Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black Swans and Old Lenses

I've always regretted that the switch to digital photography meant that my Voigtlander lenses sat in the dry cabinet, un-used. About the last time I used those lenses extensively was in Cambodia in 2004. Aside from a few weddings, they've seen little use since.

I've kept an eye out for various options for mounting them to a digital back, but since a Leica M9 is not really a viable option, I've waited. The Micro Four-Thirds system, with the Panasonic then Olympus cameras, seemed to offer the best chance, but I balked at the 2x crop factor. Then came the Sony Nex series.

True, they're still a 1.6x crop factor, but that's something I've grudgingly learned to live with on the Nikon D70 anyway, and I've had good experience with Sony cameras. I bought a Nex 5 and a Leica M-mount adaptor when they dropped the price, in advance of the Nex 7 coming out, and have been waiting for an opportunity to try it out.

As you can see from the shot of the swan, it's not bad at all. This was taken with the Voigtlander 50mm f3.5 Heliar that came with the T101 Anniversary set - my favourite lens, but oh so very difficult to use for fast moving subjects, and all the more so with focusing on an external LCD screen. The Nex's focus assist was turned on, which magnifies the centre of the image to allow for detailed focus, but in practice this takes so much time that only relatively stationary subjects stay in focus. Still, I am quite pleased with how this shot turned out. I could go on about the resolution and detail in the dark areas (in this case, a black swan is a very appropriate subject to test he resolution of a camera) but I what I like most is the feel of the lens: it looks like film, and has a certain aged look - and not the kind that comes with instagram or hipstamatic filters (though I have nothing against those, especially given the limitations of a smartphone camera — but it's nice to have the real thing once in a while though :)

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