Chroma Cameras unveils new 24mm lens for Leica M39 screw mount that weighs only 16g

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Chroma Cameras has announced its first lens for 35mm Leica screw-mount cameras, a compact 24mm F11. The M39 thread mount lens is currently in pre-production, so specs aren’t quite finalized yet, but beta units have weighed a mere 16g. Per Kosmo Foto, the working name for the new lens is ‘Glass,’ but that may change ahead of the official release.

The lens barrel is constructed from a single block of aluminum, which is anodized and engraved. Steve Lloyd of Chroma Cameras told Kosmo Foto that the M39 thread mount was selected because of its short flange depth and wide compatibility with rangefinder and digital mirrorless camera systems. M39 adapters are available for nearly every camera system, including Canon RF, Fujifilm X, Sony E, Nikon Z, Micro Four Thirds, L and more. Lloyd has adapted the lens to Zarya 35mm, Hamish Gill and Sony A7 cameras.

Beta sample of the Chroma Cameras 24mm F11 lens. The lens has a working name of ‘Glass,’ although the final model name may change.

To understand the inspiration behind the new lens, it’s important to consider Chroma Cameras’s new 35mm Cube pinhole camera, one of the company’s custom-built large-format camera models. About 18 months ago, Lloyd was talking to one of his friends about a box-style camera that would be easy to use while delivering high-quality results, sort of like a modern Box Brownie camera that’s compact, like Chroma Cameras’s Baby Cube camera. The original plan was to adapt an existing lens for this new box-style camera, but then Lloyd decided to look into making an original lens.

This render of the new lens shows just how compact it is. A beta version of the lens weighs only 16g, which is barely more than half an ounce. The lens has an M39 thread mount because of the mount’s short flange distance and versatile adaptability across many camera systems.

After testing three sets of beta lenses and testing them with his a7’s electronic shutter – the box-style body will use an electronic shutter – Lloyd realized that the new lens was worthy of becoming its own standalone product. He told Kosmo Foto, ‘After seeing those first results, I knew that the lens was good enough to be a standalone product in its own right, so [I] began designing a proper L39-mount body for them, and talking to another friend of mine about producing the machined aluminum versions.’

Image shot on a FED Zarya camera and beta lens using Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow film. Image credit: Steve Lloyd

Lloyd has worked with Jason Lane of PictorioGraphica and Lane’s colleague Max Affleck. Lane and Affleck are accomplished engineers and optical designers. Both have worked with Chroma Cameras before for its ChromaGraphica dry plate holders. Lloyd remarked, ‘Jason is always a bad influence on my very active designer brain, as he always goes along with my ideas…This particular lens was tweaked via a late night Skype call we had around eight months ago, leading to the fully corrected, double-coated glass element design that’s now in production. Max has been focusing on the machining of the aluminum main body, and we’ve been passing the design between us making small changes to the way that the lens elements are housed, so that each lens can be optically corrected in a jig when assembled, to ensure a consistent quality to the finished lens.’

Image shot on a FED Zarya camera and beta lens using Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow film. Image credit: Steve Lloyd

For now, the new lens will be the only one Chroma Cameras offers, although customers have requested medium-format lenses with a similar design and field of view. Lloyd is still working on the electronic shutter-equipped Cube-style camera body, plus an interchangeable lens cone for an unreleased Six: camera product.

As for the new 24mm F11 M39-mount lens, the initial production run will comprise 500 units. Lloyd is still analyzing manufacturing costs, but he hopes it’ll launch at £99, which is around $115. The optical glass is in production and Lloyd hopes to ship it to Jason and Max for final assembly and testing ahead of a possible launch later this month. To stay up to date with Chroma Cameras, visit its website and follow the company on Instagram. Head over to Kosmo Foto to view more sample images.

Images courtesy of Chroma Cameras via Kosmo Foto

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