The classic soft-focus Thambar-M lens from 1935 was designed to provide a romantic aesthetic unlike any other Leica lens. Over 80 years later, Japanese photographer Kazuya Sudo takes the new remake of the Thambar-M 90 mm f/2.2 and captures not only the essence of this aesthetic but also the inimitable sense of serenity present in much of traditional Japanese culture. The latest addition to the Leica M-System lens portfolio is a finely crafted creative tool with the power to evoke an emotional response through its manipulation of light and focus. We caught up with Kazuya Sudo to ask him about his experience shooting with the new Thambar-M and what he wanted to communicate with these images.

Discover the new Leica Thambar-M

How did you first get into photography?

I met a kabuki photographer during my college days in Kyoto. My experience on the stage piqued my interest in the charm of capturing a single moment in a photo.




When did you start shooting with Leica cameras and how has your relationship to the brand evolved?

The first Leica I used was a Leica M4. After the Leica M-P, I now shoot everything on the Leica M10.

When the Leica Store Kyoto opened in March 2014, I made use of my connection with the brand and created a concept video. During that process, I could relate to Leica’s manufacturing process and I now shoot primarily on Leica. I’ll never forget the sense of elation I felt the first time I experienced shooting with a Leica.




Where did you shoot this series and why?

I shot at the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and a tea shop in Gion. The reason I chose these locations is because of the indirect way, in which the light enters from the uniquely Japanese design of the garden, fitted what I wanted to express.




Your series has a mystic feel to it, which is very fitting for the setting you chose. What was the story you wanted to tell with your pictures?

A sense of naturalness

Communicating thoughts and passion

Adding my own unique touch

These are the three elements I always keep in mind when shooting. I try to create opportunities through photographic experiences, and a chance for people to be happy.







Which camera did you use and why?

I used the Leica M10. It has a gentle way of depicting subjects and a wide range of tones, and I thought I could make use of the beauty of the Thambar’s characteristics.




The soft-focus is a completely unique feature of the Thambar. How did you go about working with it, compared to a standard sharp-focus lens?

Normally I use a Summilux 50mm, however, I pay particular attention to how highlights are depicted. Because the effect changes when using the aperture on the Thambar, I can find the most beautiful effect and then determine the exposure. It’s important to quickly find a soft effect that pays homage to the atmosphere of a scene.



The romantic aesthetic of your pictures comes across very well. Do you think that the analogue effect the Thambar provides could be replicated digitally?

The atmosphere and lighting in a scene are completely unique to that moment. I don’t believe it is possible to recreate that effect in post-processing.




Did you use the extra soft-focus filter while shooting this series? If so, what were the advantages you noticed?

I didn’t use one this time, but I believe it has the possibility to enhance the effects of the lens even further.



The bokeh effects outside the depth of field react wonderfully with natural light. How much were you able to work with the light, while shooting indoors with the Thambar?

I selected indirect light and avoided direct sunlight. Doing this made it possible to capture characteristically Japanese soft shadows.



How would you rate the potential of the Thambar as a creative tool overall?

I believe this is a lens that creates a new view of the world. It provides a wide range of possibilities for capturing light.




Despite the iconic soft-focus aesthetic created by the Thambar, you also have shots, which capture very fine details. At what apertures did you shoot?

I shot at my favorite f2.6 for these images.



Do you normally shoot with a 90mm lens? What do you see as the advantages of using a greater focal length?

I use the comparatively lightweight Summarit 90mm. It depicts details accurately with a clear viewpoint.




The Thambar doesn’t have f-stop clicks and could be described as a very smooth lens to use. How was the experience of shooting with the Thambar for you?

The absence of a clicking sound made shooting more intuitive, helping me to focus on photographing.



Would you recommend the Thambar to other photographers?

Yes, I would. This is a lens that can express emotion, spanning past, present and future.




You are CEO of Discovery Go. Can you tell us a little more about your work here?

I am working on an archive of photographs and videos that capture Japanese culture, based on the theme of encounters and discoveries in Kyoto and on temples and shrines.

The five-year Kiyomizu-dera temple archive “Feel Kiyomizudera“ is a project, which captures photos, videos and sounds of the current state of the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, communicating aspects that have remained virtually unknown until now. Live each precious moment. Taking into account the essence of the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which holds a fond place in the hearts of many in its long history as a sacred place of Kannon, this project attempts to connect the historical narrative to future generations.



5年間続けている清水寺のアーカイブ 「FEEL KIYOMIZUDERA」プロジェクトは、これまであまり知られることのなかった清水寺の「今」を写真や映像、音で記録する活動です。


Do you have a project you are working on now? Do you have any exciting plans for the future?

I believe there is beauty in the harmony between human agency and nature. My goal is to continue searching for the nature of the Japanese people and deliver experiences through photographic art.





You can see more of Kazuya Sudo’s photography on his Instagram.

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