Monday, June 28, 2010

To Keep or Not to Keep

Enfield Bullet 300 - Canon 7D & EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS. Larger.

The Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS USM lens is one of Canon's most popular lenses, especially for pros.  It's relatively sharp, very fast for a zoom at this focal range, and has Image Stablization (IS).  The down side is that it's heavy and expensive. 

I have had this lens for almost four years, and use it less than a dozen times.  Many times I have thought of selling it for something I would use more often, but could never made up my mind at the end.  Even more, I had a crazy thought of selling it and buy the version II, which I probably would use with the same frequency.  I know it's time to have a good look at my lens line up and decide what to do.  The lenses I don't use often are 70-200mm f2.8 IS, 100-400mm f4-5.6 IS and 180mm f3.5 macro.  And, the least used lens is the 180mm macro.  It probably makes more sense to sell this lens and get the 100mm f2.8 IS macro instead.  I would probably use it more often.  But, every time I hold that lens in my hands, I couldn't bring myself to sell it.  It's so %@#$^ nice, both in built quality and optically.  For the few times I used it, the longer working distance really was an advantage. 

Another option is the manual focus lenses.  I simply have too many of them.  Duplicates and sometimes triplicates of the same lens.  Insane! Some of them I have already posted for sale locally, but haven't sold many yet.  They will eventually go to e-Bay.  The proceeds would go toward the 1Ds II body.  I have had enough headaches with the 5D and manual focus lens compatibility issues.  I don't recall having so many problems with my 1Ds, 1D/II/III bodies. Besides, I really miss that EC-L cross split screen.  I have kept it when I sold my 1D III, probably because I knew one day I would use it again.

So, in the next few weeks, I will slowly getting rid of some of the lenses.  Hopefully, they will fetch enough money for the 1Ds II body.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Street Car

Street Car shot through car window -- Canon 7D & Vivitar 24mm f2.0 AI. Larger.

I really like the small fast primes.  24mm on full frame is probably the widest I would use on a regular basis.  Anything wider is hard to control. 

Port of Toronto

Port of Toronto - Canon 7D & Vivitar 24mm f2.0 AI Mount. Larger.
New addition to the Vivitar family.  This Vivitar 24mm f2.0 has the Nikon AI mount, made by Kiron.  This lens should be identical to my Kiron 24mm f2.0 (OM Mount), but I compared them side by side and the coating is definitely different..  Both are great, sharp lenses.  Also have the Vivitar 24mm f2.0 in PK Mount.  The PK version looks closer to the Kiron in terms of coating, as well as focusing.  Both the Kiron and the PK mount 24mm f2.0 have the very short focusing travel, whereas the Nikon AI version has longer focusing travel.  All of them share the same filter size of 55mm.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

G20 Security

G20 Security - Canon 7D & EF 50mm f1.2L. Larger.

The G20 Summit in Toronto this weekend has caused a considerable amount of grief to many businesses in the area.  Security has been very tight in the RED ZONE.  I have never seen so many cops in one area before.  Many businesses either shut down or have employees work from home.  I guess the most stunning aspect of this whole is the cost: over ONE BILLION dollars!  I can't imagine how that kind of money can be spent on a two day event.

Boat in the City

Boat in the city - Canon 7D & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8. Larger.

One of the big improvements, from previous xxD series of cameras is the viewfinder.  It's now much bigger on the 7D.  However, I find it more difficult to focus than the 5D for some reason.  The view finders seems slightly darker.  Perhaps need to get used to it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hey Lucy

Hey Lucy is a popular eatery on King -- Canon 7D & EF 35mm f1.4L

Missing the 5D already.  35mm on 1.6x crop body is just, well, not 35mm.  The 7D is a fantastic camera.  Canon has finally done something right for the pro-sumer market, with no small amount of pressure from Nikon's D300 of course.  Isn't competition great?!?  I think a 7D and a 1Ds II would make a perfect pair.  Gotta save my pennies now.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Megan -- Canon 7D & EF 200mm f1.8 @ f2Megan -- Canon 7D & EF 200mm f1.8L @ f2

Tried out the AI Servo focus today and it was better than expected.  Not quite 1-series performance but damn close.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gears Shifted

The Devil made me do it. I swear!

Five days ago I played with a 7D, and I felt in love with it. It reminded me of the 1D Mark III I had. Solid built, nice handling, responsive, but quite a bit lighter. This got me thinking about the inadequacy of all the camera bodies I own for fast actions. I knew I had to do something about my gear line-up.

Yesterday the Devil showed me Henry's flyer on Canon specials: Buy a 7D, and get the battery grip for $99. Also, they have increased the trade in value of many old digital bodies, and they allowed $900 on the 5D, which is very good, consider that most used 5D sold in private at around $1000. Keep in mind that the trade in portion of the $900 is none taxable, which means they will deduct this amount from the price of the 7D, before applying the taxes, a saving of $117, for a total value of $1017 for the 5D.

Then the Devil made read the fine print, that the special would end June 20, which is today, and that I must act fast. I posted my Rebel 550D (T2i) for sale yesterday, and it was sold this morning. A small loss from the price I paid originally, but that's the nature of used gears. I have kept the kit lens, as it's a good lens to have around. Drove up to Mississauga in the afternoon, as the Super Store in Toronto is closed on Sundays, and did the swap.

So, I gained the 7D, but lost the 5D and 550D. I will really miss the 5D as it's one of the best cameras I have used, image quality wise. I will also miss the 550D too, for its super light weight and fantastic LCD screen, even though the 7D's screen is very good.

My plan is to acquire another full frame, possibly the 1Ds Mark II, hopefully by the end of the year. That camera will be used mostly for manual focus lenses. This will be a similar setup as what I had before: 1Ds and 1D Mark II. I will also keep the IR 20D and the Panasonic G1.

Already shot a few couple hundred frames today and really enjoyed the 7D. In many ways I feel this camera is more similar to the 1D III than the xxD series. As expected, the focusing, especially in AI Servo, is far more responsive and accurate. Man, if this is full frame, I would be in heaven. It maybe psychological, but I think the image quality in low ISO is cleaner than the 550D. More test will be done on this.

In the coming months, I will find out how I will like it.

Yum - Canon 7D & EF 85mm f1.2L. Larger.

 Show Off - Canon 7D & EF 85mm f1.2L. Larger.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rush Hour on Don Valley Parkway

Rush Hour -- Canon 20D IR Modified with Pentax-M 20mm f4. Larger.

DVP is one of the busiest highway in North America.  Unless you drive in the wee hours of the day, it's almost always busy.  I used to drive the DVP up and down a few times a day when my wife worked in Markham.  Drive her to work, drove myself to work, then picked her up after work.  It was a nightmare.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rest Assured

Rest Assured. Sign outside Mt. Pleasant Cemetery - G1 & Kodak Cine 63mm f2

Passed by this sign a few times, and always thought it was funny, but couldn't stop and take a picture of it until today, when the traffic was really bad.

Shooting the Shooters

Canon Digital Rebel 550D & Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron. Larger

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Salivating Over the 7D

Sold the Canon EF 70-210mm f4 lens to a fellow Canonite today.  She had a 7D with her and I played with it a bit, and really liked it.  It felt like a small 1D III.  Very responsive and the focusing was fast.  The view finder is also very nice.  Perhaps it was a mistake for me to get the 550D, and should have saved up and buy the 7D instead?  Hmmm, time to rethink my setup.  Four digital bodies, but none is a sports cam.  I think I should get rid of the 550D and go for the 7D, keeping the 5D, G1 and the IR 20D.  Or perhaps go back to a used 1D II?

Decisions, decisions...

Happy Belated Anniversary

It's amazing that this blog is one year old on June 12.  I didn't even realize it until today.  My original plan was to have one or two post per week, but I guess I have much more to say than that.  Yes, I know the content is lacking substance, but I have had fun writing it, and that's enough for me.  If you like reading it, I have accomplished more than what I set out to do with this blog.  Hopefully I can manager another year without slacking off.

Tiger Lily - Panasonic G1 & Angenieux 75mm f2.5 C-Mount Lens.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Shooting Swimming with Digital Rebel 550D

My kids had a swim meet today, and after selling the 1D Mark II/1D Mark III, I have no camera that can shoot more than 4 frames per second, except the modified infrared 20D.  I have no choice, but had to choose between the 5D or the Rebel 550D.  I chose the Rebel and the 200mm f1.8L, because it gives me longer reach and has a higher ceiling on ISO limit.  Not that the high ISO is very good, but at least I can shoot with a faster speed at high ISO.

As it turned out, the Rebel 550D is better at shooting swimming than the 5D.  Last time I shot swimming with the 5D, it was a disaster.  The focusing tracking is actually quite good with the Rebel, since swimming is relatively slow action, especially for kids.  The problem, of course, are slow frame rate and small buffer.  The 6 frame RAW buffer fills up really fast, and the slow frame per second can't catch the peek moment most of the time.  I really do miss the 1D II/III.  These two, especially the Mark III, can shoot like a machine gun. The 200mm f1.8L is fantastic as usual.  Very fast focusing and is very sharp wide open.  In fact, I shot almost all of the pictures at f1.8.

Gears aside, Dillon and Megan did really well.  They came in either first or second on all individual events, and didn't do as well on team relays.  Big improvements from the last swim meet.  William didn't do as well, but he was one of the youngest swimmer there.

William at the Back Crawl -- Rebel 550D & EF 200mm f1.8 @ f1.8. Larger.

Megan at Breaststroke -- Rebel 550D & EF 200mm f1.8L @ f1.8. Larger.

Dillon on Butterfly -- Rebel 550D & EF 200mm f1.8L @ f1.8. Larger.

First Place -- Rebel 550D & EF 200mm f1.8 @ f1.8.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Omnipresent Vespa Scooters

Vespa Scooter - Canon 5D & Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9 OM. Larger.

The Vespa scooters seem to be everywhere, in all sorts of colours.  Men ride them, but looks like more woman use them.  Very efficient and light on gas, they are perfect for travel within the city.  Electric bikes are also everywhere now, but they don't have the classy look of the Vespa, but then again, it's quieter, requires no license to operate, and much cheaper to buy.  Just don't forget to charge it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Freestyle Soccer

Freestyle soccer -- Canon 5D & EF 135mmf 2.8 Soft Focus.

Went out on lunch time today and saw this guy doing freestyle soccer.  Pretty impressive stuff.  Incidentally, the 135mm f2.8 Soft Focus lens is the least used lens I have.  Used only a few times, because I also have the 135mm f2L which I prefer, but the soft focus feature is pretty unique and hard to duplicate with software.  Not a very well made lens, and uses Arc Form Motor for focus drive instead of USM, but very sharp and reasonably priced in the used market.  Often overlooked by people because of the soft focus feature.  This feature can actually be disabled and the lens can be used like a normal 135mm f2.8 lens.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Letting Go Is Hard to Do

Flower on wired fence - Rebel 550D & Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f3.5 Exktar Mt. Larger.

Let's face it. Most of us are gear lovers. Over time, we would have accumulated all sorts of stuff, whether useful or not. Some of them may not have been used for years, and yet you keep them. Why? Because we all love to acquire stuff. But, there comes a time that you will have to get rid of the least used items, right?

I am a pack-rat and tend to keep stuff even if they are no longer useful. For some reason, I have emotional attachments to many of the things that I have used. Getting rid of them is difficult. On top of that, I always told myself I would use them one day.

Most often, though, we buy stuff not because we need them, or even want them, but because they are cheap! One of the very unfortunate (and fortunate) thing that happened to me was Henry's Outlet Store that used to be on Queen & Church. It happened to be on the street that I pass by on my bike everyday. That store was a junkyard and treasure trove at the same time. Many old, useless stuff, but there are also some old, useless but weird stuff that I kept on buying. Don't underestimate the power of accumulation. Even a few items a week will end up having boxes of them in a couple of years.

Each year, I have a couple of photography yard sales, where I get rid of a lot of stuff, but I always keep a large number of items that I don't want to sell. Sometimes, I do regret selling certain things later on. Lenses of Dallmeyer, Angeneiux, Kern-Paillard, Contax, Takumar, etc., that I wished I still had.

Is this a sickness or disease, that letting go of stuff is so hard to do? I think, for me at least, even though I don't want to admit it, that buying and keeping so much stuff is a sign that I am try to fill the void in my artistic/talents department, when it comes to photography; believing that more or better equipment will help me make better pictures. Of course this is not true at all. Better/more equipment does not a great picture made, hence more and more equipment, and still mediocre pictures.

Sad, really.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bike in the Rain

Bike -- Canon 5D & Steinheil Auto-Quinar 135mm f2.8 Exaktar Mount. Larger.

The Steinheil Auto-Quinar 135mm f2.8 is the reason why I love old lenses so much. This is a real beauty in mint condition. Looks beautiful, made beautiful and optically beautiful. I was not able to use this lens due to its Exaktar mount for a the last three years, because Exaktar to EOS adapters were expensive and most don't support lenses with an arm at the mount. Lens adapters have come down in reasonable prices so I bought one Exaktar to EOS adapter a few weeks ago. It turned out that the adapter was defective. It was so tight that I scraped my 5D while trying to un-mount it. Returned it to the seller, and he sent me another, better one. Still, many Exaktar mount lenses can't focus to infinity, and this is the ONLY one that can!

One day, I am going to write a post about lens adapter mounts.

The problem I have with cheap adapters is that they are not precisely made and so many can't achieve infinity focus as claimed, even with name brand ones like the Japanese made Elefoto Leica to EOS adapter. Another problem is there always seem to be some play after it's mounted on the camera.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Three Is a Crowd

One is lonely -- Canon 550D & Vivitar 55mm f2.8. Enlarge.

Three's a crowd -- Canon Digital Rebel 550D & Vivitar 55mm f2.8 Macro AI Mount.

Funny that the last little while all I was using was Vivitar lenses. I don't use Vivitar lenses much but when I was organizing some of my stuff for the annual photography yard sale, I was very surprised how many Vivitar lenses I have. This is the 4th Vivitar 55mm f2.8 macro lenses I have, so you can see that it's a very common lens. It's a very good lens and can do 1:1 macro, but nothing compares to the Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dillon's First Stop-Motion Video

This stop-motion video used almost 1900 frames. Not bad as a first try, but lots of room for improvement. At this rate, I don't think my G1 will last very long.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tree Trunk

Interesting tree near the UT Campus at Harbord & Spadina -- Canon Digital Rebel 550D & Vivitar 200mm f3.5 AI mount.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Vivitar 35mm f1.9

Vivitar was an innovative company. It designed some of the memorable lenses that destined to be cult classics decades later. They often introduced lenses that no one else has in the market. The 35mm f1.9 and the Series-1 28mm f1.9 arr two examples.

Everyone says the S-1 28mm f1.9 is a very good lens. What about the older 35mm f1.9?

I happen to like the 35mm f1.9. It's a very fast lens in its day, and while everyone made a 35mm f2, Vivitar made it 1/3 faster. Made entirely of glass and metal, this 35mm f1.9 lens is large for this focal length. Heavy and very well made, it puts the Canon 35mm f1.4L to shame, in terms of built quality. It's physically a very long lens at 7.5cm for the Nikon F-mount. In comparison, the Contax 35mm f2.8 is roughly 5 cm. Of course, built quality means nothing if the optical quality is not there. Fortunately, the lens is quite decent in this department too.

One way to judge if someone is insane, is to see how many copies of a particular lens (or any object) he/she has. I have three copies of the Vivitar 35mm f1.9, two Nikon F-mount and one MD mount, so I think I qualify for being insane. But that also shows how much I like this lens, and that it's relatively inexpensive. I got mine before everyone and their grand mother got into manual focus lenses with their DSLRs, so price was very reasonable. All three lenses were made by Komine, one of my favourite manufacturers for Vivitar lenses.

Can you shoot it at f1.9, or is just for shows? Well, even the very best of lenses performs better when stopping down a bit. The Vivitar 35mm f1.9 was not considered an expensive or professional lens when new, but I am surprised that is as good as it is, considering its age. Like so many consumer grade lenses, wide open shows lack of contrast, but holds good details, and is sharp enough to be usable at the center. Some colour fringing with strong back-lit objects, which is quite common as the coating of the older lenses were not as good as they are today. don't feel bad about it, even the very expensive 35mm f1.4L is not immune to colour fringing at wide apertures, and it's pretty easy to remove in post processing. If you shoot people or none reflective subjects, the low contrast may not even be very noticeable. Below is a 100% crop of a picture shot at f1.9:

100% crop at f1.9. Not stellar, but workable -- Canon 550D & Vivitar 35mmf 1.9. Larger.

The lens becomes quite sharp after f4, but softens up after f11 due to diffraction limits. F5.6 and f8 are sweet spots. The micro contrast is not very high to give that biting sharp perception, but it's very acceptable.

Wide angle lenses usually are not great with bokeh, but of course there are exceptions. This Vivitar is average according to my preferences. At wide open, it shows strong double-line affect. Some will find this every objectionable, but stopping down just half a stop will help make it look more natural.

Bokeh at f1.9. Note the strong double-line effect of the rings -- Panasonic G1 & Vivitar 35mm f1.9.

The far edges, on the Canon 550D, becomes reasonably sharp after f8. I am sure it will look worse on full frame. Sometimes, you will forgive the lens' slightly optimal performance because it's so well made and feels so nice in your hands. If you even get hold of one, you will agree that it's one heck of a nicely made lens.

GO Train -- Canon 550D & Vivitar 35mm f1.9.

For more samples, please visit my PBASE gallery.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Day with the Schneider-Kreuznach Edixa-Xenar 50mm f2.8

Last time I wrote about the widely available, but not very reliable Domiplan, I felt that the Domiplan was a workable, if not stellar lens. After I wrote that, I realized that I have quite a few lenses with the Tessar design. The Domiplan being one, the pancake Carl Zeiss Tessar 45mm f2.8 is another, and today I took out the Schneider-Kreuznach Edixa-Xenar 50mm f2.8. I literally used it in the morning, afternoon, and the evening.

The Edixa-Xenar is at the other end of the scale compared to the Domiplan. I don't know if all of them are like that, but my copy has a stepless aperture ring. It's a very well made lens with multi-coated elements in M42 mount. The Domiplan was made in East Germany, and this one made in West Germany. The workmanship is immediately apparent when you look at them side by side.

I am loving this lens. I don't know why I didn't use it more before, possibly because it's a slow lens for a 50mm. It indeed looks unimpressive, but it's optically amazing, for an old lens. On the Digital Rebel 550D, there are no blurry corners. It's sharp in the center as well as the "edges" on non-full frame. What wowed me, like the Schneider DKL lenses, is the colour. This lens produces very saturated colours compared to other lenses. Sometimes the red looks overpowering.

The Edixa-Xenar 50mm f2.8 shows its best strength in overcast lighting. Many lenses will produce dull looking images in dull looking weather, but this one make beautiful colours pop. I am especially taken by its exquisite bokeh. This lens can render very nice out of focus areas, and it handles blown highlights with nice gradual roll-off, instead of dead white.

I think I over-paid for this lens, but the M42 mount is not very common with Schneider lenses, so I bought it. Who knows, it might actually appreciate in value!

White Rose. Walked out the door this morning and see the neighbour's beautiful rose. Embiggen.

On my way to work. Downtown Toronto from the Don Bridge on Queen. Embiggen.

Went out at lunch time and enjoyed some wonderful music and performance. Larger.

This bee was exhausted after some activities with another bee. Larger Picture.

Bokeh -- Reminds me of the Leica-R 90mm f2.8 2-CAM that I had long ago.

Evening shoot near Moss Park. My kids had swimming, and I stayed out and shot pictures. Larger.

Saw roses everywhere today. Love this pink variety. Very nice.

Cyclist Rights?

Ghost Bike to Protest in front of old City Hall -- Canon Digital Rebel 550D & Pentax-M 20mm f4.

A recent court ruling that dropped all charges against former politician Michael Bryant, who hit and killed Darcy Allan Sheppard on August of 2009, sparked an outcry among many cyclists. As you can see from the picture above, a ghost bike has been placed in front of the old Toronto City Hall to protest the ruling. The writing on the piece of paper says "This bike is a reminder that cyclist rights were killed on this spot by the Ontario justice system - May 25, 2010."

As someone who rides a bike to work everyday, including winter days, I have my own experiences on the behaviours of both drivers and cyclists. Some cyclist are very aggressive riders that zoom through open streetcar doors, red lights, between cars, etc, with little safety regard to himself/herself as well as others. Of course, there are car drivers who just should not be driving vehicles at all. They drive their car like they own the road, but most are just careless -- making right turns without signal or checking blind spots, opening car doors without checking for bikes coming from behind, driving too close to the curb without checking bicycles beside them.

My personal view on this matter is that both drivers and cyclists need to be alert and practice restrain. Some courtesy on the road will go a long way toward a safer environment for cyclists and cars alike. Cyclists should obey traffic signs and signals just like cars drivers (should) do. The bicycle lanes on the few Toronto streets help tremendously for safer riding, but they can not be implemented on most streets as they are extremely busy streets or lane reduction to make way for a bike lane is just not possible.

So, take it easy. Be alert. If you bike, wear helmets, and make sure your bike is tuned up and in good shape, especially with good brakes, and have safety flashers for both front and rear. If you drive, look out for cyclists, especially in the winter when you don't expect people to bike. Check your blind spots before making a turn, and look before opening the driver's door.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Greektown in Toronto

Street Lamp -- Canon Digital Rebel 550D & Pentacon 29mm f2.8.

Being a multi-cultural city, Toronto has very diverse regional cultures. We have Chinatwon, Greektown, Indian Basaar, Little Italy, etc. Each is unique and interesting. Greektown is known for the many fabulous restaurants. Each year, "Taste of the Danforth" is hosted in Greektown and people all over the city will come by and savour the many varieties of food and drinks, as well as enjoy the live music and other activities. The 3 day event started in 1994 and gets better each year.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Iris -- Canon 5D & EF 50mm f1.2L @ f1.4.

One of the many varieties of iris. My personal favourite is the blue ones, the one you see in the Van Gogh paintings.