Posts Tagged ‘4/3’

Improved Lens

18 July 2011

Dear J-

What attracted me first to the 4/3rds camera system was the lens reputation and the quiet shutter of the E-1 (which has now been too silent after one fall too many; I ought to see if it can be repaired) and I can testify to both. When the lenses have failed to perform it’s been my fault or some settings have gotten bumped in the transition from bag to hand. The idea of lenses designed from the ground-up to optimize sensor performance is admirable but the systen has fallen victim to its own standards: lenses weren’t much smaller enough to save much weight or bulk (consider my aching shoulders after three days in amusement parks) and sensor performance has lagged behind the state-of-the-art.

There are renewed calls for higher-grade lenses in the Micro 4/3rds lineup in the wake of the trickling-out Zuiko 12/2. It is a lens that could not have been made at that weight and price in 4/3rds and I’m completely green with envy over its very existence although I wnder if the relaxed standards on telecentricity were just marketing speak I bought into too readily. As much as I like to think that I’m above base temptation the very existence of primes in those first three focal length (equivalents) I first bought into the Nikon system is incredibly tempting: I own the Nikkor 50/1.4, 85/1.8, and 24/2.8, all pre-AI designs (deliberate choice based on camera and cost). Now Micro 4/3rds has a 25/1.4, 45/1.8, and 12/2.

Combine those with a multi-aspect imager like what’s in the GH1 or GH2 and you’d be getting what I had at a fraction of the weight and bulk. Yet what I have now in 4/3rds with zooms and everything else covers what I used to have in Nikon already with the exception of a few semi-exotic lenses I hardly used anyway. I’ve become a better photographer but if the equipment can be credited with anything it’s that switching to digital means less residual guilt over film and developing costs. In other words I can shoot more with less pain. I need to keep that in mind: does this (new piece of gear) allow me to do simething new, or make me a better photographer?



Seeing Wide

30 October 2008

Dear J-

You’ll see it in the pictures from Palm Springs, aside from the zoo pictures; frustrated with having to stay far from my subjects, I picked up and started using the adapted 16mm Fisheye-Nikkor for a good portion of my shots.  The distortion is actually pretty subtle — it looks like a lens with noticeable barrel distortion, but as long as you keep the lines running through the center, they’re not bad at all.  It made it easier to grab some of the group shots in San Jose, too, where quarters were tight and the adapted 35mm Elmarit-R was a touch too isolationist.

So that’s why, for my first autofocus lens, I chose a wide zoom.  It’s fun to stick the manual glass in front of the 4/3rds sensor, but ultimately limiting; short of exotic focal lengths and lenses (without the Fisheye, I’m not sure that I would have stayed sane for much longer), there’s no easy way to get the angle of — let alone focus — anything much shorter than a true f=35mm lens.  Even that’s a mild telephoto when put onto the 4/3rds system, and while it helps isolate the attention onto what you want, it’s a crutch for composition.  Let me explain.

I once read an interview with Jay Maisel, where the joke was that a f=300mm lens (in 135 film terms) served as his wideangle, and knowing the arsenal he had (reputedly the longest lens Nikon ever made in regular production — the f=2000mm Reflex-Nikkor), I can believe it.   Seeing wide is a matter of editing your views; you have to be able to make sure that everything in the frame strengthens the picture.  The point is that it’s relatively easy to isolate and cherry-pick some interesting detail with a telephoto; Maisel had the trick of finding patterns and geometry in those details as well.  Peeping through the viewfinder now is a revelation; I used to say that the first time I held up a f=35mm lens on my old film cameras, it encompassed pretty much exactly how I saw the world.  With the adapted lenses, I think I’ve gotten a bit of tunnel vision, and the new lens has been like taking that cone off my head.  It doesn’t mean that I’ve got the hang of it again, but I’ll keep at it.