35 mm Photography On Nicephore Niepce’s Territory
Yesterday we went to Bièvres, a small “country” village south of Paris. It is famous for being the hometown of Nicephore Niepce, who invented Photography in 1824. Thank you, Nicephore! (Boy! I like that first name, I wish I’d named my son after him). In Bièvres, you will find his museum and the world’s oldest photo lab. A new and bigger museum will soon be built. But we didn’t go there in order to visit the museum. Instead, I benefited from the myriad vintage cameras on display (like these old Nikkormat camera per below) in order to buy a … fixed focal 35mm f:2 Nikkor O lens!
In Bièvres, you will also find the yearly second-hand market for photographic equipment. This was my first shot with the “new” 35mm lens while I tried it before buying.
From left to right (f:2 too blurry and too small DOF, I lose some of the details – f:4 perfect shot with maximum crispiness, 2 stops above maximum aperture and a beautiful bokeh at that), I shot this Mickey mouse for a test of the 1980s [following Joel Burt’s comment per below, I have to add that this lens is from the 1960s rather; evidence of that can be found here, the lens was manufactured from 1962 onwards. It is therefore, almost my age!] manual lens. It worked beautifully, the image is crisp and you can tell the lenses are beautifully crafted and still intact. The price is … well unbeatable. I got this beauty for €130 for I bought it while the salesman was packing his stuff; it was worth €170 on the opening. The only thing I miss is the original metal lens hood, so it will cost me an extra 10-15€ (just have a look at the prices for these ugly plastic things!). I am definitely in favour of fixed lens photography. Any time I used my fixed lenses I am very happy with the result: images tend to be crispier (look at the macro shot of the lens above, it’s a beautiful shot too! and no artificial lighting at all was needed). I am not the only one to like fixed focal lenses and recommend these old second-hand beauties. They are all made of metal, beautifully crafted, they force you to engage with your subjects a lot more than zoom lenses. All in all, I find that I spend more time thinking about my shots and this is beneficial too. OK! You will not benefit from the autofocus; but I always shoot in manual mode anyway, and I hate what the autofocus is doing because it seems to be living a life of its own; hence my using it in “single” mode only).
Here is Mickey mouse in a larger format so that you can admire the details, and namely, that little black dent in the yellow glasses.
I am also thankful to my friend Olivier Saint Léger for recommending that lens to me. Olivier is pictured above in a shot taken with another fixed lens marvel: the Nikon 50mm f1:4 fixed focal lens. Olivier and I have “founded” the Paris Photo ‘non-club’ in order to organise photo outings in Paris. There will be one next Wednesday, join us if you can!