Hamburg: a Zebra and a Nikon

“Choose just ONE fixed focal length lens and take it out to discover the city”. This is a well-known advice between photographers. It’s not about cutting down the weight, you’d have to carry around all day, but to make a choice of how and what to photograph. I did that and carried around a Zebra!

A Zebra??? Just recently, I got myself some vintage Zeiss-lenses from the 60s. Amongst them, the famous Biometar 80mm/f2.8 and the Flektogon 50mm/f4. They have been built in different variations – the ones I got, were from the so-called “Zebra”-series, named after the black&white-striped metal focus- and aperture-ring. As far as I know, this series was built from 1967 until 1978, with different mounts. The ones I chose (on purpose) have a “Pentacon Six” mount. Originally built for this medium format camera, they are easily adaptable to a Nikon mount without the need of additional glass elements in the adapter – so the quality of the Zeiss lens is not deteriorated in any way.

As an additional effect, you even get an increase in quality, since the lens is calculated to properly fill the bigger medium format.  Mount it on a full frame camera and you literally loose all the “side-effects” by just using the central part of the lenses “projection”.

What I like about the “Zebra” lenses? They have a wonderful bokeh, great contrast, are very sharp AND three-dimensional, and their color-rendition is awesome. They are great portrait-lenses, too.

Silvery dots
Removed coating
New coating

Downside is, that you have to look hard for a good copy, especially, when it comes to the Flektogon 50mm/f4. A big part of the back side of the huge front lens-combination element is covered with special black lacquer, that with time produces small, silvery dots. They will reflect the incoming light back into the front lens, which is said to deteriorate contrast. So, if you see little champagne-bubble-like glitter, when looking into the lens: don’t buy it – or find a specialist, who can repair it (I’m happy to know one – he took apart the entire lens, removed the deteriorated black coating and applied a new one).

So, long story short: I took the Flektogon 50mm/f4 and mounted it on my Nikon D810 for an entire week, not just for one day!

This time, I packed not much, but still decided, “one lens only for the entire week!”. I chose the Zeiss Flektogon 50mm/f4, the “Zebra”-version for mid-format cameras with a Pentacon Six mount: it’s easily adaptable to Nikon-cameras.

The decision, to leave the Biometar 80mm/f2.8, my brand-new Tamron 15-30mm/f2.8 and the Nikon 24-120mm/f4.0 in the hotel, turned out to be the right choice. Not only would I have spent more time changing lenses rather than taking pictures, but I also would have walked around with a different kind of “attitude” and “eye” for situations and motifs. Discovering the city of Hamburg in that way was so much fun!

One thing, though, I put in my camera-bag: my “squeezerlens” adapter – I described it in a blog-post here. Basically, it is a very wiggly rubber bellow to produce tilt-shift effects. In the blog-post, I review the adapter used with a russian Zeiss-replica, but I also got one with a Pentacon Six mount, as well. So, my Hamburg-photo-week turned into a mixture of “going vintage”, “going fully manual” and “going experimental”.

Talking about “experimental” – I pursued this until developing the RAW material in Lightroom, later on. There just was the urge with some of the photos, to pay tribute to the vintage lens by emulating analog film using VSCO-plugins. Below, you will find a selection of the pictures, I took in Hamburg – with and without a squeezer-lens adapter, with and without VSCO plugins. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed taking them.