Ok, I have been very, very stupid. It is a two-act “tragedy”.
Act one, I unfortunately let my gear bag slip from my fingers and drop onto the ground. Next thing I know, my Otus 55mm is no longer focusing smoothly over 2/3 of its focus throw. Uggggh!
But it gets worse, there is act two.
I am late for a customer meeting, having struggled to find a parking spot. I grab my gear bag, and open the car boot, where my computer bag is. Instead of going to the meeting with both bags, which is cumbersome, I do the lazy thing, and stuff my gear bag in the car boot, and go to my customer meeting with only my computer bag. You guessed how this ends: a broken car window, and the gear bag gone. Exit Sony A7RII, Zeiss Loxia 21, Zeiss ZM 35 f:1.4, Zeiss, ZF.2 135 APO. In both acts, I have been cleaned of more than 10.000€, and, in both cases, my fault, too.
But in every cloud there is a silver lining; I am now free to rebuild my kit from scratch. And, for a gear-whore-and-slut like me, this is a wonderful place to be.
In the interim, I have 2 lenses left, which happened not be where the trouble happened. A very remarkable Leica R 28mm f:2.8 Elmarit vII, considered one of the best lenses ever designed in this focal length, and a very unremarkable (but nice) Leica R 35-70 f:3.5 zoom (not to be confused with its better brethren, the 35-70 f:4.0 macro). As it happens, I never really liked zooms, and haven’t used one in years, and going out with “only” a 28mm hasn’t been my cup of tea either. But, until I make up my mind and rob a couple of banks, that’s what I have.
This was also an opportunity to reflect, and try new and different things out.
Like: is a focal length of 28mm a walkabout option? Leica definitely believe so, as this is what the Leica Q can do. Sony like it longer, with the 35mm RX1.
Next question: can I learn to live with and love a zoom, something I gave up on early in my photo adventure?
Gear-wise, an interesting question: can I buy back my soul from MM. Zeiss, to whom I had sold it (Zeiss-only optics are a sure telltale).
OK. Let’s begin with the beginning. Yes, I can live with a 28mm. Just, in order to get good foreground subjects, it needs to be good close-up. As in, really good. And I need to be comfortable with getting close to my subject. As in, really close. Not really comfortable. But interesting. Enough that I’ll consider a Leica Q? Not sure. Certainly not without trying out the RX1RII, which has been recalled and delayed by Sony. But the Elmarit is very good indeed. Though the formidable Otus 28mm f:1.4 looms large in the same space.
All this means that yours truly can now feel OK with a single-lens walkabout with anything between 28mm and 135mm. Which, considering my propensity to get my gear destroyed or stolen, is a sure way to limit the damage.
Now, what about the zoom? For those who don’t remember Pascal’s assessment of it, in short, it looks like this: really lovely colours, not many bugaboos, but not much sharpness either, even with the help of Capture One PP tools. Now I am not talking about extreme corner sharpness wide open at infinity at all focal lengths, ’cause then no zoom survives. I am talking image centre in an intermediary focal length, at f:5.6. It is not mushy, just there isn’t much “bite” to even sharp objects. And that extends to all kinds of micro-details. And, of course, the fact that it is f:3,5 is different from my usual shooting range of f:2.0 to f:2.8
My question, at this stage, has to be: are my pictures “less good” than usual? There, of course, you have to be judges of that. As I know what lens was used, I cannot be considered objective. No doubt, there will be comments and feed-back….
Obviously, I could go back to where I was and just replace my gear like with like. Except that I was going to buy a Otus 28mm and let both my Elmarit 28 and ZM 35 go.
But things change. Pascal’s test of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm confirms what I have been thinking for a while now. If a lens has strong micro-contrast, sharpness will be more visible than detail, and contrast will take precedence over sheer colour beauty. So, not only do I have now with Milvus more lenses to choose from, but Sony introduced 3 new ultra-lenses, the Master G series. 2 f:2.8 zooms (24-70 et 70-200) and 85 f:1,4. It is too early to tell, but the first pictures are very promising. Having at least one such lens, with autofocus, to capture moving subjects, would be a plus.
But I get ahead of myself and digress. Before purchasing expensive gear, what about any other lessons from using my 2 Leicas? Simple. Unfortunately, expensive as well. I am an addict, and my 2 lenses aren’t feeding this addiction. It is called speed. It used to be that I would happily shoot my twin Zeiss Planar f:1,4 (50mm and 85mm) at f:5,6, but no more. Gradually, I enjoyed shooting wider apertures, in line with the better performance of my lenses, culminating with the really excellent f:1.4 sharpness of the ZM 35 and Otus 55.
Look at the shots above. No background is really blurred. Merely out of focus. Not the same look at all. Which doesn’t mean it is a bad look, or useless. During this spell of abstinence, I’ve actually some shots I really like; including one that compelled Pascal to ask who shot this gorgeous picture, which cut me down to size…:-)
Just, I want more. So I tried a cheap way out: a second-hand Zeiss Planar 50mm f:1,4. Alas time has not been kind to it. Already a problematic lens wide open on a 22Mp Canon 5DII, it looked even worse on my A7RII (yes, I bought another one before I fully thought things through). No way, Jose.
Then, I retrieved my wounded Otus, and took some shots, “just to get back in the groove”, and fell in love again. And again. And again. Welcome back, Bertha!
Does that mean I can’t live with a zoom? Nope. I was quite comfortable with the Leica, and enjoyed the ability to change focal lengths. But it would need to be a fast zoom. That means big, and expensive. Probably bigger and more expensiver that the 24-70 G Master f:2.8 (why not use a word that doesn’t exist to describe a lens that doesn’ exist?). Both Sigma and Voigtländer have released lenses that are faster than the industry standard (21mm f:1.8 for the latter, 24-35 f:2.0 for FF and 16-35 f:1.8 for APS-C). And both Sigma and Tamron will release 2 new lenses in the coming days.
Arrrghhh, leaving aside the huge cost and waste, it is so wonderfully painful to be without gear and to contemplate this cornucopia….
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