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Thread: Fs: Leica legendary thambar lens, 9cm f2.2, super rare and nice!

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    Fs: Leica legendary thambar lens, 9cm f2.2, super rare and nice!

    Hi: I have a nice Leica Thambar screwmount lens for sale, with Hood, rear cap, and box. I believe this was from approx. 1938, the serial number is #226223. The focusing and shutter appear to work very smoothly. This belonged to my friends grandfather, you can see the name on the bottom of the box picture. He inherited it, (along with a Leica 3F also for sale), but has no use for it. This is one of those legendary lenses, as only 3,000 were ever made. I have priced it very very reasonably at $3250 net! Folks ask $3500-$5000 for this same lens. The glass is very clean, no fungus or such.

    I have sold on Ebay for over 10 years (seller name "Viswan"), with a perfect 100% rating, and also on here at Getdpi.

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    Here is an article from Shutterbug about this unique lens. And Thorsten Overgard also has a very long article about it too.

    The Leitz Thambar 90mm f/2.2
 Why Is It Considered A Legendary Portrait Lens?
    By Roger W. Hicks • Posted: Apr 1, 2005
    © 2004, Roger W. Hicks, All Rights Reserved

    You can see the double aperture scale, in white (no center spot) and red (with center spot).
    The 90mm f/2.2 Leitz Thambar is one of those few lenses that is always prefixed "legendary." Designed primarily for portraiture, it was introduced in 1935 in Leica screw fitting, 39mmx26 tpi. It seems to have been discontinued during World War II, although there are scattered reports of availability for a few years after the war.
    At most about 3000 were made, probably in eight batches, starting with 226xxx (actually built in 1934) and going through 283xxx, 311xxx, 375xxx, 416xxx, 472xxx, 511xxx, and 540xxx (about 1940). It is anyone's guess how many have survived. Today they are staggeringly rare and extremely expensive: you would be lucky to get away with much less than $1500 for the lens without accessories (center spot, shade, cap), and you could easily pay twice that for a good, complete example with clean glass. In fact, I have seen people ask $4000 and more for mint or near-mint examples. I was amazed when an old friend casually mentioned that he had one and that I could borrow it if I liked. 

Now, when it comes to "legends" I'm a bit of a cynic. I've owned a lot of "legendary" lenses--I still have a few--and as often as not, there are modern equivalents that are simply better. I'm even more of a cynic when it comes to soft-focus lenses, especially on small formats. I love my Dreamagon, but it's totally over the top: subtlety is not where it's at. The few other soft-focus lenses I've used for 35mm (and indeed for 120) have completely failed to impress me.

    …. I used a Leica MP for actual testing.
    I was therefore prepared to be underwhelmed by the Thambar: a quick test, oh, yeah, very interesting, but who'd be fool enough to part with that kind of money for a lens that is way past pensionable age? 

Boy, was I ever wrong. Here's one fool who'd buy a Thambar like a shot, if he could afford it. Fortunately, the owner is a good friend and I can probably borrow it again from time to time. And I want to.

    Of course I tend to see my wife with a romantic glow anyway, but the Thambar makes her look more like that for everyone. It's not blatantly dishonest like the Dreamagon but it is subtly flattering--or not so subtly at full aperture with the center stop in. Kodak EBX was not the best film for this shot, as it rendered her face rather redder than either of us would like--but she had spent too much time in the sun a couple of days previously. Even so, a low-saturation film such as Fuji Astia would have been better.
    It's almost impossible to explain why, and it may not be apparent from the pictures here in Shutterbug. The difference is subtle, but magical. Part of it, I think, is precisely that it is uncoated and "flarey": a coated Thambar would not be anything as impressive.

    The word that springs to mind is "flattering," which of course is precisely the purpose of a soft-focus lens. At full bore, or close to it, the Thambar makes a middle-aged woman look 10 years younger; it makes a teen-ager with flawless skin look like a dream of perfection; it makes a child look like a cherub. But even if you are shooting men, and using f/4.5 or f/6.3, it is subtly flattering without being obvious.
    Well, OK, it was great in black and white, but how about color? And for other subjects than portraits? Once again, I was astonished. The results were gorgeous: dreamy, romantic, just the right blend of sharpness and softness, and very subtle control of sharpness via aperture. There were no problems with blueness, despite the uncoated lens, though I did use the very deep Thambar lens shade. The only problem I found was that with ISO 100 film (Kodak EBX, my favorite) I had to shoot at 1/1000 sec to avoid overexposure at wide apertures. 

Like all soft-focus lenses, the Thambar relies on undercorrected spherical aberration. This means that a point is reproduced as a point plus a halo. As you stop down, this effect diminishes, until by about f/9 it's fully sharp. F/9? Yes. This is one of those prewar Leica lenses that is scaled in the old Continental system, and to add to the fun, there are two iris scales, one in white and one in red. The white scale goes f/2.2-2.4-2.6-big gap-9-12.
    5-18-25 and the red scale goes f/2.3 (right alongside 2.2)-2.5 (alongside 2.4)-2.8 (alongside 2.6)-3.2-4.5-6.3.

    The dual aperture range is because the Thambar was supplied with a central stop: in effect, a clear glass filter with a black spot in the middle, about 13mm (1/2") in diameter. This cuts out the central (sharpest) part of the image and makes everything even softer. 

Without the stop in place, the white scale is used; with it in place, the red scale. This is why the red scale stops at f/6.3. At this point, the center stop and the conventional iris diaphragm combine to give roughly zero transmission of image forming light--though there's so much flare in an uncoated four-glass lens that a through-lens meter doesn't necessarily realize this. 

The effect of flare on a relatively simple through-lens meter, as found on modern Leicas and Voigtländers, is not what you would expect. At least, it's not what I expected. Using a constant diffuse source (a light box) I checked three lenses on a Leica MP: 90mm f/2.2 Thambar (with center spot), 90mm f/4 Macro-Elmar-M, and a 90mm f/3.5 Voigtländer APO-Lanthar. All gave the same readings, within experimental error, at all apertures. The same was true with a Voigtländer Bessa-R, the other camera on which I tried it: the Bessa-R, of course, is Leica screw fit, unlike the Leica M and Bessa R2.
    ...All right, not the most romantic of shots--we're in the process of converting this long-disused privy in a corner of our garden to a greenhouse--but the Thambar beautifully captures the ancient stone and the mood of a hot spring day. (Kodak EBX.)
    These identical readings do not, however, mean that the optimum exposure is the same for all three lenses, because all the spare light bouncing around in an uncoated four-glass lens increases the effective shadow exposure spectacularly, so that the loss of image-forming light as a result of the absence of coating--at eight surfaces, about a whole stop--is more than made up by the extra non-image-forming light that still ends up in the shadow area of the film. 

This means that, in effect, you can cut exposure by half a stop or even a stop with many subjects: I found that I got the best results by re-rating Kodak EBX at ISO 120 or 125 with the through-lens meter in the MP that I was using, though with a separate handheld incident-light meter (Gossen) I found the ISO speed worked best. In order to recover the lost contrast and reduced color saturation you need to give extra development in black and white or use high-saturation films such as Kodak EBX in color. 

The reason for the gap on the white aperture scale, I surmise, is that there's not much point in using the Thambar without the center spot in this range: the soft-focus effect will be negligible, but the lens won't be fully sharp, so it will just behave like an inferior lens. You therefore use it wide-open without the stop (f/2.2-f/2.6) or with the stop in the f/2.3-f/6.3 range. Incidentally, the difference between f/2.2 and f/2.4 is just 1/6 stop, and between f/2.2 and f/2.6 it's only 1/3 stop, so there is some rather unnecessary precision here. 

As for dimensions, handling, etc., the lens is about 97mm (3.8") long (at infinity) and about 55mm (2.2") in diameter at its widest point, the aperture ring. It weighs almost exactly 450 g, 1 lb: substantial, but there's a lot of brass in it, all finished in chrome and black lacquer. The rotating mount focuses to a bit better than 3 ft, just under 1 meter: the last marked distance is 3.5 ft, 107cm, but the lens focuses some 40Ž beyond that out of a total travel of about 350Ž. 

The very long focus travel makes focusing accurate but means that the lens is quite slow to use: the travel between 5 ft and 10 ft, for example, is about 90Ž or 1/4 turn, about the same as the entire focusing travel (infinity to 1 meter) of the 90mm f/3.5 Voigtländer APO-Lanthar. This lens is scaled only in feet: it was also available scaled only in meters. The aperture scales are duplicated so that there is always one scale reasonably visible, but the apertures are not equally spaced: the distance between f/2.2 and f/2.4 is the same as the distance between f/9 and f/25 (all on the white scale). 

The center stop is a 48mm screw fitting but has no front thread, so special push-on filters are required if you want to use filters and the stop together--unless you put the filter behind the center spot, which may lead to exposure anomalies, though I have to confess I didn't think to try it. The lens was also supplied with its own unique push-on lens shade, about 33mm deep overall or 25mm to the front of the center stop. This reverses over the lens for storage, and has its own 52mm push-on metal Leica lens cap: if either of these or (especially) the center stop is missing, the value goes down quite smartly. 

There's not a lot else to say. Obviously it's not a lens for everyone, and indeed, until I tried this one, I would have accounted myself among those who had no need of it. But as I said, I was wrong. There's usually at least one Thambar for sale somewhere, and when one comes up at a price I can afford, I'm going to buy one. This shouldn't be a collectors' lens. It's a lens to use. And it's deservedly a legend.

    Seller Note: there is no separate clear glass filter with the black painted spot in the middle, you would have to make one yourself, a simple matter.....
    My photoblog:
    Friend me on Facebook: Josef Skye Tornick

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    Registred Users MoJo's Avatar
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    Re: Fs: Leica legendary thambar lens, 9cm f2.2, super rare and nice!

    My photoblog:
    Friend me on Facebook: Josef Skye Tornick

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