Not so long ago, I talked about how vintage lenses can still be equipped on most modern digital cameras and how the combo produces some really interesting results. I also shared a bunch of beautiful photos to demonstrate the unique “flavor” that it can add, especially for portrait photography.
In case you want to see more for reference and inspiration, allow me to share a dreamy portrait set by Germany-based portrait and fashion photographer Holger Nitschke. Hopefully, it will inspire you to try something different with your digital camera!
Get that experimental film look
In case you missed it, let me first recap my previous article about using vintage lenses with digital cameras. Since many of these lenses were made for obsolete mounts, there are special lens adapters available that allow attaching to different camera mounts today. A downside is you’ll have to manually set and focus the lens, but this should be no problem once you get used to it.
Vintage lenses are great for creating images with the unique retro look tied to film photography, precisely because they were the very tools behind the nostalgic aesthetic. They all have their own quirks and qualities that endear them to photographers today, even at a time where sharpness and clarity are paramount.
The Helios-44 lens that Holger used with his Fujifilm X-H1 is a great example. It’s actually part of the Helios-44 series of USSR-lenses made in M39, M42, Pentax-K and Zenit-D mounts. The Helios brand was manufactured to pair with the M42 mount 35mm Zenit SLR cameras. The Helios-44 and Helios 40, which were based on the Carl Zeiss Biotar lenses, are especially known for producing “swirly” bokeh. Because of this, they joined the roster of vintage lenses with a cult following among fine art photographers.
Nostalgic textures that work great for portraits
I find Holger’s “Moments in Bloom” to be an encouraging testament as to why vintage lenses working great for digital portraits. It shows the unique textures that Helios-44 lenses add to photos, and how it creates a retro effect that fits portrait styles like this. It also complemented his choice to experiment further with some prism effects. So, if you’re thinking about getting extra creative with your portraits, hopefully this collection gave you some ideas!
While we this set doesn’t show the swirly bokeh that the Helios-44 series has come to be known for, it’s still dripping with a nostalgia, especially in the black and white photos. I actually like how the overall style placed emphasis on the mood instead of technical flawlessness — something I totally appreciate in film photography today.
All photos by Holger Nitschke. Used with Creative Commons permission.