Fifty ? still nifty


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
...Read More

Fifty – still nifty

27 Oct 2020 11:15AM   Views : 443 Unique : 293


Last week’s edition of Amateur Photographer was the Lens Special, with a series of articles about lenses of different kinds. And one of these was about legacy glass, centring on six photographers using older lenses on digital cameras.

One was using a projector lens (as Cyril, aka Hobbo sometimes does): another has the Meyer Trioplan that I’ve owned for around a year. But four out of six were using 50mm or 58mm optics. One Helios 44-2, one Sixties Pentax 50mm f/1.4, a Canon 50/1.4, and a (quite rare) Pentax 50/1.2.


Sean Parnell loves his 8-element f/1.5 Super Takumar for its sharpness, Bokeh and colour rendering, and my experience of later Pentax lenses bears this judgment out. They’re unspectacularly very, very good lenses. Auke Hamers’ later f/1.2 has possibly got more flaws, but chromatic aberration in the out-of-focus areas adds character, and the depth of filed is ‘razor-thin’. James Fisher’s Canon has a ‘soft-sharp’ rendering which he loves, and stopping down makes it very sharp indeed.

The ‘outlier’ (the one who lies outside the mainstream) is Jo Stephen with her Helios, who is attracted to the flare and swirly Bokeh. Especially when she takes out and reverses the front element for a ‘psychedelic’ effect.

I wonder if all of them are looking for more character than current lenses usually have, at relatively-reasonable prices. After all, paying £135 for a lens that’s sixty years old is much cheaper than any of the currently-manufactured lenses with known flaws, and it’s also more subtle. All are antidotes to the forensic sharpness of current 50mm lenses, and the sheer awfulness of bad kit zoom lenses. And, as I’ve mused before, any wide-aperture lens will give stunningly-different images if you are used to shooting with a maximum aperture of f/5.6!

Trioplan lenses give an unusual look to images, with out-of-focus highlights rendered with a bright ring round them, and they command a high price – a very high price indeed for something that was originally marketed as a cheap alternative to a 135mm Zeiss! But the ‘bubble Bokeh’ is an attractive feature in many pictures, combined with very decent sharpness.

Adapting a projector lens for taking pictures is a whole other thing, and maybe I’ll leave that for another day. But it’s a good excuse for using a picture of Joceline taken with my own Trioplan, in my front room. But it could have been shot on the South Bank…

Recent blogs by dudler

Focus scales

If you’ve been taking pictures since before autofocus arrived, you’ll be very familiar with focus scales – they are one of the primary controls on an old-school camera, and just one more of the things that you really needed to get right. With autof...

Posted: 27 Dec 2022 7:01AM

Porcelain processing

People commented on the look in my last post and it seems like a good idea to share the secrets for Christmas. I learned the technique several years ago: a model’s boyfriend told me about it, and a website that described it in detail: I tried it, l...

Posted: 23 Dec 2022 10:47AM

You develop your own films don’t you?

If you have your own darkroom, or if you use film cameras regularly, there are always a few people who mention the attic. As in ‘Grandpa’s cameras are in the attic. I don’t even know if they have film in them!’ This leads me to ask if I can have a l...

Posted: 16 Aug 2022 11:17AM

Choose your pond

There’s an old saying about being a big fish and a little pond. Do you want to be the most important person in a small organisation, or are you content being a relatively small cog in a big machine? It’s the same in photography. With relatively mo...

Posted: 3 Jun 2022 2:25PM

Graduated filters

This is for Hannah, and anyone else who has come across the casual way that a lot of togs talk about one or two types of filter that landscaper photographers use a lot: graduated filters and neutral density filters. A graduated filter is one that i...

Posted: 25 Apr 2022 12:18PM


chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
27 Oct 2020 11:35AM
I have a projector but, for once I'm not going to dismantle it.....maybe Wink
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
27 Oct 2020 3:18PM
Ahh! But the lens is easy - it just screws out in the case of older models... Totally reversible and non-destructive. Mounting it and focussing are the problems. And you can't stop it down.
Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 14 12 147 United Kingdom
4 Nov 2020 8:18AM
I have to admit John I love an older lens. I think the reason could be this is what we cut our teeth on. Also given the non auto set up we l had to know how it worked, something I feel the smartphone people will miss out on. These lenes produce a look of their own that is very special. This is not to say that the images they produce is not right up there with today's photography, like your image shows.

To take this a little further I have taken your image and I hope produced a morden look that what not be amiss today in any magazine. I hope you like it.


dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
4 Nov 2020 10:44AM
But not every old lens, Robert! As well as the 100mm f/2.8 Trioplan, I bought a 135mm f/4 Zeiss Triotar. By comparison it's big and heavy, and far harder to use, in terms of turning the rings and achieving the settings you want. And the bokeh is nothing special. Probably why it's a quarter of the price...

Thanks for the mod, by the way - definitely more saleable!
Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 14 12 147 United Kingdom
4 Nov 2020 3:42PM
Good to see you getting a workout as well great pictures John...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
4 Nov 2020 4:31PM
I am actually wondering about putting the Zeiss lens back on eBay: it's not, in any way that I've found, a nice optic to use. I certainly don't carry it around!

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.