The Lomography Atoll 17mm f / 2.8 M-mount lens: get close to your subject. No, closer. No, really, come a little closer …


It’s just a little fun with my Leica M6 and the new Leica M-mount Lomography Atoll 17mm f / 2.8 wide-angle lens. This isn’t really a review, it’s certainly not too technical, and I’m not going to talk about the sharpness of the edges at f / 4 or the micro-contrast of the lens: it’s the experience of ‘a user and the opinions of the lens.

I’ve probably shot over 150 frames already – all with my Leica M6 TTL – so I feel like I have an idea, for myself, of what this is good for and not good for.

If you are reading EMULSIVE, or 35 mm, or one of the many other film photography blogs, you probably have occasional access to GAS. I certainly do. And you’ve probably had experiences similar to me on Kickstarter. I think I’m operating at a failure / success rate of around 60/40: a few that never happened, one that I expect won’t happen, some that have finished by disappointing, and of course others that have been great.

When I saw Lomography’s campaign for a 17mm wide-angle lens in early 2021, I had two thoughts: “that sounds funny” and “It’s an established brand, I guess they use Kickstarter to assess potential sales and they won’t run away with my money “.

So I chose a pledge and I got involved. Lots of regular updates. The objective arrived, on time, at the end of August. The way Kickstarter is supposed to work.

First impressions

It is solid and feels well made. It certainly gives the impression that it will last longer than a 7 artisans / Tartisans lens. It does have a bit of weight – 500g with both caps – but isn’t stupidly heavy. I have used it on my Leica M6 and while it certainly weighs the front of the camera down, it is still very usable.

But, for my workflow, it’s a bit of a process:

The first step: Measure using the camera’s viewfinder and select your aperture and shutter speed. I’m useless when it comes to Sunny 16. I understand the theory, but I’m having a hard time getting it to work. That’s why I prefer a camera with a built-in counter.

Minor problem # 1: It’s a click-free aperture ring – I’m assuming for cinematic use? – and I keep moving it by mistake when focusing.

Second step : Focus using the camera’s viewfinder. OK, maybe it’s not necessary. A 17mm lens at f / 5.6 – depending on the display on the lens – has a hyperfocal range of 0.9m to infinity. So you can just leave it at f / 5.6 or smaller and not worry too much about the focus ring. I guess if I have my eye on the viewfinder I like to see the range finder patches lined up.

Third step: Dial with the shoe mount viewfinder supplied with the lens and press the shutter release button.

Minor problem # 2: The viewfinder is cheap plastic junk. This almost shows the correct field of view. Almost. The things that I am SR for having had in the viewfinder did not turn out to be negative. I don’t know how much a “nice” external sight would have cost, but it probably would have been worth it.

How wide is a 17mm lens on 35mm film?

I used to think of 35mm as a wide angle lens. Then I went very wide: 28 mm. I then borrowed a Canon 24mm Tilt / Shift lens for a few months for an architectural project.

OMG 17mm is WID E.

The subject in almost all of the footage from the first roll I took is a little something somewhere in the middle of the distance.

The goal needs instructions such as: “Get closer. Now really get close. Can you get closer? Okay, do that. Fill in the frame!” I could have sworn the bullet in this image almost hit the lens:

Step inside and it’ll capture the room without having to take two or more images and stitch them together in Lightroom.

You might be interested in …

Perhaps the best way to show the field of view is to make a few comparisons. I live near the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne and if you are a fan of Victorian architecture or the mid-19 international exhibition movemente century it’s worth a look.

Camera, tripod, $ 4 bubble level, and lenses at your fingertips, this is what the 50mm and 17mm look like from the same position:

Field of view 50mm vs 17mm (left vs right) – Fuji Acros 100 II ISO 100

… And for those of you who prefer a traditional side-by-side (click / tap to zoom).

So what is it for, and what could I not be using?

This is probably not a good lens for ‘traditional’ candid street photography, as it’s a little hard to be blunt when you almost have to push the lens in someone’s face to fill the frame, even. if I can imagine an aspiring Bruce Gilden giving it a try.

And no, it’s not a portrait lens. Definitely not if you want the topic to come back to you, although it’s fun snapping a pic across the table at a dim sum lunch, catching my lunch buddy’s smile, leftovers of our meal and getting most of the restaurant in the frame.

For me, I think it’s going to find the most use for grandiose landscapes, crazy interiors and architecture. It’s not a high quality lens like a Canon 17mm T / S, but it doesn’t claim to be. If you are careful to keep the film plane parallel to the subject, distortion and keystone distortion are acceptable and easy to correct.

A small correction needed (before / after, left / right) – Fomapan Creative 200 ISO 200

Another side by side:

And sometimes the distortion is added to the image:

I had a great time on a recent visit to Sydney – my first trip out of Melbourne this year, thank you Mr. COVID-19 – hunting down brutalist architecture, photographing art and indoors of a few Sydney pubs which are famous for cold beers and horseshoe bars.

Is the Lomography Atoll 17mm f / 2.8 M mount a keeper? Will it be used a lot? Ask me again in 12 months. At the moment the answers tend to be “no” on both, but I still haven’t run it on my Sony A7 to see how it performs there. But it’s great fun – as long as you’re CLOSED!

~ Nick

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