Nikkor 20mm f/3.5
Lenses Photos & Projects

Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 – Taming The Ultra-Wide – By Fernando Martins

November 24, 2020

This is a story of how I tamed the ultra-wide Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 – a remarkable lens that has become a key part of my style as a photographer.

Back in the early nineties, I studied Photography as a subject at the university in Lisbon. I joyfully remember those days, shooting eagerly with my brother’s borrowed Olympus OM-2N. At the same time, I was thrilled with the whole process of developing, enlarging and printing. There was an inviting strangeness, some magical aura in the quietude of the darkroom where I came to spend a great deal of time.

However, in the years that followed I became a professional photo retoucher at a design company and a freelance illustrator, thus dedicating all my creative energy to those areas of work. Consequently, my early avidness to photograph somehow faded away. There followed a huge hiatus where I almost didn’t touch a camera. Nevertheless, my core interest in Photography never vanished, not only I was attentive to exhibitions and photo books, I was also captivated by a certain image of the photographer way of life: the fearless allure and humanism of Don McCullin, Lee Miller or James Nachtwey; the night strollers, witnesses of the underground and late-night bohemians like Anders Petersen, Christer Strömholm or Daidō Moriyama; the glamorous, seductive appeal of the fashion photographer Helmut Newton, or the Swingin’ Londoners Brian Duffy and David Bailey (along with the unnamed photographer played by David Hemmings in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up, that is said to be inspired by the latter); Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston wandering through hidden places into the endless landscape of America.

All those extraordinary characters were utterly inspirational, a mythified projection of my pursued idea of freedom. I envisaged a get away from the tedious soul-sucking office lifestyle, a chance to become simultaneously unbound and creative.

Seixal, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-MAX 100

(Range) Findings at the Market

While living in Lisbon, I was a regular at Feira da Ladra (the main flea market) a great place and a must-visit where one can often find a vast choice of used film cameras. There, one day in 2011, I spotted some Japanese rangefinder cameras so cheap that I immediately bought one, a Canon Canonet (first model). I couldn’t have realised then that in a space of just one year, three more cameras would be added to the shelf: a twin sibling Canonet; a Konica Auto S2 and an Agfa Billy One. So let’s say that the old passion was back.

As I was by then just freelancing, I dedicated all my spare time using the new tools, but achieving the results I was expecting would not be an easy task. I had to struggle with the usual issues of old film cameras, like inaccurate and obsolete selenium light meters, faulty or sticky leaf shutters, light leaks, jammed film (oops, my fault…) and misaligned rangefinders. In consequence, I ended up spending more money to fix them than what I have paid in the beginning. For a year or so, I used mainly and extensively the Konica Auto S2, a very nice camera with surprisingly great lens, I was quite happy with the photos, and its 45mm (f/1.8) focal length turned up to be the perfect way to discipline myself before deciding to try a wider angle. Mostly, my shots were random, classic street scenes or friends and family portraits. I hadn’t at the time any particular project in mind.

Lisbon, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Nikon & Nikkor

The need to acquire more cameras persisted, although I don’t consider myself a compulsive collector as I actually use them, always being curious about their particularities and keen on exploring new results while trying different gear. It was time to move to the classic SLRs with interchangeable lens, so I bought a Nikkormat FTn, and just in a couple of months later, I got the classic Nikon F (Photomic) and the more advanced and most desired Nikon F5.
I had then three Nikkor lenses: the plain and lovely 50mm f/1.8 (AI) which came attached to the Nikkormat; the all-round, solid AF 35-70 f/2.8D; and the classic H Auto 28mm f/3.5 (non-AI), an exquisite lens, but my cheap second-hand copy was truly a wreck, ugly and scratched, with a colony of fungus spreading all over.

Anyway, I somehow enjoyed the rendering the 28mm  provided, even filtered by a lousy fuzz, and started to seek for a decent one, or similar, wider than 35mm for optimal results. As I couldn’t find any at my regular second-hand camera shop, not even a 24mm, the owner, a very good seller (and quite a character!) promptly proposed me instead, a ‘rare and unique lens’, and for an irrefutable price, I took home the Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 (AI).

Lisbon, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Taming the Ultra-Wide

My first impressions while using my new Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 on the streets were quite good. I loved to play around with the striking ultra-wide angle, it was so easy to keep everything in focus, unlike with the 45 or 50mm that I was used to. So, it wasn’t without dismay that some time later, after having some rolls of Kodak Tri-X and T-Max developed, I looked at the photos. Although I loved the landscape views and architectural perspectives, it felt like, in those shots where I got closer to the subjects, everything and everybody were being pushed out to the borders of the picture in a dreadful way, particularly with people, who displayed distorted bodies and unflattering, cartoonish faces.

Surely the optical quality of this 20mm was in line with the great classic Nikkor lens, so I didn’t give up, and as I went on using it, I realised that this is an outstanding lens, and, as with ultra-wide angles in general, it just needed to be tamed. It is not uncommon in the beginning to be distracted and blown away by its effects, impatiently pressing the shutter without thinking or not composing properly, thus producing mainly annoying, amateurish images, based merely on the effect itself.

London, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Standing up and walking on roller skates implies that we find the right stance and balance to avoid toppling over. Something similar happens with this lens. I find it crucial taking some time to obtain a certain balance on the image and the subjects that we want to frame. This is because moving the camera just a little can completely change the plan or the perspective, and due to the broad visual angle, unintentionally emphasize something we may find irrelevant for the picture.

London, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Ilford HP5 400

In the meantime, I got used to glance at the limits of the frame while looking through the viewfinder to check if everything fits in. Previously, because we have a point of fixation on the field of view and a vast peripheral vision area, it was not unusual to let something out of the image.This is a lens with lots of character and it is important to take advantage of it in the right situations. Like I mentioned above, I could find it inappropriate or unflattering to photograph people in a classical way, but of course it depends on how we use it. It also can be an excellent choice when we have in mind, for example, a more dramatic or expressionist portrait.

Paris Métro. The Twenty Millimetres Under the City

Paris Métro, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X400

My first go at a photography project consisted in a series of people commuting in the Paris Métro (underground). In my early teens I had become a big enthusiast of the French polar (French crime films), its peculiar, stylized depiction of Paris offered me a romanticised and exciting image of the city. Jean-Pierre Melville’s neo-noir Le Samouraï is one of my favourite films ever, with a breathtaking Métro chase sequence, starring an icy, angelical Alain Delon. I had those scenes, along with the hypnotic François de Roubaix sound score looping through my mind as I walked with my camera across the maze-like Métro corridors.

Paris Métro, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X400

In fact, this happens often, I tend to recall and fantasise about films, books or music while visiting places they relate to, thus entering a reverie mood that reveals to be helpful in my creative process. It is like a blissful layer of fantasy that gently overlaps the stuff surrounding me, shifting my emotional state from the dullness of the day-to-day routine to a more available and creative frame of mind. In this body of work, together with the influential noir imagery, William Klein’s New York photo book was also a reference in the way I have approached and portrayed the commuters.

Paris Métro, Nikon F5-Nikkor 20mm 1/3.5 Kodak Tri-X 400

I have used almost exclusively the Nikon F5 and the Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 loaded with Kodak Tri-X. It proved to be a brilliant combo for such an environment. I know that the Nikon F5 is not the most discreet camera out there, but it is fast with a very reliable light meter, and being heavy is actually a plus while shooting slow speeds. With the 20mm, not only I was able to have everybody in the Métro in focus, it also, due to the wide field of view, let me get quite close to the people who most of the time ignored they were being photographed, a stealth feature that I adore in this lens. In this series of photos, the distortion effect is an advantage, as it compresses the space and exaggerates people’s physical features, accentuating the sense of claustrophobia and the loneliness of everyday commuting that I intended to depict.

Paris Métro, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X 400

Paris Métro, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X 400

Although I have captured several images, I felt that I would need even more, and having lost some interest in it, the project was left unfinished.

Farewell Postcards

Cidade Sombra, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400.

In 2016 my photo book Cidade Sombra (Shadow City) was published, the result of two years drifting and photographing in the streets and backstreets of Lisbon. Here, I somehow distanced myself from the classic street photography approach on people’s daily journeys and their graphic interaction with the urban environment, or from the Cartier-Bressonian  ‘decisive moment’ concept. I instead favoured a raw, unpolished look at undisclosed parts of the city, seeking its disregarded details.

Cidade Sombra, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Cidade Sombra, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Mostly, I used the F5 and a new, more compact camera, the flawless Nikon FM2n, and once again, the Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 proved to be a highly dependable partner. I explored it broadly on deserted streets and desolate areas. As this lens keeps basically everything in focus and it is hard to highlight just a particular subject, I started to question the way I usually framed and looked at things. In one particular photo, for example, I realised that placing the camera at ground level, allowed me to have a detailed area with all the vegetation, pebbles and textures in the foreground, and simultaneously, a second plan with buildings perfectly defined in the distance. I believe this could grant an interesting and more subjective reading of the image, as we have different areas to look over and explore. Of course, like I previously pointed out, we should be careful to avoid framing anything irrelevant.

Cidade Sombra, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Agfa APX 100

Cidade Sombra, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

I had moved to London in 2015. At home, while editing and finishing the book, it felt like I was looking at farewell postcards from my former city. It increased the sense of melancholia that I already perceived the two years I walked the streets of Lisbon. Looking back at those 116 photos, I mostly see the remains of a city that faded in the recent years. A swift and relentless process of gentrification took place, evicting tenants from buildings so they now can finally display some beautiful facades.

Through The Nikkor Glass and What I Found There

Release The White Rabbit, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 100

Once I arrived to live in the United Kingdom, I wanted to put in practice a demanding project I had in mind: to photograph each of London’s 33 boroughs, covering their cultural attributes, communities, green areas, architecture and so on. However, after some weeks of long walks, I gave up, as I realised that the city’s magnitude would turn the project into an unattainable goal. Also, the more I came familiar with London, the more certain I became that it didn’t make sense to set any sort of boundaries, isolating the boroughs was not that interesting to me anymore. By then, I had taken a generous amount of photos, and as I looked more attentively, I began to recognise and establish a unity between them that differed from my initial concept.

Release The White Rabbit, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Like in Cidade Sombra, they showed a different, less known side of a city, but here, an eerie, haunting atmosphere could be observed on most of the images. An imposing building embraced by leafless, winding trees with branches like claws; a threatening Rolls Royce with a number plate from Hell; an oversized woman’s head trapped on the Tube eyeballing the viewer through closed doors. Here and there cinematic references echoed: the Gothic aesthetic of British Hammer horror films that haunted my childhood; Expressionist distorted angles as in Robert Wiene or Karlheinz Martin; the symmetric One-Point perspectives used in many Stanley Kubrick films. In all these, the 20mm served me awesomely. The photos were all shot vertically (portrait mode) using the FM2n and the F5.

Release The White Rabbit, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Rollei RPX 400

I was thrilled to have captured, unintentionally, a more personal vision of London than the one I would get if I had went on with the initial project, which was, in a way, a more predictable concept.

If in my previous Lisbon project the photos reminded me of postcards from the city I was leaving, in this one, they looked more like peculiar cards from a Tarot deck. The images seemed to radiate a frightening, archetypal symbolism. I interpreted that as an initiatic journey, and the incidence in the bizarre, along with the fixation on blocked accesses may express, unconsciously, my fears or obstacles at my attempt for integration in a new country. I named the project, which later became an exhibition, Release the White Rabbit, a Carrollian title evoking the search for knowledge, a look beyond the obvious and a step into the subconscious.

Release The White Rabbit, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Ilford HP5 400

A Short review

With my Nikon FM2n and 20mm f/3.5  Photo by Filipa Colaço

Recently, I started to walk around and work with other cameras apart from the Nikons, like the sturdy Mamiya C33, the legendary Leica M6, or my only digital camera, the lovely Fuji X-T3. Although I love all of them for different reasons and purposes, I could say for sure that the Nikkor 20mm f/3.5, mounted on any of my Nikon bodies, was the tool that better helped me to define my photography style.

The most recognisable of my photos were shot with the Nikkor 20mm f/3.5. I have used it exhaustively, but even so, I don’t think I could write a technically accurate review about it. I don’t have the skills to test lenses professionally. Actually, I really never cared much about many of the technical details that I have read in countless online reviews, usually supported by fancy graphics. I understand that for most people it is certainly helpful information, but I always had a more emotional approach on these matters.

I could, for example, make use of a lens that is praised for being sharp in all corners and at all apertures, and nevertheless, loathe the image it produces. I tend to value more the optical character a lens can provide, something that is technically unaccountable. Anyhow, here is my opinion in form of a short, user review:

The Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 is a truly remarkable lens, capable of rendering beautiful images with a tridimensional feel and very good contrast; it is very sharp, although it could be soft in the corners, depending on the aperture, nothing critical or even visible on the most part of my grainy and contrasted photos; it presents some barrel distortion, but again, it is not an issue on my work; its excellent coating allowed me to took shots in adverse light conditions, like several times against the sun, with a stunning resistance to flare.

It is a manual lens but with this focal length we have everything in focus most of the time; actually, even with AF lenses in my F5, I tend to use them usually in manual mode. The built quality is outstanding, all in metal, and both focus and diaphragm ring work flawlessly. I love this lens. It became truly relevant in my work.

In this sorrowful period of uncertainty and restrictions, I think even more eagerly in future projects, and I often tend to pre-visualise them in my mind through the distorted perspective of this awesome Nikkor 20mm f/3.5.

Paris, Nikon F5 Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X 400

Rome, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X 400

Russian cruiser Moskva, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X 400

London, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Alcochete, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak T-Max 400

Costa da Caparica, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Kodak Tri-X 400

London, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Ilford HP5 400

Paris, Nikon FM2n Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Ilford HP5 400

You can follow my work here:

My Instagram account: fernandomartinsphotography

My Facebook Photography page: FernandoMartinsPhotography 

My Photo book Cidade Sombra:
https://www.wook.pt/livro/cidade-sombra-fernando-martins/18303868
https://photobookcafe.co.uk/items/show/187
https://www.abysmo.pt/livros/69-cidade-sombra

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125 Comments

  • Reply
    brant
    November 24, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Great set ; many thanks

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Thank you very much Brant! 🙂

  • Reply
    Terry B
    November 24, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Fernando, wonderful mini portfolio and gorgeous tonal range. Not easy to pick a personal favourite, but the lighthouse at Alcochete stands out. Glorious cloud formation coupled with side lighting brilliantly captures the mood.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 10:30 am

      Thanks so much, Terry! Really glad you liked it! 🙂

    • Reply
      JK Lockwood
      November 24, 2020 at 8:51 pm

      Strong work! Wide-angle lenses certainly require more care in composition, which you have mastered. Your work proves that one doesn’t need the latest digital platform, exotic fast glass or ISO 204,000. Well done Sir!

      • Reply
        Fernando Martins
        November 24, 2020 at 9:03 pm

        Many thanks JK! Really kind words! 🙂

  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    November 24, 2020 at 10:27 am

    Fantastic shots – I can think of no better compliment than to say that they made me want to shoot my 20mm!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 10:31 am

      Many thanks Bob! Happy to be useful!:)

      • Reply
        Leon Bensason
        November 24, 2020 at 2:43 pm

        Your talent and ability to compose with the 20mm is truly inspirational. It’s like you see in another dimension. Fantastic. I like your taste in movies too!

        • Reply
          Fernando Martins
          November 24, 2020 at 2:54 pm

          Thanks so much Leon! 😊 Really appreciate!

  • Reply
    avid1
    November 24, 2020 at 10:55 am

    A fantastic read! Thanks for sharing your experience with the lens and the places you photographed. The images look dynamic in that focal length and evoke mood through the grain.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Thank you very much! 🙂

  • Reply
    Robert Williams
    November 24, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Not only the lens, but you have nailed down getting the most out of the TMax.
    Gorgeous images, all of them.
    Thank you for the article and sharing!
    Robert

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      Many thanks Robert! 😊

      • Reply
        Pete
        November 24, 2020 at 9:31 pm

        Superb. I also love the bird’s eye view of Lisbon. But for the choice of focal length, could be Cartier-Bresson. Wonderful.

        • Reply
          Fernando Martins
          November 24, 2020 at 9:41 pm

          Thank you very much for the compliment, Pete! 😁

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    November 24, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Does the eye bend to the lens, or does the lens feed the eye?
    You’ve produced a masterful set of images. I like all of them, but the single image I like the best is the bird’s eye view of the Lisbon street scene; I love the Paris Metro series.
    I also enjoyed your narrative of working with the lens.
    May you stay healthy and keep your family & friends out of (covid-19) trouble.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks so much, Daniel! Really happy you like it! Stay safe and healthy too! 😊

  • Reply
    Isaac
    November 24, 2020 at 12:53 pm

    Lovely images, do you remember if you were using and filters on the lens when shooting any of these shots?

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 12:59 pm

      Many thanks Isaac! Can’t remember where but I may have used just a polarising filter in a few…

  • Reply
    Hagen
    November 24, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Wonderful photos and very interesting article !
    I use the 20mm a bit on my digital Sony A7. One thing I have noticed is that the 20mm has quite a bit of focus shift.
    The 20mm is the only lens that I can not focus at f3.5 and then close down to f8.
    Did you notice that? Do you always focus at F8 ?

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks so much Hagen! I never noticed any issues regarding focus at any aperture… Maybe if I’d used on a digital camera with more resolution/detail. I have to try it on my Fuji X-T3 with an adapter.

  • Reply
    Aivaras
    November 24, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    Impressive use of 20mm!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 2:26 pm

      Thank you very much, Alvaras! 😊

  • Reply
    Jacob M Firsel
    November 24, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Absolutely some of the best photographs I’ve seen to grace this site.
    Well Done.
    Your work is worthy of a book, I think.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 2:28 pm

      Many thanks for your kind words Jacob! 😁

  • Reply
    Chris Timotheou
    November 24, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    A fantastic set of images – I cannot see a single image that I do not like, although my favourite is the one of the petrol pump! Where on earth did you find this image?

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you very much Chris! That was at an old car repair in Lisbon, I don’t know if it is still there…😊

  • Reply
    Matt Sandiford
    November 24, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Brilliant photography and really engaging writing Fernando. I am really enjoying the recent long-form articles on 35mmc.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 3:17 pm

      Many thanks thanks Matt! I’m really glad you liked it! 😁

  • Reply
    Rock
    November 24, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    Lovely b/w images – on the darker side with visible grain, just how I like it!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 4:44 pm

      Thank you very much, Rock!😊

  • Reply
    Alex Vye
    November 24, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Fantastic photos, I am truly jealous. I like how you are able to get truly deep blacks. The view of the train though the fence is my favourite.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 7:44 pm

      Many thanks Alex! That happens to be one of my personal favourites too, I took it eight years ago in Paris, the train was approaching the Gare Saint Lazare 🙂

  • Reply
    Ben Garcia
    November 24, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    Beautiful images, Fernando! You have the knack for this lens, most definitely. I also prefer the wider lenses. My 8mm (on m43=16mm 135) is so enjoyable to use because it makes me really work at composing. Being so involved in getting a shot makes it more memorable and more satisfying, for me.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks so much Ben! 🙂 and I agree with your point on composing, it’s much more fun!

  • Reply
    Des McSweeney
    November 24, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    I really enjoyed the editorial and the photography. I had the good fortune to know Lisbon well pre-gentrificaton in the late 70’s, the best walking city in Europe. Your Paris shots are powerful and cinematic, you are braver than I, one of my weaknesses is never getting close enough where here you excel. Wonderful photography Fernando, it really made my day.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you very much Des! Yes, Lisbon is a wonderful city; I have really good child memories from the late seventies too, a very different city then, indeed very different… And I must say that comments like yours made my day too! 🙂

  • Reply
    Gil Aegerter
    November 24, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    Fantastic images with a fantastic lens. Thank you for that brilliant appreciation. I often use mine on a D610, but during this month of so in my hometown in Alaska, it is paired with my D5500 and Nikkormat FT2. Thank you again for your article.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 9:05 pm

      Thank you very much Gil! Glad you liked it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Graham Line
    November 24, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    What an interesting set of photos. I’ve had the same ends for decades and still use it with both an FM/FE2 and a D750. It simply gives me an option in seeing that would not be obtainable in any other way.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 9:06 pm

      Many thanks Graham! I’m happy you enjoyed it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jamie W
    November 24, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    Brilliant shots, congrats. I bought one of these a few months ago and seeing this inspires me (and vindicates my purchase!).

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 24, 2020 at 11:47 pm

      Hehehe many thanks Jamie! Happy to be useful!😊

  • Reply
    Walter Levy
    November 25, 2020 at 3:02 am

    Outstanding work! I was particularly taken with the description of your deliberate attempt to shake off the all-too-common tropes of street photography and find your own voice.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 25, 2020 at 8:17 am

      Thanks a lot Walter! 😊 And yes, I think that we can always search for new perspectives. Glad you liked it!

  • Reply
    davesurrey
    November 25, 2020 at 11:25 am

    Ola Fernando,
    Uma fantástica combinação de palavras e imagens. One of the best articles I’ve ever read on here.
    I lived and worked in Lisbon some years ago and count it as my second home so many of your shots resonated with me. I’m also a lover of wide angle. If it’s not worth working at it’s not worth doing.
    Dave

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 25, 2020 at 11:37 am

      Muito obrigado Dave! Happy to bring you back good memories!:) Keep on shooting!

  • Reply
    Callum
    November 25, 2020 at 11:46 am

    Hi Fernando, although you’ve already received a lot of comments already I wanted to add my appreciation for this article. As many have said it is one of the best to have appeared on here, and all the images are incredible. It is fair to say you have not only ‘tamed’ the 20mm, you have mastered it. Not only that, I think the medium of film is used to its best effect here and is essential to the final image—I don’t think it would be easy (or even possible) to reproduce with digital, which isn’t really the case with a lot of film photography in my opinion, especially when digitized for web. With this in mind, can I ask if these are scans from prints, or scanned negatives with digital post-processing?

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 25, 2020 at 11:56 am

      Thanks so much for your kind words Callum! 🙂 As regards to the scans these are all from negatives with post-processing, basically Adobe Photoshop Curves and Levels.

  • Reply
    rick
    November 25, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    Great article Fernando… and brilliant images! Love the weight, tones and texture – superb. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 25, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      Many thanks Rick! Glad you liked it!!😊

  • Reply
    Bill W.
    November 25, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Excellent and informative article complemented by striking photos!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 25, 2020 at 8:26 pm

      Thanks so much Bill! 😊

  • Reply
    Louis Sousa
    November 26, 2020 at 1:20 am

    Superb. I have the Nikkor 20mm F4 also a wonderful lens. Galen Rowell was a frequent user of these two lenses in his career.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 26, 2020 at 1:36 am

      Many thanks Louis! 🙂 I didn’t know that, he really was a great photographer, that reminds me that I have to use slide again and shot some landscapes.

  • Reply
    Greg L
    November 26, 2020 at 7:48 am

    Wonderful images. I too have the 20mm 3.5 and have had a lot of fun using it. I have not used it in a while but you have inspired me to grab it and go out and shoot!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 26, 2020 at 8:17 am

      Thank you very much, Greg! 😁 Happy to know that I’ve inspired you!…

  • Reply
    Y.C Yoon
    November 26, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    Amazing photos. Your photos are one of the best I have seen for a long time. I have two questions. 1. Did you push process some of your images? 2.Did you use color filters to brighten up the sky?

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 26, 2020 at 1:11 pm

      Oh, Many thanks for the kind words, Y.C Yoon! 🙂 As regards to your questions, 1-I do push process in some, 400 to 800 or to 1600; 2-Just polarising filters sometimes and a few times a yellow filter. Regards!

  • Reply
    Michael Bresler
    November 26, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    I admire your skills as photographer and writer. You’ve framed many of the photos so well that I never would have guessed the lens was any wider than 28mm, if that.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 26, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you very much, Michael! 😊 That is indeed a great compliment, as I try to avoid useless distorting exaggerations; therefore, I like to use this lens in a controlled way, so it could suggest a certain strangeness.

  • Reply
    Bill Brown
    November 26, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    So nice to view quality work from someone who truly has an understanding and mastery of the medium. You definitely know how to compose for the wide angle and you have a nice touch with your post work. Your evocation of mood and the consistency of the look tells me you know where you want to go to fulfill your vision. The question I have relates to your experience as a photo retoucher and illustrator. I have been a retoucher since 1976 and the professional photographers I’ve worked with over the years have definitely influenced my shooting style. I also feel that I shoot and compose differently than many because of my retouching background. How do you see retouching and illustration influencing your work? I too love the train through the fence but the set as a body of work is quite strong. Thanks for the story.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 26, 2020 at 7:36 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Bill! 🙂 Regarding your question I really do feel that both my backgrounds as illustrator and retoucher were crucial in the way I compose and shoot; In my childhood and early teens I use to do a lot of comics, and I am sure that my habit of drawing inside panels was an excellent way to learn how to frame an image. Also, Illustration and retouching were determinant in my perception of light, shadows, perspective, volume etc. I thought that I had a vast experience on retouching as I have been doing it since 1995, but you have much more! 🙂 Happy shooting!

  • Reply
    Huss
    November 26, 2020 at 7:49 pm

    A superb set of photos. The best collection I have seen on this site.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 26, 2020 at 7:59 pm

      Thank you very, very much Huss! 🙂

  • Reply
    Ricardo Andrade
    November 27, 2020 at 11:40 am

    Awesome photos, Fernando. Really enjoyed the reading, and the images are so inspiring. Love the subjects, the composition, the contrast, the grain…

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 27, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      Many thanks Ricardo! 🙂 Really glad you liked it!

  • Reply
    Marc Wick
    November 28, 2020 at 12:44 am

    Fernando, what a great series of photos! Really some masterpieces! You mastered the 20mm really perfect. Since I saw your photos, I do need this lens! Thanks a lot for presenting a lens I have never heard before!
    cheers
    Marc

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 28, 2020 at 1:17 am

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Marc! 🙂 I’m glad I have motivate you to try this lens too… Happy shooting!

  • Reply
    Michael Wellman
    November 28, 2020 at 7:10 am

    Brilliant work. I love the F5 it’s wonderful camera. The Nikkor 20mm has been on my radar for some time now. I think your article has pushed me off the wall to get one now.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      November 28, 2020 at 10:30 am

      Thank you very much Michael! 😊 Yes, the F5 is awesome. I hope you get a good copy of the lens, I’ve seen some on ebay recently in good condition.

  • Reply
    Robin Hacquard
    December 1, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    Beau travail. Avec un bien bel objectif ! J’ai acheté le mien en 1980, neuf. Et j’ai fait plus de la moitié de ma carrière de photographe avec lui ! Depuis c’est mon fils qui l’utilise, sur son Nikon F….
    Robin

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 1, 2020 at 3:10 pm

      Merci beaucoup Robin! 🙂 Moi aussi je l’utilisais sur mon Nikon F avant que le prisme Photomic s’est malheureusement cassé lorsque j’ai laissé tomber mon appareil par terre :/

  • Reply
    Ana Domingues
    December 8, 2020 at 11:05 pm

    Que boa onda! Gostei muito do artigo, especialmente sobre a tua leitura londrina. As fotografias são lindas. Parabéns Fernando!
    ps: qualquer dia dou-te um toque para te pedir conselhos sobre a Fuji.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 9, 2020 at 2:04 am

      Olá Ana! 🙂 Muito obrigado; fico mesmo contente de teres gostado! Quando quiseres conselhos sobre a Fuji está à vontade. Até breve. Beijinhos!

  • Reply
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    Marc
    December 11, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Perfect Usage of the 20/3.5 Lens ! Great Images, striking. This is Film being done right!

    Good Light,
    Marc

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 11, 2020 at 4:27 pm

      Many thanks Marc! Really glad you liked it!😊

  • Reply
    Marcio K
    December 11, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    Fotos maravilhosas, Fernando. 🙂 Abraços daqui do Brasil.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 11, 2020 at 4:28 pm

      Muito obrigado Márcio! Abraços de Londres!!😊

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  • Reply
    Michael Badalamenti
    December 11, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Really excellent and inspiring photographs and writing. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to see and read your work.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 11, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Many thanks Michael! Truly you liked my work and that you found it inspirational!😊

  • Reply
    Howard
    December 12, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    I love your composition with the 20mm. I also marvel that your use of B&W film with high contrast is so amazingly suitable for the subjects that you have photographed!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 12, 2020 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you very much Howard! Very happy you liked it😊

  • Reply
    GAVIN WONG
    December 12, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed the images and the read. Nice work.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 12, 2020 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks so much Gavin! Glad you liked it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Franky
    December 12, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    I love the focal length of 20/21mm for many, many years. For me this is an essential lens. So it is part of all of my camera systems: 43mm for Mamiya 7, Zeiss Biogon 21mm for Contax G2, 14mm for Fujifilm X and Nokton 10.5mm for MFT. IMO this focal length is the perfect addition to 35mm. 😀

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 12, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      That’s just great! I have to get a 14mm for my X-T3 too, and a Voigtländer 21mm for my M6… Happy shooting Franky!

  • Reply
    Tom
    December 13, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Beautiful photography and a fascinating article. I shot wide for decades on various Nikon 24mm lenses then went right off the view. My 14-24mm lens is my least used and this has inspired me to set it to 20mm and get out with it.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 13, 2020 at 10:24 am

      Thank you very much Tom! I’m glad you liked it! And yes, that’s the advantage of a zoom, its versatility… 😊 Happy shooting!

  • Reply
    Carl
    December 14, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Wonderful set of pictures.

    Curious what developer you use for tmax 100 and 400 and perhaps HP5 too. Rodinal, or something else.

    Thank You, Kindly, Carl

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 14, 2020 at 10:59 am

      Many thanks Carl! 🙂 I am not sure, I started to develop my film again just recently, and I have been using Ilfosol for Delta 100 and for Tmax 400 (Tmax develops too grainy with Ilfosol in my experience).But most of the photos in the article were developed in a lab, they normally use TMax developer but I am not absolutely sure. Some have been pushed too, and contrasted in post production, hence the grain…

  • Reply
    Orkhan Abbasov
    December 14, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Fernando!

    I am in love with your photos! I can relate to them, they feel somehow private and filled with passion to photography.

    If you live in Lisbon, let’s keep in touch.

    DM me on Insta if you want to grab a coffee anytime soon:

    https://www.instagram.com/oabbazov/?hl=en

    Take care!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 14, 2020 at 7:17 pm

      Thank you very much Orkhan! Really happy you liked my work.I don’t live in Lisbon anymore, I’ve moved to London, but of course in a future trip there we can meet for a coffee. Regards!

      • Reply
        Orkhan Abbasov
        December 15, 2020 at 8:51 am

        Cool!

        One more time great pictures, thank you for sharing!

        • Reply
          Fernando Martins
          December 15, 2020 at 10:04 am

          Thanks again, Orkhan! Regards! 🙂

  • Reply
    John Campbell
    December 15, 2020 at 1:42 am

    Great read and outstanding images! Thanks for sharing Fernando! John

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 15, 2020 at 1:54 am

      Thanks so much, John! Glad you liked it!…🙂

  • Reply
    Peter Christensen
    December 15, 2020 at 5:35 pm

    Wonderful photography.

    Like you, I used to climb the Hills of Alfama and Lisbon in the late 90’s carrying my FM2n fitted with either the ais 24 mm f 2.8 or the micro nikkor 105 ais, I sold the gear in 2000 and quit photography, but in 2019 I accidentally stumbled across my contact sheets from those days, and I rebought the excact same Nikon gear, it brought back a lot of good memories, as did your photos, thank you…

    Peter

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 15, 2020 at 9:34 pm

      Many thanks for your kind words Peter! What a great story! In fact Photography is intrinsically linked with memories, and Lisbon is such a nostalgic place… Regards. 😊

      • Reply
        Peter Christensen
        December 16, 2020 at 3:02 pm

        I had family in Lisbon, Benfica, now passed away. I haven’t been there for the last 10 years…
        I must have walked 100s of kilometers in Lisbon with my fm2, I was very fascinated with the old trams, I remember Lisbon very well, still miss those days, but still, I have the photographs to remind me…

        • Reply
          Fernando Martins
          December 16, 2020 at 8:09 pm

          Oh that’s sad… fortunately you’ve kept good memories… since I live in London I realised how special Lisbon is, although it is a very different city now than it was only five years ago. Apart from the marvellous light, I started to miss things that I never thought were so unique, like, precisely, the sound of the trams passing by… 🙂

          • Peter Christensen
            December 19, 2020 at 7:12 pm

            Lisbon always reminded me of an elderly dignified lady, who despite her age still carries a sort of discreet beauty…

          • Fernando Martins
            December 19, 2020 at 9:06 pm

            I completely agree with you, I use to think of Lisbon in a similar way, a remaining, eternal beauty, under all that patina, like an old chesterfield sofa with cracked leather, but still beautiful. Now I still found Lisbon beautiful, but I do not like some of the renewals that look fake, mostly in new shops and hotels, I miss the old grocery stores and small traditional cafes… like you would say, some feel like botox in the face of an elderly dignified lady.

  • Reply
    chrisomac
    December 16, 2020 at 9:04 am

    And so Jean lou Seiff vith Leica 21mm sooner.

  • Reply
    Gary
    December 18, 2020 at 8:22 am

    Mr. Martins, I can only echo what others have said about these extraordinary images. I have a technical question, as I own several FM and FE cameras and want to get the best images out of them. (As an aside, in my opinion these cameras are the perfect size and weight, and with their simple and precise operation they almost become invisible in the hand.) Please tell us about your processing. I gather from a previous comment that you have the film developed by a lab and have the negatives scanned, and then you process the images in Photoshop. Is that correct? No darkroom work involved on your end? If so, at what resolution do you tell the lab to scan the negatives? Thank you for your advice, and for the wonderful images that could only be made on film.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 18, 2020 at 10:07 am

      Thank you very much for your kind words, Gary! Regarding you question, indeed, there is no darkroom involved in the processing of my photos, although I did it in the past and I miss it, sadly I do not have a darkroom to print the images… Fortunately I started to process my film again, scanning the negatives on my Plustek 8200i (dedicated film scanner) using first the Silverfast scanning software at maximum resolution(7200dpi), then I do the post production on Adobe Photoshop, removing remaining dust and existing scratches with the healing and clone brushes; Curves, Levels and sometimes Burn and Dodge tool to contrast, balance and darken or highlight some areas of the image. For 120mm film I use a Epson V 600, as the Plustek 8200i is limited to 35mm negs or slides. The ‘old’ V600 is OK for 120mm but if you want a flatbed scan for both 35mm and 120mm film you have better options, like the Epson V850 (more expensive, though… :). Hope this was helpful!

  • Reply
    Dave Myers
    December 18, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for the inspiring article and great images. I have a bag full of Nikkors including this 20mm one. Time to go out and shoot with them again!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 18, 2020 at 1:08 pm

      Many thanks Dave! Glad you like it! 🙂 Happy shooting!

  • Reply
    Dave Addison
    December 19, 2020 at 3:41 am

    The Dave above shared your link. I also will need to get out and experiment with wide angle shots. Wonderful work by you.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 19, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks so much Dave! Really appreciate it! 🙂 …and happy shooting!

  • Reply
    Gary Schisler
    December 19, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    FM:

    Very, very nice.
    I will be digging out my 20mm for immediate use.
    Thanks for the motivation!

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 20, 2020 at 1:06 am

      Thanks so much Gary! Really glad you liked it and that it was motivational! 😁📷

  • Reply
    Charles
    December 31, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Fantastic images. I have to agree that these are some of the best photos on this site.
    I will not buy a new camera, I will not buy a new camera. I will not buy a new camera. Maybe I’ll just get that lens for my x pro-1…

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 31, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      Thank you very much Charles! Really glad you liked the photos! I actually have used this 20mm on my girlfriend’s Fuji X Pro-1 with a Nikon adapter some years ago with good results, you just have to count on the crop factor, 20mm becomes a 30mm on the APS-C sensor. I really have to try it again on my X-T3!

  • Reply
    Peter
    December 31, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Wonderful narration and fantastic images! Thank you for sharing this! You have certainly tamed the 20mm to the point you are a master of that focal length and use it as a paint brush.

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 31, 2020 at 11:56 pm

      Thank you very much Peter! Really happy you’ve liked it! 😊

  • Reply
    Charles
    December 31, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Here we go again- gonna dive in ! Should I dial in 20mm in the X pro menu when I get the lens?
    Congratulations on such great work !

    Happy New Year

    • Reply
      Fernando Martins
      December 31, 2020 at 11:55 pm

      Thanks so much Charles! I really can’t remember the settings specifications…😐 Happy new year!

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