Forty+ year old lenses can be quite sharp.

My favorite camera store moved. Precision Camera had been in the same place for decades and they'd really outgrown the space. They found a great retail space in the geographical center of the Austin population, hired my architect friend, John (genius) Beckham, and threw together the camera store of all camera stores. By the look of things they tripled in size.  Even though it's twice as far from my studio now I know I'll make the trek out there when I need stuff because they've always gone out of their way to make my professional life easier. And also, I said "I'd follow them anywhere" in their upcoming television spots...

I dropped by for the first time yesterday and I have to say, if you think all the bricks and mortar camera stores are heading toward extinction just grab a plane ticket, head to Austin, and see what a successful photography store looks like. At least 10,000 square feet of showroom space, a classroom/workshop area that seats nearly 80 comfortably, a full production lab and a camera repair facility with a great reputation. When I walked in, on the second day of business in the new location, it was packed with customers.

When I left I noticed I had bought another Sony Nex 7. A used one with the kit lens for a whopping $700. Whenever I buy a new camera I generally spend the NEXt free day walking around and shooting with it. This purchase was no different.  As I contemplated the growing NEX system here at the VSL studios I pondered the "problem" of limited lens choice. This always makes me pull out older lenses from other systems, which are easily mounted on mirrorless cameras, which inevitably convinces me that we've got more than enough choices.

Today I found myself playing with two great lenses from the older, film based, Pen F system, the 70mm f2 and the 150mm f4. The cups above were shot at Caffe Medici with the 70mm.  So was the image of glasses and spoons below. The older coatings cut the contrast of the lenses a bit compared to modern single focal length lenses. It's a difference that's easily corrected in post processing...

After a killer cup of cappuccino I switched lenses and went strolling along with the 150mm lens. For a 150mm lens it's pretty small and skinny...

The 150mm seems super long to me on an APS-C camera. The major disadvantage of this non-system lens is the lack of image stabilization but a bright day and opening up to f5.6 makes up for that lost ground.  I think this lens is very sharp. It's also a little low in contrast but that's just a one slider fix in SnapSeed or PS.

Austin's official bird, the Crane. 70mm f2

A current theme in my walks lately has been the "Official Bird of Austin." Sometimes known by its Latin name, Constructionis Cranius. Downtown Austin seems to have become the winter nesting ground for hundreds and hundreds of these towering cranes as dozens of skyscrapers are under construction within a half mile of the state capital, with many more dotting the peripheral areas of the city. At some point the metropolis will grow so large and unwieldy that the natives will be forced to sell their premium properties and relocate....

The new Nex 7 passed all my tests with flying colors and won the drawing to be the camera I'm taking with me on an upcoming vacation/college tour marathon starting on the 11th of March.  

I'm curious to know if any of my readers are current residents of Boston and if they might know where a guy can get a decent cup of coffee in that town? Chime in if you know....


  1. Caffe Vittoria, Hanover Street in Boston makes the best Cappuccino. Excellent Cannoli too.

  2. "When I left I noticed..." That's a riot. Sounds very familiar.

  3. My favorite camera store is 'the Camera Store' in Calgary. It is always fully staffed, crazy busy, and they are knowledgable, friendly and as a bonus - inexpensive as well! I've moved to a small town and now I struggle with whether I shop locally (with minimal added value and little stock) or continue to patronize a truly excellent store. I lean to the latter - working hard to create a great business deserves loyal customers.

  4. My favorite combo for my NEX6 is a 50 year old Nikkor 58mm F1.4. At 87mm equivalent it is a really nice lens for images of my granddaughters.


  5. Isn't it amazing how a business can flourish when similar stores selling the same merchandise have dropped dead all around the country. Could it be that Amazon didn't kill all those bookstores?

  6. Next time you leave the store you may notice a used OM-D E-M5 (does anybody sell them?) Image stabilization for all those old lenses you love.

    1. Tom, I have played with one extensively and they are readily available but I prefer both the finder and the sensor on the Nex 7 more. Just can't justify keeping more than a couple systems around any more. It's not the expense of money but the expense of time and reacquaintance that make owning multiple systems so taxing...

  7. For Downtown I'd recommend the Thinking Cup (http://thinkingcup.com/). If you venture a little north of the city I'd recommend Diesel Cafe in Davis Square (http://www.diesel-cafe.com/).

  8. Thanks. I've put your suggestions in my "Boston Notebook." Keep em coming.

  9. If it isn't too late, I'd also recommend Barrington in Fort Point (South Boston) for very well-crafted espresso drinks. Far and away my favorite for sheer quality. Thinking Cup, too, to second Seth, is pretty great, both for quality (they brew Stumptown) and atmosphere. Some others to check out:

    Three Little Figs in Somerville - brews Gimme! Coffee (exceptional drip and espresso), maybe a bit of a trek if you're sightseeing
    Francesca's in the South End - a local institution, maybe a little bohemian, but a beautiful cappuccino last I went
    Simon's near Harvard Square - likewise an institution, and sometimes a little grunge in a fun and delicious way
    Dwelltime, also near Harvard Square - a newer "lab style" shop that's definitely worth a shot. Very high grade and meticulous.

    Hope this post catches you in time! If you need a tour guide, let me know.


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