Irreversible photography – making images in camera that then cannot be (or are not) altered in any way afterwards – is hugely appealing to me.
With my Pentax Q and the 01 Standard Prime 47mm equivalent f/1.9 lens it came with, this is pretty easy. I’ve set the camera up (using the Quick Dial on the front) essentially for two colour modes – one for contrasty b/w, the other, muted winter colour.
Then, all I decide shot by shot is the composition, focus and aperture.
But since the 01 lens is really sharp at f/1.9, and the Q’s small sensor gives plenty of depth of field when focused on more distant objects, and up close I can force a pleasingly shallow depth of field, the aperture is not something I need to switch often. Leaving composition and focus as the two variables.
I also have the option to lock exposure, apply exposure compensation, or change the ISO, each with a simple button press or two. But rarely need to.
Overall it makes a compact and very capable set up.
Nine shots out of 10 I just compose, focus and shoot. Plus I can use the JPEGs straight out of camera, requiring zero processing.
It’s as close as I’ve come yet to irreversible photography with a digital camera.
Looking into the Pentax Q system more (there are four cameras and eight lenses) I discovered the intriguing “07 Mount Shield Lens”.
It’s best described as a body cap (I guess the Japanese called this a mount shield) with a tiny fixed lens in it.
Focal length is fixed (like the 01 Standard Prime), this time at 11.5mm (63.5mm equivalent on the Q).
The aperture is fixed at f/9. So no need to adjust aperture.
And the focus is fixed (at a guess, around 0.5m), so no need to focus. With the relatively small f/9 aperture, Pentax claims this allows objects between 0.3m and 2m to be in focus. More of the reality of this later.
This means with the 07 lens on the Q I’ve taken a further couple of leaps into irreversible territory.
Essentially I choose either my preset b/w or muted colour mode, leave ISO fixed at ISO800, then compose, and shoot.
What makes the 07 lens even more appealing is the size and weight.
It protrudes no further from the camera than the front Quick Dial, so adds no extra depth to the camera body. And it weighs 8g.
Mounted on the Q the combined weight is a shade over 200g, even lighter than the Ricoh GRD III, and smaller in every dimension.
Also, because it has no lens cap, it’s even quicker to shoot with, as well as more compact to keep held in your hand.
Now all of these pluses would be redundant if the lens was rubbish in the final image.
Obviously it’s not pitted against the, in comparison, incredibly sophisticated 01 Prime lens, and placed amongst the “toy” lenses in the Q range (along with the fish eye, toy lens wide and toy lens tele). So I wasn’t expecting miracles.
For me, aside from the joy in the simplicity of setting up and using the lens on the Q, what the final images may lack in conventional terms of measure like sharpness or IQ (I don’t even know what this means – whether a lens is smart enough to qualify for Mensa?), it makes up for in abundance with charm and character.
I love the output from the 07 lens, and the challenge of finding its best uses.
Initial playing suggests that if you’re up close and everything in the frame is within 0.3 – 2m, it’ll all look pretty sharp centrally, with increasing blur around the edges.
Start shooting beyond 2m, or something closer with the background far beyond 2m, and you start to get a kind of dreamy alternative world appearing, combined with the feeling that you’re being sucked into the centre of it.
The 07 lens isn’t for everyone, in fact I would expect the majority seeing the results here will dismiss it as lo-fi, next to useless toy.
But for me, the ridiculously small size, immediacy in use, absence of any unnecessary frills, and abundance of character of the images, make it a lens I know I’ll be using extensively in the coming weeks and months.
How do you feel about irreversible photography, or indeed the Pentax Q, if you have one?
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