Monday, May 30, 2011

The Bird Feeder

Feeding the birds -- NEX-5 & Leica-R 35mm f2. Click for larger.

The Leica-R 35mm f2 Summicron is one of my favourite 35mm lenses, right up there with my Canon EF 35mm f1.4, but I like the Leica colour and bokeh much better.  Absolutely usable at f2 and extremely sharp stopping down just a bit.  The built-in lens hood comes in very handy in sunny days.  Very heavy lens for the size.

This is one of the many lenses I bought from Stan Nycz, who owned and operated International Camera Repair for many decades.  Stan passed away in January of 2011, only a few months after he closed his business.  He was a nice man and will be missed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Grange Park in Infrared

Grange Park -- Canon 20D IR Modified & Pentax-M 20mm f4. Click to see larger.

The Grange Park is a relatively large park that attract a lot of people, especially on a nice day during lunch.  The park is right behind the Art Gallery of Ontario, and beside the Ontario College of Art.  I also enjoy a walk to this nice park during lunch time.  Only a few minutes from my work place. Lots of photo opportunities.

Waiting to Be Demolished

Beautiful Old House -- NEX-5 & Vivitar 24mm f2.0 FD Mount.

There is a piece of land near the north west corner of Broadview & Gerrard Street in Toronto, marked for re-development.  There are couple of houses in the lot that's been abandoned for a few years.  The one in the picture is one of the bigger one.  It's sad to see a nice house with so much character has to be demolished.  Compared to the new house built, this old one looks so much more grand and beautiful.  I wish they can spare it and renovate it instead.  

As for the Vivitar 24mm f2, I have had many versions of this Vivitar lens and some with performance variance.  The worse of the lot is the 49mm filter thread version, forgot what the manufacturer is, but this one was a Kino-made version with 55mm filter thread.  I actually have the Kino 24mm f2 (OM Mount) and both have similar performance, but I will give the slight edge to the Kino.  All of the the 24mm f2 lenses are nice lenses.  At the last count, I still have four of these (FD, OM, Nikon, MD mounts), I believe all made by Kino.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shooting Gymnastics

Untitled -- Canon 1D IIn & EF 135mm f2 @ f2, ISO 1600. Click for larger size.

Yesterday was the last gymnastic class for Megan and her team at Jimmy Simpson.  The coaches and the team had worked very hard, and the team did great overall in the competition few weeks ago.  The Jimmy Simpson team is relatively small compared to other teams, but the team did amazingly well.

The picture above is Megan's team mate, and is one of my favourites from the competition.  There are few more that I like, but all of them show faces of team mates and I don't want to post them without their permission.  It was my first time shooting gymnastics, but I think it's easier than shooting swimming.  Thankfully the gym was relatively well lit and I was able to get very fast shutter speeds to freeze the actions at ISO 1600. The 1D IIn proved its worth with its great auto focus capabilities, and the only lenses I used were the 200mm f1.8L and the 135mm f2L.  Most of the pictures were shot wide open.  I am especially pleased with 135mm f2L.  It's one of the sharpest lenses I have used.  For the 200mm f1.8L, it's expected that it should perform well at f1.8, due to it's high price, but for the 135L, every Canon prime shooter should own one.  It's relatively cheap, very fast and usable at full aperture, and focuses extremely fast and quiet.  It's perfect for indoor sports like gymnastics.

In the air -- 1D IIn & EF 135mm f2 @ f2, ISO 1600. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thanks for the Beauty and Memories

Beautiful to the end -- NEX-5 & Schneider-Kreuznach Procolar 60mm Projection Lens. Click to enlarge.

I love the beauty and grace of tulips.  They are beautiful to behold in any colour and variety, a lone stem, or whole bed of them.  I don't think I have ever taken so many pictures of tulips in my life.  Perhaps the long and cold winter made me appreciate them more.  It's sad to see them wither and wilt, but life of any kind, much go through its intended journey.  I am grateful for the beauty they left in my mind.  I have a full year to appreciate and look back at the pictures I have taken of them, until next spring.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

20D Infrared Sample

Relaxing under the tree -- Canon 20D IR Modified & Pentax-K 28mm f3.5.

Dusted off the IR Modified Canon 20D today.  It hadn't see much action for many months.  The recent nice sunny days are perfect for IR pictures.  The Pentax-M 20mm f4 lens continues to be my favourite lens for IR on the 20D, and now the Pentax-K 28mm f3.5 is also winning my heart.  Both are fantastic lenses, although the 20mm f4 has pretty severe distortions if not used carefully.  They are insanely sharp lenses and the built quality is excellent.  My PK-EOS adapter is slightly thinner than specification,  which turns out to be even better, as it allows focus slightly past infinity.  The focus point is actually slightly ahead in IR spectrum than in visible light.


Lunch Talk -- NEX-5 & Russian Jupiter-8M Rangefinder 50mm f2 Lens.

Surprisingly good little lens.  This Jupiter-8M lens, I believe is for the old Contax mount, is without a focusing barrel, so I mounted it on the focusing helicoid and works fine now as a lens.  More test shots to come.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lone Dandelion

Dandelion - NEX-5 & Schneider-Kreuznach Procolar 60mm Projection Lens. Click for Larger 

One of the best features on cameras like the NEX is that articulated screen.  This makes taking ground level picture so easy.  It's nice to see more and more DSLRs like the Canon T3i, 60D, etc, now have nice swivel screens.  Combined with live-view, this feature is perfect for macros too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Kowa Eiki 50mm f1.2 Projection Lens Samples

Blossoms -- NEX-5 & Kowa 50mm f1.2 Projection Lens. Click to see larger

I have become very fond of this little lens.  The lack of infinity focus is a disappointment, but the uniqueness of the picture rending quality makes up for most of it.  The incredibly thin depth of field at f1.2 at close range makes pictures interesting.  The creamy and slightly dreamy quality of the lens begs to take pictures at high key.

Pretty in Pink -- NEX-5 & Kowa 50mm f1.2 Projection Lens.

Projection lenses have the best price to fun ratio.  They are cheap and in abundance.  Easy to make it work with EVIL cameras and they are great for portraiture, close-ups, flowers, and anything that looks nice with thin depth of field.  If you have considered doing it, you should really start and the amount of fun and satisfaction you will have, money can not buy.  Be warned, though.  You might get addicted.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Leitz Colorplan 90mm f2.5 Projection Lens

Cherry Blossoms -- NEX-5 & Leitz Colorplan 90mm f2.5 Projection Lens. Click to see larger.

This is my second Leitz projection lens.  I also have a Hektor 120mm f2.5, which I converted and covered here. These two lenses share very similar image characteristics.  Not overly sharp, but have reasonably good bokeh and quite nice colour.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Skywheel at Night

Skywheel viewed from the side -- NEX-5 & Sony 16mm Pancake

Took the kids to Niagara Falls for a couple of days this long holiday weekend.  As usual, everything is expensive in a tourist area like Niagara Falls, but the kids had fun.  We took a walk at night around Cliffton Hills and the Sony 16mm lens came in really handy.  I could shoot hand held and still got sharp pictures.  I have heard a lot of bad things said about the 16mm f2.8 lens, but I really like this little pancake.  It's very sharp in the center at f2.8, and quite acceptable at th edges stopped down.  For the money, it's a good deal.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Metropolitan United Church

In Full Blossom -- NEX-5 & Astro-Kino 65mm f1.5 Projection Lens

The Astro-Kino 65mm f1.5 projection lens has many qualities of an old cine lens, especially the swirling backgrounds.  I didn't expect a  projection lens would behave this way, but this particular lens was designed for 16mm projectors so the imaging circle probably did not need to be very large.  Another interesting thing I found out is that most projection lenses is sharper at infinity than close up, which makes sense when you think about it.

A lot of people pay a lot of money for lenses like the Dallmeyer Speed 1 inch f1.5, which share similar swirling backgrounds as this lens.  If this is what pleases you, you should keep an eye on one of these lenses, which turns up on eBay once in a while for $30 to $50.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Snail's Pace

Getting there -- NEX-5 & Kowa (EIKI) 50mm f1.2 Projection Lens.

The Kowa Super Prominar-16 50mm f1.2 projection lens is so far the fastest of the projection lenses I have, beats out the Paillard-Bolex 50mm f1.3 by a hair.  It's also the only projection lens so far that won't focus to infinity with my home-brew focusing helicoid.  The end of the lens almost touches the helicoid, and still not enough to focus more than a few meters away.

Unlike the razor-sharp Paillard-Bolex 50/1.3, this one is much softer.  I have only used it once today, so haven't really gotten a feel for it yet, but I kind of like how the pictures come out of the lens.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pine Cone #1

Pine Cone -- NEX-5 & Bell & Howell 76mm f1.6 Projection Lens. Click to see larger

Yet another projection lens.  Sometimes I feel like I would never have enough time to convert all my projection lenses into something usable.  There are still a few of them waiting in line to be used.  Projection lenses currently represent one of the best values in lenses.

There are advantages:
1.  Optimized for wide open performance.  The posted aperture of the lens is usually the best aperture.
2.  Very fast optically.  It's not unusual to have 50mm f1.2 aperture or even faster.
3.  Most of them are extremely sharp

The Disadvantages:
1.  No Aperture control
2.  No focusing ring
3.  Usually very short lens flange

For a lens junkie like me, projection lenses are irresistible.  The conversion process is as much fun as taking pictures using them.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pink Bicycle Bell

Pink Bell -- NEX-5 & Industar 50mm f3.5 @ f3.5. Click to see larger.

Over the years, I have had a few Russian lenses.  Most of them were copies of the Zeiss designer, such as the 85mm f2 (Sonnar) and 58mm f2 (Biotar).  The Industar 50mm f3.5 is a tiny pancake lenses that I picked up at the Photo Show on the weekend.  This lens is a copy of the Tessar design and produces surprisingly good and pleasing pictures.  As with most Tessar lenses, this on is sharp wide open and very sharp stopped down.

If you are looking for that Zeiss look, but don't want to pay through the nose, these old Russian lenses are good alternatives.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leitz Varob 5cm f3.5 Enlarging Lens

If you don't look at the name ring of this lens, you might just think that it's just one those old, cheap and probably useless enlarging lenses.  Holding this lens in your hand, you just won't hear it scream "Leica Quality".  In fact, I think the Federal enlarging lenses I have been using are better made than this one.  Definitely unusual with a Leitz name.

This lens is one of the early enlarging lenses and therefore not coated.  Naturally, I didn't expect much from it.  And in reality, it's not a really sharp lens, at least not at infinity.  It performs much better at close range.  Unexpectedly, this is one of the enlarging lenses with nicest bokeh.  Making it worth the time that it took me to make it fit the focusing helicoid.

Bokeh -- NEX-5 & Leitz Varob 5cm f3.5 Enlarging Lens. Click to see larger.

Trapped by the water -- NEX-5 & Leitz Varob 5cm f3.5 Enlarging Lens. Click to see larger.

Not Tulip! -- NEX-5 & Leitz Varob 5cm f3.5 Enlarging Lens. Click to see larger.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Astro-Kino Color IV 65mm f1.5 Projection Lens

This is one of the (quite) a few projection lenses I have.  Due to their simpler design, these lenses are normally much faster than a "real" lens with the same focal length, because only one aperture setting needs to be considered and corrected.  For this reason, most projection lenses are very sharp wide open, as they are designed to be best at this one and only aperture setting.

Yellow tulips - NEX-5 & Astro-Kino 65mm f1.5. Click to see larger

I don't even know who makes this lens.  There is no place of original engraved on the lens, but the numerical system used (1:1,5 vs 1:1.5) indicates that it probably orginated from Europe, or at least designed for the European market.  The coating is similar to that of the Kern Paillard Bolex 50mm f1.3, but is not as well made as the Bolex.  Also, both were designed as a 16mm projection lens.

The Astro-Kino 65mm f1.5 is not as sharp as the Paillard-Bolex 50mm f1.3, but it has one less common characteristic: swirling backgrounds.  Some really like this kind of affect, I am not so much into it.  If anything, it makes my head spin.

Like most projection lenses, flare control is not great, and bokeh is strange and a little too weird for my taste, but not as bad as the Ilex 80mm f1.3.  That one is the worse lens for bokeh, bar none, at least within my lens collection.

Astro-Kino with the home brewed focusing helicoid. click to see larger.

In terms of purple fringing, the Astro-Kino is one of the better ones.  Unlike the Paillard-Bolex 50mm f1.3, which can be as bad as causing a layer of light purple on the picture where there are bright white colours.  I guess the biggest drawback of using a projection lens, other than the focusing issue, is that there is no aperture control. But, shoot with what you have, and be surprised!

Creamy, Delicious Bokeh

Note: this post was removed by Blogger due to their downed server. I am post it again from my RSS reader.

Pink Tulips -- NEX-5 & Zoomar Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Click to see larger.

If you like creamy, dreamy, delicious bokeh, the Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8 delivers.  Of all the manual focus lenses I have used, this lens is by far my favourite when it comes to bokeh, and the Leica-R Summicron 90mm f2 is a close second.  As I said before, the unique feature of this lens is the rings from highlights wide open.  These rings are gone by f2.8 f4.

Red Tulips -- NEX-5 & Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Click for larger.

Admittedly, everyone looks at bokeh a bit differently.  There is no bad/good bokeh.  It's a very personal thing.  Aside from the nice bokeh, I like the pictures from this lens too, due to its very rich tonal rendition.  There are so much details that can be pulled from pictures taken with this lens.  The highlights roll off very gracefully that you won't see the disgusting dead white when it clips.

White Tulips -- NEX-5 & Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Click for larger.

My copy of the Makro Kilar is not great, and getting it was purely accidental.  I was buying the Birns & Saywer 150mm f3 movie lens, and the seller said he had another lens at home and if was interested to see it.  Sure I was, and I am glad I said yes.  The condition of this lens is poor.  Very well used and quite dusty inside, and the coating is starting to disintegrate.  All that does not seem to affect the image quality one bit.  I love how the images are rendered by this lens.

Sorry about all the tulip pictures.  I like tulips :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Will I Be Happy with a 1Ds Mark II?

For some reason, I have been thinking about another Canon full frame body lately.  Two came to mind: 5D II and 1Ds II.  Everyone knows that the image quality of the 5D II blows the 1Ds II out of the water, and with video to boot.  But I kind of like the 1-Series bodies and the handling, not to mention the built quality.  Yes, they are heavier and a lot bulkier.

I have seen the 1Ds II on Craigslist for around $1700.  That's a very tempting price, considering how much it was when new, and is cheaper than the 5D II used.  It was my dream to own one of this beasts, but the cost was way out of my reach.  What I am afraid will happen is that once I got the 1Ds II, I will be thinking about the 5D II.  The high ISO capabilities, the video, the smaller form factor and portability.  But, I like the 1Ds II too.  It shares the same batteries as my 1D IIn, same image quality as my 1D IIn that I know what to expect, which to me is acceptable even at ISO 1600.  I also like the fact that is a Canon made cross split focusing screen for manual focus lenses, not to mention it works with more manual focus lenses without hitting reflex mirror.

Perhaps I should just shoot with the NEX-5 for another year or two, exclusively, and who knows what kind of revolutionary products may be introduced in two years?  OK, that's an excuse, but I just can't decide.

Swirling Effect -- NEX-5 & Astro-Kino 65mm f1.5 projection lens. Click to see larger.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mirror Mirror

Mirror -- NEX-5 & Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3 Enlarging Lens. Click to see larger.

I have been out and about everyday on my lunch break for the last two week to walk around the neighborhood and take pictures.  What I have seen the most, in terms of flowers, is tulips.  They are everywhere, in many different colors and species, all blossoming seemingly in competition with each other.  I was going to post another tulip picture, but thought better of it.  Already posted two in the last few days.  I am sure I will post more before they all wilt and wither as spring fades.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3 Enlarging Lens

Tulips -- NEX-5 & Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3. Click  for larger.

The Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3 is the sister lens to the Federal Anastigmat 55mm f4.5.  Both lenses are very tiny.  Obviously, the Fedar is not an indoors lens, having a maximum aperture of f6.3, and at this aperture, the image is a bit soft.  From f8 on, it's sharp enough, but not as much as the Anastigmat 55mm f4.5.

Despite being such an old and cheap lens, it can still create some nice images.  You just have to shoot with its limitations in mind.  I wouldn't shoot with it everyday, but sometimes you will be surprised what you will get in return for a very small investment.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Symphony of Colours

Deep Spring -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2. Click to see larger.

This time of the year shows life in full force.  The gray and colourless landscape of winter is slowly being transformed into a wonderful and colourful painting.  Everywhere you look, it's a symphony of wonderful colours.

Toronto Annual Gymnastic Competition Final

The Jimmpy Simpson Gymnastic team competed against other community recreation center from Toronto in the Toronto Annual Gymnastic Competition Final yesterday at Joseph J. Piccininni Community Recreation Centre. It was a hellish day for both parents and kids from 8am to 7pm, all packed in one room.

This was the first time Megan competed since she joined the gymnastic team last year.  I am proud to say she did really well.  She was placed 4th on floor, 5th on beam, and 2nd on vault, and won an overall third place in her age group.  Gymnastics is a sport that demands extreme hard work and dedication.

On vault -- 1D IIn & EF 200mm f1.8 @ f2

Second Place -- 1D IIn & EF 135mm f2 @ f2.2

Friday, May 6, 2011

Love Me Tender

Young Tulip -- NEX-5 & Kern-Bolex 50mm f1.3 Projection Lens. Click for larger.

I don't know why this pictures remembers me of the old Elvis song.  Very strange.

These projection lenses are really good for low light, since they are very usable wide open, and they usually have a very large maximum aperture.  I especially like the Kern-Bolex 50mm f1.3, even though it has lots of purple fringing.  It's so insanely sharp and is much easier to hand hold in low light, due to its shorter focal length.

Still have three projection lenses I have not tried: Rodenstock Splendon 300mm (with no max. aperture marking), Leica 200mm (also has no max. aperture marking), and a Bell & Howell 76mm f1.6.  I don't think I will be able to make the 300mm usable, as it's far too long and hard to use.  The Leica and the B&H I may try, but I think my hand is full with three working ones at the moment.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beauty and the Vespa

Silver Vespa -- NEX-5 & Bausch & Lomb Super Cinephor 4.75 inch f1.9. Click for larger.

Now that I have tried a few projection lenses, they all have one thing in common: all very sharp wide open, and all purple fringing like hell in highly reflective edges.  The Kern-Bolex 50mm f1.3 is the worst, and the Super Cinephor 4.75 inch f1.9 is close behind, where the Astro-Kino 65mm f1.5 fares a bit better.

I think I have found a possible solution to adding aperture control to projection lenses.  I have tried it today on the Super Cinephor 4.75 inch f1.9 lens with pretty good results.  What I found was a disc like aperture that fits inside a 52mm filter ring.  It can sit between two 52mm filters.  The problem is the aperture control is vertical, which means I can not change it unless I unmount the lens.  I am working making the aperture control arm work horizontally, from the outside of the filters.  This will only work with long lenses, unfortunately.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pentax K-1000 -- The Longest in Production Camera in History

K-1000, a classic that is still recommended for photography students. Click to see larger

Introduced in 1976, this tank-like, all mechanical camera with simple match-needle metering was the longest producing camera in history.  It was not discontinued until 1997, only because some of the parts to make it became too expensive or not available.  This was the third and last K-1000 I had and I just sold it few weeks ago due to non-use, along with a roll of Ektar 25, and Ektar 125 that was 10 years expired.  The Ektar films were the best there was.  I shot two rolls of the Ektar 25 on my Pentax Program Plus and I love the fine grain of the film. The K-1000 was not well used, but will be missed nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Showers

Fallen Flowers -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 @ f2.8. Click to see larger.

We are having a lot of rain in the last couple of weeks.  I don't really mind too much about rain even though I am usually soaking wet by the time I get to work, or get home on my bike.  Taking pictures in raining weathers is actually much better than sunny.  The rain in spring makes everything seem so moody, and sad, and yet so alive.

As I use the 17-31mm focusing helicoid that I purchased, I am cursing it more and more.  The built quality is really bad.  It now has a very annoying play at the mount. This actually makes focusing difficult and psychologically draining.  Each time the focusing ring wobbles a bit, it takes away the joy of using the lens.  It's time to look for a better solution.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Behind the Gooderham Flatiron

Gooderham Flatiron from the back -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2

The Gooderham Flatiron is one of the most photographed landmarks in Toronto.  Most people do it from the front, but the rear is equally beautiful, made famous by the mural Trompe.d'oille, created by  Derek Michael Besant.  

I am enjoying the Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 lens, after it's more or less fixed.  One side is still slightly unsharp, but quite acceptable stopped down. It's hardly noticeable unless looking at 100%.  I intend to use this lens at least a dozen times this month.  Hopefully I will have a better feel for it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Home Brew Focusing Helicoid Got Interchangeable Mounts

Home brew focusing helicoid with 55mm & M42 mount. Click to see larger.

I spent the long weekend last week getting my home brew focusing helicoid to become sort of modular.  Currently, it has a 55mm thread made out of a filter (without glass, of course), and I also made an M42 mount.  Together with the thinner 17-32mm helicoid that I bought, I can now use most of the odd lenses I have.  I am very glad that I have a large collection of step-up/step-down adapter rings that I got from the old Outlet Store.  They are now finally being utilized, especially the 55<-->52mm, 52mm <--> 49mm.  Perhaps I saw this coming :)

To make the lenses focus to infinity, I simply add/remove filter rings.  The advantage of this kind of adapters is that I can bring a few spare filter rings and add them on if I need to do some close up.

Next project is to make a focusing helicoid with aperture control, so that I can use the projection lenses and have control over depth of field.