Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vivitar 28mm f2 for Nikon Ai-S Mount - Part 2

As it turns out, I have two copies of the Vivitar 28mm f2, made by different manufacturers. The Nikon Mount was made by Komine (one of my favourite manufacturers) and the other was made by Kiron. Unfortunately, the Kiron version has a Konica mount, which I can not use on the 5D, so I really can't compare the two. I could, however, try them on the G1, but then we will be using only a small portion of the optics, and you will never know how the edges will look like.

Starting with the Vivitar 28mm f2, I am going to provide more details when reviewing a lens, and this will span over multiple posts. For starters, I will include test shots for all apertures with 100% crop. For sure this will take up a lot of my time and shooting walls as test pictures is as exciting as watching paint dry. But, I think the used lens market is huge and lots of people are looking for information on old lenses. I am hoping by providing more details on old lenses, this will help protential buyers decide if the lens is for them or not.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Vivitar 28mm f2 for Nikon Ai-S Mount

Vivitar is (was) an interesting company. Now adays, it's known for cheap and crappy lenses and accessories. But, in its hay days of the 70s, they designed some of the best lenses of its time, and eventually become cult classics. They were never a manufacturing company, but they hired some very bright optical designers to create interesting lenses. These lenses were manufactured by many different companies, including Tokina, Schneider of Germany, Perkin Elmer of US, and Kino, Olympus, among others. Their most famous line was the Series 1. Lenses bearing this mark usually have excellent optical quality, like the Canon's L lenses.

Vivitar made Many versions of the 28mm focal length. I have owned the 28mm f2.8, 28mm f2.5, 28mm f1.9 (Series 1), 28mm f2.0. By the the best known of the 28mm is the Series 1 28mm f1.9, which I have in a Minolta MD mount.

Yesterday I acquired the 28mm f2 in Nikon Ai-S mount. Lens was made by Komine, as the serial # suggests (28xxxxx). This very compact lens has a 49mm filter thread, small for a lens this fast. A unique feature is the close focusing capabilities, which makes for some interesting effects. For one thing, you can actually get very defocused background if you shoot at minimum focus distance. In fact, the bokeh is not bad at all. At slightly longer distance, you can get a lot of background but still have a subject fill most of the frame.

For the couple dozen of shots I did last night, I am amazed at how sharp this lens is wide open! Definitely better than most 28mm lenses from its time. Will shoot some more to assess the image quality later on.

Untitled -- 5D & Vivitar 28mm f2 @ f2. Larger Picture.

Canadian Opera Company -- 5D & Vivitar 28mm f2 @ f2.5. Larger Picture.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009


William at the Barber Shop -- Canon 5D & Leica-R Summicron 90mm f2 @ f2.5.  Larger Picture.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Loved & Missed

Loved & Missed -- 5D & Schneider-Kreuznach Arton 85mm f4 for Kodak DKL Retina.  Larger Picture.

On the lamp post at the north west corner of Leslie & Eastern, a note that says:

"Loved & Missed
Isaac Morkel
Dec-20, 2005
Drive Safely"

Above the note is a bunch of white lowers with a red ribbon.  The ribbon gently moves with the wind.  When I looked at it, it was back lit and the red ribbon was very shocking to look at.  Isaac Morkel was hit and killed by a truck while riding through the intersection on his bike 4 years ago, 5 days from Christmas day.  I don't know Isaac, or the lady who posted the note and flower, but very obviously she loves him very much.  Isaac's gone but not forgotten.

Please drive carefully this holiday season, and watch out for cyclists and pedestrians.  Take care of yourselves and have a safe and happy holiday season.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Few More Pictures from the DIY Soft Focus Lens

[updated Dec-30-2009 for spelling errors]

Tried out the lens more yesterday. Found that the aperture helps very little. Stopping way down produced severe vignetting, but does not seem to affect Depth of Field much. Focusing is tough because everything looks soft and it's hard to find a focus point. The soft effect tend to be too much. Placing the lens element exposed in the front of the lens probably causes that. As expected, back lit scenes are mostly unusable. Some fine tuning/redesign is in order.

Regardless, it was a fun exercise. My next project is to create my own Lens Baby :-)

All pictures taken with a Canon 5D and my DIY soft focus Lens. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do It Yourself Soft Focus Lens

While writing about the Sima SF 100mm f2 soft focus lens, I had an idea to make one myself. With all kinds of junk -- tubes, lens barrels, mounts that I have left over from unsuccessful repairs or just dismantle them for fun, I had enough parts.

This particular lens is made from these parts:
  • A lens elements from an unknown lens -- Don't remember which lens it come from
  • Part of a lens barrel with focusing helicoid from a T-mount telephoto lens
  • T-Mount for M42
  • 3 different digital camera adapter tubes
  • Electrical Tape
That's it. The hard part is to find all the parts that fit together. First is to find a lens element that fits the lens barrel. Depending on the design, some are for wide angle, some are for telephoto. Once your found the lens element, the rest is to make it fit, and that it can focus to infinity (not a requirement depending on how you use the lens).

What I found is that this one actually has better colour. In fact, the colours are very intense. It could be because the lens element is coated, which increases colour fidelity. In any case, it was fun making it, and even more fun to use it.

Cubes! -- 5D & DIY Soft Focus Lens

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fun with Sima SF 100mm f2 Soft Focus Lens -- Part 2

I forgot to mention that this lens is also a macro lens.  There are advantages for a lens with sliding focus.  To get macro, you simply pull the inner tube out as far as you can get focus.

There is no helicoid in this lens, as you can see from the picture from the last blog entry.  Focusing is achieved by sliding the inner lens tube in and out.  Once in focus, you hold the inner tube and press the shutter on your camera.  That's it.  This sounds awkward to use, but it isn't. It's as fast as any manual focus lens.  The beauty of a lens like this one is that you don't need "critical" focus.  If it's slightly out of focus, the picture will be just a bit more soft, instead of blurry.

In use, I found that wide open at f2 is not usable, because the effect is too soft and you won't see much details.  The best compromise is set the lens to f4 with the supplied aperture disc.  At f4, the images are still soft, but it creates more depth of field and improved contrast and sharpness, as well as better details.  From f5.6 on, the lens behaves almost like a normal lens, except the colour is still wacky, and you lose that soft effect.  This is similar to the Canon 135mm f2.8 SF lens, which I will talk about in a future blog entry.

Soft focus lens is a special application lens that has limited use.  Great for women, or couples to create that romantic/dreamy quality.  I especially like it in black and white, but for certain subjects like flowers under certain light conditions, colour is also very enjoyable.  Just don't expect accurate colours from it, that's all.  As a specialty lens, which you won't use too often, it's probably not a good idea to buy an expensive dedicated soft focus lens, unless you can turn off the soft effect.  The Canon SF 135mm f2.8 and Nikon 135mm f2 DC can turn off the effect and can be used as a normal lens, but I am not sure about other soft focus lenses.

I found that strong, directional lighting can create some very nice effects, especially in the evening, or early morning light.  Back lit subjects are usually disastrous because the flare and internal reflection can make the images appear to be in a thick layer of fog.  In normal photography, you would avoid direct lighting, because that would create shadows or the picture will look harsh, but for this lens, it's best used this way.  The strong light will create a luminous, very pleasing soft effect.

Rose in the evening light -- Pentax *ist DL & Sima 100mm f2 @ f4.  Larger Picture.

Megan -- Canon 5D & Sima 100mm f2 @ f4. Larger Picture.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fun with Sima SF 100mm f2 Soft Focus Lens -- Part 1

Almost all major manufacturers makes a soft focus lens.  Canon has the SF 135mm f2.8, Nikon has the 135mm f2 DC, Pentax has the 85mm f2.8, FujiFilm has the 85mm f4, and Minolta makes a 100mm f2.8 and a 85mm f2.8 Varisoft.  I don't know if Olympus ever made one.  If you know, please let me know.  All of these soft focus lenses are very expensive or rare, costing hundreds of dollars or more.

There are many ways to achieve the soft focus effect. There are lots of soft effect filters of all kinds, the more expensive (Zeiss Softar comes to mind) ones cost almost as much as a cheaper soft focus lens.  So, as you can see, you can get soft effect from very cheap to very expensive.  In the olden days as a poor student, I made my own soft focus filter by applying a light coat of Vasoline on a UV filter.  Still others use a stocking to cover a normal lens to soften the light.  Which way should you choose to go?  Vasoline is messy, soft filters are a nuisance to carry around and use, dedicated soft focus lenses have a narrow application and expensive.

There is a nice compromise.

Enter the Sima SF 100mm f2 soft focus lens.  The lens comes with 3 filters that goes in the front of the lens.  This filters makes the lens f4, f5.6 and f8.  Without the filter, it's f2.  This is one of the cheapest, yet the most fun lens I have.  Very often turns up on eBay and can be had for about $25.  Very cheaply built, this T-Mount lens is made entirely of plastic, even the mount.  The lens comes in two parts as tubes.  The focusing part has the lens element, and is smaller.  It goes into the other, larger tube which has a lens mount.  The lens element is very deep into the tube and very hard to clean.  The good thing is that this is a soft focus lens, a bit of dust will just add a bit more softness to the pictures!  If you must clean it, just put it in the dishwasher, and it will come out nice and clean.  Probably the only lens I know of that can be washed without fear.

The lens element is un-coated, and uncorrected, thus giving you lots of aberration -- the colours captured with this lens is unprodictable.  What you see on the view finder is almost never what you get.  It's kind of a nice surprise, sometimes.

Next part, we will talk about how to use this wonderfully cheap lens.

Sima SF 100mm f2 plastic soft focus lens in its basic parts. Left is the outer tube that houses the inner tube with the lens element (middle), and on the right is the lens filter made of plastic. Larger Picture.

Megan -- Canon 5D & Sima SF 100mm f2 @ f2. It's a bit too soft at f2. Larger Picture.

Cube -- Canon 5D & Sima SF 100mm f2 @ f4. Larger Picture.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A stroll in Chinatown

Hanging thingies -- Panasonic G1 and Kodak 25mm f1.9 @ f1.9. Larger Picture.

North Chinatown at Spadina & St. Andrew -- Panasonic G1 and Kodak Cine Ektar 25mm f1.9.  Larger Picture.

Took a walk up Chinatown at Spadina & Dundas in Toronto.  Don't usually go this way on my lunch time, mostly because it's always busy, too crowded, and I can never seem to find anything interesting to shoot.  There is the Kensington Market, just off St. Andrew and Spadina, that perhaps I should explore one day.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kinoptik Special Cine 210mm T3 Part III

The Kinoptik Special Cine 210mm f2.8 (or more accurately, T3), is a large lens, as expected for a fast lens of this focal length.  It weighs 1.87 kg with my home made adapter, original front cap and the rear cap.  It's roughly the same weight as the Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens I have.  Despite being so heavy, the lens is surprisingly easy to focus.  I can focus it with two fingers, it's that smooth and light.  The aperture ring is also very light and easy to set.  The apertures are step-less.  There are no clicks between apertures. 

When mounted on the Panasonic G1, it looks kind of ridiculous and very hard to attain critical focus, due to the 2x focal length factor, making the lens having a view of a 420mm lens.  But, on the 5D, it's a much better fit.  Getting critical focus is surprisingly easy, although I do have an EE-S screen installed to aid manual focus lenses.

I quite like the images that come out of the lens and the 5D.  The pictures have a more 3-dimensional affect than my other lenses of similar focal length.  The bokeh is especially beautiful.  This is not a high contrast lens, but is the lens is very sharp, but not "dry".  Some lenses, especially older Nikon lenses are very sharp, but are very high contrast and thus giving the dryness feel to the pictures.  If I have to compare, pictures from the Kinoptik is like a medium rare steak done well, whereas pictures from other lenses are like well done steaks.  It's a well balanced lens between sharpness and contrast.  And the colour is wonderful.

I can't wait to shoot some portraits with this lens.  I think it's a nice portrait lens.  We'll see.

All pictures were taken with a Kinoptik 210mm f2.8 and Canon 5D.  Click on picture to see a larger version.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kiron 24mm f2.0 Lens in Olympus OM Mount

I like Kiron lenses.  No nonsense design, well made, and optically good though not phenomenally good.  They only have one fatal flaw -- oil in aperture blades after a few years of use.  I had a 28mm f2 Kiron lens that had oil in the blade.  This 24mm f2.0 also had oil in the blade.  In fact, it's so bad that aperture can not be closed down manually.

Bought this lens from the last camera show for $25, thinking that it's worth fixing it for $25 for such a wide and fast lens.  I finally got the courage (and time) to open it last weekend.  It sat in two small plastic bags for a whole week, because I could not remove the rear element group.  The aperture blades themselves are even harder to get access to.  At the end, I decided to remove most of the parts except the front elements group and the apertures.  The rear group of lens came off after some considerable effort.  After removing the rear group, I had access to the apertures.  They were almost soaked in oil.

Since I could not remove the blades, I did the only thing I could -- dabbed lighter fluid on the blades as they were and then rapidly open and close the blades many times.  This allowed the lighter fluid to flow to both sides and dissolved the oil.  Repeated this a few times and finally the blades were free of oil.  The lighter fluid evaporates without much residue.  Cleaned up the lens elements and put the rear group back, and reassembled the lens.

The hardest part was adjusting infinity focus.  There are two parts where you need to be careful.  When putting back the focusing helicoid and adjusting focusing screws.  First time after I put it back, it could not focus to infinity.  After about three tries, I was very close.  The lens now focuses slightly past infinity, which is ok.  I now know where it I could adjust it more finely and I will get it just right the next time.

Took the lens to work but it rained at lunch time and therefore didn't get a chance to do any shooting.  On my way home, I decided to drop by the Gooderham Flatiron.  It was raining but not too badly. I had a nice Konica 24mm lens hood on the lens to shield the rain (and flare).  It was difficult focusing because rain kept falling on my glasses.  Didn't get a lot of keepers, but happy to have a few.

I noticed today that the street lights across from the Flatiron are turned off every 10 minutes or so, for a couple of minutes.  This is a very nice consideration for the photographers, because when the lights are on, with wide angle lenses, you will get flare and unwanted lights that distracts from the beauty of the Flatiron.  Next time you are there, just wait a few minutes for the lights to go off, and then take your pictures.

Very happy with the sharpness of the lens.  Slightly soft at f2 but hey, it's an old lens and 24mm wide angle!  Stopped down to f2.8 and it feels like a completely different lens.  At f4, it's excellent.  It's hard to judge colour at night, but it looks OK to me.  Even the edge is very good, on full frame.

Will post some day light shots when I get a chance.

All pictures were shot hand held at ISO 1600 f2.8, except the first one at ISO 3200 f4 on the Canon 5D.  Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Blue -- 5D & Kinoptik Special Cine 210mm f2.8/T3.

These fire escape stairs are at the back of the Marty Millionaire's Antique Furniture store.  They have recently parted the whole building blue/turquoise.  Very striking.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Hug Me Tree in Toronto

If you hang around the Queen & Spadina area often, you will no doubt see the Hug Me Tree at the north west corner of Soho and Queen. Considered a local landmark, this artistically decorated dead tree was once displayed in Royal Ontario Museum. Well, if you have never seen it, be sure to stroll by next time you are in the area.

The Hug Me Tree in 2004 -- Canon 300D & Spiratone 18mm f3.2 M42 Lens. Larger Picture.

Hug Me Tree in 2007 -- Canon 20D & Leica 180mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

The Hug Me Tree in 2009 -- Canon 5D & Kinoptik 210mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lost and Found

Megan -- 5D & EF 50mm f1.2 @ f1.6. Larger Picture.

One day after I used the replacement Panasonic G1 charger, and I found the original one that came with the camera. It was, of all the places, in the basket of the paper threader. Well, there is Murphy's Law for ya.

As of late, I have found myself looking for stuff all the time. Must be getting old, or I have too much junk, or both.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Taste of Winter

Street Crossing -- 5D & Kinoptik 210mm f2.8 Special Cine Lens @ f2.8, ISO 800. Larger Picture.

We in Toronto had the first significant snow fall today, and soon after with rain. The icky and slushy wet snow created a chaotic condition to walk, bike, or drive. On top of all this, we had strong winds to gave us a taste of the winter to come.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kinoptik Special Cine 210mm T3 Part II

The Kinoptik Special Cine 210mm T3 has a removable mount. It came with a C-Mount which I could only use on the G1. The mount can be unscrewed. The thread size is roughly 55mm. I happened to have a few tubes of the exact same thread size. I gutted a 400mm f5.6 T mount lens a while ago and luckily saved the parts. The mount from the 400mm f5.6 lens goes inside the 55mm tubes almost perfectly. The focusing was adjusted and Gorilla Glue was used to glue the two parts together.

Home Made Mount. Bottom right is the original c-mount; above that is the home made M42 mount. Larger Picture.

Took the lens out today on my lunch around the area where I work, and shot the same scenes I have done so many times. The result, as expected, is fabulous. The pictures have that motion picture quality that I really like. No wonder people pay so much for a lens like this. Come to think of it, this lens reminds me of the Wollensak 209mm f4.5 copy lens. They have the same kind of quality wide open. Sharp, but not "dry", almost like sharp and soft at the same time. I think this lens is perfect as a portrait lens on full frame. Better yet, on a medium format Hasselblad.

Outdoor Lamp -- 5D & Kinoptik 210mm f2.8 (T3). Larger Picture.

Say Cheese -- 5D & Kinoptik 210mm f2.8 (T3). Larger Picture.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Twilight in the City

Victoria Terrace Shopping Centre -- Canon 5D & EF 85mm f1.2L. Larger Picture.

The advantage of having a fast lens and a high ISO capable camera is that you can shoot night scenes hand held.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kinopik Special Cine 210mm f2.8 C-Mount Lens

Got a new toy on the weekend -- Kinopik Special Cine 210mm T3.  Kinopik lenses are well known for their movie lenses.  They did make some 35mm lenses for the Alpa mount, as well as the Leica LTM mount, if I remember correctly. 

This particular lens is in exceptionally good shape.  Very clean and well taken care of.  The only thing missing is the original hood.  This 210mm f2.8 lens has a large image circle that can cover medium format.  The lens has an interchangeable mount that screws off, and a different mount can be put on.  It came with a c-mount adapter, and unfortunately, the only camera I have that can use c-mount lenses is the Panasonic G1.  This means that the lens will behave like a 420mm f2.8 lens on the G1.  You can imagine what's like hand holding a 400mm lens -- extremely difficult to get good focus due to very narrow angle of view as well as the camera shake.  Using this lens on the G1 is like putting a Ferrari engine in a Yaris.  I can't wait to convert this lens to another mount so that I can use it on full frame.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Shooting Swimming with Canon 5D

Let me say this first: Shooting sports with the Canon 5D is like having your soup with chopsticks.  It's not impossible, but there are better alternatives.

My kids had swim meets today but unfortunately I sold my 1D III three weeks ago.  The only camera I have that's capable of focusing relatively fast is the Canon 5D.  I thought of geting the 1D II again, but thought better of it in the end.  So, with no choice, but to shoot the events with the 5D.

Lighting in community centres are usually horrid.  This one is no exception, although it's already better than some.  Shooting at ISO 1600 @ f1.8 with my EF 200mm f1.8L would give me somewhere between 1/250s to 1/400s.  The real issue is slow frames per second and very small buffer.  Focusing accuracy on the 5D is actually excellent.  In the bursts of frames, the critical frame always seems to be between one of those three frames each second, darn it!  It's a far cry from the 10 frames per second of my now gone 1D III, or the 8 fps 1D II.  Since I always shoot RAW, no exceptions, this makes the buffer smaller still and also making buffer clearing much longer.  For this reason, keeper are relatively few.

In the end, there are few usable frames so I didn't feel too bad.  However, I am dreaming of a 1D Mark IV...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Accident at Spadina & Queen

Minor accident this morning at the Spadina & Queen intersection.  Two cars kissed each other.  I didn't see any damages to the cars, but one of the drivers seemed either in shock, or was injured.  The driver was not able to get out of the car, and consequently fire trucks and ambulance were called in.  Firefighters helped the driver out of the seat and into the ambulance.  All was fine, luckily.

Accident Scene -- G1 & Sicor 23mm f3.5.

Helping Hands -- G1 & Voigtlander Skopar 8.3cm f4.5.

Yesterday the battery charge for the Panasonic G1 came.  Very fast delivery from the states, considering it's a holiday season and usually a busy time for the post office.  As half expected, the battery does not work with the G1, which has the firm version 1.3 installed.  Third party batteries no longer works on the G1 after firmware version 1.3.  Another greedy act by the Panasonic.  I am a bit pissed off because the seller did not indicate that the battery does not work with new firmware on the G1, and the fact that Panasonic disable third party battery support.

The good news is that the charger works wonderfully.  Although it seems to charge a bit slower than the original Panasonic battery charger.  Not a big deal.  Charged up the drained battery and tried a new toy I got -- the unusual Minolta MD mount Sicor 23mm f3.5.  Yes, it's not a typo.  It's 23mm.  I believe Soligor also sold one of these lenses under their name.

From the dozen or so pictures I have taken, the lens itself seems to perform as well as most of the wide angle lenses from the 80s, at least in the center of the image circle.  Can't conclude about the image quality or another in that matter about the lens, with only one day of use.  I am sure I will use it a bit more and have an update on it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yamato - Drummers from Japan

Dillon, Ryan and I went to see the Yamato - Drummers of Japan in Massey Hall last night.  I have always liked drums, and can resonate with the heart pounding drum music.   I have owned the 鬼太鼓座 (sorry I don't know what the English translation is) CD since the mid 80s and it has been one of my favourite drum music CDs.  This CD was (still is?) used frequently to test out audio systems since it's dynamic range and the quality recording was exceptional.  The CD was manufactured by JVC.

The show used a wide variety of Taiko drums from very small to humongous ones. Through out the 90 minute performance, the energy, lighting, music and skills of the drummers are truly excellent.  The sound of the o-daiko drum was earth shaking!  The flow of the show was very well choreographed and lots of interaction with the audience.  The lighting created the mood that draws the audience into the performance.  Over all, we enjoyed the show tremendously.  Even Ryan liked it a lot.

Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.  I asked if I could take a picture of the stage, and was given permission to do so, but 30 seconds later, I was told that I could not take pictures at all.  A shame, as there are so many photo opportunities during the show with the great lighting.

If you like Taiko drums, don't miss their next show.  You can visit their web site here.

The stage -- Canon 5D & EF 50mm f1.2L