Thursday, December 29, 2011

Canon 1D III Auto Focus in Heavy Snow

Sally -- 1D III & EF 135mm f2. Click for larger.

Looking through the pictures I took yesterday and I noticed that there are quite a few mis-focused frames when there was heavy snow.  Normally, I only use the center focus point for stationary shots and it has been working well for me, but in heavy snow (perhaps heavy rain as well), the focus system gets fooled by the snow.  Perhaps, setting the focus system's sensitivity might help, but I have not tried.

Evergreen Brick Works

Dillon, Sally and I decided to hike the trails of the Evergreen Brick Works this morning.  Man, was it ever cold this morning with windchill at around -18c, plus the rock hard ice and snow coming down, it was a tough walk, but we enjoyed it.

Trail -- Canon 1D III & EF 135mm f2 L. Click for larger.

This was the first time I actually gone to the Brick Works, although we biked passed it a few times along the Don River.  I was hoping we could get some pictures inside of the buildings, but it was too early in the morning and after the hike, it was just too much for a day.

Sally's Favourite Evergreen trees -- Canon 1D III & EF 135mm f2 L. Click for larger.

I didn't actually take too many pictures, mostly because it was so cold and the snow was pretty heavy at times.  I was going to bring the 200mm f1.8L with me, but Dillon warned me that I should bring light gear as the trails could be steep.  Sort of regretted that I didn't bring it, as there was definitely opportunities to use this lens.  Oh well, perhaps next time.

Sharing a moment -- 1D III & EF 135mm f2 L. Click for larger.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Winter Wonderland -- Canon 5D & EF 85mm f1.2. Click for larger.

I would like to wish all my readers a happy and safe holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate.  May Santa bring you all the gears you always wanted under your Christmas tree.  May you and your family share a warm, safe and happy holiday season.  Don't forget to capture the happy moments; this is what photography is all about!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Looking Forward to 2012

Cloud -- 1D Mark III & Canon EF 200mm f1.8L. Click for larger.

It was the smaller camera companies that stole the show in 2011: Fujifilm with its X100, Sony with its NEX-7 and A-77.  As expected, Nikon and Canon brought the usual updates to their DSLRs, though Nikon did introduced the lackluster J1 and V1.  Oh yes, let's not forget Sigma's interesting and out of this world price of the SD-1 -- the pricing caused quite a stir but after that, hardly anyone even remembers the SD-1.  But, I think 2012 will be much more interesting, if we survive it.

Fujifilm, the dark horse of 2011, is hot on the heels of its successful X-100 and X-10, will be introducing its first EVIL camera.  This will be their first interchangeable lens camera since the S-5 Pro, where Nikon longer license its body to Fujifilm and consequently, they stopped making DSLRs.  I am looking forward to the Fuji EVIL, although I am sure it will not have a standard M4/3 mount, but the sensor it will use will probably be a bit different than your garden variety BAYER sensor, which claims the image quality will be equal to, if not better than today's full frame sensors.  Very exciting indeed!

Sony, with its highly acclaimed NEX-7, has generated a lot of interest from photographers.  There will be likely not much more on the EVIL front in 2012, but they will no doubt introduce at least two full frame DSLRs.  If they make the sensor at 24MP but with today's high ISO technology on their full frame bodies, I would expect them to perform well in terms of colour fidelity, dynamic range and high ISO.  Probably not as good as Canon's 1Dx, but will be way better than today's sensors.  Can't wait.

Pentax/Ricoh, I have a feeling they will introduce another EVIL camera system with a larger sensor.  The Pentax Q, as cute as it is, is too pricey to attract buyers.  Even if they do get another system out, I wouldn't expect it to be much different the current crop of EVIL cameras.  Their late entry into the digital market has cost them the market share and it would a small miracle for them to regain the ground.  Perhaps, they should learn a thing or two from Fujifilm, and introduce something different that people want to buy.

Canon has been the only major camera maker that does not have an EVIL camera.  Somehow, I don't think they will bring one out in 2012, and even if they do, it won't be until late 2012.  We will see the successor of the 5D Mark II, which I am sure will be a fine performer, but it won't be revolutionary.  People will buy them up, just like they do with the 5D II.  I am hoping they will split the camera into two models: one with the 18MP 1Dx sensor (but slower of course), and the other with a high resolution 32MP sensor for the people who need the high pixel count.  After the 40D, the sensors in Canon's low end DSLRs really disappoint me.  The image quality has gone backward, especially in low ISO.  Hopefully this will change with the next sensor design for the low end.

I think 2012 will be a more exciting year than 2011 for photographers.  We will have more full frame bodies, more EVIL models, and better low end DSLRs.  I look forward 2012.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Megan at the recital -- Canon 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.8, ISO 3200. Click for larger.

The music school that my kids attend has a recital once every few months.  I think it's a great practice for the kids who can play in the presences of large number of people.

I was looking at the pictures I took at the recital and thought the noise at ISO 3200 is like ISO 400 on my 20D, which doesn't look quite right.  I checked the RAW file and it was accidentally set to sRAW (2.5MP).  The down sampling no double made the file much cleaner, but of course I lose the resolution.  At least now I know how clean sRAW is, I might use it more often if I need to shoot at ISO 6400.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Here's Lookin' at Ya

Snowman and Woman -- NEX-5N & Chinon 55mm f1.4.

Took a walk and found this woman and the snowman staring at each other outside the Georgian House at the corner of University & Queen and I thought it was kind of funny.

Shot this picture with a Chinon (Tomioka) 55mm f1.4 lens.  At one time, I had so many variance of this lens with different names: Chinon, Mamiya Sekor, Petri, Cosina, Yashica, etc., all either made by Tomioka or based on the design of the Tomioka 55mm f1.4.  A little soft wide open, but sharpens up after f2.  By f2.8, it's extremely sharp.  Very nice lens indeed.  The Chinon version, if not marked (there is a version that says Chinon/Tomioka, I have had both versions) as Tomioka, can be had for a song.  If you need a fast lens for low light shooting, consider these old M42 mount goodies.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review -- Part III

Kowa Super-Prominar-16 50mm f1.2 Projection Lens

This, and the Kodak Ektagraphic 50mm f1.2 projection lens, is one of the fastest projection lenses I have.  I haven't used the Kodak version much, but I really like the Kowa.  Most projection lenses are made for the 16mm projectors, but all of them seem to cover the APS-C sensor just fine.

The super thin depth of field of this f1.2 lens allows one to achieve some creative pictures which is not possible with the kit lens.  The only downside is that aperture can not be controlled, and that it was hard to make it focus to infinity, even on the NEX, as the back of the lens is very close to the sensor.  I love doing close ups with this lens.

Petals in the rain -- NEX-5 & Kowa Super-Promina 50mm f1.2. Click for larger.

Bausch & Lomb Super Cinephor 120mm f1.9 Project Lens

This is the fastest telephoto projection lens I have.  The image quality is good, but the bokeh is messy and less than satisfying, but when you need a fast lens with good reach that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, this lens will do it for you.

Fall Leaves -- NEX-5N & B&L Super Cinephor 120mm f1.9. Click for larger.

In summary, projection and enlarging lenses are two of the cheapest ways to get high quality lenses.  Projection lenses for low light and shallow depth of field, and enlarging lenses for insane flat field sharpness with aperture control.  Both type of lenses need a focus helicoid to make them focus to infinity (or focus at all) but you will find the images you make with them will be worthwhile.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review -- Part II

This year I spent a lot of time and effort on Do It Yourself lenses; mainly projection lenses and a few enlarging lenses. The helicoids that I made/bought have helped making these otherwise useless lenses into image making tools. Projection lenses in particular, are dirt cheap, mostly because they have no aperture control, and their flange is extremely short, making them usable only the NEX (and some cases, M4/3). But, these lenses are very FAST, often with aperture of f1.2, perfect for low light, extreme shallow depth of field images. Below are some of my favourite DIY lenses:

Kern-Bolex 50mm f1.3

Extremely sharp, but flare and purple fringing prone.  Love the colour that comes out of this lens.  Very small and compact, yet very fast.  When mated to a focusing helicoid, it can focus very close and can be used as a pseudo macro lens.  Yet, it is able to achieve infinity focus. Avoid strong light/back lights.

Little Blue Flower -- NEX-5 & Kern-Bolex 50mm f1.3 Projection Lens. Click for larger.

Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3 Enlarging Lens:

This lens gets my vote for the best bang for the buck.  Seriously, people have trouble selling this enlarging lens for $5, because it's tiny, uncoated, and has very slow maximum aperture of f6.3.  But, as a sunny lens, I have found that it can make beautiful and colourful images, and it's sharp!  Best used with a hood as it's uncoated and flare is a huge issue.

Tulip twins -- NEX-5 & Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3. Click for larger. 

Astro-Kino Color 65mm f1.5 Projection Lens

One unique signature of this lens is that it produces swirling backgrounds when shot at a certain distance.  Many readers seem to enjoy this characteristic but when over used, it could be nauseating.  Like most projection lenses, It's very sharp at working aperture.

Tommy Thomson Park -- NEX-5 & Astro-Kino Color 65mm f1.5.  Click for larger.


Friday, December 9, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review -- Part I

2011 has been an interesting and exciting year in terms of photography for me.  I have updated my most used camera bodies: Sony NEX-5N and Canon 1D Mark III and most of what I set out to achieve has been fulfilled, with the exception of the 5D Mark II.  Very little has changed to my lens collection.  A few manual focus lenses have been added, but the quantities is nowhere near where they were during the last few years.  I am happy to say that I managed to take pictures more often this year than any other year, which I am very happy about.

Camera Bodies: 

NEX -- The NEX-5 has been my most used camera this year until late September.  The NEX-5 was replaced by the little brother the NEX-5N.  In terms of image quality, the 5N is the best camera I have used for small cameras.  I am extremely happy with my upgrade to the 5N.  Many worthy upgrades from the original NEX-5: shutter lag, speed, image quality, sensor clean, battery life, etc.  Worth every penny.

Panasonic G1 -- Hardly used it any more.  I am spoiled by the NEX-5N.  I gave it to Dillon for him to use.  Still one of the best camera to use with manual focus lenses, especially c-mount cine lenses.  

Canon 1D Mark III -- This camera replaced my trusty 1D Mark IIn that I have had for a couple of years.  Awesome camera in terms of speed and image quality.  Very happy that I don't have focu issues like my first copy last year.  This is the camera I go to when I need to capture action shots, or when auto focus is required.

Infrared Modified Canon 20D -- I think my love with Infrared Photography has lost its luster.  I don't remember using this camera more a few times this year.  But I am keeping it just in case I am into it again.

Canon XS -- Got this for Dillon a few weeks ago only because I got it very cheap.  But it's a nice little camera that produce amazing results.  Its tiny little view finder and shallow buffer make it very annoying.  But, it's a good camera to learn photography with.  I loaned Dillon my Sigma 50/1.4 as I don't really want him to use my 50mm f1.2L.  Hopefully he will make good use of it.

Canon 5D Mark II -- Well, it hasn't happened as planned.  I haven't got it yet, but hey, there are still three weeks left in December, so who knows?

Tree Trunk -- Panasonic G1 & Kiron 28mm f2. Click for Larger.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mannequins on Balcony

Mannequins at Kensington Market -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss 60mm f2.8 Makro. Click for larger.

Kensington Market in Toronto is an interesting place.  Most people would think of food/eatery when Kensington Market is mentioned, but it's also a sort of artsy place with some weird/unusual stuff.  It's definitely more unusual than your average Toronto neighborhood. In fact, lots of people love to go there to take pictures.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Mirrored pay phone -- NEX-5N & Contax Carl Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro. Click for larger.

After a couple of weeks of inactivity during my lunch hour, I decided to take a longer walk today to Kensington Market, and take some pictures.  It was a nice exercise that I have been lacking lately.  On my way back, I noticed the reflection of this pay phone on the wall and thought it was interesting.

The Spadina area around Kensington Market/Chinatown has a lot of photo opportunities.  If you are in the area, be sure to bring a camera with you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Garden Bench

Garden Beach -- NEX-5N & Bausch & Lomb 120mm f1.9 Super Cinephore

The last couple of weeks has been brutal.  I have been feeling sick and didn't want to do anything else but sleep.  Therefore, not much photography activities.  Hopefully I will resume the normal frequency of updating this blog.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vintage Zoom Lenses -- Are They Worth Buying?

This last week has been a terrible week for me.  Headaches, body aches don't seem to want to leave me alone.  Because of this, I have been feeling lazy and uninterested in doing anything.  Hopefully the coming week will be better for me.

I did, however, go out during the week to try out the Vivitar Series-1 35-85mm f2.8 zoom lens. I have had this lens for at least a couple of years but only took a couple of test shots after I bought it.  This particular one came in Minolta MD mount, but I also have the M42 version, which is not in as good condition as the one in MD mount.  Both behave similarly in optical qualities.

Sick Leaf -- NEX-5N & Vivitar S1 35-85mm f2.8. Click for larger.

The Vivitar Series-1 35-85mm f2.8 is one of the very early constant aperture f2.8 lens.  I wonder if it shares any optical design from the Zoomar 36-82mm f2.8 lens.  In any case, this is not a parfocal lens, meaning that it does not keep the focus when you change focal length.  Instead, it uses a variable focusing, which makes the design simpler, but you have to refocus when you change the zoom position.

Art in the Park -- NEX-5N & Vivitar S1 35-85mm f2.8. click for larger.

We all know the zoom lenses have lots of compromises optically and they are complex to design.  Early zooms were never really good, especially the cheap ones.  This particular one was the premium zoom lens from the Series-1 line with VMC coating, and was/is considered one of the better lenses from the time this lens was introduced.  In fact, this is one of the Vivitar cult classics.  It's a pretty impressively made lens, but I don't like the zoom action.  It's not very smooth.  Optically, it's pretty soft at f2.8, but usable with some post processing if the subject of interest is in the middle of the frame.  Stopped down to f8, it's actually quite good, especially for a zoom lens this old.  It's just can't compete with today's modern zooms with similar focal lengths, but than again, the biggest selling point for this lens was the larger f2.8 maximum aperture through out the zoom range.  This means in low lights, it means getting a picture or not at the safe shutter speed.  In terms of the bokeh, it's kind of messy but not ugly.

Would you buy one of these lenses?  I guess it all depends on how much you want to spend.  I certainly wouldn't spend too much money for it and would consider a  auto focus zoom, unless f2.8 is important to you and you can't afford an auto focus version.  Others might buy this lens for nostalgia reasons, or for collecting.  For practical use, a modern zoom lens is the way to go.

Bokeh -- NEX-5N & Vivitar 35-85mm f2.8 @ f2.8

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where Has the Fall Gone?

Swing -- NEX-5N & Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9 @ f1.9. Click for larger.

Autumn is almost over, and I don't remember taking any good pictures of the fall colours so far.  Each year I have been telling myself to go out of the city and shoot some fall colours, but it always seems such a difficult goal to fulfill.  For years, I have been shooting everything around me and where I go, mostly within the city. I can't remember how many times I have shot the same place around my work, although, each time at least a couple of pictures turn out a bit different.  It almost seems like a dream to go somewhere out of the city for the sole purpose of just taking pictures.

Monday, November 21, 2011

William on Rocksmith

William on Electric Guitar -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2. Click for larger

When we bought the game Guitar Hero, the kids loved it.  In fact, they won't a couple of prizes in the competition, and William won the third prize competing with the big boys in Brantford.  I wrote about it here last year.  But, they gradually got tire of it.  the guitar in Guitar Hero is not a real guitar.  Few days ago, we bought a similar game, called Rocksmith, which my colleague Ian told me about.  This game plays with a real electric guitar, and naturally, it's a lot hard than the 5-buttons on the Guitar Hero guitar.

So far, the kids seem to like it, but not as enthusiastic as they were when we got the Guitar Hero game.  I am especially surprised that William is playing really well.  Since Dillon plays a base guitar in the school band, it was a bit easier for him.  Regardless what Rocksmith claims, that it teaches you how to play a guitar, it really doesn't in the traditional sense during game play.  In some ways, it's very similar to Guitar Hero where you have to pick/Press the right notes on the guitar, and both games shows only the position of the incoming notes, not the notes themselves.  Perhaps, I don't know enough to write about it, and there are ways to display the notes as real notes.  In fact, I don't know music, so if I am wrong, take it easy :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Ryan - Canon 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2L @ f1.2

I don't know about you, but as my kids grow older, it's getting more and more difficult to take pictures of them.  They either give me a face, or cover the face.  So anytime I can get a candid picture of them, I count my blessings :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Carl Zeiss Distagon 35mm f2.8 QBM-Mount

Man @ Work -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss Distagon 35mm f2.8 QBM @ f8. Click for larger.

Finally got a chance to take out the Rollei QBM [Quick Bayonet Mount] lens for a spin.  It's been a while since I bought this lens at the photo show.  I was wondering if this older lens would perform similarly as the Yashica/Contax version of the Distagon 35mm f2.8.  Although I was kind of expecting the contrast may not be as good as the Y/C version, as this one does not have the HFT coating, where as the Y/C version has the famous T* coating.  I got what I expected.  While it's a nice lens, the contrast and sharpness of the Carl Zeiss 35mm f2.8 Distagon QBM is behind the Y/C counterpart.  Of course, this could be a copy variant, since I don't have another copy to test.  I think this lens has de-centering issue as the left side is slightly more blurry at the edges than the right edge.  It could also be the cheap QBM to NEX adapter too.

Cityscape -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss Distagon 35mm f2.8 QBM @ f8. Click for larger.

In terms of build quality, both the Y/C and the original Carl Zeiss Distagon are excellent.  The Y/C version is slightly larger with a 55mm filter size whereas the other has a 49mm.  Looking at both lenses, the Y/C version has almost no reflection while the other shows far more reflection.  Both focus very smoothly and a joy to use.

I think I prefer the Yashica/Contax version of the Distagon over the non-HFT QBM from the image quality perspective.  They are both excellent lenses.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spectacular Sunset

Beautiful Light Behind Building -- NEX-5N & Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron.

Sunset today was spectacular, but unfortunately I was in the middle of the city.  The downtown buildings were  basked in warm golden light but I didn't have a lens with a focal length that could capture the scenes.  Oh well, I had to make do with what I had and shot some buildings close by that had good light.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bausch & Lomb Super Cinephor 4.75 inch (120mm) f1.9

This Bausch & Lomb Super Cinephor 4.75 inc f1.9 is one of the most impressively made projection lenses I have.  Not the longest, but is the fastest for its focal length (120mm f1.9).  Last time I checked, a 135mm f2 lens was not cheap.  It's true that projection lenses do not have apertures without some modifications, but they are extremely sharp at the working aperture.

Leaf -- NEX-5N & B&L 120mm f1.9. Click for larger.

As with most projection lenses, purple fringing is a big problem, since they are not designed for outdoor use and the lens construction is relatively simple. Another issue is flare, though with a hood, flare can be reduced.  In terms of bokeh, it's not as nice as I would have liked, but again, these kind of lenses are not designed to be photographic lenses, so this can be expected.

Bixi Bikes -- NEX-5N & B&L 120mm f1.9. Click for larger.

I mounted this lens on the Vivitar 2X Teleconverter converted helicoid, and the focusing was smooth.  It wasn't as hard to use as I feared, though it's not a lens for the decisive moments, as precise focusing takes time, due to its very thin depth of field shooting at f1.9 at 120mm.  For moderately close range, this lens shows very high resolution but at infinity, it's definitely not great, unless you can stop it down a notch or two.  But I like this lens for close up photos and its very fast maximum aperture, which creates paper thin depth of field.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

101 Pianists - Toronto

The 101-Pianists -- Canon 1D Mark III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click for larger.

My daughter Megan, was fortunate to be one of the 100 kids to participate in the Piano Workshop at Roy Thomson Hall led by the internationally renowned pianist Lang Lang.  I am sure it has been an interesting, if not life changing experience for many of the kids.  Parents were allowed to take video and flash-less still pictures of the workshop.  That was a very nice thing to do, as most parents would love to record the workshop to enjoy it again later.  Lang lang was incredible of course.  He did play a solo piece by Liszt, which was not on the schedule.

Lang Lang -- 1D III & EF 135mm f2. Click for larger.

I brought along my 1D III and a few primes plus the 16-35mm f2.8L II and ended up using most the 135mm f2 and 16-35mm f2.8L II.  One of the best features of the 1D III and newer 1-Series of cameras, is the Silent-Shutter mode.  Well, it's not really silent, but is very quiet compared to the normal shutter sound.  Basically, when engaged, the return mirror is damped by lowering it slowly after the shutter is tripped.  This feature is perfect for concerts and quiet events.

Model Pianists Annie Chou & Anna Vertypolokh. Click for larger.

Young Pianists. Click for larger.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dusk Over Lake Ontario

Dusk -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8

Nature is incredibly beautiful.  Different lights give the same scene very different moods.  This picture was taken near the Port of Toronto and I have taken many pictures in this area and know that some days, the light can be gorgeous after the sun set.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Look Back at the Canon 1Ds Full Frame Camera

Maple Leaves -- Canon 1Ds & Schneider 105mm f4.5 Enlarging Lens. Click for larger.

I have been sorting out some old pictures I have taken for a photo book project, and came across photos taken with Canon's first full frame camera, the 11 MP 1Ds.  This was a slow camera with an awful LCD screen and noisy high ISOs above 400.  I sold it mostly because I couldn't stand the glacial write speed.  But, some of my favourite pictures were taken with this camera.  I love the low ISO quality of this camera, especially the colour and sharpness of the pictures.  Perhaps one day, when this once $10,000 camera can be had for a few hundred dollars, I will pick one up again.

Man in Black

Man in black -- NEX-5n & Canon FL 58mm f1.2 @ f1.2

Yesterday morning while I was riding my bike to work near Moss Park, I saw this man in black hoodie sitting on the curb under a big tree, with leaves all around him.  I was moved by the solitude in the man so I hopped off the bike and took a few shots.  Yes it felt a bit awkward and weird as I had to get pretty close to him since my lens was not very long, but it wasn't as bad as I thought.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Colours

Fall Colours -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8 @ f1.8. Click for larger.

Hard to believe it's already November.  To me, there always seems to be a bit of sadness when the year ends.  Perhaps all the beautiful colours and cool fall temperatures will be replaced by snow, bone chilling wind of winter.  Here in Canada, autumn is too short, and winter too long.   On the bright side, we won't appreciate the warmer weathers if there is no cold winter.

NEX-5N & Third Party Batteries

Church Wall, 2003 -- Canon 300D Rebel & EF 80-200mm f2.8L.

I had two third party batteries I bought when I had the NEX-5 and never used them on the new NEX-5N since the battery life has improved quite a bit on this new camera and never exhausted it in any one take.  Today I just tried them on the NEX-5N and the camera complained about Incompatible Battery error.  Frankly I was a little pissed off.  Like what Panasonic did with their chipped batteries, this is just pure greed.  If they price their batteries at reasonable level, few would buy third party batteries.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Colours from Older Cameras

Fall Leaves 2008 -- Canon 1Ds & Schneider 105mm f4.5 Enlarging Lens. Click for larger.

Looking back at some of the pictures I took with older cameras, I found that I prefer the colours from those cameras.  This is especially true for the original 1D and 1Ds.  I just love the colour fidelity of the 1Ds at base ISO.  The colours seem more saturated and pleasing than, say, 7D or T2i.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Hour with the Canon FD 85mm f1.8 SSC

Yesterday I took the Canon FD 85mm f1.8 out shooting during lunch.  I have had this lens a while already but haven't really gotten around using it.  This is an amazingly compact lens for the focal length.  In fact, it's near identical in size to the FD 35mm f2 SSC, and about the same as the 50mm f1.4 SSC, but the 85mm f1.8 is slightly heavier.

Bike Bell -- NEX-5N & FD 85mm f1.8. Click for larger.

For some reason, 85mm lenses tend to be very expensive.  I think partly because most of them are quite fast with maximum aperture of f1.2 to f2, with a few at f2.8, or even f3.5.  On full frame, 85mm is a portrait focal length, hence most of the 85mm lenses have large maximum apertures to soften the background to make the subject stand out.

Autumn Leaf -- NEX-5N & FD 85mm f1.8. Click for larger.

From experience, most of the 85mm lenses are very good, especially the Takumar SMC 85mm f1.8, and the Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron.  The Canon FD 85mm f1.8 is also an optically good lens.  It's already quite sharp wide open.  By f2.8, the lens is extremely sharp. The Super Spectra Coating (SSC) does a great job of reducing flare as well as improving contrast.  The bokeh is quite nice with 8 aperture blades.  I would rate this lens in par with the Minolta MC 85mm f1.7.

Fall Colors -- NEX-5N & FD 85mm f1.8.

One of the best things about the FD 85mm f1.8 is that it's cheaper than most other mounts.  The Minolta MC 85mm f1.7 costs more, and the Takumar SMC 85mm f1.8 is now priced up the wazoo.  It's still good value for the money.  The only disadvantage is that it, and the Minolta MC version, can not be used on Canon bodies without adapters with correction glass, which also mean they can not be used on full frame.  But, they work wonderfully on M4/3 and NEX cameras.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Took the younger kids out Trick-or-Treating this evening.  Some of the houses we went to were very well done and looked really nice (spooky).  Of course I brought along my NEX-5N with the FD 55mm f1.2 and took some pictures.  All were taken wide open at f1.2 due to lack of light.

Pumpkins -- NEX-5N & FD 55mm f1.2 @ f1.2, ISO 3200. Click for larger.

Waiting -- NEX-5N & FD 55mm f1.2 @ f1.2, ISO 3200

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some of the Things I Like about NEX-5N

Kew Beach -- NEX-5N & Canon FD 55mm f1.2. Click for larger.

There are few things that I really like about the NEX-5N over the original NEX-5.  First thing first, image quality is markedly improved.  Yes, there doesn't seem to be much difference when compared shots in perfect studio lighting, but anyone who have used both the NEX-5 and NEX-5N can tell you there is a big difference.  This is especially true on high ISO.

First Curtain Shutter: This is one of the best new features that I really like.  It reduces vibration on the camera and is quieter.  I can consistently take sharper pictures at lower shutter speed than I could with the NEX-5.

Dust Shaker: on the NEX-5, this was good as nothing.  Since I changed lenses a lot, I found the sensor to be ALWAYS dirty with dust particles.  The new dust shaking is far more effective.  I have seen any dust in my pictures yet.

Battery Life: this is slightly improved, but still light years behind Canon DSLRs.  On my 1D III, I can get at least 2000 shots before the battery is depleted.   Even on the T2i, battery lasts more than twice as long as the Sony NEX-5/N.

Overall, the new features are more than worth the upgrade price.  I am very happy with the NEX-5N.  I would be happier still when I can get an EVF for it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Streetcar in the Evening Sun

Streetcar -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8 (M42)

The sunset today was spectacular.  I love this kind of lighting in the evening where everything basks in a layer of warm golden ray.  But it's difficult to photograph because the dynamic range is huge.

The Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8 has been neglected for a long time.  Used it very sparingly, like 3 or 4 times in the last few years.  For one thing, it's not easy hand holding a big lens like this and get sharp pictures without tripod.  On the NEX-5, it's equivalent to a 300mm f2.8 lens in terms of angle of view, making it very difficult to focus.  But, it's a nice lens with beautiful bokeh.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Low Light Shooting

Megan -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.2, ISO 3200, 1/2 stop under-exposed. Click for larger.

The reason I love fast lenses is because I hate flash.  Flash destroys the atmosphere and gives lifeless pictures, especially when bounce flash is not available.  I am not talking about multi-flash set up, but shooting at the moment when the picture opportunity arises. Also, the reason I like Canon because it has an arsenal of low light capable lenses, like the 24/35mm f1.4L, 50mm f1.0/1.2L, 85mm f1.2L, and the 200mm f1.8/2.0L.  No other lens makers I know of makes so many f1.2/f1.4 and even f1.0 auto focus lenses.  True, these lenses are crazy expensive, but at least you have an option.

Of all the Canon lenses I have, the 85mm f1.2L II is my favourite.  It does not have the focus shift problem as the 50mm f1.2L at close range and is very sharp at f1.2.  But, we expect it.  Would you pay $2000 for a lens that you can't use at its maximum aperture?  Many complain about the 85L's slow focus, especially for version one, but don't forget that it's a portrait lens.  I wouldn't use it to shoot sports, and it's more than fast enough for me.

Ryan -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2L @ f1.2, ISO 3200. Click to enlarge.

The more I use the Canon 1D III, the more I like it.  The focus works excellently, though not perfect, in extremely low light with low contrast objects. I am very relieved that I don't have any focus problems with this Blue-Dot version of the 1D III.  It's ISO 3200 is cleaner than the Sony NEX-5N.  The RAW files are just absolutely wonderful to work with.  In fact, I am beginning to think that I don't need that 5D Mark II any more.  That extra of a stop of better high ISO performance won't matter too much to me, as ISO 3200 is probably the highest I would use, and if I need wide angle, the 16-35mm is still wide enough for me at about 21mm equivalent at 16mm.  For video, the NEX-5N (or the NEX-7 if it turns out as good as what Steve Huff says) would be more than good enough, as I don't even use it much.

Lone walk at night -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2L @ f1.2, ISO 1600.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weird Clouds

Clouds at Tommy Thompson Park -- NEX-5N & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens. Click for larger.

I like clouds.  The shapes are always unpredictable; sometimes weird, sometimes majestic, and often leaves me in awe.  When combined with lights, they sometimes look spectacular.  I think clouds are one of natures most beautiful phenomena.