On Old Lenses

We will never have enough time this semester to talk about craft and how equipment affects it. We will talk about craft, but there’s a whole world of visual exploration you can wander through once you find the right tool. Mike Johnston wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about lenses a few years ago, worth spending time on, as well.

Recently, Johnston wrote about favorite lenses on his new(er) site, The Online Photographer (a place you should explore and ponder from time to time). Reading through the comments got me to thinking about what I would name as my favorite lens …

The first thought is my old manual focus Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 ED lens. I still have it, 18 years after buying it used. (And still used it as recently as the 2007 football season.) It is ugly now and the focusing gears are very loose, but I made a living off that one lens for years – sports and courts, my specialties.

My Nikkor 24 mm f/2.8 AIS was my standard shooting lens for non-sports stuff through most of my film years. The last few years, since my switch to Canon, a 35 mm f/1.4 lens has been the standard. Its bokeh is gorgeous and paired with the original 5D, the color and contrast was just perfect for me. (Not quite as happy with it on the 5D Mark II, to be honest.)

But the one lens I wish I’d never sold was a Leica 35 mm f/2.0, made in Canada, not the better German version. It was my first Leica lens and I let it go, along with my first Leica body, in 2004. Have missed it ever since. I saw better through that combination than anything else I’ve ever owned. I didn’t make a lot of money with it, it didn’t fit a lot of situations, but it always made me happy to use it.

Anyone else have a favorite shooting combo?

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