Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8 HFT - Sample Picture

Fat Bastard Burrito - NEX-5N & Rollei 50mm f1.8 HFT Planar. Click for larger.

I see this Rollei 50mm f1.8 HFT Planar as a sister lens of the more popular Contax Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.7 Planar.  I think it deserves better than what most people give it credits for.  It's sharp, has got nice colours like the Zeiss.  Oh wait, they are both Zeiss lenses!  The Rollei Planar is a Zeiss design licensed to Rollei, just like Contax lenses were licensed by Zeiss, so there is no secret that pictures from the Rollei 50mm f1.8 Planar show traits of Zeiss lenses.

The reason the Contax 50mm f1.7 Planar is more popular is due the mount.  It can be used with Canon DSLRs via adapter where the Rollei QBM mount is difficult to be made focused to infinity on the Canon.  With the popularity of the EVIL cameras, this is no longer a problem.  Both mounts will work fine on all the EVIL cameras.  If you want to try a Zeiss lens, buy the Rollei 50mm f1.8 Planar.  It's much cheaper than the Contax 50mm f1.7, and they are equality good lenses. You will not regret it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Makinon 24mm f2.8 [MD] - Couple of Sample

Makinon lenses are among the cheapest you can find.  For all the Makinon lenses that I have tried, they are just average in optical quality, similar to most third party lenses from the same era.  As far as I know, they never made anything exotic, either in focal length, or large aperture.  But, don't let that stop you from enjoying them.  They are fine when stopped down at f8/f11.

The Kormann House -- NEX-5N & Makinon 24mm f2.8 [MD] @ f5.6. Click for larger.

Street Crossing -- NEX-5N & Makinon 24mm f2.8 [MD]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pentax Macro-Takumar 50mm f4 - A Brief Look

So much for the EOS M Canon EVIL camera.  I was kind of expected that it wouldn't be a revolutionary camera, but still a bit disappointed that it has nothing really that stands out from the mirrorless crowd.  Oh well, back to photography.

There are two versions of this Takumar lens: the original pre-set aperture that has a 1:1 magnification ratio, and the later version that has a 1:2 (half life size) magnification ratio.  I have both of them, but don't use them much, partly because they are pretty slow lenses.  Using them on DSLRS with mirrors make the view finder very dark.  Of course, mirrorless cameras don't have this problem.

Twins -- NEX-5N & Macro-Takumar 50mm f4. Click for larger.

The copy of the Macro-Takumar I have is very well used.  There is a bit of play between the mount and the focusing ring, possibly a screw is loose inside, after decades of use but it still focuses smoothly.  In terms of image quality, I know of no macro lenses that are optically bad at close up. This Macro-Takumar is extremely sharp for what it was designed for - close ups, even wide open at f4 it's very good, but depth of field at this aperture is very thin at macro range.  While it's not surprising the lens is optically good at macro, but I find it also very sharp at intermediate distance and at infinity.

Playground -- NEX-5N & Macro-Takumar 50mm f4. Click for larger.

One thing I am not a big fan of is aperture blades that have a saw-tooth like shape when stopped down a little.  This shows up in the out of focus areas.  I like more rounded shape.  The later version of the lens fewer blades but more rounded shape, which I like better.

Sunflower -- NEX-5N & Macro-Takumar 50mm f4. Click for larger.

After many decades, this lens performs almost as good as most modern macro lenses.   The only area where the lens shows its age is the coating (flare) and contrast, especially at larger apertures.  This particular version of the lens does not have the famous Super-Multi-Coating.  Due to its small maximum aperture, it's best used on mirrorless cameras.  Next time we will look at the sister lens, the S-M-C 50mm f4 macro.

Downtown Towers -- NEX-5N & Macro-Takumar 50mm f4. Click for larger.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Canon NEX-3 EVIL Camera

So the spec is pretty much solid for the Canon EOS-M: Reheated 18 MP APS-C sensors as the one used on the T4i, presumably with the same contrast detect/on-chip phase detect AF.  What puts me off though, is the same design principle as the Sony NEX-3, designed for the Point & Shoot upgraders with minimal number of buttons, but worse.

- The EOS-M has no provision for an external EVF.
- No tilting LCD screen
- No Built-in flash, or includes an external flash

It is a huge let down to so many people with high expectations from Canon's long waited entry to the mirrorless market, saved for the APS-C sized sensor.  This camera has no revolutionary features, or features that stands out from the mirrorless camera crowd.  I could be wrong, but I think the AF will be subpar compared to the AF system used on the Olympus EM-5 or the latest Panasonic M4/3 cameras.  So far, Olympus is the only player in the mirrorless market that has an in-body image stabilization, other than the Pentax K01, which, more of an SLR design than a pure mirrorless design, which to me, is a huge incentive, as I use mostly old manual focus lenses.

Perhaps, Canon is going the way of Sony: introduces simple cameras for P&S upgraders first, and then a more sophisticated version (like the NEX-7) for the serious amateurs later.

I will wait for the next version of EOS-M, when it will include an EVF and more direct controls.  I do like the EF to EOS-M adapter though, because I have many Canon lenses that I could use with, but then again, why not just use them on my 1D Mark III, or a full frame camera?

All tangled up - NEX-5N & Macro-Takumar 50mm f4 (1:1). Click for larger.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Canon's New Mirrorless Camera - EOS-M

Canon's new EOS-M?  Looks authentic. Picture comes from Xitek.

Specs and details of Canon's new mirrorless camera has been sparse and sketchy, but the latest rumored picture looks pretty real to me.  Here is my take.

The body looks pretty small, and clean with a hint of the latest G-series DNA.  The mode dial (THANKS!) has an integrated shutter release button and the hotshoe looks like it is compatible with the SpeedLite flashes.  Don't see a built-in flash, and I think this could be a negative to many people as this camera is a take anywhere device that a built-in flash should be mandatory.

I think Canon is doing the right thing by having a fast prime with the introduction of the new camera.  We are relatively sure that the sensor size will be 1.6x, which means this lens will be equivalent to a 35mm f2, which is perfect for many people, including me.  I am sure the other lens will be the venerable 18-55mm that is almost a standard lens for most new cameras.  Hopefully it will be stabilized, as I don't expect the EOS-M will have in-body stabilization.

One thing that matters a lot to us manual focus lens fanatics, is the lens to sensor register.  If it's longer than 22mm, it may pose a problem for M-mount lenses.  I hope it will be 20mm or somewhere close.

As for the image quality, I think it will be better than the current 1.6x bodies.

We will see on Monday, when this camera will be officially announced.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Weird & Wonky Bokeh from a 4-Blade Aperture

The Schneider-Kreuznach Componar 50mm f4.5 enlarging lens is very, very cheap.  I got it from the old Henry's Outlet store a few years ago.  Very tiny lens and very sharp, but very cheap.  It has one very unusual feature - a 4-bladed aperture which gives a squarish, rather than the normal round aperture shape.  Before I even took any pictures with it, I knew the pictures would come out unusual in the out of focus area, but it's worse.

Maple Seeds -- NEX-5N & Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f4.5 Componar Enlarging Lens. @f5.6. Note weird squarish highlights.

The out of focus area from this lens are the most uncomfortable and unnatural I have seen.  If you think the Rollei 3-bladed Zeiss Distagon 35mm f1.4 HFT is weird, this is far worse.  I have seen some interesting bokeh from the Rollei Distagon 35mm f1.4 HFT and they actually looked pretty nice. Bokeh from this 4-blade lens reminds me of very pixelated pictures with ultra-high jpeg compression.  But, it's interesting, I must admit, and there are good things about this lens - it has nice colours and it's extremely sharp.

Pixels Everywhere - NEX-5N & Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f4.5 Componar Enlarging Lens. @f5.6.

The small maximum aperture of f4.5 is a bit of a downer, but I guess this lens was built to be cheap and small, so it make sense.  I have another version of this lens, but has circular apertures, and far better made.  Perhaps I should try that one and compare it to the 4-blade version and see how they stuck up.

Can't hide beauty - NEX-5N & Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f4.5 Componar Enlarging Lens. @f5.6.

Golden Ricksaw - NEX-5N & Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f4.5 Componar Enlarging Lens. @f5.6.

Shadows - NEX-5N & Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f4.5 Componar Enlarging Lens. @f5.6.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sony 16mm f2.8 Pancake Lens - Sample Pictures

So that Sony 16mm f2.8 E-mount lens is not the greatest lens ever made, but it is one of the cheapest, and the ONLY auto focus E-mount lens at 16mm or wider.  If you need auto focus wide angle lens wider than the kit lens, your options are pretty limited.  It's been more than two years since the introduction of the NEX system, and yet, the number of good lenses from Sony is pathetically few, especially small primes.  But, back to the 16mm pan cake.

The weakest part of the Sony 16mm f2.8 lens is its edges.  Although I think it's acceptable between f8-f11 for most casual use, there are clearly lenses that can do better than this.  For me, I won't hesitate to use it and I find that it is good value for the money.

New Building Rising -- NEX-5N & Sony 16mm f2.8 Pancake

The Red Rocket -- NEX-5N & Sony 16mm f2.8 Pancake

Feverish Construction -- NEX-5N & Sony 16mm f2.8 Pancake

The Hyatt Hotel -- NEX-5N & Sony 16mm f2.8 Pancake

Friday, July 13, 2012

Play Me, I'm Yours

One of the 41 Pianos -- NEX-5N & Pentacon 29mm f2.8

The piano above is one of 41 pianos that represents the 41 countries participating in the upcoming 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.  This particular one is one of the six that CIBC (CIBC is a big sponsor) places in or around its branches that anyone can play.  Every time I walked by, except early in the morning when this picture was taken, there was someone playing on it.

Great idea!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Canon's Upcoming EVIL Camera

The rumor mill is in full swing regarding the new Canon EVIL camera that's coming on the 23rd of this month.  The good news is that instead of the M4/3 sized sensor used on the G1X, Canon will be using the APS-C (presumably same 1.6x size as all the Canon crop cameras use, except the 1D series).  Specs are still sketchy, but I really hope the flange focal distance will be short like the 20mm of the M4/3 mount, otherwise the wonderful M lenses will not be usable, and that will be a huge disappointment to many.

For some reason, I am not as excited as I thought I would be.  Sure, the camera will probably be good, but the EVIL camera market has matured to a point where most EVIL cameras are already excellent, especially since the OM-D EM-5, which is a benchmark of a camera for M4/3.  It would be tough for Canon to surpass it in terms of image quality (judging from their current 1.6x sensors) and usability.  I didn't notice it before, but lately when I look at the images I shot with the Canon 1D III, they clearly lack the dynamic range that the pictures from the NEX-5N have in high contrast situations.  I prefer (or maybe I am used to) the Sony image.

Regardless, I am eager to find out what Canon has to offer.  Will it be another me-too camera, or something that causes a paradigm shift in the EVIL camera industry?  Somehow I am not holding my breathe for the latter, but I will be more than happy to be proven wrong.

Red Leaf -- NEX-5N & Zeiss Ikon Ernostar 110mm f1.9 Projection Lens.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Photo Essay: Pan Am Games 2015 Kick Off

The city of Toronto kicked off a 3-year count down to the Pan Am Games 2015 that will be hosted in Toronto.  My kids participated in part of the events with their music school.  Their performance was on 41 pianos which represents 41 countries.  Each piano has a unique design that pays homage to the culture of that country.  All of them marked "Play Me, I Am Yours". All of these pianos will be placed around Toronto and anyone can play on them.  In addition to the 41 pianos, there are many other musical performances.  Drums, electric string quartet and many others.

41-Pianos -- Canon 1D Mark III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click for larger.

William -- 1D Mark III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click for larger.

The Audience -- 1D Mark III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click for larger.

Drums -- 1D Mark III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click for larger.

Megan -- 1D III & EF 135mm f2 @ f2. Click for larger.

Electric String Quartet - 1D Mark III & EF 200mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Dillon & Alex -- 1D Mark III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II.

Colourful Dominican Piano -- 1D Mark III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II.

Girl on bench -- 1D Mark III & EF 85mm f1.2L @ f1.2.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 as a Carry-Around Lens

Battle Zone on Spadina & Queen -- NEX-5N & Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4. click for larger.

I am now somewhat attached to the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 lens on the NEX-5N.  The small size, relatively light weight, and fast maximum aperture makes for a perfect candidate as a walk-around lens on my NEX-5N.  The image quality is excellent and for the money, especially when compared to the Leica 50mm f1.4 Lux, it's an unbeatable value.  I haven't had many chances of using the lens in low light, but for those occasions that I did, the lens did well, though focusing is always an issue at maximum aperture in low light.  In all, I find find the lens to be very enjoyable to use, and it renders pictures that are sharp with nice colours. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9 - Another Sample

Bokeh -- NEX-5N & Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9

I like shooting the Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9, because it has such an interesting bokeh.  In fact, I don't know of any other lens that has similar rendering.  Can't say it's nice in a classic sense, but it's definitely unique.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Rare Beauty

Ford GT - NEX-5N & Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4. Click for larger.

This was the second Ford GT I saw in Toronto.  When I saw one the first time, in blue & white, it was beautiful.  I am not a car nut and never knew Ford made a super sport car like this, until my colleague Ian told me about it.  One would easily mistake it for an Italian car.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Zoomar Kilfitt Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8 - A Set of Pictures

The Kilfitt Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8 is one of those lenses that while not used often, but is the lens I would grab when I want to shoot some macro pictures, or pictures in the portrait focal length.  Sure, the Contax Carl Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro is sharp as a blade, and I also like it lots, but it doesn't have quite the same kind of characteristics that I find attractive with the Kilfitt 90mm f2.8 Makro.

Butterfly - NEX-5N & Zoomar Kilfitt Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Cyclist - NEX-5N & Zoomar Kilfitt Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Streetcar - NEX-5N & Zoomar Kilfitt Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Sunflower - NEX-5N & Zoomar Kilfitt Makro Kilar 90mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Biking From Toronto To Niagara Falls

On Canada Day (July 1st), seven of us rode our bicycles from Toronto to Niagara Falls, to test our endurance.  We started at 6am and arrived at Niagara Falls at 7pm, for a total of 13 hours, covering more than 170KM of distance.  My 13-year-old son Ryan, who rode more slowly, hence the longer time it took.

Dillon, Kevin, Lens Bubbles, Ryan, Quang and Ivan. My friend Cliff would join us later in Mississauga. Click for larger.

The event didn't start out smoothly.  I had a fall just a few kilometers from where we started, and had  a scraped knee.  Luckily, it was only the skin and nothing serious, except a sore shoulder.  We pressed on and at around Mississauga, two flat tires from Dillon's front wheel.  Fortunately, after this, no more flats.

Scraped knee.

I am very proud of Ryan, who didn't have much bike riding experience and made it to Niagara Falls, despite the initial rough start.  And also for Dillon, who's a year older than Ryan.  He also rode back the next day.  For me, about 2/3 of the way there, my right knee joint started to hurt and it got worse as I rode.  By the time we were near our destination, I was practically peddling only with my left leg, and was limping my way to the hotel.

Taking a break at Grimsby.

There were seven of us riding to the Falls, but only three were riding back (Quang, Kevin and Dillon).  The rest of use either was driven or took the train home.  It took roughly 12 hours for the three to ride back.  The trip was very challenging for all of us.  The hot weather and humidity made it worse.  We consumed large amount of water and sugary drinks on the way there.  It was truly a great experience.

Lens Bubbles and Ryan arriving at the Niagara  Falls.