Thursday, October 2, 2008

Show the Old Glass Some New Love

Show the Old Glass Some New Love
Article by: Miserere

A few months ago I bought my first car at the ripe old age of 33. As a teenager I dreamt of one day owning a Porsche, or a Lamborghini, or why not a Ferrari? Dreaming was free, and it still is! But nowadays I find myself doing a lot less of it. As you grow up you realise that being practical and realistic is necessary if you hope to stay out of debt. In view of this, I left my childhood dreams parked to one side, so to speak, while my wife and I figured out what car to buy. It was her in the end who found what we needed: a '95 German beauty with 200k and a price tag lower than a Nikon D3. Sure, it's an old car, and it's been well used, but much like a classic, well-kept Zeiss lens, it still runs smoothly, is solid, classy, dependable, and a joy to use. I don't need no stinkin' Porsche!

One can approach photography in much the same fashion, settling for classic lenses that, while not offering most of the perks and commodities of their modern counterparts, can rival them in optical quality. At the end of the day, it's the pictures you take that matter, right?

I enjoy reading about all the latest photographic gizmos that are released each season as much as the next photography nerd. I like knowing what cameras the other companies are releasing, hearing all the rumours about future Pentax lenses, and reading the tests and reviews that come out in print and online. However, while I want to know about all the technicalities and innovations, I rarely identify with the products being reviewed because I know I'll never get to use them. I'm a budget shooter, and I know I'm not alone. Not many of us Pentax users can afford to shell out several hundred dollars for a DA* or Limited lens, because many simply cannot shoulder the expense. It is for these people that I write this week’s article.

One of the reasons I was attracted to Pentax was the backwards compatibility that the system offers, which is unrivalled in the mainstream DSLR world. Not only that, but given that the K mount was so popular in the 70s and 80s, there is an abundance of old K mount glass in the used market manufactured by third party brands. Add to this the huge amount of lens models Pentax itself released, and you have the largest assortment of lenses to choose from of any camera company ever. So why not make the most of it? Following are pictures I took with some old lenses that have crossed my path, which to me are like old German cars. They're not expensive, they're not flashy, but they deliver the goods and get the job done. They’re fun to use too! And I’m willing to bet you have never heard of some of them.

Sigma Super-Wide II 24mm f/2.8

Flowers finally start to bloom in the New England Spring.

Toyo Optics 28mm f/2.8

The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles makes for some great abstract photography:

Tokina 28-70mm f/2.8-4.3

Menacing clouds herald a spring storm for Boston. This photo is hanging on my wall as an 18x22.5 poster.

Pentax 45-125mm f/4

When a baby Robin decides to sunbathe outside your office window, how can you not take a picture?

Hanimex 200mm f/3.5 (M42 mount)

The innocent joy in a child’s face is best captured unobtrusively from a distance with a long, fast prime.

Sigma CAT 400mm f/5.6

A mummy mocking bird feeds a berry to her chick; another situation when a long, fast prime is imperative.

This is a small sample of lenses compared to what is out there, so next time you come across a lens of dubious heritage in a shop, auction or ad, don't scoff at it. Remember that one day, long ago, that lens was loved and made someone happy with the pictures it took, and now, for the price of a few coffees you can make it yours. Buy it, go out for a test drive, take it around the block a few times, and revel in how smoothly it runs. And what about the photos? Are they any good? I bet they are!

But beware, if you're not careful you might find yourself sitting on the couch on a rainy Sunday morning leafing through the 'classic autos' section of your local newspaper.

Thank you for reading,


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