Blinded by Beauty
Following the re-issue of the Summaron-M 28 mm f/5.6, Leica are now further expanding their line of classic lenses with the Thambar-M 90 mm f/2.2. Once again, the exterior design has been carefully modified, while the optical calculations remain unchanged.
When the Thambar was originally released in 1935, Leica lenses were already renowned for their exceptionally sharp rendition. So it was all the more surprising when Leitz introduced a soft focus lens which – despite being named after the Greek term ‘thambo’, meaning ‘blurred’ – gave rise to images whose romantic aesthetics are not only unmatched by any other lens to this day, but also impossible to replicate in digital post-processing.
This makes the new Thambar-M an exciting counterpoint to Leica’s other 90mm focal length lenses, and allows the modern-day photographer to experience the unique characteristics of this classic lens; or as the Greek would say, ‘me thambose me teen omorfia tis’ – 'to be blinded by beauty.'
Breaking the Mold
Manufactured by Leitz from 1935, the Thambar 9cm f/2.2 achieved a relatively low production run of just 2,984 units, which partly explains its great popularity among collectors.
When developing the Thambar, the engineers surrounding Max Berek were able to draw on their vast expertise regarding the causes and correction of optical flaws, in order to design an intrinsically sharp lens which nevertheless permitted a carefully determined level of spherical aberrations – thus giving rise to the desired soft-focus effect. When the Thambar was first launched more than eighty years ago, it was intended for photography enthusiasts who were highly skilled at their craft.
Today, the ability to adjust images in the camera’s Live View monitor makes it even easier to achieve the desired results with this truly exceptional lens.
The Thambar’s distinctive, dreamily romantic look and unmistakeable bokeh are created by deliberately under-corrected spherical aberrations, along with a 20-bladed aperture for the circular rendition of out-of-focus highlights. Because the aberration increases towards the periphery of the optical system, both the extension of the depth of field and the degree of diffusion can be precisely controlled via the step-less aperture ring.
Widening the aperture increases the soft focus, whereas stopping down reduces the effect. The opaque area at the center of the included soft focus spot filter prevents the axial rays, which generate sharp focus, from reaching the sensor – resulting in an even more intense soft focus appearance.
State-of-the-art Lens Design
The new Thambar has almost entirely adopted the design of the original lens – featuring the same proportions, black paint finish and red and white aperture scales as its 1930s predecessor. The red scale applies when the center spot filter is in place, which diminishes the effective aperture of the lens – for example, from 2.2 to 2.3 when wide open. When working without the center spot filter, the white aperture scale is used. In order to retain its vintage appeal, the Thambar’s exterior has only been subtly adapted to reflect the pared-down character of contemporary M lenses. This takes the form of details such as the knurling,which is now in line with the standard Leica style generally used today, the lettering on the lens, which is inlaid in the now customary LG (Leitz Gravur) font, as well as the introduction of clear-cut edges and chamfers, which serve to emphasize the precision of the lens design.
The optical design of the new Thambar is almost identical to that of the original – the only difference being that the lens elements are now single-coated to protect the glass from environmental influences and corrosion. This also makes the new Thambar an intriguing addition for collectors, who are now able to use the lens in practice, without having to expose their vintage original to wear-and-tear.
Scope of delivery
As with the original Thambar of 1935, the lens hood, filter surround and both lens caps are made of metal. The hood can be attached to the lens back-to-front for compact transport.
Felt linings inside the lens hood and front cap serve to protect the metal surfaces from scratches.
A hard case in vintage brown leather keeps the Thambar perfectly secure, whereby the center spot filter can be safely stored in the lid. The leather case, designed to closely resemble the original sold more than eighty years ago, ensures excellent protection while on the move.