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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sigma 30mm ƒ/1.4

Mark and Nari

By the way, I've received in the past couple of days—at long last—a Sigma 30mm ƒ/1.4 fixed-focal-length reduced sensor lens, in a version that fits on my Konica-Minolta. I did do some shooting with it on Saturday, but I'm afraid I was a bit rusty…I haven't done much shooting lately and I was just a bit off. I got about 12 pictures that I could see in my mind's eye as keepers, and all but one are just a little, well, off. You have those days, when you don't keep your hand in.

Reminds me of a story Bill Jay tells. (I hope I get the details right.) He was visited at his rural farm by the great Magnum photojournalist Josef Koudelka, and early in the morning Koudelka wandered outside and started snapping pictures with his Leica—trees, the woodpile, farm implements. Curious, Bill asked him why in the world he would take pictures of such things, since, to his (Bill's) reading of his (Josef's) work, rural farm still-lives were about as far as it was possible to get from his (Josef's) typical subject matter. And Koudelka said something like "I have to practice to stay sharp."

(Anybody know where this story is printed, if anywhere? I should check my sources but I can't remember if I read this or heard it from Bill.)



Blogger StephaneB said...

I read the story of Koudelka prcticing in Bill Jay's book 'On Being a Photographer'. An excellent book IMHO.

8:00 AM  
Blogger sageg said...

I've got the 30mm 1.3. It is a fun little lens. Enjoy! :)

8:02 AM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Yes. Without picking up my copy to verify, I believe that Stephane is correct. The story is in "On Being a Photographer".

Jay Maisel calls such exercises "visual push-ups". They're both quite right. Leaving your camera idle for long periods doesn't dull your ability to see an image. Your mind sees them as well as it ever did. But you gradually lose practice with the mechanical aspects of capturing that image with a camera, your reflexes of setting exposure and framing the composition become dull. You become, in essence, a coach rather than a player. The same is true, to a degree, if you have several types of cameras but favor one. You're perpetually less adept with your less-used models.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Brobo said...

Reminds me of a little story called
Practice Mutha, Practice which was published in 2004 by Michael Reichmann.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Al Benas said...

Philosophy aside, I really like the displayed image, especially the rim light around the two subjects. I hope that you will provide some more detailed comments about the lens. It's on my wish list, if it is a quality product and performs as advertized. For DOF info, what f-stop did you use on this shot?

5:43 PM  
Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Reminds me of a story I heard about a concert pianist. He said if he skipped practicing for a day, he could tell. If he skipped two days, the critics could tell. If he skipped three days, the audience could tell.

8:25 PM  
Blogger canfraggle said...

The 30 1.4 is a nice lens. Pretty sharp and the 1.4 comes in handy. I bought it the day it came out in Japan feeling far too pleased with myself but later realized I still preferred wider lenses. Mike's call for a ~20mm f/2 lens is right on target for cropped sensor users.

For the last year now, my most used lens has been a Sigma 15mm 2.8. Wide, relatively fast and suits my shooting style. A bit weird but whatever.

1:01 AM  
Blogger pixmaniax said...

"Cartier-Bresson's Behind the Gare St. Lazare, one of his pictures that is always cropped. The original picture was shot through metal bars, and there is a large black obsruction along the right side of the negative." The obstruction is on the left. I myself saw the uncropped photo someplace. FYI.

Max Pasion

9:26 AM  
Blogger Max said...

I wonder if it still makes sense for others to ask for a fixed single focal lens camera. I still feel so good about a 35mm f/2 lens in 35mm photography, I'd love to have a digicam with such a fixed lens (a highly rectilinear and free from distortion one), which could also be a cheap camera I guess, except if it had a huge sensor (which I'd definitely like too).
Yet, it's amazing how much I dislike zooms, even now the picture quality issues are almost nonexistent. Does anyone else here feel the same way? What is it about fixed focal length lenses that fits in a specific way of thinking pictures?

2:55 PM  
Blogger neil said...

Zooms or primes, the war goes on. I think alot depends on when you started shooting and with what. I go back to the primes good, zooms bad era.

I'm a prime lens guy. I just today Fedexed a 17-35 2.8 AFS zoom to its new owner. Great lens but too big and heavy for what I want and for what I do. I've put a D70 and 3 primes in a little Domke 803 bag. The 17-35 always put me into a bigger bag.

I have the 30mm 1.4. Better than the Nikon 35 F2 @F2 and at 1.4 it is as good as the 35 F2 at F2. Win win for me.

A good set up for me is 3 primes. 24, 30, 50. Or 30, 50, 85. I may replace the 17-35 with a 20mm.

When I taught I'd tape students zooms at one focal length and send them off. They did better.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Max said...

On the lenses themselves, I always felt that at similar levels you're getting a better lens with a prime, a "leaner" lens. Inherently more solid construction, lighter for the same specs, smaller, and other qualities that might be highly subjective.
But what I like about primes is the limitation, to say it in a weird way. When I have a prime on, I compose without putting the camera to the eye a lot more. I tend to wander a lot more with the zoom, it kind of makes the eyes (and the feet) lazy. It takes away "mind focus". Let's be clear about this, I'm sure people who shoot hundreds of pics a day with a zoom develop a much tighter administration of this wandering possibilities, but I really can't.
And the other thing is that we work with what we have. Each lens is a world of possibilities, and when you have one, you take them as far as you can. If you have a result in mind and definitely need a specific focal length you can't work like this, but if you're more in a contemplative way, letting reality show you what it has to be taken, sometimes one lens is more than enough.
And I crop and stitch and skew pictures shamelessly if the picture quality allows it and I the possible outcome is tempting, so sometimes one lens isn't that limiting.
With an Slr, I'd be happy to travel with a 35/2 and a 100 or a 135/2.8 (in 35mm terms). The marginal benefit of each lens added after that decreases fast, but I bet we all know that.

6:31 PM  
Blogger dingbat said...

On disliking zooms - it's the 'Infinite Options Effect.' I dislike zooms too (even though I have a high quality Oly 14-54mm on my E-1). I hate this feeling of walking around knowing I can take an infinite number of pictures just from where I'm standing. It's mentally overwhelming - like walking into a huge supermarket after having lived in the boonies for awhile. You can't decide what you want. I prefer to go out with one camera and one prime - it forces me to walk around more, get "into" the scene, cut down the range of framing options to a manageable level, which to me is what photography is about.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Carsten Bockermann said...

I feel very much like Max. On a recent trip to Cuba I shot 86% of my pictures (according to EXIF statistics) with the 20/2.8 on a D200. I had a 12-24 zoom lens in my bag (well, most of the time in my room) but I find it offers too many choices.

A fixed focal length digicam similar to the Konica Hexar AF would be very cool !! The sensor should be at least APS-C size to allow for some playing with DOF.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Feral Nudes said...

I agree with Max - a 35mm and a 135mm makes a perfect travel setup. I find myself leaving everything else behind.

It's the main reason I moved from a 20D to the EOS 5D - now my 35mm is right again.

For me the focal lengths are fairly specific - 28mm or 38mm (or their equivalents with a cropped camera) - never felt right.

4:54 PM  

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