Say hello to the Omnar CN26-6, a brand new 26mm f/6, fixed aperture, rangefinder coupled, wide-angle, snapshot lens for Leica M-mount cameras from Hamish Gill at 35mmc and Chris from Skyllaney Optomechanics, with a little help from CameraKote.
It has a very, very limited run (only 25 copies will ever be produced), and as you might expect from Hamish, comes with a number of customisation options including:
- Heavy or and light-focusing weights.
- Minimum focus distance.
- 3 standard hand-painted finishes — Matte Black Chrome Cerakote, Silver Chrome Cerakote and High Gloss Black Lacquer.
- “Debranding” and custom-engraved front name ring.
If you don’t want to read the rest and just skip ahead to the inevitable link, the Omnar CN26-6 is now available to preorder from its dedicated website
If you want to stick around a bit, I have a bit more background information and context to help fill in the gaps, as well as a look at the lens and quite a few sample photographs taken on both film and digital cameras. Here’s what I cover:
Table of contents
A quick history of Omnar
The story starts some years ago when I helped connect Hamish with some optics designers in China several years ago. Their discussions progressed to a point, and while they didn’t result in the creation of a physical product, they did set alight some mental fires.
Fast forward to the early part of 2020’s UK Covid lockdown, a conversation between Hamish and Chris Andreyo of Skyllaney Optomechanics started a conversation that ended up with the lens you see above, some 18 months later.
The Omnar CN26-6 isn’t the ultimate result Hamish and Chris have in mind, however. You can consider it a proving ground for things to come. Those things being at least one, but more likely a family of custom-designed lenses (barrel and optics).
There’s a bit more about the evolution of this first generation production Omnar lens over on 35mmc (do check it out).
About the Omnar CN26-6
As I mentioned above, the CN26-6 is a 26mm f/6 is a fixed aperture, rangefinder coupled, wide-angle, snapshot lens for Leica M-mount cameras. Its body is (mostly) machined from brass in the UK, and painted by CameraKote, then assembled and calibrated by Skyllaney.
The optics in the Omnar CN26-6, are from an early-2000s entry-level point and shoot camera, the Canon AF-10. Although a relatively slow lens when compared to fast, premium 35mm compact cameras like the Contax T3, Ricoh GR1s, or Nikon 35Ti, the AF-10’s lens is made of glass — well, glass and polycarbonate — it’s also coated, and fast-ish at f/6.
The lens housing has been made to very fine tolerances — the prototyping phase called for adjustments as small as 5 microns to the focusing thread.
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Mechanics + minimum focusing
The “basic” version of the lens focuses down to 30cm / 12 inches and is rangefinder-coupled down to 67cm / 26 inches, however, Hamish promises me they’ll be providing a version that only focuses down to the RF-coupled distance if specified.
Because the lenses are being made to order, each customer will have the option to choose the finish, too. There are 3x standard hand-painted finishes as noted above — Matte Black Chrome Cerakote, Silver Chrome Cerakote, and High Gloss Black Lacquer – all hand-painted by Camerakote. If none of them take your fancy, you can go down the custom route (4th image below).
Customers also have the option of choosing heavy or and light-focusing weights, as well as the option to “debranding” the lens and/or add custom-engraving to the front name ring.
Here’s what Hamish has to say about the lens:
I think it makes for great snaps. It’s really quick and easy to focus, and with the f/6 aperture, hyperfocal shooting is a no-brainer in a lot of circumstances.
I personally think the images work really nicely for black and white conversion – this is one of the images I took with the original prototype.
Let’s dive into some sample photos on both film and digital. You’ll find more examples over on 35mmc (do check it out).
A final word
There’s much, much more to learn about the history and future plans for this new lens company on its website (alongside links to preorder this lens). Spoiler: They will be working with both with their own designs, as well as some potentially very interesting rehousing projects.
Omnar has, for me, surfaced as one of the most interesting new businesses to come out of the film/photography community over the past 18 months. Not just because it’s making shiny gear (that’s always nice), but because of what the company means given what I know about both Hamish and Chris.
Writing this article I found myself thinking back to conversations Hamish and I had several years back about custom lens designers and what he wanted from his own lens — if he ever got to making one, that is. This first step — and what I know about the future direction the company will be taking — tells me that we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more from Omnar over the coming months and years.
The Omnar CN26-6 might not be something that everyone understands, appreciates, or even likes but it’s not about that, it’s about building lenses that appeal to the creators and hopefully, a few others in our community, film and digital alike. For now, at least, the CN26-6 is about serving the individual, not everyone.
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