View Full Version : Theory and practice

Roger Hicks
07-27-2009, 13:17
Some things that shouldn't work, do -- and some things that should work, don't. Obviously there's plenty of 'cognitive dissonance' where people persuade themselves that things are better/worse than they are, but there are genuine surprises too.

What has surprised you when it worked, and 'shouldn't have', or didn't work, when it 'should have'? And how much of it is changing taste on your part, and how much is genuine surprise? For example, I'm beginning to believe in soft focus 35mm and digital (Dreamagon, Thambar, Lensbaby, Monochrom Subjeckiv) despite decades of disliking any soft focus less than 5x7 inch/half plate/13x18cm.

(To anyone who tells me to go out and take pictures: yesterday I put the new gearbox in the Land Rover, and today I connected it all up and put the seat box back in. It works! The old girl now moves under her own steam again! It's gone 11 pm and this is relaxation).

Tashi delek,


Al Kaplan
07-27-2009, 13:54
Lately I've revived a yard sale find, a 1959 vintage Minolta Autocord, and after digging around through my "junk boxes" I found my supply of Bayonet I filters including a Spiratone diffusion filter! That used to give me some great soft focus results.

If I get really brave I might put some sandpaper to work on one of the UV filters and try to give David Hamilton some competition.

The best soft focus lens I ever had was a 100mm f/2 Angenieux that was designed to cover the 18 X 24mm motion picture frame so it was fairly sharp in the middle but quickly became dreamy the more you got away from the center of the image. I'd cobbled together a mount to fit it on a Pentacon-Six with a 56 X 56mm frame size.

Another lens I used to have that could give some nice soft dreamy images wide open was a 150mm f/2.3 Astro Berlin Tachar but I was able to locate a Pentacon-Six factory mount made by Astro.

There is a big difference in the image between a lens that was designed to give a soft image and a lens that just isn't sharp.


07-27-2009, 13:54
I've recently realised that, to my surprise, I much prefer using older lenses on older Leicas - so I'm selling off my MP and keeping my M3. I know the newer kit is "better" in lots of ways but I like the photos I have taken with the older kit much more.

It's a continuation of a theme in my life where I'm gradually disposing of newer kit in favour of what I actually like - for example I prefer my ancient Saab 900 to my new MX-5 - why should I prefer the "Finland Ferry" to the lovely little sports car?

As Bob Dylan said recently when asked why he's managed to sell 100m records in his career: "Beats me"

07-27-2009, 14:01
why should I prefer the "Finland Ferry" to the lovely little sports car?

:D "Finland Ferry", never heard that one here in Sweden. Are they called that in England?

07-27-2009, 14:25
I prefer my ancient Saab 900 to my new MX-5

Of course you do! Its predecessor, the Saab 99, was designed by Sixten Sason, who also designed the Hasselblad...

07-27-2009, 15:16
you are thinking too much. Rover, rover....

Brian Sweeney
07-27-2009, 16:11
I was genuinely surprised that I like the Leica M3 and Canon P as much as I do. Same with the Summarit: a real "and now for something completely different" after using Nikkors for over 30 years. I prefer all-mechanical cameras with lenses designed before computers started optimizing the formulas.

Most people that know me professionally would think I'm a digital camera addict. Scanned my first negatives in 1979 and used some of the first Digital imagers in 1981. Wrote a lot of custom image processing software, custom graphics using stop-frame animation on analog Video disk, computer generated imagery. One of the engineers that worked for me built an optical computer. And now Nikki can do image capture and manipulation on a Nintendo DSi. Maybe I can download a development kit for it.

07-28-2009, 03:46
:D "Finland Ferry", never heard that one here in Sweden. Are they called that in England?

Not sure where I got that from - I always assumed it was a Swedish nickname as there aren't any ferries to Finland from the UK. Perhaps it's a Stockholm nickname?

07-28-2009, 04:12
I'm sorry if I’m stealing someone's favourite quote but I’m sure I’ve read the following in a signature here on RFF, although I may have picked it up somewhere else:

'In theory there's no difference between theory and practise but in practice there is' :D

As for something that sounds great in theory but doesn’t quite work in practice I’d have to say auto focus – after being dependent on it from the moment I took up photography to the moment I took delivery of my first RF. Now my favourite DSLR combo is a D40 with a 50mm prime whose AF capability is rendered useless thanks to the D40’s lack of body mounted AF motor. These days if a camera tries to do anything for me I get quite annoyed – all I want the machine to do is release the shutter.

07-28-2009, 05:06
I was surprised i liked the Noctilux as much as I do. Generally I buy, test, sell for the most part. The ability to use slower films effectively in low light blows me away.

Roger Hicks
07-28-2009, 07:22
I was surprised i liked the Noctilux as much as I do. Generally I buy, test, sell for the most part. The ability to use slower films effectively in low light blows me away.

I heartily agree with your surprise at the Noctilux -- it surprised me too -- but I'd be intrigued if you could expand on 'buy, test, sell'. What are you testing for ('for' in the sense of 'trying to find out', rather than 'why are you testing')?



Ronald M
07-28-2009, 13:27
I`ll be suprised if medicare and social security work. Both were set up as government ponzi schemes that would have been illegal if done by private party.

07-28-2009, 14:35
Some things that shouldn't work, do -- and some things that should work, don't. . . . What has surprised you when it worked, . . . And how much of it is changing taste on your part, R.
I'm not sure that theory has much to do with it, but there is a whole lot of common knowledge that I've learned to disregard and have replaced with unconventional practices that bring me greater satisfaction.

I might start with RF itself, but that's too easy. So I'll offer the fact that I shoot 90% of the time with a single prime lens. This is a convention-defying practice (even among RF shooters.) I can't say that I do this because of "changing taste." It's really more iterative--the practice changes my taste and my changed taste connects me more with the practice.

08-02-2009, 02:56
i buoght an old Zenit EM, in "not -working" conditions, just to dismount it and take a look inside with no fear to destroy something. I discovered the camera was very easy to fix, and even the lens: I could dismount it, clean all the screws, and put it back again... I tried a roll with my "just- fixed" camera, and it was perfectly working, and the lens (now smooth like a Leica) is really good, sharp and with a good bokeh... ;)

08-02-2009, 03:22
the whole Leica/35mm RF experience. I thought it would be an over rated rip off. Turned out to be one of the best moves I have ever made.

08-02-2009, 04:34
In theory this thread shouldn't be as good as it is.

08-02-2009, 04:53
Roger, I'm sometimes delightfully amazed when I put my brain to sleep and let my subconscious take over! Some of the best photos I've taken have been the result of what my old (film) photography instructor called "happy accidents" or "grab shots".

08-02-2009, 05:43
To HELL with Theory...Just PRACTICE,practice,PRACTICE :p

08-02-2009, 05:54

08-08-2009, 00:29
Having stumbled upon a Leica II which I could ' connect ' to , and being so reluctant to sample the scarily complex Contax / Kiev - finding that they surpass my Leicas as komfort kameras ...
Using my M 8 with old lenses [ like buying a Ferrari and never getting out of 1st ? ]
and not caring a jot ... not to mention a specific Fed collapsibe which just sparkles with emma / M8 ...
Finding that I CAN do monochrome acceptably - on screen at least .
Oh , and finding that I know a lot more than I thought when adapting to dee'gital !

Ronald M
08-08-2009, 05:42
My biggest suprise was a 125 Hector I cobbled to a Pentax as a test. I was my first Leica lens and I had no body. I did a roll of transpaencies with the 125 intermixed with Pentax stuff, all bought new and in good condition. The stories were true about Leica and the Hector pics were simply a cut above the Pentax. Sold all the Pentax inside 3 months, 3 bodies and 15 lenses.

The next revelation was old Nikkor lenses on my D700 Nikon. They are generally outstanding. I have 24, 35, 50, 105 all single coated. The wides loose in the very corners unless you stop well down, but new Nikkor glass is not much better. Normal and wides are full of distortion unlike my Leica glass.

I am supprised how well full frame digi works in general, but high rez scans from Leica film have a look I like better than digi.

Leicas brass cassettes are outstanding and I get no stray marks on film anymore.

Water and air filters are you best friends in the darkroom. Took me 40 years to learn because I am sometime a little slow.

08-08-2009, 05:54
I still take photos with old copier lenses duct-taped to SLR bodies. No aperture, fixed focus (macro, usually) and so on, but I like the results from time to time.

I used to share that kind of stuff, now I don't bother. Most photographers have been completely warped and their thought patterns perverted by Adams and his ilk - the f/64 'straight photography' bastiches who destroyed William Mortensen. There is nothing wrong with what they prefer, but there is likewise nothing wrong with pictorialism either, which is what you're basically describing, Roger.

I like a nice sharp lens, and I like great accurate color rendition and high contrast punchy lenses. But I also like Rapid Rectilinear lenses and Petzval lenses and all the others - I like 'em all. I do not worship on the altar of razor-sharpness.

Al Kaplan
08-08-2009, 06:48
If you're willing to do a bit of "cobbling" look for older single coated lenses made for 35mm motion picture cameras. The wides aren't likely to cover full frame 35mm but the 50mm and longer Angenieux lenses will. Some were available in Leica rangefinder coupled mount as well as Exacta bayonet and Pentax thread. Look for 50mm f/1.5 (rare), 90mm f/2.5 (fairly common) and 90mm f/1.8 (rare) in addition to the line-up of f/2 lenses. They also had a number of 0.95 lenses.

I also miss my 125/2.3 and 150/2.3 Astro Berlin Tachars, a 4 element all air spaced design. I foolishly traded off the 125, and the 150 was stolen a few years later.

Then there was the Spiratone Portragon consisting of a +10 close-up lens mounted in a focusing mount. The focal length was 100mm and I think it was f/4.

Roger Hicks
08-08-2009, 07:04
Then there was the Spiratone Portragon consisting of a +10 close-up lens mounted in a focusing mount. The focal length was 100mm and I think it was f/4.

I had one of those too. Currently I have a Thambar, a Dreamagon, a couple of Lensbabies and a Subjectiv, all soft focus. Interesting, for the right subject.

This thread has also spawned one on Mortensen and Pictorialism.



Al Kaplan
08-08-2009, 07:17
Some people just might be getting tired of aspheric apochromats. The math mavens have proved that the lenses can be designed, the lens companies have mastered the complexities of grinding the convoluted shapes required, glass manufacturers have achieved refractive indexes undreamed of a generation ago, coatings deliver superb contrast, while the only people who can afford buying these state of the art optics are now breaking in their eyeballs on their third set of bifocals and still can't see clearly.

Maybe it's just a matter of the older lenses doing a better job of portraying the world the way we really see it?


08-08-2009, 12:42
In theory, so-called "Pro-Labs" should do a better job of developing my film without dust and scratches than I can manage at home with a few basic bits (and two kids running around)!

Unfortunately this is not the case!

08-09-2009, 01:23
... and a humble Rokkor 135 / f 3.5 - on four thirds - should not work , but does - '' free '' 270mm tele !

08-09-2009, 01:30
There is something hidden here ... as a mildly Autistic Interior Designer , I kinda didn't get the '' rules '' . Certainly I see solutions which others talk about endlessly , yet miss ...
it's like it gets too intellectual and they are not really looking , feeling the space , often imposing , rather than translating [ ramble alert ] I can't do sketches or approx - it has to be worked out precisly and in proportion - like a hand drawn 3dee visual ! LOL

It's the same with taking pics - my considered snapshots - I just do what feels right , which is a form of freedom maybe ? Not dee'liberate , but as result of a brain glitch - seems to work in both areas ...