Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tommy Thompson Park Revisited

Tommy Thompson Park is also known as the Leslie Street Spit.  It's about a mile from where I live, but for some reason, I have not visited it for more than three years.  Tommy Thompson Park is just part of Leslie Street Spit.  The whole thing is a man-made 5-km peninsula created from construction derbies.  It is still expanding today.

The park has large bird migratory spot with some 300 species.  There are many other animals and wild flowers in the park.  The park is open to the public on the weekends and holidays.  During the weekdays, it's only open to trucks that dump debris there.  I went there a few times during the weekdays early in the morning, and was asked to leave because it was not open to the public, but many people, especially cyclists, bike there during the week anyway.

You can find out more about the park here.

Trees in snow -- NEX-5 & Birns & Sawyer 150mm f3 cine lens. Click to see larger.

Island -- NEX-5 & Birns & Sawyer 150mm f3. Click to see larger.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

One of the Things I Hate About the NEX-5

Tree at night -- NEX-5 & Pentax-M 20mm f4. Click to see larger.

One quirky think about the NEX-5 is its tripod mount.  Instead of a flat bottom like every other camera ever existed, the tripod mount on the NEX-5 has a raised center, which makes it almost impossible to put an Arca Swiss quick release plate on.  This is not a problem for small and light weight lenses, but for large lenses without tripod mounts, the NEX-5 becomes very unstable.  Without a custom made plate, this annoyance will continues to bother me to no end whenever I need to do any night shots.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Playing with the Ilex 80mm f1.3. Taken with the Panny G1. Click to see larger.

Playing around with the Ilex 80mm f1.3.  Another lens who flange is very short and hard to get infinity focus.  Can't wait for the thin 12-17mm focusing helicoid that I ordered.  Hopefully it's thin enough.  I think it will be an interesting fast lens to play with.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Car Dealership at Night

Car Dealership -- NEX-5 & Vivitar 24mm f2.0. Click to see larger.

I have always had a soft spot for old Vivitar lenses.  They designed some of the more unique lenses.  Some of them, like the Series-1 28mm f1.9, and 35-85mm f2.8 variable focusing, are one of a kind at that time.  It also produced at least two versions of the 24mm f2.0.  One was produced by Kiron with a 55mm filter size, and the other with a 49mm filter size, probably was made by Komine.  I have used both of them and prefer the Kiron version.  You can see some of the pictures I took with the Olympus OM mount Kiron 24mm f2 on the 5D here, and the 49mm filter size version here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sunset in the City

Sunset -- Panasonic G1 & Cine Kodak 3 inch f4.5

I think the one feature I missed the most in the NEX-5 is the view finder.  It just does not feel natural to me taking pictures without the view finder, not to mention very hard to get critical focus.  The G1 series of cameras are still one of the best for manual focus lens.

Tried out the tiny Cine Kodak 3 inch (75mm) f4.5 c-mount lens.  I mean it's really small for a 75mm lens but, like all the Kodak cine lenses I have, it never disappoints in the optical department.  On the G1 it has a bit of vignette with the hood on at infinity.  Not a low light lens, but a good lens.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Home Show

Direct Energy Center -- NEX-5 & Vivitar 24mm f2.0. click to see larger.

Went to the home show yesterday for the first time and it was one huge sales floor of all kinds of stuff.  Not what I had expected.  Our real estate agent sent us couple of passes so we didn't have to pay.  I don't know why would pay $16 to get in there just to buy stuff.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Having fun with the DIY Lens

It's amazing how much fun you could have using a simple yet weird home made lens, both making it, and using it.  It's liberating, because you don't have to worry about scratching it, dropping it, or damaging it in any way.  The results is weird and unpredictable at times, but 100% fun.
3D balls? - NEX-5 & Reflex Zoom 9-28mm f1.1 Front element. Click to see larger.

Antique Table -- NEX-5 & Reflex Zoom 9-28mm f1.1 Front Element. Click to see larger.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Taylor Hobson Ortal 3 inch 75mm f2 TV Lens Sample

This lens, without modification, can not be used on DSLRs and achieve infinity focus, even on the Sony NEX, it's tough to get it to work, because the flange is so short.  It was designed as a TV lens with fixed mount.  I have been dying to to try it, but without much success.

I was tinkering with adding aperture control to the projection lens, and looking for some adapters, and found that I had a Series 8 to Series 7 step down ring.  This ring fits almost perfectly to the mount of the Ortal 75mm f2 lens.  Eventually, the ring was fixed to the mount, and with a Series 7 to 55mm stop-down ring, I was able to add four 55mm filter rings to make an extension tube that allows me to focus the lens to about five feet, just long enough for some portraiture samples.  I could add/remove rings to make it focus further/closer.  This is the best solution so far until I get my hands on a very thin focusing helicoid.

A word about the C-Mount to NEX adapter I got.  Whoever designed this put a lot of though into it.  The center of the adapter has a 42mm thread size.  This has many uses.  You can attach an M42 lens directly to the adapter, or, I guess the original purpose, is to allow one to attach a focusing helicoid with M42 mount on it.  The surprise, is that the outer ring of the adapter.  It has a 55mm thread size.  I don't know what the reason for this was, but it was perfect for me, as I can attach the Ortal 75mm f2 lens with the filter rings directly on it.

All this means that I can take pictures with the lens with a fixed focus range, and I have to move the camera back and forth to focus.  Pain in the neck, but pictures can be taken.

Taylor-Hobson Ortal 75mm f2 TV Lens mounted on the NEX-5. Click to see larger.

The ugly beast

Megan, my favourite model - NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens. @ f2.8 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jesse Ashbridge House

Jesse Ashbridge House, built in 1854 -- NEX-5 & Pentax-K 28mm f3.5. Click to see larger.

I think I wrote many times that I love the small and beautiful early Pentax lenses, especially their screw mount version.  This bayonet K-mount 28mm f3.5, probably inherits the same design as the M42 SMC Takumar 28mm f3.5, but has a 52mm filter size, versus the 49mm of the M42 version.  It's also quite a bit larger.  Both of them have exceptionally sharp optics.  I also used the SMC-A version of the 28mm f2.8, but prefer this lens.  It's sharper, better made, focuses silky smooth like the M42 Takumars.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Old Window

Toy in old window - NEX-5 & Voigtlander Skopar 8.3cm f4.5 

The weather has finally turned warmer.  A nice balmy day above the freezing point!  Took my long neglected Voigtlander Anastigmat Skopar 8.3cm f4.5 around my workplace and took some snap shots.  Still have not resolved the hazy problem with the lens, but some pictures did turn out OK, like this one, which you don't see much of the hazy effect.  It still amazes me that a lens around 80 years old can still produce pictures like this.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anything Goes

Ever since I made my home brew focusing helicoid, I have been having a lot of fun.  The only problem is that finding ways to attach the weird, non-standard sized lenses to the helicoid.  After some experimentation and hair pulling, I found two things that help a lot.

Black electrical tape -- The purpose of the helicoid is to allow lenses to be attached to it for temporary use, so we don't want any permanent attachments.  Electrical tape seems to works really well.  It leaves no sticky glue/residue after you peel it off, and fixes lenses/tubes in place really well.  Due to its slightly flexible nature, the electrical tape may allow a small amount of play if it's not stretched tightly when applied.

Wide Elastic Bands -- The best ones I found are those from Broccoli bunches.  They are strong, and wide, not to mention that they come in different colours!  This is useful when you need to slightly enlarge the lens barrel so that it stays inside the focusing helicoid, as you can see from the picture below.  The front element of this Agfa Variogon 9-30mm f1.8 is too thin to be secured in the helicoid.  I wrap three bands on top of one another, and it fits like a glove and stays put.  If you want more security, you can put more electrical tapes on top. 

I know, these are stupid solutions and will likely degrade the optical quality of the lenses since centering as well as flatness to sensor can not be garranteed.  But it works well for non-critical stuff like soft focus lenses.  Sometimes, it's better to be able to take pictures than no pictures.  Besides, there is a big fun factor here to "create" your own lens.

If you have some good technics or ideas, I would love to hear from you.

The band-aid solution. Click to see larger.

Flying birds -- NEX-5 & Agfa Variogon 9-30mm f1.8 front element.

Streetcar -- NEX-5 & Agfa Variogon 9-30mm f1.8 front element. Click to see larger.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine Day

执子之手,与子偕老 -- NEX-5 & Konica AR 135mm f2.5. Click to enlarge.

Whenever I see old people seem so in love, it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  Living with someone day in and day out is not easy, since no one is perfect; living with someone all your life and still in love, takes courage, commitment, and the original promise to love each other until death do them apart.  Happy valentine's day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Konica Hexanon AR 35mm f2.8

I wrote a bit about this lens in my LiveJournal blog before I switched to Bloger.  Haven't used it much after that because the 4/3 to Micro 4/3 adapter was sold and the Konica lense can no longer be used on the G1.  For those who may not know, the Konica AR lenses have about the same mount/lens register as the 4/3 mount.  If you remove the aperture lever, you can mount the lens directly on 4/3 cameras, though you need to shim it to make it tight.

Again, more yard sales trying to get rid of the Konica lenses have failed, so I am stuck with a dozen or so lenses in AR mount.  Perhaps it's a sign that I should keep them, because most of them are really good lenes, including the 35mm f2.8.

Like most older lenses, this one was made entirely of metal and glass.  Needless to say, it's well made and feels great in the hand.  The coating of the front element does not seem like it's multi-coated, so a hood should really be used to minimize flare and increase contrast.  I have a matching rectangular Konica metal hood that makes this lens look gorgeous.

Image quality does not disappoint.  No, it's not a Leia-R 35mm f2, but once you stop it down to f5.6-f8, you will be hard pressed to see a difference, though the Leica has nicer colour rendition and better micro contrast.  I doubt you can tell in print though.  Let's just say that it's a good lens that produces good results.  For a manual focus lens, the feel of the lens has a lot to do with the pleasure of taking pictures.  Sure it doesn't improve the optical quality, but the process of taking pictures is at least half of the fun, so the feel of quality is important.  This is not as nice as the Takumars, but darn close. What stands out, though, is the price.  Konica lenses are still undervalued and cheap.  In most cases, for the price of a good lunch, you could get this lens in great condition, but the matching hood is much harder to find.

There are still a lot of Konica lenses out there.  Adapters for the Micro 4/3 and NEX to Konica lenses are now very cheap.  It's a good time to get your hands on some before the prices go up.

Three is a crowd -- G1 & Konica 35mm f2.8. Click to see larger.

Megan -- NEX-5 & Konica 35mm f2.8 @ f2.8.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Making Useless Lenses Useful

Sometimes we have no idea why we buy certain things.  An impulse?  An idea that flashed in our heads that one day it might be useful?  Or, just because we want it?  No matter, we would later look at these stuff and wonder what the heck we were thinking!  Instead of throwing them out, we need to turn them into something more useful than paper weight to justify our original purchases.

I have a few 8mm movie zoom lenses that fit this scenario.  They can not be used on anything other than 8mm movie cameras, but it would be so nice to make them serve some photographic purpose again.  Using them as a full lens is out of the question, so why not use part of them?  The rear of the lens is too small to be useful, but the front element is large and can form images.

Two 8mm movie lenses.  The one on the right is already removed from the lens barrel. Both are in similar focal length but the one on the right is more than a stop brigher. 
To play with this lenses, you really will need a focusing helicoid, either buy one or make your own, or use a macro bellows.  There won't be aperture settings, unless you plant them into an existing lens barrel that already have apertures.  Using only the front element usually means the lenses are not optically corrected, as they would be when combined with the other elements in the original lens.  This actually turns out to be even more fun than just using them as designed, because, they act like soft focus lenses!  The un-coated lenses are even better than the coated ones for this purpose.

Front element of the Reflex Zoom f1.1 lens on the home made focusing helicoid.

The good news about making this kind of lenses is that they don't have to fit exactly.  No worries about decentering elements, perfect focusing, etc.  It's the effects that we are after.  So, use whatever that you can to make it mount on your camera, even holding it with your hands!

I certainly had fun trying them out.  It made me feel better that after many years of sitting around, digital cameras have made them into something useful and interesting.

Megan -- NEX-5 & the front element of an 8mm movie lens. Click to see larger.

My kids use to go nuts collecting and playing with this stuff, and I don't even remember what it's called.  Now they are all in pieces collecting dust.

Soft lenses are best used with lots of bright colours and strong lights.  Great for flower shots, but I don't have any to try.  They are also good for some romantic Kodak moments of your girlfriend/wife.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Konica AR to NEX Adapter

Ryan on headphones -- NEX-5 & Konica 57mm f1.4. Click to see larger.

Isn't it wonderful that all those Canon FD, Minolta MD, Konica AR and other vintage lenses that you thought would never see the light of day again, because their lens mount is too short from the film plane to be adaptable, are given a new life?  Since the introduction of micro 4/3 format, and the later Sony NEX, both have a mount with very short lens to sensor distance, essentially allows one to use pretty much any old lenses.

I just received the Konica to NEX adapter, from my favourite US based eBay seller Rainbow Imaging, and couldn't wait to try it out.  I don't have any of Konica's famous lenses, like the 28mm f1.8, but do have a small collection, including a minty 135mm f2.5 and a 300mm f4.  None of the DSLRs could adapt the Konica lenses, because it has the shortest of all SLR mounts, but the NEX-5 takes it with lots of room to spare in the mount.

The adapter is well made, reasonably priced, and works perfectly.  Very happy with it.  Will report with some impressions of the Konica lenses once I have taken some pictures with them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Queen Street at Night

Leslieville is full of stores and businesses like this Cheese Market -- small, unique, charming.  Leslieville has seen an influx of young people in the last decade or so.  This creates a huge demand of housing around the area, to a point that's hard to find any affordable property.  The prices of most houses here have doubled, or even tripled what they cost ten years ago.  It's insane.

Leslieville Cheese Market -- NEX-5 & Contax Distagon 35mm f2.8.

Monday, February 7, 2011

More Snow

Walking in the snow this morning -- NEX-5 & Contax Distagon 35mm f2.8. Click to see larger.

Compared to other parts of the country, or the United States, Toronto is not getting that much snow, at least not in one shot.  But, it just seems that it snows a couple inches every few days to be annoying.  Everywhere you go, it's slushy and wet.  I hate this kind of weather because riding a bike would mean shoes/boots and pants all wet by the time I get to work.  Spring can't be that far away, can it?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Found Lenses

I was looking for the Astro-Berlin 50mm f1.5 projection lens that I know I have but couldn't find it, yet.  However I "unearthed" four Kodak cine lenses that I didn't know I had.  Unfortunately, they are all relatively slow lenses, and three of them have the Kodak S-Mount, and one has a weird mount that I probably can't use.  Luckily, I do have one S-Mount to C-Mount adapter, so at least I can use three of them.

These lenses must have been bought long before the Micro 4/3 days, from the old Outlet Store.  At least some of the junk I bought turn out to be useful, if not when I bought them, but at a later date.

The four lenses are:

  • Anastigmat 63mm f2.7 with close focus capability.  Interestingly, I have the 63mm f2 Kodak cine lens, which does not have the close focus feature.  This lens has an S-Mount.
  • Anastigmat 102mm f2.7 with close focus capability. Some cleaning marks on the front element, but shouldn't affect the image much, if any.  Also in S-Mount.
  • Cine-Kodak 4 1/2 inch (roughly 114mm) f4.5.  This one has a weird fix mount which I am not sure what it is.
  • Cine-Kodak 3 inch (75mm) f4.5.  Very compact lens in S-Mount.
Tried all the S-Mount lenses and they have no vignetting on my G1, but some vignetting on the NEX-5.  Very sharp, as pretty much all of the Kodak cine lenses are.  This surprise find doubles the number of  my Kodak cine lens collection.  

LaBrea TV Clock -- NEX-5 & Kodak 63mm f2.7 @ f2.7. Click to see larger.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Third Party Batteries -- Part II

I have been buying third party batteries for many years, starting with my Panasonic Mini-DV camcorder.  I wrote about it before, and this is an update to the original post.  My experience was that with third party batteries, you pay less for more, because these batteries frequently last longer than OEM batteries.  I have bought third party batteries for all the Canon cameras I have ever owned.  Never a problem and always happy, until the last two batteries.

The first bad one was the battery I bought for my 7D, which I also mention in this post.  That battery lasted about 1/4 of what the OEM battery would.  I got a replacement from the seller, but by the time I received  it, I already sold my 7D, so I didn't get a chance to test it.

The Sony NEX-5 is a battery hog and it doesn't last very long.  It's a far cry from more than a 1000 pictures I could get out of from a Canon camera.  In fact, the third party batteries  in my 1D IIn lasts at least two thousand pictures.  I hardly need to charge them.  So, I bought a NEX-5 compatible battery from eBay, and it arrived in two days, since it was shipped from the same town I live.  Immediately, I had a bad feeling about this battery, as it weigh quite a bit less than the OEM version.  This battery, like the 7D version, never charges to 100%.  Regardless how long you charge it, it always says 99%.  It lasts about 1/3 of what a Sony OEM battery would.  E-mail the seller, and got a rude responds, to the affect that I should not expect OEM performance because I didn't pay OEM price.

My worry is that these are not isolated incidents, but a trend that quality of third party batteries are going down the drain.  Perhaps the seller was right, I didn't pay OEM prices, I should expect OEM performance.  Perhaps I should stick to brand name third party batteries, like Lenmar and Optex.

Canadian Ranger Toronto -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8. Click to see larger.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Graffiti -- NEX-5 & Canon nFD 28mm f2.8. Click to enlarge.

A little west of Spadina on Queen street west, has a very high concentration of graffiti art.  In fact, graffiti artists are invited to create their art on the walls.  I guess that one of the attractions of the area.  It seems, however, that graffiti is migrating eastward.  There is increasingly more graffiti on the east side of Spadina around Queen street.  Building owners have had to battle this trend and clean up, as you can see from this picture where marks are still visible from previous attempts to clean up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Blah of Winter

Colour in the winter -- NEX-5 & JML 50mm f0.95 @ f0.95. Click to enlarge.

I normally don't really mind the winter.  After more than 30 years living in Toronto, I thought I got used it. But, this winter really gets to me.  Perhaps I am getting old and can't stand the cold any more.  Perhaps because it's the snow or extreme cold temperatures that is preventing me from riding my bike to work.  Whatever it is, I am looking forward to spring; to warmer weathers, and most of all, colours!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Winter Storm that Wasn't

We were supposed to have 30cm (~12 inches) of snow in Toronto.  Prior to this day, the radio stations, TVs, and newspapers were all on overdrive about how severe this storm will be, that it would be the worse in three years.  All schools were cancelled, and the kids spent the day at home.  Guess what?  This storm, how should I put it, is like that dog whose bark is worse than it's bite.  Yes, we had some snow, but nowhere near the 30cm of the forecast.  It did make commute a bit hellish but most got home without major problems.  I did leave my bike at home today.

Crossing the street -- NEX-5 & Canon nFD 28mm f2.8. Click to see larger.

Crossing the street II -- NEX-5 & Canon nFD 28mm f2.8. Click to see larger.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Queen & Spadina -- 2011

Queen & Spadina -- NEX-5 & nFD 28mm f2.8

I have been taking a picture of Queen and Spadina intersection for a number of years.  This seemingly never change scene is usually taken from the north west corner, but this particular shot was taken from my car while waiting for the light to change, on my way home.  As I have said it before, I am finding the FD lenses to be excellent, even the cheap 28mm f2.8 is fantastic.