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.
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.
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.
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