My answer right now is a resounding maybe based on the fact that I have only been using my current two manual-focus vintage lenses for a couple of weeks since obtaining a second Gobe M42 Lens Mount to Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) Camera Mount adapter to enable carrying both around my neighbourhood ready-adapted for action.
There isn’t much information available online about getting the best out of the Panagor 28mm and Pentacon 50mm lenses that Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT Pro kindly gave us when he last dropped by our home studio, or about when they were made and by whom, so I recently bit the bullet and began making photographs in my local life in the pandemic documentary photography project.
The three photographs below were made with both lenses mounted on my ageing but still useful Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8, which I have yet to be tempted to consider replacing with its supposed successor the Lumix DC-GX9.
While the GX8 was marketed as a professional-quality flagship stills camera for photojournalists such as Daniel Berehulak, the GX9 is marketed as a street photographer’s camera and has a much-reduced feature set.
The Bayer-sensor raw files from both cameras are able to be processed with DxO PhotoLab and its plug-ins DxO FilmPack and DxO ViewPoint, in my humble opinion currently the best software combination for documentary photography and photojournalism.
I enjoy using the GX8 and other Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras for their native 4:3 aspect ratio sensors, a more classic, more painterly image rectangle compared to the more constrained 3:2 of 35mm and APS-C sensors.
My interest in vintage manual-focus lenses was initially piqued by a friend’s small collection of assorted vintage movie and stills lenses and I wondered if they might be worth considering for softer effects in portraiture and video compared to the often too sharp, too well-resolved modern digital lenses in my collection.
Reviving vintage manual lenses is a growing trend amongst moviemakers with a few lens specialists offering to remount and even radically rebuild vintage glass overseas.
Less sharp, less well-resolved contemporary lenses such as my late and somewhat unlamented Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM kit zoom lens continue to be popular amongst some moviemakers so I thought there must be something in less than stellar optics for use in depicting human flesh and human skin in moving images.
Might such lenses also work well enough for documentary photography?
Having shot a small subset of images for my local life under the pandemic documentary project, I am now swapping back to more modern lenses on my GX8 for a while.
I have yet to add step-up rings and variable neutral density filters to both vintage lenses in order to shoot some video footage with them, so will be making my judgements through stills only.
It has been interesting, though, making photographs like these with lenses that, when adapted for Micro Four Thirds, are the equivalent of 56mm and 100mm in 35mm sensor format, somewhat longer than my usual documentary stills and video go-to focal lengths of 21mm, 28mm, 35mm and 40mm.
- DPReview – Great Eight: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 review
- DxO – DxO PhotoLab 4
- Gobe – Lens mount adapters
- Leeming LUT Pro – “Leeming LUT Pro™ is the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table ( LUT ) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec709 starting point for further creative colour grading.”
- MirrorLessons – The GH4 Revamped for Stills – The Panasonic GX8 Review
- Mountlens – Panagor PMC F2.8 28mm – “The image quality is excellent, from the most open position the central sharpness is good, with the edges with less sharpness, from F/5.6 onwards the sharpness is very good. The color and contrast is nice but without being highlighted.”
- phillipreeve.net – features manual-focus lenses on Sony E-mount cameras but may be useful for information about vintage and contemporary lenses for digital photography.
- phillipreeve.net – Review: Pentacon Auto 50mm f/1.8 Multi Coating – “the direct descendant of the Meyer-Optik Görlitz Oreston 50 mm f/1.8.”
- The Corkboard Blog – Wired Magazine Loves the Lumix GX8
- Topaz Labs – Sharpen AI – excellent for adding sharpness and stabilization to images that need them.
- Unititled.Net – Ham Radio Portable Operations in Action at Cherrybrook in Sydney on August 13, 2020 – shot with the GX8 and Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens.
- Unititled.Net –Rule Out Adani GHD Rally in Sydney on October 22, 2019 – shot on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and X-H1 with Fujinon XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR and the two vintage manual-focus lenses featured in this article.
- Wikipedia – M42 lens mount
- Wired – Review: Panasonic Lumix GX8