Why Photography Is NOT My Hobby

So, you have a day job. Something that pays the bills. Hopefully, it’s something you love. I am lucky enough to be able to say that I do find being a teacher both suitable for me as a person and very rewarding. Communication and helping people seem to be things I am good at. Also, I wouldn’t do just any kind of teaching. I got into it in order to travel and teach abroad as well as meet people from other countries and cultures. It’s a kind of fascination with me. So that’s my main job. Photography is something you might call a part-time profession but to call it that is slightly misleading because although I make money from it, I don’t do it for the money.

So, it’s a hobby, right? Something on the side that I like to do when I am not working in my main job. Well, actually, no. It’s not a hobby and never has been. Much in the same way that music is not a hobby either and never has been. The issue is that the word ”hobby” conjures up the image of doing salsa classes every Tuesday night or collecting stamps. Something purely for fun. As fascinating as it might be to you, you have decided it has no future to ever become more than something to pass the time. You have resigned yourself to the idea that you will only go so far. It’s nothing serious. This couldn’t be farther from how I feel about photography.

Let’s go back in time. When I started it first, it was almost a hobby. I bought a little Canon bridge camera having taken pictures before that on borrowed film cameras. I always had some interest in it. With my little Canon camera, I went on photography forums and talked to others. I photographed anything and everything I saw. I learned some of the basics but it didn’t grip me at all. Put off mainly by the gear I couldn’t afford. Thinking that was what it was all about. I lost interest in it and moved on.

Quite a few years later, while living in Prague, I found myself looking for something that would get me out of the house to meet new people and form new relationships and even more importantly, would be a way I could express myself. This is no minor thing. Neither of them are, but the need to be creative is absolutely necessary for my well-being. I can’t actually live without it. I had been a composer and music was a way for me to do this but having done it academically for so long, having ruminated endlessly over style and influence, it all became stale. It also involved spending hours alone composing. A rather lonely thankless occupation. I haven’t given up on music. I play piano in my own way, my own stuff, but it is spontaneous and deeply personal. I play to myself and for myself. It is a therapy. It is quiet time. Someday I will play in front of people again I am sure but it won’t be for money or fame and it is not a great work in progress. Not some major project with clear goals. It is essentially an extension of listening and listening to music is what it is all about for me. Music is refuge. Photography, well, that’s the world.

So, photography has become my voice. It holds the key to a meaningful life. My ambition in it is greater than any ambition I have ever had. My motivation in it is stronger than any motivation I have ever had too. I am not able to give it up. It’s under my skin. If I take a break from it, it just finds its way back in and takes me over. It’s like a drug without the side effects. Or, if there are side effects, then they are the best kind.

When I rediscovered photography in Prague, I decided from the very beginning, from the first tutorial, before I had saved for my first DSLR, that I wasn’t going to do this as a hobby. I was going to take this to the highest level. Being an artistic person, coming from an artistic background, this then obviously had little or nothing to do with money and everything to do with self-realisation. The desire to better oneself through their art. To make something in the most significant sense.

It’s hard not to sound pretentious saying this but it seems the generation after me have no problem saying these kind of things so maybe I ought to join them. I kind of envy that generation for the ability to hold firmly to beliefs in their destiny and follow dreams. Not always be stifled by notions of what it means to live a ”normal life”. I am an artist. This is part of what makes me who I am. I treat photography as an art form above everything else. The love of the process and of the result. This means learning all I can about the art my own experience and the work of others, finding my voice and refining my own style, doing new and exciting creative projects, exhibitions of my work, workshops to teach others and collaborations of any kind that interest me. From the thrill of shoots to the meditation of street photography all coming together to one end.

There is nothing worse than being old and having regrets about what you didn’t do. Especially something you wanted to do, had some talent in and were so passionate about. Looking back and realising you didn’t follow your heart and the only reason was fear.

So, let me say that your company on this journey, as I continue down this magical road, is most welcome.

Advertisements

Where Next In Photography?

I recently came to some very important decisions regarding the future of my photographic work.

I have tried many different cameras and a few different systems. Analogue and digital. Over the course of this summer I have thought long and hard about what best suits me and my creative vision. This has also entailed a shift away from regarding photography as a way to make money. I am now more interested in advancing as an artist. If money follows then that’s great but I am not going to compromise my intentions in order to make my work more profitable.

 Choosing a path that would involve doing paid gigs like event photography would have had a big impact on the gear choices. Nonetheless I had started to think differently about it already. For example, only shooting primes and working with a simple two camera, two prime set up. I also learned the vital importance of consistency of look.

As I’ve explored the history of photography more and more I have come to see what I like. What really moves me and what doesn’t. I have also explored in depth the effects of certain focal lengths, using digital versus analogue and to find the best tool for the job in every way from size to colour rendition. I have also looked back at my minor achievements in photography and have been examining what made them work when they did. This has also involved looking again at what brought me to photography in the first place and whether I feel like my original expectations have been met even as far as reconnecting with the guy who took pictures when I knew nothing about the technique or history of the medium.

All this has led to some clear arrival points best shown in the choice of gear. I am the first to argue for photography not being all about gear but nonetheless the medium effects the outcome so for simplicity sake I think it is useful to connect my set up with my artistic intentions. Even if you are not into gear I think there isn’t much problem at least following my line of thought.

 My main camera is now a Fuji X-T1. I am going to put a 50mm equivalent lens on it and use this simple set up for almost all my portrait and documentary photography. I am not yet sure what kind of documentary photography I am going to do but I do know that in my portraits I am seeking something more personal, natural and intimate with elements of environment or context in order to tell a story. Not just pretty pictures, you might say. I dabbled in fashion photography and I am not abandoning this completing but rather if fashion elements creep into my approach then so be it. Labels mean very little anyway. I am eager to find someone to collaborate with rather than photographing many different people since I do that in my street photography. The search for what might be called ”a muse” is not easy but I’m hopeful I’ll find one or more suitable people.

 The Fuji X-T1 camera replaces the full frame DSLR camera and an 85mm lens combo I had. I have come to realise that this set up is too obtrusive, intrusive and impersonal both in terms of the size of the kit and the distance from the subject imposed by that lens. The Fuji is less ”in your face” and 50mm (equiv) will result in closer working distance leading itself to an intimacy and naturalness of look. I will shoot in colour and black and white. I will decide on a single look for both. For example, always employing a yellow filter on the black and white.

 My back up camera does not really need to exist. The truth is that I could sell it and buy a 35mm (equiv) lens for the X-T1. However, having a separate camera which is smaller has the advantage of being portable and at least if anything happens to it, it is not the main camera. I am referring to my Fuji X100. This is a camera that I am eager to put to full use in street photography. Over the last year I have gained confidence as a street photographer and I believe it will only improve. The 35mm field of view is perfect. Not only for street but also for documentary, travel and environmental portraits.  I have tried a few focal lengths for the environmental portraits and feel most comfortable with 35mm.  It can thus serve more than one purpose. I plan to shoot everything on this camera in black and white. If the workflow of using two cameras at a shoot becomes a hindrance, I will invest in a 35mm equiv lens for the X-T1. My particular style or approach to street photography is something I am working on. Time will give me a clearer voice.

 So, as you can see, all my digital pictures will either be at 35 or 50. At 35 I will shoot stopped down so the whole scene is in focus. At 50, I will alternate between shooting wide open and stopped down.

 There is a third camera in this set up. A very inexpensive analogue camera. Right now it is the Olympus Trip 35 but can perhaps easily be replaced by another small point and shoot. Having used a number of SLRs for all kinds of photography including portrait shoots, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to do my ”heavy work” in this format. There are a number of reasons for this that I won’t get into here that relate to time, convenience and motivation. Instead, I now want to use a little point and shoot to simply document my life. Almost like I am taking pictures for a family album but making use of those techniques I have learned in order to hopefully produce pictures of some lasting merit. At best, they will be little works of art in themselves or when taken as a whole. At the least, they will simply be a visual diary of my life which is just fine with me. I am not yet sure what precise details I will photograph. I guess I will know when the moment comes. The Trip has a 40mm lens which is very close to 35 and even closer to what the human eye sees so it is ideal for this purpose. Why analogue for this? Couldn’t you use your mobile phone? Well, the look and feel of film offers a kind of distancing from the experience, a kind of timelessness as well as a link to my own past experiences that make it really attractive to me. I plan to shoot with only one film to maintain consistency and have decided it will be colour.

 As well as not doing any conventional portraits or events for money. I am also not going to take any landscape pictures. They have sort of become a pet hate of mine. For me, not being a landscape photographer, I find it all too easy to take a lazy landscape. This does not mean I would never explore the idea of spaces outside or inside. That’s different. I would also consider using a mobile phone for a specific photographic project. I think it is important to have projects. This is where the documentary photography would emerge from. If someone also asks me to photograph them. If I get some request, I will always consider doing it but this work will not feature on my website or pages.

This website is going to change quite dramatically over the coming months and years. Many pictures will disappear and be replaced by new ones. Most of my pictures will never be seen again under my name on the internet.

 All this might sound a bit contrived. This level of limitation. Well, limitation has always helped me with creativity. The choices are also very well worked out. If you narrow down the parameters and become very skilled in them, I believe you can  do a lot more. Not only that but it really helps to create a consistent voice and style.

 Of course there are many elements not mentioned here regarding my style. From specific subjects in street photography to favored angles in portraiture. I do already have a style in some ways too, which can’t all be reduced to words, which will hopefully continue to come through in my work.

I am very much looking forward to the challenges of this transition and hope some really good pictures emerge from this. I also want to thank everyone for their support of what I do and have been doing in photography.

Too Many Pictures!

Just noticed someone on a minimalist group on Facebook saying they have 40,000 digital photos and they don’t know how to even begin to sort them. They want rid of most of them. Yesterday there was someone else who had physical photographs and wanted to digitize them. Here are my thoughts…

Stop taking so many damn photos! I take pictures for my portfolio and money is sometimes involved in my shoots. I have invested a lot of time and money in getting to a higher level of photography but in spite of all that, I am pretty ruthless with them.

Now, I know that cameras (and phone cameras) these days can shoot fast and the files don’t tend to take up much space relative to the card in the camera but that isn’t a licence to spray and pray. Slow down and pay attention. Why would you take 20 pictures from the same angle of one historical monument on holiday? There is an argument for not even taking one! Unless the monument or building is personally meaningful to you and/or there are not many pictures of it online.  Unless you can take a really top notch picture of it at dawn or something spectacular. Multiple pictures of the Eiffel Tower, for example, is ludicrous as well as being incredibly boring for people who have to look at each one after the holiday is over.

What about pictures of loved ones? Well, of course that is different but, I am sorry, 900 pictures of your 2-year-old on a one-day break is only complicating your life. No photographer worth their salt is capable of taking that many good pictures. He or She would be lucky to get one really good one. That’s the truth about it. If you don’t want to be better and just want to have fun there is still no point in taking so many uninteresting shots. Often time spent messing with the camera instead of enjoying those so important moments with your child.

Slow down and think. Does this picture say something important to me? Does it show the person I love in some special way? Is it really ”them”? Is this holiday picture unique to this trip? Is this a memory I really want to hold on to in the form of a picture?

I have met a few people in my life who actually don’t take any pictures at all on holiday or for personal/family celebrations. Their logic is that the memories will remain in their heads (and hearts) and that is more powerful. Definitely an argument to be made for that. So if our minds can bring back memories so powerfully, that’s even more reason to take less pictures when you do.

I do photo shoots and on an average 90-minute shoot I take no more than about 150 shots. I take my time over a picture. I watch the light, I wait for the moment. It is something between deer hunting and meditation. When it comes to my street photography, that is even more pronounced, which is to say, I take even fewer pictures. It makes next to no sense at all to take tons of shots on the streets. I feel the same about travel pictures. Travelling through Spain a couple of times, I would come back with no more than about 200 pictures. Another reason why 35mm film photography is fine for me. I won’t incur huge costs by shooting hundred of mindless pictures.

Coming back to the issue of storing them. I don’t have all the raw files of my best pictures and that is something I am a little sad about. I only have Jpegs but for my very best shots, they are in 3 different locations for security. An average shoot for me, produces, if I am lucky, about 4 good pictures. I don’t mean stunningly good. I mean, good 🙂 The rest are 90 percent acceptable but as an artist you want to get the best. So when it came to storing stuff for longer, I went through the folders of shoots and deleted all the duds, only holding on to the best 4 or 5. In some cases it is only one really good one from shoot or outing. I have a few raw files from some shoots and a couple of shoots a bit unsorted where I literally have every picture I took on the day, but as a rule I get rid of 90-95 percent of all the pictures I take. Some people would balk at that but not me. I also have the belief that I am improving and feel fine letting go of less accomplished work. In 5 years I will be better still, I hope and those future pictures will have more value.

What about value then? Sentimental value, that is. Sure, pictures can have major sentimental value. I have pictures from college and so on and keep them in an album but we aren’t talking about many pictures. Still, that is fine. In fact it arguably adds a greater resonance to the ones I have hung on to. Think about this. Having 5,000 pictures of a loved one as against having only 50 or… only 5. What happens to the value level? I know getting rid might feel bad, but hey, the picture is not the person. You can’t reduce a human, least of all someone you care about, to a two-dimensional image. Those 50 or 5 that you have kept are treasures in a way that 5000 just couldn’t really be because the 5000 feature too much dross, more than likely. Besides, do you really need to hold on to hundreds of bland pictures of someone who is in your heart forever? Especially if the person is still around and you can actually be in their company more or less when you want? For people who are gone from us it is more acute but the same principles of course apply.

So, that’s it. Take less and keep less. This is the minimalist credo. Only have in your life what really adds value to it.

Minimalism and Value

Another post to talk about the misconception regarding minimalism. It seems that ninety percent of people online who are asking questions about minimalism or commenting on same, don’t actually understand it at all. I know we could say it means different things to different people but in my mind, if minimalism only means having less stuff, then it is hardly worth following at all. It is rather shallow and pointless.

My understanding is that it is getting rid of what you don’t use or doesn’t add any value to your life and sometimes replacing it with something more valuable. This also doesn’t just refer to things. It refers to work, free-time activities, food, drink, friends etc.

I think it is useful to do a little mental picturing. What is your image of a good life that has value. Once you have a picture, you can work towards it. The clearer the idea, the better. If you fail to get ”all the way” at least you are on the right track. If you find yourself going down the wrong track. Well, that’s life and that’s learning. Go another route.

My picture involves travel, for example. I need to see knew places. It fills me with wonder and excitement. It keeps me buoyant. I don’t need to do amazing high adrenaline activities on these trips. Not at all. Sitting having a coffee in an unknown plaza would do just fine. Having said that, I would also love to try new things. For me though, noticing how the sun has a different feel and way of colouring the landscape in Iceland as opposed to Italy, is itself, no matter how small it might seem, part of what makes experiences worth having. Little details. As a photographer I seek out these things often. Just as an aside, travelling and not bringing too much with you is something I’d actually like to go into in a later post as well as making the most of the simple pleasures of it.

In my picture of a better life, there are also material things but less things and the things, more importantly, are better. For example, I don’t need a tablet if I have a laptop. It is a waste of money for one thing. Better to have a laptop worth 1000 euros than a laptop and tablet adding up to the same. Try not to cut corners within a reasonable budget for you. For me, a laptop is an essential item as well as bringing a lot of joy to my life. I use it for work and for free time. It is also a massive information portal.

Phones are almost equally important. They should really be called ”personal devices”. The actual phoning element is rarely used on mine. I use mine more as a tiny portable laptop where communication is more the point. It also has a camera and as phones progress I see myself using their cameras more since I can’t be sure to always have a real camera with me or be in a position to be able to use one. I do stress though, it is not good to have it on all the time. I put it away and switch it off a certain times. I am trying not to check Facebook or Instagram on it regularly too. I don’t need to but those likes and hearts get addictive.

Music is close to my heart. My life-long partner through thick and thin. In spite of this great love, I don’t need a CD collection though. I just don’t see the point regardless of how much I love the art form. In today’s age you can stream music and download it to your phone. Again, my phone serves as my music playing device making it even more valuable to me. The same applies to films, which I love too. They can be streamed and downloaded and not necessarily held on to long term as downloads either. I mean, I know I love the film Alien, for example but I don’t need a fancy box set on my shelf with a ton of extras to show off to people. Whether I have the film right now downloaded on my hard drive is not relevant. What do we really possess anyway? Don’t try to grasp so tightly to things. The film remains as does the music and you can usually access it when you want. If you are in a situation where you can’t or really really want the physical thing, then sure get a DVD of it for your shelf. I am not totally against buying physical copies of music or DVDs, just choose the best of the best, I would say. In my experience that will boil down to a very limited number of titles.

I play music and compose from time to time so a piano is good but not essential. A very basic keyboard attached to a laptop can do the job too. It depends on my aims.

When it comes to photography, you might think I need a ton of gear. Lots of big lenses and lighting gear. Not a bit of it. I am intentionally minimal for a number of reasons. Mainly cause limitation for me, encourages creativity, focuses me as an artist and actually makes me far more enthusiastic about my work. So I have 3 cameras. That is not significant for someone with my level of interest. Especially as one camera is a very cheap old analogue camera. I have two digital cameras. One has a lens built into it and the other has only one lens attached to it. Those lenses are not even zooms so you are stuck with one focal length. All three cameras have focal lengths between 35 and 50mm. It’s limited and shows a clear intention or set of intentions. I shoot using natural ambient light. I do not use any lighting gear at all. All three cameras fit in one relatively compact bag. For camera buffs out there, I have two Fuji mirrorless cameras and one little Olympus 35mm camera. It’s tidy practical and absolutely in-keeping with my current artistic vision.

Everyone has or needs a passion. If you read a lot, you might like to own books although if I were you, I would only get ones that a special to you. If you read something mediocre then pass it on. Let’s say you are a professional Ski instructor. You will likely need to have a bunch of related gear. We need things for our work and hobbies but nonetheless there is room to question the value or point of all that gear much like I have done with photography and music.

Now, it seems like I am running through all my possessions. Well, I won’t do that in this post. I would like to talk about clothes and other more domestic stuff but I will leave that to a later date.

I have also written here quite a bit about losing weight and having a healthy life. I directly tie this into minimalism too. Less weight is less of something and eating less also sits well with this. In any case, my picture of how I see myself at my best does not involve me bineging on biscuits in front of the telly night after night.

So think about it, what do you really need in your life? What brings real value? It’s going to be very few things. Focus on those and cut out the dross.

 

The Move To Fuji

You might know from my blog that I use to be a Nikon shooter. I have also shot with Canon and Sony cameras and lenses. As well as Minolta for some of the analogue stuff I have done. Having thought long and hard about not only the most suitable gear but also my path in photography I revised my thinking at the beginning of Autumn. I realised that Fuji might just be the answer I was looking for.

I don’t want to get into too much detail here or repeat myself. I just want to briefly put into words how I came to this decision and where I am now.

I pretty much gave up the idea of doing paid professional events like weddings. It does not mean I no longer do paid work. It means I choose the project. My aims as an artist need to come first. As a result, I don’t need to follow the long list of pros who go down the route of fast pro zoom lenses, large dslrs and lots of lighting gear. I can very much do things my way. Now, of course pros shoot with mirrorless and less gear. I am talking about the norm. Since I feel I am not trying to compete in a market, as such, I can find what suits me best by following my instincts and making decisions based on empirical evidence from the years of shooting.

Looking at the work of other photographers living and dead has also influenced me a lot in my decision. I find myself increasingly drawn to street and documentary photography as well as a continued admiration for portrait or fashion photographers who have a totally distinctive voice, breaking rules whenever they feel necessary and expressing something with depth. Telling a story and keeping it real.

After trying many camera and lens combinations, I had come to the conclusion that primes lenses and in particular the 35mm and 85mm might be the only lenses I needed. This however then changed as I came to realise the value of the nifty fifty. That the 50mm focal length is so versatile. Not only does it give a nice working distance from the subject but it also maintains a sense of environment while also maintaining a kind of classic look. Move closer and you get some distortion but that little bit of distortion makes us aware we are physically close to the subject. It is close to the human eye so it feels real and natural. This adds intimacy. A highly valuable element in expressing the human interaction.

I have always preferred using natural light only and minimal post-processing. This is unlikely to ever change.

I owned a Fuji X100 which stopped working about a year ago. It had been sitting in a drawer doing nothing. On the eve of deciding to maybe buy a new Nikon DSLR and a new 35mm lens for it, I took the camera out of the drawer one more time to try it. To my amazement it worked. It had come back from the dead. Having used it while living and travelling in Catalunya, I knew what it was capable of as a street and travel camera. I had already fallen in love with the ergonomics, the compact but solid design and the 35mm focal length in general. It ticked most boxes. Sure, I made an earlier blog entry where I talk about it’s unreliability. Since then I have discovered my Olympus Trip 35, my alternate carry-around camera, also has had some issues. Since nothing is 100 percent reliable in life, it seems, if it works now then use it.

With the X100 back in the game, I started to explore Fuji in general and was surprised to see the flagship X-series APSC camera from them was available used for only 500 Euro. I say ”only” because these were almost three times that new less than 4 years ago. This is a professional camera built to last. Also drawn to the latest tech which my old DSLRs sorely missed, I went for it.

So, I had an X100 for 35mm and an X-t1. I needed a lens for my new camera. I got my hands on a used 35mm F2 at a great price and two days ago did my first shoot with it having used it only for ”random photography” prior to that. The shoot was a great success. Remember that 35 on the APSC X-t1 gives an equivalent focal length of about 50mm. All the research I had done paid off. My thinking as regards focal length and one camera one lens also proved the right choice. It has been a long time since I have been this happy with my gear. It is a relief to not be pining after full frame DSLRs worth thousands and monstrous lenses. I am now doing things my way. Getting back to the essence of what photography means to me. It reminds me of my days shooting with the old Nikon D7000 and the 50 1.8. It was all I needed at the time to get great pictures and hone my skills. I focused then more and more on the style and concept and less and less on the gear. Shooting was a pleasure then as it is again for me now.

What next? Well, just that. Hone my skills. If I am to buy another lens then it would be the 23mm F2. It isn’t too pricey used. Having it would mean better quality pictures at that focal length on a very solid reliable camera. For now, though, the X100 delivers fine for street and other stuff. I did environmental portraits at this focal length before but honestly, 50 does almost as well and it is actually quite rare for me to find a portrait shot with 35mm that is truly effective. It’s something I am thinking about and working on.

So that’s it. I am now very happy with my simple and minimalist gear set up. It’s just a matter of going out there and finding the moments and the moods to capture.

If you’d like to know more about me and my work and my Fuji love, check out my YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbJfjmRuD3iOnzAOIeZTzCw?view_as=subscriber

 

Six Day Prime Lens Challenge – Day 3 – Nikon 50mm 1.8 AF D on APSC camera

I am not going to go into much detail about this sharp little lens because, unlike the Sigma, there is tons of info about this one. It is after all one of the 50mm lenses that most are familiar with if you use Nikon. Only the G version, the more recent one, is ahead of it. The G lens is faster and quieter and basically better but that is not to say that this lens is a poor substitution. I picked mine up for only 80 euro. If you have a Nikon DSLR, full frame or crop, get this. Unless of course you already have the G version.

Considering that the first day I shot with the Sigma lens that didn’t even metre on the camera, this was such an easy process. I put it on aperture priority. I changed the ISO from time to time but it was mostly at 200. I found the lens had trouble focusing in low light but otherwise I didn’t have to spend much time getting a shot. That helps a lot in street photography.

What was familiar about today was the fact that this combination of 50 1.8 lens on a Nikon crop body is my most used combination. It has accounted for more than half of all my portrait shoot images. It is in fact near ideal for full body and American cut (just above he knees) shots. The only one better is the 85mm on full frame. (85 on crop produces a fov of 127.5mm which means having to stand too far from the subject for comfort, in my opinion).

So 50mm gives an fov of 75mm on Nikon APSC. Yes, it’s not the easiest focal length to deal with. In fact, I initially thought my shooting trip would be a write off what with the weather and the limitations of this narrow focal length. Not wide enough for many applications and too wide for shooting birds, for example. This lens length is about detail. Finding elements in a scene. I did a couple of close up shots that worked OK. Bokeh is not bad on this lens. I think the G might be better. I thought that was all I could do until I went from the suburbs onto the streets on Cork and then it all changed. The 50 on apsc is actually surprisingly useful for street photography. It’s more a portrait lens at 75 and therefore is very good at singling out subjects while still keeping a little of their context. From across the street it can very effective for wider shots. Here are some pictures I took:

 

Why not try the Prime Lens Challenge yourself? And let me know how you get on. In the meantime please like and subscribe for more. Thanks

Six Day Prime Lens Challenge – Day 1 – 28mm lens on APSC Nikon

e672ed2bd0a7d824fec16a621a909a8e

So I started off with the newest lens in my arsenal. It’s the Sigma 28mm 2.8 mini wide II. A very cute little lens that weighs very little but still feels solid. It’s a manual focus lens which is rather challenging on a DSLR. Especially as my camera yesterday was an old D90 which doesn’t have a very big viewfinder. I have been practicing my manual focusing though and it seems my eyes are still in good condition, touch wood. I was able to get critical focus most of the time even wide open. Of course, wide open is 2.8 not 1.8 and 28mm is wide so depth of field is not so tiny.

The lens performed very well. It seems to be soft in the corners wide open like most lenses and is also sharper in general stopped down to F4. I shot a lot at F8 and F11. It was a bright day. ISO was at 200 all the time. I had no issues. The shutter was down at 1/45th from time to time in shady areas and not lower so as to avoid camera shake.

The field of view was not very satisfying. At times it felt odd. I was often wishing that I had my old Fuji X100 back. That gave 35mm fov on its APSC sensor. A more useful length. Nonetheless at 42mm I did have a fairly adaptable rangefinder-type frame. I notice many old rangefinders have lenses in the 40s. I can see why it has advantages too for those who feel 50 is just a little tight. I got used to it. I felt I wanted more width rather than less. I suppose to be expected.

One major issue, more so than the manual focus demands, was the fact the lens wouldn’t even meter on the body! I had to estimate the shutter speed. Of course I was able to take a few shots and check the LCD to see I was getting it more or less right and I also did a little exposure bracketing. In the end, this slowed me down but didn’t result in many lost pictures. I do need to add though that my style is slow anyway and I rarely shoot moving objects. I had time to get things right. Your camera may not have this problem. My older film camera was fine.

The camera was also unable to read the aperture. I had to set it to manual, read the aperture on the ring (which was not so easy to turn, by the way) and then adjust the shutter which was the only thing I could read on the display. A challenge to be sure!

The biggest plus about the lens apart from size and the very smooth focus wheel, has to be the macro mode. I always love the idea of close focusing on wide angle lenses. I think you get much more interesting shots than macro on 50mm, for example. Of course it’s not true macro but the bokeh when the lens was in macro mode looked fantastic to me. I think bokeh can be a subjective thing though. Not everyone likes the same look.

Flaring was an issue but I don’t have a lens hood for it yet. That would definitely help. Still, it performed a lot worse than my other more recent Nikkor lenses without hoods. It’s a trade off for the vintage look? This lens produces pictures which to my eyes are immediately identifiable as from an old lens and that is something I am quite partial to. Lens flare is also not always a bad thing. If I played around more with it, I am sure I could have used it creatively. The colours were also a little off. I don’t think it was the D90, comparing other lenses. I shoot RAW and don’t care much about that anyway.

So I would definitely recommend this lens. This mighty mouse. It cost me 45 euro. They may be had for even cheaper. You can’t expect miracles but this is a surprisingly good little addition. I have also heard good things about its little brother, the super wide 24mm. I might pick one up. They tend to be a little more expensive.

Here are some of the pictures I took… All the ”macros” were at 2.8 and all the others are F8 – F11. I thought the soft circular bokeh of the river light in the picture of the key lock was very appealing and I was pretty impressed by the sharpness of the blue-ish gates in front of the house too. Put this lens on a D7200 or a D500 and I am sure it would take it to another level.