Friday, July 29, 2011

More Exaktar Mount Lenses

Park Benches -- NEX-5 & Enna Werk Lithagon 35mm f3.5. Click for larger.

While cleaning out the lenses for my annual yard sale, I unearthed three more Exaktar lenses that went missing since the last time I used them on the Canon Rebel T2i: Enna Lithagon 35mm f3.5, Lithangon 35mm f4.5, Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135mm f4.  Tried out the Lithagon 35mm f3.5 and found that it seems to perform slightly better than on the T2i, but it's nothing really exciting.  Never really did like the Enna lenses.  To me, they are like the cheap third party Japanese lenses.  They do make pictures, but the optical quality is just so so.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

First Outting with the 1D Mark III

Butterfly -- 1D III & EF 100mm f2.8L Macro. Click for larger

Took out the 1D III for the first time since I bought it few weeks ago. Other than a few dozen test shots, I didn't really use the camera at all for real shooting. Took along the 100mm f2.8L macro lens. Very happy to say that the focus has been very good, though I still have not done too much testing with Servo (tracking) AF. Hopefully it will be as good as one-shot.

One thing I have noticed is that the exposure is not as accurate as the EVIL cameras or when the pictures are shot in live-view on the 1D III. They tend to over-expose. I guess this has been an issue before, just never thought about it since I have pretty much shot with the NEX exclusively for the last eight months.

On the Sony EVIL note, just read the Sonyalpha rumor that the NEX-7 has a 3-million pixel OLED viewfinder! Unfortunately, the sensor pixel count has increased to 24MP, which means the RAW files will be around 30-35MB or more. Just imagine, my first hard drive was 20MB RLL drive. It would not even hold one RAW NEX-5 file today. How technology has advanced.  But, I am looking forward to the NEX-7 to replace my much loved NEX-5.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Slacking Off

Trike on Queen -- NEX-5 & Mamiya-Sekor 55mm f1.4.

Since I started building my first bicycle with Dillon, I have spent way too much time on bicycles.  We built another one for Dillon, also a single speed, on a cheap Norco frame, but he likes it.  Meanwhile, I got rid of my Marin Larkspur and the De Vinci Olso hybrids that I have had for a few years.  They are good bikes but I just hate to clean chains, cranks, brakes, etc, after the rain or snow.  With a single speed bike, I have much less to worry about.

On Saturday, I bought a used 2009 model Jamis Sputnik track bike (single speed/fixed gear).  Very light with carbon fiber fork.  Easy to ride with comfortable gear ratio.  I tested it out with the one I built, which has a very high gear ratio as that's the ratio I normal ride with my other bikes.  The carbon fiber fork feels a bit weird on bumpy rides when it flexes.  The Sputnik is so light that I could ride it at a very fast speed with hardly any effort.  But, I preferred my cheap bike.  It's heavier, but more balanced.  The steel frame and forks are solid and hardly makes a noise going over bumps, and I could go really fast without peddling like mad.  For long distance ride, though, the Sputnik wins.  For my riding distance, which is 6 KM one way, I preferred my cheaper bike.  Gives me a better workout.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Triumph -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4. Click for larger.

I find motorcycles fascinating as no doubt you see many motorcycle pictures in this blog space.  But, I don't have a motorcycle license and probably will never ride one.  That does not stop me from liking them, of course.

Just today I saw a beautiful Victory Vegas Jackpot cruised by as I was driving home.  I have never seen a more interestingly designed motorcycle.  It definitely has characters, just like the names of some of the Victory motorcycles.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

M42 - The Not Quite Universal Universal Mount

Fence -- NEX-5 & Mamiya-Sekor 55mm f1.4 @ f1.4. Click for larger.

The M42 mount was (and still is) an open mount.  Anyone can use it without paying a licensing fee.  That's one of the reasons it was called a universal mount.  Some of the old third party M42 lenses may bear a letter U near the mount/aperture ring to indicate that the lens is a universal mount.  The original M42 mount was a very simple mount without any sort of automation features.  Later on, open-aperture metering was added to many of the M42 mount camera bodies.  There is one very serious flaw with the M42 mount: there is no locking mechanism. The lens is simply screwed on the body, as opposed to most of today's bayonet mount where the lens is locked in place.

At least two manufacturers, Fuji Film and Mamiya, modified the M42 mount on their cameras to include a locking feature.  Unfortunately, this meant that the lens mount had to be modified as well.  For this reason, Fujica and Mamiya Sekor lenses can not be mount properly on other manufactures' M42 cameras.  For the Fujica, the lens can not be mounted flush on other's M42 mounts, and for the Mamiya, it would be too tight and thus affect the aperture ring when used on other's M42 bodies.  So, today, these lenses are not really usable without some filing on the lens.  Fortunately, it's pretty easy to do on both Fujica and Mamiya lenses.

Another small annoyance is that there is no A/M (auto, manual) switch on the Fujica and Mamiya lenses.  You would need a special M42 adapter that pushes the aperture pin in order to control the aperture manually.  Luckily, most M42 mounts these days has this feature, BUT, this creates another problem: some larger aperture lenses with protruding rear elements are not compatible with this mount adapter, such as the S-M-C Takumar 50mm f1.4.  So, beware.

Man and the Graffiti -- NEX-5 & Mamiya Sekor 55mm f1.4. Click for larger.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Mobile Store

Mobile Store -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f2.8. Click for larger.

If you live or work downtown, you probably have seen this colourful trolley full of flags, t-shirts, hats, etc.  This man has been doing this for many years and you often see it in the tourist areas, like outside of the Eaton Centre, Union Station, or wherever there is an event with large number of people attending.  He stores his trolley right next to the Urbane Cyclist when not going about.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tiger Lily with Steinheil Quinar 135mm f2.8

Tiger Lily -- NEX-5 & Steinheil Quinar 135mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Click for larger.

The Steinheil 135mm f2.8 Quinar is by far the most beautiful looking lens I have.  It truly is an object of art.  The chrome finish still looks almost like new after so many years.  It's a lens that screams quality, both in your hand and in your eye.  Fortunately, its gorgeous looks is complimented by excellent optics.  From wide open, the pictures are rendered pleasingly with very smooth tones.  It's also has one of the nicest bokeh from the lenses I own.  This lens was built with portraiture in mind, and although I haven't shot any portraits yet, I believe they will be stunning.

More pictures in the next few days.

Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35mm f2.8 -- Revisited

Leaf -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f2.8. Click to see larger.

The last time I used a Flektogon 35mm f2.8 was four years ago, and it was an M42 mount.  Not really sure why I sold it.  Must be running out of money for new toys.  A while ago I picked up an Exaktar version of the same lens, complete with box, for a really low price.  Just got my Exaktar to NEX adapter last Friday and finally got a chance to use the lens.

The Flektogon 35mm has two versions: an f2.8 and a newer f2.4.  Both versions have one outstanding close focus capabilities to 0.18 meters!  Another related neat feature is that as you focus closer and closer, the maximum aperture scale changes to indicate lost of light (but the actual aperture blades don't close down!) when near closes minimum focus distance.  Neat!

I find the lens to be just OK for distant scenes.  It's quite sharp but not outstanding.  What I love most is the close up capabilities and the image rendering characteristics.   Very pleasing bokeh with nice light transitions.  The Flektogon f2.4 is optically better.  If you are looking for a 35mm Flektogon, buy the f2.4 version if you could.  The f2.4 version I once owned had lots of mechanical problems, so be sure to check out everything before buying.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Exaktar-NEX Adapter Has Arrived

Bikes -- NEX-5 & Rollei QBM 50mm f1.8 Planar. Click for larger.

Received my long waited Exaktar to NEX adapter on Friday, but haven't really gotten a chance to use it yet.  I order this adapter early June.  When it arrived from Hong Kong, Canada Post workers were on strike and the it was returned to the seller.  The seller was kind enough to resend the adapter without charging me postage.  I only mounted the Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f2.8 on it, but it's very tight.  Need to find my other Exaktar lenses and see they are all tight like that or not.  Next week will likely be a week of Exaktar mount lenses.

Strange 1D Mark III Phenomena with Manual Focus Lenses

I have never encountered this before, with any camera -- when I use manual focus lenses on the 1D III, focus shifts!  I even installed the EC-L cross-split screen on it, and the lines all lined up perfectly which should indicate correct focus.  But, it does not.  It back-focused.  Tried this with a few different lenses so it's not the lenses.

The strange thing is that it's not constant.  Sometimes better, sometimes worse.  And, my auto focus lenses all work more or less perfectly!

If you have encountered this problem, and know why it's happening, I would appreciate hearing from  you.  I am not really upset, since I won't be using manual focus lenses much on the 1D III, but I am a bit disappointed.

Red on Red -- NEX-5 & Rollei QBM 50mm f1.8. Click for larger.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily -- NEX-5 & Rollei QBM Mount Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 @ f2.

Some lenses, although I don't use often, but always seem to be at the back of my head.  I am reminded of them once in a while to take them out and make some pictures with them.  This Rollei Mount Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar is one of those lenses.  It's supremely sharp and renders pictures beautifully with nice details.  The problem is of course, that I have too many lenses in this focal length.  But, every time I use it, it never disappoints me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Red Door #2

Red Door -- NEX-5 & Minolta MC Rokkor 58mm f1.2.

There is something about larger aperture lenses that make people want to have it.  Let's face it, for the f1.2 lens, the 1/3 of a stop brighter than the f1.4 lens is not a huge deal to be practically different, but the price is usually two to three times more than the f1.4 lens.  I guess there is a certain pride in owning a fast lens that most people would not consider, due to much higher price, so they are less common.  And, to some degree, that 1/3 of a stop of light may actually help nail that picture in low light.

Whatever the reason, fast lenses fascinate people.  But, for pictures like the above, any 50mm f2.8 or even 50mm f4 lens will do just fine.  This kind of picture does not show off the capabilities of fast lenses.  They do best in low light and very shallow depth of field type of photography.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So Far, So Good

Flower Pot -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2L @ f2. 

I have't really tested all focus modes of the Mark III, but for the little tests that I have done, so far it seems at least on par with my 1D IIn, in terms of focusing accuracy.  The Mark III has a slightly larger buffer and everything seem a bit more responsive.  Just love the files from this camera.  Very clean.  In truth, there isn't much difference in image quality between the 1D IIn and the 1D III up to ISO 400, but at higher ISO, the Mark III is at least a stop better.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gear Shifted

Green -- NEX-5 & Takumar SMC 28mm f3.5. Click for larger.

I have done it.  Today I picked up a used, but mint condition 1D Mark III that's out of the sub mirror repair range.  One thing I noticed immediately, is how bad the 3" LCD screen compared to the NEX-5.  When I first got in 2009, it wasn't so bad because I didn't have any camera that had a better screen, but it definitely looks terrible next to the NEX-5.  Everything else though, I like it.  Very clean and nice files; good size RAW files, and everything is so responsive.  One of the things I could not get used to on the NEX-5, is how slow it is to turn out from sleep mode, and how slow it is respond to the enlarge button on review.

This minor upgrade to replace my 1D IIn, which I am already putting up for sale on Craigslist, hopefully will last at least three to five years.  I simply run out of money to upgrade to anything else for the next while :)

My finger is crossed that this camera will not give me any problems, or I will be banging my head, over and over.

Seeing Blue

Blue -- NEX-5 & Schneider-Kreuznach 75mm f4 Enlarging Lens. Click for larger.

Removed this enlarging lens from its Yashica 50mm f1.9 lens barrel, and made it part of the focus helicoid system I made.  Schneider enlarging lenses are some of the sharpest lenses I have used.  They are still very cheap right now and they do work perfectly with the NEX system,  even with 50mm focal length, they can focus to infinity with a thin focusing helicoid.

The 49mm, 52mm and 55mm reversing ring for NEX have arrived.  These are made of aluminum but fit the NEX E-mount perfectly with no play at all.  I am planing to replace the c-mount adapter I used for my helicoid with one of these reversing rings.  The reason is that the opening of the c-mount adapter is very small and thus for some long lenses, you can actually see vignetting.  Of cause, you can  use these rings to mount lenses in reverse to give you macro capabilities with very high magnifications.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Start of a New Hobby?

Last week I decided that my oldest son Dillon should have something to do this summer and we decided that we should put together our own bike.  Just for the experience and see how hard it would be.  So I picked up an ugly burgundy colored frame with the Orions brand, which i heard was a cheap brand, and a bunch of other bike parts so that we could get started.  The picture below shows the original frame:

Bike frame with yellow rear wheel -- NEX-5 & Olympus OM 24mm f2.8.

Orions is the brand -- NEX-5 & OM 24mm f2.8.

Dillon and I took out the rusted chain, and I removed the paint on the frame.  The frame is made of steel by the way.  The paint removal took almost two days, since I didn't use any tools or chemicals other than a blade.
Once the paint was removed and the frame polished, I sprayed a coat of primer on, and then glossy black paint, follow by a clear coat which makes the paint shiny.

The rear wheel came with a flip-flop hub with both a fixie cog and a single speed freewheel installed.  Unfortunately, I could not get the front wheel in the same yellow color as the rear. Instead, the front wheel is red. But, they don't look too bad together with a black frame.  This is one of the problems buying parts used. Parts don't always come in matching sets.  The crankset, which was originally used on a 10 speed, is used only with the inner chainring.  It would have been nice to get a single speed crankset, but one costs about $60 new, which does not even include the bottom bracket.

Chain, brakes and some misc. stuff came from Mountain Equipment Co-Op.  Today, we finished up the handlebar tapes, and the bike looks pretty good.  I have been riding it to work for the last few days and really enjoy it.  It took far less time than we anticipated.  We are planning to do another for Dillon, as I am keeping this one :)

Finished. Note the ugly crankset -- NEX-5 & OM 35mm f2.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why I Want to Try the 1D Mark III Again?

Going to school -- 1D Mark III & EF 135mm f2 @ f2.2, ISO 400. Click for larger.

My original plan, back in 2009, was to buy a 1D III, which was to be my only Canon body for any serious shooting, and a smaller carry everywhere camera (Panasonic G1), plus an IR camera, and I would be set for the next few years.  The 1.3X crop view of the 1D III is close enough to full frame that I was willing to compromise.  Alas, the AF fiasco of the 1D III threw everything off-course, and consequently I went through so many camera bodies in such a short time.

Looking back at the images taken with the 1D III ignites the love side of it in me.  The clarity and noise free (<= ISO 400) images that the T2i, T3i, 7D, 60D, G1, NEX-5 etc, can not match, and it's lighter than the 1D IIn.  So, I am trying this again: 1D III, NEX-5 (and G1), IR 20D and I think I should be good for a couple of years, barring any really good EVIL camera that comes out with compelling features that I must have.  I hope that the 1D III that I am going to get will not give me any problems.  As for full frame, perhaps a used 5D II or a 1Ds II in a couple of years.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Change of Plan

Making phone calls -- NEX-5 & OM 35mm f2. Click for larger.

I have decided not to do any more lens comparisons for the next little while.  I find it extremely boring and tedious. My apologies. If I do decide to do it again, it would be once in a while.

Another change of plan, is the camera upgrades.  I have wanted a 5D II for over a year now, and it looks like the price is not coming down.  I have decided to upgrade my 1D IIn to a 1D III instead.  Looking back at the files I have with the original 1D III I had, I am very happy with the image quality, especially high ISO images.  ISO 3200 looks fantastic and that's probably the highest I would need for most shootings.  I would have kept the 1D III if it were not for the auto focus issues.  I am now looking for one that has a sub-mirror fixed in the factory, or Blue-Dot version of the camera.  Hopefully by the end of the week, I will have a 1D III again.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Self Portrait

Self Portrait - NEX-5 & Olympus OM 24mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Despite the fact that there is fungus growing in the rear elements, this OM 24mm f2.8 is great. Small in size but not in performance.  Very happy with it, although I would still like to have the fungus cleaned if I could get it done cheaply.

The Fabulous OM 35mm f2

Seeds -- NEX-5 & Olympus OM 35mm f2 @ f2. Click to enlarge.

Adam and I swap our 35mm f2 lenses this week.  My Pentax SMC 35mm f2 for his OM 35mm f2.  Both lenses are in great shape with original articles.  I didn't use the SMC 35mm f2 much, other than at the time when I got it.  It a pretty good lens, even on full frame (used it on my 1Ds), but I always seemed to be using the Leica-R35mm f2.  I also bought a fungus-growing OM 24mm f2.8 from him at the same time, which I briefly used in Niagara Falls yesterday and today, and it sure looked impressive, even with some fungus on the rear elements.  But, that's for later.

When I saw that Adam was looking for swapping his OM 35mm f2 for an Takumar 35mm f2, I wanted to try the OM.  Olympus, like Pentax, made nice, beautifully small and optically excellent lenses.  I had a 100mm f2.8 before, it was sharp as heck.  I wanted to try their wide angle lens.  I am not disappointed with both the 35mm f2 and 24mm f2.8.  Both lenses work fabulously.  I especially like the 35mm.  It's very sharp at f2.  Will update this lens when I use it more.

Falls View Casino - NEX-5 & OM 35mm f2 @ f8.