Lens Spotlight: A*135 - Jason Doss

Lens Spotlight

smc Pentax-A* 135mm f/1.8

This blog is a new idea I came up with to highlight a technique, lens, camera, film (when I start developing again), or subject in three frames.  The goal is to highlight the features of each lens, keep things interesting for me (and hopefully for you too), and practice some writing.   I have a lot of lenses, probably too many, so I'm going to focus in the short term on cycling thru my collection and maybe discuss a little about my photography habits along the way.



One of my newest lenses is this A*135f1.8 manual focus lens.  I picked it up with a package of other lenses in a shipment from Japan, where I purchase all my used Pentax lenses nowadays.  It's either my #1 or #2 most expensive lens, owing to its relative rarity and uniqueness.  This is the fastest 135mm lens in the Pentax arsenal, and they've stopped making them in 1989.


The lens handles excellently, with a wide grippy focus ring and an aperture ring with the A setting (which I don't use).  The lens has a 77mm filter ring and weighs 865g (1.9#). 


This is a portrait lens, designed for razor sharp wide open performance with narrow depth of field.  Manual focusing is pretty easy despite the narrow depth, which makes using the lens wide open a bit easier than the common fast fifties.


Here's an example of the narrow depth of field you can get with this shot, taken wide open.  The lighting is a bit weird, with natural shaded light coming thru the window, and incandescent lighting from the rear.


Kawai takes this position when we come or go normally, but for full disclosure, I should reveal that this shot was staged.  I asked him to look out the window, and he did just long enough for me to get a couple shots.


I intended to focus on the eye/muzzle, but missed focus just a little (focus point is in front of my target).  An electronic viewfinder (EVF) is always much more useful than an optical viewfinder when trying to use lenses with wide apertures wide open.  Stopping down two or three clicks, the eyes would have been in focus too.


All remaining photos were taken at f/2.8, which is one click down from wide open.



This shot and the next one were taken during one of our walkabouts to the City Market in Kansas City.  This retired streetcar is now a frequent photo subject and a reminder of the olden days.  I was standing across the street near the curb, to give you an idea of the field of view that 135mm can give you.  Focus here is pretty accurate on the front of the car, which is good since it was all me... this (as are all my lenses) is a manual focus lens.



This shot is of the Kemper Memorial Fountain at 10th and Main in KC, taken on our way back to the pad.  This time, I was catty-corner from the subject, and took some time to make sure my subjects (the fountain and the people in front of it) were in focus, and I think again I was fairly successful.  Focusing with this lens is not too difficult for static subjects, but for objects in motion, that's another story.



For fast action like this (long focal length, fairly close to the camera), you can either try to track the subject, which is damn near impossible if the subject is moving fast, or you can pre-focus on a point and try to catch the subject when it enters the plane that's in sharp focus.  You can see the ground cover in front of Kawai is in good focus, so I needed to wait just a wee-bit longer.  However, if I did wait, this shot would have looked a lot different and probably not as good.


It bears mentioning that I took a half-dozen photos and tossed five in order to get this one.  Poor reaction time and/or uninteresting positioning of dog and ball were the reasons.



Last one, and I promise not to go overboard like this again, posting five frames instead of the agreed upon (with myself) three for each page, but I picked this one to show out of focus blur (in photo language known as "bokeh," pronounced "bow-kuh").  Some lenses are judged on how well the out of focus areas are rendered, which at first pass might not seem to make much sense.  However, fast lenses are supposed to be used at fast apertures, therefore the bokeh is an important part of that lens's quality since some, or even most, of the shot will be out of focus.  Think of portraits with a lot of background detail, or in sports where the goal is to isolate only one player and leave the rest in blur.


I selectively saturated the flowers here on Baltimore Ave since the city did so well maintaining this row of planters, and the idiots in my apartment building did a good job of keeping their dogs out of them...  last year, they were filled with shit.


That's all I have (thankfully, I'm sure you're thinking) until next time.  And again, "three frames" will hereafter be limited to three actual frames.


Thanks for looking!


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