Better late than never: We wish all of our readers a great and succesful year 2017! Thank you for reading our blog and for all your contributions and comments. This is our retrospective conclusion of the favorite images that we took in the passed year.
2016 was a very eventful year for me. Not all of those events were pleasant but photography was always a great compensation even in stressful times.
The blog is more about gear than about photography and I view my obsessions with gear and photography as two more or less separate hobbies of mine but it is also a pleasure (most of the time at least, the G 4/70-200 review which has been in the making for months now has been very frustrating to so far ;)) for me to discover new lenses, to share my experiences and to receive the great feedback I get here.
In early 2016 I also made the lucky decision to invite Jannik and Bastian to join the team of this blog. In them I have found two soulmates who are as crazy about lenses as I am. Behind the scenes we constantly discuss gear, photos and articles which is a great source of motivation. And of course both have since then written many well received articles and together we can bring many more lenses to your attention than I could alone.
When I took this picture in late August I was working all day on some papers for university, so after many hours behind the desk some sport and photography was well earned.
In the Bag
I packed my small camera bag* with the lightest lenses I could find in my cabinet: a Olympus OM 3.5/28*, Zeiss C/Y 1.7/50* and Olympus OM 2.8/100.* Since I had some strenuous cycling before me I didn’t want to carry any unnecessary weight and I knew that I could capture about anything with this little setup. Of course one is always a bit limited by just three lenses. But I think it is a good exercise to be limited and to be out there is much more important than to have the absolutely best gear anyway.
Hi Jannik, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you use manual Lenses?
Jannik: I am an automotive engineer from Wolfsburg, Germany. I started out with an Sony Alpha 200 in 2008 but I discovered photography as my passion when the first Sony A7 came out. I preordered it and was fascinated by the ability to revive all the legacy lenses, that were “dead” for a long time. My first manual lens was a Canon nFD 1.4/50 which was an eye opener for me. At this time, I only owned the Sony FE 3.5-5.6/28-70 kit lens and I was never really satisfied by it. The sharpness and the creative potential of the fast aperture combined with the bargain price (50€) were amazing. I added lots of Canon FD lenses soon and started to discover other systems like Olympus OM and especially Contax/Yashica as well. With some experience, I found the different rendering styles of specific lenses and I am happy that I can choose between several lenses depending on the look that I want to create.
Hi Bastian, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you use manual Lenses?
Bastian: I am a bridge engineer from Germany and my lovestory with manual lenses began with the 50mm 0.95 Mitakon and the 12mm 5.6 Voigtlander used with the Sony A7. I couldn’t believe it being possible to get consistently sharp results with a lens like the 50mm 0.95 after I have so badly failed using an Ai-s Nikkor 50mm 1.2 on my D800 (which was even equipped with an EG-s focusing screen). The 12mm 5.6 on the other hand was a total relief in terms of size and weight and so I was hooked. Right now I have sold almost all of my Nikon gear. If you are curious you can read the whole story here: my transition from Nikon to Sony.
It is also a matter of fact that by the time I was using manual lenses I realised I don’t need AF for most of what I am doing and so today I am confident enough to even shoot weddings without AF lenses.
This is the first part of a new series in which we portrait amateur photographers just like us who inspire us and who share our passion for photographing with manual lenses.
We decided to test our concept on ourselves first, initially we didn’t intend to publish it but since we liked the product we decided to publish it. So don’t be surprised by me answering my own questions ;).
Hi Phillip, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to use manual lenses? P: I am a student from Germany and I bought my first DSLR in 2006. In September 2011 I bought a used Nex-3 for a little over 100€ to use some of the cheap Minolta Rokkors I owned on a digital camera. I fell in love with my manual lenses instantly. Suddenly I could afford really good primes while before I was limited to slow, cheap zooms! So much more creative freedom.
I also enjoyed the new, slower but more conscious process and I saw a very quick progression in my own skills at that time. I hardly touched my Canon after that.
I was a gear-head before but now I could discover so many thousands of manual lenses no one had really tested on a digital camera ever before so I started my quest to discover learn as much about those manual lenses as possible. First I published my findings in forums until I started my own blog in early 2014 which has taught me a lot.
Here are a few images from when I started to use manual lenses back in early 2012:
As many of you may have noticed when reading my reviews I am a former Nikon DSLR-user. In the past I had a D40, D5000, D300, D700 and still have a D800 (which is also for sale right now).
I was never unhappy with the results I got from these cameras and I think the Nikon engineers are the best at getting the most out of the Sony sensors. Still I ended up selling most of my Nikon gear. In case you are interested to find out more about this story be welcome to read on!
In the film era a vast amount of filters was needed to alter the colours, the temperature or to add certain effects to the photos. In digital photography many of these filters have become pretty much useless as they can be recreated in post processing with the added bonus of more control over the effect without any disadvantages.
But there are also some useful filters which can’t be fully recreated in post processing and still have a place in digital photography and these are the ones I’m going to talk about. Update 09/27/2016: at Photokina 2016 in Cologne I checked out all the big filter manufacturers and have updated some sections accordingly. I am also working closely with NiSi filters now – not just because I think their filters offer the best quality – but because they listen to their customers and I hope to be able to help them develope the first holder I find nothing to complain about 🙂
The Leica Summicron-M 90mm 2.0 in the version reviewed here has been Leica’s top of the line portrait lens from 1980 to 1998. In search for a decent yet fast and small portrait lens for the A7 series I decided to give this one a try, so read on to find out how it fared and if it can still be found in my bag.
For me it has been a great practice to visit the same subject close to my home again and again and it has taught me many things:
How different lighting affects images, until today I am often astounded how much light can affect my images and I constantly learn about new types of light and with which subjects they work
It is a good way to improve compositional skills, because you can compare different compositions of the same scene an see which compositions worked and which did not
It helps to discover new perspectives, with time the known perspectives will become boring and I will feel an urge to discover new ones
Well that’s at least how it works for me, but I think it won’t be that different for you. I wrote this article mostly to reflect on my own photography but I hope it might give you an idea or two as well.
I always found it interesting to read or hear how other photographers create their images and to learn about their workflow.
The two books which have influenced my photography the most are Ansel Adams’ Examples: the Making of 40 Photographs and “First Light” by Joe Cornish in which both authors talk about their image making process.
Over the years my gear has improved quite a bit but what has improved even more is my photographic process and I am sure that this is much more important. If I had to use the Konica Minolta Dynax 7d with that Minolta 2.8-4/17-35 today, which was my first serious camera the results would be much better than those my 18-years-old self took back in 2006, because since then I have learned a lot about light, improved my composition, can operate a camera by intuition and know when to use which setting.
My post processing has improved as well, back in the day I shot raw because I had read that raw is superior to jpg and that every serious photographer shoots raw, not because I had any idea how to really work with a raw file.
I don’t think that my 18-years-old self would have taken significantly better images with a Sony a7 because my photography was trial and error, sometimes I got a decent image but neither would I have recognized most photo opportunities nor could I have reliably turned the image I saw in front of me into a decent photograph.
What I really want to say that gear isn’t the key to better photographs, mastering the photographic process is much more important. And I hope to help other photographers to become better photographers and also to learn about other people’s workflow, there are many photographers out there which are much better than I am and I still have a long way to go.