Normal Retro

At sites like dpreview and there's been plenty of gnashing of teeth over the past few months about the upcoming Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime lens for DSLRs. Price speculation, weight speculation, and quality speculation. As much as I like my Zeiss Distagon 28mm, it's often hard to focus using the 300D's tiny "prison window" finder. Rather than dropping $3K on a 1D, I've been cosnidering having a fast AF alternative. I thought I'd sum-up what's known for Canon users by comparing it to some of the existing Canon offerings:

LensSigma 30/1.4Canon 28f/1.8Canon 24f/1.4LCanon 35f/1.4LCanon 35f/2Canon 50/f1.8 Contax 28f/2.8
Min Aperture16222222222222
Closest Focus (m)
Aperture Blades8778556
Elements/ Groups7/79/109/119/115/75/67/7
Filter Size (mm)62587772525255
Diameter/ Length (mm)75.5/ 5973.6/ 55.683.5/ 77.479/ 10367.4/ 42.568.2/ 4162.5/ 50
Weight (g)473310550580210130290
Price *$449 ($389)$384$1089$1089$219$69NA

* at Adorama

All lenses are USM (HSM) with FTM, except the 35f/2 and the 50f/1.8 (the Zeiss is Manual Focus). The APS-C field is too small for the 1D MkII's "APS-H" sensor.

Sigma also makes a 28mm f/1.8 for EOS, but it's huge (filter size 77mm), heavy (almost 600 grams), and without HSM I'm not really all that interested in it.

Why are these small lenses so... giant? Basically, because even for a small-sensor camera in EOS mount (or Nikon, or Pentax...), the DSLR flange-to-sensor distance is above 40mm — that means that a lens with 28mm or 30mm focal length needs to use a retro-focus design to hit the film/sensor waaaay in the back of the body. This is one aspect that 4/3-system cameras like the Olympus could — but so far haven't — exploited as an advantage.

The lack of f/22 seems like a real loss for the Sigma — sure it's a half-stop faster, but does it have any other possible advantage over the Canon 1.8?

(PS: As of 6 June the price offered at Amazon on the Sigma, still pre-release, is down to $389.94)

Posted May 26, 2005 | Comments (3)

Natural Colors Part 3 (and counting)

Two rolls of TXP 220, Xtol 1+1.

Joerg (via Mark) finds the great links again: Laurence Demaison's B&W works are as unlike the typical wannabe-Weston or faux-HCB Leica-foto fare as you're likely to find. And quite devoid of anything obvious that would tag them as made in 2005, 1955, 1895... I'd happily accept her work as an example of how new B&W need not be derivative or nostalgic or even self-consciously "new." I am entirely delighted with it....

Joerg also points out that back in January, when I was swooning over my new Rolleinar 3 and talking about Steve Pyke, Pyke was assuming the staff position vacated by the late Richard Avedon over at The New Yorker. Pyke's a natural choice: impeccable cred, a history of highbrow celebrity portraiture, and almost always working in black and white.

Pyke's technique (both mechanical and, apparently, psychological) mirrors that of Avedon in many ways: the Rolleiflex, the flat-colored fabric backdrop, the natural light, the gentle direction. You can see Pyke at work in some video clips on ZoneZero — compare to the takes of Avedon's masterclass session in the documentary Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light.

Of course one can't make too much of superficial similarities. This evening I finally got a chance to sit down in depth with the text of Revelations and one of the issues most annoying to Diane Arbus in the last year of her life seems to be exactly how many fans seemed determined to emulate her: "I feel paranoid and beseiged... people wanting to show me pictures just like mine... it [the time spent on fans and accolades] all means I can't photograph. And most of what I've been doing is such junk... I hate the world of photography and photographers. Everyone is turning to Rollei and Portriga and printing with borders." Even she was convinced that pictures were being made "just like" hers — surely one of the reasons she switched to 6x7 format in those last months. But truthfully, her pictures have stood solidly and truly unduplicated. It wasn't the Rollei, or the funky borders. Those are just the notes, not the song.

(Link to Part II)

Posted May 18, 2005 | Comments (0)


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