A photo of a small 24mm lens

Chroma Camera Double Glass 24mm f11 - Every Lens for Every Occasion

Background: Nostalgia and Handmade-ness

I’ve been following Chroma Camera for a few years now, and have been really impressed with his design and production quality. I took most of 2022 and 2023 off from social media, but when I came back to Instagram recently it seemed like the Chroma Camera projects had been supercharged! A new website, a series of things to order, and – even an off-the-shelf ready to ship lens! A lens designed to fit on a camera that I own.

I looked at the sample images, and added it to my cart immediately. Then, I slept on it. Read the thoughtful reviews from 35mmc and Kosmo Photo, looked at some of the images that Steve of Chroma Camera had been posting on film and decided I was smitten. I sent in my order and waited about a week for the lovely little piece of optics to arrive.

The nostalgia of 24mm

I have been shopping for a wide angle or super wide angle for the Leica for probably 8 months. I’ve tried the 28mm TT Artisan, and it was okay optically – but didn’t feel particularly nice to use. Plus, it’s still only 28mm. I normally shoot at 35mm, so 28 isn’t as dramatic as it might be if I was a portrait shooter. Other affordable options? The Rokkor-M 28mm, lots of issues with those. The 28mm Fun Leader seems the most obvious comparison, and based on my research it looks like a fun lens. But, it’s three times the price of the Double Glass, and has a weird focus shift thing I can’t get over.

So, I had narrowed my wide-angle search down to the Voigtlander 21mm 3.5 and I had even started to bank pennies when I saw the Chroma Camera Double Glass on Instagram.

I’ve been shooting 24mm lenses since my first digital SLRs (Canon 10d + Rebel XTi – don’t miss those days) because it was close to the 35mm focal length on APS-c. Ever since I’ve had a soft spot for the 24mm focal length, whether on full frame, cropped, or film.

I guess for me the 24mm Double Glass hits a sweet spot of nostalgia, simplicity, and price.

On wide-angles, composing, and range finders

Okay – I’m newish to the Leica eco-system, so let me talk about composing and focusing on a range finder camera with a super-wide for a moment. Please settle in for a treatise on implementation of the scheimpflug principle and the inverse square law. JK – if you’re on a digital – use Live View or an EVF. Get real – that’s why you own a digital camera.

If you want to shoot on film – grab an external optical viewfinder. Voigtlander makes nice ones, and you can get vintage ones on the ‘bay all day long.

Alternatively – if I remember to place the spot I want most in-focus in the middle of the RF patch and try to hold the camera level – then I can usually capture something nice.

It’s a sort of shoot-from-the-hip kind of lens.

So, is it sharp?

Yeah, in the middle of the frame it’s pretty sharp at infinity. The sharpness fades quickly, but evenly as you move away from center.

Build Highlights:

  • L39/M39 on the back means that this lens can mount on almost anything.
  • Sturdy 49mm filter threads on the front means it can take any filter or accessory you want to throw at it.
  • A burly machined aluminum body means it’s threads won’t eat other accessories or fail to seat.

Lens mis-use and abuse

I think it’s reasonable to expect a decent performance out of a decent piece of glass, even when used in ways the designers didn’t intend.

Based on what I’ve read, the intent with this piece of glass was to make a nice snap-shooting focus-free lens that would provide sharp distortion free results. It’s a great piece of engineering for that.

What it wasn’t really designed for: extension rings, macro photos, studio close-ups.

But – being that this is such a well thought out compact lens, it sort of does lend itself to those sorts of uses if you’re constantly mis-using your lenses like me.

Macro Rings and close-up things

The day that my Double Glass lens arrived I also had a visit from my uncle who brought me a large crate of old camera stuff from an elderly friend. Inside that crate: a set of l39 extension rings.

It seemed like too much of a coincidence to not make use of them, so after a bit of cleaning to get the last 60 years of dust out of the threads I stuck the 10mm extension ring on there – flicked on live-view, and was pleasantly surprised.

The Letiz film cassettes arrived the same day as the extension tubes, making them an appropriate subject. The amount of sharp detail the lens gives is pretty surprising.

Adding a close-up lens to the front of this makes it a fun lens for all kinds of closer-up stuff. I love the extra distortion that you get outside of the center of the frame.

On shooting Digital

In all my mess of cameras I don’t have a screw mount or m-mount film body. So, I haven’t shot any film on this lens. To be honest, I likely won’t. I bought this lens specifically because I have a a later model full-frame digital body. The biggest factor for me: usable ISO range.

In the last couple weeks of shooting this lens I choose either auto-ISO or auto-shutter speed. Clearly, auto-shutter speed only gets you so far when you’re hand-holding, so the auto-ISO options need to be fairly robust.

This lens, with it’s fixed F11 aperture, still shoots pretty decently on my M10 at ISO 10,000 – I mean, would I use that image for work? Maybe not. Group-hangouts? Of course!

I leave that as my one caveat with this lens, I’ve not shot it on film. But – based on how it looks on digital I can only imagine it’s just as forgiving and quirky on film.

A selfie photo of a group of friends
Group selfies with a 24mm are easy, just add a close-up adapter.

Is it everything for everyone?

Clearly, the answer is yes.
So long as your use-case requires a fixed-focus, fixed aperture, body-cap sized lens.

Is it really a niche lens that appeals only to the deepest of camera nerds? No, definitely not – I think if I was looking for something to put on an A7C or even an S5 this would be pretty sweet.

Is it only a tourist lens? This is definitely the lens I’ll have next time I visit central park. This is a perfect summer picnic party lens. And, it’s small enough to carry all day.

What about working with it? I’d definitely shoot a music video with this lens. I will most likely shoot some dance with this lens. Caveats? You want lots of light to work with it.

My favorite way to shoot it is to carry a +1 close-up adapter, making it a pretty dang small and versatile lens.