Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Winter Came Back

It's mid April but we got a few centimeters of snow today, and the temperature has dipped below zero again, after some enjoyable warm weather.  This winter is like an overstaying and annoying guest that won't want to leave.

Giorno - Olympus E-M5 & Minolta Rokkor-X RF 250mm f5.6. Click for larger.

Snow Covered - Olympus E-M5 & Minolta Rokkor-X RF 250mm f5.6

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5 on NEX-6

The last time I used the Tokina 17mm f3.5 was to compare it to the Tamron 17mm f3.5 on the NEX-5N. I had not used that lens on the NEX-6, until yesterday. After processing some of the pictures, I was surprised to find that the corners on the NEX-6 is slightly better than pictures taken on the NEX-5N with the Tokina 17mm f3.5. It is definitely better than the not so great Sony 16mm f2.8 a the same aperture.

The depth of field of a 17mm lens is enormous. At f8, everything beyond a few meters will be sharp and therefore focusing is not critical at all, except at very close range. Basically, a lens like this can be used like an autofocus lens, except you don't need to focus. It really is liberating and allows you to focus on composition instead of worrying about focusing.

I do wonder, how it will perform on the Sony A7s, with a much lower density sensor. I do expect it to be better.

Transport Bike - Sony NEX-6 & Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5 @ f8. Click for larger.

Seagulls - Sony NEX-6 & Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5 @ f8 or f11. Click for larger.

Tree - Sony NEX-6 & Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5 @ f8. Click for larger.

Same Tree - Sony NEX-6 & Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5 @ f8. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sony A7s Pricing - How Much Will It Cost

By now you have probably guessed I am really interested in the Sony A7s :)

No one knows for sure, except Sony, how much the A7s will cost; it's all but a guessing game by everyone else. Some say it would cost $2500, others say it would be the same price as the A7. Personally, I want it to be priced around the A7, or very slightly above it. No doubt the A7s is a very interesting camera with phenomenon low light capabilities. For all intents and purposes, one may never need to carry, and use a flash again on this camera; it could literally see in the dark. This is its strength, as depicted by the S in the model name. Less so, is the 4K capability. The dependency of an outboard 4K recorder will limit the use of the camera in certain circumstances, and it will add bulk to the system. Video-wise, it certainly is not as indie friendly as the Panasonic GH4, which has internal 4K recording capability.

I think most people will buy this camera for its still picture capabilities. The already mentioned low light capability, the very high dynamic range, the compact size, and finally the small file (depending on your usage, of course), all together makes a perfect carry around camera. This is why I am so interested in it. I believe it would be wrong for Sony to price it at more than $2000, since it does not cost them any more to make than the A7; the only difference is the sensor, which I think should have better yield than the higher density 24MP sensor used in the A7, thus lower in cost.

I look forward to a reasonably priced low density full frame camera, as would many people who are interested in image quality and megapixels. Once people find out how good it is, they will not go back, barring any earth shattering sensor designs that trumps the A7s.

Desk & Chairs - Canon 5D Mark II & Schneider-Kreuznach Componon 80mm f5.6 Enlarging Lens.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Take on the Sony A7s

The dust has finally settled for the A7s. The live streaming from NAB 2014 certainly created a lot of buzz for this camera and forums and discussion boards were all in overdrive. Many expressed disappointment, especially those who are interested in the 4K video; this camera can not record 4K video internally, like the Panasonic GH4 can, and you will need a very expensive external recorder to record 4K video. I would be disappointed too, if I were into video.  Luckily I am not, and I am hoping this "flaw", combined with the low megapixel count will make the price of the camera lower!

I don't think this camera will be a phenomenon success for Sony, as it does not natively record 4K, and the pixel count is too low for many people. But it addresses many enthusiast's need for a small camera with the highest image quality and exposure latitude, without the insane high megapixels. This is my kind of camera.  I have been waiting for a camera like this since the Canon 5D classic. With today's technology, a 12MP full frame sensor should have mind boggling low light capabilities with high dynamic range. The low pixel count will much easier on old lenses too, which is very important to me, having so much old stuff.

If the price of the A7s is the same as the A7, or, hopefully lower, this will be my camera. It iwll last me for many years, seriously.

Roof top - S.F.O.M 100mm f3.2 Projection Lens & Olympus E-M5

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sony A7s - A New Direction in Sensor Development?

Sony Alpha Rumor has reported, with a "for sure" rating of SR5 rating, that a new Sony A7s is to be unveiled tomorrow at NAB, and it will shoot 4K video. Frankly, I don't much care about 4K video, at least not at the moment, and I am sure there are many people out there who do care. What's most interesting to me about the A7s, is the new 12MP full frame sensor.

Sony is swimming against the current of increasingly higher density sensors and created a 12MP sensor for this camera. Personally, I am very excited. I do not need 36MP, or 24MP, or even 16MP; 12MP will be a perfect compromise between enlargeability and file size. Imagine the golf ball sized pixels on this sensor that will have very clean high ISO, and it most older lenses will perform much better because of the low density factor.

Can't wait to see how the good the image quality is.  If Sony can keep the price the same as the A7, I will buy one.

Reflection - Canon FD 50mm f1.2 S.S.C & Olympus E-M5. Click for larger

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Another Canon FD 200mm f4 Photo Set

I am enjoying the Olympus E-M5, especially when it's used with longer lenses. The in-body stabilization system is extremely effective, even with a 200mm lens (400mm equivalent). I have used the FD 200mm f4 lens a few times now and it's actually not too bad, even for this non-multi-coated version. Certainly not a small or lightweight lens, but manageable.

By the way, I have noticed that Blogspot is starting to re-compress and make changes to the pictures I upload to the blog. If the picture is dark, it tries to lighten it up and making a mess of it.  The second picture you see below is much lighter than what my original picture is.  The Pigeon picture was so badly compressed that it showed artifacts.  I had to upload that one as a png format. I guess I have to start linking my pictures from Flickr again.

Taxi - Canon FD 200mm f4 & Olympus E-M5. Click for larger.

NOT a wrecking ball - Canon FD 200mm f4 & Olympus E-M5.

Pigeons - Canon FD 200mm f4 & Olympus E-M5.

Alien Spaceship landing - Canon FD 200mm f4 & Olympus E-M5. 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f4 Macro - A photo Set

When I first started using manual focus lenses on Digital SLRs, my very first lens was the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 35mm f3.5 in M42 mount. That jewel-like little gem was as beautiful to behold as it was optically excellent. I was hooked. Over the years, I collected and used most of the M42 Takumars, from 17mm f4 fisheye to the monstrous SMC 500mm f4.5. My collection has reduced somewhat, but still have quite a few Takumars, including this 50mm f4 macro.

There are quite a few versions of this lens. The earlier version, non Super-Multi-Coated, was a true 1:1 macro lens.  Later ones, can only focus as close as half life-size (1:2). Used for macro work, these lenses are sharp as heck, but they are also pretty good as a general purpose lens in good light. As you can see, these pictures below are not used in macro mode, but they are still very sharp.

Lunch Break - E-M5 &Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f4 Macro. Click for larger

Smoke Break - E-M5 &Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f4 Macro. Click for larger

Green Crane - E-M5 &Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f4 Macro. Click for larger

Reflections - E-M5 &Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f4 Macro. Click for larger

Contrast - E-M5 &Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f4 Macro.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Pitfall of Ultra Precise Lens Adapter

Back in the days when lens adapters were uncommon, they were well made and precise, but expensive. Today, most cheap adapters you can buy from eBay are mass produced in China; quality is acceptable, but precision is usually not a huge consideration.  In fact, nearly all of these adapters for mirrorless cameras allow the lens to focus past infinity, and this is intentional.  In the beginning, many users found that the adapters they bought could not focus their lenses to infinity, and they returned the adapters. Manufacturers then started to make the adapters slightly thinner than the official mount measurement; this would allow the majority of lenses to achieve infinity focus, but usually slightly pass it.

To me, this is acceptable.  After decades of use, most old lenses would deviate from the original specs and they may focus closer or further than they were designed to do. If you make an adapter that’s perfect, some lenses will be blurry when the lens is focused to infinity. All Canon auto focus lenses that use UltraSonic Motor (USM), allow the lens to focus pass infinity to compensate for parameters that could affect infinity focus, such as temperature variations and manufacturing tolerance.  But, manual focus lenses do not have this luxury.

I have two relatively expensive adapters; one Canon FD to M4/3 adapter made in Poland, bought right after the G1 came out, and the other, Leica-R to Canon EOS adapter, made by Elefoto of Japan.  For whatever reason, none of my Leica-R lenses would focus to infinity with the Elefoto adapter.  I tried the 28mm f2.8 Elmarit, 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm f2 Summicrons, and two 90mm f2.8 Elmarits.  I don’t know what lenses they used as a reference when the adapter was designed, or perhaps there is a defect in manufacturing.  The Polish adapter, on the other hand, worked perfectly with most of my FD lenses on the Panasonic G1, and when lens is set to infinity, everything is sharp and clear.  I started using this adapter on the E-M5 lately and so far, found that two of the lenses are just shy of infinity focus: FD 50mm f1.2 S.S.C, and FD 35mm f2 S.S.C.  If the aperture is set to f8 or smaller, sharpness becomes acceptable, but still not quite there.  A mere millimeter could mean in focus, or not.

For this reason, I usually just buy the cheap adapters, knowing that they would at least give me infinity focus.  The only thing that worries me is the flatness of the adapter, which could cause de-centring issues resulting in one side of the picture to be sharper than the other, if tolerance not kept in check.

Smoke Break - Canon FD 200mm f4 & Olympus E-M5.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Decade of My Digital Photography Obsession - Part IV

Meanwhile, the market was filled with all kinds of beautiful and capable cameras. All were very attractive and irresistible. Like the 7-year itch of a real marriage, I felt something that ever so gently stirred and disturbed me inside; a little voice told me I needed a real camera with AF system that could keep up with my kids. The only Canon camera that could do that was the original 8 frames per second, 4MP 1D and the 11MP full frame 1Ds.  I started having fantasy affairs with the 1Ds. It was full frame, with a 45-focus point AF system that's more accurate and responsive than anything on the market for a full frame DSLR.  This camera gave me many wet dreams.  The only problem was, the 1Ds cost $10K in Canada; it was, but a very remote dream.  Meanwhile, the 20D, younger sister of the 10D, started flirting with me.

Happy together - Canon 20D & EF 70-200mm f2.8L

I am very weak when it comes to gear. The 20D was one of the best cameras at the time; fast, responsive, much improved Auto Focus system, and best of all, a sensor so good it was made to weaken man’s resistance to upgrade/switch, not to mention it was a beautiful thing to behold, and even better to touch and feel.  This did not go well with my relationship of the 10D. The image making sessions became less frequent while I spent much time googling the reviews and ogling the pictures taken by the 20D.  Discontent is like a disease that slowly consumes one’s sound judgement and reasoning.  My morality shuttered and I officially declared myself a gear whore.  I realized I was a not a person who could stay faithful with one camera; I would be no longer loyal to any one camera!

I rented the 20D for a weekend, just in case my judgement was clouded by the urge to upgrade and not based on tangible improvements over the 10D.  This brief weekend affair turned out to be a long courtship and it was the last camera I had a sole monogamy relationship with, until I got into high end Canon DSLRs.  Even today, I still have a Infrared Modified 20D. Still have no qualms with the image quality.

Sally, at one of my yard sales - Canon 20D & Contax Carl Zeiss 60mm f2.8 Makro. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Decade of My Digital Photography Obsession - Part III

The marriage to the 300D Digital Rebel lasted just over a year before I started eyeing its more attractive, younger sister: EOS 10D.  I understood that "Beauty is only skin deep", and that my pictures won't look much different than those from the 300D, but in the back of my mind, the dark gray colour of the 300D's plastic skin was always a disappointment, however small. It wasn't a big issue when nothing was compared to it, but when pitted against the just announced 10D, this "flaw" suddenly got magnified, and along with the focus issues, finally cause the big rift in the marriage that ended up in divorce. It was not without bitter sweetness that I bid goodbye to my companion of 13 months; we had a good time together and made some fine images.

Zeiss Planetary Projector, 2005 - Canon 10D & Leica-R 50mm f2 Summicron.

I took home the 10D with joy and pride; loved the beautiful and slick magnesium alloy body, big command wheel at the rear that responded to every of my touches, an informative LCD display on top, all covered in velvety black. The new 10D didn't disappoint. The auto focus system was slightly better than the Rebel, though far from perfect.  But, what is? I was in cloud 9! The 10D gave me so much joy and I told myself this would be my camera for years to come. The 10D and I would be happy together!

We basked in the joy of making, er, pictures. I would try to please her by buying beautiful, shiny new prime lenses; practically all L primes under 400mm except the 14mm f2.8L and the Tilt & Shift lenses. And, nothing pleased her more than those big, white lenses with red bands; 200mm f1.8L, 300mm f4L and the monstrously long 100-400mm L that, when fully zoomed out would scare a small man!  We were in heaven, the 10D and I.  Picture after picture, day after day, it was like honey moon over and over again. The 10D would always tried her best to get the pictures that I wanted, and tried hard she did, but it was clear that Canon did not give her the best focus system from birth.  I tried to ignore her sometimes inconsistent focus, but over time, the frustration built up. I felt the danger of a break up was creeping upon us; I had to do something to save our union!

Mom & William, 2005 - Canon 10D & Leica-R 50mm f2 Summicron.

I attended therapy groups (forums) with most of my free time and posted dire requests for help. One person said that he was so fed up with his 10D's auto focus that he was only using manual focus lenses on it. Clearly this was the wisdom of an enlightened 10D owner; someone who figured it out and embraced the inherent flaws to make it work. It was a watery eyed eureka moment. "We are saved", I said to myself. "Who needs Auto Focus"? Everyone was buying digital SLRs and dumping their old film cameras. Manual focus lenses were aplenty and cheap. I started scouting pawnshops, used lens sections of camera stores, Craigslist, and best of all, I found Henry's original Outlet Store on Queen & Church.  I bought anything cheap that had glass elements.  Slowly, I have developed a bond and love for these old gems which, in later years, would make Lens Bubbles blog possible.

Dillon, 2005 - Canon 10D & Chinon 135mm f2.8.

I was in love with the Outlet Store. It was like a photographic treasure trove. It had extensive selection of old, manual lenses, not to mention weird and hard to find accessories like hoods and cases. I would hop off my bike and stop by the store every day after work, and sometime during lunch time, to visit the store.  I knew everyone who worked there by name. My wife became suspicious, about the time and money I spent in such regular intervals, that I might be having an affair.  I told her about the outlet store and eventually she had to go in with me, a few times just in case. Over time, even my kids knew the names of some of the people who worked there, especially Paul, though they hated it every time I brought them there when I happened to be in the area and needed to go inside for the fix.  Paul no longer works at the Outlet Store, but we still keep correspondence with email, and occasionally have lunch together.  One of the best things about the Outlet Store, other than the gear I got from there, is the people I met there.  Adam was a regular, so was the professor, among many others, who I still see regularly at the camera shows.  And Paul, a sweet man he is; always helpful and full of knowledge.  He is a walking encyclopedia on film gear, who is also a good photographer and loves Pentax and Zeiss.

My 10D was overjoyed and very accepting to the old lenses. We found many ways to make pictures with a manual focus lenses.  We made images with lenses that we had never even heard of before, like Meyer, Pentacon, Prince, Accura, Sun, etc. We had a great time when I brought home something interesting to try on: enlarging lenses, projection lenses, anything that can make pictures taking interesting and exciting.  I even made a split screen for the 10D from one of Nikon's film cameras, to make manual focus easier. Together, we made over 35000 images during the time we spent together.

William, 2005 - Canon 10D & Takumar SMC 35mm f3.5, one of my first manual focus lenses.