Bonjour! (now you know how to greet in French!) Recently, I shot my own film with my own equipment. As part of the lens set that I shot on I had two incredibly lovely Canon L series lenses, the 16-35mm MKII (amazing contrast, fantastic sharpness throughout the aperture and zoom range and ridiculous handling of flare) and the, ever flexible 24-70mm. These two zoom lenses are and, forever will be, the only zoom lenses I can trust myself with (both are fast enough (f2.8) to be useful in lowlight, while being sharp enough for when clarity is needed in those wide stopped down shots).
However, I was never completely happy about the prime lens set that I rapidly cobbled together out of leftover change and some aggressive (some would say life-threatening) haggling. They included a 28mm 2.8 USM II from Canon along with its counterpart (part of the same series of prime lenses) the 85mm 1.8 USM II. It also included the often raved about, stylistically, Sigma 50mm 1.4.
Don’t get me wrong, these lenses are by no means poor consumer grade plastic toys. Far from it, the combination of these lenses amount to almost AU$2000 last year (should be less now seeing as our currency is of higher valuation than the US dollar at the moment). But, they never really had the characteristics conducive to creating a film (although, they also weren’t terrible). For example, the Canon 28mm 2.8 was severely soft around the border and lacked contrast, necessary for my film, which was a homage to colour, and the Sigma 50mm was razor sharp in the center, but also suffered from severe softening on the edges, not conducive to a film where the subject in the film is unlikely to be front and center all the time. I suppose (and with some post grading for the Canon 28mm) they are perfectly alright for portrait photography or the like, however, they weren’t of high enough quality to use as my dedicated film lenses (not the mention the different characteristics of these lenses being different brands). Just quickly, the 85mm 1.8 from Canon is a dream lens and a bargain to boot (it should really be an L series itself as it has different characteristics to the 85mm 1.2 from Canon).
And do you know what? I finally got the balls to break away from Canon glass and get the lenses that I really wanted. They may be outdated, they may be no longer natively supported, they may also be a bit bashed up, but, there is no denying the quality of the Carl Zeiss lenses made for the Contax SLR systems in the late 80s and 90s, when a metal casing and damped buttery smooth focus ring was a pre-requisite for a consumer to even look at your lens. For less than US$1000 I managed to nab the 28mm 2.8, the 50mm 1.7 and the 85mm 2.8 as well. They may not be the most well known or fastest of the Zeiss range, but, pfft, seriously, people who revert to sub f2.0 shooting by default are idiotic anyway, and, as far as lab tests go, these lenses exhibit the most consistently sharp and contrasty (albeit cold) features of any lens I have ever seen (in fact, I jumped out of my chair when I saw it). The next lens I aim to have in my prime collection is the 21mm 2.8 from Zeiss, although, by itself, this lens goes for over US$1200 on the old eBay.
Anyway, they are due to arrive in the next couple of weeks so be sure to stay tuned for some lens tests to see if my copies are any good. Also, seeing as this is a new blog, I thought I might give you a heads-up that, hopefully, this will keep my tech madness going and concepts and ideas from the technical side of filming on a DSLR will be discussed in the future. Again, if there are any questions please feel free to contact!