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THAT lens


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.
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THAT lens

20 Mar 2022 10:42AM   Views : 269 Unique : 155


Those who share my upbringing, middle-class British, within living memory of two world wars will possibly also share my knowledge of Biggles books and Airfix models. The two were often linked!

For those not in the know, James Charles Bigglesworth was a Boys' Own type aviator, who began his career in the Royal Flying Corps, flying a Sopwith Camel in 1918 (though he started earlier, if you really know the Biggles canon!) By some amazing sleight of age, he commanded a Spitfire Squadron in 1940, but it’s the Camel that is relevant here.

One of the stories involved a special reconnaissance camera, fitted with a very special lens allowing more detailed aerial pictures than ever before: the challenge was to capture it, as it belonged to the other side, and was used in a specially-designed aeroplane, which was able to fly above the service ceiling of allied fighters. So the task was twofold: get up there, and get the camera down without damaging the lens.

And Biggles approached the task methodically and inventively. He persuaded the ground crew to modify his Camel, extending the upper wings by eighteen inches each side with parts from wrecked aircraft (of which there were always plenty at the time: the average working life of pilots at one point was two weeks), polishing the whole aircraft to reduce drag, and loading shorter belts of ammunition to save weight.
Top and bottom of the story: Biggles successfully forced the reconnaissance plane down, but found that a bullet had gone through the lens. But that allows me to launch into my main topic – the methodical and inventive superlens.


I wrote an article a while back about the ‘Bokeh Monsters’ – the lenses with amazing specifications (and cost, and weight) that allow even more differential focus than I can achieve with my 85mm f/1.4. And the other day, I was confronted with one of them on a secondhand shelf. Under £1,000, but well over 1,000 grams, a Sigma 105mm f/1.4.

As it was in a shop where I am ‘known’ (and profitable) I was allowed to take the lens for a walk, and take a few pictures, which are attached. And for the moment, I have resisted: lovely as the results are, amazing as the look of the shots is, it’s still a lot of money! So if you fancy one of these lovely lenses, it may be worth ringing LCE in Derby to see if the last week has seen it lumber from the shelf (such a mighty bit of technology will never have the agility of a Sopwith Camel).



dudler Plus
18 1.9k 1937 England
20 Mar 2022 10:43AM
And it's still singing a siren song to me...
20 Mar 2022 7:51PM
One has to ask oneself " Do I REALLY need it? Will it get used after the first flush of ownership ?" and " Can I afford the gym membership to tone my muscles to get the best from it ??? "

I am with you all the way, John, I have cupboards full of cameras and lenses that sang to me too. SmileSmileSmileSmileSmileSmile
dudler Plus
18 1.9k 1937 England
20 Mar 2022 8:44PM
Most of my cameras and lenses still sing regularly, though.

In this case, it's partly that it's big and heavy, as well as rather niche. Oddly, I've been playing with my 135mm f/2 today: seeing the Sigma last week reminded me of the most extreme lens I currently own... There are real practical limitations - any wide aperture lens is hard work, for instance, with leaves that flutter in the breeze...
20 Mar 2022 9:01PM
My widest is the Olympus 55mm f1.2, a wonderfully sharp lens,
but very difficult to get absolutely spot on lighting, very easy to overexpose at the 1.2 setting.
As you said, you need to be in a still, calm emviroment to get the best.
It is superb with Macro rings, but with digital I need to use a 8x Loupe on the screen to get perfect focus.

dudler Plus
18 1.9k 1937 England
21 Mar 2022 8:56AM
Magnification is the way to go for manual focus on digital, definitely. Beats focus peaking by a mile!

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