Chroma Glass on FED Zarya (Pic: Chroma Cameras)
The new lens prototypes weigh only 16g (Pic: Chroma Cameras)

Large-format camera producer Chroma Cameras has announced it is producing its first lens – for 35mm Leica screw-mount cameras.

The new lens follows a 35mm Cube pinhole camera which has joined Chroma Cameras’ roster of custom-built large-format models.

Chroma Cameras describes the lens as a “super compact, fully corrected, 24mm f/11, with double-coated glass elements and fixed focus from 1.5m (5ft) to infinity”.

The body is made from a single block of aluminium, then anodised and laser engraved. Steve Lloyd said the final weight is still to be confirmed, but the beta units have weighed around 16g. The lens currently has the working name “Glass”, but that may change.

He said it still give full frame coverage with minimal distortion and no chromatic abberations.

He gave Kosmo Foto details about the new lens, which is currently in pre-production.

Why have you chosen the Leica screw mount?
“I’ve chosen to machine the bodies in M39 thread mount, as this is one of the shortest flange depth mounts available, giving a massive range of compatibility on both rangefinder and digital mirrorless camera systems.

“As well as directly mounting to any thread mount body (I’ve been testing it out on both my FED Zarya, and Hamish Gill from 35mmc has been testing one of his thread mount Leica I), there are also numerous L39 adaptors available for all digital mirrorless systems. I’ve been having loads of fun using a beta lens on my digital Sony A7 body, due to it being so light but delivering great results.”

Chroma Glas on Leica I (Pic: Courtesy Chromas Cameras)
(Pic: Courtesy Chromas Cameras)

How long have you been planning it?
“I started talking to a friend of mine about a future box-style camera around 18 months ago, which I envisioned as being a combination of being easy to use but delivering quality results, very much like a modern re-incarnation of the original Box Brownie that fits in your hand, with a 24×24 frame like my Baby Cube pinhole camera. After that, due to a combination of workload and life, the idea was put on hold.

Is it entirely new materials or are you reconfiguring existing lens?
“When I was first talking about the box-style camera, I was looking at using existing lens options from point and shoot compacts but that then developed into a plan to create a lens specifically for it. Whilst it’s a more complex/expensive route to take, I wanted to deliver something unique, that stood out from other options already available.

Rendering of new lens in block (Pic: Chroma Cameras)
A 3D rendering showing the new lens (Pic: Chroma Cameras)

“After receiving the first three sets of beta lenses, and housing them in their printed mounts, I designed full bodies to mount them to my Sony A7 digital mirrorless body to test out the electronic shutter I’m planning to use with them in the box-style body and was blown away by the results delivered from such compact lenses!

“After seeing those first results, I knew that the lens was good enough to be a standalone product in its’ own right, so began designing a proper L39-mount body for them, and talking to another friend of mine about producing the machined aluminium versions.”

Who are you working with on this project?
“Jason Lane (PictorioGraphica), and his colleague Max Affleck, designed the lens for me. They’re both fantastic engineers/optical designers and I’ve worked with them for the last 3 years with our ChromaGraphica dry plate holders.

(Pics above shot on a FED Zarya and Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow by Steve Lloyd)

“Jason is always a bad influence on my very active designer brain, as he always goes along with my ideas, and generally has lens designs available to hand! This particular lens was tweaked via a late night Skype call we all 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 aluminium main body, and we’ve been passing the design between us making small changes to the way that the lens elements are housed, so they each lens can be optically corrected in a jig when assembled, to ensure a consistent quality to the finished lens.”

Is this the start of a new lens range from Chroma Cameras?
“For the time being, this will be the primary lens coming out of Chroma Towers, although I’ve had quite a few requests for medium format lenses in a similar design/field of view! I’m still working on integrating the lens and an electronic shutter into a 24×24 Cube-style body, as well as an interchangeable lens cone for an as-yet-unreleased Six: camera, so it’s a lens that I’m hoping will prove really popular for a whole range of photographers, using a wide range of formats.

(Pics above shot on a FED Zarya and Fujifilm Acros 100 by Steve Lloyd)

“I’m waiting on final costings, but am aiming to launch the lens at an affordable £99, making it available to anyone looking for a quality wide-angle option. The glass is already being produced, and expected to ship to Jason/Max at the end of August. The aluminium bodies will begin production in the next few weeks, followed by final assembly/testing of the lenses in America by Jason/Max, allowing for launch at the end of September.

“The initial production run will be 500 lenses, and I’ll then look at further production volume going forwards.”

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Stephen Dowling
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[…] Chroma Cameras reveals new lens for Leica screw-mount cameras […]