#916. Some like it wide

By Pascal Ollier | How-To

Oct 16

I had always wanted to “have it all” in one shot. Simultaneously, pano and stitching are too complicated, time consuming for me. When going digital seriously after leaving both my film years and a first dabble with pocket cameras, I screwed a Sigma 12-24 onto a Nikon D 200 first and 300 afterwards. To me, it was still too narrow and longed for a D700, the full frame nature of the latter allowing an even wider perspective. For some reason or other, it never materialized.

Museo Enzo Ferrari, Modena Sony nex 6 with Rokinon

Thanks to a better-educated relative who opened my eyes about not always having to carry a backpack when moving my equipment around, I switched to Sony, starting with a nimble little 5N.

Shortly afterwards came the toy that gave me quite a lot of enjoyment, a simple yet acceptably good Samyang/Rokinon 8mm fisheye (12mm in FF terms).

This allowed me to take pictures both indoors and out doors, landscape or people, that were different, and fun to take even though this relatively unsophisticated lens does not open very wide (2,8).

Atelier Isabelle de Borchgrave, Brussels Sony Nex 5N with Rokinon

Because, short does not necessarily mean that it is either complicated to use or that it will generate “circus style” pictures, even with a fisheye.

To focus, it is easy as you are most of the time at infinity.

Sony Nex 5N with Rokinon

This love at first sight with Sony only lasted so long as I grew tired of the limited possibilities in terms of automation at a time when my children grew less and less patient with my chronic inability to both focus and deal with the opening/speed tandem expeditiously on Contax Zeiss lenses that were my standard fare.

The Nex 6 which superseded the 5N with a couple of Zeiss Touit left me wanting for Sony to come up with a solid native lens offering, under its own brand or from companies willing to invest in E mount.

Syracuse – Sony Nex 6 with Rokinon
Sony Nex 6 Austin Healey Frog eye
Museo Enzo Ferrari Modena Sony Nex 6 with Rokinon
Museo Enzo Ferrari, Modena Sony nex 6 with Rokinon

Frustrated, I went into some sort of photographic hibernation, waiting for the suitable equipment to rekindle my interest.

Early 2018, again prodded by my close relative, I decided it was time to give it another try, presto arrived an A7 III followed closely by a CV (Cosina Voigtländer) 12mm.

Antwerp, Zaha Hadid Port House Sony A7 III with CV 12 ƒ/6.3-1/160

With limited recent experience, I was quickly on track to achieve what I had longed for a very long time. Full frame with rewarding IQ and ease of use.

Black and white, color, you name it, the Voigtländer cum Sony alliance enabled me to come out of my photographic hideaway, to the point of showing some of my pictures to the Lord of the Focusing Ring, aka Pascal J, who is kind enough to let me share some of my pictures today.

Antwerp Port draw bridge ƒ/11-1/80

As you will see, there is so much one can tell with a wide angle. Landscapes, buildings, the stories come naturally.

From a technical standpoint, one has to bear in mind that if one is only to make the picture wider, ie only take the horizontal axis, this will greatly reduce the attraction of the picture, and simultaneously the usability of a wide angle lens.

In my opinion, one should give significant attention to the foreground to tell a story, to avoid a postcard effect, and the eye to be solely attracted by the width of the shot. This allows the story telling to be that much more elaborate.

Secondly, one has to mention the fact that deformation may be encountered, depending on which type of photo you will shoot. Again, if the scope is limited to close ups, it will generate spectacular “wow” effect, but this, in my mind, would not do such a lens justice.

One also has to add that a wide angle such as the CV 12 makes clouds look quite spectacular, again due to the nature of the beast.

Château de Crussol, near Valence ƒ/7.1-1/200

I went to Japan (where, by happenstance, I briefly met his Lordship in person); before leaving I decided this trip was going to be the acid test of the homecoming.

Tokyo Hermes building same as above ƒ/5.6-1/60

Some might object that a very wide angle (reminder CV calls its wide-angle lens range consisting of 15-12-10mm, super, ultra and hyper wide respectively) only has a limited use.

Not me. Some 15 to 20% of the thousand plus of my Japanese shots were taken with the CV 12. And those I took with the Voigtländer are so different from those I took with my other lenses (starting at 25mm – I’m also a Zeiss Loxia 25 fan, my standard lens) that it was either with the CV or nix.

Going into further detail, one could enter into a discussion why the CV12 and not the CV10 if wide is the way to go?

Fair point; after looking around, first the difference was not blatant and I was more impressed with what I saw coming out of a 12 than the 10. You are in ultra and hyper wide territory anyway ^^.

Château de Crussol near Valence ƒ/7.1-1/250

Finally, I have to say that I was always fascinated by the aesthetics of “old style” lenses. Too lazy to put up with full manual at the time, the interest was there when my relative carried his Zeiss ZEs around.

Chateau de Crussol near Valence ƒ/7.1-1/160

The CV12 satisfies me completely in this respect. It has this unctuous operation when focusing which is a real joy (even better than a Zeiss Loxia in my opinion- at the risk of unruffling some DS feathers). And for those who might be interested in video, de-click is done directly on the lens.

Kronborg castle, Denmark ƒ/11-1/100

Next time you are looking for something different, yet not extreme as I have tried to convey to you, you might want to give real width a new opportunity.

Copenhagen, hotel ƒ/9-1/30

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  • Sean says:

    Hi Pascal,
    Viewing your images you demonstrate you’ve got a handle on the ‘wide angle’ aspect of that lens of yours. You’ve honed your wide angle technique as it shows in the originality of your vision. The wide angle approach also shows that you’re conscious of distortions, but know how to use them to advantage, so as to tell a visual story, within a particular reality. You certainly know how to open up an image through a wide angle approach, not only so that more information is contained within a frame, but also so that information is limited to the context of a story, and so, only includes what’s needed to convey a story, through a wide angled vision of your reality.

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Dear Sean,
      As you will have surely noticed, this is my first contribution to the world of DS.
      I could not have wished for a warmer welcome. Thank you.

      And I hope my few words will attract you to the magic of wide angles.

      • Sean says:

        Ha harrr Pascal. Regarding your words “… attract you to the magic of wide angles…” Well, I struggle with using a wide angle. It’s use is not as easy as one thinks. In fact, it can be down right disastrous if not handled well. The problem for me is that my minds eye is now indelibly marked with a 50mm frame. I’ve only just gotten used to a 28mm lens, and this was only after a fellow street life photographer made me realise their advantages, in some instances. It’s still a struggle though, because I’ll only go wide if I absolutely have to.

        • Pascal Ollier says:

          Interesting point you make, Sean. Pascal J and I had precisely this conversation to discuss when the “angle becomes wide” if you will.
          His point is that at 28mm, interestingly the length you quote, you already have a toe in the water, but try to remain “straight”.
          Mine is that, at 12mm, you no longer dilly dally and “make a genuine statement” so to speak.
          If I love photography, I find using a wide angle especially rewarding.
          A little bit like the disputed Heineken ad of yore which said “Refreshes the parts other beers can’t reach”. Wide angle lenses reward like other lenses can’t.
          At that point, you have to make the distinction between a straight or a fisheye. Fisheye is more playful, less serious, but not as easy to use. Straight is downright easy as focusing is nearly all the time at infinity and aperture is “normal”.
          You can thus devote more time to see what you want to include.
          And once you get the knack of it, wide angle, in my humble opinion, can get downright exhilarating.
          Give it a try…

        • Alan says:

          My name is not Pascal so I feel a bit out-of-place here. My current ultras include the Lumix 7-14 (14-28 equivalent) and the 8mm Olympus fisheye lens cap and I must agree that wide-angles can be dramatic but very hard to get right.

          • Pascal Ollier says:

            Dear Alan,

            For the same reason all views, narrow- or wide-angled, are welcome, even if your name is not Pascal(!), your comments are also welcome, especially if humorous.
            Glad to see another member of the wide angle tribe.

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    I must thank you, Pascal…
    I purchased a FF 16mm “rectilinear” fisheye in the 80s, and a M43 7mm (14 FF eq) a couple years ago; but never went further than “kindergarten” use with these 😀
    Yes, you might say they are still too wide, but I just keep thinking I never “snapped” the correct way, and what I often saw on the net was too “spectacular” for my taste.
    Your way to use these wides is really a good incentive, I will geve them a try again 🙂

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Your kind comments are much appreciated, Pascal. Thank you! If I have made you go back to wide angle, then mission accomplished ^^.
      Your note triggers a very important point: if you are too close to a given object with a wide angle, your picture can be viewed as “dysfunctional” more than artistic. The La Ferrari wheel taken with my fisheye is an illustration of that point.
      If you are too far from that object, it may lose some of its character.
      If on the other, and that liaises with a recent DS article, you use them for landscape photography, I believe that wide angles can lend themselves quite well to that type of snapshots, especially with the “special effects” they have on clouds.
      Then again, it is a matter of taste.

      • pascaljappy says:

        This must stop. Anyone new named Pascal or Paul will now not be allowed on DS anymore 😉 Christophers, Andrews, Williams … are welcome, though 😉

      • Alan (2 A's and an L so I request auxiliary membership in the club) says:

        The ferrari wheel is one of my favourites. That, along with the bug-eyed sprite and the bridge. In those cases the “distortion” works well and adds to the overall impact. Antwerp & Kronsborg not so much: IMHO, in those cases the converging lines look unintentional (not that I know) and distracting. I like the Hermes shot but would like it better if horizontal lines were level and the centre line was vertical. Anyhow, that’s just me. To each his own! Thank god for good ol’ silkypix!

        • Pascal Ollier says:

          Thank you for your comments Alan.
          You open an interesting debate. Wide angle yes, but fish-eye or straight?
          You seem to prefer the former.
          As far as the Hermès Tokyo building, as I confessed to Pete, my post production skills are quite fresh and since these shots are a year old now, they were even fresher then.
          I should probably revisit the raws with your comments in mind. Thanks!

          • Alan says:

            The Ferrari shot is very clean and dramatic. I rarely use a fisheye and only have the 8mm f8 Olympus lenscap variety. I prefer a rectilinear lens but find the extreme wides need very precise positioning and leveling to get right.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Maybe it’s just my “dumb”, but over the past half century I’ve ended up with an impression that w’angles function quite differently today, compared with their predecessors. Example – a 35mm for a 35mm cam (equivalent to a 35mm on an FF now) seemed to create distortion that you wouldn’t get on a comparable lens now.

    Anyway, skipping past that, because it’s totally irrelevant.

    Pascal, I think you are being a bit sensitive. These are your photos – you like them – and if someone else would have done something different, so what? Your article is not about them, it’s about YOUR photos.

    I like to correct the verticals – of course sometimes it works better if I don’t, but at least it is normal for me to do it – it’s part of the way I learned perspectives, and so it’s part of what I do, who I am. And if I dare to hope for any respect for that, then I must reciprocate and respect the way you approach photography. That’s how it is – and how it ought to be.

    My favourite amongst your shots was the Ferrari turning a corner – “Museo Enzo Ferrari, Modena Sony nex 6 with Rokinon”. You could perhaps call it “right wheel”!

    My only point of disagreement is your comment on the Antwerp bridge – I like it, just the way it is – but I’m sure that won’t offend you.

    Another point – a point of difference, not of disagreement – is on wide vs pano. I actually love creating panos – I’ve given up on the pano program in LR and PS, it’s just awful, but for a few bucks there’s a reasonably good and extremely rapid pano program in Affinity Photo. And like Pascal J, I often taken them without a tripod, let alone a pan head.

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Dear Pete,
      I am honoured that my first article draws a comment from you too.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      They touch a sensitive point, ie that I devoted (too?) little time to my pictures after I had taken them.
      Only since I moved to a full frame camera (a mere 18 months ago) do I shoot in raw (yes, I confess…) and thus have a lot to learn about post production.

      I am grateful to my better educated relative mentioned in the article, who is patient and competent enough to help bring my pictures to DS quality levels. But some of my older pictures do indeed suffer from the lack of PP (verticals…).

      Your encouragement to visit pano is taken to heart and I promise to have a look at Affinity Photo.

      Tripods, just like lenses get a different usage with the size and quality of sensors. As one can use much higher ISOs than before as well as crop much more with sensors now reaching more than 60 Mpix (Sony A7 R4 being a recent example) tripods will get less usage, we will need fewer lenses to get the same reach, and our shoulders will be grateful for it.

    • Alan says:

      Re older lenses, what kind of distortion did you have in mind?

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        I can’t replicate it now – they’re long gone – but they seemed to push perspective lines much harder than modern w/angles do.

        For a while, I was shooting with a 24mm (but it had focus issues, so I dumped it), and it gave me more acceptable images than the 35mm w/angle I had over half a century ago, on my 35mm cam. Interiors shot with that looked plain awful, and back then there was no easy way to make adjustments in “post” – “post” in those days was much more limited.

        You can see it for yourself in old photos of interiors done in those days – architecture magazines and the like.

        Something I’ve only recently discovered is a slider called “H/V Ratio”, in my DxO ViewPoint 3 program (which I use a lot, to straighten things up). The initial application of correction of verticals can do strange things, too – but this slider helps a huge amount to get back to something that “looks” normal (and it makes it easier to get the image knocked into a “standard format” that you’re using with your photos).

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Welcome to DS, Pascal! Your post and the fine accompanying images (I especially liked the shots of Château de Crussol)
    have encouraged me to take my wide-angle lens out of my camera bag! Of course, it’ll have to compete with my beloved zoom lens which seems to be permanently attached to my camera. However, I’m going to try and use it once a week to develop my wide-angle “muscles”.
    BTW – there can never be too many Pascals on DS.

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Dear Nancee,

      Thank you for such a warm welcome! Very much appreciated from such a talented contributor.
      Well, as you are to revisit wide angle photography, Pascal J. is to be complimented for letting the subject be brought up.

  • Dallas says:

    Welcome Pascal to the world of DS. Wide is great, I must admit your idea of wide is much larger than mine 18mm is as far as I can go. I love the shots especially the cars. What I find interesting is no people are in your shots at Enzo’s place. Hope to see more of your work soon. Dallas

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Dear Dallas,
      Thank you for your kind words.
      I took my son there during the Xmas period and despite the fact that we enjoyed good if cold weather, there were few people. The inconvenience was that we could not take a tour of the factory which was closed at that time.
      I’ll pass on your suggestion to Pascal J ^^.

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