Thursday, December 29, 2011

Canon 1D III Auto Focus in Heavy Snow

Sally -- 1D III & EF 135mm f2. Click for larger.

Looking through the pictures I took yesterday and I noticed that there are quite a few mis-focused frames when there was heavy snow.  Normally, I only use the center focus point for stationary shots and it has been working well for me, but in heavy snow (perhaps heavy rain as well), the focus system gets fooled by the snow.  Perhaps, setting the focus system's sensitivity might help, but I have not tried.

Evergreen Brick Works

Dillon, Sally and I decided to hike the trails of the Evergreen Brick Works this morning.  Man, was it ever cold this morning with windchill at around -18c, plus the rock hard ice and snow coming down, it was a tough walk, but we enjoyed it.

Trail -- Canon 1D III & EF 135mm f2 L. Click for larger.

This was the first time I actually gone to the Brick Works, although we biked passed it a few times along the Don River.  I was hoping we could get some pictures inside of the buildings, but it was too early in the morning and after the hike, it was just too much for a day.

Sally's Favourite Evergreen trees -- Canon 1D III & EF 135mm f2 L. Click for larger.

I didn't actually take too many pictures, mostly because it was so cold and the snow was pretty heavy at times.  I was going to bring the 200mm f1.8L with me, but Dillon warned me that I should bring light gear as the trails could be steep.  Sort of regretted that I didn't bring it, as there was definitely opportunities to use this lens.  Oh well, perhaps next time.

Sharing a moment -- 1D III & EF 135mm f2 L. Click for larger.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Winter Wonderland -- Canon 5D & EF 85mm f1.2. Click for larger.

I would like to wish all my readers a happy and safe holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate.  May Santa bring you all the gears you always wanted under your Christmas tree.  May you and your family share a warm, safe and happy holiday season.  Don't forget to capture the happy moments; this is what photography is all about!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Looking Forward to 2012

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

It was the smaller camera companies that stole the show in 2011: Fujifilm with its X100, Sony with its NEX-7 and A-77.  As expected, Nikon and Canon brought the usual updates to their DSLRs, though Nikon did introduced the lackluster J1 and V1.  Oh yes, let's not forget Sigma's interesting and out of this world price of the SD-1 -- the pricing caused quite a stir but after that, hardly anyone even remembers the SD-1.  But, I think 2012 will be much more interesting, if we survive it.

Fujifilm, the dark horse of 2011, is hot on the heels of its successful X-100 and X-10, will be introducing its first EVIL camera.  This will be their first interchangeable lens camera since the S-5 Pro, where Nikon longer license its body to Fujifilm and consequently, they stopped making DSLRs.  I am looking forward to the Fuji EVIL, although I am sure it will not have a standard M4/3 mount, but the sensor it will use will probably be a bit different than your garden variety BAYER sensor, which claims the image quality will be equal to, if not better than today's full frame sensors.  Very exciting indeed!

Sony, with its highly acclaimed NEX-7, has generated a lot of interest from photographers.  There will be likely not much more on the EVIL front in 2012, but they will no doubt introduce at least two full frame DSLRs.  If they make the sensor at 24MP but with today's high ISO technology on their full frame bodies, I would expect them to perform well in terms of colour fidelity, dynamic range and high ISO.  Probably not as good as Canon's 1Dx, but will be way better than today's sensors.  Can't wait.

Pentax/Ricoh, I have a feeling they will introduce another EVIL camera system with a larger sensor.  The Pentax Q, as cute as it is, is too pricey to attract buyers.  Even if they do get another system out, I wouldn't expect it to be much different the current crop of EVIL cameras.  Their late entry into the digital market has cost them the market share and it would a small miracle for them to regain the ground.  Perhaps, they should learn a thing or two from Fujifilm, and introduce something different that people want to buy.

Canon has been the only major camera maker that does not have an EVIL camera.  Somehow, I don't think they will bring one out in 2012, and even if they do, it won't be until late 2012.  We will see the successor of the 5D Mark II, which I am sure will be a fine performer, but it won't be revolutionary.  People will buy them up, just like they do with the 5D II.  I am hoping they will split the camera into two models: one with the 18MP 1Dx sensor (but slower of course), and the other with a high resolution 32MP sensor for the people who need the high pixel count.  After the 40D, the sensors in Canon's low end DSLRs really disappoint me.  The image quality has gone backward, especially in low ISO.  Hopefully this will change with the next sensor design for the low end.

I think 2012 will be a more exciting year than 2011 for photographers.  We will have more full frame bodies, more EVIL models, and better low end DSLRs.  I look forward 2012.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Megan at the recital -- Canon 1D III & EF 85mm f1.2 @ f1.8, ISO 3200. Click for larger.

The music school that my kids attend has a recital once every few months.  I think it's a great practice for the kids who can play in the presences of large number of people.

I was looking at the pictures I took at the recital and thought the noise at ISO 3200 is like ISO 400 on my 20D, which doesn't look quite right.  I checked the RAW file and it was accidentally set to sRAW (2.5MP).  The down sampling no double made the file much cleaner, but of course I lose the resolution.  At least now I know how clean sRAW is, I might use it more often if I need to shoot at ISO 6400.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Here's Lookin' at Ya

Snowman and Woman -- NEX-5N & Chinon 55mm f1.4.

Took a walk and found this woman and the snowman staring at each other outside the Georgian House at the corner of University & Queen and I thought it was kind of funny.

Shot this picture with a Chinon (Tomioka) 55mm f1.4 lens.  At one time, I had so many variance of this lens with different names: Chinon, Mamiya Sekor, Petri, Cosina, Yashica, etc., all either made by Tomioka or based on the design of the Tomioka 55mm f1.4.  A little soft wide open, but sharpens up after f2.  By f2.8, it's extremely sharp.  Very nice lens indeed.  The Chinon version, if not marked (there is a version that says Chinon/Tomioka, I have had both versions) as Tomioka, can be had for a song.  If you need a fast lens for low light shooting, consider these old M42 mount goodies.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review -- Part III

Kowa Super-Prominar-16 50mm f1.2 Projection Lens

This, and the Kodak Ektagraphic 50mm f1.2 projection lens, is one of the fastest projection lenses I have.  I haven't used the Kodak version much, but I really like the Kowa.  Most projection lenses are made for the 16mm projectors, but all of them seem to cover the APS-C sensor just fine.

The super thin depth of field of this f1.2 lens allows one to achieve some creative pictures which is not possible with the kit lens.  The only downside is that aperture can not be controlled, and that it was hard to make it focus to infinity, even on the NEX, as the back of the lens is very close to the sensor.  I love doing close ups with this lens.

Petals in the rain -- NEX-5 & Kowa Super-Promina 50mm f1.2. Click for larger.

Bausch & Lomb Super Cinephor 120mm f1.9 Project Lens

This is the fastest telephoto projection lens I have.  The image quality is good, but the bokeh is messy and less than satisfying, but when you need a fast lens with good reach that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, this lens will do it for you.

Fall Leaves -- NEX-5N & B&L Super Cinephor 120mm f1.9. Click for larger.

In summary, projection and enlarging lenses are two of the cheapest ways to get high quality lenses.  Projection lenses for low light and shallow depth of field, and enlarging lenses for insane flat field sharpness with aperture control.  Both type of lenses need a focus helicoid to make them focus to infinity (or focus at all) but you will find the images you make with them will be worthwhile.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review -- Part II

This year I spent a lot of time and effort on Do It Yourself lenses; mainly projection lenses and a few enlarging lenses. The helicoids that I made/bought have helped making these otherwise useless lenses into image making tools. Projection lenses in particular, are dirt cheap, mostly because they have no aperture control, and their flange is extremely short, making them usable only the NEX (and some cases, M4/3). But, these lenses are very FAST, often with aperture of f1.2, perfect for low light, extreme shallow depth of field images. Below are some of my favourite DIY lenses:

Kern-Bolex 50mm f1.3

Extremely sharp, but flare and purple fringing prone.  Love the colour that comes out of this lens.  Very small and compact, yet very fast.  When mated to a focusing helicoid, it can focus very close and can be used as a pseudo macro lens.  Yet, it is able to achieve infinity focus. Avoid strong light/back lights.

Little Blue Flower -- NEX-5 & Kern-Bolex 50mm f1.3 Projection Lens. Click for larger.

Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3 Enlarging Lens:

This lens gets my vote for the best bang for the buck.  Seriously, people have trouble selling this enlarging lens for $5, because it's tiny, uncoated, and has very slow maximum aperture of f6.3.  But, as a sunny lens, I have found that it can make beautiful and colourful images, and it's sharp!  Best used with a hood as it's uncoated and flare is a huge issue.

Tulip twins -- NEX-5 & Federal Fedar 3.5 inch f6.3. Click for larger. 

Astro-Kino Color 65mm f1.5 Projection Lens

One unique signature of this lens is that it produces swirling backgrounds when shot at a certain distance.  Many readers seem to enjoy this characteristic but when over used, it could be nauseating.  Like most projection lenses, It's very sharp at working aperture.

Tommy Thomson Park -- NEX-5 & Astro-Kino Color 65mm f1.5.  Click for larger.


Friday, December 9, 2011

2011 - A Year in Review -- Part I

2011 has been an interesting and exciting year in terms of photography for me.  I have updated my most used camera bodies: Sony NEX-5N and Canon 1D Mark III and most of what I set out to achieve has been fulfilled, with the exception of the 5D Mark II.  Very little has changed to my lens collection.  A few manual focus lenses have been added, but the quantities is nowhere near where they were during the last few years.  I am happy to say that I managed to take pictures more often this year than any other year, which I am very happy about.

Camera Bodies: 

NEX -- The NEX-5 has been my most used camera this year until late September.  The NEX-5 was replaced by the little brother the NEX-5N.  In terms of image quality, the 5N is the best camera I have used for small cameras.  I am extremely happy with my upgrade to the 5N.  Many worthy upgrades from the original NEX-5: shutter lag, speed, image quality, sensor clean, battery life, etc.  Worth every penny.

Panasonic G1 -- Hardly used it any more.  I am spoiled by the NEX-5N.  I gave it to Dillon for him to use.  Still one of the best camera to use with manual focus lenses, especially c-mount cine lenses.  

Canon 1D Mark III -- This camera replaced my trusty 1D Mark IIn that I have had for a couple of years.  Awesome camera in terms of speed and image quality.  Very happy that I don't have focu issues like my first copy last year.  This is the camera I go to when I need to capture action shots, or when auto focus is required.

Infrared Modified Canon 20D -- I think my love with Infrared Photography has lost its luster.  I don't remember using this camera more a few times this year.  But I am keeping it just in case I am into it again.

Canon XS -- Got this for Dillon a few weeks ago only because I got it very cheap.  But it's a nice little camera that produce amazing results.  Its tiny little view finder and shallow buffer make it very annoying.  But, it's a good camera to learn photography with.  I loaned Dillon my Sigma 50/1.4 as I don't really want him to use my 50mm f1.2L.  Hopefully he will make good use of it.

Canon 5D Mark II -- Well, it hasn't happened as planned.  I haven't got it yet, but hey, there are still three weeks left in December, so who knows?

Tree Trunk -- Panasonic G1 & Kiron 28mm f2. Click for Larger.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mannequins on Balcony

Mannequins at Kensington Market -- NEX-5N & Carl Zeiss 60mm f2.8 Makro. Click for larger.

Kensington Market in Toronto is an interesting place.  Most people would think of food/eatery when Kensington Market is mentioned, but it's also a sort of artsy place with some weird/unusual stuff.  It's definitely more unusual than your average Toronto neighborhood. In fact, lots of people love to go there to take pictures.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Mirrored pay phone -- NEX-5N & Contax Carl Zeiss S-Planar 60mm f2.8 Makro. Click for larger.

After a couple of weeks of inactivity during my lunch hour, I decided to take a longer walk today to Kensington Market, and take some pictures.  It was a nice exercise that I have been lacking lately.  On my way back, I noticed the reflection of this pay phone on the wall and thought it was interesting.

The Spadina area around Kensington Market/Chinatown has a lot of photo opportunities.  If you are in the area, be sure to bring a camera with you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Garden Bench

Garden Beach -- NEX-5N & Bausch & Lomb 120mm f1.9 Super Cinephore

The last couple of weeks has been brutal.  I have been feeling sick and didn't want to do anything else but sleep.  Therefore, not much photography activities.  Hopefully I will resume the normal frequency of updating this blog.