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Tuesday, July 31

There's something about Zeiss

It's hardly a revelation to say that Zeiss lenses can sometimes be a bit special but it's something I hadn't noticed before despite the evidence being right under my nose. I'm not talking here about the Zeiss lenses I use with the Rolleiflex SL66 but the 35mm lenses that attach to the front of Contax SLRs such as the RTS and 137MD.

I was fortunate enough to have picked up a lot of relatively cheap 35mm equipment around the time when film equipment was rapidly dropping in value as everyone rushed into digital. It won't be long, though, before I start off-loading the bulk of it on Ebay as I over-indulged somewhat and have much more than I need. Amongst the outfits I built up was one consisting of 137MD and 137MA bodies, 28mm f2.8 and 50mm f1.4 Zeiss lenses and a Yashica ML 100mm f3.5 macro. At the time, I was mainly shooting with a DSLR and I only ran a single roll of colour negative film through the cameras to check if they were working properly.

When I returned to film, it was with a view to using mostly medium format so the Contax stuff remained in a case. The need to start putting aside equipment for Ebay concentrated the mind and I decided that the Contax outfit was probably capable of the highest quality results. It's, therefore, going to be the mainstay for 35mm. Recently, I shot a few rolls of Rollei Retro 100 and one of Agfa APX 100 on the Contax and the results have been great. I used to inwardly laugh at the idea that Leica users were able to pick their negatives out of a bunch of others but I now reckon I can do that with Zeiss negs. They just have a "sparkle" to them that stands out. I'm not sure if it's general contrast that's so good or micro-contrast but to say I'm pleased with the results is an understatement.

The Rollei Retro 100 negatives were developed in D76 1+1 and the Agfa in Rodinal. Each combination looks equally good to me. There may be some differences noticeable when it comes to printing - the D76 negs should show finer grain - but I think I'd be happy with either. Since APX 100 is currently about the cheapest 100 ISO film on the market, I'll stick with it from now on.

The pics with this post are both from the Retro 100/ D76 combination. The first was shot with the 28mm Distagon and a red filter. I wanted the shadow next to the outfall to record as almost empty black and, since it was illuminated by blue-ish light from the sky, the filter has helped to achieve that. It was then just a case of waiting for the dog walker to reach the right spot.

The second pic was a straightfoward shot with the 50mm Planar. The various white tones in the scene appealed to me and that was about the only reason I lifted the camera to my eye. The good thing about not taking photographs for a living is that I'm free to snap whatever I fancy and don't have to justify the results! I've also visited an allotment in Dundee and shot a couple of rolls of old gardens, sheds, tools, etc and will post some pics shortly. The allotment negatives look particularly nice and the scans are very sharp. Wonder what the prints will be like?


pentapete said...

Interested in your use of AGFA APX100 with Rodinal 1+50 - I have tried it in 120 format and found I need to rate the film at 64 ASA and give 14 mins in that Rodinal 1+50 -- mind you, the film WAS outdated so fresh may be different.

Al Denholm said...

Nice photographs Bruce.I'm a fan of Agfa film too,and also the Zeiss lenses,often have a Jenna tessar 50mm glued to one of my cameras,love the contrasty look and the interesting bokeh on these

Nice work and a great site you have here

Best regards



Thanks Al. I love the look of Zeiss lenses but I sometimes wonder what Leica lenses would be like. Just as well I can't afford them!

Al Denholm said...

I have a Leica IIIa with the f3.5 Elmar lens,,it is really nice and the camera is a pleasure to use,but to be honset I don't think it's any better than my Konica S with 2.8 Hexar lens,and I also prefer the Bokeh on the Konica too,,I guess I often wonder why I bought the Leica "gear lust" maybe?.

Your photographs are very inspiring Bruce,I'm getting all itchy,got to go out and take some shots,,now! :)