Monday, August 31, 2009

Downtown Montreal

Montreal is a city of contrast, and full of photo opportunities. The old blends in so well with all the new buildings that surround them. Almost every corner, there is an old church, or building with history. It's a great city to explore. The only down side is that it's an expensive city, compared to Toronto. Everything seems to cost more. Gas, food, entertainment, parking, etc. But, people don't seem to mind it. Shops and restaurants are full of people, even into the very late nights.

It probably takes a full week to explore just the downtown of Montreal. There is so much to see, and photograph. If you are into architecture photography, be sure to visit Montreal.

Montreal Convention Centre -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. Click for larger.

Holiday Inn in China Town -- 5D & EF 35mm f1.4 @ f1.6, ISO 1600 hand held. Click for larger

Horse Carriage -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. Click for larger.

China Town at night -- 5D & EF 35mm f1.4.

Looking down from 12th floor -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5.

The Guarding Lion -- 5D & EF 35mm f1.4 ISO 1600 hand held

View from a windown at MacDonald's -- 5D & Sigma 15-35mm f3.5-4.5.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

1000 Islands

On our way to Montreal, we stopped by the 1000 Islands near Kingston, Ontario, and took a one hour boat tour. It is a beautiful place and well worth the visit. Be sure to take one of the boat tours. Some of the tours stop on Heart Island for the closer look at the Boldt Castle.

Boldt Castle on Heart Island -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. Larger Picture.

The name of this island is called "Just Room Enough" -- 5D & EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS. Larger Picture.

Shortest international bridge in the world. The bridge that joins two islands, the larger one, called the Zavikon Island, belongs to Canada -- 5D & EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS. Larger Picture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


This picture was taken with the EF 135mm f2 L lens, arguably one of the best lenses ever made in this focal length, and has auto focus to boot. Have not used it very much (that's the problem when you have so many lenses) but every time I do use it, it always delights and rewards me with exceptional image quality.

Smile -- 5D & EF 135mm f2L @ f2.2. Larger Picture.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wild Wide Angle -- Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5 EX

This was a replacement lens I bought later after I sold the Canon EF 17-40mm f4L. In many ways, the Sigma is quite a respectable lens.

The Good:
  • Very sharp in the center area
  • Distortion is well controlled if used carefully
  • Wider than the 17-40 and you see the different the 2mm makes
  • The built quality is quite good, being Sigma's EX series of lenses
  • Flare is well controlled for a lens this wide
  • Price is about half of what you would expect to pay for the Canon 17-40mm f4L

The bad:
  • Far edges are blurry
  • Sigma colour has never been my cup of tea
  • Exposed bulging front element
  • Can not take front mounted filters without vignetting
  • Non Ultrasonic focus motor
Despite the shortcomings of this lens, I have become fond of its super wide angle of view. Any wider and you are in the fish eye lens territory. If used on the 1D series, the bad edges are masked by the crop factor of the sensor. On 1.6 crop bodies, you shouldn't see any bad edges at all.

One of the many roller-coaster rides in Canada's Wonderland -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm. Larger Picture.

The Cyclone. Only the crazy will ride something like this :) -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm. Larger Picture.

Xtreme Skyflyer. Can't imagine myself doing this -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm. Larger Picture.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vivitar 24mm f2.8 in M42 Mount

Dug out some old lenses. I used to have a lot of Vivitar lenses, from 21mm to 400mm, but were sold off slowly due to non-use. Still have a few of them around. This 24mm f2.8 is one of them. The TX mount 28mm f2.5 is the other that I saw still sitting on the shelf the other day. Both have similar builds, and both were made by Tokina, and in the same year. The coating on the 28mm f2.5 is nicer with more colours. Both look similar, stops down to f16, and have 8-blade aperture, uncommon among wide angle lenses.

For an old lens, it's reasonably sharp, although the far edges on full frame is bad, even stopped way down. Mount it on a crop-body, this will make a nice mini-wide angle without the mushy edges. On the other hand, distortion is pretty horrible, especially near the far edges. Check the last picture on that Volvo.

This lens is actually very decent when used closed up. Seems sharper when closed up than at infinity.

As with most wide angle lenses, focusing is difficult on the 5D. I do miss the split screen that was in my 1Ds.

[Updated August 31, 2009] -- I think the distortion on the last picture comes from the windshield. I took the picture in the drivers seat on my way to work, through the windshield. I was not able to duplicate that distortion again.

Vivitar 24mm f2.8 in M42 Mount. Larger Picture.

Crazy Ted Taken by Ted Himself -- 5D & Vivitar 24mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

Parking Lot -- 5D & Vivitar 24mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

Nice and sharp at close up - 5D & Vivitar 24mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

Distortion - check out the Volvo on the bottom right. Larger Picture.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Schneider-Kreuznach Editxa-Xenar 50mm f2.8 M42 Mount

A lens whose name is a mouthful that you don't see often in M42 mount. Produces pretty nice results. A bit slow for my taste, but quite usable in all apertures. Would make a nice portrait lens in crop-bodies. As with many of my lenses, I haven't got too many pictures with it yet.

My Love - 5D & Schneider Editxa-Xenar 50mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Larger Picture.

Broccoli Man crashing the yard sale -- 5D & Schneider Editxa-Xenar 50mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More Minolta MD 50mm f1.2 Samples

Somehow, the MD 50mm f1.2 does not seem to ignite the spark in me, like the MC 58mm f1.2 did. It's still a great lens, no doubt, but pictures from the 58/1.2 just seemed, well, pleasing. Could it be the nicer bokeh? Perhaps. Maybe it's the feeling of the all metal construction of the 58/1.2 that I like, or, the fact that I now have a 5D and use the G1 much less. For whatever, reason, I haven't been using the MD 50mm f1.2 as much as I thought I would. It could be that I need to spend a little more time to cultivate the bonding with it :)

Bus stop shelter -- G1 & Minolta MD 50mm f1.2 @ f1.2, ISO 400. Larger picture.

Lingerie hanging in the display window. Very eye catching -- G1 & MD 50mm f1.2 @ f2. Larger picture.

Super shallow DOF -- G1 & MD 50mm f1.2 with Leica Elpro 3 close filter @ f1.2. Larger Picture.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sony A900 -- A Couple of Samples

Met up with mawz again this afternoon (yeah the camera store is like our second home now) and this time we took some samples with the A900 fitted with a Sony 50mm f1.4 lens. Only shot a few frames at ISO 200 and 400, but that already give me some ideas of what I can expect. Disappointingly, a camera that's released in 2009 has about the same high ISO performance as the 5-year old 1D Mark II. There is already quite a bit of noise at ISO 400 and the shadow shows noise even at ISO 200. This sensor reminds me of the Kodak SLR/c 14MP Canon mount full frame. Lots of noise when under exposed even slightly. But, the A900 delivers lots of details with its 25MP sensor. The auto white balance is also excellent.

For a guy like me, who despites flash, high ISO performance is important to me. I am eagerly awaiting the next generation "Exmor R" Sony sensors with back illuminated technology. I do believe this will be game changing sensor from Sony which will push Canon and other sensor makers to come up with competing technologies. Exciting times, indeed.

Adam (mawz) playing with the Canon 5D II -- A900 with 50mm f1.4 @ f1.7, ISO 400. Larger Picture.

Marc -- One of the nicest sales person at the Outlet Store. A900 with 50mm f1.4 @f1.7, ISO 400. Larger Picture.

Monday, August 17, 2009

New Love for an Old Favourite

I first got my hands on a Leica R Elmarit 28mm f2.8 back in mid 2005. Used it sparingly on my 10D, but sparks didn't seem to fly. The R28/2.8 was sold to fund other lenses of interest. In the back of my mind, some how, I had not forgotten about it.

Well, it's back. This one is a three CAM version, versus the 2 CAM version I had four years ago. First pictures I took on my 5D, my heart was captured. This lens is as good as the Elmarit 90mm f2.8 that I adore (more than the 2 CAM Summicron 90/2). Even on full frame, the far edges are very good. The micro contrast and colour are excellent. It's actually pretty wide on full frame, wider than I remembered. I can see that this could become my favourite lens for a while.

Toronto Loading Dock -- 5D & Leica Elmarit-R 28mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

Tour Bus -- 5D & Leica Elmarit-R 28mm f2.8. Larger Picture

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sony A900 -- A tempting Alternative

Met Mawz at the camera shop on Friday, and we were looking at the Sony A900. We were wowed by the amazing view finder. I thought the 1Ds and the 5D finders were pretty good, but when you look through the A900's finder, there is a marked difference. With the 50mm f1.4 lens attached, the view was bright and clear. Could someone buy a camera purely because of the great viewfinder? Maybe. But when you combine a gorgeous viewfinder with a great sensor, good ergonomics, nice handling, and other misc goodies, and most importantly, a great price, it becomes a compelling buy.

Will I buy one? Probably not. I don't have any Sony/Minolta glass, but I can't say my heart didn't skip a beat when handling the A900. Very tempting, very tempting indeed.

True Love Cafe - 5D & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8

Flower outside United MET - 5D & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8

Friday, August 14, 2009

Canon 5D EE-S Precision Matte Focusing Screen

When I got my used 5D, it came with a grid screen. Interesting, but pretty useless as I don't shot architecture, although it does help a bit in aiding the composition, especially in keeping the horizon straight. I am a manual focus lens maniac, and use them most of the time. The lack of a split screen for the 5D has bothered me, and I have been thinking of getting the EE-S screen, which many say will help.

Then I met Peter. Peter is a very nice guy who uses a 5D, and he shoots architecture, and he has an EE-S screen, and he needs a grid screen, and...Well, long story short. We exchanged the screens.

At first, the differences weren't that great in use between the grid and the darker EE-S screen, except that it's at least a stop darker, but as I have used it a bit more, I feel pretty comfortable getting accurate focusing, fast. Probably not as accurate as a split screen, but much better than the stock screen. The only down side is, of course, the very dark screen when using slower lenses. Although the screen is easy to change, it's inconvenient to do if you change lens a lot.

As its intended use, this screen is much better when used on very fast lenses. Ideal for lenses with aperture of f2 or faster. But, I regularly stop down the lenses to f8 to f11 and the screen still works well.

My conclusion is: buy it if you work with manual focus lenses a lot. Buy it from e-Bay. It's much cheaper. The local Henry's wants $75 for a piece of plastic, which can be had for half the price.

Daisy -- 5D & Leica R 90mm f2.8 (E55).

William -- 5D & Leica R 90mm f2.8 (E55)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sample Picture from Leica Summicron 35 f2

Absolutely love this lens. Sharp across the frame on full frame. Renders pictures very beautifully.

Contruction Zone -- 5D & Leica-R 35mm f2. Click for larger.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

180 Degrees

It's nice to get the wide angles back with the 5D. I didn't think I would miss full frame when I sold my 1Ds, but after using the Panasonic G1 for a few months, I looked forward to the wide angle views again. So today I took the Super Multi-Coated Takumar 17mm f4 fisheye, which has been sitting on the shelf for months, for a spin.

In more than a few occasions, I photographed my own fingers in the picture. With 180 degree of view, this was bound to happen.

Bikes -- SMC Takumar 17mm f4 & Canon 5D. Click on each picture for a larger version.

More 5D bits

I have read from many sources that the Canon 5D has the most problem with manual focus lenses. For some reason, the mirror on the 5D seems to stick out more than other Canon cameras, especially the 1-series full frame.

Well, it's true. Many of the lenses that work well, or workable on my 1Ds, 1D II, 30D, 20D, etc, would not work on the 5D. The butt of the lens would hit the 5D's reflex mirror. This includes Carl Zeiss the 45mm f2.8 Tessar pancake, Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar, Carl Zeiss 60mm f2.8 SP Makro, Carl Zeiss Rollei 50mm f1.4 (hit mirror on 1Ds but still can take pictures). I will have to check the others, but so far it's not looking good.

Basically there are two solutions to this: shave the mirror by about 2mm, or shave the butt of the lens. I am not going to modify my 5D, and may file the rear of the lenses. I will have to assess if it's worth the trouble.

On the other hand, I am enjoying the 5D tremendously. It's one heck of a camera and the used ones are at bargain prices right now. If you always wanted a full frame camera, but don't want to pay through the nose, 5D is your camera. Some would complain about the built quality of the 5D, but I don't know what the fuss is all about. Other than not weather sealed, the 5D is well built. I have use both the 1D II and 1Ds for a while, and holding the 5D in my hand does not make me feel the 5D build is inferior. So, I really question those who complain about the build-quality of the 5D, what their motive is.

Carl Zeiss Tessar 45mm f2.8 pancake & 5D -- Notice the bottom quarter of the picture is black. The sensor was partly blocked by the mirror when the lens is at infinity. The lens itself, is extremely sharp

Men at Work -- 35mm f1.4L & 5D. On the other hand, AF lenses work wonderfully on the 5D without focus issues

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Canon 5D -- Image Quality

Shot with the 5D for a couple of days, and now have some idea of how it performs in low light. I was afraid that it would be about the same as the 1D II, but I am happy to report that the 5D is about 1 full stop better than the 1D II above ISO 400. I can now use ISO 800 without reservation, and ISO 1600 when needed. This is a far cry from the 1Ds where I was afraid to shoot anything over ISO 200.

In terms of lower ISO, the image quality is also amazing. Due to the weaker AA filter, files have more acutance than the 1D II, and slightly more so than the 1Ds. Over all, I am very happy with the purchase. The only downside is the lack of split focus screen for the 5D.

Dillon -- 5D & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.4

Guitar Hero Ryan -- 5D & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.4, ISO 400

Chinese Gate in East China Town of Toronto -- 5D & Zoomar Kilfitt 90mm f2.8 Macro

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Minor Upgrade

Against all my upgrade plans, I bought the plain old Canon 5D. I just don't feel comfortable plunking down $3.5K on a new camera, even if I could save up the money to buy it. After almost 5 years since its introduction, the 5D is still held in high regard with its superb high ISO performance and image quality. It's by far the best full frame that a small amount of money can buy.

So it doesn't handle as nice as the 1Ds that it replaces, and the most inconvenient aspect of it, the split screen is not available for the 5D. It does come with a grid screen but I find it even more distracting than the plain old stock screen. I probably will consider buying the EE-S screen to aid manual focus.

It's great to have full frame again. This camera with the Holy Trinity (35L, 50L & 85L) are unbeatable. Hopefully I will use the heck out of this camera, like I have with the Panasonic G1, which is now over 12,000 frames.

Canon 5D & EF 50mm f1.2L -- Taken with G1 & Minolta MD 50mm f1.4

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Swarovski Crystals

No, I can not afford stuff like this. Pictures were taken at their Yorkdale Mall display cases. Besides, I am not into this kind of thing, but they are beautiful and fascinating to look at.

Swarovski Crystals -- G1 & Olympus 25mm f2.8 pancake @ f2.8 (both pictures). 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mad about Fast 35s

After getting the Nikkor 35mm f1.4 from mawz, it kind of struck me that I have quite few lenses in the 35mm focal length. So, I took inventory, and found that I have seven 35mm lenses that I consider fast (f2 or faster), plus a few slower ones with f2.8. If you think I am crazy, you are not too far from the mark.

What's driven me into this insanity? I guess just like the 50mm focal length, I also like 35mm. It's a very comfortable focal length for me. Even when used on 1.6x cameras, it's acts like 50mm, and on the G1, it's 70mm, which is close to a focal length I like (85mm). I find 24mm is too wide on full frame, 28mm is kind of ordinary, but 35mm is just perfect.

But why seven (actually more like 12, including the slower ones)? I don't know. More is better I think. Aside from being crazy, I actually used all of them, and I like them in this order: Canon EF 35mm f1.4, Leica-R Summicron 35mm f2, Minolta MC Rokkor 35mm f 1.8, Vivitar 35mm f1.9, Nikkor 35mm f1.4 (haven't used it that much yet, so this one could move up or down), and finally the Pentax SMC Takumar 35mm f2. I am actually surprised that the Takumar is the last one on the list. Takumar lenses normally occupy a cozy place in my heart, but I can't seem to warm up to this one. Not as sharp as the f3.5 version, and that's part of the disappointment.

The EF 35mm f1.4 is by far my favourite, and it auto focuses too. I compared this with the EF 24mm f1.4 that I also had, and like this one much better, and for non auto focus lenses, the Leica 35/2 gets my mark.

A bit of house cleaning is in order, to save my sanity, if I have any left. Definitely will keep the Canon and Leica. The Nikkor need to be evaluated more, but looks like a nice lens. One or both of the Vivitars will go. So, I will keep half and get rid of the rest.

After all that, I will need to decide what to do with the many telephoto lenses I have...

From Left to right: SMC Takumar 35/2, Leica 35/2, Minolta 35/1.8 MD, Vivitar 35/1.9 F-Mount, Minolta MC 35/1.8, Nikon 35/1.4, Canon EF 35/1.4. Click on each picture for a larger version.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


One of my favourite pictures from last week's outing to the beach. It's a shame that many Toronto beaches have not been safe to swim this summer, partly due to the city worker's strike.

Jump -- G1 & Vivitar 35mm f1.9

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Halt! No more lenses for a while

So I got the last of the lenses that I wanted from Mawz. It's the Olympus Digital Zuiko 25mm f2.8 pancake. For some strange and unexplainable reason, Adam did not like it. He gave a not very favrourable mini review of it here. I am happy to say that I have the absolute opposite experience, although I have only used it one day, I am already loving it.

The Oly pancake is a little larger than the Contax Zeiss 45mm f2.8, and also heavier. See pictures below for comparision.

The Oly 25mm f2.8 pancake is easily one of the sharpest auto focus lenses I have for the 4/3 and micro 4/3 mount. It's extremely sharp wide open. Not sure why the lens works differently on Adam's G1 than mine. I really can not complain about its optical performance. In fact, all the Olympus lenses, whether OM or Digital, are all superb. Perhaps, I wasn't expecting the pancake to be so good, after reading Adam's review, and therefore I am blown away by it. The bokeh is also fabulous.

I am looking forward to using it more often.

Oly 25mm f2.8 Pancake compared to the Contax Zeiss Tessar 45/2.8

Oly 25mm f2.8 Pancake compared to the Contax Zeiss Tessar 45/2.8

My Love -- Olympus 25mm f2.8 pancake @ f2.8

Canadian Flag -- G1 & Oly 25mm f2.8 pancake 

Tiger Lily - G1 & Oly 25mm f2.8 pancake @ f2.8