Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Pitfall of Ultra Precise Lens Adapter

Back in the days when lens adapters were uncommon, they were well made and precise, but expensive. Today, most cheap adapters you can buy from eBay are mass produced in China; quality is acceptable, but precision is usually not a huge consideration.  In fact, nearly all of these adapters for mirrorless cameras allow the lens to focus past infinity, and this is intentional.  In the beginning, many users found that the adapters they bought could not focus their lenses to infinity, and they returned the adapters. Manufacturers then started to make the adapters slightly thinner than the official mount measurement; this would allow the majority of lenses to achieve infinity focus, but usually slightly pass it.

To me, this is acceptable.  After decades of use, most old lenses would deviate from the original specs and they may focus closer or further than they were designed to do. If you make an adapter that’s perfect, some lenses will be blurry when the lens is focused to infinity. All Canon auto focus lenses that use UltraSonic Motor (USM), allow the lens to focus pass infinity to compensate for parameters that could affect infinity focus, such as temperature variations and manufacturing tolerance.  But, manual focus lenses do not have this luxury.

I have two relatively expensive adapters; one Canon FD to M4/3 adapter made in Poland, bought right after the G1 came out, and the other, Leica-R to Canon EOS adapter, made by Elefoto of Japan.  For whatever reason, none of my Leica-R lenses would focus to infinity with the Elefoto adapter.  I tried the 28mm f2.8 Elmarit, 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm f2 Summicrons, and two 90mm f2.8 Elmarits.  I don’t know what lenses they used as a reference when the adapter was designed, or perhaps there is a defect in manufacturing.  The Polish adapter, on the other hand, worked perfectly with most of my FD lenses on the Panasonic G1, and when lens is set to infinity, everything is sharp and clear.  I started using this adapter on the E-M5 lately and so far, found that two of the lenses are just shy of infinity focus: FD 50mm f1.2 S.S.C, and FD 35mm f2 S.S.C.  If the aperture is set to f8 or smaller, sharpness becomes acceptable, but still not quite there.  A mere millimeter could mean in focus, or not.

For this reason, I usually just buy the cheap adapters, knowing that they would at least give me infinity focus.  The only thing that worries me is the flatness of the adapter, which could cause de-centring issues resulting in one side of the picture to be sharper than the other, if tolerance not kept in check.

Smoke Break - Canon FD 200mm f4 & Olympus E-M5.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Decade of My Digital Photography Obsession - Part IV

Meanwhile, the market was filled with all kinds of beautiful and capable cameras. All were very attractive and irresistible. Like the 7-year itch of a real marriage, I felt something that ever so gently stirred and disturbed me inside; a little voice told me I needed a real camera with AF system that could keep up with my kids. The only Canon camera that could do that was the original 8 frames per second, 4MP 1D and the 11MP full frame 1Ds.  I started having fantasy affairs with the 1Ds. It was full frame, with a 45-focus point AF system that's more accurate and responsive than anything on the market for a full frame DSLR.  This camera gave me many wet dreams.  The only problem was, the 1Ds cost $10K in Canada; it was, but a very remote dream.  Meanwhile, the 20D, younger sister of the 10D, started flirting with me.

Happy together - Canon 20D & EF 70-200mm f2.8L

I am very weak when it comes to gear. The 20D was one of the best cameras at the time; fast, responsive, much improved Auto Focus system, and best of all, a sensor so good it was made to weaken man’s resistance to upgrade/switch, not to mention it was a beautiful thing to behold, and even better to touch and feel.  This did not go well with my relationship of the 10D. The image making sessions became less frequent while I spent much time googling the reviews and ogling the pictures taken by the 20D.  Discontent is like a disease that slowly consumes one’s sound judgement and reasoning.  My morality shuttered and I officially declared myself a gear whore.  I realized I was a not a person who could stay faithful with one camera; I would be no longer loyal to any one camera!

I rented the 20D for a weekend, just in case my judgement was clouded by the urge to upgrade and not based on tangible improvements over the 10D.  This brief weekend affair turned out to be a long courtship and it was the last camera I had a sole monogamy relationship with, until I got into high end Canon DSLRs.  Even today, I still have a Infrared Modified 20D. Still have no qualms with the image quality.

Sally, at one of my yard sales - Canon 20D & Contax Carl Zeiss 60mm f2.8 Makro. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Decade of My Digital Photography Obsession - Part III

The marriage to the 300D Digital Rebel lasted just over a year before I started eyeing its more attractive, younger sister: EOS 10D.  I understood that "Beauty is only skin deep", and that my pictures won't look much different than those from the 300D, but in the back of my mind, the dark gray colour of the 300D's plastic skin was always a disappointment, however small. It wasn't a big issue when nothing was compared to it, but when pitted against the just announced 10D, this "flaw" suddenly got magnified, and along with the focus issues, finally cause the big rift in the marriage that ended up in divorce. It was not without bitter sweetness that I bid goodbye to my companion of 13 months; we had a good time together and made some fine images.

Zeiss Planetary Projector, 2005 - Canon 10D & Leica-R 50mm f2 Summicron.

I took home the 10D with joy and pride; loved the beautiful and slick magnesium alloy body, big command wheel at the rear that responded to every of my touches, an informative LCD display on top, all covered in velvety black. The new 10D didn't disappoint. The auto focus system was slightly better than the Rebel, though far from perfect.  But, what is? I was in cloud 9! The 10D gave me so much joy and I told myself this would be my camera for years to come. The 10D and I would be happy together!

We basked in the joy of making, er, pictures. I would try to please her by buying beautiful, shiny new prime lenses; practically all L primes under 400mm except the 14mm f2.8L and the Tilt & Shift lenses. And, nothing pleased her more than those big, white lenses with red bands; 200mm f1.8L, 300mm f4L and the monstrously long 100-400mm L that, when fully zoomed out would scare a small man!  We were in heaven, the 10D and I.  Picture after picture, day after day, it was like honey moon over and over again. The 10D would always tried her best to get the pictures that I wanted, and tried hard she did, but it was clear that Canon did not give her the best focus system from birth.  I tried to ignore her sometimes inconsistent focus, but over time, the frustration built up. I felt the danger of a break up was creeping upon us; I had to do something to save our union!

Mom & William, 2005 - Canon 10D & Leica-R 50mm f2 Summicron.

I attended therapy groups (forums) with most of my free time and posted dire requests for help. One person said that he was so fed up with his 10D's auto focus that he was only using manual focus lenses on it. Clearly this was the wisdom of an enlightened 10D owner; someone who figured it out and embraced the inherent flaws to make it work. It was a watery eyed eureka moment. "We are saved", I said to myself. "Who needs Auto Focus"? Everyone was buying digital SLRs and dumping their old film cameras. Manual focus lenses were aplenty and cheap. I started scouting pawnshops, used lens sections of camera stores, Craigslist, and best of all, I found Henry's original Outlet Store on Queen & Church.  I bought anything cheap that had glass elements.  Slowly, I have developed a bond and love for these old gems which, in later years, would make Lens Bubbles blog possible.

Dillon, 2005 - Canon 10D & Chinon 135mm f2.8.

I was in love with the Outlet Store. It was like a photographic treasure trove. It had extensive selection of old, manual lenses, not to mention weird and hard to find accessories like hoods and cases. I would hop off my bike and stop by the store every day after work, and sometime during lunch time, to visit the store.  I knew everyone who worked there by name. My wife became suspicious, about the time and money I spent in such regular intervals, that I might be having an affair.  I told her about the outlet store and eventually she had to go in with me, a few times just in case. Over time, even my kids knew the names of some of the people who worked there, especially Paul, though they hated it every time I brought them there when I happened to be in the area and needed to go inside for the fix.  Paul no longer works at the Outlet Store, but we still keep correspondence with email, and occasionally have lunch together.  One of the best things about the Outlet Store, other than the gear I got from there, is the people I met there.  Adam was a regular, so was the professor, among many others, who I still see regularly at the camera shows.  And Paul, a sweet man he is; always helpful and full of knowledge.  He is a walking encyclopedia on film gear, who is also a good photographer and loves Pentax and Zeiss.

My 10D was overjoyed and very accepting to the old lenses. We found many ways to make pictures with a manual focus lenses.  We made images with lenses that we had never even heard of before, like Meyer, Pentacon, Prince, Accura, Sun, etc. We had a great time when I brought home something interesting to try on: enlarging lenses, projection lenses, anything that can make pictures taking interesting and exciting.  I even made a split screen for the 10D from one of Nikon's film cameras, to make manual focus easier. Together, we made over 35000 images during the time we spent together.

William, 2005 - Canon 10D & Takumar SMC 35mm f3.5, one of my first manual focus lenses.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Decade of My Digital Photography Obsession - Part II

Not content with the point & shoot, I was looking forward to an affordable DSLR. The introduction of the 3.3MP D30 marked the beginning of "affordable" DSLRs, but at $3000, it was out of my reach.  Regardless, I was drooling over the D30 and imagined myself shooting with one. Then came the D60 with twice the pixels at 6MP, but still too expensive, though I eventually bought a used one but I only shot a few pictures before it gave up the ghost.  It was not until the 300D Digital Rebel that rocked the photographic world and forever changed the landscape of DSLRs. The 300D was the first DSLR to break the $1000USD barrier, but in Canada, we have always paid more for the same product than the USA, used to be around 20% to 30% premium, has has gotten much better with a stronger Canadian Dollar.  No matter, I bought one as soon as I was able and had never looked back since. That was in September of 2003.

Brothers - Canon Digital Rebel 300D & EF 50mm f1.8II. Click for larger.

Like the G1, the Digital Rebel had lots of focusing issues, and it went to Canon twice for focus calibration and the last time it went, they calibrated the 300D to EF 70-200mm f4L (I sent that lens in because it wouldn't focus properly at 70mm). Consequently, this lens focused perfectly with 300D, but every other lens didn't work quite as well. It was frustrating. Again, despite its short-comings, I loved that camera and took lots of pictures with it. This camera gave me G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).

Toronto City Hall, 2003 - Canon Digital Rebel 300D & EF 18-55mm Kit Lens. Click for larger.

I started buying lenses; all consumer grade, like the 35-70mm f3.5-4.5, 70-210mm f4, 75-300mm f4.5-5.6 and the variants. Time after time, I was disappointed. My pictures looked nothing like the other people's pictures that were tack sharp with great colours, until I realized those lenses all had a red band with letter "L" in the product name, or they were shot with single focal length lenses. I finally saw the "Light", but this realization was painful: primes and L lenses were expensive, especially L primes. The good news was that Canon has a plethora of alternative primes that were more affordable. Naturally, my first prime was the Plastic Fantastic 50mm f1.8 II. Like everything else with low-end Canon products, it was endless frustration using this lens with the Rebel: most of the time, the combo was never quite able to get the focus exactly right at wide apertures, but it was pure joy on the rare occasions that it did happen. It was like first blood. I was hooked.

Megan, 2003 - Canon Digital Rebel 300D & EF 50mm f1.8 II.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Decade of My Digital Photography Obsession - Part I

This all started in May of 2001 with the Canon S20, a 3.2 megapixel point and shoot that was very small (at that time) and made like a piece of fashion accessory, but I quickly found out that it was not my kind of camera, and it was promptly exchanged for the PowerShot G1. The Canon G1 was Canon's flagship camera and was one of the most popular digital cameras at the time with a fast 3x zoom f2-2.5 lens. There is no wonder that Canon's G1X, introduced some 12 years after the original G1, with a large 1.5 inch sensor, retained part of the G1 name, to pay homage to the camera that started the G series.

Me and Megan 2001, taken by my wife. Note my hair was still black - Canon Powershot S20.

I was so excited about the G1. Before getting it, I fantasized about taking it with me everywhere and take all kinds of pictures.  It did go with me everywhere, but it dawned on me pretty quickly that it can not take all kinds of pictures with the fixed lens. I was enamored of the G1, despite the awful focusing, which always seemed to focus somewhere else other than where I intended, especially at close range. I took roughly 5000 pictures with it and most of them were of my kids. I totally did not regret its $1200 price tag. I don't remember how my wife would agree to buying this camera when we were so tight with money and that was the amount we didn't have for a luxury item. But she has always been a good sport when it comes to my hobbies; I have a lifetime to thank her for.

The G1 was a great camera, but with severe limitations.  For one thing, it was hard to get shallow depth of field.  Another thing is the very noisy image above ISO 100, by today's standards, though DPReview touted this camera as having silky smooth image quality and noiseless at low ISO. Most of my pictures were shot at base ISO of 50.  Looking back, it's amazing how much the sensor technology has advanced. Now my cell phone can take much better pictures than what the G1 could, with a smaller sensor, 3 times the resolution, and better image quality to boot, but that does not take away the amazing paradigm shift the G1 created. To this day, the G-series still represents the top of the line Canon Point & Shoot cameras. It's currently at its 13th generation with the latest model being the G1X II.

Megan - Canon Powershot G1.  From the very beginning, Canon has mastered the great skin tone. Cick for larger.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Soligor 80-200mm f3.5 CD [MD Mount] - A Photo Set

If you read my blog, you know I am not a big fan of zoom lenses, but I have a couple of boxes of cheap zooms, mostly bought from the old Outlet Store. The Soligor 80-200mm f3.5 is considered one of the better of the bunch. It's quite a large and heavy lens, but optically decent, as far as old zoom lenses go.  I have used it a few times with satisfactory results. It won't win any awards for optical excellence, but is a good option if you need a cheap telephoto zoom.  Just keep in mind that manual focus zooms don't work very well with cameras like the E-M5, that has in-body stabilization, because you need to set the focal length in the camera each time you zoom, otherwise the IS won't be very effective, or even worse than without IS.

All pictures below were taken with Olympus E-M5 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Endless Pursuit of Photographic Gear

For a long time, I have been asking myself why the endless pursuit for more camera/lenses, and do expensive lenses make me take better pictures? Surely I am not the only person who is obsessed with lenses and cameras, otherwise we won't have acronyms like GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), LOL (Lens of Lust), COL (Camera of Lust), etc. I have known for a long time that expensive lens/cameras do not necessarily make better pictures.  But what drives me into obsession with camera gear?

I consider some of my camera/lenses to be better than average, especially when it comes to Canon lenses.  I have used/owned most of the L lenses from 24mm to 300mm, except the 200mm f2.8L and the 300mm f2.8L, plus the L zooms from 16-35mm f2.8L II to 100-400mm L.  These lenses include my favourites such as the 35mm f1.4L, 85mm f1.2L II, 135mm f2L, and 200mm f1.8L.  The Canon cameras that I have used include the original 1D, 1Ds, and the later generations of 1D Mark II, Mark IIn, and lastly the 1D III, plus the 5D classic and the 5D II.  I would think that having the best should stop me from buying more gear, but that is just not true.  Very soon I found out that there is no such thing as a perfect lens or camera; they all have negative aspects that give rise to further excuses for more gear.  The reason is usually too big and too heavy.  If you have ever shot with a 1D-series and the EF 200mm f1.8L, you would know what’s like to hold 10LBs of gear in your hand for longer than 10 minutes, or walk around with that weight on your hand/neck for a couple of hours.  The image quality is superb, but how often do you want to walk around with this much weight?

Jump, from 2008 - Canon 1Ds & EF 200mm f1.8L @ f2. Click for larger. 

The only pictures I hang on my wall, are the pictures of my kids, taken more than 10 years ago, with the original Digital Rebel 300 and the cheap Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 (non-USM) and the Plastic Fantastic 50mm f1.8 II. These are some of my favourite pictures, and I consider them better than most of the pictures I have taken later using exotic/expensive camera/lenses.  For each piece of gear that I used longer than a few months, I had a certain emotional attachment to it.  Amazingly, every time I see my pictures, I often know which lens was used to make the pictures; they invoke that warm and fuzzy feeling of the time, place, event, camera, lens that made up the pictures. It occurs to me regardless of what equipment I used to take the pictures; they almost all give me equal enjoyment.  Better equipment gives me sharper and cleaner pictures, but this only matters technically, not aesthetically.  I have a lot of pictures that I like and they were taken by the 3.2 MP Canon Powershot G1.

Ryan, 2007 - Kodak SLR/c full frame & Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron. Click for larger.

Then is the aesthetic side to the images.  This one aspect has gotten me to become a gear whore, because image aesthetics is very subjective and every lens is different.  Unfortunately, there is no right, or wrong, or good, or bad to it.  A lens could have terrible corners, very soft, has little contrast, but produces dream-like pictures that appeal to me.  An example is the Sima 100mm f2 soft focus plastic lens.  Conversely, a lens could be very sharp from corner to corner, with high contrast, and almost no distortion (most good enlarging lenses), that produces images that are sharp, technically perfect, but not necessarily pleasing, but satisfies the senses that appeal to the technical side.

So, perhaps, I am not looking for anything specific at all, just gear that produces different and interesting images.  As such, there is no cure in the foreseeable future.

Whatever the reason is, which is not really important any more, after so many years, but there is a happy by-product out of this: continuous production of images obtained with combination of camera/lenses.  Occasionally, I even get a few pictures that I like.

Rose, 2006 - Pentax *ist DL & Sima 100mm f2 Soft Focus Lens.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Photographing Downtown Toronto from Riverdale Park

Sally, Dillon and I went to Riverdale Park, intending to photograph the sunset over downtown Toronto. We were a bit late, and the sun was already set by the time we got there, so we ended up just taking pictures of the downtown Toronto at dusk. At the top of the Riverdale Park is Broadview Avenue, near Bain Avenue, is a favourite spot for taking pictures of downtown. For me, I have already done this quite a few times and unfortunately, each time the pictures come out pretty much the same, except when there is a very nice cloud formation. So, I ended up taking pictures of people who were taking pictures.  Much more interesting.

Sally & Dillon - Olympus E-M5 & Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5. Click for larger.

Downtown Toronto - Olympus E-M5 & Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5. Click for larger.

Shooting the shooter - Olympus E-M5 & Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5. Click for larger.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


One of the interesting things about manual focus lenses is that they tend to have more pronounced characters than modern lenses. One particular lens, which is very unique in its rendering of out of focus highlights, is the Zoomar Kilfitt 90mm f2.8 Makro lens; it produces highlights with rings within a ring, when shot wide open. Stopped down to f4, the rings are gone! This unusual trait can be used to form part of, or as the sole composition.

Pictures below were taken with the Zoomar Kilfitt 90mm f2.8 Makro & Olympus E-M5.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Olympus OM 100-200mm f5 Photo Set

The day after the snow storm we had on Wednesday, I took the OM 100-200mm f5 again, to make sure it was still OK. But of course it was. That's the beauty of manual focus lenses; there is no electronics to fail you when it gets a bit wet. The OM 100-200mm f5 lens is not the greatest lens by any means, as it was built and sold as a budget lens. Sharpness is so so, and my version suffers from a very severe case of zoom creep. Actually, the zoom just slides like there is no friction at all. The good thing about the lens is that it's quite compact and light for the range it provides.

All pictures below were taken with the Olympus OM 100-200mm f5 & Olympus E-M5

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Olympus E-M5 in Adverse Weather

After a few days of normal weather, Old Man Winter is back with a vengeance. This afternoon we had a blizzard of snow with 40 KM/h wind, but I saw this as a good opportunity to test the E-M5 under this kind of environment. So I ventured out into the snow.

I took along the little used Olympus OM 100-200mm f5 cheap zoom, because I don't want to ruin any lenses that I would want to use in the future. Naturally, the lens/adapter combo is not weather sealed. There is a good chance snow/water could get into the camera through the adapter, as the heat from the camera could melt the snow on the body and the water could sip through the mount. Thankfully, this didn't happen, though when I removed the lens, there was a bit of water inside the mount but nothing got inside the camera body.

The E-M5 held up extremely well. It was covered in snow in matter of seconds. The annoying part is having to keep cleaning the snow off the viewfinder, as well as the front of the lens.  I suspect the temperature was somewhere around -15 Celsius with the wind chill factor, which isn't that cold, considering the kind of weather we have been having. Another issue is the front element of the lens started to ice up after the snow blew into the hood. Combined that with the thick snow, precise focusing was impossible. So all the pictures were focused without the aid of the magnify feature.

After about 40 minutes, the lens/camera combo continued to work, but I had had enough. My hair was frozen into ice, and I suspect my face was starting to go that way too, so I headed back. It was an interesting experience. There was a few crazy people just like me who were out and about in this kind of weather, including one fellow photographer, who retreated after reaching the lake.  The blowing snow definitely adds an interesting element to the pictures. To some extend, I quite enjoy taking pictures this way.

All pictures below were taken with Olympus OM 100-200mm f5 manual focus lens & E-M5

Monday, March 10, 2014


Sometimes mother nature can just take your breath away. A beautiful sunset can leave me speechless in wonderment. Living in the city, we don't often see the sun disappears into the horizon, at least not for me, but the exquisite colours temporarily paint everything into an amazing picture. This is one of the many reasons I always have a camera with me wherever I go.

Port of Toronto in Sunset - Olympus E-M5 & Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5. Click for larger. 

Cranes - Olympus E-M5 & Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sony NEX-6 vs Olympus E-M5

With a little more than a week of using the Olympus E-M5 under my belt, I think it's time for a little usage report, especially what it's like against the NEX-6, which is still one of the best mirrorless cameras I have used.

Image Quality
I am generally happy with the image quality of the E-M5, but make no mistake about it, you can not bend the rules of physics.  The larger sensor in the same sensor generation will always have an advantage over the smaller sensor, and there is no question the NEX-6 has cleaner images, especially in low ISO.  This is not to say the image quality of the E-M5 is bad; it's just not as good as the NEX-6. Not something I concern myself with.

I actually prefer the handling of the NEX-6. It has a larger hand grip, and the controls are easier to access. I am so used to be able to hold the camera in hand, and turn the camera on or off with my index finger. There has been a few occasions where I missed shots because I was fumbling with the power switch on the E-M5. This camera requires two hands to turn it on or off. I know I can leave the camera on and let it sleep, but this uses more power and I only have one battery at the moment. Also, if it powers off automatically (at the set time, say 30 minutes), you will have to physically turn the camera off, and then on again to turn it back on.

My other beef with the handling is the small buttons. Even without gloves, I find it hard to use the 4-way switch at the back.  My thumb keeps hitting other buttons. Understandably, this is a small camera so there isn't much can be done. I find the implementation is better done on the NEX-6.

Other things I like better on the E-M5 is the dual wheels on top of the camera, to control the aperture/shutter speed, among other functions. The placement of the Fn2 is excellent when it's assigned to magnify view. The memory card has its own door, whereas the NEX-6 has the card slot inside the battery door, and I cursed the #$%$# thing whenever I try to take out the memory card, because the card is not easy to grip and remove.

Being as good as the EVF in the NEX-6 is, it's not without shortcomings.  For one thing, in high contrast scenes, the shadows tend to block up and becomes hard to focus. With the E-M5, the contrast in the EVF is dialed way down, to a point that if you are trying to focus on something with low contrast, it's very hard to do.  The good thing is opens up the shadows and you can see a lot of details in the EVF. I do prefer the E-M5's implementation.

Even though the NEX-6 has a higher resolution EVF, honestly, I didn't notice much difference between them. The E-M5 seems to have a faster refresh rate and thus better and easier to see at low light.

Auto Focus
I have only one auto focus lens for M4/3. It's the excellent Panasonic 14-45 kit lens that came with my Panasonic G1 and I only shot a few test pictures with it when I bought the camera. For sure, the E-M5 beats the NEX-6 in quick focus and low light performance. Even in moderately good light, the NEX-6 has trouble locking focus. I see that the A-6000 has a much improved AF system, but frankly, AF is just not that important to me, at least at the moment.

Image Stabilization
This is the area where the E-M5 shines. Its In-Body stabilization system is fantastic and is as good as lens based systems, except, perhaps with very long lenses. I am completely blown away by its effectiveness.  Best of all, it works with ALL lenses mounted on it. The E-M5 wins hands down.

Menu System
The NEX menu system is chaotic. It seemingly has no organization and finding anything in the menu is a challenge. The E-M5 is much better, but due to its endless configuration possibilities, it's not the easiest to understand. The good news is that once configured, there is little need to go in the menu again.

Obviously, it's much easier to find manual focus wide angle lenses for the NEX-6 than the E-M5, due to the larger sensor. But on the telephoto end, the E-M5 wins. So depending on what your needs are, this could dictate your decision. To me, owning both is the best. NEX-6 for wide angles, and E-M5 for long lenses.

Both are great and capable cameras with its own strengths and weaknesses. For taking pictures with manual focus lenses, I prefer using the E-M5, simply because the In-Body stabilization is so amazing, you can you use the majority of c-mount lenses without severe vignetting. On the other hand, the NEX-6 gives you wider angles on the same lens, and has better image quality. You can't go wrong with either camera; it all depends on what is more important to you. Ideally, keep both on hand, and use whichever you want :)

Lamp Post - Olympus E-M5 & Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] Omnitar 200mm f3.2 & Olympus E-M5

This concludes the (mostly) telephoto lens week, which I started with the Canon FD 200mm f4.  Two years ago I was very surprised to find this Omnitar 200mm f3.2 in a pawnshop for a ridiculously low price, since it had a Arri mount and the shop owner obviously knew little about it. I love the Omnitar 150mm f3 and 200mm f3.2 would make a nice pair.

This lens is in much better shape than the 150mm f3, but it has a stiff focusing ring, which makes quick snaps difficult. Despite this, I like using it. It's not a high contrast lens (I think most cinematic lenses aren't) but a good balance between sharp and smooth.

Man at work - Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] Omnitar 200mm f3.2 & E-M5. Click for larger.

Making a splash - Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] Omnitar 200mm f3.2 & E-M5. Click for larger.

Relaxing - Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] Omnitar 200mm f3.2 & E-M5. Click for larger.

Graffiti - Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] Omnitar 200mm f3.2 & E-M5. Click for larger.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Birns & Sawyer (TEWE) Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5 - Part II

Due to the defective coating of the lens, the Birns & Sawyer [TEWE] 150mm f3 lens produces pictures with low contrast in most lighting conditions.  For this reason, the pictures need more adjustments, especially the black level.  Not really a big deal.  I am just amazed the pictures still come out so sharp and colours so beautiful.

Used on the E-M5, the corners of lens is still mushy, but most people don't expect a lens designed for 16mm movie cameras to have very sharp corners on a digital camera with larger sensor.  We just have to accept it and appreciate its other unique qualities.

I really like this picture when viewed on a large monitor. It looks like a painting - Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5. Click for larger.

Smoke Break - Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5

Standard Bokeh Test - Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5

Untitled - Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Birns & Sawyer (TEWE) Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5 - Part I

One of the best aspects of having a blog, is that I can learn so much from readers. Case in point: Mike Aubrey has been extremely helpful with tips on configuring and using the Olympus E-M5. I do admit I am guilty of not reading/researching some of the complaints I have, such as having the IS available in magnified view. Today, with the tip from Mike, I set up the camera so that IS still works in Magnified View. This is a huge deal when using long lenses. The E-M5 (perhaps the E-M1 too) is probably one of the most configurable cameras and it can be very confusing.  I thought the Canon 1D Mark III was complicated to setup, but the E-M5 takes the cake.

Due to the smaller sensor of the M4/3 system, normal wide angle lenses on 35mm format won't be wide when used on M4/3. On the other hand, if you love long lenses, you will be in cloud 9, especially with a M4/3 body that has stabilization built-in. Your 200mm f2.8 lens is equivalent to a 400mm f2.8 lens on 35mm format. I have quite a few long lenses that I intend to try them on the E-M5. Today's pick was the Birns & Sawyer (made by TEWE of Germany) Omnitar 150mm f3 cine lens, originally in Arri mount but I converted to Nikon F mount.

I doubt there are too many of this lens (and it's sister lens, the Omnitar 200mm f3.2) floating around, as a search on Google didn't seem to return much information, especially sample pictures. In terms of optical condition, this lens is by far the worse. The coating has disintegrated, and unfortunately can not be cleaned off, so it looks like a thin layer of glue if viewed from a certain angle. It would flare like crazy and depending on the angle of the light, the pictures could also be hazy.

This lens does not vignette on full frame, but it was optically designed to cover the 16mm film, as the edges are very blurry on full frame. I used this lens on the ancient Canon 1D-S before, and I liked the pictures from it, despite the blurry corners; I like it even more on the E-M5, as the M4/3 sensor is almost the same size as the 16mm film. We are seeing what the lens was designed to show.

More pictures from Omnitar 150mm f3 to come...

All pictures below were taken with the Omnitar 150mm f3 & Olympus E-M5.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Minolta Rokkor-X RF 250mm f5.6 with Olympus E-M5

My MD, L39 and Leica-M to M4/3 adapters arrived yesterday. I was earger to test the effectiveness of the E-M5's stabilization system with long lenses, specifically the Minolta 250mm mirror lens. Today I shot some pictures with the combo and I am very pleased. In short, longer lenses are not as effective as the shorter lenses with the stabilization, but it definitely helped. I get more sharp pictures than I could with NEX-6, while using lower ISO. With the NEX-6, I had to use ISO 800 to 1600 in day light, but with the E-M5, the ISO is usually at 400 and even 200.

I wish the In-Body Stabilization would work without half-pressing the shutter button; this way I can have IS on while in magnified view, to help fine tune focus. As it is, as soon as you half-press the shutter, the magnify feature is deactivated.

I am quite pleased with the E-M5 and Minolta 250mm combo. Imagine shooting 500mm (35mm equivalent) without tripod. That's what I call freedom. There are many opportunities with a longer lens, which allows the capture of some candid moments that could otherwise not available.

All pictures below were taken with the Minolta Rokkor-X RF 250mm f5.6 mirror lens and Olympus E-M5.