One Day in Melbourne with Zeiss 35mm ZM

I headed out into Melbourne’s northern suburbs in the middle of a gloomy day to capture some of our lesser known and forgotten “industrial” areas. I took the train out to Coburg and then in Clifton Hill, two older areas of Melbourne. Both areas seem to have some hidden away and oddly ignored areas down laneways and off the main streets which nobody seems to know about.

I decided to take out my Zeiss ZM 35mm f2.8 attached to my Leica M9 with the hope of practicing with the focal length, which I’ve been struggling with by way of just spending more time with it attached to my camera. Additionally, lately I’ve been shooting a lot with my Contax digital point-and-shoot, so I figured I should get some milage out of my Leica. Otherwise, it’s an expensive paperweight if it’s not being used.

At the same time as spending a few hours with my 35mm lens, I wanted to capture how quiet the middle of the day in Coburg and Clifton Hill can be, as most people work in the city it was silent of the time, almost deafeningly. You’ll also notice that there are no people (well, very few), mainly because there wasn’t anyone around. I only passed three or four people off Sydney Road and Hoddle Street, which was weird but also kind of nice to document these hidden and forgotten pieces of Australiana such as the boarded up school, old factories and laneways completely alone – odd for a big city like Melbourne.

I decided to shoot this short trip at f8 or above, except for the one in the alley with the shopping cart. I’ve spent a lot of time shooting as fast as possible in the past: f2 or f2.8 almost permanently on lock, but I’m finding that recently I’m shooting slightly slower at f5.6 as a minimum and it’s a look I’m really starting to appreciate and prefer.

In terms of focal lengths, I think the 35mm was perfect for this trip out and for what I aimed to capture. To me, it caught the gloom and overcast weather of the day quite well. Maybe 28mm could have been similarly as useful, but I think the 35mm was a good length, 50mm would have been way to tight. The Zeiss ZM is actually tiny when attached to the M9 so you barely notice it on the front, but the weight issue isn’t really important as the old M9 is insanely heavy for a camera of it’s size.

The files are easy enough to deal with in Lightroom, I have lowered the blacks a touch and increased the exposure slightly after applying a basic preset on the files in this post. However, working on files made with the Zeiss is quite different from the other lenses I have, it’s as if this lens has rendered everything a touch darker, maybe a quarter to half a stop, or maybe it’s something I’m doing wrong when I’m using it. The colours are also a little different to the output of a Leica lens, a little greener perhaps.

Overall, the little Zeiss 35mm is contrasty and sharp, but the colours have distinct characteristic differences from that of a Leica lens. Some people prefer the colours from the Zeiss lenses over the Leica, I have both and don’t have a preference either way, they’re both useful. Unfortunately, I don’t really like the way my 35mm ZM separates subjects from the background at faster f-stops – it looks a little off, as if there’s a separation issue with my copy. The out of focus areas feel a little unreal, not lifelike and a bit off. At f8 it is absolutely brilliant.

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