Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pentax-M 20mm f4 - Infrared Photo Set

Today is a perfect day for infrared photography.  As usual, my preferred lens for IR is the Pentax-M 20mm f4. This lens could be very bad with distortion if not careful, but I find it to be excellent on the APS-C cameras. The signature of this lens is its sharpness, especially on the low density sensors like the Canon 20D. The images captured by this lens has excellent definition. This is one of my favourite K-mount lenses.

All photos below were taken with the Canon 20D IR & Pentax-M 20mm f4.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 DKL - A Photo Set

It occurred to me today that the Distillery District is just about 5 minutes of bike ride from my work. Since I hadn't been there for many months, I thought it would be nice to visit it again. That was what I did on my lunch time. It was a nice departure from all the modern buildings and lake around the work area, and see something old and historical. I only had time to stroll through part of the place, and I will be going back to visit the rest next week to do some more shooting.

Around the bend - Sony NEX-6 & Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 DKL. Click for larger.

Wooden Wheel - Sony NEX-6 & Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 DKL. Click for larger.

Bokeh - Sony NEX-6 & Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 DKL. 

Back to school - Sony NEX-6 & Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 DKL.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jack's Got Your Back

Jack Layton was one of those rare politicians that was respected by his supporters or opponents alike. He was genuine in speaking for the people he represented. When he died two years ago at the untimely age of 61, the whole nation mourned the passing of a great politician and leader. To honour him, the city of Toronto has renamed the Toronto Ferry Dock Terminal to Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, and erected a statue of him on a tandem bike that he used to ride with his wife, Olivia Chow. The statue reads "Jack's got your back. Stronger together."  I really like this sculpture, which was created by Toronto Artist David Pellettier, with input from Olivia Chow, who herself is a sculptor.

Jack Layton - Sony NEX-6 & Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 @ f1.9

Jack Layton on Tandem Bike - Sony NEX-6 & Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Taylor-Hobson Ortal 3 Inch f2 TV Lens - Photo Set

It has been almost three weeks since I last shot any pictures for pleasure. This never happened in the last few years where I routinely went out and shot every week. I don't know why, but I actually felt good in a "guilty" sense; it was like taking a vacation from photography. I know this sounds like I take pictures like a job I had to do, but it's not true. The camera is sitting in my bag everyday, I just didn't feel like going out. Summer has never been a very productive time for me in pictures.

In any case, I went out today and shot some pictures with the Taylor-Hobson Ortal 3 Inch f2. I hope I can will myself to do this more often :)

All pictures below were taken with the Sony NEX-6 & Taylor-Hobson 3 inch f2 TV lens.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

OT: Bicycles with Internal Gear Hub

Here in Toronto I see many decades old bicycles still on the road, which is amazing considering the really extreme temperatures we have. Most of these bikes have a 3-speed internal gear hub, invariably made by Sturmey-Archer. The longevity of these bikes and the hub tells you something about the reliability of the internal gear hubs. Naturally, as a gearhead, I am intrigued by these hubs.

What makes them so attractive is the simplicity and they make the bicycle look clean without clutter. Many also come with a coaster brake, which allows you to forgo the handlebar mounted brakes. This is the reason I love single speed/fixed gear bicycles. I ride the single speed/fixie bike to work exclusively for many years, despite having many other bikes. At times, I do wish I could change gears for the occasional hills I had to climb, or when I really wanted to go faster without pedaling like mad, and the internal gear hub seems like a perfect fit; at least on the surface of it.

There are some limitations with internal gear hub. The major concern for me is the extra weight compared to a single speed/fixie. In fact, the gear hub weighs almost as much as the frame itself, and I do not like heavy bikes. Also, 3 speed seems limiting, and the 7, 8, 11 speed variance are too expensive. Finally, they are not as easy to put together as a normal single speed hub. I wanted to try it, regardless.

4-Speed Road Bike - Canon 5D Mark II & EF 100mm f2.8L IS Macro. Click for larger.

A little while ago, I bought a 26 inch rim that came with a 4-speed Shimano hub, and a matching shifter. After reading obakesan's "On yer bike" blog post, I decided to put a bike together with this hub. Since I don't have any frames that can take the 26 inch wheel, and besides, the rim is in terrible shape, I decided to remove the hub and re-lace it to a 700c rim. Lacing the wheel is a time consuming task, especially truing the wheel. I didn't do a proper job by using spokes with too small a gauge. Heavy hubs like this should use very strong spokes, but that was all I had around the house.

4-Speed Hub - Canon 5D Mark II & EF 100mm f2.8L IS Macro. Click for larger.

Mounting the hub is relatively straightforward, but there are couple of things to watch out for. Some hubs, like this one, uses anti-rotational washer (or non-turn washers), and you need to use the right one for the dropout your bike has. My bike has a slightly downward dropout but the washer matched it perfectly so I don't need to buy a different one. There are ones for horizontal, vertical, and other variations. Do not omit this washer as it secure the hub from rotating. Another thing to watch out for is the reaction arm, for those hubs that come with coaster brake. I made a very bad mistake by trying out the hub without securing the arm, I almost ruined the anti-rotational washer when the coaster braked engaged accidentally. Be sure the reaction arm is secured before testing/riding. The coaster brake is too sensitive, in my opinion. It engages too easily.

Shifter - Canon 5D Mark II & EF 100mm f2.8L IS Macro. Click for larger.

When all was finished, the bike is heavier than I would like, and it's rear-heavy. My crank is a Campagnolo with a 53-tooth chain ring, which is larger than most on single speed bikes, but I like it as it provide me with more speed. It's mated to a 20-tooth cog on hub. This proved to be a good combination for me. At lower gear, it's good enough to climb hills but at higher gear, it can go really fast. I would like to have more speed choices in between, but for this experiment, I am quite satisfied. It works better than I expected.

The hub shifts instantly and very smoothly and almost noiseless. A very pleasant change from external derailleurs where even the best ones make some noise. I would love to try a 7 or 8 speed version, but the cost is prohibitive for me. An 8-speed gear hub costs around $350, and an 11-speed is in the $800 zone, which is too much for me.

This experiment is an eye opener for me towards internal gear hubs. I think I will ride this one as my daily commuter. At the same time I got the hub, I also got a Shimano dynamo hub for the front; lots of fun to be had. Now you know why this month there are so few entries for my blog :)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Zeiss Distagon 55mm f1.4 - The Best 55mm Lens in the World?

Since the introduction of the Zeiss Distagon 55mm f1.4 lens, the net is abuzz. Some love it, many question the purpose of such product, and yet others love it but hate the price.  For those who are negative toward the (seemingly) amazing lens, I question why.  If we only produce "good enough" products that most people can afford, the world will be filled with mediocre products. Without these best of the breed products, produced where money is no object, we would not know how far we can go. Sure, most of us will not be able to afford the new lens, but there is a chance that we could afford a used one later on.

The Canon EF 200mm f1.8L is one of the best lenses in the world. It was created to showcase Canon's technical prowess in lens design. Even by today's standards, it's still one of the best, certainly still the world's faster autofocus 200mm lens. I would not have been able to afford it when it was new, but I was able to buy one used. Canon never sold many of these lenses and I am not even sure it they made a profit from this lens, if you factor in the time it took to design and the tools needed to make it. But, I am glad they made it.

Still, many lambasted Zeiss for making such an expensive lens and it won't even autofocus. I am glad they made it a manual focus lens. Every time I think of the EF 200mm f1.8L lens sitting here, and cannot be fixed due to parts shortage, I wish the lens was a manual focus lens; manual focus lenses have a much longer service life. Some of my manual focus lenses are more than 50 years old and they still work wonderfully like the day they were made.

So Zeiss, bring us more lenses that are the best of the best.

Looking South of Yonge Street - Canon 20D IR & Pentax-M 20mm f4 @ f8

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8 - Photo Set

I bought two Pancolar 80mm f1.8 from my good friend Paul's personal collection many years ago. One of them was not working. A nice guy from the Xitek forum offered to fix the lens for me, for free!  I sent the broken lens to him in China, and he found that a small part that controls the aperture was missing.  Unbelievably, he made the part himself and fixed the lens. I offered him a Contax 50mm f1.4 Planar as payment, and he refused. I have seen my share of nasty people, but there are thousands of times more generous and nice people. I truly believe that in the end, our species will survive, because there are so many people with a beautiful heart out there.

The Pancolar 80mm f1.8 remains one of my favourite lenses, despite the fact that I have not used it much. It's simply gorgeous on full frame, but also nice on the NEX. Not a very common lens around, which make sit a bit pricy on the market.

Maple Leaf - Sony NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Tiger Lily - Sony NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Pink flower - Sony NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Fresh from BBQ - Sony NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Inevitable (Affordable) Mirrorless Full Frame

If you want a mirrorless full frame right now, the only game in town is Leica, which will set you back many thousands of dollars. The market has been calling for a more affordable mirrorless full frame for a few years now, but nobody has answered. Rumor has been floating around the net lately, that Sony is about to introduce a full frame mirrorless. I believe it. I do not believe Canon or Nikon, or anyone else, would want to produce such a product, either because they want to protect their full frame DSLR market, or unable to make one economically and make money from it. Sony is the perfect manufacturer to make one; they already have the RX1. All they need to do is to make the mount interchangeable. And, there is the VG9000 full frame with the NEX E-mount, which is optimized for video and is not exactly small or portable.

Yes Virginia, I think the market is ready for a full frame mirrorless camera. Rumor has it that the Sony version will cost $3000 for the body, which is a lot of dough, and I think is overpriced. Consider the RX1, that has a built-in excellent Zeiss lens, costs less. Poor mortals like me cannot afford one at this price, but I am sure there are many early adopters who has deep pockets will snap up these eagerly awaited full frame bodies. Perhaps in a couple of years, we might see its cost fall below $2000.

My fear is that even when the full frame mirrorless costs under $2000, it will still be a very niche camera. We have already seen camera sales have fallen by some 40% this year over last. The continuing sales slide may force the camera maker to pull it off the market. Let's hope this will not happen.

Flower - NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Walking Around with the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4

I think the NEX-6 is a perfect street camera. It's small and easy to carry, and most important of all, it has exceptionally good image quality. Pair it with a small fast lens, it's even better. The 40mm focal length of the Voitglander sits between mini-wide angle, and a standard 50mm lens. I think it's a good compromise. The usable f1.4 maximum aperture allows some low light captures, especially now that high ISO quality is very good, even at 6400, which opens up a lot of opportunities that were prohibitive just a few years ago. The only quibble I have with the Nokton is the focusing ring. Maybe I haven't used it enough, but I quite often have trouble finding the focusing ring without looking. But, that's easily overlooked with its other good qualities.

Hotdog vendor - NEX-6 & Voigtlander 40mm f1.4. Click for larger.

Field hockey - NEX-6 & Voigtlander 40mm f1.4. Click for larger.

Green - NEX-6 & Voigtlander 40mm f1.4. Click for larger.

University of Toronto Campus - NEX-6 & Voigtlander 40mm f1.4. Click for larger.

If not for her blue hair, this mannequin could easily fool many people as a real person, especially in dim lights  - NEX-6 & Voigtlander 40mm f1.4. Click for larger.