Wideangle medium format

While I was part-xing some of my less well used equipment for a Nikon F4 I also obtained a second lens for my Bronica ETRS. A recent road trip to Leeds gave me an opportunity to shoot a roll of Kodak Tri-X with my new lens at a couple of interesting spots en-route.

The lens I bought is a 50mm f2.8 E lens for the Bronica ETR system. The E bit means it is less sophisticated than the better PE lens, and while it still has nice stuff like multi-coated elements it is limited to full 1-stop aperture values instead of the half-stop clicks on the better lens. The lens, like most medium format SLR lenses has a leaf shutter within the lens, so all in all I got quite a bit for my £99 outlay.

The joy of wideangle on medium format is that due to a crop factor of less than one this 50mm lens has an angle of view roughly equivalent to a 35mm lens on 35mm format film. So it gives the wide angle view I like but is also capable of a shallow(ish) depth of field which makes it great for getting close to things and throwing the background out of focus.


The Angel of the North was my chosen subject and I managed to shoot most of a roll off while trying to capture some interesting angles. It was difficult to stand back far enough to get an overall view of the piece which forced one to think about compositions that only contained part of the sculpture. I chose two different approaches to tackle this, firstly to shoot some overall views with other elements in the frame to give context, and secondly to shoot some more abstract closeups of the kind I normally favor.


The wider view of the 50mm lens over the ‘normal’ 75mm lens for this camera gives a bigger view without too much obvious ‘THIS IS A WIDEANGLE IMAGE” shoutyness that, say, my 12-24mm lens would on my D300 DSLR. It meant I couldn’t fit everything in, but what was there looked more natural. It’s rare that I ever include people in my images, but in this case it was A) unavoidable as they swarmed the place, and B) gave a sense of scale to the sculpture.

It’s not my usual style, but I think it worked out ok  partly thanks to patience on my part to ensure that no-one was in a jarring pose that upset the balance.


The abstract closeups are more my thing, and this lens didn’t disappoint on creating a nice shallow depth of field to give some three-dimensionality to the image. It usually takes a bit of contortion to shoot anything but horizontal views with a medium format camera with a waist-level finder, but in this case as I was mostly just looking up is was fairly easy to do (although it still presented the usual problems with the inverted left-right image when trying to frame the image).


All these images were processed and scanned as usual with some tone curve fettling and light split toning in Lightroom to get them where I like them. I found the lens to produce a noticeable bit of barrel distortion, but the resulting 20 million pixel image provides plenty of overhead for adjusting without any ill effects visible in the final image.


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