22 December 2015

Vintage portrait lenses

Only recently I have started to explore portraits.
I am not that great with photographing people close-up as I feel that I am bossing them around when I ask to pose a certain way to get the image I want.
Petra however is happy to accommodate my request while I futz with old vintage manual focus lenses: she understands and enjoys manual lenses herself :-)

Petra evening walk_c
Jupiter-9 85mm f2 @f4 1/250sec
I could use an auto-focus lens but I am not too fond of the clinical look I get from them: too sharp and the bokeh is often not as "creamy" as old, simpler optical-design lenses.
It's the quirks and faults of the Russian lenses that I seek in some of my images.
The challenge however is to make them work in demanding light conditions as they tend to flare badly in back-lighting.

Petra at the park_Jup8_c
Jupiter-8 50mm f2  @f4  1/250sec
I often miss the focus since I like to use them rather wide open and the depth of field on longer lenses is very shallow.
There is no way I can get satisfactory images of fast moving subject but for slower type of photography, I enjoy the feel and look that I get from lenses sometimes older than myself :-)

I wanted to see how 4 different lenses perform in similar lighting, time of the day and conditions.
My favorite look comes from the extremely popular Russian lens (copy of the German CZJ Biotar) : the Helios 44-2. At 58mm f2 it is just the right focal length for portrait. Easy to focus (contrasty enough) and the background blur (bokeh) is very much to my liking.

Petra at the park_Hel44-2_c
Helios 44-2  58mm f2  @f2.8  1/20sec
The more compact looking (I have a thing for small camera/lenses) but longer focal length of the Jupiter-9 85mm f2 is a very low contrast lens and not that sharp (at least my copy).
I have to work on my images after I shot them as out of the camera they look very milky.

Petra park walk_c
Jupiter-9 85mm f2  @f4 1/1500sec
In the mix of these old Russian lenses I tried also a very long lens: a Vivitar (made by Komine) 135mm f2.8. It was an impulse by on eBay but a very pleasant surprise.
I find it sharp even wide open and the bokeh is rather pleasant even tho not as creamy.

Petra at the park_Viv135_c
Vivitar 135mm f2.8   @2.8 1/20sec!
Last but not least I do realize that these lenses are easier to use today than when they were designed for film cameras. The incredible image stabilization on my diminutive Olympus cameras allow me to take images with incredible low shutter speeds. At 270mm (film camera equivalence) I shot the above image at 1/20 sec!    If that was on my Nikon camera many years ago, it would have been a total blur, unrecognizable image :-)


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