It’s not just retro-style cameras that are popular at the moment, but also lenses and nobody has a richer heritage to draw from here than Leica. The modern re-incarnation of the Thambar-M 90mm f2.2 follows Leica’s earlier resurrection of the Summaron-M 28mm f5.6. The original Thambar-M 90mm f2.2 prime was introduced in 1935 and was known for its soft-focus characteristics which have been retained in the new version. So has the classical optical design – four elements in three groups – although Leica says the glass elements have been single-coated to protect against environment factors which can cause surface corrosion (incidentally, a major problem with very old lenses). Also retained in a 20-blade diaphragm to give absolutely rounded and smooth out-of-focus effects, and it has stepless adjustment of apertures.
The soft look of the Thambar-M 90mm is derived from intentional under-correction of spherical aberration. This under-correction increases towards the edges of the optical system so that both the depth-of-focus, and the degree of softening can be precisely controlled by means of the stepless aperture settings. The effect is more pronounced with wider apertures, and is progressively reduced as the lens is stopped down to smaller apertures.
The external design of the original lens has been almost completely preserved in the new version, including its proportions, the black paint finish and the aperture engravings in red and white. Slight modifications have been made to bring the lens into line with the current, minimalist design contemporary Leica M mount lenses. These include the knurling, the lettering and scales, and the specific use of sharp edges and bevelling.
As was the case with the original, the lens hood and both front and rear caps are made of metal. Even small details – such as the felt lining of the hood and the front cap – all contribute to the period characteristics of this lens. The design of the rigid lens case in ‘Vintage Brown’ leather is identical to that of the original of 80 years ago and, as in the past, the supplied centre-spot filter can be stowed away in its lid.
The new Thambar-M 90mm f2.2 can be fitted to most M mount rangefinder cameras, film or digital (although Leica doesn’t recommend use with the M8 because of its sensor size), and is priced at $8650.
For more information visit www.leica-camera.com