OF THE BRAND
Between roughly 2002 and his death in 2017, Tom Abrahamsson was the most important technical and photographic advisor of Cosina Voigtländer and a great friend of its president Hirofumi Kobayashi, travelling many times to the factory in the city of Nakano, Nagano Prefecture (Japan), encompassing among other facilities a stunning camera and lens manufacturing unit housing the assembly lines for all lenses and cameras, in addition to other rooms equipped with high precision computer controlled milling machines cutting and shaping the inner lens barrels of a number of lenses, as well as machining precision groves and cams into brass and aluminum mounts, without forgetting the fact that they make their own glass.
Tom, who met Hirofumi Kobayashi for the first time in Tokyo in 1997, setting up a great friendship with him, became a beta tester of the firm products and key factor in the fruition of one of the boldest adventures in the History of Photography, which under the helm of Kobayashi-san ushered in the amazing saga of analogue 24 x 36 mm format Cosina Voigtländer Bessa R2, Bessa R2A, Bessa R3A, Bessa R2M, Bessa R3M, Bessa R4M and Bessa R4A cameras along with the comprehensive slew of excellent Cosina Voigtländer lenses in Leica M mount, among which stand out such superb objectives like the rectilinear and distortion free Heliar-Hyperwide 10 mm f/5.6 Aspherical, the Ultra Wide-Heliar 12 mm f/5.6 Aspherical, the Super Wide-Heliar 15 mm f/4.5 Aspherical, the Ultron 21 mm f/1.8 Aspherical, the Color-Skopar 21 mm f/4, the Color Skopar 25 mm f/4, the Ultron 28 mm f/2, the Ultron 28 mm f/1.9 Aspherical, the Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 Aspherical Versions 1 and 2, the Nokton 35 mm f/1.4 S.C (single coated, optimized for black and white photography, vintage look and the obtention of great shadow detail), the Nokton 35 mm f/1.4 MC (Multicoated, optimized for colour photography, higher contrast and modern look), the Ultron 35 mm f/1.7 Aspherical, the Color Skopar 35 mm f/2.5, the Nokton 40 mm f/1.2 Aspherical (in S.C and MC versions), the Nokton 50 mm f/1.2 Aspherical, the Nokton 50 mm f/1.5 Asph, the Nokton 50 mm f/1.1, the Heliar 50 mm f/2, the Heliar 50 mm f/3.5, the Heliar Classic 75 mm f/1.8, the Color Heliar 75 mm f/2.5 and others.
Voigtländer Bessa R4M analog rangefinder from 2006, one of the best and most interesting cameras manufactured by Cosina Voigtländer under the guidance of its president Hirofumi Kobayashi, who had the wisdom of ignoring the "Advanced Photo System" during the second half of nineties and devote his efforts to the making of 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder cameras with an amazing price/quality ratio and highly luminous manual focusing first class primes strongly inspired by legacy lenses whose performance was most times improved using modern glasses and multicoatings, as well as oozing great beauty and exceptional mechanical quality.
Along with his Leica M2, Tom Abrahamsson used extensively both the Voigtländer Bessa R4M and the Voigtländer Bessa R3M 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder cameras (the latter to a lesser degree) coupled to Leica M and Cosina Voigtländer in Leica M mount lenses alike.
Voigtländer Bessa R4M coupled to a 10 elements in 8 groups Voigtländer Ultron 28 mm f/2, a very compact and luminous wideangle lens with a weight of 237 g, a length of 51.2 mm and a diameter of 55 mm.
Tom always appreciated his silky-smooth focusing ring with metallic tab and a 10 blade diaphragm. The barrel is made in black anodized aluminum and the mount is built in chromed brass.
As happens with the vast assortment of lenses manufactured by Cosina Voigtländer, the Voigtländer Ultron 28 mm f/2 delivers very good image quality at a hugely competitive price considering its excellent mechanical construction entirely made in metal, the great optical performance it renders on the image center even at full aperture (the best values of uniformity of top optical performance between center, borders and corners will be attained stopping down from f/5.6), and its beautiful bokeh thanks to its high number of blades.
Needless to say that using this classic lens scheme wideangle lens is a treat, becoming a stellar performer when it comes to tackling the drawing of ten-point sunstars.
Voigtländer Bessa R4M rangefinder, sagely defined by Tom Abrahamsson (who loved it and was a pivotal man in the worldwide promotion of Cosina Voigtländer cameras and lenses) as a milestone camera, because of its highly versatile 0.52 x viewfinder optimized to be used with a very comprehensive range of wide angle focal lengths through built-in framelines for 21, 25, 28 and 35 mm, as well as making possible the acceptably precise use of standard 50 mm lenses stopping down between f/2 and f/22 (the short rangefinder base length of this great camera doesn´t enable exact focusing accuracy with standard 50 mm lenses when shooting at diaphragms f/1.1, f/1.2, f/1.5 and f/1.9) through a further frameline for this specific focal length.
This way, the Voigtländer Bessa R4A and R4M are certainly unique rangefinder cameras excelling with wide and very wide lenses, and the framelines for 21 mm lenses are a hallmark trait which hadn´t existed before.
Only the great Nikon SP rangefinder (also highly appreciated by Tom, who had a black one) manufactured between 1957 and 1962 beats the Bessa R4M and its electronic version Bessa R4A in terms of VF capabilities on coupling lenses of different focal lengths, thanks to its state of the art two finder windows (the main one on the right, with 1x magnification for 50, 85, 105 and 135 mm lenses, and the left one with 0.4x magnification for 28 and 35 mm lenses), it all with the added benefit of a very large rangefinder base length of 60.5 mm.
10 elements (three of them aspherical ones) in 7 groups manual focusing Voigtländer 35 mm f/1.2 Aspherical chromed version 1 from 2007 (the black version was manufactured from 2003), an extraordinary lens made by Cosina Voigtländer, and highly appreciated by Tom Abrahamsson, who had the insight to envisage the creation of a niche market in XXI Century for this kind of affordable lenses in M mount, coupling them not only to 24 x 36 mm format Leica M digital rangefinder cameras, but also to full frame mirrorless without rangefinder ones like the Sony A7 saga, the Leica SL, the Panasonic SR1, etc, yielding very good results, with the added bonus of an excellent price / performance ratio.
Only 300 units of this chromed lens were produced and its appearance is really fabulous, with the scalloped focusing ring inspired by the ones featured by the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Rigid (1956-1958), the Asahi Takumars and Super Takumars 50 mm f/1.4 and 55 mm f/1.8, in addition to delivering superb image quality with an excellent bokeh between f/1.2 and f/2.8 thanks to its twelve blade diaphragm.
It´s a great performer in all kind of low light environments where has proved its mettle both with analog and digital professional Leica rangefinder cameras like the M9, M9-P, M Typ 240, etc, along with the Bessas R2A, R2M, R3A, R3M, R4A and R4M, alongside the Sony A7RIII.
Hirofumi Kobayashi, helped by the advice and experience of professional photographers like Tom Abrahamsson (who was also a great friend of his and had frequent meetings with him in Japan) created a number of very high quality Voigtländer lenses like the Heliar-Hyper Wide 10 mm f/5.6 Aspherical (the widest rectilinear lens ever produced), Skopar 21 mm f/3.5, Ultron 28 mm f/1.9, Skopar 35 mm f/4, Nokton 35 mm f/1.2, Nokton 40 mm f/1.4, Nokton 50 mm f/1.5, Ultron 50 mm f/1.7, Skopar 50 mm f/2.5, Heliar 50 mm f/3.5, Heliar 75 mm f/2.5, Heliar 75 mm f/1.8, Apo-Lanthar 90 mm f/3.5 and others, in different mounts including Leica M mount, Nikon S mount and Zeiss Contax mount, wholly made in metal with sturdy mechanical construction able to endure a lot of decades of intensive use and delivering high scoring optical performance.
And all of these manual focusing Voigtländer Leica mount lenses boasting a full-metal construction and built to very high standards can be coupled to every Leica M rangefinder (both analog and digital one) and with the correspondent adapters to all digital APS-C format Fuji-X series, Sony NEX, and Micro 4/3 Olympus and Panasonic cameras, with the added bonus of excelling in Full HD and 4K videography.
Front view of the manual focusing Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 Aspherical Version 1 Chromed lens.
Tom Abrahamsson tested extensively one of the first version 1 prototype black units of this lens (the most luminous 35 mm wideangle lens made in the world for 24 x 36 mm format until the introduction of the Russian Zenitar 35 mm f/1 in M mount, designed by Vladimir Bogdankov, leading optical designer at KMZ Krasnogorsk Moscow, for the Zenit M rangefinder camera presented during the recent Photokina 2018 ) in 2003 with Kodak Technical Pan, Kodak Tri-X 400, Ilford Delta 100 and Ilford Delta 400 black and white films, verifying its remarkable sharpness even at full aperture (typycal in much more expensive f/1.4 lenses of the same focal length), on a par with the Leica Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4, in addition to a pretty smooth bokeh and an uncommon resistance to flare, with medium contrast at the widest apertures but very good stopping down from f/2.
On the other hand, the Associated Press stringer photographer William B. Tuttle proved the impressive competence of the Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 Aspherical for night photography with available light without flash when he made an excellent reportage on March 1, 2004 at the Sebring (Florida) Twelve Hours of Endurance race, tackling less than adequate lighting contexts with high marks using a Leica MP coupled to this lens and Kodak Tri-X 400 b & w film, often taking wide open f/1.4-f/2 shots at 1/15 s with a very accurate shutter release technique in very low light situations with critical focusing, getting commendable detail and texture and preserving tonal range, it all being confirmed the following year when he made tests at the same circuit with identical camera/lens combo and Kodak Plus-X 125 ISO.
Lateral view of the manual focusing Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 chromed lens 1st Version with its shade on. The machining of the metallic brass surfaces covered by chrome, including the gorgeous scalloped focusing ring, is truly breathtaking, together with the anodizing of the lens hood.
Tom Abrahamsson was a great enthusiast of knurled focusing rings and this trait is also present in some of the best Cosina Voigtländer M mount lenses like the Heliar-Hyper Wide 10 mm f/5.6 Aspherical, Super Wide Heliar 15 mm f/4.5 Aspherical Version III (introduced in March 2015 and correcting colour fringing on digital bodies of any format size), Ultron 21 mm f/1.8 Aspherical, Ultron 28 mm f/1.9 Aspherical, Ultron 35 mm f/1.7 Aspherical, Nokton 50 mm f/1.5 Asph and Nokton 50 mm f/1.1 Aspherical.
Voigtländer Bessa R3A in Leica M mount from 2004, another of the great rangefinder cameras with excellent price/performance ratio manufactured by Cosina Voitländer under the leadership of Hirofumi Kobayashi.
It features aperture priority, electronic shutter and a 1:1 lifesize magnification viewfinder with framelines for 40 mm, 50 mm, 75 mm and 90 mm, along with a close focusing distance of 0.7 m.
The large and bright optical viewfinder of this remarkable camera in symbiosis with its very good rangefinder is only second to the VF of the Leica M3 and the Nikon SP.
Between 1999, year of introduction of the first Cosina Voigtländer lenses for 24 x 36 mm format and the launching into market of the Bessa R (first RF camera of the firm) and the introduction in 2015 of the Voigtländer Super Wide-Heliar 15 mm f/4.5 designed to be used with the full frame Leica M 240 and Sony A7 series cameras and in 2016 of the Heliar-Hyper Wide 10 mm f/5.6 Aspherical, Hirofumi Kobayashi, often advised by Tom Abrahamsson, made a praiseworthy strenuous endeavour to steadily update and improve the construction of its cameras and lenses, churning out a lot of different affordable, well built, beautiful and above all highly reliable rangefinder cameras in Leica M, Nikon S and Contax mount, together with a very comprehensive assortment of first class primes (many of them in chrome and black mounts), it all at very interesting prices and delivering excellent image quality consistent throughout many decades, thanks to their exceedingly sturdy and painstaking mechanical construction and a commendable centering of the optical elements.
Non Aspherical Manual focusing 7 elements in 6 groups Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.1 in Leica M mount. An extraordinary lens made by Cosina Voigtländer, featuring 10 straight blades and a weight of 134 g.
A relish to use with the Bessa R3A and Bessa R3M rangefinder cameras thanks to the accuracy of its 1x viewfinder.
Though inevitably soft and suffering from coma at its widest f/1.1 aperture and still present at f/1.4, its optical performance is very good between f/2.8 and f/8, with a sweet spot at f/5.6.
Obviously, Walter Mandler´s Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1 is better in performance at f/1, f/1.2 and f/1.4 aperture regarding resolving power and above all in its mythical and virtually unbeatable swirling bokeh with unique look at widest aperture, and the same happens if comparisons are made with vast majority of Leica M 50 mm lenses, but it´s important to bear in mind that the Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.1 is essentially a tremendous effort of balance without using exotic lenses, aspherical surfaces or floating elements simultaneously striving after preserving the best image quality feasible and the aim of getting a selling price not exceeding the 1,000 euros boundary to create a superluminous standard lens with available working f/1.1 and f/1.4 apertures and good performance as an ultra-fast design for low-light shooting in which high resolving power and contrast are not defining factors (portraits, all kind of pictures in which it is significant to highlight the subjects with respect to out of focus backgrounds, fashion photography, etc) and significantly improving its sharpness and contrast values from f/2.8 onwards to get pictures in contexts with more available light.
Furthermore, Tom Abrahamsson could test one of the first prototypes of this lens in March 2009 in Japan, coupled to a black Bessa R3M and an olive green Voigtländer Bessa R3A camera with Fuji Acros 100 subsequently treated in Beutler developer, proving that the lens performance was acceptable at the two widest apertures and that unlike other previous and much more expensive superluminous 50 mm lenses with f/1.1 and f/1.2 widest apertures, the image quality improved a great deal on stopping down from f/2.8 onwards. Besides, the maestro discovered that the Cosina Voigtländer 50 mm f/1.1 outperformed the Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1 in control of the fall-off, optical performance at medium diaphragms and contrast at f/1.1, f/1.2 and f/1.4.
It´s important bearing in mind that designing a lens with a maximum f/1.1 aperture is geometrically more difficult than doing it with an f/1.4 widest one, particularly if we want to get as small size as possible, a short front diameter and low weight, in such a way that though the Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.1 is not a small lens, its length of 57.2 mm and diameter of 69.6 mm with a weight of 434.5 g are convenient for a super fast f/1.1 objective like this.
Evidently, the Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1 and the Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH play in another league in terms of optical performance at widest aperture and mechanic construction.
But the first one has a usual price of 6,000 euros or more in the second hand market and the latter one a price tag of 10,000 euros brand new, so for a price of around 1,100 euros the Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.1 is a keeper able to get very good results in the hands of an experienced or advanced amateur photographer choosing well his/her subjects and backgrounds for wide open f/1.1, f/1.2 and f/1.4 shots with blurred backgrounds and stopping down to turn it into an all-around performer between f/2.8 and f/8 with very good image quality, and the added bonus of a top of the line mechanical construction with a gorgeous retro touch enhanced by the scalloped focusing ring.
Obviously, it is not a stellar performer at full aperture, but getting at f/1.1 an excellent sharpness like the one featured by the Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.5 ASPH (a lens which impressed Tom Abrahamsson, who could see some M mount version prototypes of it in late 2012 during a visit to the Cosina Voigtländer factory in Nakano, Nagano Prefecture, Japan ) at its widest diaphragm opening would have meant a minimum increase in weight of around 300 g, the adoption of new manufacturing methods and a huge production cost with at least two more elements featuring aspherical surfaces, built with very expensive and exotic optical glasses, along with a pretty good rear floating element to keep that superb optical level in the nearest distances, something very difficult to offer under a hefty selling price of 4,000 euros.
But it isn´t less true that the f/1.1 widest aperture of the Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.1 is fully operative and good pictures can be taken with it handheld in really dim light situations that couldn´t be taken any other way without spending a lot of thousands of euros. And to have available f/1.1 makes a difference over f/1.4 when tackling photographic contexts with exceedingly low light, so this lens is truly a bargain for what you get.
Its a bit harsh profiled bokeh (different to the remarkably smooth out of focus areas rendered by the also non aspherical Voigtländer Heliar 75 mm f/1.8 Classic) is acceptable, though far from the magic of Mandler´s Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1 and Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4 featuring unbeatable glow along with a swirly and unique bokeh at full aperture, thanks to Walter Mandler´s optical wizardry balancing the aberrations to achieve these fantastic results at the widest diaphragms with highly luminous non aspherical lenses which albeit not reaching the stratospheric values of the Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH or the Apo-Summicron-M 75 mm f/2 ASPH in terms of resolving power and contrast, deliver an unbeatable wonderful aesthetics of image at their widest aperture, with exceedingly beautiful rendition of the out of focus areas.
Back view of the Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder camera. On top left can be seen the excellent viewfinder with 1:1 lifesize magnification and framelines for 40 mm, 50 mm, 75 mm and 90 mm.
This camera does expand the comfortable and very accurate focusing not only with super luminous M lenses like the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH, pre aspherical Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 and Voigtländer ones like the Nokton 50 mm f/1.5 Aspherical, but also with top-notch medium tele lenses like the Apo-Summicron-M 75mm f/2, Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4, Voigtländer Heliar 75 mm f/1.8 in Leica M mount, Voigtländer Color-Heliar 75 mm f/2.5 in Leica M mount, different versions of Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 made from 1957, Apo-Lanthar 90 mm f/3.5, Apo-Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 ASPH and even the Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm f/3.4 ASPH.
As a matter of fact, Tom Abrahamsson made extensive tests with two units of this camera (a black Bessa R3M and an olive green Bessa R3A) of this camera coupled to a Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4, an Apo-Summicron-M 75 mm f/2 ASPH and to an Apo-Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 ASPH shooting at full aperture and often at the nearest focusing distance and din´t find any focusing problems.
Manual focusing 6 elements in 4 groups non aspherical Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Type 5, designed by the great optical wizard Walter Mandler at Leitz Midland Ontario (Canada) factory and manufactured between 1979 and 1994.
Tom, who apart from his beloved wideangle lenses between 21 and 35 mm, made a lot of gorgeous articles on standard 50 mm lenses, explained in depth that Mandler´s extraordinary non aspherical Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Versions 4 and 5 lens took the Double-Gauss design to its physical boundaries and still beats in performance vast majority of 50 mm f/2 aspherical lenses currently in existence for RF cameras, with the exception of the superior Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH and on a par in global optical and mechanical performance with the also non aspherical Zeiss 50 mm f/2 Planar T* ZM in Leica M mount (both of them share impressive resolving power and contrast), though the distortion correction of the Summicron is slightly better, as happens with its smoother transitions, detail rendering and a superior bokeh, albeit the Planar also exhibits a very smooth out of focus rendition and is slightly better than the Summicron-M 50 f/2 Type 4 and 5 in close-up performance at 0.7 m and 1 meter.
The Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Type 4 manufactured between 1979 and 1994 and the Type 5 manufactured between 1994 and 2013, both of them designed by Walter Mandler, share the same optical formula and were the world standard f/2 lens benchmark lenses throughout thirty-three years until the launching into market of the 8 elements in 5 groups Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH designed by Peter Karbe in 2012.
© Leica Camera AG
Since early eighties, Tom Abrahamsson was friend of Walter Mandler, from whom he learned very much about optical design and among many other things that though a properly designed aspherical element with a complex surface can replace two conventional spherical elements in a lens design, attaining a better transmission of the light (along with superior levels of resolution and contrast) thanks to fewer elements, eliminating spherical aberrations and reducing other optical aberrations such as astigmatism and coma streaks around light sources at the edges or in the corners of the frame in comparison to a simple lens (particularly with very wideangle and fast normal lenses), if a lens features elements with aspherical surfaces it doesn´t automatically mean at all that it will give better performance than an spherical one.
Id est, there can be aspherical lenses of low quality, good quality, very good quality, superb quality and stratopsheric quality, depending on a number of factors like the position of the aspherical lenses in the optical cell, their shape and difference of thickness between the center and borders, the quality of the glasses and method with which the aspherical lenses are made (it is a very different thing and the production cost also very different if they are ground and polished ones or precisely molded blanks with exotic and expensive glass and very costly breakthrough manufacture methods and technologies to get an aspherical surface curvature deviating from a spheric ball-shaped surface and being instrumental to get extraordinary edge-to-edge definition at the widest apertures, or if they are made with a small quantity of cheap glass, plastic or resin through molding and allowing the massive production with a low or very low cost, something even cheaper with 18-135 "Aspherical" zooms, 50-230 mm "Aspherical zooms", 28-200 mm "Aspherical" zooms and 28-300 mm "Aspherical " zooms, to name only a few examples) and many others having very reduced and variable widest aperture and hailed as a kind of "do it all" solution for any photographic assignment, in addition to featuring a very scarce capability of selective focus (something which worsens even more with APS-C and Micro Four Thirds format cameras) in creative photography or those contexts in which you need to highlight the main subject with respect to the background, the centering of the optical elements, the mechanical construction enabling to draw its full potential, the type of optical glasses used, and many other sides.
And the same applies to the term "APO". Suffice it to compare for instance the low quality Sigma AF 400 mm f/5.6 manufactured between 1988 and 1995 (previous to the Sigma AF 400 mm f/5.6 HSM Apo Macro, which is a very good lens) with the stratospheric and almost diffraction limited Leica Apo-Telyt-R 280 mm f/4. Differences in optical and mechanical performance, along with durability in time are like night and day, also being very apparent if the comparison is made with a non apochromatic but excellent manual focusing Nikkor Ai-s ED 400 mm f/3.5 or a manual focusing Tamron SP 400 mm f/4 LD IF with adaptall mount or (to a lesser degree) with a non apochromatic Takumar 400 mm f/5.6 Super-Multicoated.
On the other hand, small polishing errors when creating spherical lenses are easy to fix, while on manufacturing aspherical ones they are exceedingly difficult to correct to avoid modifications in the direction of a light ray, so their production cost is inevitably much higher if the aspheric element is made with a proper care, the best optical glasses available and state-of-the-art grinding and polishing technologies, with the product ontology propped up by Leica.
The 1:1 VF magnification of the Voigtländer Bessa R3A and R3M rangefinder cameras makes possible to use 50 mm lenses with amazing accuracy and comfort, as happens with the Leica M3 featuring a 0.91x VF magnification.
Manual focusing Apo-Summicron-M 75 mm f/2, a benchmark lens in its focal length, delivering second to none values of sharpness and contrast.
Its symbiosis with the Voigtländer Bessa R3A and R3M cameras is truly outstanding, as could be confirmed by Tom Abrahamsson during his tests in 2009 when he put this lens through its paces along with the Summarit-M 75 mm f/2.5, the Voigtländer Color-Skopar 75 mm f/2.5 and the Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4, with the added bonus of viewing comfort provided by the single frame line for 75 mm lenses in the finder featured by these two cameras.
In addition, during April 2010 of the following year he tested one of the pre-production units of the non aspherical 6 elements in 3 groups Voigtländer Heliar 75 mm f/1.8 Classic, whose generated aesthetics of image is strongly inspired by the mythical stellar performer in portraiture non aspherical and uncoated Leitz Thambar 90 mm f/2.2 from 1935 featuring a very wise conceived undercorrected spherical aberration to get that aim.
Manual focusing 6 elements in 5 groups Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 (1957-1979) early chrome version designed by Walter Mandler at the Ernst Leitz Factory in Midland, Ontario (Canada).
The very well conceived and versatile four component Leica M System bayonet for interchangeable lenses (designed by Hugo Wehrenfenning, patented in 1950 and optimized for the maximum light quantity coming from the optical system of the lenses to arrive at the image corners, activating the corresponding luminous frame in the viewfinder of the camera) enables the use of all the Leica M lenses manufactured since 1954, and also the Leica screwmount lenses manufactured between 1925 and nowadays.
Albeit as to resolving power, contrast and uniformity of performance between center, borders and corners the last generation aspherical Leica M lenses get the upper hand when connected to both analog and digital cameras, the possibility of using both Leica M and Leica screwmount vintage lenses through adaptors in the same way is a true relish for any lover of photography and admirer of the superb mechanical construction, great cosmetic beauty and very special aesthetics of image inherent to these legacy objectives, particularly in the bokeh scope, since their usual very high number of diaphragm blades begets a really nice rendition of out of focus areas, as happens with the aforementioned early Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 chrome featuring a 15 blade diaphragm.
© Cosina Voigtländer
Manual focusing 6 elements in 5 groups Apo-Lanthar 90 mm f/3.5 in LTM mount. It can be coupled through adapter to any Leica M camera. A very good medium tele lens made by Cosina Voigtländer and broadly used, often with an orange filter, by the also recognized expert in rangefinder cameras and black and white photography Roger W. Hicks.
It features an excellent and sturdy mechanical build with an entirely metallic lens barrel and a 10 bladed diaphragm, so it is able to render gorgeous portraits at full aperture.
The 1:1 lifesize magnification viewfinder of the Voigtländer Bessa R3A and R3M rangefinder cameras turns both of them along with the Leica M3 with 0.91x VF magnification into the best choice to use 90 mm lenses (a focal length at the comfortable focusing limit of the Leica M System) with very good precision.
The comprehensive range of high quality primes launched into market by Cosina Voigtländer under the directorship of Hirofumi Kobayashi since 1999 hitherto has been one of the most remarkable optical and entrepreneurial ventures in the history of photography.
9 elements (one of them with a top-notch ground aspherical surface) in 6 groups Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH, the world benchmark in terms of mechanical and optical performance as to f/2 wideangle lenses in this focal length.
Tom Abrahamsson knew perfectly the stratospheric optical calculation of this lens designed by Michael Heiden with a tremendous mathematical know-how making possible to create it with less weigth (270g) and size (length of 40.8 mm and a diameter of 53 mm) than specified, along with the impressive mechanical construction by engineer Holgen Wiegand (who managed to solve the conundrum of lack of space to assemble the elements close enough together through making changes in the glass mounts), the optics montage and image quality control by Thorsten von Eicken and the acumen as to optics and mechanics montage solutions implemented by Rainer Schnabel, which became this wideangle lens virtually unbeatable in sharpness, high contrast transfer, accurate rendition of detail and saturated colours, but inevitably at a very high price beyond 3,000 euros, since if you stop down between f/2.8-f/11 you only gain depth of field and the uniformity of optical performance in center, border and corners is amazing at every diaphragm and focusing distance.
10 elements in 8 groups Ultron 28 mm f/2, an excellent wideangle lens with very good optical and mechanical performance and a virtually unbeatable price/image quality ratio. Tom Abrahamsson´s advice and insight were fundamental in the design and production of this 28 mm f/2 lens by Cosina Voigtländer, with a fathomable goal: to create as good as possible 28 mm f/2 lens through an utterly spherical optical scheme without any aspherical surfaces and with M bayonet mount for Leica M rangefinder cameras at an affordable price, with very good sharpness and contrast in the center (though obviously not reaching the second to none image quality on both center, borders and corners of the Elmarit-M 28 mm f/2.8 ASPH and the Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH), negligible levels of distortion, silky smooth focus, sturdy mechanical utterly metallic construction with brass helicoids, very low levels of falloff only slightly visible at f/2 and a remarkable resistance to flare and ghost.
Thereupon, with his vast knowledge, experience and input, Tom Abrahamsson (who visited the Cosina Voigtländer factory at Nakano, Nagano Prefecture, Japan, for the first time in November of 2000, after having met Hirofumi Kobayashi, President of Cosina Voigtländer and Head of its Designing Team, during the Photokina Köln of that same year two months before) was instrumental in the design and development of the Cosina Voigtländer lineup of rangefinder lenses and part of the selected panel of experts like Sadamitsu Osawa, Shintaro Yaginuma and others who gave their insight, advice and proposals in some annual meetings and discussions held at the Cosina Voigtländer factory in Nakano City, Nagano Prefecture (Japan), aimed at the design of manual focusing fixed focal length lenses boasting a superb mechanical construction (thanks to the use of noble metals in their components and a wholly manual assembling of the lenses and their brass helicoid tubes by highly specialized and experienced workers, together with the setting of the aperture blades in separate tables and the checking for tolerances on test bodies), far better than the one featured by AF lenses, and very good optical performance at an affordable price.
That´s why these Voigtländer lenses keep on being so coveted and sought after not only for the photographic scope but also within the Full HD and 4K videography where they excel with their large aperture and the great accuracy and smoothness of their generous pitch focusing rings enabling plenty of long throw and exquisite feel resulting in a very easy and precise focus.
Leitz Focomat Ic enlarger, model mostly used by Tom Abrahamsson, who was also a master printer trying to get the best aspects of Ansel Adams, Eugene Smith and Bill Rowlinson schools in this regard, with very deep knowledge on photographic laboratory techniques, different films and developers, often experimenting and mixing all of his own darkroom solutions, encompassing developers for film and paper alike, thanks to his amazing grasp of chemical ingredients.
On the other hand, albeit being probably the best enlarger for 35 mm negatives ever made, with a very sturdy and accurate overall mechanism together with a flawlessly working AF if properly calibrated, in addition to featuring a hybrid mixture of diffusion and condensor light source generating smoother gradation and grain than fully consensor type enlargers, Newton rings can appear sometimes as a consequence of the uneven contact of the condenser glass against the back of the negative, so Tom Abrahamsson, utterly aware about it and the difficulty to find the specific etched glass anti Newton ring attachment that slipped on the bottom of the Focomat Ic condensor, solved the problem with his typical resourcefulness, recommended to build up a slight elevation by putting a couple of layers of masking tape on the carrier to prevent the base of the condenser from pushing too hard against the negative.
A DISCERNING KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUGE SIGNIFICANCE OF TOP-NOTCH LENSES FOR THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Tom Abrahamsson was a visionary man who envisaged the huge enhancement of possibilities that would mean for both Leica M and Cosina Voigtländer lenses through adapters and special accessories the arrival at the photographic market of superb mirrorless EVF digital cameras from different brands in 24 x 36 mm format, APS-C format and Micro Four Thirds Format, with their outstanding performance at very high isos (between 1.600 and even 102400 in the Sony A7RIII, to name only an example), fostering to incredible levels the handheld taking of pictures in comparison to the analogue times in which the acceptable grain barrier with chemical b & w and colour films was approximately ISO 800.
Tom had got a tremendous knowledge and insight regarding the photographic market circumstances and did perfectly grasp right off the bat that digital sensors are much more exacting than films to beget symbiosis with lenses and achieve the best feasible results, something that time has confirmed with impressive and constant improvements in this technological sphere, specially by Sony, which has ruled the roost as to this scope from scratch thanks to its huge economical resources and wherewithal of its own invested on R & D, resulting in exceptional full frame sensors like the ones featured by the Sony A7 24 x 36 mm format saga of mirrorless cameras, above all the superb Sony A7RIII and A9, which are the present qualitative apex in this scope along with the Leica SL, Leica M10 and Leica M10-P.
And the recent arrival at the full frame EVF mirrorless arena of Nikon with its Z7, Canon with its EOS R and Panasonic with its SR1 will undoubtedly boost the 24 x 36 mm format segment of mirrorless EVF cameras.
But as Tom Abrahamsson (and other world-class experts on photographic optics like Geoffrey Crawley, Erwin Putts, Hirofumi Kobayashi, Dr. Stewart Bell, Ron Spillman, etc) often stated, lenses of the maximum optical performance attainable will be the most important factor to get exceptional image quality in the digital era, even more than in the previous analogue period of XX Century.
Evidently, every enthusiast of photography could have a penchant for acquaring stratospheric performance lenses like the manual focusing Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH, the manual focusing Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Apo-Distagon T *, the manual focusing Summilux-SL 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200 mm f/2G ED VR II, the Canon RF 28-70 mm f/2L USM, the manual focusing 250 g Olympus Zuiko OM 21 mm f/2 from 1979, the manual focusing Zeiss Distagon 28 mm f/2, the manual focusing SMC Takumar 15 mm f/3.5 the Fujifilm XF 200 mm f/2 OIS WR and others.
But one of the most interesting aspects of Tom Abrahamsson´s career of almost 60 years as a professional photographer was a steady search for lenses with exceptional price/quality ratio, and he was steadily able to find them, both new and second hand in very good condition, to get great pictures.
Because it is fundamentally the photographer with his / her talent, experience, eyes and heart, and not the equipment, who makes the photograph.
Anyway, Tom devoted a significant percentage of his existence to provide his valuable know-how and advice for the creation of lenses featuring excellent optical and mechanical performance but whose manufacturers made a great effort to put them on sale at not very hefty price tags, a philosophy that has been highly successful with amazing Leica M and Cosina Voigtländer primes like the Summarit-M 35 mm f/2.4 ASPH, the Summaron-M 28 mm f/5.6 with 6-bit coding, the Voitländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.1, the Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.5 Asph, the Voigtländer Heliar 50 mm f/3.5, the Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35 mm f/1.4, the Voigtländer Nokton 40 mm f/1.2 Asph, the Voigtländer Heliar 50 mm f/3.5, the Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35 mm f/1.4, the Voigtländer Nokton 40 mm f/1.2 Asph, the Voigtländer Color Heliar 75 mm f/1.8 and many others.
5 elements in 3 groups Voigtländer Heliar 50 mm f/3.5 in Leica M mount, one of the best photographic lenses ever made for 24 x 36 mm format. Though featuring a relatively slow maximum aperture, it yields exceptional sharpness and contrast (and above all a unique and commendable balance between both of them, avoiding the sometimes flat visual appearance of lenses mainly optimized for resolution) that are not rendered in the scientifically clinic way inherent to a number of top-notch modern aspherical lenses, but with an organic and 3D sumptuous image aesthetics, blended with tons of detail captured, a really smooth transition to out of focus areas, very creamy and nice bokeh, extraordinary colours, great realism, a praiseworthy correction of distortion reduced to negligible levels, only a hint of vignetting at widest aperture, and an unbeatable price / performance ratio with a price of roughly 529 dollars, since it delivers an image quality comparable to lenses being thousands of dollars worth.
Voigtländer Color Heliar 75 mm f/1.8 in Leica M mount, a great telephoto lens featuring 6 elements in 3 groups and ten aperture blades. It´s very compact (diameter of 58 mm, length of 74 mm and a weight of 427 g) and light for its high luminosity and features a very smooth and accurate knurled focusing ring, so it is very convenient shooting handheld. It becomes a fantastic lens for portraits at f/1.8 (a bit soft in sharpness, specially in the corners, but with good contrast) and f/2.8 (sharp in the center, acceptable in corners and very good contrast). An apparent high degree of axial chromatic aberrations and slight one of barrel distortion were intentionally preserved in its optical formula (inspired by the Leitz Hektor 73 mm f/1.9) optimized for portraiture at widest apertures (in this photographic genre an extraordinary sharpness is not adequate to depict the subjects faces, since it would greatly reveal skin imperfections, etc), classic look and the yielding of an excellent and smooth bokeh (always understanding that it greatly depends on subject matter and composition). Moreover, this objective with great price/quality ratio (around 700 dollars) excels in 3D effect at medium distances and delivers great vibrant color pop resulting in excellent pictures of landscapes shot between f/8 and f/16. Tom Abrahamsson got a lot of mileage out of a prototype of this lens in early 2010, getting remarkable pictures of vintage cars and motorcycles with impressive colours. Obviously, the 6 elements in four groups Summarit-M 75 mm f/2.4 (with a price around 1,800 dollars) is a better choice as an all-round lens from the viewpoint of resolving power and contrast at every diaphragm (including widest aperture), and uniformity of performance in center, borders and corners, but with a more modern clinically sharp (often too much for portraits) signature, better contrast and correction of distortion, though with a very different aesthetics of image in comparison to the film like quality classic one delivered by the Voigtländer lens, which in addition, is better for HD and 4K videography thanks to its much longer focus throw.
8 elements in 6 groups Voigtländer Nokton 50 mm f/1.2 Aspherical in Leica M mount, a great standard lens featuring superb mechanical construction, entirely made of metal and delivering excellent sharpness and contrast from f/2, a good correction of lateral chromatic aberrations, praiseworthy correction of distortion, highly commendable flare resistance for such a great aperture lens and an exceedingly nice and smooth bokeh.
A certain degree of spherical aberration, coma, and a significant quantity of vignetting have been preserved at f/1.2, f/1.4 and f/2 to bias the optical formula towards the obtention of a very beautiful and creamy bokeh at the widest apertures.
This is an awesome lens yielding superb resolution, contrast and sharpness between f/2 and f/8, but whose optical performance in those aspects at f/1.2 and f/1.4 is inevitably soft in the corners because of the aforementioned reasons (though keeping acceptable values), something particularly apparent in the shortest focusing distances, since it lacks any lens group with floating elements.
Tom Abrahamsson (who learnt very much in this respect from his great friend Walter Mandler, one of the most important optical designers in history) was always a great advocate of this kind of highly luminous classic 50 mm lenses including a certain degree of uncorrected spherical aberrations enabling photographers to use them with a double feasible choice of performance:
a ) At widest apertures f/1.2 and f/1.4 to get acceptable levels of resolving power, contrast and sharpness, but with a wonderful rendering of the out of focus areas, great colours and a very beautiful unique overall aesthetics of image, with the added possibility of using them for portraits, taking advantage of its true nature as short tele lenses.
b) Stopping them down between f/2- f/2.8 (also to highlight subjects with respect to backgrounds, in pictures with shallow depth of field, in the same way as at f/1.2 and f/1.4, but with far better values of resolution, contrast and sharpness) and between f/4-f/11 for landscapes and other kind of images needing more depth of field and top sharpness and contrast.
Summaron-M 28 mm f/5.6, a very special wideangle lens delivering a really nice vintage signature impossible to emulate with the most advanced softwares. Inspired by the LTM39 mount lens made at the Leitz Factory in Wetzlar between 1955 and 1963, it features 6 elements in 4 groups, M mount, 6-bit coding and a slightly revised design, though its optical properties and unique image aesthetics are identical to the classic screwmount lens, excelling in its rendition of details, hallmark visible vignetting and an overall look reminiscent of the analogue photography days. It is a stellar performer in street photography where its tiny dimensions (18 x 52 mm) and very low weight (165 g) make him unobtrusive, greatly enhancing the chances of going unnoticed during the photographic act. Its mechanical construction is first-class, using the same the building method as the original Summaron-M 28 mm f/5.6, id est, a first machining from solid brass and a subsequent stage to reach its definitive shape through turning and bending. It boasts a long focus throw that in synergy with its depth of field scale allows a precise and easy zone focusing much faster than any AF.
With many years of anticipation, Tom Abrahamsson foretold that there would be recreations of manual focusing classic vintage Leica lenses in the digital era to be coupled to mirrorless full frame cameras, and time has proved him right, not only with the launching of the Summaron-M 28 mm f/5.6 by Leica Camera AG, but also with others like the 4 elements in 3 groups and 20 blade diaphragm Thambar-M 90 mm f/2.2
A MAN AHEAD OF HIS TIME
This self-made great human being´s overall concept about photographic lenses for 24 x 36 mm format boiled down to the keynote that not only resolving power and contrast are important for the obtention of very good image quality, but also other seminal factors like the visual feel attained, the rendering of colours and their fidelity, the acutance and perception of sharpness, the smooth transitions between focused and out of focus areas, the tonal ranges achieved, the creaminess of bokeh when shooting at the widest apertures, and further aspects that make lenses really special and oozing character of their own.
As a matter of fact, Tom Abrahamsson had got the acumen to savvy that there would be a very interesting market niche in full digital era within XXI Century for this kind of top quality manual focusing lenses (both for still images and 4K videography), presently embodied by such prestigious firms like Cameraquest, Robert White, Photovillage, Hamish Gill and others.
And last but not least,
The stratospheric human dimension of Tom Abrahamsson, who always made sincere friends for a lifetime wherever he went, was on a par with his highly influential role in the world of photography, particularly in the sphere of rangefinder cameras and lenses and black and white photography.
Abrahamsson softie for Leica M Typ 240, Leica M10, Leica M10-P, Leica M-D Typ 262 and Leica Monochrom digital 24 x 36 mm rangefinder cameras, a masterpiece featuring unbeatable price/ratio performance, manufactured with top quality highly resistent and light aerospatial alloy, amazing accuracy, state-of-the-art CNC machines and handcrafted parameters unit by unit.
Tom was one of the most significant worldwide figures for the evolution of the photographic industry throughout approximately 30 years, between late eighties and his death in 2017, along with Herbert Keppler (greatest guru of reflex cameras, lenses and accessories ever, author of the landmark book " The Asahi Pentax Way " and demised in 2008), Tetsuro Goto (Nikon R & D General Manager and one of the greatest geniuses in the history of camera design along with Oskar Barnack and Yoshihisa Maitani, having been the creator of the analogue Nikons F3, F4 and F5 cameras and the digital full frame reflex ones Nikon D3, Nikon D700, D3s and Df), Gray Levett (owner of Grays of Westminster and the most important Nikon distributor in the history of the brand along with Joe Ehrenreich, as well as having been a fundamental man with his professional photographers feedback for the creation of the formidable Nikon D850 full frame reflex camera with optical viewfinder), Hirofumi Kobayashi, Masato Okada (great mechanical engineer, a tremendous expert on photographic and cinematographic lenses and manager of the entire optics section in Canon), Akira Watanabe (Manager of Digital SLR Product Strategy of Olympus Imaging Corporation, many of whose pioneering ideas and true innovations have been instrumental in the evolution of digital mirrorless cameras, including his insight, already in 2009, that image sensor based autofocus would outperformed phase detect systems in future) and others.
" To me, the Leica is the visual pen that chronicled the 20th Century. It created a documentary style of photography showing us the horrors and pleasures of our century and it forced other camera makers to raise their quality as well as popularizing one of the more enduring standards in the world ... the 35 mm format ". Tom Abrahamsson
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