So, I bought another lens. Big surprise, I know. But in my meager and inadequate defense, this is a lens I’ve been interested in acquiring for some time. As a result of a very casual and unfocused searched I stumbled across this example, modestly priced and in virtually unused condition, complete with case and finder. It would have been utterly foolish not to buy it.
For those unfamiliar, the Canon 100/3.5 in Leica Thread Mount is a very compact short telephoto lens with a stellar reputation. The early version, seen here, is considerably smaller than the later one, which has styling closer to Canon’s early SLR lenses. The small size makes it an outstanding travel lens. The focus throw is extremely long, and the aperture lacks click-stops, but this is nothing unusual with lenses of late-1950s vintage. The body of the early type is very similar to the Leitz Elmar 90/4, right down to the 34mm filter thread (I use a 34-37mm step-up ring to mount an aftermarket hood).
Where the Canon differs from Leica’s offering is in the optics. While the Elmar came in three- and four-element versions, the Canon has five elements in four groups (Canon’s first 100mm lens in LTM had a maximum aperture of f/4 and was a simple triplet in a heavy brass body similar in design to other early Canon lenses). Whatever Canon did in designing this lens, they nailed it. It’s sharp, it’s got nice contrast, the color rendition is lovely, and the out-of-focus areas are wonderfully creamy. I’ve never been disappointed with the images from my Elmar, but they simply don’t stand up technically when put next to shots from the Canon.
Paradoxically, the overall rendering of the Canon 100/3.5 in both color and monochrome bears a fairly close resemblance to that of the Summitar I have on one of my Leica IIIcs. Put this together with the suitability of the Canon for travel and you can probably guess what lenses are in my go-to travel kit these days.
If there is anything to criticize, it’s the original viewfinder. It’s solidly built, and the glass is clean and unmarked, but even in excellent shape it’s small and squinty. With static subjects this is simply an annoyance, but if you want to shoot anything in motion, it’s an impediment. Fortunately, there are options. I settled on a Nikon brightline finder made for a 105mm lens – the framing will be a tiny bit tight, but the adjustment is negligible; I routinely shot my 90/4 Elmar using the 100mm framelines on my Canon P without difficulty. Of course, the P is a perfect platform for the 100/3.5, having the framelines already in place and thus dispensing with the need for an external finder.
The addition of the Canon 100/3.5 to my collection makes me aware of the fact that I’ve got more duplication that I realized in my LTM lenses. The 100 is functionally similar to my Elmar 90/4, and in addition I’ve got several 35s and more than several 50s. It’s getting a little silly, quite frankly – how many lenses can a person use? – but I don’t think I’ve quite reached the point of thinning the herd, but I’m getting closer. Thankfully, lenses are small.