April 17, 2015

Slow photography in Italy

Let me give you a heads-up, you might as well skip this article if you're not interested in either prime lenses or the Pentax brand. At this very moment I am in Italy enjoying a holiday. My girlfriend is shopping for a wedding dress, giving me some more time than usual to focus on photography. While reading you can play the following Italian song - just needed an excuse to try this new Spotify feature.


For this trip I've selected three manual focus prime lenses to bring along (20mm, 50mm, 100mm). This forces me to practice slow photography. I am not sure that's a real term, but I am sure you get what I mean: the opposite of using a 18-300mm zoom range and shoot with 9 frames a second to pick the best result. First a photo taken with the 50mm.

Portrait of an Italian Barber - SMC Pentax-A 50mm F1.4
I badly needed a haircut and visited il barbiere (barber) in a small town nearby. The guy was 70 years old and took over the shop from his father who was il barbiere before him. Some details in the shop were as old he is. After cutting my hair (10 Euro) and shaving my beard (5 Euro) I asked if it was ok to take his portrait. Without any hesitation he started to pose for me!



Pentax K-01 with SMC Pentax-A 50mm F1.4, 20mm F2.8 and 100mm F2.8.
Now let's walk trough the gear in my bag.
  • The camera is a Pentax K-01, disliked by many and loved by few. I really like this camera with APS-C sensor. It pairs particularly well with manual focus lenses due to the option for focus peeking (highlighting focus on the screen). And hey, these old lenses look great on it!
  • SMC Pentax-A 20mm F2.8 (top) for wide angle shots. Great lens for street photography and landscapes. Although I prefer a sharper lens for the latter. Long distance subjects seem to get blurry sometimes.
  • SMC Pentax-A 50mm F1.4 (on camera) manual focus prime. A fast 50 like any other. It's pretty sharp when stopped down a bit. Photo of the barber was taken at F3.5 to make sure nose and ears are in focus as well.
  • SMC Pentax-A 100mm F2.8 (right) manual focus prime. I think this is the sharpest lens I own. Furthermore it's not much bigger than the 50mm. A good companion when travelling.
My experience with carrying around this set of lenses is very positive. Most of the time I kept the 50mm on the camera. When needed to get closer or wanted a wider perspective, then I'd simply put on the 100mm or 28mm. Or just had to walk backwards/forwards... Great thing of these old Pentax-A lenses is that the aperture is controlled by the camera and stored in EXIF. Couldn't work without as I always shoot with aperture priority (you choose aperture, camera selects shutter speeds). These lenses are also quite compact and easily fit in the pocket of my jacket.

Optics are great, but nailing focus isn't the easiest task when your subject is moving. As a result most of my pictures are quite static. I guess that's a result from slow photography. But the reward is bigger when you do get the shot right. When back home I'll share some more shots from this trip.

Civitella del Tronto shot - SMC Pentax-A 20mm F2.8
Don't hesitate to leave a comment when you have any questions!




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