Almost too good
The impact of an image is an absolute priority for Bernd Vogel, an experienced people and stock photographer.
Lens and camera are the means to an end. And when asked if he wanted to test a prototype of the new ZEISS Otus 1.4/85, Vogel saw it as an opportunity to use this optical precision tool to full effect.
Around half of Vogel’s time is spent on stock photography, a business that demands high quality. As a result he has a lot of experience in shooting freely. “When I took the Otus 1.4/85 out of the box, I thought: “Wow, this is hard to beat. Very nice haptics, very nice design. Of course, I was interested whether – in practice – the optical performance would live up to what the looks of the lens promised. ZEISS wanted me to test the Otus 1.4/85 as realistically as possible, and to just do what I always do: photograph people. And so that’s what I did.”
His assistant subsequently put him in touch with two cellists, who showed up in Vogel’s studio in Cologne on a sunny day. “When you do this type of shoot, the first step is to create a good atmosphere and take away the models’ shyness. There is something intimate about photography and people are afraid of that. I like to build up contact with my models, praise them, and make them laugh.”
The atmosphere during the shoot was good. And the images? “They were even better than the mood in the studio. The Otus 1.4/85 delivers a wonderfully homogenous performance, from the center to the edges of the image. It reminds me of the medium format.”
The only drawback for Vogel – at least initially – was the lack of autofocus. As a stock photographer, he produces up to 80 images a day, so the automatic function is important to him. Yet when he shot portraits of his parents with the Otus 1.4/85 under the title “Facial landscapes”, he discovered slowness. “In portrait photography, manual focusing can even be an advantage. You look more intensively at your subject and reflect more. This lens is definitely not for hectic people.”
For Vogel’s third Otus shooting, he worked with a young couple that he knows. The shoot took place on a rainy day under the Cologne Zoo Bridge. The pictures borrow from street photography and demonstrate the technical sophistication of the Otus 1.4/85. “Already at an f-stop of f/2 vignetting at the edges is very low. However, in this picture of the couple, I intentionally inserted vignetting as a compositional element. It directs the attention strongly to the center of the image. This picture also shows the beautiful bokeh created by the Otus 1.4/85.”
Sometimes the Otus 1.4/85 is almost too good for Vogel’s taste. The current trend in advertising is to give professional images a more authentic touch by intentionally provoking image errors, such as lens flare or stray light from the side. “You could hold the new ZEISS lens directly into the sun and you would barely see any reflections. Therefore, with such high-quality optics, I have to use some tricks.”
Vogel’s conclusion: “A super lens. Once you get into it, you will be rewarded with images that can match the medium format and evoke an impressive impact.”
About Bernd Vogel
Bernd Vogel has carried his camera around since he was 12 years old. He studied photography in Essen, with Jürgen Klaucke among others, and started working as a freelance photographer during his studies. Today, he has his own studio in Cologne. His clients include well-known industrial firms and banks, as well as ZEISS.