Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Love of Old Lenses

People who use auto focus lenses exclusively have a hard time understanding our obsession over seemingly useless old lenses. What's the point? My usual answer is "it's fun!"

Yes it's fun, but there is something more fulfilling and tangible - the unique characters that some of these old wonders wove into the images that make them so enticing and attractive to look at. They provide an alternative to the modern, sharp, contrasty, and highly corrected images that look perfect, but lack characters. Many very old lenses are usually full of "faults" of one kind or the other. They vignette badly, they flare like crazy, they have low contrast, they may have horrendous distortion, they have bokeh so horrible that make your skin crawl, and so on. Well, is your partner perfect?  Do you want a partner that looks/acts the same as everyone else? We like our partners because they have characters and traits that stand out from others.

So yes. It's worth the time to make those odd-ball lenses usable on the digital cameras; to endure the disgusted look of some people looking at my ugly Franken Lenses. Because we love our old lenses and the kind of pictures that they can create.

Sailboat - NEX-6 & AM [Ross Xpress] 5 inch f4 @ f5.6.


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  2. For 20 years I took pictures without auto focus lenses. A Photographer knew his equipment and was fast when hunting for "the one picture" he had in mind. He had to wait a week to see what the pictures looked like, he had taken. During these years I took about 10.000 photos, half of it I am still proud of...
    Today most photographers are not longer hunting "the one picture", they take 500 on an afternoon and when back home they have a look on what they "klicked" and - no wonder! - they find the or the picture they like.

    Times have changed. I prefer manual lenses. They have excellent quality. They are robust. Often they are cheap - sadly not always ;-) The NEX gave me back the fun I had once with my "legacy" lenses. And I see that none of the modern lenses reach the quality of any of my old OM lenses (I own no zooms).

    And you tought me to look different at my own pictures. Thanks a lot!

    1. Thanks for your insight, MAWK. I also shot a lot of film, especially after the birth of my first two kids, regularly one roll every week. Yes its very different when shooting film, because every frame costs money :)