Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Took the younger kids out Trick-or-Treating this evening.  Some of the houses we went to were very well done and looked really nice (spooky).  Of course I brought along my NEX-5N with the FD 55mm f1.2 and took some pictures.  All were taken wide open at f1.2 due to lack of light.

Pumpkins -- NEX-5N & FD 55mm f1.2 @ f1.2, ISO 3200. Click for larger.

Waiting -- NEX-5N & FD 55mm f1.2 @ f1.2, ISO 3200

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some of the Things I Like about NEX-5N

Kew Beach -- NEX-5N & Canon FD 55mm f1.2. Click for larger.

There are few things that I really like about the NEX-5N over the original NEX-5.  First thing first, image quality is markedly improved.  Yes, there doesn't seem to be much difference when compared shots in perfect studio lighting, but anyone who have used both the NEX-5 and NEX-5N can tell you there is a big difference.  This is especially true on high ISO.

First Curtain Shutter: This is one of the best new features that I really like.  It reduces vibration on the camera and is quieter.  I can consistently take sharper pictures at lower shutter speed than I could with the NEX-5.

Dust Shaker: on the NEX-5, this was good as nothing.  Since I changed lenses a lot, I found the sensor to be ALWAYS dirty with dust particles.  The new dust shaking is far more effective.  I have seen any dust in my pictures yet.

Battery Life: this is slightly improved, but still light years behind Canon DSLRs.  On my 1D III, I can get at least 2000 shots before the battery is depleted.   Even on the T2i, battery lasts more than twice as long as the Sony NEX-5/N.

Overall, the new features are more than worth the upgrade price.  I am very happy with the NEX-5N.  I would be happier still when I can get an EVF for it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Streetcar in the Evening Sun

Streetcar -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8 (M42)

The sunset today was spectacular.  I love this kind of lighting in the evening where everything basks in a layer of warm golden ray.  But it's difficult to photograph because the dynamic range is huge.

The Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8 has been neglected for a long time.  Used it very sparingly, like 3 or 4 times in the last few years.  For one thing, it's not easy hand holding a big lens like this and get sharp pictures without tripod.  On the NEX-5, it's equivalent to a 300mm f2.8 lens in terms of angle of view, making it very difficult to focus.  But, it's a nice lens with beautiful bokeh.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Low Light Shooting

Megan -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.2, ISO 3200, 1/2 stop under-exposed. Click for larger.

The reason I love fast lenses is because I hate flash.  Flash destroys the atmosphere and gives lifeless pictures, especially when bounce flash is not available.  I am not talking about multi-flash set up, but shooting at the moment when the picture opportunity arises. Also, the reason I like Canon because it has an arsenal of low light capable lenses, like the 24/35mm f1.4L, 50mm f1.0/1.2L, 85mm f1.2L, and the 200mm f1.8/2.0L.  No other lens makers I know of makes so many f1.2/f1.4 and even f1.0 auto focus lenses.  True, these lenses are crazy expensive, but at least you have an option.

Of all the Canon lenses I have, the 85mm f1.2L II is my favourite.  It does not have the focus shift problem as the 50mm f1.2L at close range and is very sharp at f1.2.  But, we expect it.  Would you pay $2000 for a lens that you can't use at its maximum aperture?  Many complain about the 85L's slow focus, especially for version one, but don't forget that it's a portrait lens.  I wouldn't use it to shoot sports, and it's more than fast enough for me.

Ryan -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2L @ f1.2, ISO 3200. Click to enlarge.

The more I use the Canon 1D III, the more I like it.  The focus works excellently, though not perfect, in extremely low light with low contrast objects. I am very relieved that I don't have any focus problems with this Blue-Dot version of the 1D III.  It's ISO 3200 is cleaner than the Sony NEX-5N.  The RAW files are just absolutely wonderful to work with.  In fact, I am beginning to think that I don't need that 5D Mark II any more.  That extra of a stop of better high ISO performance won't matter too much to me, as ISO 3200 is probably the highest I would use, and if I need wide angle, the 16-35mm is still wide enough for me at about 21mm equivalent at 16mm.  For video, the NEX-5N (or the NEX-7 if it turns out as good as what Steve Huff says) would be more than good enough, as I don't even use it much.

Lone walk at night -- 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2L @ f1.2, ISO 1600.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weird Clouds

Clouds at Tommy Thompson Park -- NEX-5N & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens. Click for larger.

I like clouds.  The shapes are always unpredictable; sometimes weird, sometimes majestic, and often leaves me in awe.  When combined with lights, they sometimes look spectacular.  I think clouds are one of natures most beautiful phenomena.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Canon's New 1DX

When I first saw the specs of the 1DX, my jaws dropped and mouth foaming uncontrollably.  This is the sensor I wanted Canon to make for the last few years!  The 18MP is a sweet balance between high quality and enlargerbility and speed.  Many think this is the end to the high pixel war, but I think not.

My thinking is that Canon will likely be repositioning the premium product lines: 1-Series of cameras will only be about speed.  It will always be a sports camera from now on.  For those who need high pixel count, they are usually studio or landscape use and the camera does not need to be built bullet proof.  I am sure the 1Ds III is not selling that well, as most people will buy the much cheaper 5D II instead, as the image quality is near identical with its bigger 1Ds III brother, as both having identical sensors.  What we will be seeing on the high resolution cameras will be a new product line called the 3-series.  This series will be a cross between 1-series and 5D II in terms of features and build quality and may have unique features of its own, like the eye-control of the film 3D.  This 3D may be split into two versions, one will likely have a 32 to 36MP sensor with relatively good high ISO performance for studio/landscape use, and the other will use the 18MP full frame sensor of the 1DX, but at a reduced frame rate, perhaps 7 to 8 frames per second for enthusiasts and sports shooters who can't afford the 1DX.  Both 3D models will have the last generation of AF system found in the 1D IV.  These two cameras will be sold with a price tag of around $3500.

For entry level full frame, the 5D III will have the 18MP sensor of the 1DX but shoots four frames per second and priced under $2000.  The AF system will be based on the Canon 7D.  Personally, I think this version will sell like hot cakes and Canon may never make enough to keep up the demand.  I am sure I will buy one!

Megan from the old files -- Canon 1Ds & Takumar SMC 85mm f1.8.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Comes Early

Ghosts & Goblins -- NEX-5N & Canon FD 35mm f2. Click for larger. 

I was sitting in the car, waiting, and bored.  Rain was coming down pretty hard.  I looked through and windshield and found some interesting patterns, so I took out the camera and started to play around with various apertures.  Some of the pictures turned out interesting, like the one above, which looks like ghosts.  So yeah, there are picture opportunities everywhere.  They may not be master pieces, but definitely better than no pictures at all!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exploding Bokeh #2

Roses -- NEX-5N & Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9 OM Mount at f1.9. Click for larger.

The Vivitar 28mm f1.9 Series-1 has one of the most interesting bokeh of all the lenses I own.  Not saying it's good, but very different.  Just out of curiosity, I checked eBay and this lens is still selling for $170-$200.  I just sold the MD mount version at my yard sale for almost half that.  Old manual focus lens prices have skyrocketed.  But then again, the Canon EF 28mm f1.8 is some $690CAD.

The 28mm f1.9 is actually quite sharp at f1.9.  Very nice for low light shoots.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5 -- More Samples

The Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5 reminds me of the Tamron Adaptall 17mm f3.5 that I used to have.  Even optically, both are pretty similar, though the Tarmon 17mm f3.5 looks very large, especially when the original hood is fitted.  But, for some reason, the Tokina always seems to have "weird" colours.  Perhaps it's because I shot with it in cloudy days, like today.

Streetcar -- NEX-5N & Tokina 17mm f3.5. Click for larger.

One of the annoyances with ultra wide angle lenses is that they are very difficult to focus manually.  That's because so much is sucked into the picture with such a wide viewing angle and everything looks smaller.  This is especially bad if the adapter is not very precise.  The adapter I have, is way past infinity at the mark.  The lens reaches infinity between 5 and 10 meter mark on the distance scale.

CN Tower in the distance -- NEX-5N & Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5. Click for larger.

I think I will mark it on the lens so aid me focusing.  Basically, at f8, anything from a few feet away to infinity is in focus, as long as I get the infinity mark correct.

In terms of sharpness, I have no issues with it.  Naturally, we should not expect the same sharpness of a 17mm lens as the 50mm, but it's plenty sharp.  The corners is acceptable stopped down on the NEX-5N, and I suspect they are not quite as good with full frame.  Need to shoot this lens in a different lighting to see if it's the lens that produces odd colours or the lighting.

Beautiful new mural -- NEX-5N & Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5. Click for larger.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Guildwood Park -- October 2011

Guildwood Park in Scarborough is one of the favourite venues for wedding photography.  In fact, our wedding pictures were taken there, so it's kind of a special place for me.  We try to visit it at least once a year, but because it's quite far from where we live, this has not happened.  We did visit it last year, but unfortunately didn't stay long enough to take many pictures.

The Bluff -- Canon 1D Mark III & EF 200mm f1.8L. Click for larger.

The park is beautiful in the autumn, if you can catch the right time when the leaves are changing colours.  Last year it was perfect timing, but when we got there today, there wasn't much colour.  I think the strong wind in the last two days has blown off most of the leaves, as many branches are bare.  Still, walking in the woods through the very large park is a nice change from sitting in the office all week.  

Fall Leaves -- 1D III & EF 200mm f1.8L @ f2.8. Click for larger.

I decided to bring my Canon 200mm f1.8L with me, since I have not used it on the 1D III since I got the camera.  I was not disappointed with the lens, nor the 1D III. They are perfect together, other than being very heavy.  I shot handheld and carried the combo for about an hour, and it was bearable.  The image quality of the lens makes carrying all the weight worthwhile.  The 200mm f1.8L has one of the nicest bokeh of any lens I have used.  Even stopped down, the bokeh is still amazing.  At wide open, the razor thin depth of field makes any object in focus like it's cut out from thin air.

Dillon -- 1D III & EF 200mm f1.8L @ f1.8. Click for larger.

The nicest thing about the lens is that it's perfectly usable wide open at f1.8.  From f2.0 on, it won't get any sharper stopping down, just more depth of field.  My only worry is that if the lens needs service, there are no longer parts available to fix it.  Hopefully mine will work until the day I can no longer handle its weight.

A rose on tree -- 1D III & EF 200mm f1.8L @ f1.8. 

You might be wondering why there is a rose on a tree in the park, as pictured above.  Guildwood Park seems to have a lot of trees planted in memory of people, and this was one of them.  

It was a nice visit.  I certainly enjoyed myself.  Well worth the drive.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rodenstock 90mm f4.5 Rogonar-S Sample

New Bridgepoint Hospital -- NEX-5N & Rodenstock Rogonar-S 90mm f4.5. click for larger

At one point I was crazy about making enlarging lenses to fit my Canon cameras.  There were some success and I have had accumulated a lot of enlarging lenses in the process, mostly 80mm-150mm.  The biggest challenge, aside from making them usable on a digital camera, is the lens flare.  Flare could reduce sharpness and contrast and in some severe cases, makes the middle of the picture brighter than the rest.  There are work around of course, but it's such a pain, because the front of the lens normally do not take filters, making it difficult to add a lens hood.

My experience with enlarging lenses is that they are mostly very sharp, at least at close range, but at the same time, much slower than most normal lenses at the same focal length.  They do make excellent macro lenses with extension tubes, and they are very well corrected.  Image quality is very good and usually better than the zoom lenses with uniform sharpness when stopped down slightly.

If you like tinkering, it's well worth the time.  They are still dirt cheap so it doesn't hurt too much even it the lens is destroyed or not working well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

EL-Nikkor 63mm f3.5 - Samples

It took me a few days to get the Nikon EL-Nikkor 63mm f3.5 enlarging lens to focus to infinity.  Frankly, I am a wee bit disappointed.  Although I didn't shoot a lot of pictures with it, but the EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 is better in terms of image quality, especially at infinity.

Park Bench -- NEX-5N & EL-Nikkor 63mm f3.5 enlarging lens. Click for larger.

One interesting thing about the lens, like some other enlarging lenses, is that at wide open, the aperture blades are not hidden, like a normal lens does.  So, this lens probably has a maximum aperture of f2.8 when completely open.  The later version of this lens actually was rated at f2.8, at about the same size.  Quite possibly at f2.8, the image quality was not up to Nikon's standards, hence the stopped-down maximum aperture.  The picture below was shot at f3.5, but you can see the octagonal shape in the out of focus area:

Bokeh at f3.5 -- NEX-5N & EL-Nikkor 63mm f3.5. click for larger.

The image quality is by no means bad.  It's actually very sharp at close range.  Just not as good at infinity.  It does not have the micro contrast as the EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8, possibly due to the coating (or lack of multiple coating) on the 63mm f3.5.  But, the built quality is fantastic with all metal lens barrel and mount.

Fall Leaves -- NEX-5N & EL-Nikkor 63mm f3.5.

This lens is believed to be able to produce pictures in the UV region.  I don't know if this is true or not.  Not that I care much as I don't have a UV capable camera.

Overall, it's a nice little lens which complements the EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8 nicely.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lenses I Wish I Had Kept -- Contax Carl Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4

I have gone through more lenses than I care to count, and most of them I don't even remember owning any more.  But, there are times when I look back at some of the pictures taken with certain lenses, and I wished I didn't get rid of them.  Case in point: Contax mount Carl Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4.  I didn't own this lens for long, and that was the problem -- didn't get to know the lens more before letting it go.  This particular lens has a "macro" feature that is very handy to have

Disc Brake -- Canon 20D & Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 35-70mm f3.4

I bought this lens along with the Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro.  I have kept the S-Planar, but not the Vario-Sonnar 35-70mm.  It's clear that was a mistake.  It was one of the few zoom lenses that were very sharp, but I think it was just too difficult to focus on the 20D.  I have learned my lesson and now take my time to use the lens before deciding to sell it or not, especially the better lenses.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tommy Thompson Park - October 2011

Although Tommy Thompson Park is only about a mile from where I live, I don't visit it often enough.  The last time I went there to take pictures was back in June.  Today we invited Sally, who is a budding photographer, to join me and Dillon.

Sally -- 1D III & EF 70-200mm f2.8 IS. Click for larger.

We made it there before sun rise, and it was always great to see it, but unfortunately there wasn't any clouds today, which made it a bit less spectacular than otherwise.  But, it was Sally's first time seeing a sun rise and I am sure it was a nice experience for her.  I noticed there were lots of snails.  On the road, on the grass and small trees.  Never seen so many of them before.  Possibly because we were there very early and they were still migrating themselves from one side of the road to the other.

Snail in the morning sun -- 1D III & EF 180mm f3.5L Macro. Click for larger.

The part is transforming itself nicely.  A few areas were newly created.  Lots of birds, but not as much as early spring/summer.  As usually, many cyclists and runners were already there before 7am.  It's a great place to bike, walk, run, and of course, take pictures.

The Bridge -- 1D III & EF 16-35mm f2.8L II. Click for larger.

Fall Leaves -- 1D III & EF 180mm f3.5 Macro. Click for larger.

We had a great time.  Can't wait to go back a bit later in the fall for some more colourful shots.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Canon EF 300mm f4L

Fall Leaf -- Canon 1D Mark II & EF 300mm f4L @ f4. Click for larger.

It's not an understatement that it was Canon's wickedly fast focusing USM telephoto lenses coupled with the EOS-1 that wrestled the sports photography market since the film days from Nikon's long time dominance, until the the Nikon D3 and its revamped AF-S based telephoto lenses.  Nikon's screw drive focusing lenses were no match for Canon's super quiet and fast ultrasonic motors based lenses. Unfortunately for most of us, fast pro telephoto lenses like 300mm and 400mm f2.8  are just too darn expensive. But, there are in-between lenses, like the EF 300mm f4L, 400mm f5.6L.  These two lenses were designed for photo enthusiasts who can not justify spending $7,000 on a 300mm f3.8L, or $11,000 for a 400mm f2.8.  They are wildly popular, due to it's lower prices and most of all, superior optical performance.

I had the 300mm f4L, the original non-IS version.  It was the sharpest telephoto lenses I used, other than the ungodly sharp 200mm f1.8L.  It is light and fast focusing.  Did I mention that it is sharp?  I later traded it for an IS version and found that it was not as sharp as the non-IS copy, and add to the reason that I don't use tele lenses much, and later sold it.  I highly recommend the non-IS version of the 300mm f4L, if you are looking for a telephoto lens with a smaller budget.  These lenses can be had in the used market for $500 to $700 depending on condition.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fuji Is to Enter the EVIL Game

Back to the Future?  -- NEX-5N & Leica-R 28mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Fujifilm has announced that they will be creating a mirrorless camera system ready for Spring of 2012.  So now every major and minor camera makers has their own EVIL camera, except Canon.  I am sure Canon will not let everybody else have all the fun.  I will bet that they will announce their own EVIL camera in 2012.  Hopefully it won't be a let down like the Nikon 1.

I am looking forward to the Fuji mirrorless.  Their claimed the sensor will have more resolution, and image quality better than any of today's full frame or APS-C sensors.  That's a pretty tall order to fill, but I hope it will be true.  Fuji is one of those oddball companies that occasionally has something brilliant/different.  In a way, they are like Ricoh, who does things their own way.

Perhaps, 2012 will be a year of the EVIL and full frame cameras.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Exploding Bokeh

As I said before, a lens' bokeh is most interesting when shot wide open.  It usually shows the weirdness or interesting aspects of the lens bokeh.  Just noticed that the Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9 lens bokeh has an exploding effect when shot at f1.9, as below:

Exploding bokeh -- NEX-5N & Vivitar Series-1 28mm f1.9 OM. Click for larger.

It looks almost like the zooming effect you get when you take a picture while zooming the lens.  Even though I have had three copies of this lens before (still have two), I have never noticed it before.  Just thought it's kind of unique. This only happens at f1.9 though.  By f2.8, the effect is mostly gone.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why We Are Not Getting What We Want

EOSHD has a very nice article on camera manufacturers moving away from real camera enthusiasts and cater to the masses who don't care much about real cameras.  I agree with everything the article says, and it's truly sad where the market is heading.

Nikon is rumored to have a 36MP D800 coming very soon.  Think about it.  Couple of years ago, lower end medium format digital backs were at this resolution.  What is the real percentage of photographer who actually NEED this kind of resolution?  The rest just wanted a camera that can show off the fact that they have the highest resolution 35mm digital SRL in the world (at the moment, because Canon/Sony won't be far behind.  We can count on it).

Another case in point is the 24MP Sony sensor used in the A77/A65/NEX-7.  I am sure more people will buy the NEX-7 if the sensor is the excellent 16MP one used in the NEX-5N, especially if at a lower price point.  Alas, camera makers yield to their marketing department, instead of making sensible, balanced, affordable camera equipment that real camera enthusiasts want.  Instead of gitapixels sensors, why not an excellent 16MP full frame sensor that have good dynamic range, excellent colour depth, clean high ISO?  With today's technology, it's so easy to accomplish.

I know I sound like I am beating a dead horse, but perhaps, if more of us complain and let the manufacturers know, there is a chance, however minute, that they would listen.  So, let our voices be heard!

Colourful Streetcar -- NEX-5N & Canon FD 35mm f2.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Canon FD 35mm f2.0 SSC -- First Day Out

Church -- NEX-5N & Canon FD 35mm f2.0. Click for larger.

Today is sort of a perfect day for photographs -- overcast sky after a light misty rain and the greens are very green and colours seem to jump out at you.  I was eager to try out the FD 35mm f2 that I bought from the camera show yesterday.

It turns out that the warming effect was from the yellowing of the glass elements.  This version of the lens is "radioactive", because the glass contains thorium.  This is similar to the famous yellowing on many old Takumar 50mm f1.4 lenses.  The solution is to expose the elements to UV light.  For me, it really does not matter, as one of the advantage of shooting RAW is that you can adjust white balance afterwards.  I actually like slightly warmer colours.

The lens is very sharp, which is the consensus of most of its users.  There are six or seven versions of this lens and later design has a different optical formula with a convex front lens surface, whereas the older design has a convcave front element (my EF 180mm f3.5 Macro also has a concave front element).   Regardless design, all versions are very good lenses.

So far, the only aspect of the lens I don't like, is the bokeh.  The lens itself has an 8-bladed aperture, which I thought should give better looking bokeh, but to me, the bokeh just looks weird.

Bokeh -- NEX-5N & FD 35mm f2. Click for larger.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Another Camera Show

Men at work -- NEX-5N & Zoomar Kilfitt 90mm f2.8 Makro. Click for larger.

Went to another photo show today, but managed not to spend too much this time.  Picked up a couple of lenses and a couple of enlarging lenses, one of which is a EL-Nikkor 63mm f3.5.  This lens has been rumored to have the capabilities to produce photographs in the UV spectrum, and thus the price was very high.  Not sure what the situation is now, but I thought it would be a nice complement to my EL-Nikkor 50mm f2.8.  Held it to my NEX-5N and took a test picture, and indeed it's an extremely sharp lens.

Also picked up a Canon FD 35mm f2.  The lens is in pretty bad cosmetic shape, but the optic is clean.  This is the first fast wide angle Canon FD lens I have.  The FD 35mm f2 is a highly regarded lens and I can confirm that it's optically superb.  Took some shots against the Olympus 35mm f2 and two things were noticeable.  The colour is warmer on the Canon and the OM 35/2 is more neutral.  The Canon is slightly sharper at f2 and even the edge (on the NEX-5N) is very good wide open.  Can't wait to shoot some pictures with it.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

NEX-5N Image Quality -- Second Look

After using the NEX-5N for just a bit over a week, I have one word to describe the image quality: wonderful.  Really, the improvement from the original NEX-5 is huge.  In low ISO, shadow noise is mostly gone and the image looks like it comes of a Canon 1Ds II.  The biggest improvement is in the high ISO area.  I compared the noise level to my 1D III at ISO 1600, and they are roughly equivalent, with a slight edge to the 1D III, which retains more details.  But, the 1D III has a 1.3x crop factor with only 10 MP, and thus the pixel size is much larger, whereas the NEX-5N is 1.5x with 16MP.  This is an incredible achievement.

I don't think the NEX-7 will be anywhere as good as the 5N in terms of noise performance.  While I will miss the handling and built-in EVF of the 7, image quality matters more to me.  When the external EVF goes down in price, I will pick one up for the 5N.  One of the good things about external EVF is that it can be used on the next model (hopefully) and can be sold separately if I later upgrade to one with built-in EVF.

In conclusion, I have no complains about the image quality of the NEX-5N.  I am VERY glad to have bought it. Now, why didn't Sony just use this wonderful sensor on the NEX-7, or, make a model with NEX-7 body with the NEX-5N sensor and priced between the two? It will be a perfectly balanced camera in terms of handling and image quality.

Cranes -- NEX-5N & Leica-R Elmarit 28mm f2.8, ISO 400.

Before the Rain

Before the rain -- NEX-5N & Leica-R Elmarit 28mm f2.8. Click for larger

The sky was very interesting this evening.  It was bluish gray and combined with clouds, makes for nice photo opportunities.  And for whatever reason, I took out the Leica-R 28mm f2.8 and rediscovered how great this little lens is.  Owned it for the last six years but not used very much.  I had no reason not to use this lens as it has really excellent optics, as you would expect from a Leica lens.  The built quality is superb as well.  I think it's just that I have so many lenses, sometimes I lose track of what I have.