Victor Wiebe

My Camera Bag: Manual Lenses

I’ve got three manual, prime lenses in my camera bag of tricks: a 28mm wide angle, a 135mm portrait lens, and a large 400mm mini telescope.

LensFocal LengthMax Speed35mm Equivalent
28mm1ft – infinityf/2.842mm
135mm5ft – infinityf/2.8200mm
400mm20ft – infinityf/5.6600mm

I went out on a dreary, mostly grey, overcast day to play with these. Honestly, I don’t use them that much; I do like the 28mm lens and think it offers a really sharp image, but when packing a shoulder bag for an outing, I always seem to find myself leaving them behind. I really oughta force myself to change this habit.

Regardless, I had found myself down in Delaware City, Delaware, on this chilly, grey day and was standing on the shore of the city looking at Fort Delaware in the river.

Fort Delaware using 28mm

Fort Delaware using 135mm

Fort Delaware using 400mm

Being manual lenses, these lenses lack auto-focus and auto-aperture control; these need to be set manually first. Frankly, with manual lenses, it’s a good idea to set everything manually, and it wasn’t until after I got home that I remembered that I had neglected to set the ISO setting properly, so the grey day turned out to be a little greyer. Alas. Unfortunately this became really pronounced with the pictures I took with the 400mm lens. I’m the first to admit they did not turn out well, and that was all due to user error

Manual lenses – particularly ones of such an age as these (they’re old; really old) – do not provide as sharp an image as newer lenses, but they do provide images that look as if they were taken on film.




(this picture turned out awful; please don’t judge me)

I’ve gotten lazy using variable-distance automatic lenses. Manual, prime lenses are really good for forcing the photographer to really think about the subject and the lighting at hand. This 400mm is pretty huge and requires the use of a tripod (the lens itself has a tripod attachment), but the other two are rather portable. I’m thinking the next time I go out on a phototrip they should be the only two lenses I take.

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