Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Degrading Your Image

I am lucky enough to have an occupation with a very relaxed dress code, to the extent my "work" and "leisure" outfits are identical.  As I have said before, in my case an "outfit" is whatever combination of seasonally-appropriate clothing comes out of the wash together.  I am not known, I suspect, as a snappy dresser.

Consequently, I have never had what I imagine is a common experience.  That is, to come home from work, remove a suit and tie, slip into an old pair of jeans and a relaxed shirt and, um, kick back, just like those improbably firm-jawed dudes in the Boden catalogue.  I have to say, wearing a suit and tie all day seems far too high a price to pay for such a transient thrill, but I expect the salary and benefits of your typical lawyer or accountant may compensate in other ways.  I guess I'll never know.

Anyway.  This is just a roundabout way of saying that sometimes -- about once every three years -- I get a little tired of the dutiful, loyal perfection of modern cameras, and get the urge to kick back with chance and happy accidents.  To mess things up a bit.  To lose control.  Yes, I'm afraid I'm talking about hanging out with Holga and Diana (but not that idiotic little Russian Lomo), and any other interestingly imperfect characters that have caught my attention. I know, I know...  It never lasts, but I need this irresponsible little fling now and then.

Once, this would have meant a return to film.  I have butchered any number of old rollfilm cameras to make pinhole platforms, and I have had spells of using toy cameras, old folders, Brownies, and the like.  But Micro Four Thirds (a digital camera format, m'lud) seems to have become the format of choice for the unfaithful, the curious, and the downright promiscuous.  I'm not sure why this is, but converters to enable your Canon, Nikon, Olympus, or pretty much any brand of lens to get together with a Micro 4/3 camera are cheap and plentiful.

I have resisted until now.  What brought this on was finding in a cupboard one of those pieces of photo-junk that are mementos from previous excursions into imperfection:  in this case, an Itorex 50mm pan-focus lens.  This truly is a piece of junk, a combination of pinhole and meniscus lens with a nominal rating of f/40 that is meant to put everything from close up to far, far away in focus.  In practice, everything is simply equally fuzzy, like looking through a toy telescope.  To use it, I needed a T-mount converter.  Amazingly, one is available via Amazon for £9.95.  Cheaper than a pair of Boden casual socks!

On a micro 4/3 camera it becomes, in effect, an f/40 100mm lens, and this is what it does:

The green saucer is about 10cm in diameter

Interesting...  It's actually more like a pinhole image than any real pinhole I've ever managed  to make. I'll be playing with this for a few weeks, I expect.

Of course, now that my resistance is broken, I find myself looking at my remaining Olympus OM lenses lurking way at the back of the cupboard.  Beautiful, precision-engineered things, all metal, with proper aperture rings and nicely damped focussing.  With the aid of an OM-to-Micro 4/3 converter, a bog standard 50mm f/1.8 lens would become something more interesting -- a fast portrait lens.  Hmmm...


Graham Dew said...

Very nice Mike, it puts me in mind of creaminess of old polaroids. You're steering me towards a whole raft of interesting add-ons for the G3...


Neil R. Thompson said...

I have been looking for one of those lenses for the past 5 years or so... I once had one (back in the days before ANY digital camera existed) and loved it for pictures of buildings (after unscrewing the rear element and removing the tiny "pinhole" disc)... very, VERY nice on film. If you ever get tired of her... please let me know, K? thompsoneditorial@gmail.com and PS try the removing the inner disc thing... bet you like it...