I’ve been a bit lax in my gear introductions lately, so it’s time to start catching up. Since I’ve already posted a few photos from this lens – the digital shots from the X-E1 in the “From Away” series – I figured I’d best start here.
Let me just say that I blame the haphazard acquisition of the Olympus XA4 Macro for this. The XA4 has a 28mm lens, a focal length with which I was not previously acquainted. Well, turns out I rather like it. Enough that I started thinking about buying a 28mm lens for my Leica Thread Mount collection – trouble is, there aren’t a lot of options that fall within the reasonably affordable end of the price spectrum.
In the relatively recent past Voigtländer made a few different LTM 28s, but these go for considerable sums these days for whatever reason. Of course, Leica made an LTM 28 back when Leica still made screwmount lenses, but the prices for these are as high as you might expect. There are a few oddballs, like the highly regarded Nikkor and Komura 28/3.5s, but again, they aren’t cheap. I considered, and almost pulled the trigger on, a nice vintage Canon 28/3.5, which is probably the best (only) affordable option, but in the end even that just didn’t seem convincing for some reason.
I began to think that a 28 might not be in the cards. Maybe it wasn’t really necessary – after all, I do already have a 21mm lens. But one look at photos from the 21/4 and the XA4 side by side showed just how different those two focal lengths are. The 28 is a wide lens to be sure, but the 21 introduces considerable distortion in many cases, creating an exaggerated perspective that is generally absent from photos taken with the XA4’s 28. Though they are numerically close, they are most assuredly not interchangeable.
So I kept looking. In a few of the countless online discussions I read, I saw mentions of the Voigtländer Snapshot Skopar, a 25mm f/4 lens, as a possible alternative, so I looked into it. It’s a bit of an odd lens in the LTM world; for one, it’s a rangefinder lens that lacks rangefinder coupling, so it’s scale-focus only. I’m pretty good at that technique, and I learned a while back that scale-focusing wide-angle lenses does not require high levels of precision to get good results, so this was not a deal-breaker. It also has what I consider a very useful feature, click-stop focusing – there are detents at 1, 1.5, and 3m. This is very similar to the focusing setup on the XA4, which I like. With these considerations taken into account I found and bought one, hoping it would be close enough to 28 (and far enough from 21) to scratch my itch.
I’ve only taken a few rolls with it at this point, but my general impression is that it feels much closer to a 28 than a 21. The ergonomics and quality, both of build and photos, are excellent, which makes it quite a pleasure to shoot with. The viewfinder, of the same type as came with the 21, is big and bright. As with the 21, mounting the 25 and setting focus to 3m and aperture to around f/8 makes the rig essentially a point-and-shoot on the street; the massive depth-of-field easily makes up for any misjudgment of the distance to the subject.
An extra added bonus here is that the 25 when mounted on my Fuji X-E1 becomes an effective 42mm lens, a perfect normal in 35mm film equivalent. This is another focal length I’m familiar with from my Olympus 35SP (42mm) and Rollei 35 (40mm), and one that offers quite a bit of flexibility and works very well for street photography. Further, it doesn’t show the distortion in the corners that I saw in some instances with the 21; this never really bothered me, and it certainly wasn’t a factor in choosing the 25, but it’s nonetheless nice to have the capability available.
So I’ve added another lens to the pile. I have to say I’m pretty happy with it. I’m thinking it may replace the 35mm lens in my standard travel kit (which in the past has been 35/50/90, for those who might be curious), proving both greater separation from the 50 and more flexibility when I chose to use the digital (42mm vs. 50mm equivalence – the former is probably a better option for use with the X-E1, at least for me).