Sunday, August 28, 2011

This lens always makes it on my trips

I guess everyone has a favorite lens.

You know the one. You've used it for years, it's been on all the assignments, if you had to take just one lens, this would be it.

I've heard that line for so many years... "If you could take just one lens on a trip around the world, which would it be?"

Kinda a weird question really.

If I ever get a trip around the world I'm not taking one lens. Lets be reasonable... it's a trip around the world.

There is one lens that will be in the bag though. The Zeiss Biogon 35mm f2. I used it two years ago through China, have shot a number of portraits with it, and used it last week in Haiti.

The length is perfect on a full frame rangefinder or film camera and the Zeiss version is in my price range. The Leica version is nice and I owned the Summicron years ago when I shot for Doctors Without Borders in Cambodia. The current Leica f1.4 Summilux has a great following as well but is out of my price range.

The Biogon design started in 1935 with the 2,8/3.5 cm lens for the Contax and has been modified a number of times. Zeiss made a 38mm Biogon for the Hasselblad that was sold with the body attached as a Super Wide camera. The current Zeiss Biogon 35mm comes in an f2 version and a Compact "C" f2.8 version.

Lens speed is one of those things that doesn't always matter, until you don't have enough, then it matters a lot. In Haiti it's blazzingly bright outside and you're stopped way down and using a fast shutter speed just to get the right exposure. You don't need a fast lens for this but when you're working in doorways, open shade or with window light you might wish for more speed than f2 will give you.

In one of the clinics I was shooting in, one light bulb and a couple windows, I was shooting with the 35mm legth because the small room was packed and I wanted to get everything in, but would sometimes switch to the 50mm because it's a touch faster at f1.5. I guess it would have been a good time to use a 35mm f1.4 or maybe the new Voigtlander 35mm f1.2. Neither of which I own.

This first shot is a teacher waiting for a job interview. He's inside a school room, leaning on the front window, which is under an overhang. Other teachers wait in the background. Probally a couple stops down which puts you right in the sweet spot of the lens.
In the clinic it was dark with one light and a couple drapped windows on the right. I shot wide open. Maybe I should have focused on the child and let the mom go soft... or maybe not.
This is another teacher waiting for an interview. All the light is coming from the door to the right.
This one was a tough exposure. I had to lighten the image a bit to get detail in the face. This is a dark hallway with beds here and there. Patients were treated right in the hall.
So there you have it. If you only get to buy one lens get the Zeiss Biogon 35mm f2. Even if you add all the lenses to your kit, this will remain as one of your favorites.

Rob Skeoch
My retail store for rangefinder gear and Zeiss lenses is You can buy any of the Zeiss lenses through my store.

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