Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Peacock Chair

Lens design seems to advance in fits and starts. The Russians had a slow 20mm lens available, but at the height of the cold war Russian lenses weren't exactly a normally stocked item at your local camera shop in the U.S. Everybody else had 21mm lenses until Canon released their new 19mm f/3.5 in two mounts. One was rangefinder coupled and fit thread mount Leicas and Canons. The other fit the Canonflex, but required the mirror to be locked up. It came with a seperate finder and both fit neatly in a fitted black leather case. Perhaps only about a year later Canon released a retrofocus 19mm that you could view through the reflex finder. This orphaned a bunch of the older model lenses as people rushed to buy the latest greatest!

I walked into Walter Gray Photorama in Hollywood, FL one day and Murray Spitzer called me aside, took a black leather case out from under the counter, and showed me a like new 19mm Canon with finder. He offered to throw in a Canon Lens Mount Converter B and a Leica thread to M adapter so I could use it on my M4. I could have the whole shabang for only $100 plus tax! Thinking back, I probably should have countered with $75, and I might have gotten it for $85 or $90. On the other hand I knew that a Super Angulon plus finder would have been at least $350. I grabbed it!

For the next few years I used that lens at every opportunity. I LOVED that lens. I used it for personal work and newspaper assignments and everything inbetween. About a dozen years ago the lens was stolen. After 38 years I don't remember exactly why I was making this photograph but I remember seeing the wicker peacock chair and the arrangement of potted plants on the floor and hanging from the ceiling and thinking "perfect!". I shot off maybe a dozen frames like this with the 19 before switching lenses, angles, and background. She loved this one. I've always thought it was the best one of the session. This scan is off a vintage print done on DuPont Varilour BTW. I seem to recall that her name was Gail Kamens.


Blogger taffer said...

Agree, I really like that shot. She seems to have such a static elegance, and all the objects, the light source and the ceiling fall in place just naturally.
Interesting story about the 19 also, I've been thinking on something wider than my widest RF lens (35) for a while, but couldn't decide myself on 15, ~20 or 25.
Probably the most attractive bargain will decide for me...

6:50 AM  

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