I Want to Take You Wider

There's just something so amazing about wide-angle lenses. Over the years I've gravitated back toward standard focal-length lenses, even telephotos, but I still remain a wide-angle enthusiast at heart.

Florence / 1999

Still, the compulsion to try to squeeze in as much information as possible into a frame coupled with the distorgerrated - my attempt at a neologism: distorted + exaggerated = distorgerrated - perspective, have always been a weakness of mine. Sure, highly distorgerrated images can be gimmicky, but like any other technique, can also be highly effective if employed judiciously. The same can be said for telephoto lenses, which with their ability to transport the eye to a distance and totally isolate a subject, can turn out images just as schlocky as silly, gratuitous wide-angle shots.

Budapest / 1997

My first wide-angle lens was a 21mm Soligor, a Japanese lens of modest quality. I clearly recall buying it for about 120,000 Lira from a camera store in Florence, Ottica Bongi, which is still doing business at the same location today. The Soligor lens was a screw-mount which, with a succession of Pentax Spotmatic bodies, I used for many years, shooting some of my absolute favorite images with it (see gallery below). Unfortunately, at some point after several years of reliable service, something inside the lens went out of whack and it lost its focal calibration. I moved on to more modern bayonet-mount cameras and the Soligor wound up at the bottom of my photo-gear bin where it stayed for over a decade. When I bought my Canon 6D earlier this year, and started buying adapters for some of my Pentax prime lenses, I decided to see if I could fix the Soligor. Allow me to strongly advise against every trying this.

Lens surgery: lost the patient. 

Alfa Romeo Spider on Bergen Street / 2013

Needless to say, my attempt was a failure. I did manage to clean and re-grease the threads and eventually get the lens back together - although it took several days - but the lens did not focus properly, and I gave up. Fortunately, I was able to source an adequate replacement for cheap and now I have an even-wider 19mm Vivitar that produces decent results. Here's a sample:

Here is a gallery of some of my favorite images taken with the Soligor 21mm lens. They date from 1996 to 2001 and were taken in Florence, Rome, Paris, Budapest and Eger. Click on the thumbnails to see the images full screen.

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