Sunday, January 31, 2010

Toronto Open, Winter 2010 -- Cubing Competition

The Toronto Open, Winter 2010 cubing competition was held in Seneca College's Oasis Conference room. More than a 100 cuber from different locations competing for the world record. This event produced the 2nd place world record time for a 3x3 solve by Harris Chan at 7.33 seconds. The world record is held by Erik Akkersdijk of Netherlands at 7.08 seconds, achieved at the Czech Open 2008.

My son Dillon, who just got into cubing a few months ago, asked me to register him for this competition. I must say that it's been an eye opener. As with many hobbies, there are fanatics in all of them. Cubing is no exception. But, all the cubers I have seen showed exceptionally good sportsmanship. The skills of some of the cubers are just beyond words. Who would have thought a 3x3 Rubik's cube can be solved in matters of seconds?

It's unfortunate that I had other commitments and could not stay for the top 10 final in this event. Below are some of the pictures I took for this competition.

Getting Ready. 5D & EF 35mm f1.4.

Speed Stacks. These things run on battery and less than half way through competition, the main display is dead due to drained batteries. Also the display is multiplexed (digits are displayed one at a time at high speed, to save power) and if you take a picture with speeds higher 1/30 of a second, you may not see all the digits.

Spectators -- 5D & EF 35mm f1.4.

28.93 seconds. Dillon at one of the five turns. His best personal record was 21 seconds for a 3x3 solve -- 5D & EF 50mm f1.2.

Harris Chan (in the middle) -- Holds the second place in world record at 7.33 seconds for a 3x3 solve.

Organizers, volunteers -- Jai (in green), Eric Limeback (with the pointing finger).

2.40 seconds for a Rubik's Magic solve. Ryan's personal best is around 1.7 sec.

Eric Limeback solving a 3x3 blindfolded.

The Winners -- Harris Chan first place, Eric Limeback second place, Emily Wang third place.

Harris Chan -- Official Personal Best at 7.33 seconds for a 3x3 solve. This is the second place in world record.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An EVIL Canon Camera?

Street Musician, Ottawa -- Canon 5D & EF 35mm f1.4 @ f1.6, ISO 3200.

I think most people are surprised how well the micro 4/3 cameras are selling, possibly including the m4/3 manufacturers. This clearly shows how traditional DSLR manufacturers have been ignoring the market segment where people want small, yet interchangeable lens Digital SLRs. The Four Third format was a good attempt, but unfortunately not very successful, because 4/3 cameras are not much smaller, if at all, than traditional DSLRs, simply because of the optical reflex mirror, which limits how small the camera can get.

By removing the reflex mirror, a lot of restrictions are lifted and many benefits are immediately apparent. These include lower cost, as the reflex mirrors is one of the more expensive components of the body, shorter lens to sensor register (thus making the body thinner), smaller lenses, and best of all, less vibration due to mirror flap, so you can take pictures with slower shutter speeds.

I think the time for a full frame Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Camera (EVIL). The megapixel electronic view finder is now almost good enough as a replacement for an Optical View Finder. After using the Panasonic G1, I really prefer an Electronic View Finder for manual focus than an optical one.

Imagine a Canon 12MP 5D without a mirror box. This can be made much cheaper, but have ultra high usable ISO a la D3s. The full frame EVIL will be an entry level camera priced around $1500, will sell like hot cakes. Best yet, make a monochrome version of this camera without the Bayer array, for the B&W fanatics.

The reason I like to have an EVIL full frame, is to have much better compatibilities with manual focus lenses. Right now, so many lenses hit the mirror on my 5D, but if there is no mirror, all those lenses that could not be used because of mirror clearance can now be used. Manual Focus Lens nuts all over the world will rejoice!

Wishful thinking, I know, at least for the foreseeable future. I firmly believe future DSLRs will be mirrorless. We will wait and see.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another One Hits the Mirror

My worse fear was realized when I tried out the Meyer-Optik Gorlitz 58mm f1.9 Primoplan today. The butt of the lens hits the mirror on the 5D near the infinity mark. Both copies do the same thing. It's really too bad. This is a nice, compact, well made lens that has some interesting characteristics. For one thing, it has the swirling background when shot wide open, but not as pronounced as others. As usual, first use of this lens today. Need more time to evaluate.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Stained Glass Fairy

Stained Glass Fairy -- Canon 5D & Isco-Gottingen Isconar 100mm f4 M42 Mount.

New toy from the Camera show over the weekend. This time around, I got mostly really old stuff, including this lens, a couple of Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9, a Carl Zeiss Jena 58mm f2, a Meyer Gorlitz Primotar 18cm f3.5 larger format lens, and a few other items. It will be fun to try them out.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

DIY Lens -- Leitz Hektor 120mm f2.5 Projection Lens Part 2

It took me a few tries before I realized I needed to cut off all of the the extra length of the Hektor's lens barrel just before rear of the lens element. About 10 cutting blades were used to cut the lens barrel. The Dramel cutting blades are very thin and wears down quickly. They also break easily too.

Cutting Hektor into pieces -- As you can see, it took three tries, and about 10 cutting blades. Larger Picture.

Ready to Assemble. Larger Picture.

After Hektor was cut to its minimum length, it turned out that it was too much. The lens would focus way pass infinity. Well, it's no problem. I just shimmed it with useless 48mm filter rims. Just removed the glass from the filters and thread the rim into the bottom of the lens. In the picture below, it's assembled and glued, and you can see one of the filter rims (says Canon on it). That's all there is to it.

Assembled and ready to use. Larger Picture.

In use, this lens is not particularly good. I mean it's not bad, but not what you will expect from a real Leica lens. Contrast is a bit low, sharpness is not that great until stopped down to about f5.6, and the bokeh is a bit strange. But, it's all done in the name of fun.

In the next project, I will try to document it in more detail. I was eager to get it done and didn't take enough intermediate pictures.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

F0.95 -- More samples

I was able to convert the c-mount JML 50mm f0.95 lens into a native Micro 4/3 mount through the use of an adapter. This lens is too large to fit the c-mount to m4/3 adapter and thus wouldn't focus to infinity. Since the mount on the JML lens is removable, I removed the c-mount, and sanded down the c-mount to m4/3 adapter and glued the adapter to the JML lens. It could now focus slightly past infinity, but unfortunately, not a 100% success.

The sanding was done using a hand file, and I am sure I could not achieve good flatness. The glue could also play a role in the flatness of the adapter to lens. So, I have one side of the picture very sharp, and the other side is soft, due to an uneven focus plane because the lens is not mounted 100% flat. It's usable, but bothers me. I will have to look for a better way to make this focus to infinity without destroying the original mount.

Samples below, taken today. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Megan -- G1 & JML 50mm f0.95 TV lens @ f0.95.

Voice of Ire, to poke fun of the $1.8M Voice of Fire -- G1 & JML 50mm f0.95 TV Lens.

Alexandra Park -- G1 & JML 50mm f0.95 TV Lens at f0.95.

100% crop from the above picture. Be sure the click on it to see original size. For an inexpensive lens, I would say this is pretty respectable wide open, no?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

ByWard Market at Night

In the early evening, most of the eating places are very busy. Bars are by far more popular. Although the Market Square sign says that it closes at 8pm, but by around 6pm, most shops are already closed.

Below are some of the pictures I took of the ByWard Market in the evening. All pictures were taken with 5D & EF 35mm f1.4L hand held. Click on the picture to see larger version.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ByWard Market in Ottawa

In a way, the ByWard Market is similar to the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, except that ByWard Market is much larger.  Whereas the St. Lawrence market is mostly indoors, the ByWard Market has expanded to include many streets from its originally much smaller scale.  This is one of the oldest market in Ottawa, established in 1826 by Colonel By, the legendary builder of Rideau Canal.

The ByWard Market was originally conceived as a market to supply foodstuffs from the country for the city folks, and today, eating continues to be the major part of the market. You will find lots of lots of bars, restaurants, cafes, food stores of all kinds within the Market.  You will never have to worry about eating around here.  You would have more trouble deciding what to eat.

Because the ByWard Market is so close to the Parliament Buildings, it's a busy tourist destination.  As such, things are much more expensive in this area, especially when it comes to eating.

If you come to Ottawa, be sure to drop by the ByWard Market.  Lots to explore.

Sugar Mountain -- Paradise for William & Megan -- 5D & Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pictures of Ottawa

I am on training in Ottawa for a week. Trying to seize this opportunity to take pictures, I lagged a full bag of lenses and my 5D, plus the tripod. Mr. Murphy is a genius. Anything that could go wrong, will go wrong. That's what happened to my 5D on the first day -- the auto focus system failed to work, after about 10 pictures. For the rest of yesterday, I shot with my auto focus lenses, and focused them manually. Ironic, no? I have used manual focus lenses most of the time, and when I want to auto focus, it doesn't work.

It turns out, I think, that this was due to the mirror of the 5D. The 5D has a infamous flaw in that the mirror may fall off, all by itself. Mine hasn't done that yet, but I suspect that it will soon. In any case, I pushed the mirror in, and the auto focus has been working all day today. My fingers are crossed for the rest of the week that it will continue to work.

Went to photograph the Parliament buildings with my friend Cliff. Light snow was falling, making it difficult to photograph distance scenes. Everything looked foggy.

Below are few of the pictures taken today.

Indian Chief -- 5D & EF 50mm f1.2L. Larger Picture.

The Parliament Buildings -- 5D & Sigma EX 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. Larger Picture.

Sculptures -- 5D & Sigma EX 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. Larger Picture.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The $3.2 Million Spider

The $3.2 million spider outside of National Gallery of Canada -- Canon 5D & Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. Larger Picture.

I don't know anything about art, but a $3.2 million spider sculpture? From my point of view, this is just as bad as the $1.8 million Voices of Fire (three stripes on a canvas).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More Pictures from the DIY Soft Focus Lens

Took the lens out today and shot around the Bathurst and Dundas area while the kids are swimming at the community centre. Overall, I am happy with the lens. It does produce some unique pictures and is kind of fun that it's different from a normal lens.

Friday, January 15, 2010

f0.95 -- Faster than the human eye!

An apple a day... -- Panasonic G1 & JML 50mm f0.95 @ f0.95. Larger Picture.

An f0.95 lens is faster (brighter) than the human eye). I have successfully make this JML 50mm f0.95 TV lens focus to infinity. Had to sacrifice one C-mount to M43 adapter, but I hope it's worth it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

DIY Lens -- Leitz Hektor 120mm f2.5 Projection Lens Part 1

Got a Leitz Hektor 120mm f2.5 Projection lens a couple weeks ago, and I have thinking of making a lens out of it. By itself, a project lens has no aperture, no focusing mechanism, and therefore not very useful except on a projector. Since I don't know how to make lens parts, the only way I can make a lens is to use a barrel from an existing lens, and plant the projector lens in. This is easier to do than you think, and it's a lot of fun to do.

Tools: You don't even need a lot of tools. A Dramel with cutter attachment to cut the projection lens to to shorten its length. A file to smooth the cut. Small screw drivers to remove the mount of the lens to take out the lens elements inside, and glue. I used Gorilla Glue, but it has one nasty side effect -- it expands.

The projector lens -- Larger Picture.

The Lens Barrel -- This will be the hardest part. You need to find a lens with a 135mm focal length, and an front opening large enough to accommodate the projection lens. The one I found that fits, is the Enna Munchen 135mm f2.8. Unbelievably, this is one of the worse lenses I have seen, and the only one from West Germany. The outer shell is made of plastic, the front element assembly that holds the glass is made of plastic. Because of this, the thread quickly wore out and the front element assembly could no longer be screwed in tightly. One reason to scrap it. Optically, it's also a dog. In a word, a worthless lens. Anyway, it fits the Hektor 120mm f2.5 lens.

Donor body -- Enna Munchen 135mm f2.8 M42 Mount. Larger Picture.

Happy together before operation -- Larger Picture.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wait & Go

Corner of Yonge & Queen at rush hour -- Canon 5D & Leica Elmarit-R 28mm f2.8.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Spadina -- Canon 5D & Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

I work in this area and it's so familiar and never thought of take a picture. Found this angle to be pretty nice with a 28mm viewing angle. By the way, the Leica R Elmarit 28mm f2.8 (3-CAM) is a wonderful lens, despite vignetting, even at f8.

Mona Lisa Smiles

Mona Lisa at Kensington Market
Mona Lisa Smiles at Kensington Market -- 5D & Modified Leitz Hektor 120mm f2.5 Projector Lens. Fickr Stream.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Offering

The Offering -- 5D & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.2. Larger Picture.

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of my mother-in-law. She witnessed the first day of a new millennium before she went. Very kind and loving woman. She's still missed.

As an annual ritual, the family prepared and offered to her her favourite foods on her anniversary.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vivitar 28mm f2.0 Part 4 -- Sharpness Test

For many days, I was looking for my tripod. Finally found it couple days ago. Perfect timing for the Vivitar 28mm f2.0 sharpness test. This is the first "serious" sharpness test I have done for a lens, and I learned that I didn't have to do the previous vignetting test at all, as the sharpness and vignetting test can be done at the same time. Oh well, live and learn. Better planning next time.

First thing first. This is not a scientific test. Please take it with a grain of salt. Also, copy variance exists, so this lens may perform better or worse than yours. I take no responsibility and no guarantee of the results will resemble your lens.

Also, the test images were shot as RAW + Jpeg (L). I used the camera generated jpeg files instead of converting the images from RAW. I think this equalizes the results across all of the images. The RAW file, when converted, is slightly sharper with better quality. If you need the RAW file, leave a comment and I will send you a copy.

Finally, doing test like this is tedious and boring. It takes up a lot of time, but I hope the results are usable for you if you are thinking of buying one of these lenses used.

Test setup:
Lens -- Vivitar 28mm f2.0 Ai-S mount, serial #28409972.
Lens Condition -- Excellent physically and cosmetically. No sign of abuse.
Adapter -- Cheap Focus Assist Ai to EOS adapter. Focus Assist feature not used
Camera -- Canon 5D with EE-S screen to aid manual focusing. Mirror lockup and timer used
Tripod -- Volbon Carmagne 630 carbon fiber tripod
Tripod Head -- Acratech Ultimate Ball Head
Test Target -- Wall

Summary of test --It's a nice little lens. Quite sharp even wide open at the center. Moderately heavy vignetting until f4. As expected, far corners performance isn't very good but improves a lot by f8. You can see the barrel distortion in the full picture. Sorry I don't have software or instrument to test the amount of distortion, but it's visible.

Full Image. A little under exposed -- Larger Picture.

Wide Open at f2. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

Half a stop down at f2.5. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

One stop down at f2.8. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

f3.5. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

Two stops down at f4.0. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

f4.5. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

Three stops down at f5.6. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

f6.3. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

Four stops down at f8.0. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

f9.0. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

Five stops down at f11.0. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.

Minimum Aperture at f16. 100% Crops. Larger Picture.