Saturday, April 30, 2011

All Fixed, I think

Loving the green -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson Ortal 75mm f2 TV Lens, at F2.

My first try to fix the mount of the Taylor & Hobson 75mm F2 to a focusing helicoid, the mount was not seated properly.  Consequently, one side of the picture is blurry.  This was most pronounced when shot at infinity.  The mount was fixed with Gorilla Glue.  Tried as I might, I could not get the ^@#$@& mount off the lens.  Eventually, I had to cut the Series 8 filter ring that I used to fix the mount, and then pried it loose with a screw driver.  This darn glue is as strong at they claim.

With another series 8 filter ring I bought from the last photo show, I did it more carefully this time to ensure the mount is as even as possible.  So far, it looks good, as least much better than what it used to be.  This is one of the problems with home brew modifications, that most of us do not have machines or tools for precision fit and finish.  Hopefully, it will be good enough for general use.

I do love this lens.  Aside from its tank like built quality, the colour and tonal transition are excellent.  More pictures to come in May.  I am hoping (at least trying) to use it extensively next month, if I don't get distracted with other lenses.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring at Last

Spring has sprung -- NEX-5 & Canon FL 50mm f1.4. Click to see larger.

We are finally seeing buds and leaves coming out of the trees, and the flowers are starting to show up everywhere.  Love this time of the year when everything is so alive.  The long and bitterly winter made me appreciate spring much more than say, some lucky people who probably don't know what cold is in the winter.  Each year in the early spring, I take a lot of pictures, mostly flowers, buds, and anything that shows sign of life.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don River & DVP at Dusk

Don River/DVP at Dusk -- NEX-5 & Fuji 75mm f1.8 c-mount lens. click to see larger.

The rumored new firmware update for the NEX cameras sounds interesting.  I especially like the manual focus assist (Peak Level) feature.  I find that the Panasonic G1 is much more accurate with manual focus without magnification, and I think it's because the edges are enhanced.  You can tell when the scene is in focus.  This is not so for the NEX, unfortunately.  I am hoping this new feature will change this.  When you need to focus fast, magnifying the focus point will slow you down.  Good to see Sony is adding features to existing cameras.

Outing with an Old Friend

Fallen Petals -- 1D IIn & EF 100mm f2.8L Macro. Click to enlarge.

Chester emailed me that he just got a 1D III the other day and I immediately felt so guilty.  I have not used my 1D IIn for a l ong time except the swim meet in March of this year.  I did invest a lot of money into the Canon system, especially the lenses, but I found myself not using it much, and instead, prefer the lightweight and small NEX-5 with manual focus lenses.  Anyway, I decided to take the 1D IIn and the 100mm f2.8L macro lens, since we have finally got some colour and the weather is quite a bit warmer as we go deeper into spring.  For macro work, nothing beats a swivel screen, or even a tilt screen, for ground level shooting.  Shooting at low angle through the viewfinder is just awkward.

The EF 100mm f2.8L macro lens is one heck of a lens.  I may have to get rid of my 100mm f2, as the Image Stablization (IS) proves to be invaluable at low shutter speeds.  I meant to do a comparison of the two lenses, but never had the drive to do it.  Perhaps I have been waiting for the full frame camera to do it :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another Bicycle Sign

Bike Sign -- NEX-5 & Leitz Hector 135mm f4.5. Click to see larger.

I guess it's only natural to use a bike as part of a sign for your business.  Come to think of it, there are couple more stores that I know also has a bike as part of their signs.

Monday, April 25, 2011

House Number 2137

House #2137, Stouffville -- NEX-5 & Wollensak 75mm f1.9. Click to see larger.

We drove by this house in Stouffville that sells a huge number of used bicycles.  The house number was decorated with a yellow trike on a metal pole.  Very striking and is hard to miss if you are looking for this house number!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Federal 55mm f4.5 Anastigmat Enlarging Lens - Samples

Vacant House -- NEX-5 & Federal 55mm f4.5 Enlarging Lens.

If I tell you this picture was taken with a lens that's probably 80 years old, with no coating on the lens elements, and costs as much as a Happy Meal, you probably would be skeptical.  But it's true.  Dug out a few more goodies from the box marked as useless miscellaneous items.  This Federal 55mm f4.5 Anastigmat was one of them, and the other was a Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3.  The 55mm is a very tiny lens, making it a difficult chord to mount it on the focusing helicoid. I finally found a name ring from the old Yashica 50mm f2 and glued it on the lens, and the name ring is then glued on to a 55 to 49mm step-down ring.  With another 52-49mm step-up ring, I was able to use it on the focusing helicoid.

This lens is definitely an outdoor lens, and the NEX or Micro 4/3 cameras are perfect to use this kind of lenses, since the Electronic View Finder (or LCD screen) does not get dim as the aperture gets smaller, as an optical view finder would.

Like most enlarging lenses, the image, at least on the NEX-5, are sharp from corner to corner when stopped down to around f8.  Even wide open is quite respectable, as below:
Vacant House -- NEX-5 & Federal 55mm f4.5 @ f4.5. Click to see larger.

The lens becomes very sharp from f8 on.  It only goes down to f16, which might as well, since diffraction limit would kick in well below that.  Some softness wide open, but not unusable.  Stopped down, the lens is very contrasty and sharp.  One would not expect such optical performance from a  tiny lens.  I guess size is not everything.  Another shot wide open and shows the somewhat busy and weird bokeh, but remember this is an enlarging lens, and not designed with great bokeh in mind:

Barbwire Fence -- NEX-5 & Federal 55mm f4.5 @ f4.5. Click to see larger.

The diminutive size makes it look very weird on the NEX-5, but the cheaper the lens is, the bigger the surprise when what you get is inversely proportional to what you paid.  Who says you can't get good quality from cheap lenses.

On the NEX-5 with focusing helicoid. click to see larger.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fast Lenses -- How Do You Use Yours?

Mike Johnston has written an interesting article on f1.4 lenses.  I agree with most of what he says, especially that using fast lenses at their maximum aperture at all times is just silly.

I like fast lenses because they give me options to shoot at low light when using slower lenses is not possible to get the pictures I want. Sure, you can crank up the ISO to compensate, but as the light dims, there is only so much headroom you can get from ISO.  We all know that as the ISO increases, the image quality decreases.  Fast lenses allows me to shoot at lower ISO and still maintain sharpness with fast enough shutter speed.

Fast lenses are also made better, especially with modern lenses.  This was not really an issue in the past, when lenses were all made with longevity in mind.  If you compare an FL 50mm f1.8 and the FL 50mm f1.4, you will notice that they were practically made identically, except the optics, but you can already tell there is a difference between a New FD 50mm f1.8 and the New FD 50mm f1.2.  

Freedom of depth of field control is another benefit for fast lenses.  For many people, this is the major reason to buy fast lenses, but like everything else, there are situations where thin depth of field is not appropriate, and there are situations where creative use of thin depth of field can make your pictures stand out from the norm.

If you read my previous posts, you will see many pictures with very thin depth of field.  I like to isolate my main subject from background.  Looking at the pictures with very thin depth of field immediately tells you where the main subject of interest is.  The most interesting bokeh is usually at the widest aperture, and unfortunately, I am an incurable bokeh addict.  That's why I have so many pictures with thin depth of field.

The question comes down to this:  does it matter how you use your lens?  Absolutely not!  A lens is a creative tool.  If your creative vision is best expressed at f32 with an f1.4 lens, who's to say that's wrong?  The softness from diffraction limit combined with huge depth of field may create interesting pictures.  Of course you would argue why not just buy a cheap slow lens, but what if you want to shoot at f1.4 the next minute?  See, fast lenses give you a choice that a slow lens can't.

I am addicted to fast lenses.  It really is an expensive and unhealthy addiction, but I enjoy it nonetheless.  Some like fast cars, and I like fast lenses, and I use them anyway I like.

Hands -- NEX-5 & JML 50mm f0.95 @ f0.95. Click to see larger.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011


    Skateboard Wheel -- NEX-5 & Kodak Enlarging Ektar 100mm f4.5. Click to see larger.

    Like the Kodak cine lenses, this enlarging lens also finished in beautiful chrome.  I tried it before on the Canon, and found that the image quality was OK, but not spectacular.  Not as good as the Rodenstock or Schneider equivalent.  But, it's a nicely made lens.  One of the things about enlarging lenses is that they don't seem to be very good with flare or side lights.  Finding a hood for them is more difficult than you think.  Hope I will get to use it more often on the NEX-5 and see what it can do.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Enchanted Garden

    Enchanted Garden -- NEX-5 & Ilex 80mm f1.3. Click to see larger.

    Another sample of the Ilex lens from Allen Gardens.  I do think that for some situations, this lens is quite alright, as long as the pictures don't require accurate colour and sharpness.  It does have its strong points in the flawed sort of way.  In fact, if not over used, it provides a bit of fresh air from pictures of today's highly corrected lenses.  Sometimes, we do need to do something different.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    The Winter Just Won't Go Away

    Snow in Mid April -- NEX-5 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 28mm f4. 

    This was yesterday around 2PM.  William and I got out of the Tennis City Dome after his lesson and we were greeted with blinding snow on the way to the car.  It was actually worse than it looks here, although it didn't last long.  OK, please tell me what's happening to spring this year. I only remember a few days of slightly warm weather so far since spring.  Sorry to rant, but I have had enough of this!

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Sally's Favourite Hair Bow

    Hair Bow -- NEX-5 & Kodak Anastigmat 50mm f1.6 cine lens @ f1.6. Click for larger.

    Tried the Kodak Anastigmat 50mm f1.6 on the NEX-5 and I was surprised to find that there is just very slight vignetting at close range wide open.  Stopping down or focusing further away will vignetting quite a bit more.  This lens produces very strange swirling affects at wide apertures, like the Dallmeyer Speed 1 inch f1.5 that I had.  Some like this affect, but I find it annoying after a little while.  My favourite feature of this lens, other than it's extremely sharp optics, is the close focusing capability, as you can see in this picture.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Kodak Cine Ektar II 25mm f1.9 -- The little lens that could

    Gino's Pizza (2009) -- G1 & Kodak 25mm f1.9. Click to see larger.

    I feel like a little kid in a candy store lately with the Kodak cine lenses. I tried them with the NEX-5, but the vignetting is too severe.  They are near perfect on the Panny G1.  Like them all, but the 63mm f2 and the 25mm f1.9 are two of my favourites.

    The Cine Ektar II 25mm f1.9 is one of the few 25mm c-mount lenses I have tried on the G1 that does not vignette wide open.  Even stopped down a bit, it's still quite acceptable.  I would rank this lens up there with the Kern-Paillard 25mm f1.4, but the Kodak is sharper, vignettes less, and has much better corners. Of course both lenses render picture slightly differently, but in terms of value for the money, the Kodak is way up the scale.

    bokeh sample -- G1 & Kodak 25mm f1.9. Click to see larger.

    Like most of the Kodak cine lenses I have, this one has very stiff focusing due to dried up grease.  It will need to be cleaned, lubed and adjusted.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011


    Graffiti -- Panasonic G1 & Kodak Anastigmat 50mm f1.6 C-Mount. 

    The Kodak 50mm f1.6 was the first Kodak cine lens that I have with close focus.  At first I had no idea what that little "dial" on the lens barrel was for, be cause it does nothing when you pull it.  It took a while before I realized that I needed to pull and hold the "dial" up, while turning the focus ring.  This allows the lens to extend and thus focus closer.  Very handy to have as it doubles as a macro lens in a pinch.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011


    Fresh Wounds -- Panasonic G1 & Kodak 63mm f2.7 C-Mount

    One strange thing I noticed with many of my cine lenses, is that the more you stop down, the more severe the vignetting is.  This is the opposite of what a 35mm lens would be, where the vignetting usually appears in wide apertures.

    For most 16mm cine lenses, they still work best with the Micro 4/3 cameras as they vignette less, due to their smaller sensor size.  I find my attention is shifting back to cine lenses in the last few days.  I am quite attracted to the attributes of these lenses which in many cases differ greatly from normal 35mm lenses.  Yes, they will become boring after a while, but for some subjects, they produce interesting pictures.

    Kodak cine lenses occupy a place in my heart.  These wonderful silver coloured little lenses are just fantastic. This 63mm lens has two version.  A 63mm f2 and a 63mm f2.7.  Both are nice lenses.  The f2.7 version comes with close focus capabilties, while the f2 version is obviously faster, almost by a full stop.  I will compare the two of them when I get a chance, hopefully when the flowers start to blossom.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Horsing Around #2

    Acting Cool -- NEX-5 & Fuji 75mm f1.8 c-mount. 

    I was shooting the phone booth on the right side of the kids and all of a sudden, they came out of the streetcar shelter and started making poses.  Due to low light and slow shutter speed, most of them didn't turn out, but this one is acceptably sharp.   I showed them the picture and they liked it and gave me their e-mail address to send them a copy.  Hopefully they have got the copy I have just sent them.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Horsing Around

    William -- NEX-5 & Rollei 50mm 1.8 HFT.

    Sometimes I ask myself if I really need all those 50mm lenses that I never seem to be able to stop buying.  The 50mm f1.8 lens, which I find to be a perfect compromise between price and performance, especially for the Rollei QBM 50mm f1.8 FHT.  This is a ridiculously sharp lens, especially from f2.8 on.  In most cases, it's hard to tell pictures taken with this lens and the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 QBM mount at any aperture from f2.8.  The Rollei 50mm f1.8 seems to have slightly more intense colour saturation, whereas the Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4 QBM is a bit more neutral.  Both a great lenses, but we all know which one wins the price to performance ratio.

    C-Mount Lenses on NEX-5

    Lock on Barbwire -- NEX-5 & Kodak Cine 102mm f2.7. Click to see larger.

    Due to the larger sensor on the NEX cameras, most c-mount cine lenses can not cover sensor area, and consequently, pictures would have a dark boarder.  There are only few cine lenses that work on NEX-5 without severe vignetting.  Most of them are long lenses, including these ones that I have tried: Kern 50mm f1.4,  JML 50mm f0.95, Kern 75mm f1.9, Angenieux 75mm f2.5, Fuji 75mm f1.8, Birns & Saywer 150mm f3, Kinoptik Speciale Cine 210mm f2.8.  All wide angles that I have tried vignette to a certain degree.  Most Kodak cine lenses vignette very badly.  This really disappoints me, because I love Kodak cine lenses.  They are underrated and supremely sharp and nice lenses.  The only other sad thing about the Kodak lenses is the focusing stiffness.  The grease dried up and they all need to be re-lubed to focus properly.

    If you are looking for a cine lens for your NEX, before to find out if it vignettes, unless you like that effect.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Pacific Mall North Buildings in IR

    Pacific Mall North Buildings -- Canon 20D IR Modified & Pentax-K 28mm f3.5. Click to see larger.

    One of the difficulties of taking pictures with IR cameras, other than focus shift, is exposure.  Buildings and non-organic objects generally don't emit large amount of infrared energy, and thus would take much longer to expose.  For this reason, for IR shots, you can't really rely on the camera's metering system, which is optimized for visible light spectrum.  Histograms are much better for this purpose.  Trial and error is also a good way to go.

    There is one feature on Canon lenses that not many people know about.  Those Canon lenses with Ring Ultra Sonic Motors (USM) can focus past infinity.  This is a feature that lets you shoot critically sharp IR pictures, because the infinity focus point for IR pictures normally goes past the focus point set for visible light photography.   Another benefits for USM lenses is that you can adjust focus at any time without switching the lens to Manual Focusing (MF), as all Ring USM lenses (and the EF 50mm f1.4, which uses a micro-USM motor but allows MTF) allows Full Time Manual focus (FTM).

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    A Visit to Allen Gardens

    Allen Gardens is the oldest botanical gardens in Toronto.  The conservatory (greenhouse) houses many plants and flowers from all over the world.  It's open everyday and is free.  A favourite place for wedding photographers, nature lovers, or any one who simply likes to go inside and take pictures.  The best thing about the garden is of course it's greenhouse.  It's a great place to go in the winter when everything is frozen.

    The last time we went there was a few years ago.  Today, Dillon and I decided to visit it and I wanted to test out the Ilex 80mm f1.3 a bit more and see what kind of pictures I can get with more colours.

    Let's just say that this lens was not created for beautiful bokeh, but the pictures are kind of different.  Some actually came out OK, but I won't use it for any pictures with busy backgrounds.  In fact, I probably won't be using much any more.  I hate lenses with ugly bokeh.

    A word on the helicoid that this lens is attached to.  It's not one of the best made focusing helicoids.  It already has a lot of play and wobbles a little, after only a light amount of use.  It's really too bad as I planned to buy a longer one, but I will have to wait and see.

    Willow? -- NEX-5 & Ilex 80mm f1.3 @ f1.3. Click to see larger.

    Red flowers -- NEX-5 & Ilex 80mm f1.3. Click to see larger.

    Bokeh Sample -- NEX-5 & Ilex 80mm f1.3 @ f1.3. Click to see larger.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    Metropolitan United Church

    Metropolitan United Church -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8.

    I think last year this time, we had a real spring with green leaves, flowers, and warm weather.  This year spring came late, and we have had lousy weather so far.  I shouldn't really complain. After all, there have been much worse things happened else where in the world.

    The Pancolar 80mm f1.8 is one of my favourite lenses.  At one point, it was pretty much bolted to my camera for an entire month.  That was something, considering I have so many lenses I like to use and I like to use different lenses every day or two.  There was also a 50mm f1.8 Pancolar that I very much regretted I sold. They would have made a great pair.  Both of these lenses are quite sought after in the manual focus lens market.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Church in Silhouette

    Church -- NEX-5 & Vivitar 35mm f1.9 Nikon F-Mount.

    I literally take my camera everywhere I go.  So used to it that when I go out without it, I feel uneasy.  Not that I take pictures all the time, but I like to have the option to do so whenever there is a picture opportunity.  The NEX-5 makes it so much easier to take along.  Mount a fast lens on it and you can shoot in most lighting conditions.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Pentax Takumar Lenses that I like -- SMC 50mm f1.4

    I started using manual focus lenses on my DSLR in since 2005.  They were all M42 mount lenses.  Back then, manual focus lenses were still pretty cheap.  An SMC 50mm f1.4 can be had for around $40.  My first Takumar was a moldy, Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 with fungus growing on the rear elements, but I loved it.  Interestingly, that was the first lens I bought from Paul at the Outlet Store.  Over the years, I have pretty much had many copies of all version of this lens: Super-Takumar 50mm f1.4, Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f1.4, and the latest SMC 50mm f1.4.  The last version has the plastic skin over the metal focusing ring, whereas other versions are all metal.  

    The only drawback I see with this lens, is that it can't be used on full frame Canon cameras.  The rear element would hit the mirror when focused to infinity.  Another minor complain is its yellowing elements for the earlier versions.  But man, what a joy it is to use this lens.  In terms of workmanship, it has to be one of the best, regardless of price.  Not quite the same as Leica, but darn close.  This lens, like all early Takumar lenses, is a dream to focus.  You turn the focusing ring, and it feels like a butter knife going through a brick of warm butter.  Great built quality is nothing if the optical quality sucks, but of course, the Takumars are also known for excellent optics.

    After decades, the SMC 50mm f1.4 Takumar is still as close to, if not better some of its modern counterparts in terms of image quality.  In terms of build quality, it's beyond compare.  My 50mm f1.2L lens is not as well built as this lens.  The bokeh on this lens is sweet and delicious.  If you can have only one affordable 50mm f1.4 manual focus lens, this is a prime candidate.  I have not had any regrets with any of the Takumar lenses I have own, not even the one with fungus.

    Iris -- Canon 10D & Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f1.4. Click to see larger.

    Megan (2005) -- Canon 10D & SMC Takumar 50mm f1.4.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    ILEX 3 INCH (80mm) f1.3 Oscillo-Paragon -- Another Sample

    William -- NEX-5 & Ilex 80mm f1.3 @ f1.3. Click to see larger.

    It' so true that you need to use the equipment for a while before you understand their characteristics.  I am guilty of buying lenses and return or get rid of them after only a few days of use.  I would later look at the pictures from those lenses and I actually like many of them. For me, using each lens extensively is a bit tough for, simply because I have so many of them.  For some of them, I know which ones I would bring if I know what kind of pictures would be taking.

    The ugliest lens I have must be the Ilex 80mmf 1.3.  Seriously, people would give me disgusted looks seeing me carry that thing.  Fortunately, I am way past the stage which I care about what people think of my equipment or what I shoot.  Life is too short.  I shoot what I want, and use whatever pleases me.  Like most things, this ugly thing has its own quirks and traits.  This lens is excellent for portrait with defused light and a plain, preferably dark background.  Busy backgrounds will kill the pictures as the bokeh is horrible if there are highlights. If you want something soft, for kids or women, use wide aperture between f1.3 and f2.8.  Within this range of aperture, the images have a slightly defused, soft look.

    So, yes.  Everything has its place in the universe.


    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Using an M42 Focusing Helicoid on the NEX-5

    Soulnibbler has asked how I used the M42 mount helicoid on the NEX without adding lots of space.  This may sound complicated but it's amazingly simple.  You just need the right c-mount to NEX adapter.  It's obvious why I choose the c-mount adapter as it's the thinest adapter available for NEX.  It only adds a few millimeters to the length of the helicoid.  Have a look at the picture below:

    17-32mm Helicoid on left, C-Mount to NEX adapter on right. 

    Note the two threads inside the C-Mount to NEX adapter.  The outer most thread has a 55mm thread while the middle thread size is 42mm.  You simply screw the helicoid onto the C-Mount to NEX adapter.  The one I used was bought from Rainbow Imaging.  They sell on eBay as well as Amazon and their own web site.  This one is very inexpensive for around $15 or less.  Click here to see a sample one they are selling.  I am not connected to them but I bought a few adapters from them and always get excellent service.  The best part, if you are in the USA or Canada, is that they ship from USA (at least when I bought from from eBay).

    Perfect marriage -- Helicoid screwed onto the C-Mount adapter.  Very tight fit without lots of space.

    Helicoid mounted on the NEX-5.

    Helicoid with EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8.

    The helicoid I am using has a 52mm thread on the lens side, instead of the more common M42.  I have many odd lenses that have large rear mount and I find 52mm size is easy to find adapter for, since I have LOTs of useless filters I bought from the Outlet Store.  I just remove the glass and voila, useful adapter rings!  The last pictures shows the EL-Nikkor is mounted on the 52mm filter ring, and in turn, the filter ring is screwed on to the helicoid.  I do need to use electrical tape between the EL-Nikkor and 52mm filter ring, since they fit snuggly, but not very secure by themselves.

    Hope you find this useful.

    Birds of a Feather

    Birds of a feather -- NEX-5 & EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 Enlarging Lens. Click to see larger.

    Very nice sunset today.  It seems to me that all nice sunsets tend to have interesting clouds to go with them.

    Continue to enjoy the EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 enlarging lens.  Really amazing little lens that rivals or even betters the expensive big boys.  The sharpness is simply breath taking, especially at close range but I think sometimes it's  too contrasty in some situations.