Prior to vacation, as a photographer, what causes you the most stress? In this world there are a myriad of valid concerns. For me it’s which camera or cameras to take.
It can take me several weeks to finally make a decision. Will it be digital or film, maybe both, if both then which cameras? Maybe I should go light, oh heck I will only go there once, take the good stuff. And it goes on and on!
After almost three years of forced COVID confinement the shackles were finally removed. A lifelong friend called me up and invited my wife and I to join them on a trip to Mexico. We jumped at it. The siren song of vacation breezes and lapping waves was very loud!
Then the analysis paralysis began. Which camera or cameras should I take? Normally I am a very decisive person and when I was shooting commercial photography work the choice of camera gear was dictated by the subject matter for the most part.
After several attempts at packing and unpacking of camera gear I decided to go barebones. The VC Bessa R, Jupiter-8, f2 50mm, VC Color Skopar f2.5 35mm and Ernst Leitz Wetzlar f4 90mm Elmar ended up in my carry-on camera backpack. I also packed several rolls of Agfa APX 100, long expired but refrigerated.
What I like about the Bessa R is that it’s light and has a great meter. Sure I could have taken a Leica M4 or M5 but I wanted light and cheap. Just in case. The Jupiter 50mm lens has intrigued me for some time. I have used it for video work on a Panasonic GH5 and found it’s personality fits certain scenes. However I have not been overly impressed with it on a digital camera for single image making. I thought I would give it one more try, this time on film. The VC 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar is the non pancake version. The reason for taking this particular lens is I will be doing a comparison piece on it. Its challenger will be the Leica 35mm Summicron. The Leitz Wetzlar Elmar was chucked in as a “just in case” lens.
We were in Mexico for seven days staying at a very nice all inclusive resort near Tulum. The fifth day was scheduled to be “picture” day. A taxi was ordered and off we went to the small town of Tulum. Our mission was to find a nice locals restaurant, get some walking in and work the Jupiter 50mm lens. The 35mm and 90mm came along for the ride but were never used.
The skies were clear and the light very contrasty. I decided not to use any filters on the lens to insure nothing influenced its image making properties. Some shots were focused and others taken using hyper focal distance. Almost all the images in Tulum were made at f8. If you were looking for a bunch of minimal DOF images I’m not the guy to deliver them. The image of the bikes was made at f4 to slightly throw the background out of focus. Should I have tried the Jupiter-8 wide open? Probably, but just didn’t find the right subject matter.
Once back at the resort I replaced the Jupiter-8 50mm with the VC 35mm Color Skopar to finish the roll. Again no filters were used.
Once home I processed the one roll of film I shot in PyroCat-HD 1:1:100 for 18 minutes. I use PyroCat-HD for 90% of my black and white film developing. It not only produces outstanding negatives for wet printing but also scans well for digital output.
The one thing that really frustrated me while using the Jupiter-8 lens was the gymnastics needed to change the aperture ring. It’s a two hand operation which negates any chance of changing the aperture setting while keeping the camera up to your eye. That being said the Jupiter-8 lens is very reasonably priced and in many respects shoots well above its price point.
Just for grins I am going to shoot some frames comparing the Jupiter-8 50mm with a Leica 50mm Summicron at all apertures. Once past f4 I bet no one would be able to tell which lens was which when the images are printed or scanned. Another blog posting in the making.
I found the Jupiter-8 lens to be a great overall performer. Minimal internal flare was encountered which allowed me to maintain detail in the shadows. The PyroCat-HD helped in that regard as well. Sharpness is on par with my Nikkor 50mm f1.4 AI lens at f8. The 35mm VC Color Skopar was very sharp and a bit more contrasty than the Jupiter lens. This would be expected due to its more modern design.