9.19.2014

Sparkly! Through the lens of the Konica AR 85mm f/1.8

Ever ordered an appetizer sampler primarily for one thing only to discover that you liked something else on that same plate even more?

This sort of feeling would likely be the best way to describe my story with the Konica 85mm f/1.8 lens which I acquired back in early June.





Having just been impressed with the sharpness of a Konica 50mm f/1.7 that I got for just $17, I got into a serious Konica acquisition kick, and picked up the lens in a batch lot on ebay that consisted of two old Konica camera bodies as well as 5 Konica AR lenses: a 24mm Promaster f/2.8, a Konica 35mm f/2, a Konica 50mm f/1.8, a Konica 57mm f/1.4, and the aforementioned 85mm lens that hails from about 1970.  My main points of interest were the two widest lenses, and to some degree the fast 57mm lens.  I figured upon the 85mm being a novel bonus that I would rarely use, as it was a bit too long for scene shots, and a bit too short for another interest of mine: bird photography.

After the lenses arrived, I took a little time to get familiar with each, mounted on my Olympus PEN.  Aside from the surplus 50mm, the 85mm was the last lens I took out to test, one warm morning at the Middle Patuxent Environmental area.  I still didn't expect much from this lens.  That all changed very quickly when I took this one shot at f/8:




This is one of those rare shots that I wandered into, and like EVERYTHING about.  There is not one change I could really envision to composition, exposure, sharpness, or color rendition that I could see to improve it.  In short order, the Konica 85mm f/1.8 quickly made a believer out of me!

I rarely view my photos at 100% magnification, but given all the little elements within this photo, I simply couldn't resist.  The fly appears in sharp focus and almost has a metallic sheen evident while the out of focus areas have some good hexagonal bokeh.   


Dew droplets appear as sharp little globes, each with glowing gold and silver highlights from the sun.



Out of focus droplets and highlights all appear with some lovely sparkles of bokeh of varying sizes.



While I've never quite recreated the magic of this shot, I certainly became a fan of the Konica 85mm from this day forward. It has certainly seen more use than the 35mm f/2.0 that was my primary lens of interest in the group.  While it is well suited for portraiture that I rarely am lucky enough to do, and it is "not quite" a lens of many other contexts, I find that it performs quite admirably in all respects.  


Following are some samples spotlighting some of the many shots I have taken with this lens since picking it up for the first time back in June.  Enjoy!



On sunny "picture perfect" days, The Konica 85mm responds with outstanding color and contrast that rivals anything made today.  



Even in more diverse lighting conditions, the Konica can bring out the perfect balance of clarity and contrast.


While "not quite" a birding lens, the Konica can be readily used in a pinch when I don't have my 200mm or 60-300mm, especially for larger birds.  Here, the lens does a splendid job with this Great Blue Heron in golden hour light.  



Pleasing circular bokeh is what makes the Konica 85mm a stellar choice for portraiture, muting backgrounds just perfectly to the desired point wide open.  


While "not quite" a macro lens, the 85mm reach can pull out some great shots in a pinch.  After all, the first shot taken above was taken at closest focus distance and pulled out great detail! 


The f/1.8 aperture makes this a good option for well lit night scenes filled with detail and color.  


Even scenes with an appreciable amount of darkness can be comfortably hand held with the Konica 85mm.



And while not quite a "street photography" lens, this fast prime is the only one I would have even considered for this action shot taken after dark.  I have to love the out of focus light orbs in the background!