Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ontario Place

Ontario Place in IR -- Canon 20D IR & Pentax-M 20mm f4. Click to see larger

This year has to be the hottest and the most humid year I remember.  As much as I love summer, this weather is driving me crazy.  I am even looking forward to winter if this weather continues!  The good side to this is that sunny days like this are perfect for IR pictures. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Going Wide

More equipment shuffle.  Today I swapped my seldom used Canon 100-400mm f4-5.6L lens for a 16-35mm f2.8 II.  Two extremes.  I find myself not using the very long lenses much, and the wide angle is far more useful to me as a everyday shooting lens.  The Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5 that I have been using is not bad, but has no HSM, and extreme corners are also a bit soft, though on the 1.3x to 1.6x crop bodies, it's actually not bad.  But, it's time for an upgrade.

The 100-400mm is very decent lens.  Sharp enough for most occasions even wide open.  And it's usable with a 1.4x converter and still able to auto focus on 1-series bodies.  I enjoyed the dozen or so times that I used it in the last two years.  The image stablization was more effective than I expected.  The only thing I didn't like it much was the f5.6 maximum aperture in the long end, and the fact that this thing looks intimidating when fully zoomed and with a hood on. I also didn't mind the push-pull zoom either.  The lens was sealed well enough that I haven't noticed any dust inside the lens.

The 16-35mm f2.8 II is the second generation of this bread and butter lens for most pros.  I owned the original version and didn't know how Canon could charge such an insane amount of money for a lens with such bad edges on full frame.  I eventually sold it back to the person whom I bought it from, a year later, and he seemed not to mind the soft edges at all.  The MK II is improved, no doubt, but not to the extend that it could compete with the ungodly sharp Nikon 14-24mm f2.8. What's a Canon user to do?  Switch to Nikon?  For most of us, we just take what Canon offers, unfortunately.  At least most users of this 16-35mm lens seem to be quite happy with it, and I am sure I will be happy with it as well. Time will tell.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kew Beach

Kew Beach -- Canon 1D Mark IIn & EF 135mm f2L. Larger.

One of the things that makes owning a flagship Canon camera is that you can trust it to give you what you expect, especially with the autofocus.  Whenever I use my 1-series camera, with the exception of the short lived (to me) 1D Mark III, I have complete trust in its autofocus system, and that's a liberating feeling.  I can concentrate of capturing the moment instead of worrying about if the picture will be in focus or not.  And, you know the image quality is the best that Canon can produce in that generation of sensor design.  I have never been disappointed with image quality, when you remember its limitations.  The original 1D and 1Ds weren't great at high ISO, but they were clean and near perfect at base ISO. With each generation of sensor design, they only get better.  Remember, I am talking about the 1-Series, not the 7D or T2i, which I wasn't impressed with at all.

So, I am quite happy with the Mark IIn.  It's a very balanced camera and the most reliable. I am sure this will be with me for a couple of years at least, until I can afford a 1D mark IV.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Adam's FM2N

Adam's FM2N -- Taken with 5D II & Canon 24mm T/S lens, ISO 1600. Larger

Was doing some research on the 5D Mark II, which I really want to be my next camera.  After some thought, I have decided to go for the 5D II instead of the 1Ds II.  So I was digging into my archives for some sample pictures I took almost a year ago at the old Henry's Outlet Store with the 5D II.  So far, I am quite happy with the 5D's images at 1600 ISO.  It does not have the muddiness that the 7D and T2i images do at anything over ISO 200.  This re-enforces my decision to get the 5D II.

Anyway, Adam's FM2n is gone.  I am sure he will miss it, and I won't be surprised that he even buys it back later.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Port of Toronto II

Port of Toronto -- Canon 1D Mark IIn & Tamron SP Adpatall II 35-80mm f2.8-3.8. Larger.

I am really surprised how good this lens is.  I don't normally like zoom lenses, especially this kind of awkward focal length on non-full frame cameras.  But, the SP moniker is not just a marketing ploy, at least not with this one.  Besides the very sharp images with good microcontrast when stopped down a bit, one of the cool features of this lens is the very close focusing capabilities, down to 0.27 meters at 80mm, and at a 1:2.5 magnification ratio.  This is almost at the macro territory.  For a lens that costs so little used, it's indeed a bargain.  You do need to look out for loose rubber focusing/zoom grip skins.  I had to replace my rubber grip on the focusing ring with one from another lens.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

DIY Lens Mods

anmol, who has a Navitar 50mm f0.95 lens, had a request to see the lens mount of the JML 50mm f0.95 that I modified to fit the G1 so that it could focus to infinity.  The Navitar is essentially the same lens as the JML. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the lens before the mod.  But I think I would go through how I did it.

JML is an OEM lens maker that designs/manufactures lenses for other companies, but occasionally, you also see their own brand of lenses.  I have the JML 25mm f0.95 and the 50mm f0.95 TV lenses that I purchased from locally. Both are c-mount lenses and the 25mm mounts and focuses to infinity without problem, and is one of my favourite c-mount lenses.  The 50mm f0.95, unfortunately, has a very large mount that it can not be mounted and focused to infinity on my G1.  The good news is that the c-mount itself on the lens is removable, so I decided to sacrifice one of my c-mount adapters and make it semi-permanent.

The first thing to do is to remove the c-mount from the JML 50mm lens.  This is easy as all you need to do is the unscrew the mounting ring which holds the c-mount.

Next thing is a bit more work.  The c-mount to m4/3 adapter needs to be filed down.  Most c-mount adapters are made with two "sections".  One section goes inside the body mount, and the other section basically a handle to hold the mount to be mounted/unmounted.  What needs to be done is to file away the "handle" section so that you will have just a flat, mount piece that you will need to secure to the lens.

This part needs to be done as precisely as possible because if the mount piece is not flat, the image field will not be flat and the pictures will come out half in focus and half out of focus.  If you could get someone with some sort of machine to do this, it's probably worth it.  I just used a Dremel grinder to  remove the "handle" section until it's all gone.  What's left is the flat piece of the mount itself. 

If your adapter was made in two pieces that has screw holes, that's perfect, otherwise you should drill some holes, either to secure the adapter piece by screw, or by glue.  If using glue, the holes will form grips for the adapter piece.  Probably not much, but at least a bit.

The tricky part is how to achieve flatness and securely mount it.  I am not a tools person and my tools are limited.  I also do not want to destroy the lens mount either, so I opted to use glue, Gorilla glue to be precise. I think this is the wrong kind of glue to use because Gorilla glue expands as it hardens, but this was the only one I had at hand.  Before the glue was set, I put some really heavy objects on top of the mount to keep it flat as the glue sets.

One optional step is the mark the mounting position of the adapter before securing it to the lens, so that when mounted, you see the aperture on top instead of sideways or up side down.

Below are few pictures of the mount after it was done.  Click on the pictures to see a larger version.



Shinobi

Shinobi -- Canon 1D Mark IIn & Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron. Larger.

I now realized why I didn't like the 7D & T2i's image quality as much as my older cameras -- the missing details in the images.  Yes, there are 18 mega pixels in the image, but these 18MP images seem to have less details than I am used to see in the 1D Mark II/5D/30D.  At low ISO, the 7D & T2i seem to contain lots of chroma noise in the shadow area, whereas in the previous cameras, like the 1D II, 5D, 30D, etc, it's very clean.  At higher ISO, the 7D & T2i seem to be muddy and lack even more details, no doubt due to the heavy noise reduction. I guess there is a price to be paid for more pixels, which I don't really care for.  Give me D700 pixel quality and resolution, I will be a very happy camper.

I hope Canon will not increase the pixel count for the 5D Mark III.  21MP is more than most sane people will ever need.  Better yet, they should reduce it to 16MP but increase the Dynamic Range and even cleaner images.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Megan

Megan -- 1D Mk IIn & 35mm f1.4L @ f1.6. Click to enlarge

It feels good to have the 1D II back.  The familiar shutter sound, the nice balanced feel in the hand,  and most of all, the split screen.  No matter how good the AF-Confirm chip is on the adapter, it can not compete with an accurate, Canon made cross split screen.  I have found that manual focusing on the 7D is very difficult, for some reason.  Perhaps it's the screen overlay inside the viewfinder that affects the perception of being in-focus; I just couldn't get very good keeper rate for in-focus pictures.  The AF-Confirm chip didn't help much either, but the AF lenses work extremely well. 

I am happy, for now.  It's almost a full frame camera, and I can live with that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to Basics

As much as I love the 7D, I just can't get used to its image quality.  The sensor in this camera (and the T2i) seems to depart from the traditional Canon image sensor characteristics:  very clean and beautiful low ISO quality.  Perhaps I have not used both the 7D long enough, but I keep looking for  quality in previous cameras that I owned.

In any case, I picked up a 1D Mark IIn today.  This is my fourth 1-series body, after the 1D, 1D II, and the 1Ds.  I kept the 1D II longest, and always felt a bit of a regret selling it.  The n version of the 1D II adds a larger 2.5" screen, and picture styles, plus you can now specify RAW to go on one card, and jpeg files go on the other.  Other than that, not much difference from the 1D II.

Perhaps I knew this would happen, either with a 1Ds II or another 1D II/n, as I have kept my Kirk bracket, and the EC-L split screen.  Yes the 1D II is much heavier than the 7D, and the screen is not as nice, but I get wider angle on the same lens, and smaller files, 8 MB vs 25 MB!

Already have a potential buyer for the 7D.  I will probably miss its overall speed and the nice 3 inch screen, but the Mark IIn should keep me happy, for a little while anyway.

Rusty Fence -- Canon 7D & Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron. Click to see larger.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Climate Change

Climate Change -- Canon 7D & Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron. Click for larger

This morning a group of people carrying large signs in the Spadina/Queen area, like the one you see in the picture above.  I have to admit I admire these people, who believe they can make a difference and induce changes.  I think it works, at least to some degree.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reflection

Reflection - Canon 7D & 18-55mm IS Kit Lens. click on picture to see larger.

Somehow after the Drobo fiasco, my spirit has been dampened a bit, and my desire to take pictures is not as enthusiastic as before.  I have been bring my camera to work, but haven't been out shooting at lunch time.  Could it be because I don't like the 7D as much as I thought I would?  I am quite disappointed with the low ISO image quality of the 7D.  Even at base ISO, noise in the shadow area makes me cringe. Why is Canon going backward now?  It was known as the image quality king for many years, and after Nikon has surpass it with the D700/D3/D3x, Canon is now playing the mega pixel game.  Sure it can claim to have highest number of pixels on the pro-sumer level of 18MP, but at what cost?  Give me image quality over pixel count any time!  I am, as with many others are, happy with 12MP of good quality pixels. 

I like everything about the 7D, except the image quality.  Why is there always something that ruins a near perfect camera?

End of ranting.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

CN Tower Viewed from Ontario Place

We bought season passes for the family this year to Ontario place, instead of renewing the Ontario Science Centre membership, as there doesn't seem to be enough new stuff to warrant another year's membership.  In any case, we went to Ontario Place to see the Fireworks last night.  It was fantastic because we were at the front row with no one to obstruct the view.  We watched the fireworks fired from the tanker.  The sound and sight was just awesome! I didn't take any pictures, be recorded the video instead, but took this picture on the way home:

CN Tower at Night -- Canon 7D & EF 35mm f1.4. Click on picture to englarge.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A String of Bad Luck, or QC Going Down the Drain?

My luck, or lack thereof, has been bad, to put it mildly.  First the Drobo fiasco, and then a string of problem with products I have bought.  Is it just me, or the quality control is no longer part of product manufacturing?  I will give two examples.

Let's start with a Leica-R to EOS adapter I bought from a well-known China-based seller, which shall remain nameless, for now.  This is the "premium" adapter that's supposed to be much better than the "normal" ones he sells.  The adapter was about $30US, plus the AF-Confirm chip option of $19, for a total of just under $50US.  It took a while to receive it, but the first time I tried to mount it on my 7D, it wouldn't mount.

It turned out the chip was not glued on properly, AND the pcb was cut at a very sharp angle that it stopped the first signal pin from sliding pass.  Instead, the pin created a "hole" on the pcb (see picture).
 
Click on image to see a larger version

I contacted the seller and he was apologetic, but didn't seem too keen to take  it back.  In any case, I filed the PCB so that the grade is less steep, and it now mounts.  The adapter itself is indeed better, without much play after the lens is mounted.

The other product that I recently ordered, was a "genuine" Canon LP-E6 battery from a Hong Kong seller on eBay, for $29US including shipping.  If this battery is a counterfeit, they have done a great job, from packaging to the actual battery.  I can't tell them apart from the original one that came with the 7D.  In fact, I other than the wording on the battery label, they are identical.  Most LP-E6 compatible batteries on the market can not be charged in the Canon charger and they required their own charger, but this one charged fine.  After only 133 pictures, the battery meter is already showing only 66% left.  The next morning, without taking any more pictures, it's now showing only 60%.  Something doesn't quite add up here.

The original Canon battery that came with my 7D last way longer.  I can shoot 800 pictures before the first block in the battery icon is empty, and it easily lasts for 1500 shots.

Side by Side, the original Canon battery has a serial number on it, while the eBay version does not.  I have written the seller about this, and I will see what he says.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Buying Blind

The EF 28-70mm f2.8L was Canon's flagship lens that was part of many pro's arsenal, until it was replaced by the ever popular 24-70mm f2.8L.  I happened to own this lens three times over the years, but somehow each time it didn't stay with me for very long.  Perhaps it was because on crop bodies, this focal length seems odd.  I received the last copy few days ago that I purchased from an on-line store, as the price was pretty good and the rating was e++, which should have been almost mint.

It turned out to be a disappointment.  First, the shop didn't pack the lens properly.  The lens was moving inside its box, as some packaging material (the lens bag) that was part of the material to keep the lens tight and secured, was missing.  He could at least put some foam inside to keep the lens from moving around.  Secondly, the lens is nowhere near the e++ rating as stated.  Front group of the lens was wobbly (some screws were probably loose inside), the zoom was not smooth and I could see the jerkiness in the viewfinder when zooming.  The hood couldn't be attached securely.  Cosmetically, you can tell this was a pro's lens that was heavily used. 

First picture I took at f2.8 was soft.  I don't remember my other copies were this bad.  Perhaps it needed calibration.  Regardless, I took it out and shot some test samples.  It was a mixed bag.  The lens is not very sharp until f5.6. From f5.6 on, it was very sharp. There is something wrong with the lens.  However, the colour really pops.

The lens was sent back today.

Perhaps, this lens is not meant for me, or I don't deserve it.

 
A bit soft at f2.8 -- Canon 7D & EF 28-70mm f2.8L. Click picture to enlarge.

 
Chinatown -- 7D & EF 28-70mm f2.8L. Click picture to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Parade of Sail

The last time Toronto had a Tall Ship Festival was in 1994.  I happened to be there and was awed by the grand and majestic tall ships.  This year, the Great Lakes United Tall Ship Challenge chose Toronto as one of its ports.  We went to Ontario Place to see the Parade of Sail Finale.  Totally enjoyed it.

Ships and Plane -- Canon 7D & 18-55mm IS kit lens. Larger.

7D & 18-55mm IS kit lens. Larger.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The American Falls

We took the kids to Niagara  Falls for a couple of days.  Despite the dark cloud that hung over my head -- the Drobo failed just before we headed out, we had lots of fun.  Took the package tour of the Niagara Falls: Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Boardwalk, and the 4D movie How the Falls Were Made.  The kids loved it.  The only down side was that everything was expensive in tourist areas, but money well spent.

American Falls -- Canon 7D & Sigma 15-30mm f3.5-4.5. Larger

Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Great News and Big Thank You

First, I would like to thank natebarnz, obakesan , and cobain who left me comments and encouragements for safe data recovery.  It means a lot to me.  And the great news  is that I can now connect to the Drobo again.  It's currently in the rebuild/relayout process, but I can access the data.  As matter of fact, I am copying some of the data off of it while the process is going.  The copying is very slow at around 9MB/s, but it's going.

I want to thank god who answered my prayers.  Somewhere out there, the higher power is watching over me.  I am grateful. 

Tomorrow I am going to buy a 2 TB drive and copy everything over from the Drobo.  I don't feel safe having all the eggs in one basket.

So far everything is looking good.

Friday, July 2, 2010

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Yup.  My worst nightmare has finally materialized.  All three of the one TB drives in my Drobo became unreadable a couple days ago, and it goes with approximately 1.8 Terabytes of pictures I have taken in the last few years.  At this point, I can't even imagine what happens if I can not recover the data.  It just makes my head spin.

The last time it happened, I lost about 250 GB of pictures and so I made some planning to have some sort of data redundancy, but obviously, redundancy within the same device is not good enough.  Right now, I am not sure if the problem is with the Drobo itself, or the discs themselves.  I am keeping my fingers closed that it's the Drobo and not the hard drives.

Until I can get my pictures back, I will most likely not going to do much picture taking, and this blog most likely will not be updated.  I pray to god that the data in the hard drives will be fine.  I can get another Drobo enclosure if it turns out the be the problem.

So, thanks for all of you who read my blog.  It was great fun while it lasted, but I am just not in any mood to take any pictures, or update this blog.  Hopefully, the ending will be a happy one and I will resume my photography hobby. 

Until then, so long, and thanks for all the fish.