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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Old 07-18-2018   #41
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Maybe my 135mm F4.7 Wollensak Raptor for my 4X5 work. It’s only a simple tessar-formula lens, and isn’t the best wide-open, but it does have character.

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Old 07-18-2018   #42
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44-2 in Pasadena Camera Show

pasadena, los angeles county

photo by taipei-metro

g6 lumix, zuiko 14-42
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Old 07-18-2018   #43
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44-2 in Pasadena Camera Show
pasadena, los angeles county
photo by taipei-metro
g6 lumix, zuiko 14-42
Geez, I remember buying a good condition 1972 KMZ made Zenit E with bulky & smelly FSU leather neveready case and the KMZ Helios 44-2 lens for the princely sum of 5 Canadian dollars at the Toronto camera show in the late 1990s
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Old 07-18-2018   #44
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I’m usually very exacting about my gear, shooting medium-format film and 42 MP digital to maximise resolution and tonal range.

But I have a soft spot for the humble Soviet Jupiter-8 - I’ve an early silver one. Not the sharpest or prettiest pencil in the box, but I think the aberrations, poor flare control and muted colours give it bags of character. It’s also tiny compared with my usual lenses (shift-tilt monsters).

I tend to use it for personal photos rather than for the “serious” stuff I do for exhibitions.

Not the greatest of photos, but the veiling flare gives this view of Brighton, UK, a romantic air...


I also have a 50s Jupiter 8 and I also like it for certain things. .
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Old 07-18-2018   #45
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I have several cheap Vivitar lenses (not the really great early ones) that don't have the greatest optics in the world, but they're small and light and pleasant to shoot with regardless of the edges being a little less than sharp. A 28/2.8 and a 24/2.8 are my favorites of them.

On a Seagull 203 folder I have, the stock lens is not technically good by any stretch of the imagination, but transparencies through that lens are beautiful. I don't know what it is about that coating, but the colors always look amazing.

I have quite a few FSU lenses that are actually quite good (and, therefore, don't qualify for Roger's query) but I have have one, a rigid Industar-50 that came to me mounted to a Zorki 6, that is really messed up. It looks like someone tried to clean the lens with a pair of dirty jeans after dragging it behind a bus for a few miles. Just nasty. ....and, somehow, shots taken through it look pretty good! It wasn't designed to be a "soft" lens, but that's exactly what it has turned into. It's a bit funny to me that this I-50, a lens with a reputation for being very, very sharp, will never be capable of being sharp again but shooting with it yields photos with a dreamy quality that I don't think I could replicate with any soft filter or smear of Vaseline.
It's just the right amount of ruined. Just the right combination of softness and flare. I don't use it very often; my style of shooting doesn't usually call for that sort of look, but when I do use it I'm always surprised that I like the results. It's a real winner of a loser.
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Old 07-18-2018   #46
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The Noctilux 50/1.0.
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Old 07-18-2018   #47
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44-2 in Pasadena Camera Show
If a vanilla Helios 44 M42 mount fetches $90, my unique Nikon F-mount modded for infinity focus should be worth an extra few bucks.
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Old 07-19-2018   #48
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I haven't put a lot of film through these lenses yet, but initial results were full of character: a pre-war 50mm Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5, and a circa 1950's 50mm Cannon f/1.5. Ok, I like Sonnars. Both relatively cheap finds on that big auction site.
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Old 07-19-2018   #49
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I don't have experience with a lot of lens brands. But my pick would be the Yashikor 28mm f/3.5. It would flare if you said the word within 20 yards of the lens even if the sun was behind you. But I learned out of necessity to hide any flare somewhere in the photo, or try to place flare artistically somewhere. It was quite a shock when I got a Fujinon 28mm and spotted a shot I wanted into sunlight. No flare! I so wanted a flared shot.

But I got some interesting photos with that Yashikor lens. It came in a set with a Yashikor 135mm, for I think about $35.00 in 1974/4. Unfortunately I lost both in a house fire.
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Old 07-19-2018   #50
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This is an interesting thread. Not many of us get to try out all the different lenses mentioned. Probably also drives some GAS in some of us too.
There is a related question; have you ever purchased a camera only because you found a great deal on a lens in that mount and needed a body to put it on.
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Old 07-19-2018   #51
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I started having fun with a Portagon 100mm - that's a bad lens by any standard!
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Old 07-19-2018   #52
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I started having fun with a Portagon 100mm - that's a bad lens by any standard!
Ah, yes, though I think it was spelled Portragon with an R. I used to have one but I much prefer the 90/4 Dreamagon with its weird "radiation symbol" diaphragm. Then there's the Subjektiv with its choice of glass lens, plastic lens, pinhole and zone plate, in about a 65mm mount, and of course the dear old Lensbaby.

In all fairness I think that the Portragon was easily the worst of that crew, even to the extent that I'd call it a bad, bad lens -- albeit deliberately bad.

Cheers,

R.
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Here's two.
Old 07-19-2018   #53
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Here's two.

  • Nippon Kogaku Nikkor 85mm f/2 LTM
  • Nippon Kogaku Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 Auto F-mount
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Old 07-19-2018   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamin-b View Post
I started having fun with a Portagon 100mm -
Is that the name of a lens or an hallucinogenic? Either way -- I like it! (I see an eBay search for this lens in F mount in my future...)
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Old 07-19-2018   #55
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Is that the name of a lens or an hallucinogenic? Either way -- I like it! (I see an eBay search for this lens in F mount in my future...)
Dear Nick,

Seriously, look out for a Dreamagon. Probably slightly more expensive, but more fun!

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-19-2018   #56
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I've never gotten along that well with Nikkors - the contrast and colors never seemed right to me, most were adequately sharp but had no character, and nearly all of them had horrendously distracting out of focus rendition.
After trying virtually every normal lens Nikon made from the 60's to the 2000's, the lens I ended up with is the Nikkor 55mm f1.2 Ai. Virtually nobody recommends this lens, and it is seen as optically inferior to many of the other Nikkor normal lenses.

Why do I love this 55mm? It is smooth - not too contrasty but not too flat, softly saturated pleasant color rendition, decently sharp without being harsh, rolls off gently to a beautiful out of focus rendition. If you shot test charts I'm sure it would rank near the bottom, but for how I shoot it stands above the rest.
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Old 07-19-2018   #57
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Nick,

Seriously, look out for a Dreamagon. Probably slightly more expensive, but more fun!

Cheers,

R.
I will! "Dreamagon" -- sounds like the name of a kaiju (giant monster) in some old 60's Japanese science fiction flick...
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Old 07-19-2018   #58
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I will! "Dreamagon" -- sounds like the name of a kaiju (giant monster) in some old 60's Japanese science fiction flick...
Dear Nick.

Hai desu ka!

Sorry for my appalling Japanese. I had a half-Japanese sort-of-girlfriend some decades ago and her mother (the Japanese half) lent me a book called "Japanese in Three Weeks".

The title was something of an exaggeration.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-19-2018   #59
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Originally Posted by AFenvy View Post
. . . the Nikkor 55mm f1.2 Ai. Virtually nobody recommends this lens, and it is seen as optically inferior to many of the other Nikkor normal lenses.

Why do I love this 55mm? It is smooth - not too contrasty but not too flat, softly saturated pleasant color rendition, decently sharp without being harsh, rolls off gently to a beautiful out of focus rendition. If you shot test charts I'm sure it would rank near the bottom, but for how I shoot it stands above the rest.
Yes, exactly. I had the 50/1.2 and found it ordinary, but I'd l love to try the 55/1.2. If you're feeling adventurous (and slightly rich), try the 58/1.4 also!

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-19-2018   #60
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Nick.

Hai desu ka!

Sorry for my appalling Japanese. I had a half-Japanese sort-of-girlfriend some decades ago and her mother (the Japanese half) lent me a book called "Japanese in Three Weeks".

The title was something of an exaggeration.

Cheers,

R.
So -- some years ago I had an epic commute to work and, being American, I (barely) speak one language properly. Dammit! I'm gonna to use this commute time productively, quit listening to the same old 60's/70's rock songs endlessly and vapid talk radio and learn a second language, I says to myself...

I picked Japanese and got mp3s of the Pimsluer series... And I listened to them over, and over, and over again. Hours and hours. At the pinnacle of this undertaking I was able to watch "Shall We Dance" without subs and understand enough to follow the plot.

Today I basically use two phrases:

Hiaku! (translates to "hurry!" You hear that one a lot in those old Kaiju flicks when the city evacuates as Godzilla approaches...)

And "chotto matte kudasai". "Slow down..."

... around the office when I want people to speed it up or cool their jets, respectively.

Can't say listening to those tapes over and over was time well-spent.
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Old 07-19-2018   #61
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Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
So -- some years ago I had an epic commute to work and, being American, I (barely) speak one language properly. Dammit! I'm gonna to use this commute time productively, quit listening to the same old 60's/70's rock songs endlessly and vapid talk radio and learn a second language, I says to myself...

I picked Japanese and got mp3s of the Pimsluer series... And I listened to them over, and over, and over again. Hours and hours. At the pinnacle of this undertaking I was able to watch "Shall We Dance" without subs and understand enough to follow the plot.

Today I basically use two phrases:

Hiaku! (translates to "hurry!" You hear that one a lot in those old Kaiju flicks when the city evacuates as Godzilla approaches...)

And "chotto matte kudasai". "Slow down..."

... around the office when I want people to speed it up or cool their jets, respectively.

Can't say listening to those tapes over and over was time well-spent.
Dear Nick,

I have always found I can get by with "hai desu ka" and "wakarimasen". If I were female I flatter myself I might have found more use for "iye".

Then again, the only phrase I remember from trying to learn Dutch (from tapes, again) was "In paar minuten, voll ik op slaap": "In two minutes, I fall asleep". Maybe I should have looked for a Dutch girlfriend. Or not, for her sake.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-19-2018   #62
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I have the 55 1.2 K as well as the 55 1.2 S Nikkors, both I think are the same optically as the AI version mentioned above. I did not know it classified as a bad lens Just love what it does to the background.

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Old 07-19-2018   #63
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I have the 55 1.2 K as well as the 55 1.2 S Nikkors, both I think are the same optically as the AI version mentioned above. I did not know it classified as a bad lens Just love what it does to the background. . . .
YES! This is what I mean. There's a French phrase: les fautes de ses qualités, the faults of its qualities. This phrase sums up good, bad lenses. Or possibly les qualités de ses fautes, the qualities of its faults.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-19-2018   #64
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I am sure there are plenty of old lenses with obvious defects which their owners claim have "character." I just love my 1934 Acme Crumicron. Without more, I'm not sure how helpful developing such a list is.
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Old 07-19-2018   #65
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Rigid `Cron IF you can find a good one. APO 50 Summicron is next best. For 2.8 the Elmar M are in-between.
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Old 07-19-2018   #66
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I just love my 1934 Acme Crumicron.
OK, I'm on to you, I think you made that up!

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Without more, I'm not sure how helpful developing such a list is.
I read this three times, still don't get it. Without more what?
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Old 07-19-2018   #67
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Originally Posted by zuiko85 View Post
This is an interesting thread. Not many of us get to try out all the different lenses mentioned. Probably also drives some GAS in some of us too.
There is a related question; have you ever purchased a camera only because you found a great deal on a lens in that mount and needed a body to put it on.
Yes, and that touched a memory. Maybe a bit off-topic, as the lens in question wasn't "bad", a Tokina 500mm mirror lens in Olympus mount. Nice complete kit in fine condition. I thought the mount was interchangeable and intended to use it on Pentax K so I bought it. Error! Then I compounded the error by buying an inexpensive Olympus OM-G that the lens would fit. Oh well, life goes on!
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Old 07-19-2018   #68
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Auto Takumar 35mm f/3.4.

After owning the Takumar 85/1.9, and the Takumar 58/2, and liking them because I found them to be good/bad lenses, maybe even great bad lenses, the Auto Takumar 35/3.4 fell right into place for a wide angle which could make me happy for all the wrong reasons.
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Old 07-19-2018   #69
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Dear Nick,

I have always found I can get by with "hai desu ka" and "wakarimasen". If I were female I flatter myself I might have found more use for "iye".

Then again, the only phrase I remember from trying to learn Dutch (from tapes, again) was "In paar minuten, voll ik op slaap": "In two minutes, I fall asleep". Maybe I should have looked for a Dutch girlfriend. Or not, for her sake.

Cheers,

R.
Years ago, I worked with a bloke who had been a tour bus courier. He could walk into a bar, and say "Two beers, please" in 10 languages.
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Old 07-20-2018   #70
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I've only shot a roll or two, but I like my non-ai 58mm Nikkor f/1.4 from 1960. Lots of character. Relatively inexpensive. Which is surprising, because some well known folks have bashed the lens, and I only got one because it came with an F camera. I guess you need to sample stuff for yourself, and make your own decision.
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Old 07-20-2018   #71
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Years ago, I worked with a bloke who had been a tour bus courier. He could walk into a bar, and say "Two beers, please" in 10 languages.
Surely most people can do at least five, at least verbally if they don't have to write it down grammatically or with correct spelling:

Deux bieres, SVP

Zwiemal biere, bitte

Dos birras, por favor (works OK in Portugal to if you make it very clear you're not Spanish)

Dva pivo, spassibo (works in most Slavic languages though you have to be careful with spassibo)

and you can always hold up two fingers and say "beers" which most Europeans and many others will understand. In Hindi beer is beeyar.

Until twenty or thirty years ago the difficulty in the US lay not in their failing to understand "two" but in their failing to understand "beer" and bringing you Coors or Miller or (fake) Budweiser instead.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-20-2018   #72
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I've only shot a roll or two, but I like my non-ai 58mm Nikkor f/1.4 from 1960. Lots of character. Relatively inexpensive. Which is surprising, because some well known folks have bashed the lens, and I only got one because it came with an F camera. I guess you need to sample stuff for yourself, and make your own decision.
Dear Steve,

I loved mine, as I said in the original post, but I've not seen them relatively inexpensively for many years. What do they go for now?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-20-2018   #73
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Dear Steve,

I loved mine, as I said in the original post, but I've not seen them relatively inexpensively for many years. What do they go for now?

Cheers,

R.

They seem to go for $75-$150 from what I have seen lately. I barely broke even when I sold mine recently. It was the lens I always kept on my Nikon F and I did enjoy it. But the 58mm focal length wasn't my favorite and while I liked how it rendered, it was a bit too low contrast for my taste. When I sold my F I sold it as well, keeping my F3 and 55mm f1.2 which is honestly what I reach for more often.
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Old 07-20-2018   #74
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They seem to go for $75-$150 from what I have seen lately. I barely broke even when I sold mine recently. It was the lens I always kept on my Nikon F and I did enjoy it. But the 58mm focal length wasn't my favorite and while I liked how it rendered, it was a bit too low contrast for my taste. When I sold my F I sold it as well, keeping my F3 and 55mm f1.2 which is honestly what I reach for more often.
Oh, bugger. I think I might have bought it off you had I known! I take your point about the drawbacks of 58mm but I suspect it may be at or close to the perfect portrait length on 35mm/full frame. As for contrast -- well, why do they make Grade 4 paper after all!

I had the 50/1.2 which I found a bit bland (then, most things are bland next to the 50/1.2 Canon and the 58/1.4) but I've never had the 55/1.2. My standard lens on my Nikon DF is however my 55/2.8 Micro Nikkor, so I have no problem with the 55mm focal length.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-20-2018   #75
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......I take your point about the drawbacks of 58mm but I suspect it may be at or close to the perfect portrait length on 35mm/full frame.........
A couple of years ago you mentioned that the 58mm is a great focal length for portraits. I decided to try some portraits with my ancient Canon R58/1.2 that I use on my old Canonflex. You were correct, 58mm does seem to be a natural focal length for a good portrait.

As for the R58/1.2 Canon, a most unusual lens. Wide-open, it’s actually pretty sharp in the center which grades into delightfully soft in the corners. A very unique signature which I personally like.

Jim B.
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Old 07-20-2018   #76
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A couple of years ago you mentioned that the 58mm is a great focal length for portraits. I decided to try some portraits with my ancient Canon R58/1.2 that I use on my old Canonflex. You were correct, 58mm does seem to be a natural focal length for a good portrait.

As for the R58/1.2 Canon, a most unusual lens. Wide-open, it’s actually pretty sharp in the center which grades into delightfully soft in the corners. A very unique signature which I personally like.

Jim B.
Dear Jim,

Perhaps we should start a 58mm portrait thread...

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-20-2018   #77
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......Perhaps we should start a 58mm portrait thread...
I'm game.

Canon R58mm F1.2 at about F4 (I think). Ferrania P30 film.



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Old 07-20-2018   #78
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"Years ago, I worked with a bloke who had been a tour bus courier. He could walk into a bar, and say "Two beers, please" in 10 languages."

That's only half the equation John. He has to say, preferably in those ten languages, "Two beers please, and my friend here is paying for them".
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Old 07-20-2018   #79
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You know Roger, I got a "new" 30(?) year old Nikkor in the mail just today. (Where's that "What did you just buy" thread with a million posts...?) Anyway, it's a 55/3.5 macro AI converted Nikkor. Now I got this lens cheap, cheap (US $20-ish) because the front element has a gash in it.

So. This got me to thinking about this thread. This 55 is a "good" lens -- sharp, well-made, nice IQ, nice macro capabilities. But it's also a "bad" lens because of the defect in the front element that doesn't appear to affect image quality, you see.

Your thread can be taken two ways. So my "good, bad lens" is my particular sample of the Nikkor 55/3.5 pre-AI with the gash in the front element. A good lens that's also bad.

Wakarimasu ka?
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Old 07-20-2018   #80
Pentode
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mackinaw View Post
A couple of years ago you mentioned that the 58mm is a great focal length for portraits. I decided to try some portraits with my ancient Canon R58/1.2 that I use on my old Canonflex. You were correct, 58mm does seem to be a natural focal length for a good portrait.
For the very small amount of portrait shooting I've done, I also found 58mm to work pretty well. In my case a Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.4. It holds its own nicely as a portrait lens and also does well in the street. But that's a good/good lens; we can't have that here!!
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