Sunday, October 11, 2020

Well, yes, things have changed...

I recently snarked and whinged over obvious changes taking place in the community of image makers.  Not knowing what else to do, bored I guess, I decided to see what was on the market.  Which led to an upheaval of equipment chez moi.

The shift started with the Elinchrom flash kit.  Then, like magic, half of my collection of Nikon Nikkor glass was on offer.  Only to be replaced by a couple things.  

Lots going out.  Just a bit coming in.  Better balance of tools and materials?  Maybe.

Animated Spirits - reborn

From a photoshoot I had
shortly after moving to Paris
lit using Elinchrom Bx500Ri

The Elinchrom flash system was used perhaps a dozen times.  I'd purchased the materials new in anticipation of working with models in Paris of the kind I enjoyed working with back in Portland, Oregon.  Alas, things are quite different here, I had a big lesson to learn, and I was never able to get anything serious off the ground.

After nearly three years of sitting idle, I sold nearly everything from the studio kit.  I've kept the backdrop system of poles and stands "just in case" something comes up.  I will use available light should any future opportunities to work with creative people arise.

Lens Stories ~ Lens Lineup

A small sample of the collection of
Nikkor lenses that used to take up
space in the closet

With the Nikkors I rationalized the sales by admitting I had way too much glass in the closet.  I had duplicates and sometimes quadruplicates of nearly every focal length from 20mm up through 300mm.  So a bunch of stuff had to go.

Knowing now what I know about out of focus rendition and how nearly all lenses out resolve film and sensors, I decided to keep a few that I've found have unique properties.  The Micro-Nikkors and an interesting 50mm a/1.8 AiS remain in the closet.  So do the incredible 85mm f/1.8 K and early 105mm f/2.5 P.  I'm weighing keeping the surprisingly good 75-150mm Series-E f/3.5 and an old 35mm f/2 pre-Ai as well.

After a few sales the envelope of resources had grown somewhat large and, lo and behold, I can across an inexpensive nearly mint Zeiss 16-70mm ZA OSS f/4 for the Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras.  

Lens Stories ~ 16-70mm Zeiss ZA OSS

Sony NEX-7 with Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS

What a find this has been!  The 18-55mm Sony kit lens only "comes good" around f/8. Looking at the resolution of the 16-70mm Zeiss from wide open proves to me the value of spending a bit of money for something "decent."  

Then I looked at the out of focus rendition and I find I am very pleasantly surprised.  I contrast the Zeiss experience against my long time use of a Canon 24-105mm L f/4.  The Canon lens was hugely expensive and had more than a few short-comings that became obvious with use.  However, the Zeiss optic is so good that it doesn't seem to have any weaknesses. I might have to spend a year or two using it as my daily "beater" lens. 

Thumbing a bit deeper into the envelope revealed even more resources. So, what to do next?  Well, it turns out I want to solve a specific problem that I was having photographing automobiles at the Montlhery Autodrome.  It is a high banked track that dates from the early 20th century and motor-events are held nearly every weekend there.

Vintage Revival Montlhery ~ 2019

Nikon Nikkor 100-300mm f/5.6 AiS ~
a real beast to manually focus, but when
I nail the focus - woohoo!!!

Previously I used a Nikon Nikkor 100-300mm f/5.6 AiS to reach out and show the steepness of the racetrack's incline.  This lens isn't often talked about, but it is one of the finest optics, fixed focal length or zoom, that I've ever encountered in this range.  The out of focus rendition is "to die for" gorgeous.  The resolution is incredible from wide open.  It really is that good.  But, manually focusing that thing at 300mm is a real bear, even when perched on a monopod.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I rediscovered that Sony recently released a 70-350mm G-Master optic for their APS-C system.  A friend has been sharing some images from airshows in England, where he uses a Canon 100-400mm L.  

Lens Stories ~ Sony 70-350mm G-Master

Sony A6000 with Sony 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G-Master

At 350mm's on the long end the Sony isn't quite as long a lens as the 100-400mm Canon, but it might be close enough (what's 50mm's, really now).  It has better reviews than the more expensive full frame Sony 70-300mm G-Master.  The out of focus rendition looks nearly the equal of the 100-300mm Nikkor.  For this old man who is getting a little shaky the very best part is that the Sony 70-350mm comes with auto-focus and optical image stabilization.

I'm looking forward to Montlhery re-opening events to the public (we're in the midst of a pandemic just now).  This coming spring at the Vintage Revival I hear that the Beast of Turin will thunder its way around the circuit.  What a sight that will be!  Maybe my wife and I will be able to go across la manche to see our English friends, too, as soon as things open up again.  There are a few of our friend's airshows that I'd like to see what this lens can do.

All this leads me to the current state.  I really should stop buying and selling things, but it's what I do when I'm bored and photo opportunities are few.  

When the situation changes and I can get out more I know I will be able to concentrate on making images and this Madness will pass.

Oh.  Have I mentioned I've taken up drawing?  Hah.  I must really be bored.


Beast of Turin ~ 1911 Fiat S76

Beast of Turin Fiat S76 at Retromobile 2016