Friday, July 31, 2009

New Toy -- Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f1.2

I was browsing the pawn shops on my way home yesterday, and saw this mint beauty locked up in the glass case, looking desperate and helpless. I could hear it scream "Free me! Free me!". I asked to have a look at it and once in my hands, I know it deserves to be freed. This one looks like new!

Ever since I sold my MC version (MC 58mm f1.2 that I wrote in April) of this lens, I had regrets. I have been on the look out for a replacement. According to most sources, the newer MD 50mm version is sharper than the MC 58mm version, but in my hasty test, I found the MC to be better, both in terms of bokeh and sharpness. But they were shot on two different cameras (1D Mark II for the 58/1.2). Of course I will need more time to get to know the new lens and use it for a while before I can conclude. One thing is for sure, the MC 58mm f1.2 is heavier and has an eight blade aperture and the new MD 50mm f1.2 has only six. This will affect the bokeh for sure, either good or bad.

In terms of using the lens, I think I prefer the newer MD 50mm f1.2. It's lighter, focuses very smooth and balances well.

Will update how it performs after some use.

Old Car -- G1 & Minolta MD 50mm f1.2 @ f1.2

G1 & Minolta MD 50mm f1.2 @ f1.2

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Leap of Faith

This is one of my favourite cloud pictures. I jokingly told my wife that one day, I would like to publish a book of clounds. My wife took this to heart and found a very old book of clouds, written by a retired UK meteorologist that explained all types of clouds with pictures.

This particular picture looks like a person jumping from one cloud to another, hance I named it Leap of Faith. Picture was taken early morning at the Tommy Thompson Park with a Leica 50mm f2 Summicron and 1D Mark II.

I had a 19x13 inch print made from a Shinko sub-dye printer and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, the Shinko broke down after this picture.

Leap of Faith -- 1D Mark II & Leica 50mm f2 Summicron. Click for larger size.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Star Party at the Ontario Science Centre

The Ontario Science Centre sometimes host interesting events after hours. Some of these events are free to everyone and you don't need to be a member to participate. One such free event was the Summer Star Party – From Galileo to the Moon that was hosted on Friday July 24. The event had an excellent presentation on the landing of Apollo 11 by Space Historian Randy Attwood with video and voice recording of the actual landing. For people like me (and my kids), this was like an eye opener to the Apollo Missions. Other activities including the appearance of Galileo himself, as well as a workshop on telescopes. Too bad the weather did not co-operate and we could not see the International Space Station that was passing by, through the telescopes.

If you have kids, you should check out the Calendar at the Ontario Science Centre. Better yet, buy a family membership. It will pay for itself in only a few visits. The Gold Membership include iMax features as well as parking, so it's an even better deal.

Waiting for Galileo -- G1 & JML 25mm f0.95 @ f0.95. Click for larger size

Interesting lighting -- G1 & JML 25mm f0.95. Click for larger size

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Canon EF 17-40mm f4 L

I don't think I have ever missed a lens more than the Canon EF 17-40mm f4 L. I considered the 24mm f1.4L a very good lens, but I don't miss it terribly after I sold it. But, this 17-40 L, it keeps coming back to haunt me. Not in my dreams, not in my sleep, but whenever I look back at the pictures I took with it, I wondered why I sold it.

The 17-40mm f4L, for many, many Canonites, is the first wide angle L lens. It's relatively inexpensive, at least compared to its bigger brother, the 16-35mm f2.8L, for less than half the price. True, you lose one full stop of light, but it's a good compromise, as f4 is completely usable. On 1.6x cropped bodies, the wide end is still a respectable 27mm, which is wide enough for most people.

Many people would say the edges is really bad on this lens, or that it's not very sharp. I wouldn't doubt copy variance between lenses, but the one I owned was extremely sharp, even at f4. I later also tried a used one at Downtown Camera, and it was excellent on my 1D Mark II, again af f4. I didn't use it on full frame, so I can't comment on the extreme edges. Then again, the 16-35mm f2.8L that I had was not even as good at the 17-40mm f4 on the edges, and was not that sharp af f4.

As for optical quality, it inherits the L lens DNAs. Contrasty, great colour, reasonably well built, very fast focusing, due to the use of ring UltraSonic Motor (USM). It can focus really close for some really nice special effects on close ups. The hood was somewhat useles and big, but does provide good protection in the case that it falls rim down.

I still want to buy another 17-40mm f4L, since the 16-35mm f2.5L Mark II is rediculously priced, but somewhat afraid that I would get a lemmon, especially on full frame. Perhaps, it's better to have the great memory of the great copy I had, than lots of headaches if I get a dud.
Toronto City Hall at Night -- 300D & 17-40mm f4L. This picture was published in the Ming Pao Chinese Daily.

Picutre Cars -- 300D & 17-40mm f4L
Fences of Osgood Hall -- 300D & 17-40mm f4L

Rust -- 300D & 17-40mm f4L

Toronto City Hall -- 300D & 17-40mm f4L

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Data Storage and Backup Headaches

If you have been shooting digital for a few years, you will face the storage and backup problem sooner or later. If you shoot RAW, storage becomes more serious. If you shoot RAW + jpg like me, the situation is even worse.

I did a rough calculation last night, when I was copying files to my new Drobo, my G1 pictures took up about 175 GB of space, in the span of 4 months. At this rate, a terabyte hard drive will be good for a couple of year, if I don't do any edits.

In the past, I bought drives as needed without much regard to data safety. Even though I have been messing around on and off with SCSI RAID setup since the early 90s, and later IDE RAIDs, mostly for speed (striped), data safety didn't register in my head. At least I didn't take action on it, until few years ago. Two of my primary hard drives blew up due to a faulty power supply. More than 200GB of pictures, which were not backed up, were lost. Still have the 250GB dead drive lying around and I am hoping one day I can afford to recover the data off of it.

Since then, I took some action, like getting a workstation class of computers (Dual Xeon Dell) with good reliability, uninterpretable power supply (UPS) with power conditioning, and small steps in burning data on DVD/Bluray. Later on I tried the NetGear NAS (SC-101) and Western Digital World Edition, but both are disappointing.

Netgear NAS SC-101 -- One of the very first affordable NAS and Took IDE drives with data mirroring feature. It never worked for me. It was SLOW, unreliable network connections, has no local connection, and has no internal fan for cooling and consequently overheats easily. Average speed was about 3 MB/s. Barely usable as a backup solution, but for primary storage, forget about it.

Western Digital World Editing -- With 1 Tera Byte capacity (two 500GB) that also has mirroring feature. Unfortunately, this one suffers the same limitations as the Netgear -- Slow. It's a lot more reliable, has internal cooling fans and relatively quiet. Average speed is about 6 MB/s. With a gigabit network, this is just unbelievably slow. So, again, it's used only as a backup solution.

Enter the Drobo storage robot. This thing is a godsend. First, it does RAID 5 configuration to provide data redundancy without needing same size drives, and second, you can add larger drives to increase storage without reconfiguring the RAID setup. Just plug in the drive, and the Drobo does the rest.

I have the second generation of the Drobo which has both a firewire 800 and USB 2.0 connection. If you want to turn this into a Network Attached Storage (NAS), you can buy a DroboShare. I am currently connecting it to my computer through the USB port. It is more than fast enough for me, averaging about 20MB/s, about twice that speed with Firewire 800.

I started with two Western Digital 1 Terabyte Drives. This gives me roughly 1 Terabyte of storage, since Drobo uses the space equivalent to the space of the largest drive you have in Drobo to mirror the data. But, if I add another 1 Terabyte drive, I will have 2 TB of space, the space needed to mirror the data does not increase.

For those of you who have a conventional RAID setup will know, you need exact same size drives to mirror the data in a RAID. This is not a real problem for large companies, which typically have a few spare drives on hand at any time, in case one or more drives die. But for a home user, having a couple of drive lying around not used is expensive and unproductive. So, most home users do not have spare drives for their RAID setup. This is OK until a few years later, when one of your drives die, and you need replacement. Now comes the headache. Where to find a 3 year old drive that's the same as the one you are using. You can not buy a new one on the market, because technology advances so fast. Hard drive models usually have 1 to 1.5 years of shelf life. What to do?

The Drobo, on the other hand, can mirror data without the same size drives. If one of your drives die in a few years, just yank out the dead one, and pop in a larger capacity drive. Voila! Your data will be rebuilt automatically, and you can even do this while Drobo is still actively serving data. That's the beauty of Drobo, and is what sold me.

There is only one drawback. High initial cost. The Drobo Firewire 800/USB 2.0 edition costs about $500CAD, without drives, when not on sale. A couple of 1 TB drives costs another $200. This adds up to a lot of money for a home user, especially when you factor in the taxes. So, you really have to consider the balance between costs and data protection as well as future expandability.

Personally, I look at it this way -- Buying the Drobo is like buying a lens. Hard drives are like camera bodies. The initial cost is high, but the storage cost is incremental. You add more space as needed, for a maximum of 16 TB. I think that will last quite a few years, until holographic storage becomes a reality.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Sample Picture from Minolta MC Rokkor 35mm f1.8

Minolta MC Rokkor 35mm f1.8. A lens that really deserves more attention.

Abandoned Coffee Cup -- G1 & MC Rokkor 35mm f1.8.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

WR-X in Side Mirror

I often wonder why I don't use this lens more. Extremely sharp from macro to infinity.

Click on picture to see larger version. 

WR-X -- G1 & Carl Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro

Thursday, July 16, 2009

PK-Mount AM Topcor 55mm 1.7

Just got the PK to 4/3 adapter couple of days ago, at an unfortunate time. Two weeks ago, I still had the PK-A 28mm f2.8, K 50mm f1.4, and a couple of other Pentax lenses. They were all sold at my yard sale. In any case, I still have a few K mount lenses and I happen to have the AM Topcor 55mm f1.7 lens at hand, so I have been using it for the last two days.

After two days of use, I don't see anything exciting with this lens. It's one of those Cimko OEM lenses that has many names on, like Porst, Revue, Chinon, and others. Pretty well built with smooth focusing, but nowhere near what the Takumars feel like. Acceptably sharp when stopped down, but a bit soft wide open. The bokeh actually good. I know two days of use doesn't do justice to write something about a lens, but I have used its cousin, the Revue 55mm f1.7 for some time. They are basically the same lens.

Below are a few pictures taken with it. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Flower -- Panasonic G1 with K-mount Topcor 55mm f1.7

Rail Road -- G1 with Topcor 55mm f1.7

After Sunset -- G1 with Topcor 55mm f1.7

Waiting for light to change at Lakeshore & Logan -- G1 & Topcor 55mm f1.7

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Canon 35mm f1.4L

The Canon Holy Trinity -- 35mm f1.4L, 85mm f1.2L and 135mm f2L, is the dream of many Canon shooters. And for good reasons. The 35mm f1.4L is Canon's best wide angle lenses, even slightly better than the 24mm f1.4L. With the exception of the Sony/Minolta 35mm f1.4G, nobody else makes an auto focus 35mm lens this fast. I am sure there are better 35mm f1.4 lenses out there, but for auto focus, it's about the only game in town for Canon shooters.

There is very little fault you can find with this lens. If I have to think of one, it's the purple fringing at wide apertures, and well, the price. When shooting high contrast scenes, you will see PF but stopped down to around f4 or f5.6, it's negligible. As for the price, I think it's crazy, especially after Canon has increased the price recently. A new 35mm f1.4L now costs more than $1700 CAD, plus taxes. I am happy to say that I bought it used at a very good price a few years ago.

So why is it so special? This is an all purpose lens that's good for any lighting. It's invaluable for low light. Easily one of the favourite lenses of the wedding photographers, especially on full frame. Even in good light, like most Canon L lenses, this lens renders pictures beautifully with great colour and contrast, not to mention that this is one very sharp lens! I find that pictures comes from this lens has a certain3-D effect to them. This lens focuses with lightning speed and is silent, thanks to the UltraSonic Motor used.

A while back, I did a comparison with the Canon EF 35mm f2 and this lens. You can check it out here. The f2 version performed admirably, but once you put them side by side, the physical difference is huge. Optical quality aside, the 35mm f2 feels toy like with plastic built, and weighs next to nothing (this could be a good thing -- light weight is good.) The 35L is by no means small, but it's the smallest of the Holy Trinity and not really that heavy. I can hand hold it with my 1D Mark II all day without problems. I sold the f2 version and kept the 35L. Why? The 35L instills confidence. Holding it in your hand, you know you can count on it when you need it. And, if you can't take good pictures with this lens, you know you have no one else to blame but yourself :)

Click on the pictures to see a larger version:

One of the very first few pictures I took with my 1Ds when I bought it at Henry's Outlet Store -- 1Ds & EF 35mm f1.4 @ f1.4

Motor Bike -- Canon 20D & EF 35mm f1.4 @f2.5

Megan -- Canon 1D & EF 35mm f1.4 @ f2.5

Ryan at music recital -- 1D & EF 34mm f1.4 @f2.2

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Panasonic DMC-G1 at 11,000 Clicks

Three months and two weeks into the ownership of the Panasonic DMC-G1, I have tripped the shutter approximately 11,000 times. Averaging 785 shots per week. I've got to admit. That's a lot of shots even though 98% of them are not usable. 99.9% of the shots were made with manual focus lenses. So what do I think after 11,000 shots?

It's a fabulous camera. I like it more now than when I got it. Below is my experience, in addition to what I wrote about it in LiveJournal back in April, 2009.

The Good:
  • Eelectronic View Finder (EVF) is absolutely fantastic for manual focus lenses. In focus rate is much higher than conventional cameras with Optical View Finder (OVF).
  • Number of adaptable lens mounts that can be used on this camera continues to amaze me.
  • Image Quality at low ISO is better now that I have all noise reduction turned off, even in the Film Modes.
  • Film Mode is great. I like the Vivid (Velvia) effect. I shoot RAW+JPEG and sometimes the colour of the JPEG comes out better than I can process.
  • Dust Removal feature is excellent and effective. I haven't noticed any dust in any of my pictures, after 11,000 of them. On the other hand, I had to clean my 1D II sensor every month, sometimes more often.
  • Excellent battery life. I haven't had the need for a second battery yet.
  • C-Mount lenses rocks on this camera. I really like the looks of the pictures from some of my cine-lenses.
The Bad:
  • The words on the Menu botton has rubbed off, almost completely, after only 3.5 months.
  • Rubber coating on the plastic body is starting to come off at the corners.
  • AF/AE bottom very hard to locate due to the raised LCD screen and the closeness of the botton to the LCD. My thumb always hit the top right corner of the LCD screen. This is probably due to the small size of the camera and I doubt there is much can be done about it. Good thing the exposure compensation is so easy to use and most of the time I don't need the AE lock.
  • Still no fast auto focus primes, or fast auto focus lenses for that matter.
Great camera for everyday shooting, as long as fast focus/tracking is not needed.

Click on the picture to see a larger version:

R.I.P Michael Jack -- G1 with Dallmeyer Speed Anastigmat 1 inch f1.5

Fun at the park -- G1 with Kern-Paillard Switar 75mm f1.9

Go ahead and make my day, Punk! -- G1 with SOM Berthiot Lytar 25mm f1.9

Woodbine Park at Dusk -- G1 with JML 25mm f0.95 TV lens at f0.95, ISO 800

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Canon EF 50mm f1.2 L

Doesn't matter which review you read about the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L lens, most of them would not give it a very high rating that most L lenses have. Why? Does this lens deserve the bad rep that's been floating around the net?

The controversy, lies in its design. For whatever reason, Canon decided that this lens did not need to have a floating element to correct focus shift that can happen at minimum focus distance at smaller apertures. I am sure Canon has its reasons, but for most people who fork out 1.5G ($CND) buy this lens, it's inexcusable. But, is it as bad as what everyone says?

I have owned this lens for about two years. It's a lens that I frequently grab and mount on my camera when I know we are going out, and spend time indoors. I have used it on three different Canon bodies: 1Ds, 1D Mark II, and the 30D and the lens works great on all of these bodies. Does the focus shift happen? In a word, yes. Does it affect the way I take pictures? Yes, to a small degree.

The focus shift is at its worse when you shoot at absolute minimum focus distance at smaller apertures like f5.6 or smaller. Everything would be focus behind your intended focus point. The smaller the aperture, the more severe the focus shift. So, for those who take pictures this way, this is the wrong lens for them. They really should be using the 50mm f1.4 or the 50mm f1.8 lens, which does not exhibit focus shift behaviour. So, what's my take?

I am annoyed by it, but it does not stop me from enjoying this great and amazing lens. Why? I don't buy an f1.2 lens to take pictures at f5.6 or f8 at minimum focus distance. The intended use of this lens is low light at large apertures. If you shoot at f2.8 or smaller aperture frequently, you are wasting money by buying this lens. The very respectable 50mm f1.4 is great for this purpose, although wide open, it's not as sharp as the 50/1.2L at wide open. I bought this lens so that I can use it at f1.2, f1.4, f1.6, f1.8 and even f2.0 for the needed depth of field.

There are other aspects of this lens that make it stand out from other cheaper lenses. The contrast, resolving power, colour, and build quality are all excellent desirable to have in a lens.

A lens takes time to learn its quirks, strengths, and character. I am happy to own and use this lens. It's not perfect, but what is?

click on the picture for a larger version

Ryan -- 30D & EF 50mm f1.2L @ f1.2

Dillon -- 1D II & EF 50mm f1.2L @ f1.6

Marigold Garden -- 1Ds & EF 50mm f1.2L @f4

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why I am still shooting Canon

OK, no puns intended in the title.

Back in the dark ages of affordable consumer grade DSLR, there was exactly two choices: Canon 300D and later Nikon D70. Since I already had a Canon Elan II with a nice 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 USM lens, the combo which I had been using for more than 5 years, the choice came with no brainer. The 300D (or the Digital Rebel) became my first DSLR. Between the G1 that was my camera for 3 years, and the new 300D, the image quality was, day and night. I was happy, over joyed, and took the camera everywhere I went. Unfortunately, the joy didn't last more than a couple of years before I got GAS -- Gear Acquisition Syndrom.

About two years after the purchase of the 300D, I swapped it for a D60, then 10D, XT, 20D, 1D, 1D II, 1Ds, Kodak SLR/c, 30D. Along the way, countless consumer lenses before I realized I was wasting money with those lenses, because at the end, I always end up with the Canon L lens of that focal length.

GAS aside, why Canon? IQ and Lenses. Before the Nikon D3, Canon was unmatched in the image quality department, especially when it comes to high ISO. It was the king of high ISO performance until the D3. On the lens side, Canon is still the only company which offers an extensive line of very fast prime lenses. The 24mm f1.4L, 35mm f1.4L, 50mm f1.0L, 50mm f1.2L, 85mm f1.2L, 200mm f1.8L -- all these auto focus lenses, except the Minolta G 35/1.4, had no competition. Even today, except the discontinued 50/1.0 and 200/1.8, there are still no manufacturers who offers these lenses in auto focus mount. On the exotic side of things, the Tilt & Shift lenses were the only game in town until very recently when Nikon finally started to make comparable T&S lenses. But, Canon then introduced the monster 17mm f4 T&S lens, which again, nobody else has.

As the side effect of having GAS, I have owned most of these lenses except the 50mm f1.0L. These lenses are truly one of a kind that you don't know how good they are, or that you need them until you start to use them. They suck in light like a black hole, and spit out beautifully rendered pictures in return. Are they worth their very high prices? To most people, no. To me, yes.

I hear what you are saying, these lenses are not usable wide open, so why waste your money? I can not say for others, but for me, EVERY ONE of these lenses are very usable and sharp at their widest aperture. Sometimes, you need a camera with exceptionally good and accurate auto focus system to squeeze out the benefits of these lenses. On my 1D Mark II, I had no problem shooting them wide open. Majority of users who complain are those that may not even own the lenses, or use them for a few days and declare the lens is no good. Too bad, they are missing out something wonderful that these lenses could give them, if they take the time to learn the use of these lenses.

To conclude, modern day DSLR's image quality has equalized and there are no "bad" cameras out there. If there were, the market simply make them obsolete very quickly. This leads to available lenses. Canon still has an edge in its lens lineup, not to mention the EOS mount can take other mounts with proper adapter. For a gear head like me, this is an important factor in choosing a new camera/system.

Click on the picture to see a larger version:

Dusk at around 9:30pm -- 30D & EF 50mm f1.2L @f1.4

Papa Sol -- 30D & EF 50mm f1.2 @ f1.4

Night Rider -- 30D & EF 50mm f1.2L @ f1.8 ISO 800

William on bike -- 1D Mark II & EF 200mm f1.8 @ f2.0

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

5D Mark II or 1Ds Mark II

The upgrade itch has hit me again. It's been about three years since I bought the 1D Mark II as my main camera. No complaints about the 1D II, except that it's a little heavy, and the ISO performance could be better. Love the build quality, handling, and superb auto focus capabilities, and the fact that Canon has stock split screens for it. Since early April, after I acquired the Panasonic G1, I have used the 1D II exactly 4 times, and each time it had auto focus lenses on it. This begs the question, do I really need the 1D II?

I like the 1D II, but I think I like smaller cameras better. I don't really mind carrying a big camera when I go out for a planned shoot, but for everyday use, the smaller size of the G1 suits me. But, it's tough to give up fast shooting speed and accurate auto focus as well as extensive accessories of the 1-series of cameras. So, I am torn between the 1Ds Mark II, and the 5D Mark II.

The 1Ds II offers me the least. High ISO performance is about on par with the 1D II, shooting speed is slower. The only advantage is more pixels, which I really don't need, and a slightly lower price on the used market. The 5D II, on the other hand, has a lot to offer: incredible high ISO capabilities, sRAW (10 MP) support for even cleaner files, 1080P video (OK, I can live without this, but really want to try it), lens calibration (micro adjustment), smaller size, live-view (for manual focus lenses), great 3" 900K LCD, and smaller size. The only problem so far, is that it's rather expensive. I can only spend what I already have, which means I have to sell some of my gear to upgrade.

The Panny G1 will stay with me. Either Dillon's 30D or the 1D II (or both) will have to go, along with the 17-85 IS. His EF 50mm f1.4 and EF 135mm f2.8 SF will stay, as I don't want him to use my L lenses :-) I could get rid of two or three c-mount lenses, and that should bring in enough fund to upgrade to either a 1Ds II or 5D II, without too much damage on my lens collection.

The question now is, which and when? My heart nudges toward the 5D II, and it says wait until fall when new products will come out the the 5D II should drop in price. But, there is the lesson from the Canon D60, which never had enough to fill the demand, and the price stayed pretty much the same until it was replaced by the 10D. Same goes with the origianl Canon G1 p&s. And, by fall, the 1D II/30D will be worth less.

Decisions, decisions...

Click on picture to see a larger version:

Megan & William -- This is one of my favourite pictures, take with a 1D (4MP) and the EF 70-200mm f2.8. Too bad the original, along with ALL the pictures taken with the 1D were lost due to hard drive crash. The web version is the only copy I have left.

Megan -- 1Ds & EF 50mm f1.2. I do miss the full frame 1Ds.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Proud Toronto

If you are visiting Toronto, and Unless you look around carefully, you may not know that Toronto municipal workers have been on strike for two weeks now. Services affected include garbage pick up, recreation centres, museums and galleries. Of all the affected services, the garbage pick up by far causes the most headache for Toronto residents and visitors of Toronto. But, I am so proud of everyone in Toronto who practice restrain and chip in to clean up the public areas. You will see some garbage overflowing in some bins, but most are clean around the bins area.

Back in 2002, the city workers went on strike and the situation was far worse. The whole city of Toronto basked in an unbearable stench. Garbage was every where. The sidewalks were full of garbage bags. Residents dump their garbage on the curb on garbage collection day, and in just a week, the mounting piles of garbage created a ugly sight on all streets. This time around, the City and its residents have learned from the last experience. Temporary garbage dump sites around the city open to residents so that they can dispose of their garbage. The city imposes fines for anyone found dumping on the street. Many people and businesses generously donate their time to clean up the garbage bins everywhere. In downtown Toronto, where it's the business section of the city, even the streets are very clean.

This does not mean that people are not frustrated. The city workers pick this time to go on strike for maximum effect. Summer has just begun, and School was just out. All the summer camps, swimming pools, city-run day care centres have to be closed. The high heat of summer would also make the organic garbage decompose faster and thus creates foul smells. Personally, I am pissed off. My kids have summer camps scheduled but now they have to stay home. Those who rely on city-run day care have to find alternate and expensive care for their kids. Meanwhile, city works demand "job for life" for senior workers. In this kind of economy, demanding job for life strikes me as comical and ironic. I often wonder if we live in the same planet.

But in the end, I am so proud of being a Toronto resident. We have come a long way since the 2002 strike and have learned to cope, and we are doing a great job. I hope the government would not give in to the demands of the workers.

Click on picture to see a larger version

Garbage bin at the corner of Queen & University - G1 with SOM Berthiot Lytar 25mm f1.9

Striking workers at Old City Hall -- G1 with SOM Berthiot Lytar 25mm f1.9

Garbage bin at the corner of King & Parliament -- G1 with Minolta 35mm f1.8

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Normal Lens

Over at the LiveJournal, Adam has a great write up on "Choosing a Normal". I just realized that I do not really have a "normal" lens for my cameras. Technically, there are lots of normal lenses in my arsenal, but I don't have any particular lens "welded" to my bodies.

On any normal day, I would choose one or two lenses to go with a body I choose to use. The lens choice is usually the one I happen to like at the moment. I could use a particular lens for a week, but usually not longer than that. Because of the number of lenses I have, some of my old favourites have not been in use, or used very seldemly for years. The Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8, and the Carl Zeiss Distagon 35mm f2.8 are two examples. Also, the Canon EF 35mm f1.4 is also one of my favourites, but not being used often. When I first acquired the EF 200mm f1.8L, I used to carry it and the 1Ds for days each time I went out until I couldn't take the weight any more. So, focal length doesn't play a role in being my favourite lens.

To conclude, I guess I just like variety, and always looking for the next favourite lens.

Click on the image to see a larger version:

Heavenly Temple -- Canon 1D & Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8

Fall Leaf -- Canon 20D & Carl Zeiss Makro S-Planar 60mm f2.8

Romance on the street -- Canon 1D Mark II & Carl Zeiss Distagon 28mm f2.8

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 80mm f1.8

This is one of my favourite lenses. I was over joyed when I acquired this lens a few years back and used it extensively. I didn't have a lot of manual focus lenses back then. Gradually, I got more lenses, and this one (two actually) was neglected and have not seem much use lately. In any case, along with the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8, they are the two lenses that I considered great lenses.

This is a rare lens in North America. You don't too many of them here, but more abundant in Europe. For this reason, it's a very sought after lens.

First thing first, the aperture in this lens is very easy to break. Both of my CZJ 80/1.8 had problems, and I sent one of them to China to have a part made in order to get the aperture to work again. The other was cleaned and fixed by Andrei.

Second thing is that like many older lenses, minimum focusing distance tends to be long at 0.83 meters (almost 3 feet), and the magnification factor is rather small. Don't know the exact ratio but not very good for close ups. The CZJ 200mm f2.8 has the same problem.

Other than the above, the lens is very well made. All metal construction and focusing is very smooth.

Image quality. Before I got the lens cleaned, there was a layer of very fine dust inside, making it very prone to flare and wide open was not very sharp and had very low contrast. But after one stop down at f2.8, it is excellent. After it's cleaned, the difference is like day and night in wide apertures. SHARP at f1.8 and absolutely usable. The colour tends to be neutral, but pleasing. Very similar to my Leica Summicron 90mm f2 (TWO CAM version). The colour, of course, is very dependent on the camera used. On the original 1D, which uses a CCD sensor, the colours are more vibrant than the other Canon DSLRs that use CMOS sensor. The bokeh is very nice too, despite the 6-aperture blades.

Over all, a nice lens to keep and a enjoy to use. I sold one them, but I will not sell the remaining one.