Digital for a quick post, but a ‘classic’ lens is still better – unless you’ve got a lot of money

At last we’ve had some beautiful weather, ideal for photography and walking, but unfortunately it’s also ideal for doing some long-overdue work on Lofty the camper van so almost no opportunity for photography. I began to draft this on Tuesday, before leaving for work in York, but was too busy to finish it before today (Friday). The two days ‘off’ blogging also means there are a lot of posts to go through.

I think that, despite using 35mm for many years, I’m a medium format person at heart. I find it really difficult to use up 36 exposures, or even 24, in a short period of time and find myself taking shots I normally would not, just to use up the film rather than ‘waste’ the unexposed frames (stereotypical Tyke!).

So, having one long reel of bulk film (Agfa APX 400S) I’ve been loading up some cassettes with about 12 exposures and for moment I’ve put one in a Cosina CX-2 and one in a Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim and slipped one in each pocket – maybe I’ll get the opportunity to expose some soon so I can do a post on each of these ‘unusual’ cameras.


Getting this kind of shot takes a lot of patience and the freedom to make many exposures, so digital

June, on the left, has no sight so identifies the Scrabble pieces by feel but needs her supporter to identify words on the board. Caroline on the right has some sight but multiple severe other disabilities, as does June, so to capture them to show them both clearly involved and happy – as they are – needs a lot of patience and the freedom to make many exposures – digital is ideal for this.

I do use digital for shots at work for two reasons: the first is the obvious, I often need the shot in a hurry, perhaps for a story for the Press; the second is perhaps less obvious. I am generally shooting people with multiple disabilities and my aim always is to try to communicate their abilities, not their disabilities, and that often means I need to take a lot of shots.

Small aperture of the digital lens means it's difficult to 'lose' the confusing background.

Small aperture of the digital lens means it’s difficult to ‘lose’ the confusing background.

Using the manual Zeiss Planar it's much easier to isolate the subject

Using the manual Zeiss Planar it’s much easier to isolate the subject

However, a big problem with digital for me is that unless you can spend a great deal of money, digital lenses, particularly zooms, have relatively small apertures – especially as soon as you zoom in – so differential focus cannot be used to isolate the subject. The shot on the left, of Chris and his supporter, is confused by the fire extinguisher, door, etc pretty sharp in the background – a consequence of the digital lens small aperture at about 100mm equivalent. For the shot on the right, of Robert playing Scrabble, I used the manual Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar – 100mm equivalent on the micro 4/3 Lumix, so was able to effectively get rid of the background objects. The problem remaining for me is to focus using the LCD screen rather than a decent optical viewfinder; you can see that I didn’t quite achieve my aim of having Robert sharply in focus. The optical viewfinder was, for me, a big advantage of the Canon 5D I used before I sold it.