A combo 84 years in the making It took a while to put all the bits together....
The Leica/Leitz 50mm F3.5 Elmar.
This was the very first interchangeable lens ever created! I will be paring this lens via a Voigtlander M adapter and a LTM (Screw mount) to M adapter to my Sony NEX 7. Shooting with this combo holds special meaning for me. The very first interchangeable lens built pre 1928 on the latest interchangeable lens camera released in 2012. An 84 year difference combining the oldest and latest of technologies! One can only imagine the photos this lens has taken over time... WW2 photos are a possibility as the lens was sourced in Holland and removed from an early Leica II body with nickel knobs which was not for export and used in Germany! I have done a fair amount of research to come up with the following information that helped me with my bid for this piece.
The lens was made to be used on the Leica II rangefinder camera and has led to modern SLRs, DSLRs and even mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras! The lens is collapsible and can retract into the camera body. Due to clearance issues, it is not recommended that you retract the lens on Leica M9's or other modern mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras like my SOny NEX 7 in case it hits the sensor. When used on the original Leica II rangefinder though, this lens collapsed into what is still one of the tiniest 50mm packages you will find on any camera.
This model was produced in it's interchangeable form from 1931 to 1950. Prior to 1931, the Elmar 50mm was fixed to the camera body and could not be removed. In 1931, Leica introduced the first interchangeable mount and the ability to swap lenses on a single body was born. Early fixed model Elmars were converted to screw mount lenses by Leica factory to accommodate the new Leica II rangefinder's release. The Elmar went through many changes during this period (as many as 22 versions, possibly more) and some of the history is very sketchy.
Serial numbers on most Elmars were stamped onto the front of the lens on the aperture ring. Early models however up to late 1931 did not have this. Instead, the serial numbers were scratched onto the inside of the barrel. Serial numbers prior to 151035 were done this way. All Elmars after this had serial numbers stamped onto face of the lens barrel itself. As this lens here does not have any serial number stamped, It was the first indication that this was a lens from mid 1932 or earlier.
Elmars are mostly Chrome plated. However, the earliest Elmars were coated in Nickel (pre 1932). Another telling sign is the use of mm and cm for focal length. According to the reference book Leica by Paul-Henry Van Hasbroeck, on page 192 you will find that the author states that Leica used mm from 1925 to 1928, cm from 1928 to 1970 and reverted back to mm from 1971 onwards. This leads me to believe that the Elmar lens that I have was a pre 1928 model Elmar from the fixed lens period that Leica took in during servicing to convert to the first of the interchangeable lens models in 1931/32. The conversion period was probably done in 1932 as earlier conversions had push button lock release instead of the bell type release. The earlier version also had a (very inconvenient) 11 O'clock infinity lock instead of the 7 o'clock infinity lock you see on most early Leitz/Leica lenses today. This change was made upon the introduction of the Leica III rangefinder body where the old 11 o'clock lock interfered with the camera's operation.
As this lens is a pre war (before 1942) model, the optics are not coated. Coatings does a lot more than just protect optics. Depending on the chemicals used, it allows greater light transmission (between 2 to 5%!) and also aids in decreasing/controlling flare. I was lucky to get a version with very little cleaning marks. The lens glass elements on the Elmar are pretty soft and prone to scratching easily. However, pre war uncoated optics give a very unique look to the photos taken. An antique look with a slight soft glow to it. The Elmar gave decent contrast for such an old lens and was incredibly sharp in it's time. Centers are wonderful but can fall off around the edges. The lens when bought came with a wonderful old black painted brass Leica cap that is felt lined on the inside. An original from the day it was created!
I hesitate to discuss too much on lens performance as I am not after pin sharp/contrasty images with this lens. I would buy a modern Summicron F2 if I were! Instead, I am hoping that the "flaws" this lens may have will impart that special character to the pictures taken and enhance the mood and feel. Thanks for browsing and taking an interest in my fascination with old glass I have a beautiful chrome (complete set) Nippon Kogaku 85mm F2 arriving soon! This was the main lens that was used to shoot the Korean war and which propelled the company into international recognition leading to the famous brand NIKON today! (prior to this, Nippon Kogaku/Nikon made lenses in a big "garage"!). I also have the very first dedicated Macro lens ever made on it's way. A Kilfitt Makro Kilar 4cm F3.5. I had to have it given my interest in macro photography!
Thanks again for viewing and putting up with the history talk A quick disclaimer, much of the info I used to put this together came from online research. I do not vouch for the complete reliability of the source.....