1969 Was a Good Year For Lenses

The Minolta 58mm PF f1.4. Fantastic personality with a real retro look and feel. Wide open it is not the sharpest at the edges but it has a great look to it. It renders really nice smooth skin tones. Like most lenses of this era it really doesn’t like direct light and tends to flare badly but if you know its quirks you can use them to your advantage.

I am beginning to think that lens selection rather than focal length is becoming more and more important as there are so many options out there.

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Portrait Project Test

Working on a big portrait session with some interesting subjects which will hopefully come together over the next week or so. Testing some of my old Minolta glass especially the MC Rokkor (great rap name) 58mm f1.4. Sometimes you get gold with old lenses other times, well, not so much. This time however we have struck gold big time! The lens in question is from 1969, its a year younger than me.

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1969 was a good year, the MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4 on the Sony A7. Forty five years between them.
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The compact setup with the Vello remote trigger for my flash gear. The trigger is not huge its just the camera is small.
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And the result using a simple two light setup- great portrait lens for about $120 on Ebay.
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The other extreme is the Hasselblad, a comparison of apples and oranges but interesting anyway. The detail and resolving power of the ‘Blad kills the A7 however you may notice the same lighting setup- I swapped over the trigger. Its easy to shoot studio on the A7, the LCD is great to use even in dim light.

E Mount And Why Its Fun

The first three pictures are shot on my trusty 35mm Minolta Rokkor f1.8, a cracking lens in its day and still a nice lens to shoot wide open on digital. The third is shot on the Canon mount Sigma Art 35mm. This is the most the most amazing benefit of E Mount- back on anything, shoot whatever mont you like, bring out those old lenses. Granted not all lenses shoot well on digital. Film lenses were designed differently and lets face it, technology has moved on but there are some amazing and cheap gems out there.

What to look for-

  • Fast apertures, f2.8 or faster.
  • Metal construction.
  • Aperture rings.
  • Clean elements.
  • Name brands- Minolta, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Zeiss, Contax, Sigma, Tokina.

Each brand had its mythical hero lenses and a quick google will find a whole heap of ideas for good cheap glass to use on you E Mount camera. Avoid some of the random brands as the optics can be awful- if they were bad on film they will be atrocious on digital and always check for fungus. If you live north of Victoria or are buying lenses from someone who does- fungus is a fall problem.

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Pentax 645Z- 6400 ISO

I think I may have found this cameras party trick, very camera has something that has you taking a second look- the Pentax seems to be is ability to shoot at high ISO. The Sony sensor really does an amazing job, 6400 ISO may not seem a lot to some of the DSLR guys but I challenge you to get files this large and clean out of almost all the current crop of full frames. These files are pretty amazing and will print big without any drama. Yet to test it but I reckon two meters on the longest side would be no problem, straight from the camera at 300 dpi the long side of these files is nearly a meter.

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More Pentax 645Z

A bit more time with the 645Z and here are the key points, all of which are subjective so test one yourselves-

The Good

  • The AF is quick and accurate.
  • The sensor is amazing and handles just about any subject well.
  • The camera is responsive and has very little lag.
  • The viewfinder is amazing.
  • The 55mm lens is sharp across the image at f2.8
  • Its well built.

The Bad

  • The menu system is complex.
  • It has too many options.
  • Too many external buttons.

The Ugly

  • Its ugly.

Most of the gripes with this camera are minor but could become major if you used it every day, as a wedding, location and possibly product camera the 645Z would be a great addition to the arsenal. I could see this camera doing editorial and reportage in a pinch as well. I think the major drawback for it is the focal plane shutter, if you are shooting flash you need the faster shutter speeds of the lens mounted shutters.

There will always be those who want the ultimate lens quality coupled with simplicity and image fidelity of Hasselblad but there will also be another camp who want medium format at a price point, and there is nothing wrong with that as we have something to cater to both camps.

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Pentax 645Z- First Thoughts

Ok, this is a camera that I should love to use. Its capable of making great pictures but its just too complex, there are options and buttons everywhere! It has to be the most complete and specced up medium format on the market but for me the lens quality, speed and simplicity of the Hasselblad works for me. The Pentax 55mm lens is good but the Hasselblad is great and I suspect that will hold true across the range. Pentax have to be given credit for making what is almost a “prosumer” medium format camera that gives great results but the lenses just don’t go near the HC “Blad ones, and nor should they because they are no where near the price. More exploration to follow, its a fun camera to shoot and the flip out screen is a great idea.

Its no surprise that the Hasselblad feels like a true system camera, its been around for some time while Pentax has been there with film its new to the medium format digital market. I guess the difference is a bit like Leica versus Canon, simple and refined versus tech gadgetry- in the end the images are what you make of them and a medium format system from any brand won’t make you a better photographer but it will give your pictures a different look to 35mm.

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Medium Format Black & White

I love black and white and I love medium format. These pics were shot digitally on the H5D-40 and covered to Tri-X flavour using VSCO. Its not the same but it comes close, is close enough? Probably not but until I can get another film ‘Blad it will have to do (not a bad situation to be in, so don’t get me wrong- not complaining).

The pics look like medium format, the files were shot at 400 iso, the large sensors seem to handle up to 1600 iso very well and people really don’t take any notice of me even though the camera is pretty big. My theory is that unless you are pointing a big white lens stuck on a brick DSLR people don’t really care. Strange but true. Exposure latitude is amazing, under and over exposure recovery is I think up to four stops either way.

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