Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gear: Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm 1:2

 I love using my Exakta. It has a stunning design, sweet features (waist level finder!), and is compatible with a bunch of great Exakta-mount lenses. I own a few different Exakta lenses, but my favorite and most used is the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm. Yes, 58mm. It's definitely a unique focal length to be sure. Those extra 8 milimeters let you get just a tad closer to your subject, without making the lens too tight for general use.

It's a beautifully made lens, with an all metal build, and a nice silver finish that looks awesome with my Exakta VX body. This Biotar also features an auto diaphragm function. Most Exakta lenses have manual aperture diaphragms, which means you have to focus at the widest aperture, then manually stop the lens down to the aperture you want, and then fire the shutter. This is a total pain! The Biotar has a little button on it that fits over the shutter button on the Exakta body. After cocking the lever on the bottom of the Exakta (See below), you are free to focus at a wide open aperture, no matter what aperture is selected on the lens. Once you press the button on the lens, the aperture stops down to whatever it's set for, right before the shutter is fired. This was a very innovative feature for its time, and made shooting with Exaktas a lot less frustrating.

I love how this lens produces images at wide apertures. The background blur at f2 and f2.8 looks dreamlike. The blur almost seems to be moving in a circular motion that looks very painterly. I think short of medium format, this lens is my favorite to use for shallow depth-of-field shots. Here are a couple of shots I took today at wide apertures:

Our backyard

Growth along the Green Bay Trail

I took these with the 58mm Zeiss using the waist level finder, which turned out to be not such a good idea. It's extremely hard to focus at f2 with the wlf's plain matte screen. Most of my shots turned out slightly out of focus. I do like these two shots, however. Even though the photo of the yellow flowers is pretty cliche and gaudy, I think the distinctive background blur of the Zeiss Biotar makes it a bit unique.  I wish I had more to show from my time shooting today... maybe next time I'll be smart and bring the prism finder (with split prism focusing) along next time.

Anyway, thanks for looking!