Once we get beyond 24mm, distortion of two-dimensional reality is commonplace, but not necessarily obviously so. Much depends on the size, shape and placement of near-field objects in relation to objects in more distant planes and how we want those relationships to manifest in the image. Working without a tripod is a serious challenge to maintaining vertical and horizontal biases. What can be tolerated and/or easily corrected working with 35-85mm lenses, may not be so readily managed with lenses 21mm and wider.
While I have used 16-35 zooms with full frame sensors in the past, the Loxia 21 is my first prime lens beyond 24mm. The experience of working with a 21mm is quite different from working with a 16-35 zoom, where a longer length is always available to me if super-wide doesn’t work; a prime is fixed – there is no escape or convenient dodge from its liabilities. On the other hand, working with such a prime, especially when approaching an assignment where many types of subjects will present themselves, my artistic and technical focus become more acute than when I enjoy the flexibility of a zoom.
Last month I decided to put my lens where my mouth is, so to speak, and use only the Loxia 21 whilst on a tour of the infamous Hearst Castle. The mansion is a 3-hour drive away from my home and I needed to complete my task in a single day. One can visit the castle only by tour and they run about every two hours, and I was hoping to arrive early enough to take advantage of the usual summertime early fog. The smart thing would have been to use a zoom or take along a 35 or 50mm, but chose to use only the 21mm on the tour, just to see what I could do with it. In this way I figured I would learn the most about the lens and how it and the a7Rii and I got along. It was an enlightening, if somewhat nerve-wracking experience.
My objectives were several: to squeeze my camera into small spaces to obtain big pictures, for instance capturing difficult rooms in a single shot; second, to take advantage of the landscape in a wide-angle perspective; third, to see how well the Loxia 21 delivers images that I can process in my fashion.
My usual approach to super-wide landscape shots (some of which here are local to San Francisco Bay Area) is: with a fairly deep DOF, “place” something of importance in the foreground to support or contrast with whatever’s beyond, like so:
Then there are instances where we might want to obfuscate or clutter the subject, and with the Loxia, there’s a good deal of room to do just that:
There’s nothing that says we are required to fill a landscape with stuff, though. Sometimes less is more:
Loxia 21 can present both subtle and gross spatial distortions:
Handheld merges are possible if you’re careful. The bedroom is a merge of 7 vertical frames. The landscape is made from 6 horizontals. I find it useful to have much more overlap than I need for normal lenses:
The Loxia 21 renders fog beautifully:
. . . even when processed in low-key:
And a few for the road: