#1004. Plastic blasphemy: 30 year-old Nikkor 50/1.8 on Hasselblad X1D!

By pascaljappy | Review

May 18

Plastic, the 30+ year old lens certainly is. Fantastic remains to be seen ๐Ÿ˜‰ Can a cheap and old design be of any use on a (relatively) modern mirrorless camera that’s not even the right format for it ?

Nikkor 50/1.8 on Hasselblad X1D

Feeling the aperture ring jump hesitantly from one notch to the next brings up chills through my spine. If this was an expensive Hassy lens, feeling anything remotely as wobbly and fragile would put me in shock. But this is the very plastic, decades-old Nikkor 50/1.8 kit lens that came with my beloved F-801 and which my wife just asked me to clear out of a drawer with all the other “old crap”.

Ahem …

Yes, the haptics are all wrong, the lens is smaller than the adapter and frame coverage is never going to be good. But, besides this, what’s it like a what it was designed for: making images? You tell me. This, above, it full aperture, at infinity, straight out of camera. You can compare to the output, below, of a native lens (on a very different day).

XCD 45/3.5 on Hasselblad X1D

The very different look of the two photographs is precisely what makes those older lenses valid on modern cameras. Corner sharpness ayatollahs will inevitably disagree, since they can only see MTF percentages where others see rendering. But those who photograph for aesthetic purposes might find this comparison interesting (anyone want to comment that rendering isn’t a thing? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Good luck recreating that look in PP! And why would you, if a lens can save you the time and achieve the results 100% of the time.

Let’s get the performance elephant out of the room. At full aperture, detail on most of the frame is just about good enough to feed the sensor’s pixels. The file doesn’t look as katana-sharp as with native lenses, but it’s really good enough.

There is a little glow around highlights that gives the image a slightly painterly effect, though not as much as the glorious Leica Summicron-R 50.

In the corners, performance drops visibly, which is predictable for a lens of this format (and, for the zillionth time, if you’re looking at corner sharpness at full aperture on landscapes, you’re probably doing it all wrong ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Still, since there is no 50ish f/1.8 lens in the X1D range, you can probably consider that a resounding success for the little lad.

Window-sill joy

What’s far more interesting is the look provided by this lens.

Two signature moves are the higher contrast and the hue shift towards blue/magenta.

I love the former, the latter would drive me up the bend, nuts, crazy. As an occasional retro blast, I find the weird colours quite a lot of fun. But, as a daily driver, no thank you. My past Sony cameras taught me the hard way that correcting colour shifts are the hardest and most unpleasant form of PP. Anything corrective, rather than creative, gets old really fast.

Is anything sharp here? f/1.8 min focusing distance of 45cm (18 inches)

However, when a bit more neutrality is called for, we can escape the shifty curse in several ways : closing down, correcting in PP, getting closer up and converting to b&w. Let’s explore all of these.

Philippe and I recently worked together on the USP of a common client. As the name implies, a USP has to be unique. It also has to be specific. And, in spite of what Nicason are trying to make you believe, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being the lens that gives the smoothest background at mid aperture and mid distances in b&w shots (particularly for a 50โ‚ฌ item). In fact, there’s a fair chance portrait photographers would be all over that baby! It’s only quantity-obsessed media, and manufacturers, that want us to believe in the do-it-all lens lie.

Moving on. As most owners of f/0.95 lenses soon realize, there can be too much of a good thing. In most close up situations, f/1.8 with a MF sensor, is just not very useful. See the photograph above. While I love, love, love, love, love (is it 5 times ?) the background in that shot, it would be nice to have a depth of field that spans more than a micron. Some parts of this photograph are tack sharp. Only, there’s barely enough for the eye to anchor down on something.

Pot luck f/2.8

Close down, and most of the single-trick-pony shenanigans go away. Vignetting becomes tolerable, colour shifts largely disappear, corner sharpness issues fade into DoF.

Oddly, the same can be said of moving closer in. The general blue-ish tint is still present (the first pot above should be Ferrari red) but it’s uniform across the field and, dare I say, quite pretty!

I’ll mostly skip the correcting in PP part. Working on colour shifts that aren’t uniform accorss the frame isn’t my idea of fun. But a simple white balance tweak as above, now that’s OK. A couple of seconds, season to taste (or to grey card) and presto.


But, let’s be serious here. The main reason for using a non-native lens on any system is to inherit the lens’s default look. So, any “corrective” PP seems counter productive.

Here are a few more photographs of flowers using the all auto white balance from the camera. Some are severe crops, as the flowers are small and the minimum focus distance of this lens really isn’t something to write home about.

To me, the general look, while probably not 100% true to life, is really nice.


What those old lenses (the good ones) are really great at is natural transparency. The photographs feel much more alive than those made with modern lenses.

And there doesn’t seem to be an ounce of nastiness anywhere in the design. The transition from sharp to out of focus is buttery smooth, the 3D is perfectly realistic, the background (even very agitated background, such as in the photograph above) is relaxing.

Lenses like that make us all realize how much we have lost (with notable exceptions) in the search for sharpness levels that benefit no one. What’s the point of a lens that’s sharp enough to print 80″ wide, which you might do once in your life for the sake of it, but are hard and unpleasant on 100% of your photographs? Recent designs have been able to combine the sharpness and the smoothness (the Zeiss Milvus 50 and 85 are absolute masters of the genre, and Philippe’s Laowa 100 Macro scores really high here too). But, here’s a lens that costs less than a meal in a posh restaurant and does it all just as well. Makes you think, doesn’t it?


And then, there’s monochrome conversions. All of these are a simple click on the grayscale checkbox in Phocus. No fancy filters added.

Now, we all know that mankind evolved to see in b&w (that’s why all photographs of Darwin are in b&w) and that it’s silicon valley that had us genetically reengineered to sell more clicks in colour ads. They also wiped out our memories, it’s OK if you don’t remember.

And, in b&w, old lenses just come alive …


That combination of soft micro-contrast, high global contrast and slight haze around highlights is a well established recipe for simple beauty. The subject no longer really matters. You can see why Edward Weston nicked peppers from Whole Foods to photograph their shape, just because. Old lenses are just wonderful for that purpose.

Modern designs are often the exact opposite: life and global contrast are reduced by the large number of optical surfaces (each degrades the signal) and are geared towards better micro-contrast.

So these old lenses shouldn’t be crticized for their lack of performance over a range of arbitrary metrics invented solely to support dubious marketing, but recognized as an alternative to the modern (absence of) look.

Platinum me this!
Carbon me that!

Of course, you are perfectly entitled to an opinion that sways in favour of a good, modern look. That’s my case as well, and I did spend a lot of money on a very modern set of no-frills lenses. But let me put this into perspective with two final thoughts, from my morning newsletters.

One was about our collective move to a more puritan state of mind and towards a very nondescript personal look. We, as humans in a post #metoo and post covid world don’t want to stick out as much as we used to. I can’t help see a parallel with our photographic gear. It has to be more productive and less expressive. And we all know what that path leads … rarely a happy ending.

The second was about silence. About how city dwellers have rediscovered the luxury of silence and don’t wan’t to lose it again. At a very personal level, I feel the same about complexity. In my interior world, simplicity has extremely high value. Because something simple doesn’t steal your energy and time towards low value purposes. Something simple lets you do your thing with pleasure and no interference. I view complexity as a troublesome noise over a precious signal. And old lenses tend to simplify the look of photographs. To me, that’s not being a Luddite. I would never go back to film, because digital has simplified processing so much. But the digital look, I can definitely do without.


This lens is going nowhere! Plastic? Possibly. Fantastic? Definitely!! And I should really clean drawers more often! ๐Ÿ˜‰



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  • John W says:

    Good Fun PJ. Personally I like the first image more than the second one. The softness is more painterly. Modern lenses by their very nature must be built to far tighter tolerances and MTF just to meet the needs of say a bog standard 24mp sensor let alone 50mp. The analogy is analogue vinyl recording vs. digital. IMHO, analogue has more “soul”. Digital looks, sounds and feels a bit cold and clinical. Time was when I binged on saturation, sharpness, clarity and structure. These days I find myself using them in minus quantities.

    The rest of the images are aesthetically fine but harder to judge as there’s no yardstick against which to compare them.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you John. The vinyl vs digital analogy is spot on.

      The frightening fact is that the modern lenses are 10 times the cost, or more, and really not any better in real-life terms. Of course it would be a fairer comparison to use a lens that’s suited to the sensor format, and that would cost a little more. But not much more! I’m going to get a few of the old Hassy lenses from the film era to try them out ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • John W says:

        You might want to also consider some of the Pentax 645D lenses. They can be had used for reasonable money and they are VERY hood.

      • NMc says:

        John and Pascal

        I would like to defend digital music here, there is nothing warm or cold about digital music. Traditionally analogue music reproduction was recorded and mixed to be attractive, when digital came along and could do extended frequencies better and more accurately, music producers and hifi manufactures went off the rails demonstrating the technical advantage with sharpness and technically accurate reproduction, but not more attractive or truthful to the expressive content.

        According to Mike from the โ€œThe Online Photographerโ€ blog, back in the day when designing professional lenses the final selection of design was made by having a large number of photographers judge/rate a selection of prints from each prototype. The problem these days is that the non uber-technical lenses designed for attractiveness are a bit gratuitous for warmth and high cholesterol bokeh, or just weird out of focus effects.

        Regards Noel

        • pascaljappy says:

          Noel, all of this is true. The first CD players made us want to go deaf, they were so bad. Even very expensive ones. The “digital revolution” seemed to happen with a reluctant digital industry desperately trying to convince us it was better in the most unnatural ways imaginable (when it couls simply have been “more convenient”, to begin with). Now that it has matured, that is no longer systematically the case, fortunately. But, as you mention about some recent lens designs, they are either gimmicks or really unpleasant. That Sony curved sensor, if it ever happens, could reboot things somewhat. But, mainly, I think the problem lies with lazy product marketing more than technology.

          It’s probably not that easy to come up with something news when thousands of existing lenses do the job well. The point of my post was merely to express my surprise and delight at finding such an underrated lens could perform as well as it doesn in a modern context. And that must make it really difficult for modern designers to think of something new. And, let’s face it, maybe we don’t need anything new … But some companies seem to be thinking out of the box, like Laowa. So, it seems that it is still possible to innovate and preserve pleasing looks ๐Ÿ™‚ Cheers

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            “The first CD players made us want to go deaf, they were so bad. ”

            Maybe I missed the first ones you saw. As soon as I saw one, I wanted it – I am a muso, not a techo, and I was fed to the back teeth with hiss/crackle, forever spinning LPs over or changing them, having to stop a brilliant performance in midflight because of dust on the needle.

            So I bought one of the very first batch of CD players here. My brother, who has heaps of opinions and very little brains, screamed and yelled for decades afterwards about the virtues of “record players” – but he never earned music, his entry into the discussion was “sideways” – I pointed out that NEITHER system was “real” music, they were both electronic substitutes and would NEVER replace real live performances, and were just a means of passifying our appetites for the real thing when we simply weren’t going to have it. More screams. Much worse than anything that would justify your suggestion about choosing to go deaf, Pascal.

            • pascaljappy says:

              I understand what you’re saying, Pete. Maybe it was French CD players. But they sounded vile, aggressive. I used to listen hours of music before and that stopped me. After 15 minutes, it was just too much. Micromega and YBA were there names. A friend had a high end Brit version that was equally horrid. I heard expensive Wadias that were as pleasant as chalk ripping on a board. It took many years before they became pleasant. There were no hisses noise on my vinyl records, so we obviously had very different experiences.

              • Kristian Wannebo says:

                I’m sure it wasn’t just the French ones.
                I waited until there was a record I wanted that was only available as a CD, mid -80s I think. (It was a *very* well played Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion by Bรฉla Bartรณk – the kind of rythm Western European musicians struggle with.)
                I went to our local brick&mortar store with my good enough earphones and that CD – and was thoroughly disappointed. They all (well known brands, Japanese and others) had distortions high in the treble, easily audible with those instruments. I don’t think it was the built-in amplifiers (analogue), other electronics didn’t sound like that, I guess they used too cheap DACs. One, not that much more expensive, sounded good, I think it was a Philips.

              • pascaljappy says:

                The first decent one I ever heard that didn’t cost the price of a fast car was a Roskan. In the end, I gave up, and now use a cheap DVD player for casual listening and a digital file server for more focused sessions. Most of the time, I hate to admit, I just have (good) earphones on my MacBook Pro and listen to music on YouTube. How the mighty are fallen ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰


              • Kristian Wannebo says:

                So do I, Pascal.
                In addition, some Swedish public libraries give their registered public free access to the Naxos Music Library, lots of music.

      • Pascal Ravach says:

        Pascal, when I had my Mamiya RZ67, I found that tbe 110 and 180 (if my memory still works…) had a very high ยซย delicatesseย ยป; a grace, in fact; if adapters are available, they coukd be wonderful for flowers ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      The more often I see the pair of images, the more I agree, John – the first one is the one I prefer, too.

      • pascaljappy says:

        Me too. Ouch ๐Ÿ˜‰ Though, to be fair to the Hassy 45, the light was flat and brutal on the second, made a few days earlier, as an experiment.

  • If your talking about the Nikon EM Nikkor 50/1.8 E lens, knows this. The optics were at the time and still are; Highly rated. While a 1979 lens may shock you as too how good it really is, most legacy SLR lens, and especially rangefinder lenses of the 1950,s are far better, than was possible in the film days with rangefinder collimation errors. Direct to chip focus at 7x manual, RULES the photo world.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Wow, 1979?! It’s even older than I imagined. It’s not a very pleasant lens to use by modern standards, very plastic and notchy. But it really has a lovely look and optical quality!

  • Pascal says:

    Pascal, yet another thought provoking post. Thank you.

    When I moved away from Nikon to fall into the arms of Sony eight years ago initially with a Nex 5N, the beauty of the new system for me lay both in the compactness/lightness of the body given the offered performance and the fact that you could adapt (nearly) any lens (Zeiss, Leica, Minolta, Nikon you name it) on it.
    Since the native offering at that time was quite modest, to be polite, I went on eBay to get Contax Zeiss G lenses to start with and a few months later acquired a Leica Elmarit R 60mm Macro lens.
    Not too expensive and cheerful.

    Since then, I have moved to full frame for the body and gone closer to native thus forgoing the need for an adapter, but preciously kept my previous purchases.

    It so happens that this very week end, I attached my good old Leica (1983 vintage if I am to believe the manufacturing number engraved on the barrel, so no spring chicken) and went on to do some flower photography.

    I was fortunate to have some pink peonies around, and the results are seriously gratifying.
    Despite the complete manual operation, I could also catch a bumblebee while pollenating. Again, quite pleasing.

    Therefore, whether plastic or metal, these “old” lenses when latched on to a good body (and remember I only have a modest Sony, not a Hassy ^^) can generate results of genuine interest.

    Should we remind ourselves that it may often be in the oldest pans that the best broths are (or can also be) cooked?

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Pascal, that Elmarit R 60 macro was a lovely lens. I reviewed it on DS and was very impressed.

      Some will argue whether those are not the best broths. I suppose it is a matter of taste. But it is really pleasant, for those of us who feel that the hunt for the best (often, fake) MTF has ruined the looks of lenses, to have the option to savour many forgotten flavours with our modern cameras. Of course, I have experienced this already with the Otus 85, with the C-Sonnar 50/1.5 (and alas, in an overly restrictive manner, with the Distagon 35/1.4 ZM) But I was shocked that a 50 euro lens could bring the exact same goodness as its big, expensive sisters! The far pixels on the X1D must help a bit, but still, well done Nikon of 1979 ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Anyone who can “catch a bumblebee while pollenating” is a better man than me!

  • The word ‘painterly’ has been used in the last few posts, seemingly as a compliment in reference to photographs. I object! Edward Weston had a lot to say about this and I quote him here: “People who wouldn’t think of taking a sieve to the well to draw water fail to see the folly in taking a camera to make a painting.”

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah, indeed he did, and you are right to point it out. However, it is a matter of swings and pendulums. He was reacting to a period that had been overly painterly, just as I am reacting to one that has gone too far in the opposite direction by trying to turn a creative hobby into a technical field of study. Also, I believe he was referring to concept more than aesthetics, though I could be wrong ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Fair enough and I admit to introducing the aesthetics angle into your technical discussion but hate to see “painterly” slide in as a standard for good photography. I confess to not having much interest, aside from idle curiosity, in the technical side of lenses and such.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Tah makes two of us ๐Ÿ˜‰ I bought all my current kit to escape any look and have a blank slate to work with. It’s just nice that there are options when I feel like a blast from the past ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • John W says:

      Though I admire him greatly, that was Weston’s “opinion”, not law. YMMV.

      • Alan MacKenzie says:

        Not law but it’s how I understand photography and its unique ability to explain the world. IMHO, aiming for ‘painterly’ photographs is like pursuing photo-realist painting. Either one can be a technical tour de force but both miss the point of their respective processes.

  • Frank Field says:

    I have come to the point where I am doing most of my shooting with Nikon AI-S prime lenses, keeping a bag with 24 mm f/2.8, 35 mm f/2.0, 50 mm f/1.4, 55 mm f/2.8 (Micro), and 105 mm f/2.5. I will gladly take this collection of 30 – 40 year old lenses in comparison to a modern zoom (my reference is Nikon’s 24-120 mm f/4.0 G lens).

    Just simply glancing at Lightroom thumbnails, I can pick-out the images shot with a 40 year-old prime and those shot with the much newer zoom and get it right nearly all the time. There is simply cleaner rendering, much better retention of the texture in the image, and certainly less of the sterile look of today’s lenses. The color spectrum of these older lenses is different, too. I find them to be a tad short in red-wavelength transmission compared to newer lenses. It’s a look I prefer but others may not. I frankly am uncertain if my favorable opinion would hold if I were shooting a 45 MPx sensor full frame body but I have no plans to do so.

    I can walk around all day with a body and any one of these lenses hung from my neck and not feel the least bit tired. A hour with a body + modern bazooka-zoom and I’m ready to put the camera back in the bag. A bag with any three of these lenses plus a body weighs about the same as a bag with a modern zoom and a body. The long focus throw of these older lenses make shooting manual focus a joy rather than finicky. A side benefit is this rag-tag bag of lenses all use the same 52 mm filters or filter attachments (e.g. Lee system attachments).

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Frank, that’s very true. I can’t help feel there was a strong cultural dimension to photography that has been deliberately set aside. There was a clear effort to keep things portable, easy to use, more or less standard (filter diameters) and pleasant to view. That’s not to say we aren’t seeing brilliant lenses being produced these days, on the contrary. But the multiple dimensions of the past seem to have been reduced to one metric above all.

      If people like us, who have used the old style lenses and like that style and kids who don’t give a dime for technicality, all dislike the modern take, it’s not wonder the market is collapsing onto itself. It seems fair to say there is very little fun and very little emotion in amateur photography today …


      • Frank Field says:

        Pascal – Big is always better philosophy has even carried into Nikon’s modern primes for both the F- and Z-mounts. Most of the AI-S primes weigh about 250 g +/- even though fully metal. The new Z-mount primes are all over 400g, even tho largely thermo-plastic, with weight gains due to extra glass elements. And, any size savings with the Nikon mirror-less bodies are quickly consumed by longer primes such that the total front to back dimension is about what you saw with AI-S primes on F-mount bodies. I am attuned to the story but I do hear a lot of comments that we need more compact, easier to tote cameras. In total, only Fuji seems to have truly responded to this need. Frank

        • pascaljappy says:

          Indeed, Fuji seem to care about travel / walking far more than others. And you rarely hear talk of resolution or such things with them.

        • Alan MacKenzie says:

          I have to put in a word for m43, i.e. Panasonic/Lumix/Olympus. Small, light cameras and lenses with modest pixel counts but more than adequate quality for 16×20 prints. It would be interesting to see side-by-side comparisons of the same scene shot with different systems and enlarged similarly. I’d be surprised if the difference was significant or could be detected in a ‘blind’ test.

          • pascaljappy says:

            My guess is, up to a certain (generous) print size, any difference would be one of character more than quality.

          • Pascal Ravach says:

            Alan, I use an Olympus E-M1 since years, with 4 lenses, the 75F1.8 being a jewel, and a Ff Sony A7R2 with legacy Olympus glass, including past wonders like the 90F2 Macro erc; M4:3 is formidable for travel (light, discrete, super reactive, etc); Images can be very nice. But the old glass on a ยซย modernย ยป sensor, when they mate well, create more ยซย connectedย ยป inages, no doubt. And have more subtle tonal and dynamic gradations… the simplest way to describe this, for me, is to say that M4:3, well… ยซย simplifiesย ยป the image. What I see from Fuji is a world by itself, that I find very appealing!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I must be a little older than you, young fella, so careful with the “old” cracks! The oldest lens I ever used was made c. 1910, and it took quite good photos. And I’ve used plenty of others, made between the mid 1930s and the end of last century or the beginning of this one, since then. I’m more concerned with the image they produce than anything else.

    Which takes me to my spectacles – another achievement from my beloved lens maker, Carl Zeiss – his lenses have figured through most of my life and include not only the pre-war ones, but a number of postwar ones as well.

    So to my “dream lens” – my beloved Otus 55m – you say “correcting colour shifts are the hardest and most unpleasant form of PP” – well I don’t believe the Otus causes ANY such shifts. Some might call it bland and lacking in character, because what you see is what you get. If not – blame whoever made the sensor or the processor.

    The hue shift towards blue-magenta I could live without. Magenta is a harder colour to control or rid the world of. Blue is tolerable.

    The soft focus is OK – you admit that it happens with “good” glass – not being the second coming of Ansel Adams, I have to make an admission too – not all of me “best shots” are tack sharp – but I wouldn’t ditch them for the world! Tack sharp is not the only quality to look for in a photograph – and sometimes it’s a curse (not a blessing) when it’s there. I think Philippe can guide you there, better than I can.

    But what shines through the verbage is that even though you are in isolation, you have had fun. You pulled this lens out, tried it out, came home with some interesting photos, and you’ve been enjoying yourself doing it. Right now, that’s a pretty good place to be! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes indeed ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Going into the garden with no expectations and returning 10 minutes later with photos of roses that look like they were made a centry ago, now that is a lot of fun.

      No, none of the Otus lenses produce unpleasant shifts of any kind (thank goodness, at that price ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

      Tack sharp is nice for some styles of photographs. Soft is nice for others. No one should have to be forced to use either. I’m just glad we have a choice and even gladder it is such a cheap one ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Jean-Claude Louis says:

    Now, Pascal, when will you go the full plastic Monty with a 60m Holga lens ($15 in Nikon mount) ? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The images are lovely. I like the B&W versions even more than the color ones – a very smooth gradation of the values with high overall contrast and low micro-contrast.

    I’m no expert in lenses; I choose them based on how they render in prints (as opposed to a computer monitor). To me, the out-of-camera images are just starting points for post-capture processing to produce the actual photographs.

    I generally like the look of the 1970-1990 film-era lenses. I liked the Nikon 50mm you describe here and its 35mm f1.8 plastic companion. I loved the Contax G lenses; the 100mm f/2 Zuiko was outstanding on the Olympus OM; I had great fun with Zeiss and Schneider lenses on the Hasselblad 500CM and Rolleiflex.

    Today, my go-to system is a Leica M240 that I use as a carrier for my lenses from the Mandler period: 35 and 50mm pre-ASPH Summilux f/1.4, 24mm Elmarit and 90mm Summicron. They have in common a luminous, rounded look, with sharp in-focus areas and creamy smooth backgrounds (this brings coherence to a body of work when lenses of different focal lengths are used). They render beautifully on the M8 CCD sensor and still very nicely on the not so great CMOS of the M240. And, importantly, they keep their character through the processing workflow.

    Continue to have fun !

    • pascaljappy says:

      Is that a challenge, Jean-CLaude ? ๐Ÿ˜‰ If I can find that 60 Holga, I’ll try it ๐Ÿ˜‰

      The b&w photographs are my favourites as well. They look much “older”, like something from a large format camera of the 40s.

      Schneider lenses? Hmm I’ve never used those. Some of the Zeiss lenses on old Hasselblad 500 cameras are familiar to me, but not the Schneider. It would be interesting to locate some of these, if they are compatible with the old Hassy mount.

      I am a great fan of the 90 Elmarit from the Mandler period. Such soft drawing, with lovely fine detail. An understated gem ๐Ÿ™‚


      • Jean-Claude Louis says:

        Amazon is your friend, $16.50 ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Schneider-Kreuznach made a line of fast lenses for the Rollei 6008 (an overlooked gem of a camera). The most interesting ones are: the fantastic 80mm f/2.8 Xenotar, the 180mm f/2 Tele Xenar and the 50mm f/2.8 Super Angulon. I had this system and sometimes regret to have parted with it; but then I’m not into shooting film anymore. The problem would be to find a way to adapt them to the XD1.

        Schneider also made the only non-Zeiss lens for the Hasselblad 500, the extraordinary Variogon C 140-280mm f/5.6, with prime lens performance at most focal lengths. This one should fit the XD1.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Oh, Jean Claude, what memories you stir up there. My dream camera of the film era was the SL66. And the 6008 was a close second. What a beautiful camera!! Just thinking about it makes my heart skip.a beat, all that time later. I will try to find an adapter for those. It might be possible. As for the 140-280, to my great shame, it is new to me. Quick, eBay ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you for the hints!

  • Dallas says:

    Excellent article Pascal, I have a couple of old Nikkor lens if you want them for the Hassi, lol.

  • NMc says:

    I think that there is something to what you say, however I would like to throw a bit of a different view in the mix. The uber resolving new lenses on high megapixel sensors give the viewer everything, on the screen or print there is no choice but to look at it all. IRL our eyes and mind only sees or appreciates what we want to, and a lot of that perception comes down to experience, for example a farmer will see a hell of a lot more when looking at a paddock that a non-farmer.
    When we look at a less than optically perfect reproduction our mind starts to fill in the blanks. My half baked theory is that an explicit reproduction is by passing our imagination and emotion because there is just so much detail to process that perception would normally abbreviate, or digest holistically, if we were looking at the actual scene instead of an optically perfect reproduction.
    Regards Noel

    • pascaljappy says:

      That is very very interesting. Leaving the viewer/listener/reader fill in the blanks is key to good storytelling and maintaining interest for a long period.
      And visual science tells us that totally sharp images appear very static, whereas those with grain and blurr feel a lot more dynamic, by causing out eye to scan a lot more in search of some detail it can make sense of.

      Great point. Cheers.

    • Jean-Claude Louis says:


      Not half-baked at all, your analysis is spot on.

      An imperfect image – blurred, unsharp, light flares, offset colors, unorthodox composition, etc.. – is an open door for the viewers to enter and contribute their own interpretation, inject their own feelings and emotions, in short to be in communion with the image and the one who created it. Isn’t sharing all about this?

      Thank you for posting this :}

      • NMc says:

        Jean Claude
        Yes, but not quite all.
        See my comment in the thread started by John W above and the discussion about digital versus analogue with the audio analogy. I think what you are writing about is making the aesthetic choices which include various degrees of visual/cultural literacy which also have direct comparisons in other visual art.

        My take is something like this- If you can afford, and chose, to use an uber-lens then you need to be aware of potential hyper realism that can detract and perhaps be more interesting, and stunning in technical wonder, than the actual photograph as a whole image. When a photo gets the hyper realism right it can be very direct and we may perceive a sense of transparency or 3D pop or whatever that captures some sense of atmosphere that is โ€˜realโ€™ . This sense of transparency can be in an image that delivers /captures things like heavy humid atmosphere or smoke swirls which are not a graphic sharpness thing but often needs a technically good lens to capture well.

        A โ€˜friendlyโ€™ lens may mash an atmospheric, translucence or reflective image component, or it could add some glow or fog that is not real and distracts or is just unattractive. A realistic lens will show more skin flaws that you would ever notice in real life. Non-uber lenses can also capture atmosphere or whatever, though sometimes with a little abstraction or interpretation.

        Regards Noel

        • Jean-Claude Louis says:


          I don’t think we are in disagreement. Eventually, the choice of lenses comes down to what images one wants to make. “Uberlenses” have usually the best potential, but they are not all equal. For my work, I tend to select the lenses by the way they draw, rather than by their ability to resolve pairs of lines.

          For example, my older 35mm pre-ASPH Summilux f/1.4 renders atmospheric perspective extremely well, thereby discriminating spatial relationships and depicting the recession of space in the distance – ideal for landscapes. My newer, redesigned for digital, 35mm ASPH Summilux does not come close in that respect, but excels at scenes where sharpness and realistic rendering are desired. But both lenses share a superb luminosity in the highlights and midtones.

          At the other end of the spectrum, the intentional use of a carefully chosen “bad” lens can create haunting images, as their inherent flaws can be into strengths – thinking of Sally Mann, among others.

          All the best

  • The importance of cleaning old stuff out of drawers is definitely over rated by women. Who knows what fun stuff you might find in there some rainy day when you’re looking for something to do 30 years down the road. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Joakim Danielson says:

    Lovely photos with this old lens, vintage lenses can certainly bring a lot of fun and deliver a very special rendering. I think this is one thing that makes it fun to be a photographer today that we can choose between old or new, perfect or imperfect, really fast or really small etc when selecting lenses to use on our cameras. My personal favorites include the Minolta Rokkor 58 f/1.2, Leica 35 f/1.4 Summilux pre-asph and Zeiss 85 f/2.8 Sonnar C/Y, not sure how they behave on the X1D though but I think Ming Thein wrote favourable about the Zeiss 85.

    I am currently contemplating if I should join the X1D crowd…

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Joakim ๐Ÿ™‚ The X1D has the advantage of a very tolerant sensor, thanks to its larger pixels. But this comes at the price of huge vigneting from some lenses. The limit between usable and not usable is very subjective. To me the C-Sonnar 1.5/50 ZM and that lovely little Nikkor are perfectly usable in most conditions (the first image being a worst case scenario) but the Distagon 1.4/35 ZM was a step too far (which is a shame) and 44×33 might be a stretch for your 35 Summilux (also a shame, that Pre-ASPH is the best version, to my eyes). Ming seems very happy with the Summilux 50 on the X1D. Generally speaking, longer focal lengths seem to be happier on the larger format. Well worth exploring are the cheap medium format lenses of the film era. Not all were great but some seem particularly worthwhile. Those, and the Leica-R are my next topic of exploration ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • philberphoto says:

    Pascal, my guess is that, sensor coverage aside, there is not a single brand that did not offer way back then a “plastic fantastic” 50 that would have been as nice -maybe not in the same way but as nice- as your Nikkor. My guess is, one of them might even have done quite a bit better, the Zeiss C/Y 50 Planar f:1.7. Plus, we know that a talented photographer -stand up and take a bow- can rise above his gear’s limitations and produce great images. Plus (again) your sensor does not sport really high pixel density, which is what older lenses really don’t handle gracefully at all. Your Hasselblad 50Mp is equivalent to “only” 10Mp in a APS/C camera, which is so more-than-a-decade-ago. For all these reasons, your pics are lovely. And that was entirely to be expected. Call me un-surprised. Very interesting post nonetheless…:-)

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you Philippe. You are right, it makes perfect sense that a low denstiy sensor would agree with older lenses. Yum yum ๐Ÿ™‚

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