Douglas Kurn has been photographing with a single reflex system and ZEISS lenses for years. Then he conducted an experiment: to try compact system cameras and a demo set of the ZEISS Touit family over a period of four weeks.
“When I opened the suitcase, I felt a bit conflicted at first. I held the Touit lenses and realized they were a lot lighter than I was used to with ZEISS. They are made of plastic and metal, but I quickly saw that my initial doubts were unfounded: the workmanship is excellent. Turning the aperture ring, for example, as well as the manual focusing, which is really precise for an AF lens, won me over.“
At the beginning of 2014 Douglas Kurn received an offer: to test the ZEISS Touit lens family and its creative potential in a wide range of photographic application situations. The idea immediately appealed to him, as he had already been using, and was convinced by three ZEISS ZE lenses: the Distagon T* 2,8/21, the Distagon T* 2/35 and since recently the Planar T* 1,4/50. “The Distagon T* 2/35 is the best lens I own. For me, that was the benchmark for the Touit 2.8/12, Touit 1.8/32 and Touit 2.8/50M. And I can truly say: these lenses have nothing to be ashamed of. Just look at this picture I took with the Touit 1.8/32, intentionally from the perspective of the a standard lens: an old piano on the beach with a small metal figure sitting on the chair and ‘playing’. This was a chance discovery and a truly wonderful photo opportunity. I took the picture shortly before sunset. The colors appear as pastels. This underlines the sense of forlornness in the image: discarded objects lying around on the beach like floating wood.”
Douglas Kurn likes to take walks with his camera. So it was no surprise that he also made a few rounds with the Touit lenses – and thoroughly tested the optics along the way. “This series on the beach is not my normal way of working. As a professional photographer I mainly do portraits. So when I was asked to do neither portraits nor classic landscape photography, I started to feel quite uneasy. But the assignment turned out to be creative and fruitful. It reminded me of when I was a young man and used to take my camera with me everywhere and just start shooting. And that was what I was doing now. A big advantage of the Touit lenses is their light weight. For this reason, it was easy for me to always have the entire range of lenses with me and pick the right focal length for each subject.“ The pictures of Kurn’s walk along the shoreline are snapshots and contain all kinds of details. For example, on the wood of a groyne, which a woman is using as a headrest while sunbathing, you can clearly see the traces left behind by the ocean. And you can almost smell the salty decay. “What I really like about this picture is that the wooden post corresponds optically with the head directly next to it. With the Touit 2.8/50M, which corresponds to a moderate telephoto lens for full-frame format that I would normally use for individual portraits, the subject could be captured very well. In this image you can see my preference for contrasting motifs”.
“When I tested the Touit lenses, I made a lot of spontaneous shots. I walked along the beach with open eyes and pushed the release shutter. I didn’t feel like spending time with manual focusing, as with this picture of the young man who was walking on his hands for a few seconds. I only had a brief moment. The autofocus of the Touit 1.8/32 reacted quickly. I particularly like the fact that his legs are not stretched out more. The form of his body appears more interesting that way, and the feet do not protrude into the horizon line.“
Douglas Kurn can’t lose his origins as a portrait photographer. People, even when they appear as abstracts, always show up in his images. Notice the tiny jogger in the background who conveys the differences in size between man and the cliff. This effect is augmented by the wide-angle shot. “Normally I don’t work with such a short focal length, but the Touit 2.8/12 gave me an appetite for it – even when I had all three Touit lenses with me. For example, the rock formation in Saltdean – this time without any people – really made an impression on me. I played with the focal length and achieved a dramatizing foreground, and even the sky appears in the image.”
On his way back from his walk Kurn discovered a red-yellow dab of color. The hut was empty — in the springtime the lifeguards still have nothing to do. That fitted well with the mirror-smooth surface of the sea. The colors of the shed were incredibly intense and contrasted with the blue of the water. The lighting situation was already good enough to take this picture, but the combination of lens and camera created an even better result. In the shadows, too, you can see lines; the flow of shadows is soft. Thanks to the moderate tele focal length of the Touit 2.8/50M, which Kurn decided to use for this shot, the colorful hut in the foreground stands out even more prominently.
“I had never before worked with a compact system. So, testing the three different Touit lenses was a first for me, also in respect of the camera. And to be honest, I had certain prejudices beforehand that turned out to be completely unfounded. On the whole, I can say that I am really enthusiastic about the total package consisting of the three focal lengths 12, 32 and 50 mm. They complement each other very well and cover a wide spectrum of shooting situations. My favorite lens is the Touit 1.8/32, because it’s the closest to the normal focal length. This perspective comes closest to my viewpoint. A compact system camera with Touit lenses is definitely on the top of my wishlist.“
About Douglas Kurn
Douglas Kurn lives and works in Chertsey near London. He became a photographer after a career in sales. In his early 30s, he decided on a radical change: he studied photography at Newcastle College of Art & Design in 1999-2000, worked as an assistant for local photographers, and started to get intensely involved in digital photography. Later he was an assistant in London. In 2009 he finally set up his own business.