The Return of Leica’s Legendary Soft-Focus Thambar Lens


The return of a classic, even legendary, 1935 Leica lens has photographers the world over eager with anticipation for its market availability. If you know anything about your lens craft then you know what we’re talking about – the Thambar lens, a lens with a spherical aberration that creates ethereally soft images and was produced in painfully limited numbers, is the definition of a rare item.

Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, chairman of the supervisory board of Leica Camera AG and the company's majority shareholder, called the images of people produced by the Thambar lens “romantic” but was quick to add that “landscapes too are raised to a higher, incomparably aesthetic plane.”

The original Thambar lens from 1935 was part of a limited production, 3,000 lens run – making it a coveted object among photographers and Leica collectors.

It stands out among Leica lenses from the era in that most lenses from that period emphasize sharpness of image rather than the rather dream-state quality of photos produced by Thambar lenses.

Leica Thambar-M lens via Leica Camera blog.

This rarity also adds to the lens’ mystique among Leica collectors and photographers. Lars Netopil on the Leica Camera blog speculates that a pristine condition Thambar lens set from 1935 would be a rare item to find, not to mention one with its original packaging included.

Netopil thinks photographers want to explore lenses from the past in an effort to reconnect with some of the aesthetics of those periods. This connection to the past plays a large part in a photographer's desire to begin experimenting with different historic lenses to capture pictures.

The new Thambar line will begin production in November 2017 and should feature a much larger production volume according to Leica.

The Leica Thambar-M f2.2 90mm will be an accurate reproduction that takes most of its elements from the original design with the exception of of it being an M-mount rather than L-mount lens.

Leica’s press is emphasizing the design cues the new Thambar-M takes from the original 1935 lens, “The black paint finish, the proportions of the lens and its aperture engravings in red and white correspond to the appearance of the original. In addition to this, slight modifications have been made that bring the lens into line with the current, minimalist design of modern M-Lenses. These include the knurling, the lettering and scales and the specific use of sharp edges and bevelling that underline the precision of the lens design.”

Thambar’s lens design produces what Leica calls “its characteristic soft-focus effect and unmistakeable bokeh” and can be used in multiple photographic settings according to Leica’s press release – the so-called “higher plane” referenced by Dr. Kaufmann.

The Thambar-M will join the other Leica M lenses and will have a retail price of approximately £5095 or $US 6495.

Leica Thambar-M lens capture via Leica Camera blog.

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Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

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