Lowlight portraiture with manual lens…a big PLUS

I was celebrating my in-law birthday with his son and father in law. I happened to have the camera with me but the restaurant are those that are very dimly lit.
Thats when i took out the Rokkor 1.4 manual lens and took some shots.
I suddenly….discovered..one more reason why manual lens are really the preferred way to shoot in low light and the reason is..
NO FOCUS ASSIST Light needed.

Yup, as long as you set the iso and aperture big enough, the peak focusing shows the correct lines to make manual focusing works.
I recalled the grippy days when i had to depend on focus assist in some situation or where even the D4 fails to focus.

All images taken with the Rokkor 58mm at f1.4. The candle photos are unedited! You have to love these cheap lens.






Bokeh, the high cost of portraiture



SDOF = shallow depth of field

The images above have a kind of swirling bokeh. While these are more easily found in older fast lens, summilux 35 f1.4 and voightlander 50 f1.1, i was surprised it turns up in a modern autofocus 55 1.8 FE lens. I am not going to define bokeh and its relationship with SDOF here, sufficient to say, they are related but not the same thing.

In portraiture, bokeh and SDOF are expensive. Literally. The ability to separate the noisy background or to convert a background into a creamy paste of beauty surrounding a portrait, is a much sought after attribute. When i practiced on the Xvario, i learn that without SDOF, there are some very interesting way to shoot so as to merge the background as a 2D image.

Example if non-SDOF way of shooting portrait

But more than often, SDOF and bokeh is the key to any portraiture. SDOF will first separate the subject, and BOKEH determines how background lights or even patterns will be formed. These are very artistic kind of attributes which are unfortunately overused often in portraiture. Take Keda.Z for example, his main wedding photos does not utilize SDOF nor bokeh. Why? I believe its because there is just too much SDOF/Bokeh used as a cheap way to produce nice portraiture that the pros that don’t use them immediately produces unique works of art.

Here is another one that i did, without SDOF/bokeh.


So the key really is simple. If you going to capture the scenery and put the subject as part of it, whereby the bg’s use is to accomodate the subject, then don’t use SDOF/Bokeh at all. But if you are in a close up or situation where there the scenery has no interesting/dramatic light or not interesting, SDOF/Bokeh makes all the diff.

Here is one i did, the bg are just leaves lighted by the sun, would be just end up as noisy bg, but utilizing the 85 mm 1.4 on FF, the sdof/bokeh transforms the image into a beautiful portrait.


Some lens produces technically flawed bokeh, like the earlier images, swirling background, these are easily produced by cheap Russian lens too. But these flaws because of its bokeh characteristics that are missing much from new modern lens, are now considered as advantages instead of flaws. One such lens is the Leica F1.0 lens. Good luck finding one of these “discontinued lens”.

I have now in my hands the A7R with 55 1.8 FE lens. Follow my post as i try my best to use this gear on my next project in a few days.

Back to the land of bokeh

Yesterday a friend who is a full time photographer, mr.kitt wanted me to help find a model for a night shoot in cafe.

What turns out to be pretty obvious though was his intention to test a combo and he wanted me to witness it.

Now I brought along my Olympus and a portrait lens 45 1.8 and was expecting to show him a thing or two too on m43 system .

However what he took out while shooting the model was not his Leica ME…. But a rather queer combo, the sony A7R with Leica summilux 35 1.4.

After seeing a few shot from this Combo it became apparent to all of us there that it’s an amazing combination . Basically it did what leica M nor ME would find hard to match with, very high resolution of sharp images.

The pop is totally awesome and reminded me and struck me as the reason why sigma cameras used to produce to first time viewers. Total sharpness at 1.4 .

I reluctantly had to put my gears into the bag and played with the combo for the duration.

As we parted, he took back the leica 35 summilux and slapped on the Zeiss 55 1.8 and made me an offer. Trade in some unused Nikon lens in my collection for this gear and he will top up cash for me . (The summilux is already booked by a client and I could not justify buying one)

The unit was particularly new and the Zeiss had some kind of bokeh that I like and missed lately due to the lack if shallow dof in xvario and unavailability of wider lens with shallow dof in my EP5.

I was pleasantly surprised that the evf is equal or even better than the evf in the Olympus that I loved. Seems like mirrorless is the future as far as I am concerned.

M43 size is still preferred but for those longing for very shallow dof, using legacy M lens with the A7/A7r could be a release.

Some shots done today at the train station. Last two photo is from yesterday’s summilux with A7R