The Long View

The Hektor 135/4.5 lens that came with my Leica IIIc looks new and is very smooth in operation.  It has a fifteen-blade aperture which ensures velvety backgrounds.  The lens has a reputation for good central sharpness with less sharp outer margins.  I shot a roll of Kentmere 400 with the lens on the IIIc to get an idea of how it would perform for me.  The shots that were properly focused and framed looked ok to me, but that represented only about a quarter of the pictures on the roll.

The problem that was immediately obvious when I took the camera and lens out into the real world was that the not-very-bright rangefinder was not up to the job of achieving the degree of precision focus which the 135mm lens demands.  The other issue which only became clear after scanning my images was that a lot more care needs to be given to adjusting the parallax correction on the accessory viewfinder than I had imagined.  I managed to cut the legs off quite a few of my subjects.  Also complicating the process of using the camera and lens was the fact that the diopter adjustment for the rangefinder magnified window has to adjusted for nearly every shot to provide a clear view of the subject.

A technique which is sometimes useful with any long lens is to prefocus on a spot and then wait for the subject to move into position.  I stationed myself at an intersection in the Old Town Plaza and focused on a spot on the road in anticipation of catching a motorcycle I saw circling the Plaza.  As it turned out, the driver turned right instead of left, so I waited for the next opportunity at that location which turned out to be this dismounted couple of Harley enthusiasts.

The beam splitter mirror on the IIIc is actually ok for using with my normal and wide-angle lenses, but it will have to be replaced to make using the Hektor with the IIIc worthwhile.  I may try the lens on my Leica IIIa or my two Barnack-style Soviet cameras which all have rangefinders with better contrast.

Getting the proper performance from the Tewe accessory viewfinder needed for the Hektor will require some concentrated, disciplined practice.  The focal distance selected in each instance has to be replicated very precisely in adjusting the parallax setting of the viewfinder.  That challenge is further complicated by the facts that the scale on the lens is in feet, while that of the accessory finder is in meters, and the scale on the finder is not finely graduated.

Given the unblemished condition of my Hector lens I think it likely the original owner did not spend a lot of time mastering the juggling act required to get well-focused and well-framed images from the Hektor on the IIIc.  I also don’t see a lot of images on line with Hektor tags.

Leica did offer alternatives to the challenge of using long lenses on the screw-mount rangefinder cameras.  The PLOOT system of the 1930s and the Visoflex of the 1950s were accessory reflex housings which provided a through-the-lens view when matched with special lenses. In the mid-1950s the Leica M rangefinder cameras. along with bayonet style lens mounts, offered auto-parallax compensation and framelines in the viewfinder for 28-135mm focal lengths.The Hektor 135/4.5 lens that came with my Leica IIIc looks new and is very smooth in operation.  It has a fifteen-blade aperture which ensures velvety backgrounds.  The lens has a reputation for good central sharpness with less sharp outer margins.  I shot a roll of Kentmere 400 with the lens on the IIIc to get an idea of how it would perform for me.  The shots that were properly focused and framed looked ok to me, but that represented only about a quarter of the pictures on the roll.The problem that was immediately obvious when I took the camera and lens out into the real world was that the not-very-bright rangefinder was not up to the job of achieving the degree of precision focus which the 135mm lens demands.  The other issue which only became clear after scanning my images was that a lot more care needs to be given to adjusting the parallax correction on the accessory viewfinder than I had imagined.  I managed to cut the legs off quite a few of my subjects.  Also complicating the process of using the camera and lens was the fact that the diopter adjustment for the rangefinder magnified window has to adjusted for nearly every shot to provide a clear view of the subject.

A technique which is sometimes useful with any long lens is to prefocus on a spot and then wait for the subject to move into position.  I stationed myself at an intersection in the Old Town Plaza and focused on a spot on the road in anticipation of catching a motorcycle I saw circling the Plaza.  As it turned out, the driver turned right instead of left, so I waited for the next opportunity at that location which turned out to be this dismounted couple of Harley enthusiasts.
The beam splitter mirror on the IIIc is actually ok for using with my normal and wide-angle lenses, but it will have to be replaced to make using the Hektor with the IIIc worthwhile.  I may try the lens on my Leica IIIa or my two Barnack-style Soviet cameras which all have rangefinders with better contrast.Getting the proper performance from the Tewe accessory viewfinder needed for the Hektor will require some concentrated, disciplined practice.  The focal distance selected in each instance has to be replicated very precisely in adjusting the parallax setting of the viewfinder.  That challenge is further complicated by the facts that the scale on the lens is in feet, while that of the accessory finder is in meters, and the scale on the finder is not finely graduated.Given the unblemished condition of my Hector lens I think it likely the original owner did not spend a lot of time mastering the juggling act required to get well-focused and well-framed images from the Hektor on the IIIc.  I also don’t see a lot of images on line with Hektor tags. Leica did offer alternatives to the challenge of using long lenses on the screw-mount rangefinder cameras.  The PLOOT system of the 1930s and the Visoflex of the 1950s were accessory reflex housings which provided a through-the-lens view when matched with special lenses. In the mid-1950s the Leica M rangefinder cameras. along with bayonet style lens mounts, offered auto-parallax compensation and framelines in the viewfinder for 28-135mm focal lengths.Read MoreAlbuquerque, Hektor 135/4.5, Kentmere 400, Legacypro L110, Leica IIIC, semi-stand developmentPhotography & Vintage Film Cameras

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: