Large-Eyed with the Carl Zeiss 16mm f/8 Hologon


Dramatic, restrictive, and humbling are 3 words I’d use to give an explanation for the Carl Zeiss 16mm f/8 Hologon Extraordinarily-wide lens that I shoot adapted to Leica M film cameras.

While the aforementioned 3 words may not in an instant conjure the GAS gods in most circumstances, those descriptors have pushed me somehow where I can draw an immediate line between the use of this lens and my growth as a photographer. This has resulted in me attaining for the Hologon more than each and every different lens in my forged. It certainly not leaves my bag.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Agent Shadow 400

Early Screw ups

My initial outings with the Hologon have been stuffed with disasters. Palms inside the frame, strap inside the frame, and necessarily photos that merely didn’t in reality really feel like I’d gotten close enough to the subject. As I had picked up the lens in early 2020, it was once as soon as temporarily impractical in a socially distanced global to look at the usage of the lens so much in the best way during which that I had was once hoping. If truth be told, I just about introduced it.

Without reference to struggling with the Hologon, I merely couldn’t seem to put it down. There’s merely something about the best way during which that an M camera handles with this ultra-wide pancake fixed. It’s no secret that a lot of photographers have an interest on this camera gadget on account of its compact dimension and versatile mount. The Hologon if truth be told brings into focus what is conceivable with the M mount. Not short of to take the lens off of the camera had me taking pictures it further and spending a lot of time fascinated with ways to make footage that I’d be happy with. In short, I’d wish to get closer, such a lot closer.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Ilford HP5+

Working at a Distance; the Minimum Focusing Distance

I contend that ultra-wide lenses are at their best possible when foreground parts are shot at or originate from in front of the lenses’ minimum focusing distances. For the Hologon 16mm f/8 lens this means taking pictures with the camera about 1 foot from a topic. There’s no other solution to say it; this is an uncomfortable issue to do.

I’d have a pep-talk internal monologue on my solution to shoot and nevertheless find myself taking pictures at 2 to 3 meters. I’d take a look on the negatives and in reality really feel if truth be told disappointed that subjects weren’t prominent inside the frame. In any case, I merely started setting the lens to what I really like to call hypo-focal distance.

Merely for the reason that identify implies, it’s the opposite or hyper-focal distance and works on the similar concept. The use of the very well-appointed focus scale on the lens, I’d set focus at 0.6m. This allowed for the whole lot from 0.4m to 1.5m to be in focus. Shoppers of this lens would perhaps practice that the true minimum focusing distance on this lens is 0.3m on the other hand I came upon that if photographing other people, I wasn’t liable to be merely 0.3m (1 foot) from the person’s eyes so 0.4m to 1.5m worked utterly to pressure me closer to subjects for added sexy compositions.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Ilford HP5+

My Favorite Lens?

Listen, I get it, 16mm f/8 is able as impractical as a result of it is going to get for a daily elevate lens. That mentioned, I merely have this sort of lot amusing taking pictures with this issue fixed to my camera. Something I would love out of my footage is to all the time be tricky myself to make photos I really like while not walking the perfect path. I might find it irresistible to be a little tricky. It makes me acknowledge the photos I do like slightly bit further and when we push ourselves we broaden. Fairly masochistic, sure, but it’s the path I’ve decided on with my image making and the shoe seems to fit properly enough.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Ilford HP5+

Regarding the Gear

The 16mm f/8 Carl Zeiss Hologon has existed as a few variations of the equivalent fixed aperture theme. To begin with, the lens was once as soon as set into a collection mount of a faithful camera, The Zeiss Ikon Hologon Ultrawide. That lens was once as soon as 15mm and the optics have been slightly bit further tricky to manufacture. Leica was once as soon as it sounds as if keen on the lens in that camera and commissioned a limited run of native M-mount 15mm f/8 Hologons to be made.

It’s a somewhat transient tick list of lenses that Leica has farmed out to third occasions over time. I believe it’s a testament to the technical prowess it required to make the lens.

Later, for the Contax G assortment cameras, Carl Zeiss introduced the rest of the Hologons; a 16mm f/8 iteration that used additional lens parts that effectively made the manufacturing process quite a lot much less daunting. This was once as soon as the only Contax G-mount lens to be made solely in Germany. It’s the ones later lenses which can also be most often reworked over to Leica M-mount by the use of a largely non-destructive process that can be reversed.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Ilford HP5+

Pros and Cons

Ever concentrate this one quicker than? The lens has “ZERO DISTORTION”. I know, I know on the other hand concentrate me out. We’re going to wish to play the ‘if” game on the other hand I am telling you that “if” you compose your shot utterly sq. on all axis’ you’ll be able to not be capable of stumble on any distortion the least bit. It’s merely not there. That mentioned, inside the fit that you are not taking pictures the camera on a flawlessly leveled ground or the usage of the Leica Commonplace Massive-angle viewfinder, with its on-board bubble level (identified hereafter for the reason that “Frankenfinder”), you are able to transfer ahead and expect copious amounts of standpoint distortion. Even if the camera is only reasonably tweaked you’ll be able to be painfully conscious about that misstep when reviewing your photos.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Kodak TriX 400

Speaking of viewfinders, it should transfer without saying that should you hope to frame seriously with the Hologon you’re going to need an external finder of a couple of sort. Typically you’ll find the lens introduced with the finder that were given right here with the set when new. It is large with decent eye relief and it has a bubble level built into it. It’s a champagne finish that carefully fits the silver, or perhaps they title it Titanium, Contax G cameras.

Alternatively there are two issues I have with this finder. First, the bubble level is totally forward and once more leveling as opposed to leveling on all axis’. I’ve no clue why they’ve completed this when entire leveling is so important to achieving 0 distortion.

Secondly, the sector of view is just too slender. I’m not completely sure what’s happening proper right here on the other hand no less than on a Leica M camera, each the finder is tight or the lens is if truth be told wider than 16mm. With the original finder, if we’re calling that 16mm, expect to get no less than 15mm worth of frame. Earlier I mentioned Leica’s Frankenfinder. As an owner of a 16mm (or is it 15mm?) and 24mm lens and wide-curious to say the least, I’ve invested in this type of monstrosities.

I don’t think you are able to do upper than the Frankenfinder as a 16-18-21-24-28mm multi-finder with parallax correction and illuminated brightlines. The fame of the show is its glow-in-the-dark, multi-axis bubble level. Alternatively concentrate, there’s no other solution to say it, the thing is large. When taking pictures quickly in a crowded setting I’ll continuously use no finder the least bit. The equivalent rules of taking pictures close apply and essentially the whole lot you are able to see is inside the frame.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica MP / Kodak Ektar

Wider Negatives

No, not girthy bad data, this issue if truth be told produces a wider negative than each and every different lens you’ve ever shot on an M. The reason for that’s the bulbous rear part that sits deeply into the film chamber. This allows the image circle to slip beneath the aspect baffles as the light is projected at this sort of shallow standpoint. Stunning cool correct? Neatly, not so speedy. While the exposed frame is without question wider than the norm, the camera’s frame spacing is not adjusted to make up for this parlor trick. What that means for you, and your lab, is that the blank area between frames basically no longer exists. Scanning Hologon negatives is a pain and depending to your lab or scanning setup, it must lead to a couple additional artwork.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Ilford HP5+


The only solution to describe the Carl Zeiss Hologon is small. It’s only reasonably prouder on the camera than a body cap, even with the lens cap on. It’s if truth be told pretty incredible on the other hand with lenses as in existence, there aren’t any unfastened lunches. With the angle of view being so dramatic and the lens fixed so on the subject of the body, it is if truth be told arduous to stick your hands out of the frame until you’ve professional yourself to grip the camera correctly for the lens. You’re most definitely going to be told the arduous way.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Kodak Portra 400

Knob Mod

Some other problem of this shallow mount lens is that the otherwise excellent brass focus lever would perhaps hit the frameline selector of your M camera. You are able to overlook about this and not focus carefully on the other hand I think that can be a mistake. You’ll find that if you will purchase a up to now mount-modified Hologon it must have already had the ground of the focus lever shaved to clear the lever. Mine was once as soon as un-shaved so I very in moderation addressed it on a bench grinder.

Most likely you’ll be further cautious and use a Dremel Device. That can be a better choice.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Kodak TriX 400

To Heart Filter or Not

The Hologon vignettes. It’s not an insignificant amount, each. As a result of that, the lens at first shipped with a radial heart filter. A reverse ND of sorts to spice up the exposure inside the corners by way of knocking down the exposure inside the heart. This filter effectively turns the f/8 lens into an f16 lens. That’s just too most sensible a price for me and I’ve certainly not used, nor do I non-public the center filter. I’ve spotted a large number of results with the center filter in use and I all the time in reality really feel like there are some abnormal artifacts. I need the natural vignette profile of the optics and as I tend to overexpose my film it seems to minimize the vignette. All this is to say that you just should take your feelings on lens vignetting into consideration when deciding if this lens is for you.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M3 / Ilford HP5+

Alternatively It’s f/8?!

I get it, f/8 is sluggish, and the fact that it’s a collection aperture further restricts the shopper’s talent to blah, blah, blah, I don’t need to concentrate it. I’d implore somebody taking into account this lens to if truth be told lean into its quirks. Positive, the lens is sluggish, but it’s moreover a 16mm with its weight situated largely all through the camera body. The Hologon on an M camera is a remarkably forged setup. With even a minor check out at final nevertheless one can successfully pull off very long handheld exposures. An 8th or possibly a 4th of a second is bigger than doable. No need for over the top ISOs or multi-stop push processing. You are able to do it.

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M-A / Ilford HP5+

On Digital

Do you non-public a Monochrome camera? Superb data, you’re golden. Do you non-public the rest reasonably then a Monochrome camera? You’ll be converting to black and white. The crimson and magenta are a great deal of to conquer. Don’t even take a look at.

For many who adapt the lens to a digital camera like a Sony a7 assortment camera, you may not be capable of safely shoot at infinity. That’s no amusing anyway. I’ve if truth be told shot a couple of frames with this lens adapted to an a7 by the use of a close-focus adapter. With the adapter completely extended and the lens set to its minimum focusing distance, not only does it focus very, very carefully but it if truth be told produces some shockingly nice out-of-focus parts. Who knew?

16mm f/8 Hologon / Leica M3 / Ilford HP5+

In Conclusion

After 3 years with the Hologon, I can in truth say that I’ve certainly not beloved taking pictures a lens more than this on any gadget. It pushes me to think and see in tactics during which no other lens does. It’s impractical, difficult to use and when used on film produces a negative that can be arduous to artwork with… and none of that problems to me on account of when I shoot with it I’m having a great deal of amusing to worry about any drawbacks.

Regarding the author: Andy Shields is a street photographer primarily based completely inside the Detroit house who shoots candid fit coverage inside the style of antique street footage. You are able to find further of his artwork on his web site and Instagram. This newsletter was once as soon as moreover revealed proper right here.

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