The Mikra 1/3 – And Why You Need One Now

The Mikra 1/3 – And Why You Need One Now

The history of science is dotted with people who have said – “ What If? “ – and in many cases have levelled entire city blocks finding out. Photographers too, have uttered those words, but generally have only managed to blow the doors off the darkroom.

I have passed by the Leica 1F in the secondhand Leica cabinet for years – the one with the MIKRA 1/3 attachment on the front of it – with never more than a passing recognition that it is a camera that has been in service for years and has never actually been used all that much.

This is a camera that has been adapted for use on the eyepiece of a standard clinical microscope. I am willing to bet it lurked in the back cupboard of some university departmental lab since the late 1950’s and was rarely taken out. To turn around an old slogan – it’s had fewer shots than you’ve had hot dinners…

Well, the basic camera is a screw-mount body with no slow speeds, no finder, and a variable synchronising control. It could readily be adapted to modern life with a fast black and white film, a push in finder, and a screw-mount Leica lens – a collapsible Elmar would be perfect. Add a skinny bald Frenchman and you would have the perfect street combination…

But what does the MIKRA1/3 do? I coupled it up to an M39 / Fujifilm X adapter this seek to see. After all, if it is optical, mirrorless cameras let you see it straight away.

Well, as it was built to peer down the throat of a microscope and record the beasties that the researcher has on the glass slide, it is fixed to approximately an infinity focus. I confirmed this on an X-Pro1 out in the yard. The resolution is reasonable but the focus is out to about 50 feet. field of view looks to be about the same as a 50mm lens.

This suggested another experiment. Inside to the Model car table and a Greenlight Volkswagen T2 van. These are tiny things in 1:64 scale – observe the 10¢ piece. The establishing shot is taken with the standard 35mm Tokina macro lens.

The VW logo was taken using an old Russian 50mm Industar lens reversed onto the front of the MIKRA. No mounting – I just held it on there. Older photographers will know the trick of reverse-mounting of one lens to the nose of another to give macro results. In this case the Industar is wide open and the DOF is like nothing at all.

Stopped down to f:16, the Industar actually does have DOF. The picture of the headlight’s a seriously small slice of VW, and if you were a film shooter, you could get this on the Leica 1F. You just wouldn’t know you had got it until the results came back from Fitzgerald’s Photo Labs.

Sooooo – who’s ready for some retro fun out there? Neither the body nor the MIKRA are bank-breakers and whoever uses that Leica 1F will become the undisputed Kewl King or Queen of Perth photographers. And score the envy of every old camera club shooter that sees it.

PS: The downside is that you need to know what you are doing with it.

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