Why do I so often talk about how much I like using the original Pen-FT 60mm f1.5 lens?

This is a shot I did at a night time rehearsal of an "Austin Shakespeare" in the park rehearsal. The lighting on the outside stage was primitive and dim, the hour = late, and the weather hot and humid. I was playing around at the time (2010) with an Olympus EPL-1 body fitted with an EVF finder and, via an adapter, an ancient, manual focusing Olympus 60mm f1.5 lens. These were early days for mirrorless but I really liked the concept and had been having great fun with the EP-2 camera.

I discovered an interesting thing about the VF-2 finder when using manual lenses. When focusing the screen would shimmer at the point of sharp focus! This made accurate focusing with my ancient half frame lens not only possible but, in some cases, faster than autofocus. I was shooting as the rehearsal was in progress and, because of the sparse and aging stage lighting, was trying to hold the camera steady around 1/30th of a second while using an aperture near f2.0. Surprisingly, our hit rate that evening was not embarrassing!

I hadn't used this lens much for nearly a decade before that because, other than my collections of older Pen FT half frame cameras from the 1970's, there were no other cameras on which the lens would work. I'd forgotten, or perhaps never been aware, of just how great a performer this lens was and is.

You need only click on the image to enlarge and then check out the detail of the butterflies in the actor's hair. Oh heck, you could also check out the actor's hair, remembering that this was a 12 megapixel camera with an ample anti-aliasing filter over the sensor....

I use the lens quite frequently now. Most recently I used it for two black and white, 4K video interviews. When my son saw a still frame from one of the interviews he nearly fell off his chair. It looked as though I'd done a perfect still photograph of one interview subject and we might have been looking at that high res image of it on the screen.

The ancient lens is perfect for video. It's sharp when I need sharp and then the background falls off into a luscious banquet of bokeh. Nice, soft, rounded bouquet of bokeh. Would I take a thousand dollars for that old lens? Not on your life! Do you have a recent German car you'd like to trade? Then we'll talk.

New stuff? Not seeing anything out there that's as nice. Sharper? Maybe. As nice? Nope.

Shooting portraits for my LED book, ten years ago. This one with a Canon camera. But not a new Canon camera.

Back in 2010 Amherst Media published the first book about LED lighting for photographers. Ever. It had samples from famous wedding photographer, Neil van Niekirk, and lots of lesser samples from the author; me. It was early days for LED light sources aimed at photographers and most of the affordable fixtures were made in China and didn't have much street credit with people who were obsessed with specification sheets. Oh, I mean photographic numerology... Most people's experiences weren't based on actual, personal use but were conjecture based on glancing and dated reviews of an early generation of tiny, cheap plastic LED panels.

The feedback I got from everyone I mentioned the book project to was that "all" LEDs had really bad color, and a deadly green spike was almost always unavoidable, so the lights could "never" be used for portrait work. Ever.

I plodded on, doing experimental shoots and gathering really wonderful LED lit portraits from friends and professional associates across the country. My memory about that time is that it coincided with my flirtation with Canon digital cameras. I had three different models and liked them for three different reasons. But I used the 7D (APS-C) along with a 70-200mm f4.0 Canon zoom to make the image above. We were in the studio using some inexpensive Chinese fixtures that had 512 small LEDs on a rectangular panel. I don't remember the exact price but I think each panel was about $200.

I came across this image of my friend, Selena, recently while cleaning up old hard drives and preparing them for short term storage ( you know, put them in a vacuum chamber, suck out all the contaminated air, seal into a non-porous, anti-magnetic storage containers filled with pure helium....just the routine archival regimen...) and I remembered all the bluster from the ignorati about the inability of LED lights to render a pleasant skin tone. I think a quick custom white balance got us right into the ball park. Not too hard to do if you read your camera's owner's manual... Ah, nostalgia for the early days of what is now very, very popular tech.