Hi Ho!…The Silver Lens

Hi Ho!…The Silver Lens

I cannot conceal this from you – I adore silver lenses. Whether the finish is chrome, paint, anodised aluminium, or solid sterling silver, I think these optics are absolutely superb. It is prejudice – I acquired a Leica Elmar 2.8 lens with a chrome M2 in 1970 and the experience influenced me ever after.

There were some horrible silvers – the collapsible Elmar of the 1950’s had a chromed barrel but painted focusing ring and this soon looked sad. There were plain aluminium lenses from East Germany like the Meyer ones from Görlitz that quickly became tawdry. But there were also the Planar and Distagon lenses that fronted the 500-series Hasselblads and they looked magnificent.

In my own chosen brand they are also supplying some of their small primes in a chrome finish – 23mm, 35mm, and 50mm so far. I have even seen on-line examples of the Fujifilm 27mm f:2.8 in silver, though whenever it is listed it is sold out. I’ll bet it was an exclusively Japanese product.

Leica have never given up on the aesthetics of the silver lens. You can obtain examples in the M-mount range that go from the modest Summarit to the fabled Noctilux. The T mount has a number of them as well and a new member that was shown just last week – the Elmarit TL 18mm f:2.8. It was paired with a new black Leica CL as the ultimate street and travel pancake lens…which it might just well be. Idle speculation wonders if there will also be a silver-coloured CL body to go with it eventually. Of course you can get a Leica T in silver right now, of you like the sleekest of modern looks.

Are silver lenses better? What better do we mean?

Well, are they better at resolution, or distortion or focus speed? Logically, no. The internal structure should be precisely the same as for the standard black lens. Whatever one does, the other should do.

Is there any advantage with the silvered barrel in sunshine? Does it reflect heat better? Possibly, yes, but practically…probably no. If you are out in 80ºC heat photographing it isn’t the lens you should be worrying about – it is yourself that needs coolness.

How about intense cold? Will your fingers freeze to the barrel if you are standing on the corner in Edmonton in the middle of a blizzard at 40º below? Yes, of course they will. And it wouldn’t be any different if you were using the black lens. { Hint to Australian tourists. If your Canadian hosts encourage you to lick a lamp post in January anywhere north of Medicine Hat just to see what happens…remember the tale of the raw prawn…).

Is it more pro or more amateur? Yes, and no. Or vice versa. In the case of Leica, the prices are such that the distinction loses some of its meaning. If you can afford one, you must be professional at something…

Are they better looking? Are blondes better looking than brunettes? Answer that one at your own peril. You can debate about camera body colour while you are at it.

Should more manufacturers offer silver lenses? A resounding ” Yes ” to this one. While I am a bit non-plussed when looking at some mirrorless lenses that are mounted in an overall red-anodised barrel, I have no problem with them if they are in a plain silver. Just give me a surface finish that is not just an enamel and I will be happy. I would also be happy if the lens could avoid ” brassing ‘ under hard use. I’ve no need to carry a weathered camera – I have an old face for that purpose…


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