Thursday, March 7, 2013

Whole Lotta Leica - February Results - Ai Weiwei's Exhibit at the Hirshhorn With the W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 Lens

I visited the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC in February, where I saw a wonderful exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Weiwei is a multi-talented artist, working in an extremely wide range of media including photography and video, woodwork, pottery, architecture, social media, and sculpture. He has been the target of suppression by the Chinese government. He exposes social commentary in his art, for example in a series of pieces centered around the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, where he decries the death of so many school children due to cheap construction of public school buildings.
 
(Click Here) to read about Ai Weiwei's exhibit at the Hirshhorn. It's certainly worth a visit.
 
I took the opportunity to shoot some images with my February Whole Lotta Leica lens - the W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 LTM.
 
Ai Weiwei's Zodiac, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 Lens
iso 640, f4.8, 1/60 sec.
 
I like the radiating lines of the zodiac in the picture above. I waited until the lady walking around the exhibit came fully into a beam of light to release the shutter. The light on her face provides a small but powerful focal point.
 
Captivating Video, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 Lens
iso 640, f2.5, 1/30 sec.
 
Dragon's Gaze, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 Lens
iso 400, f4.8, 1/125 sec.
 
I find the W-Nikkor to be very sharp in the center, with a pretty nice range of contrast, if a little on the low contrast side. I think it's a little soft further from center, which can impart a particular look that's not good for every subject, but can be special in the right cases. Not exactly soft, but the peak sharpness is clearly in the center.
 
I elected to keep some of the images in color. Let's take a look at those. First off, this room of the exhibit is wallpapered with shots of the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, in which Ai collaborated on the architectural design. He makes wooden pieces, such as these geometric shapes (which, by the way, are constructed without a single nail, using traditional Chinese woodworking techniques), frequently using wood from ancient temples that have been disassembled or destroyed in the name of progress.
 
Ai Weiwei Exhibit, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 Lens
iso 640, f4.8, 1/15 sec.
 
Ai Weiwei Exhibit, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 Lens
iso 640, f4.8, 1/15 sec.
 
Ai Weiwei's "Snake Ceiling," by Reed A. George
Leica M9, W-Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 Lens
iso 640, f5.6, 1/15 sec.
 
The snake in the picture above is constructed of children's backpacks. It is a statement about the Sichuan earthquake. Apparently, backpacks were an ever-present reminder of the many children lost in the disaster.
 
I enjoy shooting with the little Nikkor. I am very pleased with the way it renders subtle colors. It's a tiny lens, and is faster than my similarly-designed Leica 3.5cm f3.5 Summaron. However, I must admit that I prefer the Summaron's overall image quality.
 
I'm happy to have the Nikkor, but certainly would not want it to be my only or main 35mm lens for the M9. I have always wondered about the Nikon rangefinders, and wonder if the LTM lens performs similarly to the Nikon rangefinder mount lenses. I imagine that the performance is very similar.
 
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