Touring the Hanford B Reactor has been on my “to-do” list ever since they started the public tours some time ago. This is the place where the US government created the material that was used in the “Fat Man” bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Steeped in history and loaded with mid-20th century technology and architecture, it’s a great place to put these two great lenses to work.
First up is the 50mm f/1.4 planar. This lens is certainly fast at that 1.4 aperture and the sharpness is certainly top notch. However, a few things to think about with this lens is how well the distortion is controlled (OK, not all that difficult in a 50mm lens) and the vignetting. It can be bothersome to some folks, but I actually found it welcomed, adding to the nostalgic feel in the photographs. But it’s also gone by f/2.8 or so. It’s also not very much of a vignette, so likely not to be an issue to most folks and is easily corrected in post production if you do find it bothersome.
Now for the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon lens.
I know that there’s a lot of hype that goes along with shooting a Zeiss lens. However, this is one of those lenses where you come to realize how well deserved the hype really is. I’m a fan of wide angle shots, and when you can get corner to corner sharpness and virtually zero distortion, well, I’m instantly a fan. It means less work in Lightroom or Photoshop and better technical quality overall which basically means the photographer has no excuses. The wide angle view of this lens was perfect for this facility. It’s large and there’s usually enough room to back up and get things in the scene. There were a few times where the 18mm Zeiss lens would have been a great option, but by and large, this one did the job as needed.
Editing Disclaimer: I should note that if you’re looking to judge these images for perfect technical quality I think you’ll be sorely disappointed. These images are not the full resolution as created and (obviously) they’re converts to the B&W genre. I also added some grain to give a touch more nostalgia feel to the images. Usually when you read these posts they will be more about the practical use and reaction to the lenses and less on the specifics of technical stuff. For the absolute best in measuring and understanding technical quality please look up the folks at DXO Mark. They do a fantastic job at equipment testing.
All images © 2014, Brent J. Bergherm