Sunday, August 23, 2015

Muskoka Bike Ride

Dillon, Megan and I signed up for the Muskoka bike ride organized by MEC, and lead by Michael and Dede Berry.  This was our first organized group ride and it has been a great experience.  The ride started and finished in Gravenhurst, a town in the Muskoka region, and the birthplace of Dr. Henry Normal Bethune, a doctor who gave his life in helping others. The ride was divided into two course, one for 90KM and the other was 160KM.  Megan and I did the 90K while Dillon did the 160K.

Dock in Lake Muskoka in the morning.  E-M5 & Panasonic 14-45mm OIS

Being the first time in a group ride, I never saw so many nice bikes in one place!  There were many CervĂ©los, especially in the group that rode the 160K route, a testament to great bikes made by a Canadian company.  Of course, there were many high end Specialized, Trek, Colnago, Ridley and other nice bikes.  One brave soul was there with a Supercycle mountain bike with big tires.  If he could finish the course in that bike, my hats off to him.

Getting Ready for the ride.  Picture taken with a cell phone.

I am not going to lie, even for the 90KM (actually it was slight longer than 100K as measured by my, and other's bike computers), it was extremely tough for me.  It was relatively easy for the first 50KM, as we started fresh in the morning with full strength, but as the ride went on, we faced lots of steep hills, and this proved to be too much for Megan, who was feeling dizzy and I was concerned that she might faint.  At about 60KM, she had to be picked up by the MEC staff and driven back to the base.  Understandably, she wasn't happy that she couldn't finish the ride, but it's better safe than sorry.

Break at one of the Pit Stops at Port Carling (50KM mark).  This is the cut off point for the 160K ride.  Any rider who didn't make it here by 11:30AM would be directed to the 90K route.  You can see a police car in the background.  They were directing traffic at a few points of the ride.  

Here I must say that the ride was extremely well organized.  The routes were well marked with signs, and at critical turning points, staff were there to direct riders to ensure they didn't turn to the wrong route.  There was medical units with patrols cars.  One of the cars stopped by when they saw we were walking up the hill, and Megan was picked up and driven back.  There were four Pit Stops along the way, and they were stocked with complimentary energy gels and bars and water, with bike mechanics there in case anyone's bike needs service.  It really ensured a peace of mind and made the ride much more enjoyable.

I finished in 5 and a half  hours, with breaks and some walking with Megan.  The last 20K was brutally difficult with lots of hills.  Near the end of the 90KM, I kept telling myself it was almost there, but it wasn't.  The route was about 102KM long.  

Dillon finished the 160K route in 6 and a half hours, only one hour behind me for almost twice the distance, which was amazing, considering he was riding a heavier bike.

At the end, I was very tired, especially the neck and the leg muscles.  I felt shamefully and utterly out of shape, though I was happy to finish the ride.

Finished at last.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New Flickr Group for the Die-Hard Gear-Head

Matt on Flickr has created a new group called Fixed Lens Group (Refit for Digital).  Basically the group will showcase pictures, tutorials, techniques, tip, and other useful information for users or to-be users who use lenses taken from rangefinders or folder cameras that weren't meant to be used on other cameras.  I have been doing this for a while and I did a few tutorials on my blog as well, but I think a Flickr group is a lot more interactive and flexible.  Matt has been great and adapting weird and wonderful lenses to use on his many cameras with great results.  If you are interested, or have experience in adapting non-standard lenses, please join the group.

Autumn Colours in Summer - Enna Werk Correlar 8cm f2.9 & Sony A7

Chinon 55mm f1.7 VS Chinon 55mm f1.4 - Part III

Part II is here.

Last time we looked at the sharpness of both the Chinon 55mm f1.7 and the 55mm f1.4 multi-coated. This time it's the bokeh of the two lenses we are going to compare.  I will let you decide which one you prefer.

Bokeh - Chinon 55mm f1.4 @ f1.4. Click for larger version.

Bokeh - Chinon 55mm f1.7 @ f1.7. Click for larger version.

Bokeh - Chinon 55mm f1.4 @ f1.4. Click for larger version. 

Bokeh - Chinon 55mm f1.7 @ f1.7. Click for larger version.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chinon 55mm f1.7 VS Chinon 55mm f1.4 - Part II

Part I is here.

In today's used market, the Chinon 55mm f1.7 lens simply don't get no respect, to para quote Rodney Dangerfield; the f1.4 version is far better known but still quite inexpensive.  Does the f1.4 version justify two to three times the price of the 55mm f1.7 for half a stop of more light?  Would you be missing out much by using the cheaper f1.7 lens?  The short answer is no.  The Chinon (and many other makes with the same design) 55mm f1.7 is simply a superb lens for the price.   In fact, I think the f1.7 version is a better lens in terms of sharpness across the frame in larger apertures.

Please keep in mind that I am shooting with one copy of each of these lenses.  They are at least 30 years old and who knows what kind of abuse they went through before I got them.  So, take the test images with a grain of salt, and test them yourself if possible.

Shooting side by side, the two lenses behaved very similarly in terms of bokeh, but the f1.7 version has a lead on the edges from the wide open on.  Strangely, the 55mm f1.4 lens seems a tiny bit shorter than the 55mm f1.7.  This is more apparent when flipping between the pictures taken by both lenses.

Note the colour temperatures of the images from the two lenses.  The f1.4 version is warmer than the f1.7 version, but the colour changes slightly to the cooler side as the lens is stopped down on the Chinon 55mm f1.4.  These images were converted from RAW but with no adjustments for the white balance, or sharpness.

A note of Auto White Balance.  I have used digital cameras long enough to not to trust the consistency of automatic white balance.  The colours sometimes change seemingly without any change in ambient temperature.  This happens with Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony, in my experience. I always shoot RAW and if necessary, adjust colour before the RAW conversion, but NOT in this test.

Wide Open

Wide open, both lenses are very good in the centre, with the f1.7 version slightly better at the edges.  On both lenses, the left side is less sharp than the right side, a possible cause of the adapter that I use is not perfectly flat.  Not shown in the crops, but the Chinon 55mm f1.4 vignettes quite a bit more than the 55mm f1.7.  You can see the left edge of both lenses are quite poor wide open, but on the 55mm f1.7, it's quite a bit sharper on the right side.  Both lenses show good sharpness at the center but contrast is a bit low.

Wide Open.  Click on the picture to see a 100% crop.

At f2.8

By f2.8, both lenses sharpened up quite a bit more at the center, but the left edges are still poor on both lenses.  Contrast has improved markedly and the right edge has become very good on the 55mm f1.7 but remains blurry on the f1.4.

f2.8.  Click on the picture to see a 100% crop.

At f5.6

At this aperture, both lenses are quite sharp across the frame.  Note the 55mm f1.4's left edge.  The change is like day and night, though the right edge is still no match for the 55mm f1.7, which by this time, is as sharp as the center.

f5.6.  Click on the picture to see a 100% crop.

At f11

This is probably the optimum aperture for sharpness across the frame for both lenses.  A very slight softness caused by diffraction can be seen in the center of the frame, but not enough to cause concern.  Even at f11, the 55mm f1.4's right edge is still out performed by the 55mm f1.7.  Note the colour of the 55mm f1.4 is approaching that of the 55mm f1.7.  Strange how aperture affects white balance.

f11.  Click on the picture to see a 100% crop.

In Part III, we will compare the bokeh of both lenses.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chinon 55mm f1.7 VS Chinon 55mm f1.4 - Part I

Chinon, founded in 1948, as a maker of lenses, was quite uninteresting and ordinary.  As far as I know, they didn't make any lenses consider exotic, or highly sought after, perhaps, with the exception of the Tomioka made Chinon 55mm f1.2.  It was one of the players in the universal (M42) mount market, dominated mostly by Pentax at the time.  They later switched to K-Mount and produced a lot of consumer grade cameras and lenses.  Chinon became a subsidiary of Kodak Japan in 2004 and I believe they still produce digital cameras/camcorders, amount other stuff. Two of the lenses they made (or marketed) was the 55mm f1.7, and the 55mm f1.4 that we are going to look at today.

There are at least 3 versions of the Chinon 55mm f1.4 in M42 mount.  One was originally marked Auto Chinon Tomioka 55mm f1.4, and later simply called Auto Chinon 55mm f1.4, and the last version had multi-coating applied.  All of these version were either made by Tomioka or designed by them.  I believe this lens also came in Pentax K-Mount.  A 55mm f1.4 Tomioka lens will fetch two to three times the amount of money then a lens simply called Auto Chinon 55mm f1.4, being the exact same lens.  To a lens collector, this might make a difference, but if you are just buying the lens to make photographs, it makes no sense to pay more.

The Chinon Brothers

For the Chinon 55mm f1.7, there are also multiple versions.  The original M42 version did not have multi-coating, and later ones did.  This lens also came in Pentax K-Mount.

In Part II, we will compare the images from the two lenses.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sony A7R II - The Best Canon Camera Yet?

No, I am not crazy, and you read the title correctly.  The new Sony A7R II, an upgrade from the very successful A7R, just makes me foam in my mouth; all the useful and practical features all in one body.  I don't even mind the 42MP resolution.  I can live with it.  Let's look at the new features.

42MP BSI Sensor - For a lot of people, this is a big deal.  Back Side Illuminated (BSI) technology is used, along with copper wiring on the sensor to achieve clean high ISO and amazing readout speed.  The biggest, and in my opinion, the best feature of this sensor is the 399 phase detect AF points that makes it possible to auto focus third party lenses in almost native AF speed.  I have tried the smart AF adapter for the Canon lenses, and it's just not workable for me, but from what I have seen, the A7R II is light years ahead and totally usable.  This is the reason for the weird title :)  and this is reason enough for me to eventually buy one.

In-Body-Image-Stabilization (IBIS) -- Like it's older brother, the A7 II, the A7R II now has the 5-Axis IBIS.  I have used the excellent IBIS in the Olympus E-M5 and am spoiled by it.

4K Internal Recording -- Not a feature of interest to me, but for the indy film makers, this is fantastic news.  The Panasonic GH-4 has gotten so much attention being the first mirrorless to record 4K video and the A7R II will prove to be irresistible for this group of people, for sure.

Improved Shutter -- The A7R has a pretty negative reputation for having a very loud and high vibration shutter.  Sony promises the A7R II is 50% better in this regard.  This camera also features the Silent Shutter, first introduced with the A7s.  I will find this invaluable in so many shooting situations.  As for the shutter life, this is even better than some of the professional DSLRs out there, which typically have 350K to 400K shutter life.  For most people, this kind of long life is overkill, but it provides a peace of mind.

The above are the features I feel are most important.  Putting so much new and improved stuff in one camera body, is a breath of fresh air, unlike others that uses a small improvement as a reason for a new model.  Well done Sony.  I look forward to buying one in a year (or two).

Untitled - Sony A7 & Kilfitt Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8

Friday, June 5, 2015

Beautiful Innisfil

Our IT department had the off-site meeting this year at Innisfil Ontario, about a 100 km north of Toronto.  This was my third meeting and I must say Innisfil is the best so far.  We used the Kempenfelt conference centre, which is away from the city and is pretty much all by itself, surrounded by farmland and next to Lake Simcoe.  I brought my bike with me, as I did last time in Belleville and it was a good decision.  I rode around the conference and found a very nice farm to take pictures of.

Speaking of pictures.  I brought with me the Nikon D810 with the AF-S 28-70mm f2.8 and the AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VR.  The weight and bulk of these three items reminded me why I use the mirrorless cameras as my everyday choice, but in use, they also reminded me that mirrorless cameras still has a way to go to match DSLRs in certain situations.

I really adore the D810.  It's the best DSLR that I have used.  However unexciting it looks, this is the camera that combines image quality with great build and is very easy to use.  I do find the exposure sometimes goes a bit wacky, and the auto white balance could change from frame to frame.  Shooting RAW minimizes these minor issues.

As for the lenses, I am happier still.  Both lenses are very sharp, especially the 70-200mm f2.8 VR, which in my opinion, is much better the Canon first generation equivalent.  I do not hesitate to use both lenses wide open.  My plan is to have only a few practical lenses for the (Nikon) DSLR system; two or three primes, plus two zooms, and this will cover pretty much all my needs.

My trusty Specialized Allez Epic that I put together from the frame I bought.  It only has 8-speed, without the front derailleur but is enough for me -- Nikon D810 & 70-200mm f2.8 VR.

Farm close to the conference centre - Nikon D810 & AF-S 28-70mm f2.8.

Farm close to the conference centre - Nikon D810 & AF-S 28-70mm f2.8.

Logs at the shore of Lake Simcoe - Nikon D810 & AF-S 70-200mm f2.8.

The Light - Nikon D810 & AF-S 28-70mm f2.8.

Water Skier - Nikon D810 & AF-S 70-200mm f2.8.

The Light #2 - Nikon D810 & AF-S 28-70mm f2.8.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Goodbye, Captain John's

The Jadran, or Captain John's Seafood Restaurant boat, was towed away from its location of 40 years today.  In its hay days as a restaurant, it was a popular place for dining but things turned really bad in its later years and was eventually forced to close few years ago.  The Toronto Port Authority wanted it gone long ago but couldn't find a buyer who could safely move the boat.  At the end, it had to pay to get it towed to Port Colborne to be recycled.

Despite the many people who said the boat was an eye sore, I really didn't mind it.  Over the years, I have had many pictures taken of it, especially the last two years, where my work place is right next to the boat.  I think I will miss its presence.  The dock where it used to be, is already looking empty.

At around 10:30, media and onlookers gather around the boat.

Flanked and pulled by two tugboats, Captain John's was slowly leaving its resting place of 40 years

Quite a few boats gather around to watch this "historical" moment.

Goodbye, Captain John's.  You will be missed.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Walk Along the Keating Channel

I have been walking to work and back for the last three weeks, instead of biking like I have done for the last 15+ years.  The joints in my upper body is starting to hurt me, so I decided to walk for a month.  It takes about an hour each way.  Many would think this is nuts, but I rather enjoy the walk, except for the first few days when it was really tough.  The best thing is that I can now walk through sections of the of the road that I could not bike to, and this provides more photography opportunities and biking.

Today I decided to walk along the Keating Channel since I have been wanting to photograph it for a long time, but never made it a reality until today.  The south side of the Channel is not open to the public, and the north side borders on Lakeshore Blvd., and I wouldn't suggest anyone to walk the entire length from Cherry street to Don Roadway, as it kind of dangerous on some sections; you have to walk very close to the road, or very close to the channel.  You could get hit by a car, or fall on the channel.

In any case, I did take quite a few pictures along the channel, with the newly acquired Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 5cm f2.9 lens from the Balda folder camera.  This lens has a good reputation, and I can confirm that it performs admirably, considering how old it is.  The most amazing part is that I didn't even need a hood for the lens, even though it's not coated, and flare was very well controlled, especially when stopped down.  At f2.9, the lens is very sharp at the center, and by f8, the edges are very good and at its best at about f11.  Contrast is a bit on the low side at wider apertures, but the bokeh is lovely.  With a bit of processing, the files come out quite nicely.

All the pictures were taken with the Sony A7 & Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 5cm f2.9.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Voigtlander Lanthar 50mm f2.8 from Vitoret D

Scored 3 broken rangefinder cameras from the antique market on Sunday.  One of them is the Voigtlander Vitoret D with a Lanthar 50mm f2.8 lens, which I have been using for the last few days and I really enjoy it.

It's commonly believed that the original Lanthar lenses were made with glass containing lanthanum, a rare earth element that gives the glass high refractive index.  Later ones made by Cosina, like the Lanthar 90mm f3.5 and the 125mm f2.5, do not contain lanthanum, I believe.  Of course, lenses containing lanthanum does not automatically mean great lens by default.  The Color-Lanthar 42mm f2.8 that I tried was OK, but not great.  This 50mm f2.8 Lanthar, I like it quite a bit more.

The Lanthar 50mm f2.8 contains 4 aperture blades, as oppose to most of the old Voigtlander rangefinder lenses with 5.  This creates interesting bokeh, like the enlarging lenses I tried, here, here, and here.  But when shot wide open, the bokeh looks normal, of course, and it's quite nice in fact.

I also have no complains about the optical performance of the lens, given that it's not top of the line lens.  Wide open the center of the frame is acceptably sharp, but the outer edges are mushy, but improves as the lens is stopped down, but the edges are still not critically sharp until f16.  It's interesting how much difference between f11 and f16.  But of course the overall sharpness starts to suffer a bit at f16 due to diffraction limit, though still excellent.

To me, it's acceptable for a lens to have at least one aperture that provides uniform sharpness when needed.  My shooting style does not require uniform sharpness most of the time and when I do need it, I can stop it down to get it.

Overall, I think it's a very good lens for the money.  The Vitoret D I got was $20, and it was very easy to remove the lens.

All pictures below were taken with the Voigtlander Lanthar 50mm f2.8 and Sony A7.