Monthly Archives: June 2015

A lens with hidden qualities.

I wanted to write a post about a lens which you might occasionally find in the bargain section of your local second hand camera store, but which has hidden qualities.
A few years ago I was given a rather bulky, heavy zoom lens, covering the range of 35-85mm. If you were looking for a wide to medium tele lens you would probably not choose this one, but go for a smaller, lighter 28-80 lens, of which there are many, so this would probably not get picked out. The thing is, it has a rather fast constant f2.8 aperture, whereas most wide/mid tele zooms are f3.5-4.

Where this lens comes into its own, is the ability to have both a very sharp lens, and a very beautiful soft lens combined in one. The widest aperture gives beautiful shallow depth of field with lovely glowing background highlights, especially at the 85mm end, and when stopped down just a few clicks it becomes really sharp. The lens is the Vivitar series 1 35-85mm f2.8. It is not strictly speaking, a zoom lens. You have to re focus each time you change focal length, so it is known as a variable focus lens. This is not a big problem, as you would be using this lens at one focal length at a time for its optical qualities, not for shooting sport.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 16.30.53

Have a look at the images here. The clarity can’t be conveyed on a low res j.peg, but I assure you it is there. Look also at the out of focus water droplets on the shot of the wet grass -really nice. For portraits this is a superb lens, you can choose sharp or soft according to your sitter, or style of shot.

Wet grass

Looking online I saw some terrible reviews for it, but these were when the lens was used on a DSLR. The lens wasn’t designed for that and I think it performs brilliantly with black and white film.

Corrugated (2)  Corrugated

Brainwave.

Sometimes, a simple solution to a problem takes ages to appear. I’ve been using a couple of cameras that rely on zone focusing for many years and the depth of field scale on them has been vague and difficult to work out. I have got used to them now, but the other day it suddenly occurred to me that I should look up the actual depth of field for these lenses online and find out what they were capable of when stopped right down.

I went to the website; ‘Depth of Field Master’ and put in the various settings until I had worked out maximum depth of field for these two cameras and my 24mm lens. The brainwave came when I realised that I only had to colour code five aperture markings; f5.6, f8, f11, f16 and f22 and I could establish a quick and easy way to set the lens for depth of field without any calculations or messing about.

Zeiss and Rollie with dots

I decided to mark f5.6 as dark green, f8 as light blue, f11 as red, f16 as light green and f22 as yellow. If I put the colours next to the apertures, and also at the point on the lens where the hyperfocal distance was, I could get away not worrying about focus.

Rollei dots

I used Humbrol enamel paint which is sold for model painting and I applied it with a fine brush (stir well first).

IMG_0466

I’m not bothered about the resale value of these cameras, I expect to use them for the rest of my life, so why not make that job simpler?