Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup

I had a chuckle when my wife saw me converting this picture for this post, and said that the white round circles look like Italian Wedding Soup that she was selling today.  I took this picture while waiting for her to finish work. It was shot through the window. The round white circles were de-focused  rain drops on the window. I thought it looks interesting.

Apologies to Michael, for using the Sigma 30mm f2.8 for this picture :)

Italian Wedding Soup - NEX-6 & Sigma 30mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Voigtlander-Zoomar 36-82mm f2.8 - Another Sample

A little over a year ago, I bought on impulse, the Voigtlander-Zoomar 36-82mm f2.8 lens, for not a small amount of money (for me). The main reason for the purchase, of course, was because this lens was the world's first zoom lens in 35mm format and it was introduced in 1959. Being the first zoom lens, and a constant f2.8 through out the zoom range, naturally, there were many compromises in design. It's not the sharpest f2.8 zoom lens around, and the edges won't win any awards, especially on full frame, but it's such a beauty, both in design and workmanship!

Even with some limitations, the lens can still produce some nice pictures with certain subjects. Not bad for a lens that's more than 50 years old.  I intend to use it more often, now that I have made a DKL to E-Mount adatper with helicoid for close focus. I think it will make some nice close pictures.

Grand Tree - NEX-6 & Voigtlander-Zoomar 36-82mm f2.8

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sigma 28mm f2.8 YS Mount - Sample Image

While we are on the subject of Sigma lenses, I might as well tried the manual focus Sigma lenses that have been neglected. No, I don't have many of them, just three that I remember having, and one of them has problem with a stuck aperture, and two of them have the same 28mm focal length, but different lenses.

My copy of the Sigma-Z 28mm f2.8 has a 62mm filter thread; way larger than most other 28mm f2.8 lenses which have 52mm or 55mm, or even 49mm filter threads. The other YS Mount sister Sigma lens, XQ 35mm f2.8, has the same filter size of 62mm. So, the Sigma 50mm f1.4, having a 77mm filter size, is not that unusual; they started this trend decades ago.

Unfortunately, this lens has a dusty, almost hazy interior, which makes pictures taken wide open very low in contrast and hazy. The lens needs to be cleaned to perform at its designed optical quality. At f2.8, the lens is actually quite sharp, even the edges, on the APS-C sensor. I would like to have the lens cleaned and see what it can do. As the way it is, it's ok when strong, directional light is not present.

Stairs - NEX-6 & Sigma-Z Multi-coated 28mm f2.8 YS Mount @f2.8

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sigma E-Mount 19mm f2.8 Shoots Kensington Market

Personally, I think the Kensington Market in Toronto is a quirky, off-beat place. Many of its buildings are old and run-down, but at the same time, many more are uniquely decorated and colorful. The shops sell a variety of products from second hand bicycles to freshly grown produce with many restaurants, cafes and specialty food stores spread through out the market.  What strikes most first time visitors is the many wonky shop names and interesting painted store fronts. Definitely a great place for photos.

The lens I used for this shoot was the E-Mount Sigma 19mm f2.8. It is the sister lens of the 30mm f2.8, which I am very enamored of. Although the lens is very sharp in the center at f2.8, its corner sharpness is not as good as the 30mm f2.8, even when stopped down. At f8, the corners are acceptably sharp, but not quite up there to the level of the 30mm. The barrel distortion is also quite a bit worse as well, but miles ahead compared to the kit zoom lens at the same focal length and it's quite a bit better than the Sony E-16mm f.28 pancake. I know it's not fair to compare a very wide angle (19mm) to a mini wide (30mm). The design is different. The wider the lens, the more challenges the designers must overcome to achieve a balance of cost vs quality; both material and optical. At $99, it's a very good deal.

Kensington - NEX-6 & Sigma 19mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Truck & the run-down house/shop - NEX-6 & Sigma 19mm f2.8. Click for larger.

What colors - NEX-6 & Sigma 19mm f2.8. Click for larger.

One of the many "painted houses" - NEX-6 & Sigma 19mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Bistro - NEX-6 & Sigma 19mm f2.8. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sigma E-Mount 30mm f2.8 - Mini Review

Of all the auto focus lenses I have ever bought, the Sigma E-mount 30mm f2.8 comes up on top of the value for the money category. I bought this lens along with the 19mm f2.8 when B&H had a dual lens deal for $199. Essentially, the cost of the lens is about $130 with taxes/shipping to Canada. It's indeed a great deal, especially when you factor in the exceptionally good optics that it possesses.

Build Quality
The lens has a metal mount, and high quality plastic lens barrel. It does not look or feel cheap. Compared to most plastic kit lenses, this one actually stands out as of very good build. For normal use, it will last a long time, I am sure. The electronics will probably die before you will see mechanical problems. It strikes a good balance between cost and quality of materials used.

Downtown Toronto - NEX-6 & Sigma 30mm f2.8. Click for larger.

I think many people are disappointed that for this focal length and maximum aperture of f2.8, the lens is not pancake sized. It's just very slightly longer than the Sony E16-50mm kit lens, but almost twice that of the E16mm f2.8 pancake lens. Do I find this (relatively) larger size an issue? Not at all. The NEX-6 is not exactly a pocketable camera, even with a very thin pancake lens, it would be difficult to fit it in your pocket. I think the Sigma 30mm lens looks nice on the NEX-6. Would I like it smaller? Definitely, if image quality is not compromised.

Focus Speed
This is one aspect of the lens/camera combination that is disappointing. The NEX-6 is not exactly a speed demon when it comes to focusing speed. I can feel the difference between the Sony 50mm f1.8 OSS and this lens. I am not sure if it's due to the very cold (-10c) temperature, but this morning when I was shooting, even in very good light, sometimes it took a long time to achieve focus. It's not a deal breaker, but frustrating. One other thing. This lens does not support the new phase-detect auto focus feature of the NEX-6/5R. Not that it really matters much.

St. Lawrence Flea Market - NEX-6 & Sigma 30mm f2.8. Click for larger

Image  Quality
A very cheap lens that does not produce quality pictures is not a good deal, regardless how little it costs. Fortunately, the Sigma 30mm f2.8 is one of the sharpest lenses I own. In fact, the lens out-resolves the 16 MP sensor by a such a large margin, that in many situations, moire is readily more apparent than other lenses. Already very sharp at f2.8, even around the edges. Stopping down improves sharpness but not by much. One has to wonder how Sigma could design and make a lens this good, and sells it for so little. If this lens is a bit wider, say 35mm equivalent, I would probably have it on the camera most of the time. It's one of the best bargains in auto focus lenses today.

What Don't I Like About This Lens?
Very little. I would like it to be a bit faster, both focus wise and in terms of maximum aperture, but then it wouldn't be selling at this ridiculously low price. The noise from the lens when not powered, is unnerving, but knowing that it was part of the design with a linear motor, I am sure it is not a problem. Also, this lens, unlike almost every lens Sigma ever sold, does not come with a hood. It's true that flare resistance is excellent on this lens, but I still would prefer to have a hood on it, mostly for protection of the front element.

Cement truck - NEX-6 & Sigma 30mm f2.8 @ f2.8.

Old & New - NEX-6 & Sigma 30mm f2.8.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sony E-Mount 50mm f1.8 OSS - Some Observations

The Sony E-mount 50mm f1.8 OSS lens has been one of my most wanted lens for my NEX camera system ever since it was announced.  As far as I know, it's the first with a lens-based stabilization 50mm lens in the world, and at a reasonable price. Finally, shortly after I got my NEX-6, I bought 50mm f1.8 OSS, and have been using it on occasions.

In a word, this is a fantastic lens, in terms of its optical properties. Extremely sharp lens even wide open. I use this lens at f1.8 most of the time and find that the only reason to stop it down is for more depth of field, or lower the shutter speed. I haven't shot any brick walls with it to check corner sharpness or distortion; only have used it as I normally would and it has not disappointed me, optically. It's a far departure from the serviceable, but mediocre 16mm f2.8 pancake.

The optical stabilization system works very well, in still photo or video. In fact, this is one of the best features besides the excellent optics. Very effective and easily gives two to three stops of usefulness. Despite my wish to have in-body stabilization on cameras, I still prefer in-lens stabilization system. It's far more effective as the system is tailored and optimized to the specific lens.

In terms of build, it's quite acceptable. The lens is surprisingly light weight despite the use of metal for the mount and outer lens barrel. It's no Leica in build quality, but few lenses are. For that, you will have to fork out a lot of cash, but I think it's a good compromise between cost, weight, and build quality.

The only gripe I have is the auto focus speed. It's painful if you are used to DSLRs or the later Olympus/Panasonic models. To be fair, the slow speed is probably not totally the fault of the lens, but the current NEX system as a whole. It's worse on wake-up from power save mode when you have to rack the focus from closes to infinity. If you need to shoot something quickly, and the camera is in sleep mode, by the time the camera wakes up and sets the lens in focus, the opportunity is often gone. I think this is the biggest problem for the NEX system at the moment. I am so used the quickness of my 1D III when I need auto focus, the NEX-5/5N/6 just drives me crazy. The only thing that saves my insanity is the fact that I shoot more manual focus lenses on the NEX-6 than AF lenses.

The Piano - Sony NEX-6 & 50mm f1.8 OSS @ f1.8. Click for larger

Walking the dog - Sony NEX-6 & 50mm f1.8 OSS @ f2. Click for larger.

Tree - Sony NEX-6 & 50mm f1.8 OSS @ f1.8.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine

For all you love birds out there, happy Valentine's day! I think everyday should be a Valentine's day and there is no reason to only celebrate love once a year :) May you and yours have a wonderful day!

Happy Valentine [2007] - Canon 20D & Tamron SP 17mm f3.5.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8 - Photo Set

A few more pictures from yesterday. As I wrote before, each lens will perform slightly differently depending on what camera it's being used on. On the late model of Canon APS-C cameras, like the T2i, 7D, the image quality isn't great. The pictures just seem to lack definition. Although to me, the image quality from these cameras were never really good to begin with. On the NEX series, especially the NEX-6, this lens appears to be very sharp, like it was on the full frame Canon (1Ds and 5D that I used). Can't say I understand why; just an observation.

Snow Fence - NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8. Click for larger.

The Dog Walker - NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Colorful Columns - NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I hardly get any chance to shoot birds. Occasionally I shoot pigeons or sea gulls, so naturally when saw a woodpecker on a feeder, I was excited. Luckily, I had my 200mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar with me and I was able to make two pictures, one at f4 and this one at f2.8, before the bird flew away. Even luckier, both pictures were in focus, as it's not easy to do with a 200mm lens.

Woodpecker - NEX-6 & Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 200mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Click for larger.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow, Snow, Snow Everywhere

Yesterday we had the largest snow fall of the year in Toronto with almost 30cm. This created a temporary driving havoc and many schools were closed. The snow and salt truck operators have been very efficient with most streets plowed and cleared and salted within hours. Of course, kids love the snow!

Megan - NEX-6 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5. Click for larger.

William - NEX-6 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5. Click for larger.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Converting a EOS to DKL Adapter for NEX with Macro Focusing

If you read this blog, you know you are a lover of old lenses. We love them, except, many of them have very long minimum focus distance, from 3 feet to more than 15 feet. This is especially true for DKL lenses. I have been thinking of how to shorten the distance so that I can focus closer. There exists DKL adapters with built-in helicoid, but are prohibitively expensive, and often don't come in the mount you need. Few days ago it occurred to me that I had a Canon EOS to DKL adapter that I no longer use. Perhaps I could put that on the Yeenon focus helicoid.

After some testing, it was doable. I could get infinity focus with EOS to DKL adapter, plus the 52mm filter ring that goes on the rear of the adapter, plus the Yeenon 18-33mm focus helicoid. So I started doing it but forgot to take pictures of the process. But, it's very easy anyway. Here is what you need:
  • EOS-DKL adapter (M42-DKL will also work, and gives you a few millimeters more space to work with, but the mount to the helicoid will have to be modified)
  • J-B Weld or J-B Kwikweld or similar epoxy. J-B Kwikweld is my favorite. Canadian Tires sells them in the automotive section with other welding materials, NOT in the glue section. It took me a while to find it and many store clerks had no idea what I was talking about when asked for it. 
  • A thin rim 52mm filter.  Remove the glass from the filter. The thinner the rim the better. If this filter ring is too thick, you may not be able to focus to infinity. So test it first.
  • 18-33mm Yeenon focus helicoid (other similar range cheaper equivalent). Helicoid should have a 52mm opening on the lens side. On the camera side, it should have a NEX mount.

EOS to DKL Adapter. Click for larger

First thing first. File the three bayonet blades (in red) on the side of the EOS-DKL adapter until the rear of the mount is all round. The picture below is not an EOS-DKL adapter but an M42-EOS adapter, but the principle is the same. A Dremel grinder is invaluable here and it would only take a few minutes.

File/Grind the bayonet blades (penciled in red). click for larger.

Once the blades are filed/ground, try putting the 52mm filter ring over the rear of the adapter. It should fit near perfectly. Take the filter ring out, and clean it, as well as the rear of the adapter to make sure no oily residue is on it. After both are dried, apply epoxy to the inside of the filter ring, and put on the rear of the adapter. Put the adapter face down on a level surface, and put on a heavy weight on top of the filter ring to ensure the epoxy will set with the ring perfectly flat and even. If you use J-B Kwikweld, it will set in under 10 minutes and cure in about 6 hours.

Happy together. Filter ring on the rear of the adapter. click for larger.

Once the epoxy on the EOS-DKL adapter is cured/bonded, screw it onto the focusing helicoid. Attach your favourite lens, and enjoy the close up capability! Next time I will post some comparisons with and without the helicoid.

With Yeenon helicoid and lens attached. click for larger.

A final note. You can do this with a different mount, like the EOS to EXA (Exakta) mount. In fact, that will be my next project. This time, I will make sure I take pictures of each step.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5 - More Samples

Took a few more pictures with the Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5 zoom lens. It really is quite a decent lens that can produce pretty good quality pictures. The zoom, obviously, provides flexibility when shooting from inside the car (when stopped). This lens is a two-touch lens: the zoom ring and focusing ring are separated. This is not a real problem for auto focus lenses, but I find myself trying to focus with the zoom ring. I am sure with some use, this would not be a problem.

Smile - NEX-6 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5. Click for larger

Boarding and unboarding - NEX-6 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5. Click for larger

Benches - NEX-6 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5 Sample

I am not a big fan of zoom lenses, but I think they are sometimes indispensable in situations where mobility is limited or space is restricted. Also, many find it easier to compose with zoom than a prime lens. Early zooms were not very good. There were too many compromises. The use of computers in lens design resulted in markedly improved optical performance of zoom lenses. Soligor lenses bearing the C/D (computer designed) mark were considered their premium line of lenses and they usually have better performance compared to their non C/D lenses. This particular Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5 is quite a good performer as old zoom lenses go. Certainly quite decent wide open, at least at 80mm. 

Man at the door - NEX-6 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5 @ 80mm f3.5

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vintage Telephoto lenses - Are They Worth Buying?

If you are into manual focus lenses, I am sure you have a few El Cheapo medium telephoto lenses; most likely 135mm f2.8 or 200mm f3.5 with brand names like Soligor, Bell + Howell, Sears, Hanimex, or something like that. These lenses are super cheap and come in various mounts. I am definitely guilty of this. But, is it even worth buying these lenses versus a cheap auto focus equivalent in a zoom?

My opinion is that most of these lenses can produce acceptable images, but are hardly stellar. The worse aspect is the color fringing, blooming in wide apertures. Flare is also not great with most of these lenses. For me, any focal length longer than 135mm is not easy to focus critically, and a tripod is really needed. Using manual focus lenses for moving objects is asking for frustration. I think that OEM telephoto lenses have an upper hand over most of the third party cheap equivalence, but that's not to say there aren't good ones. One example is the Soligor C/D 200mm f2.8, and the Vivitar 200mm f3, which is quite good when stopped down a bit. Also of note is the Vivitar 135mm f2.3, which I had for a while but never really used much, but nevertheless a really good lens. Tamron is considered more upscale with its Adaptall lenses. The 135mm f2.5 is a decent performer.

If my experience is any indication, most modern cheap zooms are at least as good, if not better than the cheap 135mm f2.8 or 200mm f3.5/4.5 telephoto lenses. Sure, the zooms don't go down to f2.8 or even f3.5, and the build of the old lenses are way better, but if image quality is not there, they are just nice paper weights.

Salute! - NEX-6 & Vivitar 300mm f5.5 @ f8. Note purple fringing on right. Click for larger.

Allen Garden - NEX-6 & Minolta MC 135mm f3.5. Click for larger.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Canon FD 20mm f2.8 Sample Pictures

When I bought my NEX-6 and the Sony E50mm f1.8 OSS lens, I told my wife that would be all the gear I would buy for this year. She eyed me suspiciously and said, "Yeah sure." She knows me too well. I don't have a good track record on keeping my promise when it comes to buying photographic gear. Just one month into the year, I have already bought the Sigma 19mm and 30mm f2.8 lenses, the Canon nFD 50mm f1.2L, and the latest addition, Canon FD 20mm f2.8. I'd better stop here, or I will be in real trouble!

In typical Canon FD built fashion, the FD 20mm f2.8 is well put together and handles smoothly, despite its age. I had the auto focus version of the 20mm f2.8, which I, and many others, do not like much, and I wonder if its design was derived from the FD version. Both have a 72mm filter thread. At least on the NEX-6, the corner sharpness seems a bit better than the EF version, but I could be mistaken, as I used it on the 1.3x sensor before, and the corners weren't very good even stopped down. Overall, I am happy with the FD version on the NEX-6, however, on my very preliminary two day use.

DVP north at night - NEX-6 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Smart - NEX-6 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Streetcar turning. Shot through windshell - NEX-6 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8. Click for larger.

The yellow building - NEX-6 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Quality of Product Design

A quality product undergoes a tremendous amount of scrutiny in research, design, and testing, before it's released to the market. A new product that can't past the obvious test shows how poorly its research was before the design took place. Case in point, no-name FD-NEX adapter.

For most users, this adapter will work perfectly (not talking about the precision here, just functionality.) In fact, it works with all the New FD, FD, and most, but not all FL lenses. An example is the Canon FL 35mm f2.5. The rear of this lens has a raised portion on one side, where the aperture lever is located. See picture below:

Unusual design - half of the rear is raised. Click for larger.

The problem? The aperture arresting pin on the adapter is set about 1.5mm too low; the pin is resting on the raised portion of the lens and prevents the adapter from mating to the lens. You can see the aperture lever on the lens is at least 2mm taller than the pin on the adapter, so there is room for it to go higher. See picture below:

Pin resting on the mount - Click for larger.

I have another FD-M4/3 adapter and it doesn't have this problem. Clearly, one adapter maker did more extensive research than the other. It's a shame. The FL 35mm f2.5 is a nice lens, and I can't use it on the NEX-6, at least not until I get an adapter that can mount it properly.

Good looking lens. Click for larger.

Don River and DVP at night - NEX-6 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8. Click for larger.

Friday, February 1, 2013

G.A.S Attack

The Sigma twin lens deal has been going on for a couple of weeks now. Two Sigma lenses, the 19mm f2.8 and 30mm f2.8 lenses for $199 at B&H. The stock went out pretty quick and it was back ordered until the 28th of January. I was not going to buy them, but fellow blogger lucindale emailed me about it. As I said, I am weak when it comes to lenses. The email just pushed me over the edge. The lenses arrived yesterday.

I was excited. There are a lot of good things being said about these Sigma lenses. On my way home from picking up the lenses, I put on the 19mm f2.8, and shot a few frames. The very first frame is what you see here. I am happy I bought them. It's optically excellent, albeit a bit slow with an f2.8 maximum aperture.

One thing almost gave me a heart attack was the noise from these lenses. I didn't notice it when I put on the 19mm, but when I got home, as soon as I took the 30mm f2.8 out of the box, I heard something moving inside. Not just a small sound, but it feels and sounds like a large part is loose inside the lens. I was swearing inside, thinking the lens had to be returned. Quickly I put on the 30mm and tried it on the NEX-6. Not a problem at all. Focused fine, picture is razor sharp at f2.8. Then I lightly shook the 19mm and sure enough, it makes the same noise as the other lens. The noise is very disconcerting. A quick search indicates that the noise comes from the linear motor; when no power is applied, some of the lens elements float. Phew!

Curiously, the 19mm f2.8 comes with a lens hood, but not the 30mm f2.8. This is very unusual. The normal Sigma way of doing business is that every lens, regardless of how cheap, comes with caps, hood, and a nicely patted lens case. This puts certain lens maker to shame; unless you pay a premium for lenses that have a red ring, no hood and lens case for you!

Jimmy Simpson Park - NEX-6 & Sigma 19mm f2.8 wide open.