The new Pictorialism with your camera

Red Squeezerlens for system cameras: SLR and Mirrorless. Full format and Crop format.

Mini Squeezerlens for system cameras:  SLR, Full format and Crop format.

Medium size format Squeezerlens 120mm

M42-Squeezerlens for mirrorless system cameras. Full format and Crop format.


Example pictures with different Squeezerlenses

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I was once again in my favorite city, you may have already followed it on Facebook or Instagram. But this time it was very different photo-wise. While on my past trips I usually travelled with all my gear, this time I kept it really small. But that for a reason. Ok, it also felt really good not to carry a 15 kilo backpack 15 miles through New York every day. But this time I had decided to only take pictures with a very special lens, my Squeezerlens. And I really enjoyed it so much that I didn't miss the rest of it for a moment.

Maybe you know the "Logbook New York" by the style pirate Steffen Böttcher. A few years ago he had made what I consider to be a really great photo book about New York, in which he used the same style. As I learned only a few weeks ago, he actually used exactly the same lens that I had with me. It's called "Squeezerlens" and there's a great idea behind it. Behind this project is the photographer Frank Baeseler, who distributes these lenses through his website.

There is a very large second-hand market for old lenses. It is interesting to note that there are also many lenses that were not intended for use on a camera at all, for example old projector lenses or lenses for enlargers from analogue darkrooms. Such lenses are usually of very high quality. But due to their construction they were never intended to work on a camera. Frank Baeseler searched for ways to preserve such old lenses for photography and so the Squeezerlens was born.
He buys these old lenses, disassembles them, cleans them and puts them back in shape. Since most of these lenses do not have an AF, they are mounted in a kind of rubber bellows, which has a bayonet on the other side, matching the respective camera.

When you hold the lens in your hand for the first time, you wonder if and how you can take a picture with it. It is, similar to taking pictures with a Leica, also a kind of "decelerated" photography, a completely new photographic experience. Lenses with a fixed focus and a fixed focal length are focused by the distance of the lenses to the projection surface, i.e. by moving the bellows (stretching and compressing). This is a bit fiddly at the beginning but you get it done quickly. Also the type of viewfinder of the camera is perhaps decisive for some people. With a relatively small viewfinder this kind of focusing is not necessarily a pleasure. It's easier with cameras that have an electronic viewfinder that allows focus peaking or where focus peaking works via the live view. In this case, coloured pixels on the screen or in the viewfinder indicate where the sharpness and thus the focus is. This allows the manual sharpness to be set precisely.

At the beginning I have to admit that I also had a lot of rejects and achieved results with which I was not satisfied at all. But when the focus is in place after a while of trial and error, I at least felt a deep satisfaction and was thrilled with the pictures, because it's really something different. The pictures have this so-called "pictorialism" or miniature effect. With the handling of my squeezerlens I really only had a few problems for a short time. After a short period of getting used to them I was able to focus just as fast as with my Leica M.
As you might notice I always talk about "my" Squeezerlens. The reason for this is that this lens is not a mass-produced item, but is custom-made for each individual. This way I got to know New York from a completely different side. Many areas and corners I have been to countless times seemed new and exciting to me. I like the pictures I made very much and especially in New York with its street canyons and skyscrapers this effect of the lens comes out very well. This is of course - as always with pictures - very subjective. When posting some pictures in the social networks I also read a lot of comments that don't like this mass of blur in the picture.

For the gear freaks to finish: I decided to use my Olympus PEN-F and a Mir 1-B 37mm wide angle lens and took pictures with it. This lens was built from the middle of the 50's in the former Soviet Union. The design and optics of the Mir are based on the Carl-Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f2.8. At the 1958 World Exposition in Brussels it even won a prize at that time. I enjoy this thing so much that I will surely buy another version with a different focal length soon.

The following link leads to the complete german article with many pictures...