Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Adapting Refitted Rangefinder Lenses on the Sony A7

I have had quite a few Japanese rangefinder lenses that I took out of the cameras, but was never able to make them work.  Many of these are "fast" lenses, like the 45mm f1.9/2.0.  At the beginning, I didn't have enough experience removing the lenses and they pretty much all ended up having problems; shutter stayed shut, aperture not working, focusing mechanism could not be put back, etc. The most pressing problem is the very short flange distance, and a very large rear elements within the helicoid that interferes with the mount.

The short flange usually means the original focusing mechanism on the lens must be retained, but most of the old rangefinder lenses have very long minimum focus distance of about 0.8-1.0 meters (3 ft). I love to take close up pictures and this is just not very useful for me.  What I what is a method that allows me to focus very close, but also be able to attain infinity focus.  The answer is a helicoid with large opening, which allows the lens to go inside of the helicoid, and thus get closer to the sensor in order to achieve  infinity focus.  I found that most of these lenses have a barrel sizes just shy of 58mm, perfect to put a 58mm filter ring on the lens, and then mount the lens on the helicoid.

Rangefinder Lenses: On camera - Nikkor-H 48mm f2, on the right, Minolta Rokkor-PF 45mm f2, Fuji 4.5cm f1.9.

The focus helicoid I bought from the generic junk variant with a 58mm opening, and a 58mm mount. This helicoid has the same sh!t quality as the 17-32mm that I bought a few years ago.  When fully extended, there is a lot of play and it feels like it would break apart.  The German and Japanese have perfected the helicoid decades ago, and I just fail to see why we still have lousy quality on new helicoids.  But, helicoids with large opening is not easy to find and they are usually expensive, because most people would opt for the M42 version.  I just have to work with with I have.

So far, I have converted three lenses and they all work beautifully, except the Nikkor-H 48mm f2, which has the aperture stuck at wide open. The Fuji 4.5cm f1.9 and the Minolta Rokkor-PF 45mm f2 both works beautifully.  The lens can now focus very close, and yet I can still focus to infinity.

First snow storm in Toronto.  Shot through window - Fuji 4.5cm f1.9 & Sony A7.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 - A Year in Review

Photographically, 2015 has been an interesting and fulfilling year.

In the gear department, I have added a Nikon D810 to the family of camera systems. I am now shooting Sony E-Mount, Micro 4/3, Nikon, and Canon (Infrared), but the Sony A7 continues to be my all time favourite camera, and all other systems see very little action.

Nikon D810

The Nikon D810 addition was totally unexpected.  This beautiful camera brings out all the fond memories of shooting the DSLR in the past, and then some.  It's as perfect a non-action DSLR as I would want; simply a superbly build image making machine.  But, as nice as the D810 is, its use has been limited.  I have only a few lenses for it.  AF-S 28-70mm f2.8, AF-S 70-200mm f2.8 VR, and a AF 85mm f1.8, plus some manual focus lenses. Unfortunately, the 28-70mm f2.8 fell down with the tripod in June and it's now inoperative.  I really like this sharp lens, especially coming from Canon where first and even second generation (17-35mm f2.8L and 16-35mm f2.8, both versions) wide angle zooms were not stellar optically. The images from this lens and the D810 are simply marvelous. I am hesitating, but I might trade the D810 for a Sony A7R II in some future time, only because I use the A7 more.

Olympus E-M5

I have a love/hate relationship with this camera.  On one hand, it's a small and well built camera with very good image quality, and works with most of my c-mount lenses, and the in-body-stabilization is one of its best features.  On the other hand, it's quirky to setup and use.  I find that I do not like the handling of this camera. The small size is actually something of an Achilles's heel; the buttons/controls on the camera are too small.  It's now used mostly to shoot pictures of my gear :)  I do not foresee another Micro 4/3 camera in the near future.  This one should last me a few more years for the kind of use I do with it.

Canon 20D IR

My faithful, though seldom used camera.  The only Canon EF mount camera I still have, and I shall keep it until it dies, so that I could use it for the few times I have the urge to shoot infrared each year.


Despite the initial intention in the beginning of the year to limit my purchase of lenses, I actually did the opposite.  I don't remember any recent years which I bought so many lenses.  Mind you, most of these lenses are really old and not worth much, but they do add up to not small a sum of money. Sadly, I probably will never recover the money as most of these lenses are of little interest to most people.  Many of them are nearly a century old old large format lenses that most people have never heard of, and I must make my own mount for them to be used on the Sony A7.  The others are lenses harvested from rangefinders (mostly broken).  I have gotten a lot of joy from using them to make images.

In the picture taking department, I am happy to say that it has been a very productive year, in terms of number of images produced.  This means I actually went out and walked (or biked) around much more often than previous years, and for this, I am truly happy.  The pictures themselves, are merely a byproduct to amuse myself.  I would still be happy if only a few pictures tuned out that I like.  99% of the pictures were taken with the Sony A7 and manual focus lenses, and the majority of them were unusual and weird ones.  It was great fun and I consider that's money well spent.

As for the photo books.  I actually finished one of my own, which I called Vintage Affairs.  A 100 page photo book mirrored the original layout I started with Blurb's BookSmart. It did not turn out the way I originally started with, but I am happy to to have at least produced one.  The book was created with Photobook Canada book designer, rather than BookSmart I used originally.  I also created 3 additional books for my kids; one book for each kid with pictures from the first two years that I started using digital camera (mostly shot by the 3.2 MP Canon G1), and there is still one more to go.  Sadly, the original book data was lost when I upgraded the computer.  Totally forgot to backup those files.  Not a great loss as they can be recreated quite easily.

To conclude, 2015 has been a very good year for me, in terms of the amount of exercise induced by photography.  I hope the 2016 will be even better.

Dusk at the Port - Sony A7 & Canon nFD 50mm f1.2

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish all my readers a wonderful holiday season!  May all your wishes come true.  If you have been nice, I am sure Santa will bring you that special gift that you always wanted, whatever that is :)

Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Be safe and please do not drink and drive.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Virtual Machine Emulators

I have finally retired my 7-year old Dell Studio XPS desktop, and got myself an off-lease Lenovo D20 ThinkStation. One of the reasons for getting a workstation is that I need a computer with lots of RAM, space for drives, and dual processor configuration.  My D20 came with 2x Xeon X5650 6-core CPU, 64GB of RAM and space for 8 hard drives.  The other reason is reliability.  I do not want another computer that will blow up the power supply, killing my hard drives.  The painful experience is still fresh in my mind.

You may ask why 64GB of RAM?  I know it's an overkill for most applications, but I indent to run multiple VMs within this workstation.  Beside, it was only $80 to upgrade the 32GB to 64GB so why not?  ECC RAM is expensive and $80 is a good deal.  But, back to Virtual Machine Emulators.

I had good experience with VirtualBox from Oracle.  It ran really well on my MacBook Pro running Windows 7, and I could have 5 VMs running at the same time on 16GB of RAM.  It was slow but stable.  But, when I ran the latest version of VirtualBox on my D20 with Windows 7, I have had a lot of crashes with Blue Screen of Death.  Just wondering if anyone has this issue.  I don't have other hardware on it, other than the video card, and my system drive is a 240GB SSD (SanDisk).  At one point after the crash, the VM was missing completely and had to be added again.

I also tried the free Microsoft Virtual PC, but it's a single threaded application and the maximum amount of RAM I can assign to the VM is 3.7GB and runs on a single CPU.  It was just too slow for my needs.

Now I am trying the VMWare Workstation Player.  It will take a few days to install, update and test the OS.  I have the OS installed and now running updates.  So far it's stable and seems quite fast.  I have my fingers crossed.

If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear from you.  I really like VirtualBox, if I could get it to run more stably.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Canon nFD 28mm f2.8

I always feel that the nFD 28mm f2.8 is an unloved child in the Canon FD family among other fast primes like the 24mm f1.4, 50mm f1.2, 85mm f1.2, etc.  In camera shows, in flea markets, you will see them often selling at $20 to $30 each, all in like new condition.  The nFD 28mm f2.8 really is an underloved, undervalued, and it really deserved more respect. So far, I have picked up at least 3 of them. Who knows, when people wake up and discover how great these little gems are, I may even be able to make a positive return on investment, LOL!

Reflection of Canada Malting Silos - Canon nFD 28mm f2.8 & Sony A7

Part of the reason the nFD 28mm f2.8 lens doesn't get much love, is because 28mm is a meh focal length for most users.  It's too common and often the cheapest in the wide angle category, if you overlook the Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4.  The focal length sits between the ultra wide, normal.  It doesn't give you the impact of the 20mm angle of view, and is too wide for normal use.  But I kind of like this comfortable angle of view.

If you are looking for a very sharp wide angle lens that's cheap, this is the lens for you.  Compared to my Leica-R Elmarit 28mm f2.8, the Canon is sharper at the corners and edges.  Even wide open at f2.8, it's sharp and usable.

Toronto Downtown at Dusk - nFD 28mm f2.8 @ f2.8 & Sony A7, ISO 1600

The cheap price does not mean inferior build.  In fact, this thing as nicely built as the nFD 50mm f1.2, with metal barrels and very smooth focusing.  The only niggle I have is the 5-blade aperture, but then again, it was not designed for shallow depth of field or close up with a diffused background. I am more than happy with  with it.

Canon nFD 28mm f2.8 on Sony A7

M.R. Kane - Canon nFD 28mm f2.8 & Sony A7 @ f8