Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Digimon (William) at Halloween music recital. 1D IIn & 85mm f1.2L @ f1.4

My kids love Halloween.  They have been going trick or treating for years.  Dillon didn't go with the rest of the gang this year; he thinks he's too old for this kiddie stuff :-)  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Big Tree in Moss Park

Big Tree - Panasonic GF1 & Pentax-M 40mm f2.8 Pancake.

The weather has been nice and warm this year and consequently, the trees change colour gradually without turning brown from cold weather.  It's just beautiful everywhere you look, even in the city.  Autumn has always been my favourite season.  Too bad usually by November, snow will come and you can feel winter even before it's officially here.  Winter is too long in Toronto.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kew Gardens

Kew gardens is a very large recreational park located at the Beaches community.  It stretches from Queen street all the way to the lake.  In the north side, you can browse books in the nearby library, take your kids to the play ground, or take a walk around the park with historic bandstand.  There is also Dr. William Young memorial next to the bandstand.  In the fall, it's a beautiful place to take a stroll and of course, take pictures.

I took the Pentax-M 20mm f4 and the G1 with me yesterday and spent about an hour photographing the north side of the Kew Gardens.  The G1 has been my to-go camera for the last few weeks, as the Canon gear (1D IIn with lenses) is really too big and too heavy for casual shooting.  The tiny Pentax-M 20mm f4 and the G1 is a very good combo.  I wish the 20mm were the f1.7 Panasonic, but I can't bring myself to buying more lenses.  As I wrote before, the Pentax-M 20mm f4 is an excellent performer.  Very sharp, albeit a bit slow with an f4 maximum aperture.  I am quite happy how the pictures turned out.

Dr. William Young Memorial - G1 & Pentax-M 20mm f4. Click to enlarge.

The Bandstand, built in the 1850s - G1 & Pentax-M 20mm f4. Click to enlarge.

The Fence - G1 & Pentax-M 20mm f4. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Love for Canon FD lenses

Blue - G1 & Canon nFD 28mm f2.8

For the last couple of weeks, I have been cycling through my Canon FL/FD lenses and trying them out.  They are discounted by most people as useless lenses, except on film and Micro 4/3 or NEX.  I used to have a  larger collection, but couldn't use them on my Canon digital bodies so I got rid of most of them, except a few fast ones.  They are actually very excellent lenses, and some of them are as good, if not better than the AF equuivalent.  My favourites are the 55mm/50mm f1.2s, but I also like the 100mm f4 macro and even the cheap 28mm f2.8 is very respectable, not to mention the much better built quality than the mostly plastic AF versions of today. 

The FD and the MD lenses have made me a bit crazy lately, because I really want to use them on a digital body that can provide a wider view than the m4/3.  The only choice is the Sony NEX, and they are on sale right now which makes it even harder for me to control the urge to buy one.  But I must resist.  The full frame NEX can't be far away now, can it?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Streetcar Under the Bridge

Streetcar - G1 & Canon new FD 50mm f1.4. click to enlarge.

After dropping the kids off at the recreation centre for swimming, I saw this beautiful golden light flooding everything behind this bridge.  Naturally I took out the camera and made a few pictures :-)  The black & white version also looks pretty good, but of course won't show you the colour of the setting sun.

I now have three versions of the Canon 50mm f1.4: FL 50mm f1.4, FD 50mm f1.4 (Breech Lock) and the New FD bayonet mount 50mm f1.4, and I like the new version best, so far.

Syd's Awesomely Sick Game Collection

Sorry about the title.  I am borrowing a phrase from my kids.

On Saturday we went to Brantford to redeem the gift certificate that William won from the Guitar Hero Competition in September.  We picked this day because the PC Museum was open to the public, and Dillon and Megan hadn't seen it yet and wanted to visit it.  We arrived a bit late, and finding the store to redeem the gift card was an adventure in itself, as the GPS couldn't find the street number.  In any case, we finally found it and bought a used PS3 for slightly more than the gift certificate value, as they didn't have any new ones.  All I can say is that gaming stuff is expensive there, especially used hardware.

By the time we were done with the gift card, and arrived at the PC Museum, it was half an hour before closing.  The kids were intrigued by all the old computers that they never even realized existed.  The best part, of course, a tour to Syd Bolton's private game collection in his basement.

Syd is the #1 games collector in Canada with most games of all kinds.  It's hard to imagine anyone else having so many games, as a private collector.  I am not kidding you, the basement is full of games, and I don't mean a tiny basement either.

The experience is, well, jaw dropping.  If you think you are a hard core gamer, and have most of the games for your console, visiting Syd's collection would definitely make your own collection look insignificant.  Complete collection of Sega Dreamcast games, more than five hundred PS2 games, plus some Famicom games are just small part of the collection.  One thing I didn't see, was the 3DO, but I probably just missed it, because Syd has about every game console ever existed.  Let's not forget the two rooms full of Star Wars figures and artifacts.

[Update: Syd sent me an e-mail to clarify some facts, below:]
"My PS2 collection is currently 1388 – and I suspect (although it’s not confirmed) that there are around 1700 PS2 games in North America…so I still have a ways to go but I’m getting there!

And yes, I do have 3DO games…they were above the Dragon’s Lair II marquee (near the pinball machine) but I only have something like 30 games for that system."

[End Update]

If you have been around the arcade game scene a few times, you will no doubt know about Dragon's Lair, the first laser disc based interactive adventure game.  According the Syd, he's one huge fan of Dragon's Lair.  He has a little "shrine" dedicated to it, as seen bellow:

Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair collection. Click to see larger.

But, let's take a look at some of other more substantial collections.

The Arcade collection. Click to see larger.

The main room. click to see larger.

The PS2 games. Probably a complete collection. Click to see larger.

Xbox and original N64 games. Click to enlarge.

Game Cube games. click to enlarge.

There are just so many more, but I think you've got the idea.

Special Thanks to Syd Bolton for this amazing tour.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Marigold Gardens in Fall

Marigold Gardens - G1 & Vivitar 28mm f1.9 MD Mount.

I have been living in Marigold Gardens for almost eight years, and I don't remember taking a picture of it in the autumn.   It is actually quite nice in spring and fall.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canon FD 55mm f1.2 S.S.C - First Outing

Yesterday I finally figured out how to put together my Canon FD 55mm f1.2 S.S.C lens, which I took apart about two years ago in an attempt to convert it to EOS mount.  Needless to say, the attempt was a failure, and I was unable to put it back so this lens was never used, more than two years after I bought it.  You can understand how ecstatic I am when I can finally use it on my G1.

This is a very heavy lens.  Compared to the nFD 50mm f1.2, it's at least 1/3 heavier, and physically larger.  It's even bigger than the FL 55mm f1.2, but weigh about the same.

Optically, this lens reminds me of the EF 50mm f1.2L.  Naturally, the EF version is much better wide open.  The contrast is better on the EF, although both are pretty sharp at f1.2.  With a bit of contrast adjustment in post processing, f1.2 is absolutely usable on the FD 55mm f1.2.  I have read many people's reviews saying the FD 55mm f1.2 is not very usable wide open, I can only imagine their opinions were based on film, where critical focusing may not be easy to obtain.  Using live-view, getting exact focus is trivia.  From f1.4 on, the lens is extremely sharp.  If time permits, I will do a comparison of the FL 55mm and the FD 55mm f1.2, since both have the same focal length, and same number of aperture blades.  One thing I do find weird, is that the FL 55mm f1.2 can not focus to infinity with the adapter I have, but all my other FD/FL lenses seem fine.

I have been using the Minolta MD 50mm f1.2 quite a bit last week, frankly, it's not a bad lens, but when compared to the FD 55mm f1.2 S.S.C, it's just not as good.  First, the bokeh on the Canon FD 55mm f1.2 is sweet, even stopped down, it's very pleasing, whereas the MD 50mm f1.2 looks terry anything past f1.2.  This I believe due partly to the nice 8-blade aperture on the FD, and the MD has only 5 blades, making the out of focus highlights distracting.

The colour is also very nice on the FD over the FL version.  More intense, vibrant and saturated than the FL version.  If anything, I think Canon lenses produce very nice colours, which I can't say for the likes of Sigma and others.

I might attempt to convert this lens again to EOS later, but in the mean time, I will enjoy it with the G1.

The F1.2 Trio (FL, FD, nFD). Click to see larger.

Guildwood Park - G1 & Canon FD 55mm f1.2 @ f2.8. Click to see larger.

Bokeh - G1 & FD 55mm f1.2 @ f1.2. Click to see larger.

Guildwood Park - G1 & FD 55mm f1.2 @ f1.2. Click to see larger.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Canon 60D Impressions

Went to Henry's Outlet store on the weekend.  Haven't been there for a few weeks.  Kind of missed it a bit.  It was good to see Ted and Marc are still there.  Marc handed me the Canon 60D with the 18-135mm lens to try.

I must say the 60D is a pretty nice camera.  Slightly lighter than the 7D, but once you hold it in your hand, it's unmistakably Canon.  Took one picture, and up on reviewing, I immediately noticed, and became uncomfortable with the changes from previous X0D series.

First, the command dial is now much smaller.  If you are used to the X0D series of the cameras before, you will find it hard to adjust when you try to navigate a magnified picture.  The little joystick on the 7D, 50D, 40D, etc, is missing on the 60D.  That's really too bad as it is such a useful and convenient feature.  Instead, within the command dial, it has directional pads.  I prefer the joystick.

Due to the flip out screen, the traditional column of button on the right side of the camera has been re-located.  Again, if you are used to the previous generation of X0D cameras, it's something to get used to.

The LCD is one of the best features of the camera.  It's takes up most of the space at the back of the camera.  Back in the days of early digital, my Canon G1 had such a screen and it was terrific.  The high resolution 3 inch LCD on the 60D is light years better than the one on G1, naturally.

From the few sample pictures I took, they looked really good, but I hope it's as good when viewing the actual picture.  On my T2i, the picture on the LCD always looked better than the actual picture.

The price is definitely a bright spot, for a camera with this kind of feature set.  But, unless the image quality is better than the 7D or T2i, I don't see myself buying one.

Leaves on Fire -- G1 & Minolta MD 50mm f1.2 @ f1.2. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Colours of Autumn

Autumn Colours - G1 & Minolta MD 50mm f1.2 @ f1.2.

It's amazing how fast the colours of trees are changing.  Seemingly at the brink of an eye, the familiar scenery has become beautifully colourful.  The red and yellow leaves look like they are one fire when they are back lit by the sun.  I love autumn.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Smashed Pumpkin

Smashed Pumpkin - G1 & Canon FD 200mm f4. Click to enlarge.

I was eagerly waiting for the Canon FD 50mm f1.2 to arrive, and I was very happy and excited when it did.  Alas, excitement and happiness was short lived.  The lens is in beautiful condition, and I would rate it mint cosmetically, but it won't stop down.  ^@&%!  But I have decided to keep it, because I bought it at a very good price, although the seller rated it e++.  Perhaps the e stood for error?  Anyways, I am hoping to have it fixed.  I took a few test shots wide open with the G1 and the lens shows promise.  Very sharp in the center, with only a hint of blooming in strong lights, but in low light, it should be beautiful.  Compared to my FL 55mm f1.2, it's a marked improvement.

In the meantime, I took out the Breech Lock FD 200mm f4 for the first time on a digital camera.  The lens is sharp enough, but  I think the sharpness of the pictures have been compromised by the very strong winds this afternoon when I took them.  Strong wind plus 400mm equivalent focal length is not a good combination.  I am quite happy.  A very usable lens wide open.

Taxis -- G1 & FD 200mm f4. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Seeing in near Darkness

Hanging Flower Pot - Panasonic GF1 & JML 25mm f0.95 @ f0.95

One of the reasons we love super fast lenses is that we can take pictures in very dim conditions.  It would be a bonus if that fast lens is usable wide open.  Two cheap fast lenses I have been using extensively are JML 25mm f0.95 and the sister lens JML 50mm f0.95 TV Lenses.  The 50mm is very large and heavy, but the 25mm is petite.  Both are well made and unfortunately only comes in c-mount.  Although cheap, both lenses are actually quite usable at f0.95.  Sure, they are no Noctilux, but do give you very interesting pictures wide open.  It can pretty much throw any back ground out of focus if focused at minimum focusing distance.

Too bad the 25mm doesn't cover the entire sensor of the micro 4/3 format, and has severe vignetting, and edges are very blurry, but I like it, a lot.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sunset Over Port of Toronto

James Morris -- G1 & Canon FD 50mm f1.4 SSC. Click to Enlarge.

After using the GF1 a few times, I find that its handling is nowhere close to as good as the G1.  The GF1 is nice and small (if used with pancake lens), but if you are going out to shoot, the G1 is by far a better choice, especially using manual focus lenses.  I think I should have bought a GH1 or GH2 instead of the GF1.  With the GH1 or GH2, I can get full HD with the versatility of handling of the G1.  Time to rethink.

In the meantime, after seeing some wonderful pictures from obakesan using FD lenses, I was itching to try some of mine which have been collecting dust of late.  By far my favourite so far, besides the 55mm f1.2 SSC, is the Breech-Lock version of the FD 50mm f1.4 SSC.  In so many ways, this lens is better than the EF 50mm f1.4.  Slightly sharper wide open, tack sharp from f2 on, 8-blade aperture, built like a tank, and focuses butterly smooth.  The later, nFD version's built quality is not as good, although it should be optically similar.  Also have an Canon FL 50mm f1.4, which is even better built, but not optically as good.  I have an FD 50mm f1.2 on the way.  It would be interesting to see how the f1.4 stacks up against the f1.2 version.
By the way, if you are wondering why I have so many pictures from this vantage point, it's because this is right outside T&T on Cherry street.  I bring my camera when doing grocery shopping there and naturally, take pictures.  Depending on time of the day and weather, you can get very different pictures from the same position.  There, mystery solved.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 28mm f4

Picked up this lens at the last camera show, and it is my widest Kodak Retina Mount lens.  I don't believer there are wider lenses than 28mm in this mount, and all but the Schneider 50mm f1.9 are f2 or slower.  Voigtlander also made some lenses in this mount and they seem to be more followers than the Schneider versions, and their lenses cost more too.

This particular 28mm f4 lens isn't that great, from the very short time I have used it.  Similar to the Schneider 50mm f2.8 that I used, which means the corners are a mess, but pretty sharp in the center of the frame.  Even with the Micro 4/3 camera, the edge is not great.  So, I guess using it for landscape photography is out of the question.

This will be my last Retina mount lens, at least for Schneider.  May try a Voigtlander 35mm, as I heard it's pretty good.  I have the 135mm f4 Color-Dynarex, which is not bad at all.  One of the compelling reason to collect them is because they are so well made, and tiny, and they are all in chrome finish!

Park at the Beach -- G1 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 28mm f4.

Honour those who served -- G1 & Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Curtagon 28mm f4

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Nuit Blanche 2010 Toronto

Today is the annual Nuit Blanche (Sleepless Night) in Toronto.  Since 2006, the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche annual event has drawn hundreds of thousands of people from Toronto and surrounding cities each year.  It's a night of event that showcases artwork all around Toronto from dusk to dawn.  Most major art galleries, and art venues are open to the public, free of charge.

This event is perfect for photo opportunities.  Many photography buffs are out all night photographing.  This year is the first time that I actually headed out, partly because CubeWorks in the Distillery District was finishing up it's world's largest piece of artwork made of cubes, and Dillon, as well as few other speed cubers, had been helping to create this artwork for the last few weeks.  The Daily Planet show from Discovery Channel was there to film its completion.  In fact, they installed time-lapse cameras at the studio from the beginning.  The artwork, "The Hand of God" was made up of 12,090 cubes and took months by the speed cubers to complete.  It's an amazing feast, and hard to imagine until you see it.  It's being displayed at building #4 in the Distillery District if you are interested to see it.

The last panel completed -- 1D IIn & EF 16-35mm f2.8 II. Click to enlarge.

Completed "The Hand of God" -- 1D IIn & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click to enlarge.

Part of Nuit Blanche -- 1D IIn & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click to enlarge.

Saxophone Player -- 1D IIn & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. click to enlarge.