A while ago I did a shoot together with my friend Wilhelm and model Nelle. As usual for a personal shoot, we had a couple of goals in mind:
- I wanted to test out the Fujifilm GFX with some vintage Minolta Rokkor lenses
- Wilhelm wanted to try out my X-T2
- Nelle needed some new portfolio pictures
- Last but not least, we all wanted to have enjoy a day of shooting without any pressure
Here's the behind-the-scenes video. A big thanks to Wilhem for shooting this footage.
Let's take a closer look at some of the images and talk about how and why I shot them.
I start each and every shoot with some safe pictures. They may not be mind blowing but they are an essential step in building a relation with the model. Generally I look for nice, soft, ambient light. This is flattering on the model and it's easy for the photographer. This results in a pleasing shot which gives the model confidence in the photographer and lets the shooter warm up for the more creative shots later on.
HARD LIGHT PORTRAITS
Time to move on to some more difficult shots with reasonably hard light.
Time to get the vintage Minolta lenses out then. As soon as the GFX came on the market, some manufacturers started offering adapters to use other brands of lenses on the GFX. Mirrorless cameras have been popular to use with adapted lenses because manual focusing is pretty doable and there are so many lenses out there that someone might want to use.
In the past I've played a bit with adapted lenses but never seriously considered them because the Fujinon lenses for my X-cameras give me image quality, auto focus and character at an affordable price. With the GFX this is a bit different. The range of available lenses is still limited as you would expect from a new system. On top of that most are out of my range. The GF lenses are technical masterpieces but I sometimes miss a bit of character. It's hard to describe but for some applications, I find the native lenses too good. When I saw some pictures by my KAGE buddy Jonas Rask with the GFX and an old Minolta lens, I was intrigued by the look of them. By the way, Jonas wrote an extensive post about the Minolta lenses he uses with lots of sample pictures.
I got a 58mm 1.4 (payed around 80 EUR) and a Kipon Minolta to GFX adapter (around 100 EUR) from eBay. The adapter is a simpel piece of metal that just connects the Minolta mount lenses to the GFX. There are adapters available for pretty much any lens mount. For modern lenses without an aperture ring, there are adapters with a build in variable aperture and there are even some auto focus adapters around. I only have experience with the manual Kipon adapter so I'll stick to that for this post. The adapter is solid and fits perfect, and that's all it's supposed to do. Wilhelm happened to have an old Minolta 200mm lying around so he brought it and I was eager to see how it performed.
IMAGE QUALITY & IN USE
The two Minolta lenses don't even come close to the Fujinon GF-lenses and you shouldn't expect that either. These lenses were designed decades ago for 35mm film. They aren't super sharp (although I figure the 200mm is sharper than the 58mm) and even if you stop them down, they don't get near the GF-lenses sharpness. Both lenses vignette, but I can make it pretty much completely disappear in Lightroom. I hear very mixed things about adapted lenses. Some work great, others just look terrible. If you want better image quality with adapted lenses, it makes sense to look at medium format lenses, but then expect to pay good money for the better ones.
Medium format cameras have a narrower depth of field than full frame or aps-c cameras. If you combine that with a fast prime wide open, you know that focus will be critical. Manual focusing requires some practice but it's definitely not impossible, providing you and your subject can stay still for a couple of seconds. I tried focus peaking to help me focus better but I found that with the 58mm, wide open at f/1.4 it wasn't precise enough. Instead I zoom in to focus. This works reasonably well although it's best to take some more pictures because every now and then you'll miss focus.
GETTING OUT THE FLASH
To end our shooting day, I got out a speed light to make a more stylized portrait of Nelle. She worked very hard and never complained during the shoot and because she needed new portfolio pictures, Wilhelm and I did our best to give her some variation. For this last shot, we underexposed the ambient light and added a speed light at full power on Nelle.
The vintage Minolta 35mm format lenses are not a replacement for the excellent Fujinon GF-lenses, I doubt many other lenses are either. You could say that these old lenses can't get the most out of that expensive medium format sensor, and you are right. But photography is not always about measurable numbers. I've been using these two Minoltas for a while now and sometimes they come in handy when I want that lo-fi analog look. This two lenses + the adapter cost only one fifth of my GF63mm (and that's by far the cheapest GF lens) but they provide me with a lot of fun and some new creative options. I will continue to shoot mainly with the 63mm but the Rokkors will see some regular action too.
Here are some more shots: