Reader Stories: Using a vintage manual lens on a modern camera is like meditation to me

by Guest Contributor

posted Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 9:28 AM EST


By IR Reader Ludwig Heinrich 

My main photographic interest is landscapes. As I travel Australia, visiting family and friends, along the way I venture into National Parks—and sometimes even more out of the way places. But circumstances often prevent me travelling and, while the streets and surroundings of Canberra contain a myriad photo opportunities, there are times when I must remain at home. I’m sure there are many of us with similar stories; we live in a web of constraints.

But I am also a keen gardener and have found that there can be surprising beauty in the everyday.

Sometimes a detail of a common plant can catch my eye. These Scarlet Runner bean tendrils reminded me of Art Nouveau drawings and I used a sepia treatment (with vignetting) to emphasise that look.

Scarlet Runner Bean Tendrils: Sony a6000, Sigma E 30mm ƒ/2.8 @ ƒ/8, 1/80s, ISO 500

Normally I would have passed by my potato plants without any real attention but a recent plot of potatoes flowered and, to my surprise, this particular variety did not have the white petals I am used to seeing:

Potato Flowers: Sony a6000, Zeiss Pancolar 50mm ƒ/1.8 @ 1/250s, ISO 100
(Forgot to log aperture)

The following photo was also taken with that ancient Zeiss lens mounted on the Sony with a Selens Tilt Adapter which is set to about 8° Tilt on a angle—I didn’t measure the angle I just kept turning the lens til the image looked right. Of course, that lens on an A6000 results in a 75mm eq. focal length.

Passionfruit Flower: Sony a6000, Zeiss Pancolar 50mm ƒ1.8 @ ƒ/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 100


Taking photos with an old manual lens on a modern digital camera may seem a little strange but some of these old lenses have wonderful characteristics. The Zeiss Pancolar 50mm is not as sharp as my modern Sigma 30mm but stopped down to ƒ/2.8 or ƒ/4 it is sharp enough for most of my needs, and it gives an image an almost painterly look with its soft colours and beautiful bokeh.

Using this lens—or any manual lens, seems to enhance the engagement with the subject—one cannot just point the camera and let the technology do its thing. For me this process is as good as meditation—or, I would claim, better because every once in a while I capture a look, an image, that I think is worth sharing.

For bigger versions of these photos—and a few more besides, you can find my folio by clicking here.

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(A big IR Thank You, Ludwig!)



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Canon 7D with EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II
(25 seconds / f/2.8 / 16mm / ISO 250 / manual exposure)