Archive for March, 2016


In the mirror with the 1.2

I have written about my love of mirrorless bodies and their ability to easily mount vintage lenses from almost any camera system. Although my money camera is a full frame EOS 5D Mk II (yes I know that body is getting a bit dated), The camera I have the most fun with is my EOS M3 mirorless body. I owned the original M body and wrote about it here. I now use the M3 which is everything the M and M2 should have been. I wrote about that camera here.

My good friend and business associate Graham has been hounding me to get a “real” lens for my mirrorless body. You know a Leica Summicron 35mm perhaps. I am a lover of fast glass and 2.0 is fast but a Summilux 1.4 is better 😉 Of course the need to have a Sultan’s cash to get a Summilux tends to push back at me. Not to mention that the APS-C crop sensor in the M3, as good as it is, will not likely show me the superiority of the Leica lens. If I buy a Summicron or even a price bloated Summilux I have what amounts to a fancy badge and bragging rights with no real advantage on the images. My friend, uses a newer Sony A7 and that camera is capable of utilizing the amazing Leica image quality. It make sense for him to have the superior lens.


Look at that haze! Looks worse than it is but still…

So I own several vintage lenses and a modern M Mount Voightlander lens as well. Recently I acquired a 50mm f/1.2 rangefinder lens from the 1950s and 60s era; mine is from the late 1950s . This was an upgrade lens for Canon 7 (35mm rangefinder) buyers that could not quite make the bill for the legendary f/0.95 lens. I got this lens for a ridiculously low price but it came with the caveat that there was some internal hazing that would affect the picture quality. I decided to give it a go, just for fun. Sometimes I buy these lenses and I can clean them up myself. The hazing on this example as it turns out, is specifically located between two cemented lens elements. The rest of the glass is MINT perfect. Unfortunately my skills do not allow me to mess with a cemented group. The photos are affected particularly in backlit scenes where the haze scatters the light and kills the contrast. It also creates a soft glow on the light source. This gives a very classic vintage look to ambient light scenes reminiscent of days gone by when rendered in B/W. I love it. On properly front lit scenes the haze has very little negative effect. It is absolutely softening the contrast and maybe even causing a little loss of sharpness, but this lens is not noted for being tack sharp wide open anyway.


Muffin the Cat, EOS M3 with 50mm 1.2 @ f/2.0 800 ISO

Mint condition examples of this lens tend to fetch upwards of $700. I have to decide if spending $200-$300 to have a lens expert separate and reset the cemented group is worthwhile. For now I am enjoying the creamy, soft bokeh of a classic F/1.2 lens that I got for well less than $300.

So I am enjoying a vintage time warp of sorts as I make images that have a definitive old school feel. Even if the quality when measured against the absolute perfection of modern lens design is weak, the images are not. I have found that I can trade a little digital noise for perceived sharpness using tools in Photoshop or Lightroom.

I would love to have this lens in perfect optical condition, but I am not convinced the quality is good enough to justify the expense of “perfection”. The only shot in this series of images I have today that really sucks is the backlit shot below which has clear issues with flare and contrast. But in black and white it has a certain vintage look that is a bit raw and could be a great way to capture that feel of a smoky 1950s nightclub. With just a little bit of effort in Lightroom, I can create pretty good images with the lens despite the lens haze. It is quite amazing actually!

The take away here is that ideally we want our lenses to be free of severe haze and fungus and such, but look at how good the images can be with significant haze. Note that the image showing the haze makes it look worse than it is, but it is pretty bad and yet some of these images are pretty good despite the flaws. I am shooting with a true exotic lens for which I paid what amounts to chump change. Bear in mind that I use vintage gear, I don’t collect museum pieces. You can often find lenses with minor flaws in the glass far less significant than the severe haze this lens has for heavy discounts off a mint example. If you want to make images, buy a slightly to moderately flawed lens and enjoy it. Often there is no perceptible loss of quality even with noticeable marks in the glass. I used to buy rough condition Leica lenses because I knew the image quality would not suffer and I could own the best lenses in the world for prices that I could afford. These days, Leica lenses have become so valuable that the rough ones are being repaired rather than sold as is. Many other fantastic lenses are out there in varying degrees of condition, go try some. This Canon 50mm 1.2 is just another reason I love modern digital photography 🙂


Socks the Cat, M3 with 50mm 1.2 @ f/2.0 3200 ISO Cropped 100%


Socks the Cat with M3 and 50mm 1.2 @ f/1.2 3200 ISO Cropped 100%

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