The old Leica Thambar 90mm f2.2 in the roaring twenties By Milan Swolfs

The old Leica Thambar 90mm f2.2 in the roaring twenties

By Milan Swolfs

Hi Steve!

With the new Leica Thambar-M 90 f/2.2 being released shipping I would like to share some photos taken with the old LTM mount Thamber.

The Thambar is a love or hate it lens. I think a lot of people donâ’t understand that this lens is capable of taking some nice portraits when used with the right light and the center spot filter.

I use the Thambar 90mm f/2.2 in LTM mount on my Leica Monochrom (CCD) version. Mostly I used the lens a little stopped down to achieve a certain sharpness combined with the Thambar’s famous glow.

I shoot a lot of burlesque shows, or events with a vintage theme like the Modern Times party in roaring 20s style where i shot these photos. Initially I took the Thambar with me as a backup lens but I shot a lot of backstage photos with it.

The Thambar is a lens which suits my style of old hollywood photography and I am sure as a photographer using the Thambar you can create your own distinguishable style.

I created a group on Facebook for this gorgeous lens and would love to invite you all to share you photos taken with the old and the new Thambar lens.

More of my work you can see on my website or follow me on Instagram

Thank you Steve for sharing my story.

Kind regards

Milan Swolfs
Antwerp Belgium



  1. Beautiful work Milan! Your images certainly recall the portraits of the stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, etc. This lens is one of the hardest of all to master, and you have done so. Bravo!

  2. You show that biting sharpness in a lens is not always the best choice for creating beautiful photographs.

  3. Her waist is crazy small. Most won’t notice this but this lens has a certain soul capturing ability along with the Monochrom. Unique and special. Looks like you and the actors had fun.

  4. Milan, you have really mastered this most difficult lens. Your images recall those dreamy portraits of the great Hollywood stars back in the Golden Age. Jean Harlow, Marlena Dietrich, Clara Bow and Mary Pickford. When I first saw your images on the Leica Forum, those are the images that immediately came to mind. I feel the Thambar does best when stopped down one stop from wide open too. I will continue to persevere with my LTM original version.

  5. Count me as one who doesn’t understand. How is it different from using a diffusion filter, or a $.10 piece of black pantyhose stretched over the lens? With the filter/pantyhose technique, you can have this effect with any lens and still have the option of removing it.

    • BTW, I’m not trolling or trying to be negative. I really do want to know if there’s something I’m missing. Feel free to educate me.

      And my compliments to Milan, I should have mentioned this in my earlier comment, but these are lovely photos.

      • 1+, James,
        It is a one-trick pony. I can see few instances in any year when I would need to ride said equine. Was puzzled by Wetzlar’s choice to reanimate this very old optic.

  6. Wow Milan! These shots are just beautiful. I came across the first shot of the girl with the eye in the mirror recently and thought – this is the photo that should be shown to anyone that rubbishes or misunderstands this lens. Just magical. But, now that I have seen the full set – I’m even more impressed.

  7. I actually love the way you achieve sharp images with painterly softness with this lens. It’s like all the details are there—hair, highlights in the eyes—but they appear painted, or impressed rather than simply captured. I definitely agree with your decision to use it stopped down, your pictures here are far better than all the others I’ve seen for the new Thambar promos. I think using it wide open is like painting a watercolour with your paints absolutely saturated with water just because they’re called ‘watercolours’.

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