Sunday, February 28, 2010

O Canada! Congrats to Men's Hockey Team's Gold Medal

No doubt one of the most exciting hockey games. Team Canada beats Team USA 3-2 in over time to win the Olympic 2010 Gold Medal for men's hockey, joining Team Canada's women's team that also won the Olympic Gold Medal .

Congrats to both the Men's and the Women's Hockey Team for winning gold! You have proven to the world that we are still the master of our own game!

Goodbye HOC

Henry's Outlet Centre -- Panasonic G1 & Konica 35mm f2.8. Larger Size.

Henry's Outlet Centre (HOC) closed its Queen Street location yesterday and is moving to Mississauga. To many of us, it was a place to hang around after work, and a place to get weird and one of a kind stuff. Over the last 7 years, I have accumulated more junk from the Outlet store than I care to admit. In fact, I still have boxes of "bargains" sitting at home.

I will miss it dearly. Each day I ride my bike passing through 69 Queen Street East, I will remember the nice people I have met inside over the years. All the sales people there are awesome and I am proud to have known all of them.

Mississauga is too far for me. With such bad traffic between Toronto and Mississauga, I doubt I will be able to visit the new store often.

Well, it was great while it lasted.

Canon Rebel T2i (Rebel 550D) -- First Impressions, Part 2

Got DPP installed. Unfortunately, I have never used it before and I don't seem to be able to get the settings right to get the kind of results I am used to with Photoshop RAW converter. The converted images from DPP don't look very good. Just to make sure, I opened a 5D RAW file in DPP, and compared to the Adobe RAW converter output, the Adobe output is much much better. Very possibly because I haven't adjusted the settings correctly in DPP. So, I give up on DPP and use the in-camera jpegs until Adobe updates the RAW converter to include support for the T2i.

If you have used a 5D or 5D II before, you may be disappointed that the pictures from the T2i do not look as sharp. I think this has to do with a stronger AA filter that the Rebel has. I am not saying the pictures are bad, just not as sharp if you compare them side by side with the 5D/5D II. I am extremely happy with the results from ISO up to 800. Anything higher than that, the noise reduction seems to have taken a toll on the image quality. I just don't understand why they would put 18 MP on the sensor. If they stick with 12 MP and give us clean ultra high ISO, people will buy it in droves.

I intend to compare the 5D and T2i images with same subject/lens, but that probably won't happen until I can process the RAW files with the Adobe RAW converter.

As a side note, I noticed that if I shoot RAW+JPEG, the buffer is reduced to 3 frames! #$%#$%!?! Come on, RAM is dirt cheap! Don't go so stingy on buffer member!

Also, when the jpeg file is opened in Photoshop, it's a 46 MB file! My computer is noticeably more sluggish when processing the T2i files in Photoshop. It's even worse with DPP. I have a Dual Xeon 3.6GHz computer with 8 GB of RAM running Vista 64-bit, so the slowness shouldn't be the computer.

William -- T2i with Canon EF 50mm f1.2 @ f1.4. ISO 200. Larger Picture.

Ryan -- T2i with EF 50mm f1.2 @ f1.2. ISO 100. Larger Picture.

Snow Fight -- T2i & Sigma 50mm f1.4. ISO 100. Larger Picture.

Megan -- T2i & Sigma 50mm f1.4. Larger Picture.

Snowman -- T2i & Sigma 50mm f1.4. Larger Picture.

Next time, we will look at the auto focus accuracy.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Canon Rebel T2i (Rebel 550D) -- First Impressions, Part 1

Got wife's blessing to complement my "dying" 5D, so I picked up a Digital Rebel T2i or 550D with a kit lens from Henry's today, to take advantage of a free LowePro 200 sling bag.

This happens to be the third Rebel I have owned, and the second one I bought brand new. The feature that attracted me to buying it is the full 1080p video. Ironically, we don't even own an HD TV. We are still watching the 19-inch Sony TV we bought more than 20 years ago. But, I really want to try the video.

Let's get the thing I don't like out of the way first.

First thing I noticed is that it's small. Much smaller than the original Rebel 300D I had. The hand grip is deeper, but less chunky. Being used to the 1-series of bodies, as well as the 5D, the T2i body feels uncomfortable. Unlike the 5D, where all my fingers fit the body perfectly, on the T2i, I can only use 4 of my 5 fingers. The little finger has nowhere to grip to and feels empty and unnatural.

The small size also hinders the vertical shooting. I find that I have to shift my hand when I need to focus. I like to separate the metering and focus and assign each function to a different button. The exposure lock button (*) is used to activate focusing, and the shutter half-press will be used for metering. Since the hand grip is much smaller than the 5D, and the * button is close to the edge of the body, I need to shift my thumb and thus loosen the grip. Not used to it at all.

The other thing I don't like about the T2i, is that it lacks the back wheel. This makes setting exposure compensation awkward.

Now that the bad stuff is out of the way, let's talk about the good stuff.

You can't help but notice the beautiful 3:2 ratio, 1 million pixel LCD screen at the back. It's absolutely gorgeous. Incidentally, this is the first DSLR to use a 3:2 ratio LCD screen, and has the highest resolution. Very nice!

The focus system feels the same as the one in the 20D/30D. Very quick, but I think the accuracy is not as good as the 5D. This is probably as good as we will get for an entry level DSLR in the foreseeable future, unfortunately.

Tomorrow I will talk about the image quality, when I get the DPP installed so that I can process the RAW files.

Below is a sample picture from jpeg.

Megan -- Canon T2i & Sigma 50mm f1.4 @ f1.6, ISO 1600. Larger Size.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Downtown Toronto from the Don Bridge

Downtown Toronto from the Don Bridge. 5D & Shneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9. Larger Size.

I don't remember how many times I have photographed downtown Toronto from this angle. The interesting thing about photography is that even from the same vintage point, they can look strikingly different depending on lighting.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow In TO

Pictures taken with Canon 5D & Leica-R 35mm f2 @ f2.5.

Toronto seems to be in a "snow drought" this year. Not much snow has fallen so far. Not that I am complaining or anything.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quantaray 19-35mm f3.5-4.5 Wide Angle Zoom

The Quantaray AF 19-35mm f3.5-4.5 lens is the exact same lens as the Tokina version. I believe most of the 19-35mm f3.5-4.5, such as those from Vivitar, Tamron, Cosina, etc, are all based on the Cosina design.

This is one of the cheapest and earliest AF ultra wide angle zooms available in many mounts. Due to the large number of them available, the price very reasonable. Of cause, the price depends on what name is on the lens. If you buy the Tamron version, you maybe paying 3 times more than the Quantaray version.

The Good:
  • Optically, the lens is quite sharp, even the edges are quite respectable on full frame.
  • Focus is pretty quick for a non-USM lens.
  • The build quality is better than most cheap lenses. Has metal mount.
  • Filter does not rotate when focusing
  • Internal Zoom (sort of)
The Bad:
  • Minimum focus distance is not very close at 0.4 meters. Most ultra wide angles can focus as close as 0.25 meters
  • Noisy focusing (compared to USM)
  • Distortion at the wide end
  • Front element not extends a bit while zooming, although not protruding pass the filter ring. This creates a gap between the front element and the lens barrel. A filter should be used to minimize the chance of dust getting into the lens.
I am a little surprised that the lens is optically quite good, for such a wide angle and cheap price. But, alas, one can't have cheap price and stellar performance on all departments. If you can live with the distortion, it's a good choice.

King of Beers -- 5D & Quantaray 19-35mm f3.5-4.5 @ f7.1. Larger Size.

Self Portrait -- 5D & Quantaray 19-35mm f3.5-4.5 @ f6.3. Larger Size.

Vitamin Water -- 5D & Quantaray 19-35mm f3.5-4.5. Larger Size.

Construction -- 5D & Quantaray 19-35mm f3.5-4.5. Larger Size.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX DG HSM Samples

Art -- 5D & Sigma 50mm f1.4 @ f1.4.

Hug Me Tree - 5D & Sigma 50mm f1.4 @ f2. Larger Picture.

Men at work -- 5D & Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX DG HSM. Larger Picture.

Bicycle -- 5D & Sigma 50mm f1.4 @ f1.4. Larger Picture.

100% Crop from previous picture. This was taken at f1.4! Larger Picture.

Another 100% crop at f1.4. This pictures was taken about 25 meters away. Larger Picture.

Took some more pictures with the Sigma today. My impression is that this is one of the best 50mm f1.4 lenses I have used. Insanely sharp even at f1.4. Focus is quick and sure. So far I have not seen any focus problems. The loose hood continues to annoy me.

Wide open it's definitely better than the Canon 50mm f1.4. This lens slightly vignettes even with a huge front element and a 77mm filter size.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX HSM

I have used Sigma lenses on and off in the last 6 or 7 years. The 28-70mm f2.8, bad lens, possibly due to copy variance, as Sigma is famous for that. 20mm f1.8, very good lens, when it focused. I still have a 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. In fact, I have had it for about 3 years now. It's relatively cheap for the wide angle it provides. Excellent on 1.5x or 1.6x crop cameras, but the far edges are a bit soft on full frame.

When the 50mm f1.4 EX lens came out, I was intrigued by its radical design. This is probably the only 50mm f1.4 lens ever made with a 77mm filter size. Even the 50mm f1.2L lens I have, its filter size is only 72mm. The Canon 50mm f1.2L is heavier though.

Side by Side, Sigma 50mm f1.4, Canon 50mm f1.2L, Canon 50mm f1.4. Click on picture to see a larger version.

Took a few pictures with the Sigma today. Very impressed with its sharpness. It focuses perfectly on my 5D without any issues. Sigma EX lenses come with 10 year warranty, which should be a relieve in case of future compatibility issues.

One issue I have with the Sigma lens is the lens hood. It's way too loose. Maybe the hood I got is not the original hood made for this lens, as the lens I bought was an open-box one. The hood is too easily moved and could cause vignetting if not aligned properly.

Will be interesting to test this lens against the Canon 50mm f1.2L.

William with is Rubik's Magic. He can solve it under 3 seconds now -- 5D & Sigma 50mm f1.4 EX @ f1.4. Larger Picture.

Megan practicing piano -- 5D & Sigma 50mm f1.4 @ f1.4. Larger Picture.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Monster of a Zoom -- Bushnell 70-220mm f3.5

I recently acquired this lens in Olympus OM mount, and it was put away for a couple of months, like so many of the lenses I bought. While doing some re-organizing, and I noticed this very large and heavy lens. Decided to give it a try and I was surprised to see that it's quite a decent lens. Very unique is its macro mode. Although it does not say what magnification ratio this mode provides, but I would estimate that it's at least 1:2.

Curious, I put it side by side against the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS and they look almost the same size, even about the same weight.

Side by Side -- Taken with G1 with Kit lens. Larger Picture.

One of the bad things of this lens was immediately noticeable the first time I used it -- flare against the light source is very, very bad. The built-in hood is all but useless. Quality wide open is very good at close range:

Megan. Notice the left side. It's washed out -- 5D & Bushnell 70-220mm f3.5 @ f3.5, ISO 1600.

The macro mode is quite interesting. This mode works at all focal lengths, instead of most zooms where it only works at its widest or longest. Basically, this is a built-in extension tube. At maximum macro settings, the vignetting is quite severe, but image quality is good.

This picture was taken near maximum macro setting at f5.6. See next picture for 100% crop. Larger Picture.

100% crop from previous picture. Not bad. Larger Picture.

I am not a zoom guy, but if I ever use this lens again, will write up an update for it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Dillon -- Panasonic G1 with Bausch & Lomb 26mm f1.9 Cine Lens. Larger Picture.

Today I found and bought a spare charger and battery for the 5D. Still need to get the camera fixed, but in the mean time, I can use manual focus lenses on it so it's not urgent.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What Motivates You to Take Pictures?

Benches @ Moss Park -- Panasonic G1 & JML 50mm f0.95. ISO 800.

Photography is a hobby like many others. After a while, some people will lose interest and the hobby will slowly die. I have been at it since 1980. Started with a Yashica range finder that I still have, though the light seal is all but gone. It produced surprisingly sharp pictures with a glass lens, while most others in its class were using plastic lenses.

I still don't know why I liked to take pictures. The snapshots from the Yashica were nothing good, but I liked looking at those pictures. This was the primary reason I took pictures. I took lots of pictures when I was going out with my then girlfriend (now wife), and then kids came along. More pictures.

Partway through my life, aside from leaving behind memories from pictures, I started to think about and tried to take some good pictures. For some reason, I have always thought that I could take some really great pictures if I tried. Those great pictures have yet to materialize, but it still gives me reason to take pictures.

Things have taken a turn for the worse in the last few years. Lenses, cameras, and other photographic hardware have been my primary concern. I have spent far more time and energy on playing with gears than thinking of taking some great pictures. Regardless, gears also give me reason to take pictures, so that may not have been all bad. Perhaps, without different gears to play with, my interest in photography might have been dead.

I still have the dream that I can take some great shots. Maybe, this is what has been motivating me to keep at my photographic hobby going.

What motivates you to keep taking pictures?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Open Gate

Open Gate @ Moss Park -- Panasonic G1 & JML 50mm f0.95, ISO 800.

I don't know what it is with me and battery chargers. Last time my G1 charger was missing for over a month, and I had to buy a third party charger for it, but of course, the original one turned up two days after the new charger arrived.

Last month I shot some pictures for my company's party, and left the 5D charger & battery at the party place, stilled plugged in the wall. I didn't realize it was missing until a week later. Of course they didn't find anything when I inquired about it.

So, now I am "forced" to use the G1 (well there is still enough battery for a couple hundred shots on the 5D). I really prefer the 5D in low light.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Panasonic G1 vs Canon 5D. Which Do I Love More?

obakesan left a comment asking me why I seem to be taking a progression from the Panasonic G1 to the Canon 5D. I think this question would make a nice blog post.

Let me say this up front. I like both cameras for different reasons.

The G1, despite its small size, is quite a capable camera. The major attraction for me, is the short lens to sensor register. This means lenses that normally can not be used on the Canon can be used on the G1. I have a boatload of Canon FD, Minolta MD, and Konica KR, as well as the c-mount lenses that I really want them get used. One can now buy pretty much any lens adapter for the G1, from the obscure DKL to the Canon EF mount, for pretty reasonable prices. The c-mount lenses especially, are the reason enough to buy the G1. I adore some of the very old cine lenses. Some of them have characteristics that are just can not be duplicated in modern lenses. There is a reason why the prices of cine lenses have skyrocketed.

Another feature that attracted me to the G1 is its Electronic View Finder. I know some will look down on it and prefer instead an optical view finder. I was skeptical of its quality as well before I tried it. It turned out to be one of the G1's best features. It is amazingly easy to get accurate focus using EV to manually focus a lens. For critical focus, like a f1.2 lens, this camera will produce more keepers than a camera with an Optical View Finder.

That's about it. I do not care much about small size. I am quite happy lagging a 1Ds each day and commute to work on my bicycle. So why did I put roughly 16,000 frames on the G1 in the last ten months (and mostly in the first 5 months after getting it)? The lenses. You can see that pictures from auto focus lenses account for less than 0.5% on the G1. Virtually all pictures were taken with manual focus lenses. After I tried the lenses I wanted, the interest started to move back to the 1D III and 5D, but since the 1D III didn't stay with me for long, the 5D has become my primary camera.

Due to the G1's 2X multiplying effect, finding a lens as wide as 28mm equivalent is a huge challenge. One would need a 14mm lens. For this reason, the 5D is an attractive choice.

Since the first frame I shot with the 5D, it constantly surprises me with high quality images. The light AA filter produced images with very high accutance. Even a cheap lens can produce very descent images. The short comings of the G1 are the strengths of the 5D: Wide angle, low noise, fast focusing in low light. I won't hesitate to use ISO 1600 on the 5D, but unless I have to, I would not use even ISO 400 on the G1. The G1's ISO reminds me of the Canon 1Ds that I had. Good quality at base ISO.

With the 5D, I can slap on a fast 24mm, 28mm, 35mm or even a 50mm lens and shoot in the dark winter evenings. This is increasingly so as the winter days get dark very early here in Toronto. The only wide angle lens I have for the G1 is its slow kit lens with a maximum aperture of f5.6 at the long end. Even with image stabilization, one can not get usable images when the light dims.

I still use the G1 regularly, but not as much I used to. This probably will not change until Spring rolls around.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Little Colour for Winter

Fall Colours -- 1D Mark III & Schneider-Kreuznach Editxa Xenar 45mm f2.8 Retina DKL Mount (whew, what a mouthful)

I don't know about you, but I have had enough with winter. How I miss the colours and warm of autumn! Although, very luckily, we in Toronto have not had significant amount of snow fall so far, and not particularly cold either, except for a few days. I guess I really shouldn't be complaining.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My 5D on Its Last Leg

Robot Fish -- 5D & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.8. Larger Picture.

It started when I was in Ottawa a month ago. The auto focus system failed to work all of a sudden. I cleaned the contacts and pushed the mirror in and the camera started to work again. Today, while we were in Ontario Science Centre, the #%@$^% auto focus stopped working again. Tried my usual remedy but to no avail. It will have to go back to Canon and have it repaired.

This camera was bought used in August last year from Henry's Outlet store and I have shot roughly 10,000 frames in the last 6 months. That's a lot of pictures. Since I got the 5D, the Panasonic G1 didn't get much use and the 5D has been my primary camera.

I am really happy with the 5D. It's weak AA filter really makes the pictures crisp. The low light capability is great, even in today's standards. I routinely use ISO 800 and if necessary, ISO1600 and even 3200 (Max ISO). Contrast to what most people complain about, I am totally satisfied with the auto focus system on the 5D. It's not fast, but it's extremely accurate. The 6 hidden assist focus points really do their job well. To me, this camera has the most accurate auto focus system of all the cameras I have used.

The broken AF system on my 5D is downer, but when I bought the camera used, I knew what kind of chances I was getting. Hopefully it won't cost too much to get it repaired.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cubing Frenzy

Cubing Frenzy -- 5D & Pentax SMC Takumar 85mm f1.8. Larger Picture.

Everyone at home is getting into the cubing game, except me. The wife can solve a 3x3 in about two minutes. Not too bad. Dillon's personal best is around 19 seconds.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cars in Window

Cars in Window at BMW dealership -- Panasonic G1 & 45-200mm f4-5.6. ISO 800, 1/80s. Larger Picture.

Have had the Panasonic Vario 45-200mm f4-5.6 for a few months. Used it maybe five times, by optimistic guess. Not a bad lens at all, it's just that I am not a fan of zooms, especially slow zooms like this one. The reason I bought it is for the occasion when I want to go out with only the kit lens and this lens. That never really happened, and the lens has been sitting on the shelf for months. Maybe in the spring, I will try to use it more often.

One thing I do want to mention, is that the Panasonic G1 really sucks at ISO 800. Sorry to those who thinks ISO 1600 is usable on the G1. To me, it's not. Even shot RAW with some noise reduction, the noise is just too objectionable.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Canon, what happened to your AF supremacy?

Since the introduction of the Canon 1N, and the super quiet and fast Ultra Sonic Motor (USM) driven long lenses, Canon has practically cornered sports photography market. This is especially after the superb EOS 3 in 1998 with a lightning fast and accurate 45-point auto focus system, and subsequent 1V. This combination of fast focusing lens and the 45-point auto focus system made sports shooters switch from Nikon to Canon in droves.

This 45-point auto focus system has reigned supreme for a decade, unmatched by any other manufacturer. Things only got worse for Nikon when we entered the digital age, with the introduction of the Canon 1D Mark II. Nikon had not made another camera that could compared to the 1D II after the D2H. In fact, the Canon 1D Mark IIn represented the pinnacle of the 45-point auto focus system.

Too bad for Canon, the sports photography market has never looked the same after the introduction of the 1D Mark III. Created with high hopes and expectations for the celebration of the 20 year anniversary of EOS, Canon revamped the 45-point auto focus system, and re-designed the 1D. Unfortunately, the Mark III fell flat on Canon's face with its auto focus inconsistency. To compound the pain for Canon, Nikon introduced the D3, a marvelous cameras that featured a new 51-point auto focus system that performed consistently and predictably. Sports shooters are moving back to Nikon in droves.

As an ex 1D Mark III owner, I loved everything about the camera, except the auto focus system (and to a small degree the LCD screen). I could not even get the level of auto focus accuracy as my 1D Mark II that it replaced. I fiddled with the configurations, but it was still a hit and miss game. Finally, I concluded I could not trust its auto focus system, and sold it. The used 1D Mark III has by far the worse re-sell value of any 1-series Canon.

Today, I read the Rob Galbraith's article titled "An analysis of EOS-1D Mark IV autofocus performance". I just had to shake my head. What has happened to the company that pioneered so many firsts in the SLR field? Electronic Lens Mount, Ultra Sonic Motors (USM), Image Stabilization, Diffractive Optics (DO), and the famous 45-point auto focus system? You would think that after the 1D Mark III fiasco, they would make the 1D Mark IV bullet proof. Again, like the 1D III, the mark IV is a nice and fantastic camera with so many features, but what good is a sports camera if you can't get consistent auto focus?

Of all the Canons I have shot with, I love the 1D, 1D II, and the 5D the best. The 5D's auto focus system is slow, but ACCURATE!!! I hardly get any out of focus pictures with the 5D. If it's blurry, it's because the shutter speed is too low, and not of focus errors.

I hope the Mark IV's auto focus system can be improved by firmware updates. It's a shame that a camera as nice as the Mark IV has to suffer due to it's auto focus sub system.

William -- 1D Mark III & EF 135mm f2.0 @ f2.2, ISO 1600, 1/200s.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The New Canon Rebel T2i (550D) Digital Camera

My first DSLR was the original 300D. That camera was a ground breaking product for both Canon and the digital SLR market. The first DSLR that was sold under $1000US. Naturally, we Canadian paid more, as we always seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to pricing on camera gear. We pay an average 20% to 40% more than our American neighbours. But I never regretted buying the Rebel 300D new. The memories it captured of my kids are priceless.

That was year 2003.

Almost 7 years later, Canon announced the 6th generation Rebel -- the T2i or 550D. More megapixels, faster (just barely), gorgeous LCD screen, Live-View, and best of all, full HD video.

I am not a video guy, but I have been itching to try it. I thought about the 5D II, but can't afford it. The T1i was nice, but, crippled at only 20 frames per second on 1080p. The 7D is also very nice, but still too expensive as my third camera. The T2i seems just perfect in terms of price and features.

I think this camera will shake up the market again, though not as much as the original Rebel, forcing most manufacturers to put full HD video on even the entry level DSLRs. I do think that 18 megapixels is kind of ridiculous. 12 MP with ultra high ISO will be better than 18PM with good high ISO.

This might be my second brand new Digital Rebel!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More on Filters

Last time I talked about protection filters here, but there are so many different types of filters on the market that can be confusing what filters to use. In most cases, the effect of filters can be duplicated by software equivalent, such as those filters found in Photoshop. There is at least one filter that software can not duplicate -- the polarizing filter.

A polarizing filter has many benefits. It can act as a Neutral Density filter, colour/contrast enhancer, and finally, a polarizing filter, which can reduce or even remove reflections from water and glass (but not metal). Polarizing filters come in two types: Linear and circular.

Early polarizing filters were all of the the linear type. It's function is identical to that of the circular type, except one important difference: Linear polarizing filters can fool the camera's metering and auto focus system, due to the way the light is polarized. Linear polarizing filters are more effective and easier to make, thus much less expensive than circular type, but they should only be used on manual focus cameras with manual metering, or digital cameras with live view.

Circular polarizing filters are much more common now a days. This type of polarizing filter allows the camera to meter and auto focus, otherwise both types does the same function.

How can you tell them apart if it's not specifically written on the filter? The trick is actually quite easy. All you need is a mirror. Hold the filter in front of you and look through the filter and at the mirror, now switch it to the other side, and do the same thing. If you can see your eye when you look through the filter both sides, it's a linear polarizing filter. If one side is dark, it's a circular polarizing filter.

William -- Panasonic G1 & JML 50mm f0.95 TV Lens. Larger Picture.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Downtown Toronto at Dusk

Toronto Downtown at dusk -- Canon 5D & Tamron Adaptall 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 with EOS-M adapter. ISO 1600, f4.5. Larger Picture.

Adam was very generous and gave me a very hard to find, original Adaptall EOS Mount. This mount, called the EOS-M and the Adaptall Mount for Minolta Alpha, are the only two for auto focus cameras, and they were not made in quantity as other mounts were. I have almost all of Tamron's Adaptall mounts, including the Leica R (two versions), Rollei 35 QBM, Praktica PB, Fujica X, and the two auto focus mounts, plus your garden variety normal mounts.

At one point, I had a very large collection of Adaptall lenses. Still have a few of them, but the collection is nowhere near what it used to be. Tamron lenses are optically very good for most of their lenses, but the new auto focus lenses are just all plastic. Not my cup of tea.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

To Use Protection Filters or Not to Use Protection Filters?

I know I am beating on a dead horse. This topic has been discussed to death already. To use or not to use protection filters. Why and why not?

My friend Cliff recently bought a B+W Graduated Neutral Density (Grad ND) filter and reported that there is excessive flare when using the filter. Personally, I am not a filter person. Most of my lenses, even the most expensive ones, are naked. I am in the school of thought that when you buy a $2000 lens, why put a piece of glass in front of it that was not part of the lens design? The opposite camp will argue that filters will protect the front element and it should not cause any adverse effects on the image quality.

Well, horses for courses. You do what you think is best for your investment. For me, my thinking is that filters in most cases will not affect the image quality, except in very challenging lighting conditions. To illustrate, I have two pictures I took couple days ago. One with, and one without a UV filter.

Picture taken with JML 50mm f0.95 lens and 62mm Rodenstock Coated UV filter. Larger Picture.

Look at the picture above. The circled area are reflections. The double green dots are reflections of the car head lights, and the single dots are reflections of the traffic light. I have a couple more with more double dots, each set corresponds to a car's headlights.

Same scene without filter. Larger Picture.

The picture above is without a filter. You can see that there are no reflections that were present at the previous picture.

My suggest? Do not use filters at night, at least not with point light sources.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gear Addiction

Shinobi -- Panasonic G1 with JML 50mm f0.95 @ f0.95. Larger Picture.

I am sure many of you gear lovers will know, acquiring gear is addictive. It does not matter how hard I tried to tell myself that I already have enough stuff, and I should get rid of those I do not need. Well, half of that works.

I do manage to get rid of some gears often. The problem is keeping the money in the bank. Every time some stuff gets sold, and had a little bid of money in the bank account, I would become uncomfortable. It's as though a criminal act to have money sitting in the bank and not spend on something that I really want. That's why I am often broke, with lots of semi-useless gears lying around waiting to be getting rid of. This evil cycle would start again.

Good thing the wife takes care of the finances!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Shooting in the Dark

I really like the JML 50mm f0.95 lens. Of course it's no Leica Noctilux but at less than 1% of the price, who's to complain? A lens this fast does allow one to shoot in the dark, even with the Panasonic G1, which is not known for it high ISO performance, I can shoot at ISO 400 at f0.95 at acceptably high enough speed for sharp pictures. Believe it or not, even at f0.95, the lens is completely usable. I will even go as far as saying that I could get much higher keeper rate than the Leica M8/M9 with a f0.95 lens, because I have the advantage of the electronic view finder which can magnify the scene up to 10x to aid critical focusing. The range finding focusing system is not exactly accurate shooting at f0.95, even on a Leica.

Not bashing the Leica. I am just saying that there is advantage to having an EVIL camera when it comes to focusing manually.

All pictures above were shot with a JML 50mm f0.95 TV Lens on Panasonic G1, @f0.95, ISO 400. Click on the picture for a larger version.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Lines -- 5D & Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 Kodak Retina DKL Mount.

Most of the the Retina mount lenses are very nice and well made, but many of them are small aperture lenses. This Xenon is probably the fastest DKL mount lens. Unfortunately, due to the aperture built-in the adapter, and the fact that very few DKL mount lenses are f2 or faster, the DKL-EOS adapter have a maximum aperture of only f2 (f2.5 on mine, unfortunately) so that the lens can not be used at wide open. A shame.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Process or the Result?

Old City Hall -- 5D & Leica-R 28mm f2.8. Larger Picture.

People who get into photography for many reasons. Some only like to lust over the expensive equipment, others like to look at the photographs they have taken, and yet more will enjoy the process of creating the images. I am sure there are far many other reasons.

I am a little bit of everything. I love well made gear and lust over top end stuff, but my bank account ultimately limits what I can actually have. Just think of it, well made and being great does not need to be expensive at all. For me, old lenses are prime examples, although there are some very expensive old lenses, in general, they are much cheaper than the auto focus equivalent, and in some cases they are even optically better, not to mention how well they were made, for far less money. If you have ever used a Pentax Takumar lens, no, not those cheap plastic PK mount ones, but the M42 or screw mount Takumars, you will know what I mean.

The process of image creation is also something that I enjoy immensely. I use both auto focus and manual focus lenses, but I use manual focus lenses more. Why? The act of turning the silky smooth focusing ring, the sound of the aperture clicks, and the touch of metal lens barrel, all combined to give me a sense that I am creating something. On the other hand, an auto focus lens focuses instantaneously, and in a split second, an image is captured, usually in perfect clarity. To me, what lens to use, depends on what kind of pictures I am taking. Guess what gives me the most pleasure?

I also care about the end result. After all, the lens and camera are made to take photographs. As I said before, those of us who do not have the creative juice or a good eye for composition to take good pictures, it's an eternal frustration. We try again and again, just hoping one day we can take one really good picture that we can be proud of. Unfortunately, at least for me, most pictures are mediocre at best, but, at least there is hope that next one could be better. For this reason, the equipment and the process are more enjoyable for me, for the time being.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010