Thoughts of a recovering lens addict – overcoming O.L.I.

Infection

I’ve had O.L.I. (Old Lens Infatuation = G.A.S. with emphasis on lenses) for a couple of years now, but I’m slowly recovering.

I guess it starts the same for every one who has it: The initial experience with Altglas has the WOW-effect, that all you Altglas-lovers out there know: “Wow, look what this old piece of glass can do – much better than expected”. I was hooked pretty much from the first image I took, if I remember correctly I was using a Canon FD 1.4/50 SSC. Many other images and lenses followed soon after.

I found the deficits of the various objectives charming and wanted to try them all (at least the affordable ones that I could get ahold of). It didn’t matter much what I photographed, because it was all about the lens and its rendering. Thus leaves, flowers, trees, people, everything would do, no special place, light or time required, which is a good thing, because you don’t have to spend a lot of time choosing new locations, good weather or the best time of day.
I never bought lenses in a lot or as a collection. I chose each lens, after I had seen and admired images on the web that had been taken with them. Despite selecting them one by one, I mangaged to assemble far over 100 lenses over the years.  Also the expression “affordable lens” is a very flexible one. I felt like an adventurer during the gold rush: I needed to act fast or else I was missing out on chances and opportunities. Lenses were getting more and more expensive by the minute (or so it felt), the true gems were getting less available, so time was of the essence.

This is what the result looks like (even after I’ve sold around 20 lenses this year already):

GAS

“G” (many of my favourites are in here, but I didn’t spend much time sorting. Some gems still hide in the “A” or “S”. From the top, counter-clockwise to the middle, jumping between “lanes” in no particular order – you’ll figure it out):
Tamron SP 2.8/300, Sigma 3.5/180 Macro, Sony FE 1.8/85, Sony Zeiss 1.8/55 ZA, Canon 2/135 L, ZhongYi Speedmaster 0.95/50, Sigma EX DG 2.8/105 Macro, Sony FE 28-70, Tamron SP 8/500 Mirror lens, Sigma Art 1.4/24, Sigma EX DG 2.8/70 Macro, Sigma EX DG 1.4/85, Sigma Art 1.4/35, Helios-40 1.5/85, Canon FD 1.2/85 L, Leica Summicron-R 2/50, Wollensak Oscillo-Raptar, 1.9/75, Air Ministry 4/5in., Helios 2/92, Contax Planar 2/100, Contax Vario-Sonnar 35-70, Contax Vario-Sonnar 28-85, Nikon AI 1.2/50, RE Auto-Topcor 1.4/58, RE Macro Auto Topcor 3.5/58, Rollei Zeiss Distagon 2/28 Hollywood, Contax G Planar 2/45, Contax G Sonnar 2.8/90, Olympus OM Zuiko 1.2/55, Minolta MC Rokkor 1.7/85, Contax Distagon 2.8/28, Voigtländer Color-Ultron 1.8/50, Zeiss ZE Planar 1.4/50, Meostigmat 1.3/50, Rollei Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/85, RE Auto-Topcor 1.8/58, Contax Planar 1.7/50, Contax Planar 1.4/50, Porst Color Reflex 1.2/50 XM UMC, Tokina AT-X 2.5/90 Macro (Bokina), Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 2.5/100, Tamron SP 35-80, Canon FD 1.2/55 SSC, Minolta MC Rokkor 1.2/58, Revuenon 1.2/55 MC, Meyer-Optik Trioplan 2.8/100.

“A” (bottom left to right then middle)

Meyer-Optik Telemegor 5,5/180, Vivitar 3.5/200, Meyer-Optik Primotar 3.5/135, KO-120M 12cm f/1.8, Contaflex Pro-Tessar 3.2/35, Isco-Mini 2/60, Schneider Super-Cinelux 2/60, Schneider Cinelux Ultra MC 2/45, ISCO Ultra Star HD Plus 2.4/70, ISCO Ultra Star HD Plus 2.4/65, Zeiss IKON Kinostar IV 8cm, LOMO PO-501-1 2/100, SOMCO 2/16, Schneider Super Cinelux 2/50, Schneider Super Cinelux 2/80, ISCO Ultrastar HD 2/80, ISCO Ultra Star MC 2/95, ISCO Ultrastar HD 2/50, Schneider Cinelux 2/45, Aires Coral-H 1.9/45, Contaflex Pro Tessar 3.2/35 (II), Contaflex Pro Tessar 3.2/85, Contaflex Pro Tessar 4/115, Zeiss Kipronar 1.9/120, Olympus OM Zuiko 4/200, Contax 4/80-200, Tokina AT-X 2.8/60-120.
RE.Auto Topcor 3.5/135, Petri 1.4/55 CC Auto, Jupiter-9 2/85, Carl Zeiss Biotar 2/58, Canon FD 2/24, Yashica ML 1.7/50, Canon FD 2.8/28

“S” (from Top to Bottom)

Rollei Zeiss Planar 1.4/85, Sigma YS 2.8/135 Macro focussing, Kowa Prominar-16 1.3/50, Canon EF-S 18-55, Dallmeyer Max-Lite 1.9/3 in., Canon EF-S 55-200, Komuranon 75-150, Canon nFD 1.4/50, Zeiss Visionar 1.6/71, Rodenstock Trinar 4/50, KP-16 1.2/50, Schneider Xenar 2.8/50, Agfa Color-Solinar 2.8/50, Auto Revuenon 1.4/50 MC, Staeble Kata 2.8/45, ISCO Kiptar 2/65, Steinheil Cassarit 2.8/50, Voigtländer Color Skopar 2.8/50, Hi-Topcor 2.8/50, Zeiss Tessar 2.8/50, Wollensak TLR viewing lens, RE Topcor 1.7/55, Enna Correlar 2.9/80, Zeiss Flektogon 2.4/35 MC, Wollensak 2.8/85 TLR taking lens, Auto Revuenon 1.4/55 (Tomioka), Meyer-Optik Trioplan 2.9/50, Zeiss IKON 350mm, Lomo P5 2/90, Zeiss Sonnar 4/135, Petri 1.8/55, Konica Hexanon 1.4/57, Contaflex Pro Tessar 2.8/50 plus DIY Contaflex-M42 Adapter, Schneider Tele-Xenar 3.5/135, Agfa Apotar .5/85, UV Topcor 2/53, Schneider-Kreuznach Reomar 3.5/45, Porst Color Reflex 1.6/50 X-M UMC, Revue 2.8/35 CC Auto, Voigtländer Lanthar 2.8/50, SMC-Pentax-M 1.4/50, Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 2/50, Berophot 4/75, Leitz Colorplan 2.5/90, ISCO Berolina-Westromat 2.8/35, Zeiss Tessar 2.8/50, Petri 2/55, Minolta Rokkor-PF 2/45 (RF Lens), Fujinon 2.2/55, Helios-103 1.8/53, Jupiter-8M 2/50, A. Schacht Travenar 3.5/135, Zeiss Pancolar 1.8/50, Helios-44, Zeiss Primagon 4.5/35, Zeiss Primoplan 1.9/58, Zeiss Flektogon 2.8/35, Kuribayashi Petri Orikkor 2/50.

 

Recovery

Investment

Call me crazy! I guess you’re right! BUT from my experience this year, buying the lenses didn’t do any financial harm. It wasn’t a great investment either (as I thought it could be a while back). I pretty much get the same in return that I spent a while back. Sometimes I loose a little, most of the time I gain a little, but if I figure in the ones that aren’t easy to sell (like the viewfinder lenses), I think I’ll be able to call it even in the end.
Lucky are those that started collecting Altglas 5 to 10 years earlier than me. Back then no one knew just how easy and convenient (starting with the generation of mirrorless cameras) it would be to use the lenses again on modern cameras. Prices were a fraction of what they are again today. Nowadays the prices are pretty much stable – although some ebay sellers don’t seem to think so. But they’re wrong: I know of one lens with a far to steep price tag, that has been advertised for about 2 years now. If you are patient you’ll still find good lenses at the same price they were a few years ago.

Using Altglas and trying new (old) lenses is great fun. But, after a while (or a few years in my case) it’s all the same, the differences are relatively small and I came to the conclusion that the best lenses or the most special ones would suffice.
In my case I got bored with the usual every day pictures in front of my house: the same stuff day in and day out. Once you’ve figured out how to best shoot flowers and blossoms there’s not much else to do creatively. I didn’t want to be the guy whose flickr-account shows the same type of imgages  over and over again, year after year. I want to keep on developing my skills, my style, my areas of expertise.

Having little time on my hands, I realized that it makes even less sense to keep all the lenses. When I get the chance to really go out (into the country) and take some meaningful pictures, I need to make it count. So I started to rely mostly on the same lenses: the best ones at my disposal. While I still like the quirks of old lenses and their special, imperfect rendering, it’s just not worth having 50 lenses of the same era sitting around, waiting their turn.

Back to AF

It gets more and more difficult to photograph children as they grow older. Mine don’t tend to wait for the photo, to the contrary – they start to flee as soon as I point my camera in their direction. Shooting without AF and with an open aperture, it is next to impossible to get critically sharp images without pure luck.

Right now I’m longing for a new camera and with it a few native AF lenses. In order to finance it, I have to let go some or rather many of my vintage (and not so vintage Canon-) lenses. It’ll be a long process selling them off and on the way figuring out which ones to keep in the end. I’ve already told my wife (one more driving force of selling the lenses) that I won’t be able to confine myself to less than 30 lenses and even that will be extremely hard.
At this point letting go is still relatively easy. I’ve sold around 20 lenses, even some that I held in high regard (but with another still sitting on the shelf that is just as capable or special). In the end, when coming close to the 30 that I aim for, it’ll be much, much harder.

Keepers

From the top of my head I will name some lenses that I think will make the final cut:

  • Meyer-Optik Trioplan 2.8/100 for its very special rendering (not only the bubbles). Bubbles, lines and structures in the background are often unwanted, but for the right kind of images it’s genius. If you like character in a lens, this is the reference.
  • Meyer-Optik Primoplan 1.9/58 for the same reason as above. It’s got a very unique fingerprint. The bokeh is very special. It’s the tool of a light painter. It melts your background into soft watercolor when you get close. I often use both Meyer lenses with an extension tube.
  • Helios 40-2 1.5/85 for its swirl and stunning sharpness when stopped down. It’s a huge heavy chunk of glass and metal, though. It’s “the Biotar 75 that I couldn’t afford”.
  • Tamron SP 2.8/300 LD IF (60B) for great sharpness and smooth bokeh and because I always wanted a fast long lens. It’s very heavy, though which is why I don’t take it along very often.
  • Tamron SP 8/500 Mirror: In contradiction to what’s expected, it’s a great lens at closer distances. I’ve shot some of my favourite images of flowers and blooming trees with it. So far I’ve not managed to shoot many landscape images that pleased me (only when I put a lot of work into PS, I managed to get some images that I would show on the web). Photos shot in backlight get real muddy. It still is a fascinating lens for it’s sharpness, reach and versatility due to its very short MFD.
  • The Minolta MC Rokkor 1.2/58. It is the king of bokeh amongst the Altglas. It’s not as sharp as the Canon FD 1.2/55 SSC, but that’s not the reason to have a glass like that anyways. In overall qualities it wins the competition with the other vintage 1.2/5x lenses that I have or had: Zuiko 1.2/55, Nikon Ai 1.2/50, Revuenon 1.2/55, Canon FD 1.2/55 SSC, Porst Color Reflex 1.2/50 X-M UMC. Another thing worth mentioning is: I think it’s one of the most beautifully designed lenses ever.
  • Kuribayashi (Petri) Orikkor 2/50 (M42) – one of the first lenses that Petri made. A lens from the 50s of the last century, but a very good one with unique bokeh, a tiny gem made from glass and metal. Petri is not a name held in high regard by the photographic community, but in my opinion that’s not entirely fair.
    While it’sprobably true that the late M42 lenses were made very cheaply and probably by some other company (I once read that they were Tomioka made), there are a also couple of very interesting lenses which I think were their own. I have three Petri bayonet mount lenses that are quite good – the 1.8/55 and 1.4/55 and 2/55. From what I’ve gathered they were produced by the company itself. They may also be attractive to filmers, because of their clickless aperture ring.
  • Voigtlander Lanthar 2.8/50 – a very good lens from the viewfinder camera Voigtlander Vito. It takes beautifully sharp pictures stopped down and due to its four blade aperture it is fun to see the square bokeh it produces. Also it’s easier to adapt viewfinder lenses than you’d think. I have a few lenses I saved from broken viewfinder cameras which each incorporate an M25x0.5 thread. There are M25x0.5 to M42 adapters available on Ebay (China) that make it easy to put them on an M42-helicoid.
  • Canon 2/135 L – a remainder from my Canon years. It is still a fantastic lens, especially at the price point that it is available for today.  I’m hoping to be able to use it acceptably well with the Sigma MC-11.
  • Sigma EX DG 2.8/70 Macro. Even though it will certainly be restricted to manual use, it’ll be worth it due to it’s sharpness and extremely creamy bokeh. For those reasons it’s an outstanding portrait lens as well as a macro lens.

I may also keep my small collection of the Topcon RE Auto Topcors. I have the 2.8/35, 1.8/58, 1.4/58, 2.8/100 and 3.5/135. They all excel at producing beautiful color (especially blue) are reasonably sharp, mostly have nice bokeh and are beautifully made. Due to their rarity they are quite expensive. If you are not in a hurry you may find them at reasonable prices, though, especially attached to a camera.

And then there’s my Zeiss glass, that I’ve mostly acquired in the last three years. I had bought a Contax AE 1.4/50 Planar a few years back. Back then didn’t think it was very special. So I held off from buying more Zeiss glass as it also is very expensive in comparison to other lenses with similar specs that are readily available at a much lower price.

At one point I started to read a lot on fredmiranda where all the Zeiss addicts hang out (I sympathize) . Viewing their images showed me what these lenses can do when used with their skills. So I gave it another try and bought the Rollei Distagon 1.4/35. I love almost any image it produces, be it wide open, where it’s most special or stopped down, when it shows the typical Zeiss contrast. With this experience  O.L.I. broke out again big time.

Zeiss lenses are special. I value most their particularly soft bokeh, bold saturated colors and superior contrast. It’s their fingerprint, it’s what you know that you’ll get, when you buy any Zeiss lens. But be aware they’re not for everyone or every situation. You can’t shoot portraits with subtle tones and creamy pastel color. They will always produce bold contrasty images.

These are the ones, that I likely won’t part with:

  • Rollei Distagon 1.4/35
  • Rollei Distagon 2/28 “Hollywood”
  • Rollei Planar 1.4/85
  • Contax 2/100
  • Contax 4/80-200 (especially useful because of its short MFD).
  • Contax 3.3-4/28-85
  • Contax G 2/45
  • Contax G 2.8/90 (this may be my sharpest lens of them all)

If I counted right, this makes 23 vintage lenses, which leaves me with the option to get a maximum of 7 new ones, which seems like plenty to me. I do have another manual glass for Sony E, the ZhongYi Mitakon Speedmaster II – Dark Knight 0.95/50 (quite the name!), which I love for its beautifully smooth bokeh and colors and for its insanely thin depth of field. It’s included in the first gallery above.

So now you know: I’ve finally come to accept that I reached the Altglas-phase Nr. 9/10 (according to Lucis Pictor – well known from MF-Forums or the German DCC). Follow the link for further reference:

Altglas-phases (German):

  1. Discovery
  2. Increasing enthusiasm
  3. First shopping spree
  4. Belief in manual lenses, renunciation of AF
  5. Web based exchange of information
  6. Second shopping spree
  7. Parting of the ways: There’s the need to find sth. new to play with, all kinds of adaptions are being tried.
  8. Evaluation
  9. Massive sell-off of the lenses that are suddenly being judged as too valuable to just be sitting on the shelf.
  10. New orientation

 

3 thoughts on “Thoughts of a recovering lens addict – overcoming O.L.I.

Add yours

  1. I did some math and think you’d probably spent $50K in lenses :-). I had some GAS too, and before going into every and each transaction ever recorded [which I later did], though I had spent 1/3 of the real total over a year.

    It’s very easy to get lost. But I agree if you buy well, you can recoup 80% to 120% provided you mostly bid as opposed to Buy It Now. It is almost a kind of forced saving of sorts.

    I also second you on the feeling of hoarding and having so many lenses. AT some point, it starts to feel like hoarding. Like one is neglecting them. That one cannot use that much, and if you are not using them, have you now become a collector? Which is probably the last thing you would like to be -a selfish zoo for lenses that doesn’t make justice to any of them.

    I also happen to have several similarities in taste. I think this shows good taste IN SPITE of the Hollywood cost (and the many problems) it renders gorgeously in spite of all that. And the other two “team members” suffer from very, VERY distracting bokeh unless you are careful. They can make the background stand out, when you where actually trying to achieve the opposite, due to the triangular aperture. However, the render differently once the aperture goes to f2.8 and the transition of glass has a mix of outermost glass and inner glass, and the overlap (when not producing specular hightlights) makes the bokeh “pastel like”. It’s surreal, and unlike anything else, and the transition is a bit different as at any time, part of lens never used at certain f IS used for this lens (by fact of being “less circular” or having strong pointed extremes).

    Rollei Distagon 1.4/35
    Rollei Distagon 2/28 “Hollywood”
    Rollei Planar 1.4/85

    The other thing that has helped you is that it seems you haven’t tried much of the older WIDE ANGLE rangefinder lenses. You did well! The G versions are better, but the problem with the originals 35/2.8 and 21/4.5. And it may seem, but maybe I just don’t know, you also where fortunate enough not to try the Nikkon S mount lenses, like 85/2 and 105/2.5 Nikkor (the original Sonnar’s launched 1949 and around 1954…btw, you also don’t want to ever try the Nikkor S 35/2.8 nor the 50 f1.4 S-mount).

    You also avoided the biggest every time sink, excruciatingly demanding, easily frustrating, tendency when you own too many old lenses, to…try to fix them. I only made 1 lens worst (bad 😦 ) but removed fungus, fixed apertures and fixed other problems in about 7 other lenses. It’s frustrating if you want to do it without putting any lens at risk. You require patience, and self-control, never going to fast…I am not somebody that would ever want to fix things myself. But what if your Rollei 85/f1.4 had fungus and is non returnable? And the fix was far away, very costly, and not error prone (if they don’t know the lens well, they may break it too). It has happened to me. Starting with a 35/2.8 Distagon QBM that was services by someone in Europe then sent to the US to me, unreturnable, and it had very soft corners and unsharp focus in half the lens: the front element was not straight when put back. it was a 5 minute fix, and what gave me courage to try the other time sinks.

    Lastly, I am glad you probably never tried the CZ 35mm and 85mm f2.8 (Rollei versions). Why? Obviously, you went for the f1.4 Distagon and Planar. But the 85 weights 1/3 of the 85/1,4, and wide open is a bit sharper, and unfortunately, is much better corrected than the 85/1,4. It’s a different lens design – Sonar in nature, and has more microcontrast, better bokeh (to my taste) and my favorite lens besides the 35/2.8. Or if you tried, and like the 1,4 better, then you are so lucky!

    You also seem to have been wise enough to avoid ANY Exacta lens. Most of (some pre war and) mostly the post war jena scene, is not very expensive to get, and very very hard to let go. And the Russian saga lenses, very cheap to acquire as well.

    The most intelligent thing you did was not get matching sets. Of which the most awesome, consistent one is the Minolta set. All their lenses share a common rendering and look. Across the entire company history, up until the were acquired by Sony. While they transferred a lot of the DNA, the consistency is a bit lost. And the Rokkor saga of lenses are cheap to acquire, except for a few exquisite choices. And there are many better lenses, once you have the “Sushi” kit, you don’t want to let go of the flavor.

    I would love to read a post on all the techniques to let go of your lenses, and hope you don’t get further tempted. You carefully avoided some of the most important pitfalls (CRF lenses, a Minolta collection, an Exacta collection of Jena variants, and Russian Roulette saga). And by overdoing the focus on 50mm lenses of which you may have had 80+, was the smartest move, as most have no pairing you love.

    If anyone is reading and has any advice on how to let go of the family lenses I have (EXA, CRF/S-mount, Russian Roulette and Rokkor “Sushi” saga, I could use some advise. I kept this to what fits in a single bad, and will have to enforce no more than 7 per bag. But still with 5 sagas, it’s has too much GAS, and also excess of Gear Bag Attachment Syndrome.

    Like

  2. Bonjour , Voici le papier le plus intéressant que j’ai pu lire et relire sur les objectifs testés Bien que je ne n’ai pas vu beaucoup d’ objectif Konica sauf le 1.4 de 50 mm dommage . Vous avez raison, un jour il bien arrêter d’acheter des optiques qui ne sont plus utilisées après les tests des premiers jours de l’achat Il faut garder ceux qui nous émerveilles encore de temps en temps .

    Like

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