Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 WEEK 1: Something old

Meet Lucy. The oldest cat I know. She lives in Powell River, B.C. with my awesome mother-in-law and has been living on this earth for TWENTY TWO YEARS. For a cat, that's impressive to say the least.

Her hearing and eyesight may not be what it used to be but she's still very loving and has a lot to say. She's one of those cats that has an almost cranky sounding "YEOW!" rather than a plaintive "meow". This picture was taken on January 1st.

WARNING: Geek stuff to follow...

Coincidentally, the lens used to take this picture is, like Lucy, kind of old... It's a Pentax Asahi Super Multi-Coated 50mm f/1.4 and this particular copy is the original 1964 version. The lens mounts to new cameras with a specialized adaptor (in this case an M42 screw mount) and has become a favorite amongst camera enthusiasts for a number of reasons, especially those shooting video. Firstly, at f/1.4 it is a very fast lens so is excellent for low light interiors. Secondly, it has amazing build quality and outstanding glass. Thirdly, as an old used lens it can be had very cheaply - I got my copy from Kerrisdale Cameras for $45.

Finally, the lens gives the images it captures an awesome look and feel. I love depth of field and I love the extra dimension it gives, particularly when shooting movies as opposed to old-fashioned video which makes everything look flat and dull. The longer the lens the greater chance of achieving that artistic blurriness (together with the f-stop and how far away the subject is) but every lens renders its out of focus detail (known as "bokeh") in a different way and some lenses just aren't as pretty as this particular lens. Obviously with a lens this old, auto-focus isn't possible so a good eye and a steady hand are important.

There are a ton of old lenses out there and most can be adapted to work on the latest DSLR cameras although some are more challenging than others. Not to mention expensive - want to use cinema-style PL-mount lenses on your DSLR? Better start saving because it'll cost you thousands!

For the super geeky:

The generation of 50mm lenses that mine is from have an interesting property... Over time the glass slowly turns yellow due to radioactive thorium oxide used in the glass. Apparently if you expose the lens to direct sunlight, the yellow fades away again... I'll have to try that when Vancouver eventually gets sunshine again on a regular basis.