When I decided to use only my 45-years-old Minolta MC 1.7/55 in February I had only one basic idea: I wanted to get out of my comfort zone because I know that I improve my skills much faster in anything if I can’t rely on my routines. And I guess I was also curious how I would fare without all the fancy gear I normally use.
During the project I tried to take pictures everyday and I also created additional challenges for myself: One day I only allowed myself to take 5 pictures and on another I had to photograph in conditions I had little experience in.
We managed to gather the three most recent fast rangefinder 35mm wide angle lenses from Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander, threw in the Zeiss Loxia and put them up against each other on the 42mp A7rII. So in case you are looking for a small modern high quality 35mm manual focus lens: read on!
The shape and appearance of sunstars is very important for landscape and architecture photographers. For some of them, they are even a defining element in their photos. Sunstars can appear around strong point light sources under certain circumstances, in this article I will talk about how to get them and how certain lenses (being more specific: number and shape of aperture blades) can influence their rendering.
I am a gear head. How do I know? Because I own about a dozen normal lenses.
Usually I enjoy the choice I have but I was asking myself what would happen if I had no choice and could use only one lens for a whole month? There is only one way to find out and so I decided that I would limit myself to the Minolta MC Rokkor 1:1.7 55mm which is 45-years-old and cost me $25.
When I started the project I was curious how it would affect my photography. I have always progressed the fastest when I was outside of my comfort zone and I expected that this project would give me many experiences outside my comfort zone.
In this post I will recapitulate my experience so far.
Day 1: Black and White
On day one I decided that the lens alone wouldn’t push me outside of my comfort zone enough so I decided to give myself additional challenges each day which would make the project more interesting.
For day one this was photographing in black and white only because color is usually essential for my pictures. I think it worked quite well as did using 55mm for zoo images.
P: Hi Sebboh, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to use manual lenses?
S: I’m a neuroscience researcher from Portland, OR. Photography has been a hobby for most of my life and I shot with my father’s manual focus film camera (Minolta XE-5) when I was a kid. I wanted something smaller when I went to college and switched to the tiniest point and shoot I could find (still film). I was pretty happy with that way of shooting for a number of years till I became afflicted with the desire to take pictures of birds. That led me into DSLRs (Olympus and Nikon). This was my first experience of AF without the giant dof of a p&s and I quickly became extremely aggravated by the inability to get focus where I wanted it easily. Landscape shots were often ruined by miss focus that I didn’t detect till after the fact and shooting people moving seemed nearly impossible if dof was small. I found I got more consistent results with my old Minolta lenses as well as having a more enjoyable experience of fuller control of my images.
Being able to zone focus or use the infinity stop for landscape and street shots drastically improved my hit rate and speed. Focusing on moving targets was slower than AF, but I had a lot fewer misses and a lot more decisive moment catches. With only a meager number of old lenses from my father, I looked around ebay and discovered that manual focus lenses offered much cheaper ways to get long focal length or high speed lenses. I began experimenting with all the different lenses I could get cheaply and found many had very distinctive looks that I preferred for one type of shot or another. Unfortunately, this has led to me having far more lenses than are necessary, many of which are seldom used except for special circumstances.
They can be very cheap, you can get a great 1.4/50 lens for $50. For most applications such a lens will give you 90% of the performance of a $1000 Zeiss 1.8/55 FE. For the $1000 you would have to pay for that Zeiss you can buy an excellent set of five lenses from 20 to 300mm.
You have a huge choice between thousands of lenses ranging from exotic ones with lots of “character” to some of the very best lenses available.
There are 30-year-old primes with better image quality than many modern lenses. Of course progress has happened in recent years but still even cheap primes are often sharper than very expensive modern zooms.
Old lenses are usually beautifully built and more reliable than modern lenses which are full of electronics and very complex designs, both of which make them more likely to fail.
They also hold their value much better than modern lenses. With some patience you can sell most manual lenses without a loss but with new lenses you can expect to lose 30% in the first year.
Manual focusing can be very enjoyable. This certainly depends on application and personality but I for example enjoy working with fully manual lenses a lot more than with any AF lens. Check out our manual photographers series to read other photographers stories.
A manual lens needs to be focused manually? Think again! The Techart LM-EA7 turns about any manual lens into an AF lens. For the extended explanation and an in-depth assessment check out this post.
Weight limit lens
Sony a7rII, a7ii, a6300, a6500
*update* Please read this thread over at FM carefully. It seems that there is a design fault which will eventually lead some wobble of the adapted lens. Until this issue is fixed by Techart I would advise against buying the LM-EA7.
On the Easter weekend 2016 I was rather spontaneously visiting famous Cinque Terre in Italy. The weather forecast was quite alright, but as I was only on a two night stay, I had very limited time (and blue hours) so I had to make the best of it…