Thursday, March 31, 2011

Glass Buildings

Glass Buildings -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 5.8cm f2.0

I have two working Biotars.  This particular one is small with a red T. Not really sure what it signifies, but it's significantly smaller than the other export version which simply says Aus Jena B 58mm f2.0.  I like the Aus Jena too.  Very sweet bokeh and both are very sharp when stopped down a little.  It just boggles my mind that these 30-40 year old lenses still performs so wonderfully today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Saga Continues

News flash -- Shop owners at the south east corner of Spadina & Dundas reported that a suspicious man was seen taking pictures outside of a gift shop, three days in a row around noon. They were quoted as saying this man used a weird looking picture taking device, oblivious to strange stares from passersby and took pictures of nicknacks from different angles.  The giftshop owner said that "this weird fellow used some kind of strange contraption to photograph my stuff.  That thing looks revolting!"  No arrest has been made, but shop owners are debating whether or not to call the authorities before something worse happens.

OK, jokes aside, I did another test today at the same place.  I was a little apprehensive going to the same place again, but you got to do what you got to do!  Today it's the Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4 QBM vs. EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8.

Colour differences aside, it's tough to see much difference in sharpness, although the EL-Nikkor still wins wide open, against the Planar two stops down, in terms of absolute sharpness.  It's a very close call though.  Unless you look at them at 100%, you won't find differences in sharpness.  I do prefer the Planar's way of rendering the picture more.

EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Click to see larger.

Rollei QBM Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4 @ f2.8. Click to see larger.

Pixel Peeping at 100%.  click to see 100% crop.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Victim of Desperate Measures

Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2 on NEX

Few years ago, when EVIL cameras were still in the labs, I was having a hard time trying to get some of the lenses to be used on the Canon DSLRs.  Many of them were destroyed in the process, and some of the them were half dead, and this particular one, the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 5.8cm f2 had it's mounted cut away, in an attempt to mount it on the Canon and have infinity focus.  Needless to say, I never succeeded.  But, the NEX with the focus helicoid saves the day, again.

Butt gone -- Operation went bad

I went out at lunch time again today with the newly mounted Biotar, to the same place where I took the picture in my last blog entry, in an attempt to photograph the same thing.  It didn't turn out the way I wanted, although I did take some similar pictures.  The few I took at f2.8 did not have the focus point where it should, therefore can't really be compared.  Below is one taken at f2 wide open.  With a bit of sharpening, and resized, it's actually quite nice.  There is no surprise that the Biotar has a nicer bokeh.  This picture was taken closer than the EL-Nikkor.  The original lens' focusing ring, plus the focusing helicoid which makes the lens able to focus much closer than other 50mm lenses, but it does seem to have a smaller magnification ratio than the EL-Nikkor.

Double Happiness -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss Biotar 5.8cm f2 @ f2. Click to see larger.

Finally, I took a 100% crop of a pictures taken at f2.8 from the Biotar, to the pictures taken yesterday by the EL-Nikkor, also at f2.8.  Note that these two pictures were taken at different dates, and under different conditions and both hand held.  So it's not scientific in anyway, but I think you can see the difference.  The Biotar is one stop down from maximum, while the EL-Nikkor is wide open.  I will put both lenses on tripod and try again later on.

Sharpness compared.  Click to see the original 100% crop.

 The slightly less sharp Biotar does not make it any less a lens, though.  Sharpness is not everything.  The EL-Nikkor is very contrasty, typical of Nikon lenses, just more so with this lens.  The two lenses produce pictures with very different emotions.  But, the Biotar can be very sharp from f4 on.

Playground -- NEX-5 & Biotar 5.8cm f2 @ f5.6 or f8. click to see larger.

Monday, March 28, 2011

EL-Nikkor Supremo 50mm f2.8 Enlarging Lens

EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 on focusing helicoid. Click to see larger.

Many people, including yours truly, have been trying to make this lens focus to infinity on DSLRs, but without much luck, until the NEX, of course.  After acquiring the focusing helicoid, I find so many uses for it.  All those lenses that could not be used before suddenly are given a new life!

I mounted the EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 enlarging lens on the 17-32mm helicoid, through a 52mm filter ring.  Works perfectly, and actually focuses past infinity.  In case you are not aware, the EL-50mm f2.8 is a very highly regarded lens.  Truly flat field with excellent sharpness from corner to corner.  The best feature, of course, is its very fast maximum aperture of f2.8.  Don't laugh, f2.8 is very bright for enlarging lenses.  Most of them have maximum apertures of f4 to f5.6 or even smaller.  You can actually use this lens as a normal 50mm lens, except it's sharper than most 50mm lenses, especially at close range.  If you have an NEX camera and like to tinker with enlarging lenses, grab one from eBay.  It's still El Cheapo in price, but what you get in return in optical quality is unequaled.

Double Happiness -- NEX-5 & EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 @ F2.8. Click to see larger.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Last Camera Show at Thornhill Community Center

Today marked the last camera show at the Thornhill Community Center.  This show has been running for more than a decade.  For whatever reason, the community center no longer allows this show to continue, which really is too bad, as it's accessible and lots of parking spaces.

I picked up a few pieces of old stuff, as usual.  Struck a good deal for a Flectogon 35mm f2.8 in Exakta mount for $10.  I had this lens in M42 mount before and it's a good performer.  This lens has a quite a following.  One notable features of this lens is its extremely close focusing capability.  It can be used as a macro lens as it focuses as close as 0.18 meters, or 0.6 ft.  Lens is in excellent condition complete with original box.  I have a few lenses in Exakta mount, but don't have an adapter for the NEX.  The adapters I have for EOS are not very good. None of them allow the lenses to focus to infinity.

Another goodie I picked up is the Fuji 75mm f1.8 c-mount lens for a very good price of $30.  These days, anything that has a c-mount has become very expensive.  Very surprised to find that there is no vignetting on the NEX-5.  Even the corners are acceptable when stopped down to around f11.  Sharp as a knife, and beautifully built.  All metal barrel with large aperture and focusing rings, making it very easy to use.  Took a few shots with it, and already like it a lot. Only complain is its relatively long minimum focusing distance.

Other bits and pieces picked up at the show includes a Vivitar 24mm f2 in Canon FD mount.  Already has a Nikon mount of this lens, both are built by Komine (serial #22), as well as Kiron version in OM mount.  Only reason I bought it because it's cheap and in such great condition.  This reason is primarily responsible for so many lenses I have, and often with duplicates.  Buy them because I think they are cheap!  Other stuff I picked up are Takumar SMC 50mm f1.4, SMC-A 50mm f1.7 and an EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 enlarging lens -- all because they are cheap :)  Buying too much cheap stuff can really bankrupt you!

Bikes -- NEX-5 & Fuji 75mm f1.8 @ f2.8 or f4. Click to enlarge.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Choosing a 50mm Manual Focus Lens

The sound gallery asked me if I were looking for my first 50mm manual focus lens, which one I would choose.  This seemingly easy question is actually tough to answer.

Back in the 70s and 80s, when an SRL was purchased, it invariably came with a 50mm lens.  Some will choose a 50mm f1.4, as an upgrade to the f1.7/1.8/1.9/2.0 lens that normally would come with the camera.  There is a good reason for this.  The 50mm lens has a field of view similar to that of the human eye vision.  It is much easier to compose and use than say, a 28mm wide angle, not to mention the usually fast aperture, which made it usable even in very dim lights.  In other words, the 50mm lens is a very versatile lens.  This hold true today.
But which 50mm lens would one get?  I don't think anyone can answer that question, because there are literally hundreds of different ones made by so many manufacturers, and they cost anywhere from five to thousands of dollars.  For NEX users, the choice is even broader, simply because you can mount more lenses on it than any other interchangeable lens cameras out there.  

Even though I can't recommend a specific 50mm lens, if this is the first time you are trying out a manual focus lens on digital camera, I would suggest starting with something cheap.  Cheap in price, but not in performance. This allows you to try it and see how you like focusing manually.  Really, manual focus lenses is not for everyone.

What manual focus lenses are still cheap in price?  My favourites are Canon FD and Minolta SR/MD mount lenses.  Often the Canon FD 50mm f1.8 can be had for around $10.  I tried a New FD version and it was optically excellent.  Optically equivalent to the EF 50mm f1.8 II, if not better.  The other good choice is the Minolta Rokkor 50mm f1.7.  This lens is often overlooked but optically it compares well with the modern equivalent.  Other low price but good chooses are lenses from Konica KR, Olympus OM, and of course the supremely well made Pentax Takumars. If you don't like stuff made in the east, there are low priced Pentacons, Meyer-Optiks, Carl Zeiss you can also try, mostly in M42 mount.

The danger here is that once you tried manual focus lenses, you may get hooked and even addicted.  Yours truly is a deeply addicted 50mm ( specifically 40-60mm) lens user.  No amount of auto focus lenses treatments has any effect on the condition.  Even extreme treatments with the L formulation did not help much.  Below is a snapshot of the a collection taken two years ago.

Fabulous Fifties. Click to see larger.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chinatown -- NEX-5 & Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8. Click to see larger.

Just when I thought winter was done and over, we had a mini snow storm yesterday.  Luckily, the temperature was warm enough to melt most of the snow already.  I normally do not mind snow, but this year we seem to have excessive amount of it.  Hopefully, this will be the last snow fall until winter again.

After using the Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8 a few times, I think it's a fabulous lens.  It's cheap enough that I don't worry much about taking care of it, but it's optically wonderful.  Some purple fringing at wide apertures, but then again my 85mm f1.2L is even worse wide open.  It really is a great value for the money.  Wish it works on full frame but it would hit the mirror at infinity, even on my 1D IIn.  It does work perfectly on 1.6x crop cameras at infinity.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hey Lucy

Hey Lucy -- NEX-5 & Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8 @ f1.8.

This lens reminds me of the Contax Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.7.  Both are very sharp wide open and extremely sharp stopped down just a tad.  The colours are nice too.  However, the price of the Rollei version is an order of a magnitude lower than the Contax version, mostly because the Contax 50mm f1.7 can be used on the Canon bodies without much trouble, but not so with the Rollei 50mm f1.8.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How to Adjust Infinity Focus on Rollei HFT 50mm f1.8 QBM

For some very strange reason, some lenses I have vary greatly in infinity focus.  My Leica lenses as well as the Rollei lenses are prime examples. I wasn't sure if the variation was from factory or from usage, but after I looked at the Rollei HFT 50mm f1.8 Planar, I think it's from usage.  Fortunately, it's easy to adjust infinity on this particular lens.

Rollie Planar 50mm f1.8, a nice and inexpensive lens.

Instructions to adjust infinity focus:

1.  Turn the lens to the minimum focusing distance.  This makes the front element extend.  Grab and turn the front of the extended part of the lens.  Keep turning counterclockwise until it comes off:

Name ring comes off by just turning it counterclockwise.

2. Before you go on, focus the lens to infinity.  Note that there are three screws that secures the focusing ring.  These screws are marked in yellow circles below.  Remove them using a small bladed screw driver:

Unscrew the marked screws.

3.  Once the screws come off, remove the circular metal plate, and the focusing ring.  Be sure not to lose the three screws:

Screws came off and focusing ring and metal plate removed.

4.  Mount the lens on a digital camera to calibrate infinity focus.  It's best to use an EVIL camera or a camera with liveview.  Set the aperture to maximum (f1.8).  Focus adjustment is done by turning the lens element a little bit at a time either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on whether the lens is unable to obtain infinity focus, or it focuses past infinity.  Turn on the camera and pick an object you know is far enough to be considered at infinity, using a small screw driver and insert it on one of the holes on the lens (marked in yellow circle).  Be sure to turn just a little at a time:

Using a small screw driver, insert it into one of the holes and turn slowly until you obtain infinity focus.

5.  Once you get infinity focus, remove screw driver and do not move the focusing mechanism.  Remove lens from camera, and put the focusing ring back on.  Turn the focusing ring until infinity mark is lined up at the mark:

Make sure focusing ring is at infinity.

6.  Put the circular metal plate back on, and partially screw in the screws.  Do not tighten the screws until all of them are partially in. This allows you to adjust the metal plate to make sure it is centered.  Now tighten all the screws.

7.  Screw the name ring back on and you are done.

Now I need to figure out how to do this with the Distagon 35mm f2.8, which also could not focus to infinity.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Graffiti on the Rail Bridge

Graffiti -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss 60mm f2.8 Makro S-Planar. Click for larger size.

Dillon and I rode the same path up Don River and went quite a bit further today.  We did about 20 KM on the bike path.  It was a little too much for Dillon, as he has not been riding his bike for a while, but we did enjoy it.

This picture is of the same rail bridge from the IR pictures in the last post.  It's a more close up version.  As you can see, kids will not miss any opportunity to "express" themselves.  I am not against graffiti and some of them are quite tasteful, as long as they are not in inappropriate places.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rail Bridge in Infrared

Rail Bridge -- Canon 20D IR Modified. Click for larger.

The last time we rode the bike up the Don River bike path was a few years ago.  It was a nice ride in the summer.  Dillon, Ryan and I decided to take the same path again today.  The scene was very different from the last time, being in the winter  Because it was a weekday, the path was very light with only a few fellow bikers here and there.  Too bad we didn't go all the way but far enough for a good ride.

ILEX 3 INCH (80mm) f1.3 Oscillo-Paragon In the Wild

If you have ever tried this lens, you know it won't win any awards for optical excellence, despite its very fast aperture of f1.3.  In fact, this lens was designed to photograph oscilloscope traces at close distance.  In other words, a  lens optimized as a close focus lens (1:2 ratio).  The alluring aspect of such a lens, is no doubt its fast aperture of f1.3 at 80mm.  This is an irresistible for lens junkies who like to use anything that bends light to make pictures.

I am happy to report that the rear thread size of the lens is 52mm.  Don't you love it when manufacturers make things with standard sizes?  Of course, the focusing helicoid I just got has an opening of 52mm.  Pure luck, you might say.  It does need one 52mm filter ring (without glass) as an extension (spacer) so that the lens does not overly focus past infinity.  Once it was attached to the focusing helicoid, I took it out for a spin.

It looks butt ugly. It looks like an alien specimen escaped from a lab, in no small part due to the #3 shutter between the front & rear elements.  But, beauty is only skin deep, no?  Who cares how ugly it looks, as long as it takes pictures, right?

Hopefully you didn't pay through your nose for one of this, and hoping that you have something close to the EF 85mm f1.2L, because you hardly get any contrast out of this ugly beast before f2.8.  At full aperture, it can be used as a soft focus lens, without any special filters.  I have posted a couple of them previously in this blog.  I find that at f2, it actually quite nice as a portrait lens.  It starts to look very sharp and much improved contrast from f4 on.  Between f8 and f16, the lens is decently, not not really, that sharp.  If you have very strong lights, the lens tends to be unusable at f1.3, but is very nice as for low light portrait at close range.  Yes, at infinity, the sharpness is nothing to write home about, as its design was optimized for close focusing.

Did I mention how ugly the bokeh is?  Sorry  if I didn't.  It's not a lens you want to take pictures that emphasize great background blur.  The bokeh will simply destroy the pictures.

Oh, despite being a medium format lens, the edges on this lens is simply horrific on the NEX, even when stopped down significantly.

That does not mean it's a useless lens, quite the contrary.  It's immensely fun to use.  You can scare kids with this lens, and make grown ups say "What the hell..." when they see it.  When used within limits, it renders some unique pictures that other lenses have a hard time to achieve.  To me, the usable aperture is between f1.3 and f4.  That's where it shows its strong signatures in pictures.  In fact, f2 and f2.8 is my most used aperture.  I would imagine it being a unique portrait lens.

Trees -- NEX-5 & Ilex 80mm f1.3 @ f2. Click to see larger.

Shell -- NEX-5 & Ilex 80mm f1.3 @ f1.3

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bicycle Bell

Bell - NEX-5 & Contax Carl Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro. Click to see larger

The weather is getting warmer so I went out briefly on my lunch break and took a few shots.  It's interesting that after trying out so many different lenses, there seems to be only a few that I always like to use.  This Contax/Yashica mount S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro is one of them.  Unbelievably sharp lens, and is built like a tank.  Gives 1:1 macro but doubles as a nice, albeit slow, normal lens.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gooderham Flatiron in the Mist

Gooderham Flatiron Building -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2.

Found out the this lens has a de-centering problem.  1/3 of the frame is blurry.  Not sure if it's the lens, or all the adapters/rings put on it.  I have a feeling when gluing on the adapter ring on the back, it was not perfectly flat.  Will see if I can remove it and re-glue it.  Other than this, I am very happy with the lens.

Yet Another Swim Meet

On Saturday we went to the kid's swim meet in the Matty Eckler Community Center. Our Jimmy Simpson Dolphins team saw a huge improvement this time over the last meet.  I am especially happy to see Megan won first place for all the events she entered for her age group, including the two team relay events.  Another team member, Jack, also won all first place for the events he entered.  Even William won first place for one of the events.  The hard work of the whole team has paid off.  Couches Beth and Mathew should be very proud.  

I tried the video on the NEX-5 for William's events, who competed in the morning.  The video files are significantly smaller than that of the Canon T2i.  Not sure why.  I do prefer the T2i video though.  Seems to have more clarify than the NEX-5.  Perhaps the compression is higher on the NEX.

William after the event -- NEX-5 & Carl Zeiss HFT 50mm f1.4 @ f1.4. Click to see larger.

So far, I am quite happy with NEX-5, especially in the high ISO department.  This picture above was shot at ISO 1000 and as you can see, it's quite clean.  I am also enamoured with the Carl Zeiss HFT 50mm f1.4 lens in Rollei mount.  It's in my possession for a number of years, but it could not focus to infinity with the Canon adapters I have tried, so it didn't see much use.  I would preferred to use it in full frame, but it works wonderfully with NEX.

For sports photos, the big 1D IIn and the EF 200mm f1.8L combo is still my favourite.  I have come to accept ISO 1600 on the 1D IIn, even though I don't like noisy pictures, but having noisy pictures is better than not having any pictures.

Butterfly -- 1D IIn & EF 200mm f1.8 @ f2. Click to see larger.

Butterfly -- 1D IIn & EF 200mm f1.8 @ f2. click to see larger.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do Not Let Your Dog Poop on my Grass

Sign on fence -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2. Click to see larger.

Sign on the fence says "do not let your dog poop on my grass".  I can sympathize.  Some lazy dog owners let their dog poop everywhere and don't pick up after their pets.  These people should not own pets.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Red Umbrella

Newspaper Boxes and Red Umbrella -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2. Click to see larger.

I can't pinpoint it, but there is something about the pictures that this lens produces which I like. Perhaps it's just psychological.  I did spend a lot of time trying to make this lens usable, so subconsciously maybe I really want to like it, otherwise all these efforts seems wasted. Whatever it is, I am happy.  Isn't it what photography/gear collection is all about?  Being happy?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nightmare on Queen Street

OK, I am exaggerating a bit, but what happened this morning is every city cyclist's nightmare of the second order -- A car door that suddenly open right in front of your path.  What's worse than this, is the door on the driver's side, because you will fall, and fall on the street, and you could get hit by cars coming from behind.  This morning, a car door opened at the exact moment that I was about to pass it.  I had zero time to react.  My bike hit the passenger door, and the front wheel was so warp that it wouldn't turn.  I had to hold up the front wheel and dragged the bike to the shop.  Luckily, I was riding a very light bike.

The person who opened the door is a gentlemen.  I won't pretend I didn't swear at him inside when I realized I was on the floor.  But, he was very apologetic, and genuinely concern about my fall.  We exchanged information, and he would pay for the the cost of the repair of the bike.  Many people would just try to avoid any and all responsibility.  In any case, the handle bar hit my upper left arm and my right rib.  There is a huge bruise on my arm and my rib hurts like hell when I cough, laugh or sneeze.  Again, my helmet probably saved me again.  If you bike, please wear a good helmet.  If you drive, please do look before opening the door, especially when parked on the street.

Back to gears.  Soulnibbler wanted to see the picture of the focusing helicoids.  You can see it below, along with the 17-31mm mounted on the 75mm f2 lens plus a bonus sample picture :-)

M42-mount helicoids: 12-17mm on left, 17-31mm on right.

17-31mm helicoid on the Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 with the c-mount adapter. Click to see larger

Sample picture -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

They Are Here!

I ordered a pair of very thin focusing helicoids from Rainbow Imaging and it arrived today.  Very fast shipping from Hong Kong (they didn't have the 52-42mm version that I wanted in the US location).  However, I knew I made a mistake even before mounting the lens on the 12-17mm.  It's simply too limited.  The focusing range is very short, and is very tight.  The Taylor-Hobson Ortal 75mm f2 could focus to infinity, but  could not focus very close.  But, the 17-31mm works near perfectly, except that it was just a hair shy of attaining infinity focus.  Not really a problem, though, as after I sanded the C-NEX mount a bit, it now can focus to infinity without problem.

I want to say a few words about the quality of these two helicoids.  The workmanship leaves a lot to be desired. The 12-17mm is way too tight to focus.  The 17-31mm has either sand or metal grounds inside the focusing mechanism.  I can feel the grinding when turning the focusing ring.  It's also not very smooth.  My Vivitar 2X macro focusing helicoid is light years better.  Too bad it's just not thin enough.  In any case, it allows me to use the Ortal 75mm f2 lens.

How well does it work?  It works, but the lens is just so heavy.  I kept turning the aperture ring on the front when trying to focus, instead of the focusing ring near the mount.  If you have some good glass worth putting on your camera, but without the focusing ring, this helicoid may be worth it.  I know I will make good use of it as I have so many weird stuff to try it on.

Took the lens out this evening and after dropping Ryan in the music class, I walked around and took some night pictures.  Too bad it was so windy and cold.  My hands were practically frozen after 15 minutes without gloves. The strong wind made sharp pictures almost impossible using a flimsy and tiny tripod, but a few turned out ok.  I really like this lens.  Will update when I get a chance to use it more.

DVP at Night -- NEX-5 & Taylor-Hobson Ortal 75mm f2. Click to see larger.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What I Want in the Next NEX camera

I like my NEX-5. I have been using it almost exclusively since I bought it in December of 2010.  I probably shot over 10,000 frames since.  But, the current NEX cameras need some serious feature upgrades.

First and foremost, please, please add a built-in view finder, in the same class of the Panasonic G or GH series, or better.  I am in my 40s, and I can't see screen well at close range with out, er, bi-focals.  I have ordered a pair of progressive  lens, but still not done yet.  So I don't know how well it will work out.  Another benefits of a viewfinder is the accuracy of focusing.  Shooting DC style, it's difficult to get critical focus, especially at close range or very thin depth of field, because a slight movement will shift the focus.  Heck, I will even settle for an external EVF!

Second, I would like a few more physical buttons on the camera. As it is implemented currently, changing settings means going deep into the menus, and is a pain in the neck.  Even just a mode dial will make things much better.

Third, fix the %T^@#$ tripod mount!  I don't mind a slightly larger body, but make the tripod mount flush with the bottom of the camera.  The NEX-5 has the most unstable camera support of any camera I know.

Fourth, more lenses!  How about some nice, FAST autofocus prime lenses?  All other EVIL makers have better lens than NEX, if you count only the native mounts.

I am sure there are a few things I would like to have, but the above is my main concerns.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 HFT (Rollei QBM) Sample

Downtown Toronto at night -- NEX-5 & Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Rollei QBM Mount. Click for larger.

I have had this Carl Zeiss HFT (German version) for a number of years.  Originally used with the Canon adapter, but could not focus to infinity, even after I shaved the rear lens guard to the minimum, the butt still hits the mirror.  Just got my Rollei-NEX mount and it works a charm on the NEX-5.  This is such a beautifully made lens!  All metal and the focusing is nicely damped and smooth.  All markings on the lens are engraved.  Optically, it's near perfection as a 50mm lens.  All apertures are usable.

Unfortunately, there seems to be variations on infinity focus with some lenses.  My Rollei QBM mount Distagon 35mm f2.8 is just slightly shy of attaining infinity focus.  It's a shame, as the Distagon is also a very nice lens.  Looks like it's optically similar to the Contax version.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Old City Hall in a Distance

Old City Hall -- NEX-5 & Kiron 28mm f2.0

Kiron made a few nice fast wide angles.  The two I have tried and liked are 24mm f2, and 28mm f2.  Both of them are very good lenses.  This picture was taken with a Canon FD mount 28mm f2.  Very good performance for an old lens.  There are Vivitar twins of this lens (and the 24mm f2) out there.  The FD/MD/KR versions of this lens is still dirt cheap. Perfect on the NEX or Micro 4/3 cameras.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Black & White Infrared Sample

West Don Lands -- IR Modified 20D & Pentax-M 20mm f4. Click to see larger.

While looking back at some of my IR shots, I found this one that I took last June, but didn't process.  Most of my IR pictures are in false colour.  While that's kind of interesting to look at, I think B&W is better.  I processed this one with one of the B&W film filters in Photoshop (sorry forgot which film I chose) and really like the way it looks.  Can't wait for sunny weather to come back, so that I can use the IR 20D more.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Devil's Ivy

Devil's Ivy -- NEX-5 & 8mm Relfex Zoom 9-28mm f1.1 Movie Lens Front Element.

I think that once in a while, a weird and unusual lens can be a lot of fun.  Of course it does not have to be expensive.  In fact, the cheaper it is, the more you will enjoy using it, as you don't have to pay through the nose to get one.  A cheap commercial soft focus lens can be found for around $20 on eBay, is the Sima 100mm f2.  I wrote about it here and here.  The Sima has a T-Mount so it should fit pretty much any cameras with the right adapter.  You can also buy a rather expensive soft focus lens, like the Canon SF 135mm f2.8, Nikon 105mm or 135mm f2 DC, a Pentax 85mm f2.8, and many others, or, make your own!  It's a lot easier than you think.  All you really need is a piece of glass from the front element of any lens (50mm or less is good.  Any longer you will need tubes), and a focusing helicoid.  In fact, you can take a non-working 50mm lens and remove the rear elements and get an instant soft focus lens!  Nothing can be easier.  Try it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Birns & Saywer Omnitar 150mm f3 Movie Lens

I have searched everything I could, to find out more information about this lens, but very little is known about it.  Birns & Saywer is a company that sells movie gear and I don't believe they make any lenses so this is most likely a house label.  On the lens it says "Lens made in Germany", Omnitar 150mm f3.  It came with a Arri mount but I converted it to a Nikon F mount, so that I can use it on the Canon/NEX/M43 cameras.

Although the imaging circle actually covers 35mm, I believe the lens was designed for 16mm movie cameras.  The reason I am saying that is because, like many of the c-mount cine lenses, this one is only sharp in the middle of the frame, but it does produce some interesting images, especially on full frame.  I shot some pictures with my old 1Ds couple years ago with it, and I like some of its quirky qualities.

Even though my copy of this lens is in horrible condition, with coating on its rear elements disintegrated into a mess that I can't remove.  If you look at it from a side, it looks like it has a layer of haze.  Consequently, flare is a killer, and it does not have very high contrast when there is side light.  But, it's very sharp in the middle.  I think this lens will be pretty good at the edges on the micro 4/3 format, but I haven't tried it yet. 

Newspaper boxes -- Canon 1Ds & Birns & Saywer 150mm f3. Click for larger.

You can see from the above full frame picture that the edges isn't great, but with an APS-C size sensor, and stopped down to around f8, it's quite all right, as below.

Decaying logs -- NEX-5 & Birns & Saywer 150mm f3. Click for larger.
Tree in snow -- NEX-5 &  Birns & Saywer 150mm f3. Click for larger.