Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Thought on the new Canon 7D Mark II

I briefly owned the original Canon 7D.  It was great camera for action, but unfortunately the image quality let me down and eventually I got rid of it, and replaced with the Canon 1D III. The new 7D Mark II looks like an impressive upgrade for the 7D.  The auto focus system seems to be greatly improved, and of course, that is one of the most important features for the camera of this kind. I think it's a worthwhile upgrade and will make a lot of Canon users happy.

Even though I don't use the 1D III all that much, but I can't help by thinking that maybe it's time to do the reverse; replace the 1D III with the 7D II.  Crazy, no?  One thing I am not too convinced is the image quality from the 7D II.  The sample images look impressive, but it's out of camera jpeg; what it looks like from RAW is still remains to be seen.

I am sure some people will complain about this camera without 4K video, but I don't believe this camera is aimed at the video segment. I just hope that the sensor will be much improved from the original 7D.

Afternoon reading -- Sony A7 & Voigtlander Velostigmat 10.5cm f4.5.

Monday, September 15, 2014

For the Love of Pancolar

I have been checking out some of the pictures taken by Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolars on Flickr, and that re-ignited my love for the pancolars. The last few days I was shooting with both the Pancolar 50mm f2 and the 80mm f1.8. For some reason, I like the rendering style of the Pancolar 50mm f2 better than the 80mm f1.8. The 50/2 has more distinctive rendering and is very sharp when stopped down just a bit. I wanted to get the 50mm f1.8 Pancolar for the last few years but that proved to be an illusive lens. There are couple of camera shows coming up so hopefully I will find one there, if not too expensive :)

Dreamy Yellow - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2. Click for larger.

Empire Sandy - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2. Click for larger.

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Monarch Butterfly - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Faded Beauty - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kodak Anastar 44mm f3.5 [Pony IV]

Last time we looked at the very old Kodak lens from the Premonette, today we take a look at the more recent Anastar 44mm f3.5, taken from the broken Pony IV 35mm camera, circa mid 1960s. Making this lens work on the A7 proved to be troublesome, but I did it at the end, by mounting it on a very thin 12-17mm focusing helicoid. The lens itself has a focusing ring, though the minimum focus distance is rather long at 2.5 feet. By using both the focusing ring on the lens and the helicoid, the lens can focus pretty close, but there is a caveat for this configuration.

Kodak Anastar 44mm f3.5 mounted on its original lens board. Click for larger.

This lens needs to be set at infinity when using the helicoid to focus, for anything other than close up. That's because the edges are very soft when the lens is not set to infinity focus, even when stopped way down.  The picture below is an example.  The aperture is around f8, but you can see the edges are very soft.  If the lens was set to infinity, the edges are quite respectable. In a way, it's a nice effect for some kind of pictures where the blurry edges actually makes the subject in the centre stand out more.  The second last picture is an example when the lens is set to infinity focus, but focused by the helicoid.

Captain John's - Sony A7 & Kodak Anastar 44mm f3.5. Click for larger.

Boats and Kayaks - Sony A7 & Kodak Anastar 44mm f3.5. Click for larger.

For the age of the lens, it's optically quite good, and when stopped down, even the long edges are very acceptable. One of the attributes I like very much, is the interesting bokeh this lens creates. It's very different than most lenses I have used. I must say I am a little surprised, that this lens kind of exceeded my expectations, and that's not a bad thing at all :)

The rocks Sony A7 & Kodak Anastar 44mm f3.5.

Bokeh Sony A7 & Kodak Anastar 44mm f3.5.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shooting with a 100-Year-Old Lens

The 100-year-old lens was removed from a damaged Kodak Premonette Jr, made in 1913. It took me a little while to find the parts to mount it on my Sony A7 and went out for a shoot.

This lens is very tiny and has no aperture or focal length markings on it, but I think it's maximum aperture is somewhere around f11, and the focal length is probably 125mm. With a maximum aperture this small, there are some challenges shooting handheld, even in broad daylight. Thanks to the high ISO capabilities of today's digital cameras, I was able to just set the camera on Shutter Priority and let the camera select the appropriate ISO. You have to admire the patience of the photography forerunners who had to take multi-minute exposures with this camera, and the frustration they had to endure when things moved.

I wasn't expecting stellar performance from this 100-year-old lens, but it still surprised me, considering it age. No, it won't win any sharpness contest, but it's pretty good.  If I enlarge one of the pictures to 8x10, I doubt anyone can tell it from one shot with a modern kit zoom lens.  If anything, I think the distortion correction is even better than the cheap zooms of today.

One thing that I noticed is that the colours are somewhat subdued. It also lacks contrast, and sharpness is just OK, but one needs to understand that this camera was made to be affordable; expectations should be adjusted accordingly :)

Although the lens is recessed and does a pretty good job of shielding the stray light, I do wish I could mount a lens hood on this lens, because flare is still a big problem in many situations. Also, this lens should be used with a tripod to fully extract the performance from it. I suspect that it would perform a bit better if a more stable method of shooting was used.

The lens is no better than even the average quality lens of today, but when you are shooting with a lens this old, you will treat it and shoot it with a totally different mindset.

Lens from Kodak Premonette Jr. that was made in 1913, so it's slightly more than a 100 years old.

Fire Truck Maintenance - Sony A7 & Kodak Premonette Jr. Lens. click for larger.

Morning Walk - Sony A7 & Kodak Premonette Jr. Lens. click for larger.

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Kodak Premonette Jr. Lens.

Gooderham Flatiron - Sony A7 & Kodak Premonette Jr. Lens.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Helios-103 53mm f1.8 Kiev/Contax RF Mount on Sony A7

Previously, I used the Helios-103 lens on the NEX-6 and I liked it quite a bit.  You can read my posts here and here. The only problem using this and other Contax RF mount is that the adapter is very expensive, more than the worth of the lenses.  Fortunately, it isn't too hard to roll your own adapter. If I could do it, anyone can. I showed how it's done here in Part I, and part II.

This lens also works very well on the full frame Sony A7. There is a bit of vignetting which I am not sure if was due to the hood or was part of the lens character. It's not objectionable and can be corrected easily. On the NEX-6, this lens shows pretty sharp "corners" but it's less so when used on the Sony A7. It's passable, but don't expect very sharp corners on full frame, especially in larger apertures.

Personally, I think it 's a nice little lens. Looks compact on mirrorless cameras due to the very short flange distance,and it performs quite decently. I got mine at $5 each at the show, which I think is a low enough a price to experiment with without fear of trashing it.

The Duke - Sony A7 & Helios-103 53mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Fairy - Sony A7 & Helios-103 53mm f1.8 @ f1.8.

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Helios-103 53mm f1.8.

Old & New - Sony A7 & Helios-103 53mm f1.8. Note the vignette on top corners.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Toronto to Niagara Falls on Bikes - 2014

A bit over two years ago, a bunch of us rode to Niagara Falls from Toronto. It was my first time riding that far and proved to be a real challenge. Due to my knee that was hurting me, I could not ride back the next day and it has been a disappointment for me. Two years later, I wanted to do this again with my older kids, as an adventure and hopefully a fun time before school starts.

The gang - Dillon, Megan, Ryan and Lens Bubbles. Click for larger.

We planned to go at a slower and more constant pace of about 20 km/h  so that we don't exhaust ourselves early on, but that turned out to be less of a problem. We took the Waterfront Trail for most of the way there but switched to directions provided by Google Maps.  the Waterfront Trail has very good signage but sometimes signs were not visible at some turns. We spent quite a bit of time checking directions to make sure we are on the right track. The Google Maps directions had a couple of steps omitted, causing us more delays. One advice when using Google Maps directions is to check each point on the map to make sure they are correct.

Last time I rode a vintage Coppi bike with a Brooks saddle, which was a real mistake. The saddled was very hard and my butt felt like it was on fire at the end of the trip. This time I made sure everyone got comfortable seats, and I brought along a gel seat cover, which made a big difference.

Beautiful Port Credit - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss FE 35mm f2.8 ZA. Click for larger.
The Waterfront Trail is very beautiful and a scenic route. It passes many towns and cities, parks and natural conservation areas, and best of all, most of the ride is along Lake Ontario. There is one section of the trail, the 8.5km Hamilton Beach Trail, is one of the best part of the ride. It is really beautiful. The last time we rode there, we missed it.

Sign of confusion: Note both street names are identical. Sony A7 & FE 35mm f2.8 ZA.

Checking the map to make sure we are on the right track.

I brought along my Sony A7 and the Zeiss 35mm f2.8ZA.  For the first 50km, I just hung it on my neck and took pictures of the kids while riding, but that proved to be tough on my neck, so I took it off and left it in my bag. My old problem, the pain in my right knee, was also starting to hurt. This really dampened my spirit as it ruined my trip last time. Expectedly, it got worse as I rode. We had to stop and get a knee brace, which helped a great deal.

Trail Blazers -- Sony A7 and Carl Zeiss FE 35mm f2.8ZA. click for larger.

We were lost a couple of times near Niagara Falls following the Google Maps directions.  Also, as we are closer to the end, the elevation in the last 30km was something close to 120 meters, and there are many hills to climb. It was difficult for Megan, as she being the youngest and riding this far for the first time, but she's tough as a nail and very determined.

Taking a break at the same spot we did two years ago!

We made it to Niagara Falls in around 12 hours. It would have been at least an hour shorter if we didn't have to do so many checks on the map and getting lost. My wife and my youngest son were waiting for us there.

My knee was getting very bad and I knew it would not be possible to ride back in this condition. My wife prepared some vitamin treatment for me, and I prayed for my knee to get better in the morning. In credibly, it did and I was feeling much better but still hurts. I really didn't want to disappoint Dillon, as I knew he really wanted to ride back, so I decided to do it.

We left Megan and Ryan in Niagara Falls, and Dillon and I headed home. 1/3 of the way home, my other knee was having the same symptom as my right knee, which was starting to hurt. Another knee brace and a couple of Tylenol later, I forced myself to continue. Needless to say, the last 20 km was one of the most difficult ride I had ever done, but we made it home.

I am so proud of the kids, especially Megan. She's one tough kid. Ryan has been training for this for a few weeks and it was much easier for him this time than the last, and Dillon, he made the trip seem so easy. He was carrying most of the supplies and tools, and he was the front person for drafting.  It's too bad this will likely be my last long cycling trip due to my knee problem, but I am happy I made it there and back.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

REVIEW: Yeenon Short Flange M42 to E-Mount Adapter

You may be wondering, what the heck is a short flange adapter and what good is it for. A normal M42 to E-Mount adapter would allow the mounted M42 lens to focus to infinity; a short flange M42 to E-Mount adapter is made as thin as possible with only one purpose: to be used with another adapter, usually a focusing helicoid that has an M42 mount. Definitely not usual and is a bit hard to find. I was very happy to have found one.

Yeenon adapters are usually more expensive than other makes from China, because their stuff is better made with good precision and this particular one came with a nice box, and a rear cap. The adapter cost $15 plus $8 shipping.

Before buying this adapter, I was using a modified C-Mount to E-Mount adapter that has an inner 42mm thread, but this kind of adapters are now hard to find.  Most C-Mount adapters sold now do not have inner threads.

This adapter fits the Yeenon helicoid like a glove.  It also is very precisely made and mates to the Sony A7 with a snuggle fit and no play at all. The fit and finish is first rate. Very happy with it.

Voigtlander Voigtar 7.5cm f6.3 from Voigtlander Brilliant 6x6

I have been going to the St. Lawrence Antique Market for the last few Sundays. Some days, there is nothing interesting, but sometimes there are interesting stuff to be had, for a relatively cheap price. For someone like me, who likes to tinker with old stuff, it's a great pass time. From last week, the Voigtlander Brilliant 6x6cm "TLR" for $20.

The finder of the camera is very bright, hence "Brilliant" in the name, but I am more interested in the lens, which is easy to remove by unscrewing the retention ring; it can be put back just as easy. I found some parts that I can put together and mounted the lens on my Yeenon Helicoid.  Looks ridiculous, but works :)

Naturally, for a small aperture lens, it's only suitable for daytime picture taking, if you want to shoot handheld. The lens has its own focusing mechanism, and because I put the lens on a focusing helicoid, which allows me to focus very close if I use both focusing rings.

The lens turns out to be quite brilliant. Very pleasing rendering of pictures and nice bokeh, and it's also very sharp. The most surprising thing of all, especially when compared to its sister lens, the 8.3cm f4.5 Skopar, flare is well controlled if being careful. In fact, I didn't even use a hood for all the pictures below.

The greatest fun is making the lens to work with a modern digital camera, and the quality did not disappoint. Even if I only use this lens just once, it's worth the $20. How much fun can you buy for $20 these days :)

Love Lock - Sony A7 & Voigtlander Voigtar 7.5cm f6.3. Click for larger.

Art on spokes - Sony A7 & Voigtlander Voigtar 7.5cm f6.3. Click for larger.

Lunch Time - Sony A7 & Voigtlander Voigtar 7.5cm f6.3. Click for larger.

Marriage of old and new. Click for larger.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Photokina 2014 - Some Random Thoughts

Photokina, the biggest photographic event that's held every two years, is fast approaching. Most major photo equipment makers usually reserve the best product announcements on this event. I don't have a crystal ball, or insider information, but that does not stop me from having fun and predict what might be announced at the show by manufacturers.

Sony: Currently my favourite camera maker. I have been shooting mostly with the A7 for the last little while, and a little bit with the Olympus E-M5, while the Canon equipment has been sitting on the shelf. I do not expect Sony to announce major cameras, as most of the models are pretty current. The only camera that we might see is the RX-1/RX-1R replacement, and perhaps a new model using a 1 inch curved sensor and a fixed 35mm f1.8 lens. But, we probably will see more lenses from Sony than any other time. This is good for lots of people, though I likely won't buy many auto focus lenses.

Olympus: Olympus is in the same boat as Sony; their main line has pretty recent models. I think it may announce an EP-L model (EP-L7?) and perhaps a warmed over E-M10 replacement. Fast lens freaks will probably be overjoyed as I think Olympus will have a f1.2 lens prototype at the show.

Fuji: Fuji is an interesting company who produced a nice line of high quality prime lenses for it's mirrorless camera system. They will likely introduce even more lenses.  I do wish they will have a full frame sensor using the Super-CCD technology.  That would be interesting.

Panasonic: Panasonic probably has more camera announcements than other mirrorless camera makers. The expected LX8, probably a camera to continue the GF series, and perhaps a scaled down version of the GH4, but I don't think there will be many new lenses.

Canon: It's going to be mostly APS-C cameras for Canon.  The long rumoured Canon 7D replacement will sport new sensors, but I won't be holding my breath for anything revolutionary. It's probably going to be based on the current dual-pixel design and thus cramping 40+ megapixels on such a small sensor is probably not going to be that great in both dynamic range and noise performance, unless Canon moves away from it's "ancient" fabrication technique that they have been using for the last decade. I do wish they will have something revolutionary, like a 3-layer sensor a la Foveon. I hope they do, because I still have a bunch of L lenses :)  As for mirrorless cameras, they will likely introduce a warmed over EOS-M2 as M3 with dual-pixel sensor and faster auto focus. Basically, I don't expect anything earth shattering from Canon.

Nikon: Well, I don't really follow Nikon so I won't say much. They might have yet another new edition of the Nikon One mirrorless camera. A J4/V4?  I am sure if Canon has the 7D II, Nikon will also announce a D300 replacement to counter Canon.

We will see what happens in a few weeks.

Megan - Sony A7 & Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron at f2

Friday, August 15, 2014

Belleville - A Short Visit

Our IT department held the off-site meeting in Belleville this year. I planned to take advantage of this opportunity to visit this nice little town of about 50,000 people, so I brought my bike with me. Alas, the weather was not cooperating. By the time our conference was finished, it started to rain. Still, I rode to Belleville downtown for a short visit, and took a few pictures.

The city of Belleville was first settled by the United Empire Loyalists in the early 1800s. Its local college is named the Loyalist College, in honour of the settlers. The town is a nice mix of old and new but it feels very different than big cities like Toronto. It has an aura of a European city. I like it.

I noticed there are many empty shops, and shops that were out of business; a sign that the economy isn't doing well. The town itself is very nice. Clean, well kept, and lots of greens. Too bad I didn't get to explore it longer.

Belleville City Hall on the right. You can see the bridge near the left, which was made of iron and built in 1858 - Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8 ZA & Sony A7. Click for larger.

The Armouries. If you want to read its very interesting history, try here - Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8 ZA & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Front Street - Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8 ZA & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Belleville City Hall - Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8 ZA & Sony A7.