40mm, the blind frame
by Daniel Schaefer
40mm, the blind frame.
As any photographer building out a kit knows, the stresses of balancing both budget, and usability when purchasing lenses is always a daunting challenge. When I was an SLR shooter, I always tended towards two fields of view, primarily 35mm for my everyday carry, and 50mm for portrait work. I was however always frustrated by the limits of the two and found myself stuck switching more often than I would like.
I was never entirely able to settle the frame in a way that I liked, 35mm was near perfect horizontally, but for a vertical portrait I found it unflattering, the 50mm had the opposite issue, near flawless for the vertical frame, but far too tight for any horizontal image, far too isolating to show scene the way I wished I could.
I was one day lucky enough to be handed a friends beautiful silver M6, with the task of putting the long retired workhorse back to good use. The task then came down to finding a lens to put the camera to use with. I’ve spent the past few years doing freelance Vintage equipment maintenance, resale and repair, during that time a lens that came across my desk time and time again, yet never managed to catch my attention was the oft forgotten Leica/Minolta Rokkor 40mm f/2
The particular lens is an interesting amalgamation of German and Japanese construction, German optics, shipped in brass tubes to Japan to be assembled under the Minolta monicker. The one hazard, was the lack of 40mm frame lines on the M6, I had the 50mm, I had the 35mm, but for my new weapon of choice I needed to figure out a way to compose…
So, blind to the edges of my frame, I began shooting, both from my eye as per usual, but with my new-found freedom that ignorance of the frame gave me, I began for the first time, shooting almost exclusively from the hip. I began to learn the frame, roll after roll I began to learn the space that the lens occupied, near perfect both horizontally and vertically, the lens sang just as sweetly for street, or portraits.
I’ve been shooting almost exclusively with the 40mm for the past six months, both on the M6, and now an M9. I always approach equipment choice by wondering what story it might let me tell, and so far, I’m enjoying the one the 40mm is writing.
Photographer and Cinematographer
New York / Los Angeles / Firenze