That 62 year old 50mm

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november 24th, 2013 Permalink


– Dutch traditional tea on traditional napkins from Belarus –

When introduced in 1961 they called it the “reporter’s dream”: a very well produced, light, ultra-sensitive 50mm lens that adds a little character to every picture taken. It was the fastest lens on the planet and didn’t come cheap. It was therefore mostly utilized by professionals.

Through Ebay I found a heavily used version in China. I bought it and had it cleaned and restored in Hong Kong. There they also adapted it to fit one of my modern digital cameras. This is what makes Internet rock: it took only 7 days from finding the lens in China to holding it in The Netherlands, including the cleaning and refitting. The whole process took 4 emails and one forum posting seeking advice on where to have it cleaned. And then there was this thrill of unboxing it …

Sofia (1)

– Dusk settles … oh those colors –

Ever since holding this 62 year old product of crafts, I have been wondering what it has lived through. The scratches and dents all point to a (very) rough life. What did it see? The Vietnam war? The six days of 1967? The 1968 olympics? A launch of one of those Apollos? Some iconic wedding? Which countries did it see? And what forgotten events did it capture? Maybe it was only used to take family candids ….

I’ll probably never know, but what I do know is that even today it still is a very classy and special product. In 1961 it was far ahead of its time and way too much for any camera of that era. But oh so very suitable for today’s tech and thus bringing something of yesterday’s glow to today’s big sensors. I really wonder how much of what we make today will be of this much value to someone in 60 years from now.

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