Solitary leaf or: I got it!

Today I finally held in my hand what I was looking for since re-starting photography: A probably 15 years old second hand Minolta 1.4/85mm lens. Aah – that were the times when all lenses were built completely from metal. That definitely gives a solid feeling! And then that front lens, what an amount of glass! But I didn’t bother for long with admiring the outer qualities, instead I used my lunch break for a walk in the nearest park. That shallow DoF and blurry background is amazing (the shot above was taken stopped down half a f-stop) but what was demanding at least for the first frames is the discrepancy between the viewfinder image and what gets recorded on the sensor: In the viewfinder you simply do not see that shallow DoF and background blur or bokeh. The reason is the “optimisation” of the former ground glass into an array of micro-structures that are much brighter than any groundglass could be, but similarly to a loupe offers a virtual image to the eye. And this image does not obey to even only widely similar optical laws of the rendering on a groundglass. Well, without that artifice the viewfinder would be unbearably dark with the zoom lenses that are the standard now.

I am a happy camper for now, as this lens allows me to bask in low DoF images and, as I hope, those wonderful airy discs of out-of-focus light sources. Additionally I will try those fine portraits where only the pupils are rendered sharply but already nose and ears get enwrapped in soft and flattering unsharpness.


  1. Markus, a wonderful first example photo highlighting the wonderful sharpness, shallow DOF, and soft Bokeh of this lens. I certainly look forward to seeing many more fine images you’ll no doubt make with this lens. Enjoy!

  2. Looks like a perfect shot. Impressive lens, enjoyed the read, and I love the delicious colors in the background.

  3. Very nice, Markus. I’m sure that your portraits will render wonderfully. When I first read about you getting an old Minolta lens, I thought for sure that you were heading back to film! ­čÖé Hooray, another convert!

    Regarding those portraits, they will certainly be nice, indeed. Be careful of those eyes, though. It’s easy to get one in focus and the other not with such shallow depth of field!

  4. @Paul: I do remember well my film days, especially the darkroom in my parents’ house – I’ve learned a lot there. But for the moment I’m hooked on digital. One thing is that with young kids there is not too much time left, so I have to keep it straightforward, and the other thing is that I can now do the things in color that were only possible in b&w in former days – I never made it into a color lab of my own. At the moment digital really offers all the nice things to me, including low costs/frame and immediate feedback which helped me to improve my photography in leaps.

  5. Late as always, but nevertheless my congratulations to your new toy! 1.4 certainly is impressive. Judging for this and the follow-up posts, it looks as if you’re already getting the hang of it… ­čÖé

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