Most Leica rangefinder users give the 24mm focal length short shrift. This is understandable because there are no 24mm framelines but I am not sure that the physics of the rangefinder system should dictate which lens you use. Hear me out…
Although the 24mm focal length is foreign to many Leica rangefinder users, it is not foreign to the photography world. In the SLR world, 24mm is the anchoring low end of every 24-70 and 24-105mm lens. 24 mm prime SLR lenses are common. The world could have made their zoom lenses 28-70 or 28-105 but they didn’t? Why is that? Heck, even Leica makes a 24-90 SL lens. Why is 24mm important over there but not on a rangefinder? That is a trick question. Zeiss included 25mm framelines in their Ikon camera in 2008. Canon and Nikon made 25mm lenses back in the day. 24mm is only foreign to Leica rangefinders and that is important. Just because Leica has 28mm framelines (and doesn’t have 24 mm framelines) doesn’t mean that 28mm is any sort of magic focal length or, conversely, 24mm is a redheaded stepchild.
My guess is that the inclusion of 28mm framelines, rather than 24mm framelines, was more of a decision related to the physics and size of the Leica rangefinder system/magnification of the viewfinder window than anything related to photography. This is unfortunate because after some experience fighting (yes fighting) with 28mm lenses, I decided to free myself from the tyranny of 28mm framelines and ignore them altogether.
In my world, 28mm is wide but not wide enough. Whomever said “you don’t need a 24mm lens. Just get a 28mm lens and take a step back” doesn’t live where I live and doesn’t shoot where I shoot (1). Almost invariably I am on a cliff, backed up against a highway or fence, there is a pole right next to me that I dont want to include in the image, in a car, and/or on a roof where stepping back would mean certain death. 28mm kills!
Conversely, stepping forward is generally easy since I can’t ever remember shooting over any sort of chasm where getting a little closer would be important. You can also crop a 24mm image but adding on to a 28mm is something that even Adobe Sensei can’t do at the time of writing in 2020. In my world, the next step down from a 35mm lens should be 24mm and it doesn’t matter what the framelines inside my rangefinder want to tell me is the next focal length. 28mm is just too close to 35mm to make it worth my time if I need to make decisions about what lens to carry.
Your next question might be “Ok, you frameline ignoring rebel you, why 24mm and not 18mm, 16mm, or wider?” If that is your question, I would contend that it is possible you haven’t spent enough time with those focal lengths. 21mm, at least in my hands, is the breakpoint before things get too distorty and weird while simultaneously rendering the rangefinder the wrong tool for the job. I know they make ultra-wide rangefinder lenses and I will probably put one in my bag at some point (2) but, as a general rule, if I am shooting below 24mm I will tend to use a different tool because I want to see what the lens sees rather than through a rangefinder or external viewfinder. I need to know that I am not making a distorted mess and to do that, I prefer to see through the lens when I am composing an image.
Your next next question might be, “Ok, why 24mm and not 21mm?” If that is your question, I would first ask you to stop beginning your questions with “Ok” and then tell you “Duh? Because you can make 24mm work without an external finder and you absolutely and most certainly need a viewfinder for 21mm” which is the exact same annoying, snotty and a-holeish answer that someone once gave me when I asked that very same question. That isn’t a dumb question and nobody (including me) should be criticized for asking it. On an M-mount camera with a 0.72x magnification finder, 24mm is (somewhat) manageable without using an external finder (3). I am not a fan of fake breasts (4) or other “bolt on” accessories. These bolt-ons include soft release buttons and external finders. Once you start bolting things on to your camera, an argument can be made that there are better tools for the job.
Before we get to the list, I should probably address the elephant in the room, even it is a baby elephant. Most normal people would grab a 28mm lens and skip the 24mm to this whole discussion is kind of dumb on a website called “Leica Lenses for Normal People.” I have no counter to that argument except to remind you that this website is the documentation of my very real (and expensive) journey though the lens options for my Leica rangefinder camera. I don’t have the luxury (or time) to test lenses I don’t really want to use or keep. Please forgive me for this transgression.
The main issue with the 24mm focal length on Leica rangefinders is that there just aren’t that many options if you are a normal person with a normal job, a dog that needs food, vaccinations, and a dental, and/or a kid that needs expert medical help to get off the nicotine vape. Thank you Juul. The fact of the matter is that the 24mm focal length is a barren wasteland of a shopping experience when compared to the other focal lengths. These are essentially all of your options:
- Zeiss 24mm f/2.8 ZM Biogon. REVIEW COMING SOON
- Leica Elmarit f/2.8 ASPH: this one is too expensive for normal people and it falls outside of the LLFNP price range. Unless I can find one on the cheap, this one probably won’t be reviewed.
- Leica Elmar-M f/3.5 This one is way too expensive for normal people. There is no chance it will ever be reviewed on this website.
- Leica Summilux-M f/1/4. Ditto. Obviously
- MS-Optical 24mm f4 Perar Super-Triplet: I am not sure if any MS-Optical lenses were intended to be purchased by normal people. Small batch artisan lenses coveted by collectors with a cult-like following seems to be the opposite of what most normal people would reach for. Nonetheless, I can’t stop myself from clicking on every MS-Optical post and I am intrigued by the mythical Miyazaki. Perhaps this is my opportunity to join the cult and who wouldn’t want a lens cap size lens. Right? REVIEW COMING SOON (maybe)
- Voigtlander Color Skopar 24mm f/4: REVIEW COMING SOON
- Handevision Iberit 24mm f/3.5: I am not one to bet against the Chinese but so far my experience with the Chinese lenses hasn’t been great. I am taking this one under consideration and will decide shortly if it is worth my time to review. REVIEW COMING SOON (maybe)
- Canon 25mm f/3.5 LTM REVIEW COMING SOON.
- Nikon 25mm f/3.5 LTM. These are rare and hard to find. If one comes up for sale for a reasonable price I will consider it but because they are so rare, reviewing a lens nobody can find is about as useful as a glass hammer.
- This “zoom with your feet” and “you only need one lens” nonsense is dumb. If it were even remotely true they never would have invented zoom lenses. People could just walk and talk and get killed by busses as they backed up into the street. My bet is that people who say this also know it isn’t true and they actually own a bunch of lenses. They just want to sound smart/contrarian on the internet. Different focal lengths give you different amounts of compression and appearance to the final image. Everyone knows that too.
- Mostly for times when I am shooting adapted to the Panasonic S1 and because I own a Visoflex and M10. I can’t ever see using one with film.
- There is more to this story and I have a full post on this coming soon. It is a little more complicated than people in the forums make it seem. Epilogue: I bought an external finder.
- In some corners of the USA fake breasts are known as “bolt on’s.”