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My excitement for rangefinder cameras and rangefinder lenses waxes and wanes depending on what projects I am working on, how much I am traveling, how annoyed I am by shopping for rangefinder lenses on the used market, and, lately, my eyesight. 

The following is a chart of my excitement for rangefinder lenses over time. 

A. Initial excitement over finally owning a rangefinder camera
B. Realizing that I can’t reliably focus a 90mm lens at f/2.8 with a rangefinder
C. Realizing that I dislike carrying around really expensive things even tough I can afford them.
D. Sending in my Summicron 35mm ASPH to get fixed because the focus was off
E. Bokeh depression and not understanding why people are taking pictures of garden gnomes and parked cars with huge rangefinder lenses
F. Used Summarit lenses advertised for >$2000
G. Leica releases $8000 Summicron-M
H. I get old, my LASIK surgery wears off, I need distance and reading glasses after 20 years of being spectacle-free. 
I. Send a letter to Leica asking to re-release the Summarit lens line or another budget line of lenses.
J. Voigtlander Mea culpa
K. Omnar Lenses launch fall 2021.

Things are on an upswing lately. The rangefinder world is interesting and it is even possible that the bokeh wars of 2018-2021 may soon come to an end. 

My Voigtlander Mea Culpa

I started my dive into the rabbit hole of rangefinder lenses at a time where one could reasonably say that putting a non-Leica lens on a Leica body was some sort of transgression, Zeiss was the next best alternative to Leica, and Voigtlander was as distant third. There wasn’t much else to talk about. 

Time went on, we had a pandemic, Kanye gets divorced, rangefinder lenses (even used rangefinder lenses) sell for astronomical prices, I get emails about Zeiss wobble, and Voigtlander makes moves that, even if you never intend to own a Voigtlander lens, you should appreciate. 

First, in late 2020 and 2021 Voigtlander updated a bunch of their lenses. I didn’t review them in my initial round-up of 35mm and 50mm lenses because they are a bit large for my taste and the timing wasn’t right. More than a few of you are asking for comparisons with the 35 and 50mm Summicrons. Given that I might be shooting more and more mirrorless in the future (these spectacles I am not forced to wear are killing me) so I can justify as bit extra size than I like with a rangefinder,  I am going to revisit the Voigtlander APO-LANTHAR 35mm f/2.0, Voigtlander 35mm F/2 ultron, and the similar 50mm lenses in the near future. What can be said, at least based on my experience with the V. 2 28mm Ultron Vintage lens and in unsponsored discussions with happy Voigtlander users is that the old adage that Zeiss was the first best after Leica needs to be reconsidered. 

Second, Voigtlander should be commended for their Classic line of lenses. I can’t imagine that everyone will be excited about them but if you are looking for a vintage style lens and you don’t want to deal with the used market, look no further than Voigtlander. With their 35mm and 50mm classic lenses they have given us an option at Voigtlander but I think it is pretty bold for a company to service the nichiest niche of a niche market with throwback style lenses. Kudos. Full stop.

Are you digging my Voigtlander Mea Culpa yet? 

Omnar Lenses

In late 2021, Omnar lenses is set to release their first masterpiece which is a rehoused Canon A10 lens. if you are scratching your head you should be. I didn’t know what a Canon A10 was either. Maybe you don’t want a fixed f/6 lens rehoused from a point-and-shoot camera but that is entirely unimportant to this discussion and misses the bigger picture.  

That lens is an opening salvo demonstrating their palmares in lens production and the lengths to which they will go to satisfy their own curiosity. This is a breath of fresh air in the rangefinder world. If you cant see that this is important let me break it down for you. 

If you are reading this you are a member of a niche club who breathes the rarified air of rangefinder lenses.  If you have a rangefinder, you are also at least peripherally into the whole camera thing. That isn’t a criticism. I am right there with you. You are permitted to ignore the naysayers who say gear is unimportant. 

To prove my thesis, please choose from the following:

Question 1: Pick your music

  1. Big Audio Dynamite
  2. Debbie Gibson

Question 2: Pick your movie

  1. Clerks
  2. Kindergarten Cop

Question 3: Pick your TV show

1. The Squid Game 
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire

I would be willing to bet that most of you picked A, A, A. Perhaps there are a few Kindergarten Cop hold outs but you are few and far between. Assuming I am right, I could have also added the following question. 

Question 4: Pick your lens 

  1. Zeiss
  2. Omnar
  3. MS-Optical
  4. B and C

If you have any continuity in your decision making you should have picked B, C or, likely D even if you don’t know what Omnar is (yet). To some degree neither do I. 

What I do know is that Omnar is the brainchild of Skyllaney Opto-mechanics and Hamish Gill of  Skyllaney is bringing their attention to detail and lens expertise to the table while Hamish Gill is bringing his brand of Sonnar-loving evil genius. It is also important to note that Camerakote is rounding out the production crew. 

Cream, Humble Pie, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes, Omnar. See where this is going?

I am excited more about Omnar than I have been about the rangefinder world in a while. Rehoused lenses are exciting and I am excited to see what they do with their upcoming line of original Omnar lenses. 

Gratuitous bokeh and unnecessarily large rangefinder lenses go the way of teal and orange instagram photos, fidget spinners, and selfie sticks

This is a prediction. My predictions are generally wrong. If they weren’t I would be picking stocks rather than writing about lenses that most of the world doesn’t care about. That this with a grain of salt. 

Nonetheless, I am seeing some signs that the gratuitous bokeh craze in photography is dying a slow death. We can thank “portrait mode” and The Artisans for that. 

The signals I am seeing are from normal people with cell phones who thought portrait mode was nifty at the start but no longer use it because it either looks fake, looks fake enough that other people think it looks stupid, or isn’t worth the 2 seconds to activate portrait mode.

This trend follows the rule of the selfie stick and the fidget spinner. For about 5 minutes everyone wanted a fidget spinner and/or a selfie stick, then when they were at the checkout of every gas station people recoiled in horror at the thought of owning either. The law of the fidget spinner is that if everyone has something then nobody wants it. 

With rangefinder lenses, everyone now has access to relatively affordable, gratuitous, bokeh. The main image might be unsharp (which nobody seems to mind) but the bokeh is nice.  We can thank The Artisans and their ultrafast rangefinder lenses for that. I am not currently reviewing the Artisans products because I don’t think they make sense for me but I find it exciting that other people are using them and The Artisans have given everyone an additional alternative to the inflated rangefinder prices on the used market. They should be commended. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, according to the law of the fidget spinner, if everyone has something nobody will want it and I am starting to feel that might be the case with bokeh for the sake of bokeh. By coming out of the gate with an f/6 lens, Omnar might be saying that the end of gratuitous bokeh is near. I hope the lesson of Omnar is that is that rangefinder lenses should preferably be small, portable, and maybe a little weird. 

That is why you shoot a rangefinder camera Isn’t it? You aren’t shooting rangefinders for the bokeh, are you? If so, we need to talk. 

Disclosure statement: This article and this entire website is #notsponsored

The header image was used with permission from Omnar.