Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘lenses’:

Old Friends, New Perspectives (or: From Exoskeletons to ExoLenses)

Over the past weekend, I had a long catching-up phone conversation with my friend of several decades, former assistant, and great photographer Jock Pottle, who now lives in North Carolina. A few years ago, I wrote in this space about Jock and his Digging Man series of illustrations…

Jock Pottle: Free Me

I still think the conception and execution of Digging Man are truly unique and the finished works are absolutely phenomenal. I also wish I had a connection to the art director of The New Yorker because that is one publication (among many) where the fit would be perfect. Hope you visit his site and agree.

Anyway, after our phone chat, Jock emailed this photo. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how it was done, although that may just speak to my lack of imagination at the time. Can you figure it out? (If you prefer to believe it’s simply one of the great photobombs of all time, I won’t try to stop you.)

Jock Pottle: grasshopper

On to another matter… Earlier this year, during our annual trip to the NAB show in Las Vegas, I spent time at the Zeiss optics booth. As always, their lenses for virtually every format in motion picture, television, and still photography continue to be at the pinnacle of optical design and manufacture (just look at this “sliced Zeiss” they had on display). Over the past 50 years, I’ve used Zeiss lenses on almost every camera I’ve owned and many of those I still work with.

But here’s the reason for this bit of unrestrained fan mail: I discovered that Zeiss has designed a series of three accessory lenses for the iPhone. Not one of those cheap 3-in-1 clip-on lens sets you’re probably aware of; think of these as prime optics (they certainly don’t come cheap.) The brand name on the lenses is Exo and you’d do well to check them out at exolens.com. I carry the iPhone 7, and the inherent macro capabilities of the phone’s camera are really impressive. However, mounting the Exo Macro-Zoom lens (with its integral diffuser) takes iPhone macro shooting to a whole new level.

There is a range of options for mounting the lenses to iPhone models going back a few generations. I use the case with a threaded screw mount into which each of these lenses mounts. The wide-angle and portrait (2x) lenses are just as impressive… here are some before-and-after demos of each:

This is as good a time as any to invoke the old adage that any professional photographer has used to answer a question asked hundreds of times — “What’s the best camera?”

And the answer, true now as it has always been — “the one you have with you.” And since I always have my iPhone at hand, it’s what I rely on every single day.

The “Other” Competitors at the U.S. Open

Early 80s Nikon ad (scanned by Esox lucius @ MFLenses.com)

When Canon first decided to get really competitive in high-end SLR cameras and lenses, a field totally dominated by Nikon and long before the digital era, some marketing genius realized that those white barrels on long lenses would stand out both on television and to the crowds at sporting events. And that helps sell gear.

I know that there are those who maintain it’s all about the fact that white reflects, rather than absorbs, heat and that this better protects some of Canon’s lens elements.

I prefer to see it as a way to literally improve Canon’s visibility in the pro photographic marketplace. And it worked. The lenses were (and are) great, and after a while it seemed that there was a sea of white telephotos and the occasional Nikon interloper at the Super Bowl, the World Series, etc. It’s no secret or accident that Nikon did a great job of matching or beating the competition (I’m a Nikon shooter for a full 50 years), and I still find myself taking a quick survey whenever TV coverage provides a view of the still photo corral at a major event.

Canon L lenses at the 2013 US Open

That was the case during the semis of the U.S. Open this week in New York. Late in the match, there was about a ten-second cutaway when the announcers were calling attention to the fact that all photographic eyes were on Djkovic just before the victory that would put him in the finals. With always-helpful TiVo, I froze the scene and did a quick and totally unscientific lens count — at that moment, at least, the results were 7-5 in Canon’s favor. Of course, had CBS’s camera panned a bit left or right, the numbers might easily have been reversed.

The only point here is that competition is healthy on and off the court.