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Greg Adams on a budget BW


1992, Greg Adams, Groningen, the Netherlands. Shot handheld with a Meyer Optik Görlitz 135mm 2.8 lens on an ISO 1600 film.
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Performing Arts

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It must have been 1992 (the year after the release of the album ‘monster on a leash’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monster_on_a_Leash, I decided to try my luck at making some photos in a small concert hall that was known fort he opportunities it offered to make photos). If I tell modern photographers using the ‘state of the art’ stuff, they generally don’t believe me if I tell them I shot this on a second hand set of 40 DFL (equivalent of less than 20 €, but even with current inflation still a cheap combination), they generally can’t believe it, not because the photo is so good, but because of the fact I wanted to make concert photos with this old gear. On the photo you see Greg Adams https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Adams_(musician), deeply concentrated on the solo that was in the song they were playing at that moment (‘You can’t fall up’). Not so long after the concert this long time member of Tower of Power quit the band (maybe he had become annoyed by photographers with old gear :)

These are links to the gear I used for this photo:

Ricoh singlex tls: http://camera-wiki.org/wiki/Ricoh_Singlex_TLS

Meyer Orestor 135 mm: https://vintage-camera-lenses.com/meyer-optik-gorlitz-orestor-2-8-135/

I present these links for people who might ask why I didn’t just use AF auto tracking or bumped up the ISO. This was shot on a Fuji SHG 1600 color negative film that produced terrible amounts of noise, so editing these was quite a job.

Prices have gone up: for the lens, I paid the equivalent of € 10 around 1990, now you pay €150. Once digital cameras entered the market, I spent whatever I could miss (which wasn’t much at that time) on old cameras and lenses, being sure of the fact that they still were more than decent. I serviced the Ricoh (I replaced the light seal foam and made the light meter needle move after many years of inactivity and it was good to go, I just cleaned the outer elements of the lens).

This might be the time to share one of my ‘pet peeves’: The Pentacon is, as the article states, a good alternative (exact same lens design,greater availability, lower prices bcause of the ‘lesser’ brand name; Meyer Optik Görlitz has become a famous brand again through the interest people with mirrorless cameras have in older manual lenses from bygone times, which is very understandable). Very young and obviously inexperienced photographers, all ‘newbies’ at using manual lenses, all ‘test’ the same set of lenses with the inevitable same outcome: they all buy a Super Takumar 50mm 1.4 (also popular for video use), the Jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 with the ‘red P’ and of course the Helios 44-2 58mm 2.0 with its ‘swirly bokeh’ (something all the Helios’ 58 mm versions are capable of to some extent, but they haven’t got the time to discover that themselves, because it’s a lot easier to make money on YouTube cashing in on people who try to make good choicesby watching videos. They also tell the unsuspecting viewers of these ‘what vintage lens to buy’ videos that the old lenses are especially good at their maximum aperture, which is absolutely rubbish, stopped down they all perform better, any lens will. They generally also forget to mention the fact that these lenses perform differently on crop sensors, which seems like a relevant thing to tell people about (if they’re aware of that themselves, which in many cases may not be the case). This lack of the willingness to find out stuff for yourself has driven the prices of some of these old lenses up considerably; apart from the aforementioned Meyer Optik Görlitz 135 mm imagine prices of the Takumar, the Jupiter and the Helios (although still widely available) as going up:

(Takumar) from € 10 at the beginning of the nineties to $ 350 for a mint copy now

(Jupiter) from the equivalent of € 15 thirty years ago you have to pay around $ 370 for a mint copy with an M39 filter thread that is potentially dangerous for beginners who might mistake it for an M42 thread (which is much more common).

(Helios) from the equivalent of € 5 in the past, you have to pay a staggering $ 100 for mint copies of these lenses (as said earlier, still widely available); ridiculously inflated prices if you ask me.

I hope my efforts of telling you a true story and giving my honest opinion will result in more comments than I have received lately; as always I’d like to know what you think and why. Let’s start with the easy question: which of the two versions you like better, color or B & W (some of the people around me had clear reasons to like one of the two better)?

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Dear Vincent, I apologize for having overlooked these images of Greg Adams in both versions shot in 1992. I can't say which is my favorite, maybe the one with the original colors related to the lighting of the set, but also the one in B&W has a great charm.

Your beautiful and interesting note takes me back over the years and the great variety of lenses that I have changed over the decades and have never resold, reusing them with great satisfaction even if used manually. I learned with experience and without the use of exposure meters to get well exposed photos, even using the old Kodacrome 64 ISO films, which did not tolerate errors, and you could see the result after more than a week. Given the high cost you were forced to limit the shots that were well thought out, well composed, well exposed and for the depth of field you had to know the hyperfocal distance. With the transition to digital today everything is easier and even with smartphones you get good photos even without any technical knowledge and without knowing the work of the great photographers of the past. ciao Giangiorgio

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Dear Giangiorgio,

It's only now I read your response to my photos and my rant about inexperienced young photographers trying to jump on the band wagon of interest in old lenses without having anything substantial to offer, just to make some YouTube cash. Thank you so much for giving your valued opinion! I hope you fare well with the 'new and improved' website. Kind regards, Vincent 

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