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Just because someone makes something doesn’t mean you need to own it. I include anything sold to dudes with beards and Blundstones under the moniker of EDC (everyday carry) in that list. EDC is anti kryptonite for dudes who pray to the altar of the ice bath. 

Mashing up utility, preparedness, and a desire to be either MacGyver or Christian Bale Batman (or both), somebody created the need for RFID-blocking titanium wallets, Horween leather key organizers, bespoke knives made from the penis bone of a grass-fed ox, tactical pens, and Moleskine notebooks so the EDC clan can journal about anxiety, kettlebells, and all of the reasons they carry around this $hit in an EDC bag before unloading aforementioned $hit on a dedicated EDC tray before photographing it all with window light for the bro’s on IG. #pocketdump #edc #bestedc #pouchboiz #whatsinyourpocket #notorousedc #edccommunity

An argument can be made that 75mm lenses are the EDC of the rangefinder camera world and am about to make that argument. Spoiler alert: I will then immediately recant it because I am only about 57% certain about my assessment of 75mm rangefinder lenses. For the record, I am 94% certain of my assessment of EDC. 

I am asked about 75mm lenses all the time The following is my rationale for why I don’t own and have not tested 75mm lenses. 

EDC flatlay midjourney

Reason 1: A rangefinder camera is at its best between 28mm and 50mm. 

I used to try to make a rangefinder do all sorts of stupid things like macro, action, and telephoto photography. Ultra-wide photography fared a bit better than those three but you still need an external finder to frame your picture which is moderately annoying. Somewhere along the way, I got tired of bolt-ons like visoflexes, viewfinder magnifiers, and external viewfinders. These days, I have pretty much stopped trying to make a rangefinder do things it wasn’t really designed to do. 

Shooting telephoto has always been moderately annoying with a rangefinder. I realize that there are 75mm, 135mm, and 90mm frame lines but they are difficult to use and, in my hands at least, they are not the sweet spot for a rangefinder. 75mm is the best of the three but as you go longer in focal length, the focus area gets smaller which makes it more difficult to obtain critical focus without bolt-ons. 

If I am shooting telephoto with a rangefinder, it is because I am playing with background compression or am too scared or too lazy to walk toward what I am shooting. If I am stalking indigeni while traveling, and I think they will punch me in the face and steal my camera if I ask if I can take their picture, I go for the 90. 75 isn’t enough protection.

This is really the main reason I don’t shoot a 75mm lens.  Everything else is secondary. 

Reason 2: 50mm is good enough for portraits. 

Like many, I prefer a longer focal length lens for tight portraits. If I am shooting important portraits, however, I will leave the rangefinder home and 1) I will use auto eye focus and an 85mm lens on digital because auto eye focus is so amazing it trumps the groovy analog vibes of my M10 or 2)  I will grab a Hasselblad with a 150mm lens if I am shooting film portraits. 

There are times when I need to do an on-the-fly portrait with a rangefinder, or I am traveling,  I find the 50mm lens is perfectly capable.  50mm is wide enough that I don’t have an anxiety attack worrying about eyes being out of focus and it is long enough I can control the background a bit. If you are recoiling in horror at the thought of shooting a 50mm portrait because of all of the distortion and how your subject will look like a gerbil-faced alien (or Madonna in 2023), I have some shocking news. The difference between 50mm and 75mm is real but something you can work around. 

I know this because I had Midjourney make me two images. The following is an imagined image of a woman in the Himalayas with a 50mm lens: 

The following is an imagined image of a woman in the Himalayas with a 75mm lens:

You see? No real difference. They both look like cheesy, fake images of fake people.    If there was, in fact, a big difference between 50mm and 75mm, the all-knowing AI would have been able to understand that difference and one fake Himalayan lady’s face would look like a stuffed pumpkin and the other would look like something in a McCurry retrospective.  

I have no idea if I am giving AI too much credit in 2023 but my gut is that this whole discussion of allowing AI to make decisions for us is stupid and I am upset I wasted a week with this Midjourney only to learn that stock photography is dead and commercial photography will be alive and kicking for at least a little while longer. I give you permission to ignore the hype for at least another 96 hours.  

In the meantime, the real reason that I know – with absolute certainty – that your subjects won’t care if you use a 50mm or 75mm lens is because the rest of the world excluding you, me, and the camera nerds who spout nonsense in the forums just use an iPhone which has a 28mm (or wider) lens and they are super stoked about the way they look in their selfies.  You and I both know they look like pregnant squirrels with acorns in their cheeks but if they don’t care about their squirrel-faced selfies, they certainly won’t care about the difference between 50mm and 75mm when all is said and done. 

I promise. This whole distortion thing is real but overblown.  

What isn’t overblown is how stupid your gerbil-faced subjects will make you feel when they tell you that their iPhone takes better pictures than your Leica because their eyes are out of focus in the picture you shot with your fancy pants 75mm lens. 

Ill take a little bit of a 50mm squirrel face over 75mm out-of-focus eyes any day. I can focus a 50mm lens at close range better than I can focus a 75mm and this was before my eyes went to glop

Reason 3: 28,50,90 OR 35

I have two modes when I am out shooting with a rangefinder. 

  • Mode 1: camera and a camera bag.
  • Mode 2: camera and no camera bag 

When I am in mode 1, I am bringing a bag because I want to carry additional lenses. My favorite focal length for a rangefinder is 50mm. To compliment the 50mm,  I bring a 28mm and 90mm. 75mm is too close to 50mm so if I am going long (which almost never happens) I am gong all the way to 90.  

When I am in mode 2, I just bring a 35mm lens and a camera. 35mm is the most boring focal length but when I only bring one lens, it is a 35. For a while I tried using my 40mm but it was a pain in the ass so I stopped. 

In this paradigm, given that my 50mm lens is not negotiable, I don’t have much need for a 75mm lens. 

Reason 4: AI is here and I am going to use it. 

I used to own 300mm and 400 mm lenses for commercial work. They were huge and made me feel badass. Somewhere along the way I got tired of lugging them around and started using a 200mm lens with a teleconverter. If I need more resolution or sharpness than the teleconver allows, I run the images through Topaz Gigapixel AI and Topaz Sharpen AI. I found that nobody knows or cares. 

As an example, I was charged to photograph this little dude skiing. I was told that I could stay in the corral up on the hill by the finishing gate but upon arrival I was told to go back down the mountain and stand in the corral with the parents. This was a less than ideal situation for my 200mm lens. I didn’t even bring the teleconverter but it didn’t matter. This was the picture in camera. 

This was the crop after AI upscaling and sharpening.  

This example shows that, at least when I am shooting digital, if I need more resolution to crop an image, I can make it happen in a pinch with  wider lens + AI and don’t need to resort to lugging around a 75mm lens. Of course that isn’t the same as shooting a 75mm lens because the compression is different but it is kind of sort of the same thing that Leica tells me I can do with my Q2 by cropping a 28mm image to make a 50mm image. Right?

The question you should be asking is why I chose a picture of this kid skiing to make a point about AI when I could have just grabbed any 50mm Leica digital image…upscaled it and…made the same point.  I don’t have a great answer for you. I didn’t think about it until after this post was done. Oh well. 

Bottom line/shopping for a 75mm rangefinder lens in 2023:

I don’t currently own a 75mm lens. Now you know my reasons. Now that I wrote this post and I am stuck on 75mm lenses, I am no longer positive my assessment is even any good.  Specifically, I am thinking more and more about the 35mm + 75mm use case.  I am so activated about that possibility, I am in the process of offloading a 28mm lens and started shopping for a 75mm lens.  The good news is that there aren’t all that many options so shopping is easy. Here is my approach to shopping for a 75mm rangefinder lens: 

  • Leica: 
    • Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 APSH: falls outside the LLFNP price range and who needs to shoot a f/1.25 with a 75mm lens anyway? Seems excessive.
    • Leica Summilux-M 75mm f/1.4: falls outside the LLFNP price rang
    • Leica APO Summicron M 75mm f/2 ASPH: I am sure it is great but falls outside the LLFNP price range.
    • Leica Summarit M 75mm f/2.4 or f/2.5: You already know I love the Summarit line of lenses. I am kicking myself for not picking up one of these when they were cheap. These days they are way more expensive than the Voigtlander options. I am not sure a red dot is worth the money for me given how infrequently I use a telephoto lens on a rangefinder. 
  • Voigtlander: Voigtlander has been crushing it in the last few years. In the near future, I predict that you are going to find that someone more famous and better looking than me, probably with a YouTube channel,  comes along and says that the Leica renaissance was fueled by Voigtlander. I know so many Leica enthusiasts who own Voigtlander lenses it is hard to imagine a world where the Leica renaissance happened if Voigtlander didn’t make Leica accessible to so many enthusiasts. You heard it here first.  Mark my words. Here are the Voigtlander options. The weight and size will become important in a minute.
    • Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 (738 mm, 423g)
    • Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f/1.5 ASPH (634 mm, 350g) 
    • Voigtlander 75mm f/1.9 Ultron (541mm, 290g) 
  • Zeis:
    • Zeiss Tele-Tessar T* ZM 85mm f/4 ZM. Don’t do stupid things. Unless you have a Zeiss Ikon, you don’t have frame lines for an 85mm lens. If this was 10 years ago, you might fuss with this. Now that Voigtlander is crushing the game, there is no reason to play with this one. 
    • 7 Artisans: There are so many YouTube videos saying how good these lenses are for the money. There are so many advertisements reviews saying the same thing. What if I told you that I know of at least one reviewer who gave it a glowing review then turned around and offloaded it about 5 minutes later? The biggest issue for the 75mm 7 Artisans lens is that the Voigtlander lenses are only slightly more pensive so it is hard to justify an artisanal lens given how good the Voigtlander lenses are lately, I don’t actually see the value proposition that everyone else is talking about. Please stop with the starter lenses.
      • 7 Artisans Photo electric 75mm f/1.25 M:
      • Meyer Optic: I have no experience with the new Meyer-Optic Lenses. I can’t speak to them one way or the other.
        • Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Primoplan 75mm f/1.9 II Lens: 

        I might be missing some but that is really the landscape of 75mm rangefinder lenses right after that balloon was shot down and right before All Quiet On The Western Front wins an Oscar (fingers crossed for that one anyway). This is how I am going to approach shopping for a 75mm lens. 

        1. If I decide to go with Leica, I will get the Summarit 75mm f/2.4. In my hands all of the other Summarit lenses are excellent and f/2.4 is as fast as I would ever really need or want for a tele lens on a rangefinder. 
        2. If I want to save about $400-500,  I would get one of the Voigtlander options. It would probably be the Nokton. The Heliar is getting dated at this point. It might still be a solid performer but why seek it out? Given the current price of the old Heliar on eBay and the size (it is larger than the newer offerings) I would be more inclined to go with either the new Nokton or the soon-to-be-released Ultron. Assuming Voigtlander follows the pattern in other focal lengths, the Nokton will be the modern rendering lens and the Ultron will be the groovy retro rendering lens. This would explain the smaller size of the ultron. At this point in time, personally, I would get the Nokton over the Summarit. #lostmyfanboycardagain. 


        NOTE: if you followed me on instagram, you would know why all of the images in this post were made by AI or had AI processing. Pretty gross right?