Retail alchemy turns loser flash into sparkling 17mm lens. It's like magic.

Playwright. Stephen Dietz.

Many of you who tuned in to VSL last week read the saga of the flash that wouldn't. It's the sad tale of a frightfully expensive flash that is so moody and unreliable that it drove me from the world of TTL flash to a more pedestrian and workaday model of flash that eschews automation altogether. 

When I finished writing my scathing review I decided I would take it to Precision Camera and see if I could make a silk purse out of Sony's sow's ear. I walked in and talked to the people at the repair and rental desk because they also handle trade-ins. They took the flash, tested it and tossed out a monetary value. Since my own estimation hovered around zero I thought their much higher offer was generous enough to preclude haggling so I turned the flash over to them and spent some time looking around for something to spend my trade in credit on. 

I played with a used Olympus EM-5 and remembered once again just how nice the shutter sounds on that camera and just how confusing the menus are. I put it back in the salesman's hands. Then I spent a nice half an hour on one of Precision Camera's comfortable leather couches, getting to know the Panasonic GX-7 (which is on my short list of cameras I might want to have if I needed more than four).  While the flash trade-in was generous the spread between my trade-in credit and the GX-7 was a bit too wide to justify and so I started concentrating on lenses. 

I played with two Nikon lenses that I considered strongly. One is the 105mm 2.5 ai, a variant of at least ten that I've owned over the last two decades...(it's a marvelous lens but it tends to get flushed at transition points from Nikon into other systems or Kodak/Nikon cameras into other systems...) but I eventually decided against it because even though I maintain the overly romantic notion that I will, someday, go back to shooting some images with my Nikon F4s, deep down I know that my days of whipping film through the system are largely over. Especially 35mm film...

As the afternoon waned I came across a silver, used Olympus 17mm f1.8 and I seemed to remember reading something nice about it somewhere so that's what I decided upon. When I came home I read some of the lukewarm reviews and decided to ignore them and find out for myself. The lens is good for almost everyone, anywhere unless you demand absolutely linear performance across the entire frame. Me? I like em blisteringly sharp in the center and if they can do that I'm happy. So color me happy on this one. 

I've traded a useless flash for a fun lens. Now I am out the door to see how it handles Austin's amazingly exciting downtown scene. 

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Claire said...

I'm not a hundredth of the photographer and technician you are, but it didn't take me long to lose TTL *altogether*. Been working with the same battered SD-600 for more than 6 years now, and other than being capricious turning on (it's on the verge of self destruction and does need a replacement !) it always does the job flawlessly in Manual mode. TTL ? Get outta here !

Ron Nabity said...

Nice trade. The Olympus 17mm 1.8 lens is one of my favorites. It usually resides on a body full-time. I like the "35mm" field of view and it focuses very quickly.

A personal peeve, the snap-back focus ring annoyed me. I have a Fn button set for MF and I use that when I want manual focus for other lenses, so the snap ring was redundant, and it often was too easy to move inadvertently.

I sliced a rubber band to the right width and it now resides on the lens, keeping the snap ring from snapping back. Problem solved. Easy to remove if needed.