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News & Insight

A Vintage 105-Year-Old Lens & A Sony A7II | Weird Lens Challenge

By Kishore Sawh on November 5th 2015


Beauty, in a standard rather consumer-obvious sense, is boring. The yardstick examples of what is beautiful often become mundane, and more often a bit clinical. When you judge a photo do you do it by measuring it against metrics of sharpness, clarity, adherence to the rule of thirds, and such textbook measurements of quality? In a room of average photographers, throw a rock and you’ll hit many that do, and that tends to mean the images they aspire to create end up looking much the same. I’d wager the images that resonate with fine speci-mines such as yourselves have something more, and often they are images that emote.

So how do you evoke an emotion with your images? Well, too many ways to list really but I can tell you that always staying within the guidelines of a textbook definition is not the best way to do it. As you shoot more and more and look through more and more images, I’d bet my dinner it’s the slightly stirring ones, the different ones, and maybe even the weird ones that begin to get your attention; probably because they don’t look like the last 10 thousand images you’ve just seen. Using lenses with ‘character’ is actually a favorite way to do that of mine.



Now that word ‘character’ is a bit ‘woo-woo’ for some, and some time ago our own Joe Cha was crucified for explaining why he sometimes chooses a lens for its unique character over ones with impeccable test scores. I, however, agree with him, and we aren’t alone. Which neatly brings me to the video herein, the first in a web-series called The Weird Lens Challenge, where photographer Mathieu Stern McGyvers a 105-year-old lens (Eastman Kodak Kodex / Topaz Boyer Paris f 6.3 120 MM) onto a Sony A7II. Of the lens he says,

The Lens is incredibly sharp for a 105 years old lady … but it also gives some strange lens flares and light leaks that are pretty dreamy ( some would say it’s horrible )

You can see below for a few examples of the images it takes, more on his site, and, of course, take a look at the site and video to see what and how this old gem of a lens was attached to the A7II. It’s a wonderful pairing born of a wonderful idea.


As if there weren’t already enough reasons to use a mirrorless camera, and specifically a Sony A7 series, there’s this, that highlights the ability to adapt a myriad of lenses to it. Granted, this isn’t even anywhere in the same arena of the typical lenses you would think of attaching to yours but it does show off what can be done.

[REWIND: Sony’s Sensors Are So Good They Are Getting A Company Of Their Own]

mathieu-stern-weird-lens-challenge-a7ii-phtogrpahy-slrlounge-kishore-sawh-7 mathieu-stern-weird-lens-challenge-a7ii-phtogrpahy-slrlounge-kishore-sawh-5

This, in fact, comes off the heels of some news about an upcoming firmware update for the A7II that includes uncompressed RAW shooting, and in this vein, much faster focusing for adapted lenses. Previously, adapted lenses with the A7II could only use hybrid autofocus that ended with rather slow contrast detection even when used with Sony’s own LA-EA3 adapter, but now adapted lenses will benefit from the 117 point on-sensor phase detection AF system. Joy.

What’s your favorite lens of character?


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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Stephen Glass

    Love that you can Frankenstein those two together!

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  2. Lester Terry

    Excellent article and beautiful pictures!

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  3. Andy & Amii Kauth

    Loved reading this; rad vid too. Even had the kids watch the vid … Our daughter is wondering if you could try her Vtech Kidizoom … :)

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Well I’m glad you guys enjoyed it, and if you want to steer me in the direction of a Kidizoom, I’d be happy to try to make that happen. Cheers and be well!

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  4. Gabriel Rodriguez

    Awesome article Kish! I tend to catch myself, sometimes, letting my gear be the one to make the shot instead of me, the photographer, decide that.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Thank you Gabriel for the kind words. If you’re the type to actually read through these kinds of posts I’d wager you’re the type who is a thinker, in which case I would even more fervently tell you to really think about your shot and be the real creative force. Cheers

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    • Gabriel Rodriguez

      Most definitely! Thanks!

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