I’ve blogged before about how little difference it makes what camera we use to take our pictures, but I have until now ignored the other side of the equation- how much difference a lens can make.
Fortunately for me, a great lens does not have to cost too much. Many recent cameras, with cheap adapters, can use pretty well any lens ever made and this opens up to us all of the ancient lenses in junk shops and on ebay. All of the pictures from this page, for example are taken with a Zeiss 35mm which was ridiculously cheap online.
The German Zeiss company are legendary in photography for making high quality (and expensive) lenses. After the war, when Germany was split in two, there were two versions of Zeiss and this lens was produced by the East German one- they sold the lenses to the west at prices that undercut their West German former colleagues in order to bring in Western Currency.
It has to be focused manually, which today may seem like a chore, but again with the latest cameras, is easy and gets to be fun. The point is that the pictures it takes, don’t look like those from modern lenses:
What I particularly like about this lens is what happens when I get nearer to things- it is a great lens for close ups:
What you start to notice with pictures like this is that the areas in focus are not the only bits that make a picture work- the blurred background is equally important. The Japanese call this blurring Bokeh and this lens is seen by fans as a Bokeh king:
I sometimes take pictures with this lens that are just blur, I love the bokeh so much:
There are some photographers incidentally who call what you see above “Bokeh Balls”
Normally, though, I step back slightly and enjoy the contrast between a small area that is sharp and the bokeh behind as with this reed by the side of the lake:
It is the kind of lens which pushes you to see the world in a different way, which is what photography is all about for me. Even after a walk in the park it doesn’t stop as I put the cap from a bottle down on a table in the cafe: