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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pictures of Clouds

For some reason, I have always been fascinated by clouds. The shapes can range from peaceful cotton ball clouds to weird and fierce looking monsters. Below are few I took in the last few days which I think is interesting.

Let There Be Light -- Sony A7 & Hektor 120mm f2.5 Projection Lens. Click for larger.

Cloud Monster - Sony A7 & Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 Adaptall. click for larger.

Stairway to Heaven - Sony A7 & Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 Adaptall.

Old Man Smoking - Sony A7 & Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 Adaptall.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Canon FD 50mm f3.5 Macro

The 50mm f3.5 Macro lens is THE most popular macro lens ever made. It's cheap, and can double as a standard 50mm lens so a lot of people buy one of these to replace their 50mm f1.8/f2.0 lens that came with the camera. Practically all of them has a 1:2 magnification ratio and they usually came with an extension tube to make the lens capable of 1:1 (life-size) macro shots. Perhaps because of the abundance of these lenses in the used market, they are extremely cheap, usually in the $50-$80 range for a very good condition copy. Naturally, when some people look at it with such low price, they automatically discount the lens as of low quality, or lens snobs who wouldn't look at lenses with an aperture of slower than f2, especially for a 50mm lens :)

I looked at the Minolta version of this lens here, and here, and I liked it a lot, especially when it's so cheap. Last week I got my hands on a like-new Canon nFD 50mm f3.5 Macro, complete with 1:1 matching tube. Leica Guru Erwin Puts has good things to say about this particular lens (can't find the article on his site anymore), so I was itching to try it myself. I was not disappointed.

If you are not a fast lens freak, you will love this lens. Extremely sharp even from maximum aperture of f3.5, and stopping down a little the sharpness will make your eye bleed :) and it's sharp across the whole frame. Very high resolution.  At infinity, the sharpness drops a bit, but still excellent.

I find this a very versatile lens to have around. The focal length is comfortable to shoot with, and because it's usable wide open, there really is no restriction except if you need very shallow depth of field. It's worthy of a spot on your lens shelf.

All pictures below were taken with the Sony A7 and Canon nFD 50mm f3.5.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ansco Xyton 100mm f4 - An Uncommon Lens

Seriously, I don't remember when I got this lens. It's got a weird mount that only fits the Anscomark M camera. According to the information I found on the web, this lens (and its camera) was made by Ricoh in Japan. One thing that really struck me when I first picked up this lens, is how beautifully it's made. The lens is not large, but very dense. It's shorter than the Minolta 100mm f3.5 but larger in diameter.

I was able to mount it on the Yeenon helicoid by sticking a filter on its rear. It actually looks pretty nice on the Sony A7. Unfortunately, its IQ doesn't match its good looks. No, it's not a bad lens, but I was hoping it would be better.

The lens is relatively sharp even at f4, but the long edges do not keep up with the sharp centre, even stopped down to f8, but it never get truly terrible. I kept thinking such a nice looking lens should perform better :)

The bokeh of this lens taken wide open is quite nice. I like it a lot.  Too bad it's so slow at maximum of f4. Nevertheless, there is a certain joy in using an uncommon lens to make pictures.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 on Sony A7

Tamron made many Adaptall lenses; some very good primes with focal length ranges from 17mm to 400mm, plus the 350mm and 500mm mirror lenses, but strangely, I don't believe Tamron ever made a 50mm lens. One very unique zoom that Tamron made was the 70-150mm f2.8 Soft. It's a very fast zoom with Soft Focus capabilities. Hard to find, and very expensive, but produces interesting pictures.

The SP series of the Adaptall lenses were premium lenses that were better build and usually optically better than the regular non-SP series. I was, and still am, a big fan of Adaptall lenses. Still have a dozen of them, and among them is the SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4. It's a very large, long, and heavy lens. With the hood, and fully zoomed out, it could look intimidating. Many dismiss this lens due its slow maximum aperture at the long end, but with today's digital cameras, this shouldn't even be a concern, but when using long end at 300mm, it's not easy to keep the image from jumping in the viewfinder, and thus hard to focus. Cameras like the OM-D E-M5 or E-M1 are better for this focal length, but using a zoom lens with In-Body-Image-Stabilization is too cumbersome as you will have to change the focal length in the camera when you change zoom position.

I find the lens very good optically, even when used at full aperture. There is the unavoidable colour fringing at larger apertures, but it's not unique to this lens. Besides, it takes a few clicks to fix in Lightroom. Even after decades, the zoom is still very smooth and no severe zoom-creep.  I think it's a good value for range and its optically competent. A good choice if you need long reach and reasonable cost but with good image quality.

Mohawk helmet - Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 & Sony A7. click for larger.

Three Amigos - Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 & Sony A7. click for larger.

One legged seagull - Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 & Sony A7. click for larger.

"Get out of my territory!" - Tamron SP 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 & Sony A7

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Waterfront Night Market

Toronto has many food related events throughout the year.  Probably the largest of these events, is the Taste of Danforth, spanning many streets on Danforth for more than a mile.  And then there is Taste of Little Italy, Taste of Little India, and many others, including those in the Chinatowns. The Waterfront Night Market started five years ago by T&T supermarket, hosted on its parking lot at the Cherry Street store. This event draws a large crowd every year, and unlike other events, this one is three days long starting on Friday and ends on Sunday. It has been a nightmare for me each year because we shop there every Saturday and during this festival, finding a parking space is next to impossible.

My son Ryan joins the Lion Dance club at school and they performed the lion dance there yesterday. I went there a bit early to take some pictures before picking him up.  Even at near midnight, there was still a lot of people. The most distinctive food, either you hate it, or you love it, is the smelly tofu. In the the first year the smell almost knocked me out. I have heard of smelly tofu but actually smelling it is something completely different. I find the smell offensive to my nose, but I am sure many would consider it a delicacy. Oh well, horses for courses.

The Night Market is more than just food. There is live music performances, rides for kids, and many other happenings. It's good fun for the whole family, if you can stand the smelly tofu, which followed me everywhere I went.

All pictures below were taken with the Canon nFD 50mm f1.2 & Sony A7.

Cooking up a storm - Sony A7 & Canon nFD 50mm f1.2. click for larger.

Recording a concert - Sony A7 & Canon nFD 50mm f1.2. click for larger.

Corn Dogs - Sony A7 & Canon nFD 50mm f1.2. click for larger.

Lights - Sony A7 & Canon nFD 50mm f1.2. click for larger.

Sweeter than first love - Sony A7 & Canon nFD 50mm f1.2. click for larger.

Squids on skewers - Sony A7 & Canon nFD 50mm f1.2. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Minolta MC Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 - Sample Pictures

Mirrorless cameras have given new life to so many old lenses, including the Minolta MC/MD lenses, and the Sony A7/A7r/A7s restore the perspectives that these lenses were designed for.  I am a fan of Minolta manual focus lenses. They are (or were) very affordable with great optics and are well-built.

The Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 is quite a large and heavy lens. It's built like a tank. Optically, it's not bad, considering its age. Quite sharp from f5.6 on but lots of colour flinging in contrasty scenes. For a relatively cheap price, I think this lens is worthy to have a round, if you need a moderately long lens.

Fallen - Minolta MC Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Best Friends - Minolta MC Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Catch - Minolta MC Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Taking a break - Minolta MC Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Me Time- Minolta MC Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 & Sony A7.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sony Customer Service - Last Update

Sony delivered.  I wrote about the issue with Sony getting the missing items when I bought an open box A7 from the Sony Store. It took 4 deliveries and some back and forth email exchange with Sony to get the correct items, but they did it.  I got my lens hood for the Sonnar 35mm f2.8 and the body cap for the A7. I am extremely happy how things turned out. Sony has earn another loyal customer.

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Minolta MC Rokkor-QF 200mm f3.5 @ f3.5

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Minolta Auto Tele Rokkor-QE 100mm f3.5

Many would confuse this lens with the macro version of the Minolta MC Rokkor 100mm f3.5. This is a plain, vanilla portrait lens.  Very compact and very well built; just slightly (less than 1 cm) longer than the MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4 and weighs about the same. Aperture stops are locked, like the Topcor 58mm f1.8. You must press a pin to change aperture. This is good in a way, that you won't accidentally change the aperture, but too cumbersome in actual use.

The lens is pretty contrasty for a portrait lens, but I guess it was designed for black and white photography in mind, as it predates the MC and MD Rokkor lenses. Very sharp stopped down, and completely usable wide open.  Minimum focus distance is 1.2m which is not too bad, but forget about close ups. The bokeh is actually quite nice, helped with an 8-blade aperture.  Overall a delightfully nice lens to use.

Three crosses - Minolta Auto Tele Rokkor 100mm f3.5 & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Bokeh - Minolta Auto Tele Rokkor 100mm f3.5 & Sony A7. Click for larger.

Ryan - Minolta Auto Tele Rokkor 100mm f3.5 & Sony A7.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

180 Degrees

I am not a big fan of fisheye lenses, though I own a couple. The exaggerated angle of view makes my head spin. But once in a while, it's kind of fun to shoot with one.

The Pentax SMC Takumar 17mm f4 is one of the fisheye lenses I have. The other is a Ricoh 16mm f2.8 in K-Mount, but that lens can not be focused to infinity, so the Fish-Eye-Takumar is what I alway use. This lens has very high center sharpness, but unfortunately the long edges fall apart. It is the same on the Canon 1Ds as it is on the Sony A7. Nevertheless, it's a fun lens to use if used in moderation :)

Gooderham Flatiron - Sony A7 & Fish-Eye-Takumar SMC 17mm f4. Click for larger.

Red Umbrella - Sony A7 & Fish-Eye-Takumar SMC 17mm f4. Click for larger.

Close-Up - Sony A7 & Fish-Eye-Takumar SMC 17mm f4. Click for larger

Mannequin - Sony A7 & Fish-Eye-Takumar SMC 17mm f4.