Diary of a camera addict

Recent Posts

Zenit 3M Reloaded

Zenit 3M Reloaded

Last time when I wrote about my Zenit 3M, I could not show any sample photos as the shutter was very slow and ran uneven. It was the case only until I have found a neat little article Zenit E: Shutter Curtain Repairs with repair tips. I […]

Irish Streets

Irish Streets

I have been planning to write about my adventures in Dublin and Galway a long time ago. It was a short business trip in 2015 for only 2 weeks but I could fit in some time to explore and of course to take photographs. I […]

Crazy to shoot film?

Crazy to shoot film?

For a long time ago, I am trying really hard to identify and  find the proper way formulate the reasons why I am pursuing film photography. My opinion has changed during the years quite drastically and I went through many stages. If I want to be honest I have started up because it was the only way I could afford to go with bigger “sensor” sizes and thus achieve bokeh.

Piano, Leica M2, Summitar 50mm, Ilford FP4 Plus, Epson V700

Later I turned towards the typically listed reasons such as slowing down, being more disciplined and make every frame count. I was also and to some extent still is a big believer of the film look and the superiority of quality of film over digital. But as digital technology as well as the corresponding software environment matured I have had harder and harder time convince myself that these arguments stand if they are closely inspected.

The film look can be emulated so good that I have hard time to tell the difference between some of my own experimental film filtered digital and actual film photo pairs. The quality argument in strictly technical terms has melted away to me unless one uses really big formats. Even worse there are plentiful situations where digital is unquestionably excels for examples when extreme high sensitivity is needed.

One can be disciplined with a digital camera in hand as well. A memory card with just little space on it can simulate the limiting factor of roll sizes, and nothing stops us not to look at the screen every time the shutter was released.

I was really questioning all the effort, time and money I have put into equipment, film, darkroom material and  software into film photography. Should I keep doing this or it would be the best to write off all the losses and switch completely to digital once and for all? I had to let this question sit on a hidden shelf for quite some time somewhere in my mind. I think I have my  answer now and I am eager to share. Maybe I am not alone with my reasons.

Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

The answer is not quite straight forward. It is an evil mixture of deep psychological hooks on my personality spiced up with a good amount of nostalgia and a tiny bit of snobbism. The trivial part is that I enjoy to handle nice, well made vintage cameras and lenses. They are built to last and most of them even have quite a bit of a history. I think I also have an anti-consumerist side which grasps for the concept of a simpler world where one does not feel the need to change camera body and even brand every second year. I adore my carefully selected gear and I am now very reluctant to change it for the next big thing from the universe of gadgets.

The not so trivial part starts with the limitation factor on choices. If I use a certain type of film, I can technically do countless things with it especially because I use a hybrid workflow which involves digital processing. But a digital raw file with a library of Lightroom filters in hand is just a bigger set of infinite. This could lead to paralysis via choices. Here is a brilliant Ted talk by Barry Schwartz about this topic. I need to accept the inherited characteristics of the material rather than trying to define it. I am very happy with the aesthetics I get from my favorite film stocks, but I have hard time to be able to decide which filter to use when I start out with a digital file.

Of course there is also the fact that to get from the decisive moment to a print or even to a digital file, there is a lot of work involved. Prepare, shoot, make notes, develop,make notes again, scan, process digitally, catalog, select in multiple rounds, archive, print, publish online. All these steps require me to be fully present and put myself into the process. Every stage involves different skills, a lot patience and of course anything could go wrong at any given time especially with the chemicals. Because of this long and delicate process I learn to care more about the photos. Eventually I program myself to like the end results because I have to wait (sometimes months long) to get to see them. 

Showroom puppet after work, Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

Each and every shoot which survives my process is special for me even though they are not perfect. They have personality and I remember them all. I could mostly tell what film and camera I used even without checking the notes. They reflect a stage on my self-seeking journey, a snapshot of the way I approached a subject and the process at a given point in time. All of these factors together shape the reason why I stick to film.

Systers, Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

Of course there are numerous things which I don’t necessarily like about film. While I enjoy working in the darkroom, I am not very happy to get in contact with dangerous chemicals.  Working with old equipment means that occasionally they give up, leaving you with nothing but bitter disappointment instead of nice photographs. 

Pentacon Six TL, Biometar 80mm, Fuji Acros 100 expired, Ilford ID-11, Epson V700

This is a high risk high reward game I seem to enjoy. I would certainly think different if I would practice photography for living and not only for fun. In any case, I stop struggling for finding better answers for now. There are still many reasons I have not listed now like working with tactile physical materials or the element of surprise as the process cannot be fully controlled. But I know enough to let this question go and I will keep focusing on the actual act of shooting film rather than analyzing the motivations behind.

Autumn shoots with the Yashica (Part 2)

Autumn shoots with the Yashica (Part 2)

The second half of the Fuji Superia 400 in the Yashica had been shot during a wonderful family trip at the south of Austria. We have picked an easy trail close to Arnfels this time but one packed with nice scenery and experiences. We have […]

Autumn shoots with the Yashica (Part 1)

Autumn shoots with the Yashica (Part 1)

To follow up the previous post where the focus was on the retro stylish look of the Yashica TL Super, here are some of the shoots out the roll which was in the very same camera. All of these photos have been taken during our last visit to […]

Beauty of a Camera Yashica TL Super

Beauty of a Camera Yashica TL Super

We were on a family visit at my father a few weeks back from now. As usual we had a great food and many things to talk about. Also as usual I have spotted something in his garden. A stack of beautify worn wooden boxes many of which had navy green painting and interesting signs on their sides. I was staring them for a brief moment with my suspicious look (I practice a lot in the mirror). I was immediately considering all possible combinations and alignments of them in relation to the direction of light and possible angles of framing. I must have had a look on my face of a hardcore Stanley Kubrick when he discovers a perfect massive monolith in his fathers’s backyard after a long night watching Space Odyssey. I asked if I could use them as background for a few shoots and also about their origin and current use.

As it turned out these were military ammunition boxes originally, but now they are used to store and transport machine parts new and used alike. This meant that there were plenty of scratches, oil marks and shiny metal particles all over them which made them even more exciting to me. At this time they were all empty so I could use them how I wanted. I always have a camera with me and because my Leica was in service I was revisiting old friends from the shelf. That day my bag hosted my lovely Yashica TL Super paired with the mighty 80mm Pancolar. This lens is a sole reason why I still have an M42 mount camera and this Yashica is a great match indeed.

Anyways, I took a few shoots about the Yashica and a series about my father’s Mometta II and I thought they are worthwhile to feature them on the blog. If you would like to read my Yashica TL Super review, you can find it here. These shoots were all taken hand held with my wife’s Sony NEX 6 and I had no softbox or any reflectors with me. Luckily the weather was overcast and overall I am happy with the results. I am curious thought what will I find during the next family visit and if I should better prepare myself with a complete studio setup :-).

Since then I finished the film in the Yashica as well as from the Zenit3M I used recently. The Leica is also back now and I am looking forward to try it. In any case when the film comes back from the lab and I find some time to scan and edit, I will show the results from this kit as well.

Mometta II

Mometta II

The members of the Mometta camera family are really quite special to me. There are not so many cameras were made in Hungary at the first place, but since these are 35mm rangefinder cameras with a quite unique design it was only a matter of […]

Grüner See

Grüner See

What would a photographer do if he  would suddenly need to carry an ever moving child on his back to every location he would take photos? Of course he would use the new situation in order to justify a new purchase of a lens for the sake […]

M9 + Sonnar vs M2 + Planar

M9 + Sonnar vs M2 + Planar

Two friends with the same passion to photography, both using rangefinder cameras almost indistinguishable from the distance. The cameras are matched with fast 50mm lenses from the same brand and color.

Sounds like these photographers or at least their choice of gear are quite the same. While this statement is true to some degree, there are significant differences. In fact there are more differences than the obvious technological dissimilarity between the capturing media used by the cameras (llford Delta 100 film in the Leica M2, Kodak CCD sensor in the M9).

Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM
Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM

Ramón uses a digital Leica M9 P which of course captures color information and renders in a very unique way. Many including himself claims that under ideal circumstances the CCD sensor in this camera creates much more pleasing results than other sensors used in other digital cameras with the same sensor size. This is a topic can be argued for a long time, but at the end of the day it is his subjective view and his decision to use a rangefinder with this sensor.

Ramón, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min
Ramón, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min

At the same time I was using a classic Leica M2 with black and white film. Even though the output of the digital camera is also appealing, the analog workflow is still favorable to me. It is partly because I enjoy the process of creating the image in this old fashioned way, but also I can achieve the film look what I am looking for much more naturally.

My primary lens is a Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 which I love for many reasons but mainly because of it’s bokeh. Ramón has a Planar f/2 from the same ZM series, although I believe this is not his standard lens. Both lenses are fast 50mm primes, yet they are quite different. The Plannar is reliably excellent lens, which can be praised for it’s great sharpness and generally beautiful bokeh.

The Sonnar is a bit more hectic with the potential of surprises both in positive and negative ways. This lens can be bit soft wide open, but the bokeh is just phenomenal most of the time and from f/2 sharpness is already more than enough to me. The Sonnar has a bad reputation of focus shifting which is change of the focus plane when adjusting aperture. I personally don’t have any issues focusing with this lens. We switched lenses for the day, so we could experiment and see the differences. At the end of the day we enjoyed using these lenses, they both performed well on digital sensor and on film.

Also note that we use the cameras with different style. One of us covers only 1 eye with the viewfinder and keeps the other eye free open while the other covers his entire face with the camera and thus limited with single eye framing. Naturally this difference can be explained by the magnification used on the viewfinders, but it is also hugely a personal preference.

The great similarities and the differences between the cameras and lenses made me wonder can be photographers categorized at all by the type of gear they use? I guess the answer is controversially yes and no. Surely we use the same style of camera with the same focal length. This would put us into a technical category of normal lens rangefinder shooters. But even if we would use the exact same gear we would end up different results which we would have achieved in different ways. I think the most distinguishing feature in the photography of 2 individuals is not within their camera, but behind of it.

Eszter & Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM
Eszter & Gábor, Leica M9 P, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 ZM

Eszter, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Plannar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min

Eszter, Leica M2 , Carl Zeiss Plannar 50mm f/2 ZM, Ilford Delta 100, Rodinal 1+50, 20°C, 8 min

John Gunn Camera Shop

John Gunn Camera Shop

As you may have noticed I have never written a post about any camera shops or labs I visited. There are many reasons behind this starting from the fact that most of them are quite uninteresting and ending with my intention to not make advertisements […]


My Diary

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Introduction

The Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 is a late development of Carl Zeiss Jena which was at that time the East German part of the original company torn into pieces by the WW II . Therefore this lens was accessible in the eastern block mainly and even though now it can be found all around Europe, this is a very rare lens in other continents.

The lens has a high reputation as a sharp, fast portrait lens and it is quite expensive among other lenses of the same era. It has an M42 mount and was produced in both automatic and electronic forms. It was later remounted as the B-mount Carl Zeiss Jena Prakticar 1.8/80. (source Praktica-users.com)

Data sheet and optical formula

Pancolar lens schema
  • Construction:6 elements, 5 groups
  • Angular field: 30.4°
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.8m
  • Diaphragm action: fully automatic
  • Coating: Multi coated
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • No. aperture blades: 6
  • Filter size: 58mm screw-in type
  • Push-on diameter: 60mm
  • Weight: 310g
  • Barrel length: 64mm

This lens is a typical example of  the legendary classic double Gauss lens formula also known as Planar.

The Double Gauss was likely the most intensively studied lens formula of the twentieth century, producing dozens of major variants, scores of minor variants, hundreds of marketed lenses and tens of millions of unit sales. It had almost no flaws, except for a bit of oblique spherical aberration, which could lower peripheral contrast. Double Gauss/Planar tweaks were the standard wide aperture, normal and near normal prime lens for sixty years.

The double Gauss lens consists of two back-to-back Gauss lenses (a design with a positive meniscus lens on the object side and a negative meniscus lens on the image side) making two positive meniscus lenses on the outside with two negative meniscus lenses inside them. The symmetry of the system and the splitting of the optical power into many elements reduces the optical aberrations within the system. (source: Wikipedia)

My Pancolar

I have got mine from the girlfriend of my father with the original case. She never used it, it was basically on the shelf without a camera since ages.

Probably she didn’t know what was the value of this lens, so I didn’t know neither. As it turned out it is an expensive lens among the usually very cheap M42 mount lenses. The market price is very similar to a new Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, which is why I am often thinking on selling it. So far, I decided to keep it, because of the nice performance, character and because I can use it on many crazy cameras of mine.

The front cap was missing and the aperture blades were stuck, otherwise as you can see on the photos below, the lens was in a really good shape. The glass was clean, no dust, no scratches, no fungus and it was obviously not used too much. I have substituted the missing front cap with a Canon cap of the standard 18-55mm kit lens. I tried to use other Ø 58mm caps, but this was the only one which was not tending to touch the front lens element.

The way it looks

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8 box
Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8  hard-case
Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8
Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8
Carl Zeiss Pancolar Jena 80mm f/1.8

Personal experience

This is one of my favorite lenses. The images are always very sharp and have a good contrast with it. I can say that there is very little signs of any aberrations or distortions over the frame. I have not tested the lens scientifically yet, so I cannot compare the performance in numbers with other lenses.  But real word experience is quite pleasant for me.

100% crop of a challenging image (high contrasts) at f/2.8, very little chromatic aberration can be seen

(post about this image),(full image)

At wide open, sharpness and contrast are a bit lower than stopped down by one-two stops, but still quite nice and I think this is very common with almost all fast prime lenses. Besides a slightly softer result can be beneficial for some portraits where little details of the skin can be smother and this way the model  could look more perfect. The 80mm Pancolar is really not much softer wide open though. Colors are also reach and lovely and somehow different from my other lenses when using on the same digital body.

Dept of field & Bokeh

Only the right eye is sharp of this cat

I like this short telephoto lens, because this focal distance allows me to take nice shoulder portraits while I am still close enough to the model to interact with.

Also this lens has the ability to blur the background (like hell) very much because of the large maximum aperture. In fact the depth of field can be so shallow that sometimes you get only a few centimeters of it and it has a risk that you miss the focus. A good example when only one eye of the model is in focus.

Speaking about bokeh (quality of out of focus elements), this lens produces a lot and the quality is superb, creamy. I know it is subjective to judge this property, so please have a look at the sample shoots and decide yourself. The only caveat with it is the fact that the lens has only 6 aperture-blades. It could produce a not circular (multigonal) spots of  highlights in the blurred background. It is subjective thing again to like it or not, personally I prefer the perfect circles. This is not a problem when shooting wide open as aperture is round at that case.

Build quality

Pancolar lens barell eytension

The Pancolar is a very well made lens which has a full metal + real glass construction.  It looks absolutely beautiful, feels solid and has a good weight to it. The aperture ring clicks at every half stops and operates very smoothly and precisely. The focus could be the same if I had got the right grease into it. -I will get it fixed soon. – The lens barbell extends a few milometers while focusing, but not seriously and the front element does not rotate -> there is no problem with polarizing filters to use.

There is a switch on the lens to set automatic or manual mode. When set to automatic the aperture stops down only when you press the shutter button and than it returns to full size when mounted on a compatible camera. In the case of manual mode, you must pre-set the aperture manually. This could be nice  feature to  for videographers.

Conclusion

I have found a short summary on a nice website (Prime35.com) which is a perfect quote to close this post.

CZJ Pancolar MC 80/1.8

I’d say this is the best choice for versatile and sharp M42 80mm lens. It’s contrasty, it has the best wide-opened performance of all f/1.5-f/2 M42 portrait lenses. Center is close to Biotar, but borders are much sharper. Great colours (MC) + great bokeh. It also isn’t as risky as the early post-war lenses, because its coating is much harder, so cleaning marks are not an issue. For me it’s the best post-war Jena lens. (source: Prime35.com)

Links

Sample shoots

Using digital body (crop frame)

On my cropped frame Canon body this lens is equivalent to a 128mm lens on a 35mm body due to the 1.6x cropping factor.

Albert (Girona, Catalonia), Canon 450D, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8
SavE (Girona, Catalonia), Canon 450D, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8
Gatto (Beget, Catalonia), Canon 450D, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8

Using film

Puppet (Girona, Catalonia), Cosina CSM, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8, Fuji superia 200, Canoscan 9900F
Antonio (Girona, Catalonia), Cosina CSM, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8, Fuji superia 200, Canoscan 9900F
L (Miskolc, Hungary), Cosina CSM, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8, Fuji superia 200, Canoscan 9900F
Weimar Lux CDS, Yashica TL Super, Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f/1.8, Fuji superia 200, Canoscan 9900F

For more samples see my Pancolar Flickr set.