Notes from the field, er street, er . . . alley: A Consideration of the Voigtlander 35 1.4 SC

hexar rf, 50 hex, Adox CHS 100 ART, Xtol
Yes, I do make a habit of looking into dumpsters. You never know where you will find something interesting.

After a couple of months on the shelf, I picked up the Biogon again this week. A couple of observations:

  • The focusing tab on the CV did indeed turn out to be addictive, but only for 35mm lenses. When I’m using the 50 Hex, my fingers naturally find the ring, but going to the Biogon, my fingers start searching for the tab. During my time with the CV a bit of muscle memory must have built up between the 35mm focal length and the focusing tab; eyes see 35mm frame lines, fingers go looking for tab. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Biogon also had a tab. Instead, it’s got something more like a nub, which my fingers don’t interpret as tab at all, but rather as something entirely unrelated to focusing. Stupid brain.
  • Before we leave the subject of focusing tabs for more interesting topics, it occurs to me that tabs in place of knurled rings make using the camera one handed nearly impossible. I can’t reach the tab with my right pinky no matter what I do, but on lenses that have them I can often reach and get enough purchase on the knurled focus ring with my index finger if I stretch, which greatly facilitates shooting without setting down your drink.
  • In another quirk of visual muscle memory, I find that knowing the Biogon is mounted changes the kind of pictures I shoot. With the Biogon on the camera – and I know it’s on the camera because my fingers can’t find the f$%*ing tab – I’m much more likely to square up all the straight lines in the photo. With the CV on the camera, I immediately step to off angle. This cockeyed approach is self-defense against the CV’s incredible barrel distortion; this lens can turn a federalist style post office into a Gehry. I’m not sure what this means for my style long term, but it’s got me thinking about the slightly askew compositions of fellow stills member akikana. I’m finding I have deeper appreciation for his compositions as a result.
  • Looking back through the blog, I’ve remembered that the small size of the CV was one of the reasons I plunked down the $600 for it. What I hadn’t expected was that this small size would become so integral to my appreciation of the lens. The CV really isn’t that much smaller than the Biogon, but the difference in size is enough to change the handling and carrying of the camera for the better. When Zeiss announced the more compact C Biogon, I snorted derisively just once before dismissing it altogether. Now I know better. Compact size can compensate for a variety of other shortcomings in a lens. Leica might be on to the same thing with the new Summarits.
  • Build quality: The CV is just better built than the Biogon, which is funny since the same company builds both lenses. My Biogon has a bit of wobble in the lens barrel and doesn’t mount quite as snuggly as the CV or any of my Hexanons. No big deal, but interesting.

What does all this mean for my future with these two lenses? It’s too soon to tell for sure, but the Biogon has gone back on the shelf for the time being. From a practical perspective, it’s a far superior lens. It’s sharper, more resistant to flare, has less distortion etc etc etc, but the CV just has more character and is more fun to use, and in the end, that’s what it’s all about.

Three Pictures of Cats

Hexar RF, CV 35 1.4 SC, Adox CHS 100 Art
Hexar RF, CV 35 1.4 SC, Adox CHS 100 Art
Hexar RF, CV 35 1.4 SC, Adox CHS 100 Art

When I used to frequent, Kate and I would often joke that the top photos gallery was all pictures of old men, naked women and cats. With these, I’m a third of the way to internet stardom ;-).

Prognostication (04730027)

Hexar RF, 50 Hex, Adox CHS 100 Art, Xtol

That vertical streak running parallel to the utility pole in the upper right of the frame is a flaw in the surface of the emulsion. It isn’t a scratch. It’s more like a ridge. I’m assuming it’s a manufacturing flaw of some kind. It runs across 4 frames on this roll. So far, this is the only quality control issue I’ve seen in the 8 rolls of Adox that I’ve developed. I’ve been impressed enough with CHS 100 that I’ve ordered 10 rolls of CHS 50. More on this subject later.