Monday, 28 August 2017

Hektor...long lived lens... or not?

The classic Leica reference books have the Hektor f2.5 50mm standard lens as appearing in 1931 , peaking in 1932, and tailing off in production in 1940. There was a possible  revival in 1946-1948 when 71 may have been made which may be due to using up of surplus production in stock after the War,  BUT the very fact that these later lenses were made cannot be substantiated according to reliable sources.  I wonder if the post war 71 units were older lenses returned for coating?

Now  l have come across a comment by Fr. Willy Frerk the Editor of Photofreund who was a correspondent of English Magazines in pre- war days. This is dated January 1938 when it is reported that the Hektor has been so much surpassed by the faster Summar f2.0 standard lens the'it is hardly ever asked for now' and has been discontinued. Given that Leica made some 27000 Summar lenses that year it certainly seems to have had it's day.  Not only that but the company made 11000 of its new and so much better Summitar only the next year!

Guess Who?- It's that man again......

The name I refer to today has gone from the London  LEICA scene in recent years but from the 1930's until recently could be relied upon for specialist Leica advice and sales.  At one time there were associated stores in provincial cities and in fact I bought my first 35mm camera in one of these in 1960, in fact from the Bristol branch. The name is of course R.G.Lewis, famous for the traditional address of  202 High Holborn, London.

It was only recently that I learnt that the proprietor was the son of the named 'R.G.Lewis' and is more correctly named as Norman Lewis. Born in 1908 Norman enjoyed a long and diverse life  and passed away in 2003, aged 94.

My reading of  pre-war magazines concerning amateur photography often show up articles and features written by R.G. Lewis chiefly concerning travel in, for that time, exotic places such as the Balkans and the Middle East. He was an A.R.P.S. under the name of his father. While he produced many excellent photographs with the Leica in a distinctive style the true nature of  his work comes to light in a massive Biography minutely researched and written by Julian Evans. In fact,  a photo essay of Arabian buildings in the M.C.M ,  August 1938,  with technical details,  is revealed as an intelligence gathering expedition of a year or two prior to that date, on behalf of this country. One presumes the seven kilometer drive up the bed of a river in the Balkans which wrote off a Ford V8 was also at the public expense!

Lewis' long life enabled him to have raced Bugatti cars at Brooklands and yet travelled in South America with Lord Snowdon. His exotic lifestyle having been, in part, financed by the Leica Shops and associated photographic business ventures, which enabled  him to act as a part time British Intelligence agent- a spy. His War was spent in the Intelligence Corps and his post war writing in novels and travel were copious. Nothing of the extra curricular activities appears in the Wikipedia entry but I recommend the 792 pages of 'Semi Invisible Man' by Julian Evans ( Pub, Jonathan Cape 2008) for much, much, fuller detail.

The reason I have set the scene for the Blog today is the complete anonymity  he enjoyed for years and appeared to never seek recognition. However the pictures in the Biography are distinctive and he could hardly be confused with anyone else as a very smart dresser with distinctive facial hair, Leading on from this is a portrait which appears in the  M.C.M. of December 1937.credited to Leo.A.Leigh A.R.P.S.(later F.R.P.S). who was sadly killed in a motor accident early in the War.It is part of his essay on copying and forms an end-piece.It cannot be anyone but 'R G Lewis'

Sunday, 20 August 2017

There are ways of adjusting your enlarging lens

The small size of the aperture lever on the 50mm Elmar standard camera lens did not prevent it's use on the classic Leitz enlargers despite the need to read a scale,  at a nigh impossible angle,  under the enlarger head.  Certainly , a fear of damage from lamp heat on Balsam layers could be set aside for short exposures with a 75 watt lamp and was in many cases more theoretical than real.

Those who chose the high wattage options such as 100, or 250 watt had a mains resistance to cut down power except during exposure which would have been brief. To assist the setting of accurate stops a device was almost unavoidable and needless to say the factory came up with the answer.

VALOO was a clamp on ring fitting over the front plate of a 50mm Elmar, or in an alternative a Hektor, standard lens. A concentric ring grasped the miniscule stop setting block and the device had a duplicate scale engraved where it could be seen.Several types of this basic item exist and they were also produced by Cooke, among others, A simple enough device but just make sure it is intended for your lens otherwise problems will arise. An extension of the use is that the ring can be secured  as an effective lens hood. In later days the Elmar became upgraded to a larger item with slots to engage devices on the front ring.The Valoo was so upgraded to a massive ring which finds some uses in close up and bellows work to solve  similar problems.

The Code words are VALOO for the small unit from 1948 with click stops and VALAU for the pre war unit without them.  This earlier unit was in chrome rather than black and had relative exposure stops i.e 1,2,3,4,6,10.  The unit for Hektor is rarer but was coded VOOLQ and only, I think, made pre war.  The later code number was 16620. The larger unit is marked VTOOX for Elmar only. It also exists as VTROO for the Summicron. For every one hundred mentions of the small type one sees perhaps one of the larger type- but that does not make them rare or collectable. Rather, they came along when the SLR had commanded the world stage.

1.Showing the slot for the Elmar aperture block.
2.  External appearance.
3.  The later large unit with two coupling pegs.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

What was all that about Newton's Rings?

Not a scientific article,but the concept of Newton's Rings is fairly well known to all Leica workers who are warned at every turn to beware of the optical effect in printing. The rings are a rainbow coloured interference effect,  named after the Gravity man,  that appears when a spherical surface touches a flat surface- so lots of scope for trouble with enlargers , film etc.   It is usually accepted that the condenser surface is the flat surface and the film provides the sphere even in a Leica enlarger. This will be evident as a flaw in a print but I have never come across one in Black and White printing where I tend to use well dried negatives which have had a day or two  in a warm atmosphere. In this case the effect is reduced and even simple use made of the template in early Leica Guides will solve the problem. In this solution a paper or acetate shim is cut to size and used on top of the negative holder on the Focomat or Valoy thus ensuring that the condenser does not contact the negative. (By the way,  this can be cut from red acetate sheet at negligible cost to replace missing red windows in an elderly negative carrier)

Where the rings came into their own is in colour slide mounting (remember that?) where fortunes were made and lost in the production of special glass mounts to avoid the rings becoming obvious in projection where they move about with film flexing under heat. Not only were the rings seen clearly with plain glass but the surface of the anti newton glass could be focussed on the screen.

Just a few of the avoiding measures taken in the 1950's - some under licence from Leitz,  made by PerroColor in Switzerland marked NEWLO for etched glass mounts.Those who projected Kodak slides as they arrived in card mounts had to put up with (unsharp) popping of the film until Leitz came along with curved field lenses late in the day.Note the reliance on masks to maintain separation of film and glass.

Avoidance of the optical effects in prints led to a number of DIY solutions.  However, a high tech correction is available.  Leica marketed the solution for the Focomat which is an etched plate of Anti-Newton glass in a mount to fit over the condenser with a brass ring to raise the condenser a little - about 3mm, to preserve free movement. The Valoy 11 has a different condenser mounting and the solution was to make the later Valoy condensers  available finished in an Anti-Newton surface. You still need the ring to modify an early Valoy,  without the later type condenser being to hand,  making use of a separate anti-newton glass.

These components have been hard to find at this late stage and command high prices. However some perfectly acceptable Japanese copies have been hand made in limited numbers and one is included in the illustrations below.

I believe the correct codes are NESOO for the Glass disc in mount to fit over the original condenser with the spacer ring required and  17507 for the later etched condenser for the Valoy 11, or 17634 for the Valoy 1. (They certainly think of everything!)  Neither have any engraving that will assist identification. An older metal mask offered as a solution was in effect a factory made equivalent of the  acetate mask and is  listed as NEWOO in some books of reference and dated as introduced in 1951. This photo shows the factory glass plate and adjusting ring, together with the Japanese version which is only finished in black in the light path. The second Brass ring-more a shim- seems to be in place on all Focomat enlargers, I suspect to reduce friction in the condenser lowering mechanism. All comments welcome.

The Japanese product is pleasing and has been in use. You may wish to see the instructions........
Now,  Any Questions?

Monday, 14 August 2017

The Book Review-pure fiction + coffee developer!

In the few moments I get left over after reading and re-reading  'Snow Canvas' , 'My Leica and I' ,and 'Living Leica'  (1956 edition,  of course)  few other books or subjects attract my attention.

However, one that did arrive , via Amazon, is a detective mystery.The title is 'The Dead in their Vaulted Arches'

I have found that I only enjoy this type of book when I am able to read most of a series with the same characters such  the Bryant and May series  by Christopher Fowler, The Powerscourt series of David Dickinson,  Edward Marston on Railways and the unique series of Martin Beck books which when read in order and arranged by the spine will spell Martin Beck!

If I still have your attention I shall introduce the latest in the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley (pub. Orion 2014). Again, a series is involved and number 6 has proved to be of interest to me as a darkroom worker. In short this is the adventure of the younger daughter of an impoverished Colonel with a country house left to decay on the death of his wife, the owner, in 1939. Her body is recovered just post war and his daughter is astounded to be picked out as her true successor by Sir Winston Churchill as the body arrives home.The heroine is found to have inherited all the amazing intellectual ability of her Mother, included is an inherited Leitz brass microscope.  In the course of the adventures of this patriotic family the young lady discovers her mother's last home movie undeveloped and manages to develop it using strong coffee and reversal chemicals, all described in detail,  together with the manufacture if a safelight and a reel! Needless to say the film is a key to the solution of many things.

All very' Ripping Yarn' stuff and by no means the end of the series, which continues, but readable as a stand alone book or preferably after the minor characters are introduced by earlier books. Given the Boy's Own storyline I found the presence of points 'For Discussion' and an interview with the Author, at the end, just a little strange unless I have got hold of a School Edition-I think not.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Don't forget the Valoy 11......

When the time came to discontinue the Valoy 11 it was called the finest manual enlarger available and Leica fans were scouring  dealers to snap up the last few in stock. The last of the line is a superb machine and those still available illustrate the hard wearing properties of the machine which still looks very modern (as enlargers go!) especially in gray/blue finish. What more could a black and white worker ask for? Just add a Focotar 2 ( or large element "1.5") and off we go!

(Canadian issue of leaflet-17-3c)

A enlarger guidebook- v35 oddity in print

One of the rarer publications concerning the v35 Focomat  is the colour booklet shown below.This runs to 96 colour pages all in cartoon format which relates the story of purchase and colour printing by a v35 using a young couple as examples. Given the price of the machine it was probable that the average age of a purchaser in UK was about the same as some Honda cars of the time -which was revealed as  not young

In true Enid Blyton manner the young people are provided with a Mentor, Uncle John,an Airline Pilot, who is an expert colour printer. This rather strange book carries the Leitz trade mark and the usual serial numbering as a Leitz issue publication , it would be interesting to learn how it came to be authorised.  Get one now-if any more have survived!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Leitz Literature and Design-

Three Leitz publications came my way a few days ago and it was interesting to note the evolution in design that they illustrate.  It goes without saying that those likely to be reading this will be well aware that there has been only one basic change in the design of Leica direct viewing cameras since the 1920's which was the arrival of the M3 in the 1950's and the change to bayonet lens mounts.

The design of enlargers  was equally timeless and I could go back to well pre war days to,  more or less,  match the illustrations of the Focomat enlargers shown.  These underwent their own screw/bayonet moment shortly after the War and then changed little until the v35 came along.I would say these leaflets cover the period 1950-1970 , approximately.

And here is one of the older leaflets in the English edition from December 1937 which shows the classic Focomat 1 which appears Blog passim on this site.