SOTA-State Of The Art Wide Angles

Up until Digital Photography arrived, I very rarely shot anything whatsoever to do with Interior Photography.
I recall doing a Home Theatre shoot, once, for my good friends at K&W Audio, here in Calgary on my beautiful old Hasselblad 500 CM.
There were numerous mixed light sources and the final shot had to be done and ready for an Ad they were doing in a ‘Big American Audio Magazine’.
Balancing exposure for lights and screens and different colour temperatures took a LOT of juggling– a filter or two, and two boxes of ‘Fuji-Roid’ FP100-C Instant, (*like 2 minute) film at almost 25 bucks a box.
I felt like the Priest in “The Exorcist” who went into a room and had them lock the door behind him.

Getting it right was a ‘battle royal’.
When all was said and done, I finally loaded a roll of 120 Ektachrome and followed the laborious path I’d spent most of the day mapping out with my Polaroid back.
I shot 5 frames of 120 and packed it in.The day was done.
There were some things best left alone on film and for me that certainly included shooting Interiors.

My Canon 5D Classic changed all of that but, in short order, other problems would raise their difficult little heads.
I was using a Canon 16-35/2.8 L Series Zoom Version I for all my interior work.
The corners have never been the stuff of legend with that lens but my greatest nemesis of all was the Lens Flare.

* A side note: Michael Tapes LensAlign Pro has improved the sharpness issues of that lens to a great degree. Highly Recommended.

Cascading patches of brilliant green and orange wiping out contrast on kitchen cabinet doors, spreading lazily over counter-tops, across microwaves….
With an optic of that complexity you’re asking for it, big time, and I got it in spades.
Clean up was downright nasty, if even possible at all and could turn post-processing into a multi-hour marathon of grief.

In June of 2010 my Lowe Pro backpack, loaded with about 14 thousand dollars worth of equipment mysteriously grew legs and walked away in the middle of a shoot, downtown.

Yep…. that moment that every Photographer dreads had finally arrived.

I decided a short time later, in honour of that auspicious occasion, since I was replacing virtually everything anyway, except for the 16-35, it was time to tackle the flare issue, once and for all.

Enter the magnificent Carl Zeiss 21/2.8 Distagon for Canon which was going for a shake over $1800 at The Camera Store here in Calgary at the time.

I cut my Professional Teeth in the 90’s on Leica R4S2 Cameras and a bag full of Leica glass along with the Hasselblad which had 3 Zeiss Lenses.
Plain and simple, NOTHING ‘looks’ like German Glass.

I’d heard it said once that German lenses would always favour contrast over resolution, in design.
Mastering the art of contrast would give you a lens that might not resolve a test target taped on a wall on par with a the BEST Nikkor lenses at the time, but when it came to evaluating a print or a slide?
That’s where the competition would always end, flat out, end of discussion.
Contrast would ALWAYS give you the ‘appearance’ of a sharper lens.

I still shoot a TON of Interior work and the Zeiss 21 is one of the most beautifully ‘transparent’, colour rich, flare free masterpieces I’ve ever had the pleasure to use.
It has a pinch of ‘moustache’ distortion, I’ll admit but in practice it’s never been an issue, at least until it comes time for a playful ‘tease’ about it from my old friend and mentor John MacLean.
The Lens Profiles in Lightroom seem to do a remarkable job, at least for me.

In life, sometimes, it’s the small details that count and this lens has never ceased to amaze me.
As for flare it’s so seldom and issue and so remarkably well controlled that if it happens at all, I’m generally tempted to simply leave it in as a bit of an ‘artsy’ effect.

It’s a true Champion by any stretch of the imagination.

A solid 11 out of 10.

One Response to “SOTA-State Of The Art Wide Angles”

  1. calgary home theatre

    Wide angle lens are a must for any sort of interior photography. This specific lens is brilliant. Colors are great, distortion is kept to a minimum. Nice pictures!


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