The Lomography Atoll 17mm f / 2.8 M-Mount Lens: Get up close and personal with your subject. No closer. No really, come a little closer …
It’s just a bit of fun with my Leica M6 and the new Leica M-Mount Lomography Atoll 17mm f / 2.8 wide-angle lens. This isn’t really a review, it certainly isn’t too technical, and I’m not going to talk about the edge sharpness at f / 4 or the micro-contrast of the lens: it’s a user’s experiences and opinions about the lens.
I’ve probably shot 150+ pictures now – all with my Leica M6 TTL – so I feel like I have an idea of what it’s good for and what’s not good for.
If you read EMULSIVE, or 35mmc, or one of several other film photography blogs that you’re likely to have GAS on from time to time. I definitely do. And you’ve likely had experiences similar to mine on Kickstarter. I guess I have a 60/40 failure / success rate: some that never happened, one that I don’t expect will happen, some that were disappointing, and of course some that were great.
When I saw Lomography’s campaign for a 17mm WIDE angle lens in early 2021, two thoughts occurred to me: “That seems very funny” and “They are an established brand, I suppose they use them Kickstarter to gauge potential sales and they probably won’t run away with my money. “.
So I chose a promise and made a commitment. Lots of regular updates. The lens arrived on schedule in late August. The way Kickstarter is supposed to work.
It’s solid and feels well made. It definitely gives the impression that it will last longer than a 7artisans / TTartisans lens. It’s a bit heavy – 500 g with both caps – but it’s not stupidly heavy. I’ve used it on my Leica M6 and while it definitely makes the camera heavy, it’s still very usable.
But for my workflow, it’s a small process:
Step one: Measure with the camera’s viewfinder and choose your aperture and shutter speed. I’m useless when it comes to Sunny 16. I understand the theory, but I am struggling to get it to work. That’s why I prefer a camera with a built-in measuring device.
Small problem # 1: It’s a clickless aperture ring – I suppose for cinema use? – and I accidentally keep moving it when I concentrate.
Step two: Focus using the camera’s viewfinder. Okay, maybe you don’t have to. A 17mm lens at f / 5.6 – as indicated on the lens – has a hyperfocal range of 0.9m to infinity. So you can just leave it at f / 5.6 or smaller and not bother with the focus ring too much. I think when I keep my eye on the viewfinder I like to see the rangefinder patches lined up.
Step three: Compose with the hot shoe viewfinder that came with the lens and press the shutter button.
Small problem # 2: The viewfinder is cheap plastic nonsense. It almost shows the correct field of vision. Almost. Things I’m SURE I had in the viewfinder weren’t negative. I don’t know how much more a “nice” external viewfinder would have cost, but it would probably have been worth it.
How wide is a 17mm lens on 35mm film?
I used to think 35mm was a wide angle lens. Then I went really far: 28mm. Then I borrowed a 24mm Canon tilt / shift lens for an architectural project for a few months.
OMG 17mm is WID E.
The subject in almost every picture on the first roll that I took is a little thing somewhere in the middle.
The lens needs instructions like: “Come closer. Come very close now. Can you come closer? Good, do that. Fill the frame!” I could have sworn the ball almost bumped against the lens in this picture:
When you go inside, the space is captured without having to take two or more images and stitch them together in Lightroom
You may be interested in …
Perhaps the best way to show the field of view is to make a few comparisons. I live near the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne and if you are a fan of Victorian architecture or the mid-19th century international exhibition movementNS Century is worth a look.
Camera, tripod, $ 4 spirit level, and lenses ready, this is what 50mm and 17mm look like from the same position:
… and for those of you who prefer a traditional side-by-side model (click / tap to zoom).
So what is it good for and what wouldn’t I use it for?
It’s probably not a great lens for ‘traditional’ open street photography as it’s a little hard to be sincere when you almost have to slide the lens in someone’s face to fill the frame, although I can imagine one Bruce guild wannabe gives him a try.
And no, it’s not a portrait lens. Certainly not if you’d like the topic to speak to you again, although it’s fun to snap a photo over the table at a dim sum lunch, my lunch buddy smile, the remains of our food, and most of it of the restaurant in the frame.
For me, it will find its most use in expansive landscapes, crazy interiors, and architecture. It’s not a high quality lens like a Canon 17mm T / S, but it doesn’t pretend to be either. If you take care to keep the plane of the film parallel to the subject, distortion and keystone distortion are acceptable and easy to fix.
Another side by side:
And sometimes the distortion adds to the picture:
I had a great time on a recent visit to Sydney – my first trip from Melbourne this year, thank you Mr. COVID-19 – hunting for brutalist architecture, snapping up some art and the interiors of some Sydney pubs famous for cold Beer and horseshoe bars.
Is the M-Mount Lomography Atoll 17mm f / 2.8 a guardian? Will it use a lot? Ask me again in 12 months. Right now the answers are tending towards “no” for both, but I haven’t tossed it on my Sony A7 to see how it fares there. But it’s a lot of fun – as long as you get CLOSE!
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