Monday, June 30, 2014

Sony Customer Service - An Update

As you may already know, I bought my Sony A7 and the Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8 ZA lens as open box items at the Sony Store when they were clearing out the inventory and closing their physical stores. There were few things missing in this deal: Body cap for the camera, lens hood for the Zeiss 35mm f2.8 ZA, and front/rear caps.  I really don't care about the front caps as I have lots of those, but I do want the body cap for the A7, the rear cap and the hood for the lens.

Previously, I had two occasions to use the Sony customer service, here for replacing the LCD as the coating came off under normal use, and here for the defective external viewfinder. I was extremely happy with both cases and I think Sony is one of the best when it comes to services under warranty (Panasonic is also excellent when they fixed my G1). In any case, I couldn't go back to the store for them because it was already closed so I called Sony trying to get the missing items, as they are open box and should come with all accessories. . After some initial resistance and they tried to tell me my cameras were sold as is, but nobody told me it was, and it was not stated in the receipt.

Eventually, they agreed to send me the missing items that I asked for: one rear cap, one body cap for the A7, and one hood for the lens. After uploading proof of purchase (receipt and picture of the Zeiss 35mm f2.8 ZA lens with serial number), I received a package few days later: a rear cap and a front cap for the lens. No body cap and no hood. I emailed them about the missing items, and today, a package came and I got the hood, but it's not the right hood. The ALC-SH132 hood I received is for the FE 28-70mm f3.5-5.6, which I already have when I bought the camera kit. And, there is no body cap in the package.

I am actually grateful that Sony is trying to get me the missing items, but I am also very frustrated that I have to go through so much trouble to get them (which I still don't have all the items). I mean, they have the receipt AND the picture of the lens so I don't know how they can make a mistake like this.

I am debating whether I should email them again about the wrong/missing items, or just give up. I have a semi solution for the hood: the hood from the Sony 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 NEX-5N kit lens sort of fit the Zeiss 35mm f2.8ZA, and it's usable but it comes off too easily.

Just want to say all this fiasco does not detract me from enjoy the Sony A7 and the Zeiss FE 35mm f2.8ZA. I think it's one of the best small full frame cameras in the world with great image quality to boot, and the lens is just exceptionally good.

Reflections - Sony A7 & Zeiss FE 35mm f2.8ZA. Click for larger.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Apollo 135mm f1.8 Low Light TV Lens Revisited

I last looked this lens was back in September of 2012 with the NEX-5N, and then a month later with another shot. That was it.  Haven't used it ever since. This lens didn't work well on the NEX-5N, so I thought may be it would be better on full frame (A7).

The Apollo 135mm f1.8 is a massive lens with an 82mm filter thread. It's an impressive chunk of glass. Very heavy and is well built with very smooth focusing. Can't fault the lens for its build quality. It's rock solid.

If you are thinking of replacing your Canon EF 135mm f2 lens with this one, think again. While the EF 135mm f2 is razor sharp wide open, this one is passable for portraiture at f1.8, but any other purpose you may find it a tad soft. I am not saying it's unusable, on the contrary, it works beautifully for people pictures wide open. Starting at f2.8, it sharpens up nicely but you may find it lacking microcontrast, or bite. It's reasonably good by f5.6, but if sharpness is what you are after in this lens, this is the wrong lens for you. But if you have a need to shoot with a mid telephoto lens in low light, especially for pictures of people, this lens is for you. On the A7, it's actually very nice for this purpose. Sharpness freaks, your lens is Canon EF 135mm f2, or the Zeiss (Sony) 135mm f1.8, or Nikon 135mm f2 DC for your Nikon shooters. What you do get, is a very fast lens for a very reasonable amount of money.

I almost forgot, don't forget the lens hood. If yo have 77mm screw in hoods, use a 82-77mm step-down ring and then attach the hood.

Apollo 135mm f1.8 on Sony A7

Full view. Apollo 135mm f1.8 on Sony A7.

Dolls - Sony A7 & Apollo 135mm f1.8 @ f1.8. Click for larger.

Body Armour - Sony A7 & Apollo 135mm f1.8 @ f1.8

Megan - Sony A7 & Apollo 135mm f1.8 @ f1.8

Friday, June 27, 2014

Carl Zeiss Jena 10.5cm f4.5 Tessar - First Look

I have quite a few lenses with the Tessar design, but this 10.5cm f4.5 medium format lens (this focal length probably won't cover 4x5) I didn't have. When I saw this in the antique market, I wanted it. This focal length (105mm) is not as common as the 135mm, 150mm or even the 210mm and they are not as easy to find. Besides, after using the Dallmeyer 12 inch, and the Air Ministry 8 inch, I really would like to try something shorter.

As with pretty much all uncoated lenses, without a hood, this lens will capture pictures with white-out effect, even in evenly illuminated lighting. But attaching a hood to this lens proved to be difficult. In the end, I had to use electrical tape to attach the hood. Once the hood is on, the pictures come out exquisite. I like how it renders the pictures that look velvety but very sharp at the wide apertures. Stopping down to around f8, the lens is sharp as heck, but I wouldn't expect anything less from a Tessar.

I am continually surprised at these old lenses and how lovely they draw the pictures. Small, light, no coating, simple design. The front and rear elements can be unscrewed and cleaned easily. Can't say that for modern lenses. I especially like this focal length, which is very easy to work with and doesn't have a minimum focus distance of a mile. The only thing that bothers me, is that there is no T (aperture clicks to close, clicks to open) setting, only B (bulb) and timed settings. I am able to use the B setting and keep the shutter open, but a very light touch will reset it (close it). Not a real big deal, but annoying.

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 10.5cm f4.5. Click for larger.

Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 10.5cm f4.5 mounted on helicoid. Click for larger.

Bokeh - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 10.5cm f4.5 @ f4.5. Click for larger.

Bridge Part - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 10.5cm f4.5 @ f8. Click for larger.

Water Valve - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 10.5cm f4.5. Click for larger.

Rust & Paint - Sony A7 & Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 10.5cm f4.5 @ f8.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4 - Sample Picture

The Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4 lens I got from the antique market has a stuck aperture. A quick search tells me that this is a very common problem for this lens. I found out that there are two reasons for this: 1) the is oil on the aperture blades, and 2) the spring that holds the aperture open is very weak. My copy also has a layer of oil-like substance under the front element, when looked closely. So I decided to open it up and clean it. What a surprise!

Taking out the front element is very easy. Just removed the name ring with a rubber stopper, and then the retention ring that presses on the front element. As I was cleaning it, I noticed that the more I cleaned, the more scratch marks I left behind!  This only means one thing: the coating is coming off as I cleaned. So, I ended up rubbing the coating under the front element off completely. The coating on the outside seems fine. After I put it back, I can't really tell, except now it's cleaner. However, the inner elements are still dusty, but that has to be for another day.

I also found a stronger spring to replace the weak one. It's still a bit sticky, but at least I can now change the aperture on the lens. The oil still needs to be cleaned.

Took a few shots and the pictures turned out quite nicely. I would say a pretty good deal for $20, with a bonus SRT-101 body as a paperweight :)

Megan - Sony A7 & Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4 @ f2.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sony A7 and Contax Vario-Sonnar 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 - Sample Picture

I got this lens from Adam in 2009 and used it a handful of times and put it away until now.  I think at that time I was crazy about Zeiss lenses and just wanted to get my hands on anything I could afford. This particular lens has fungus in the rear group of lens elements and this affects the image quality slightly at the wide end. Even with the fungus, the long end is very sharp. This lens represented the low end of the Contax line, but it's well build and the overall image quality is very satisfying. Like its cousin, the Contax 35-70mm f3.4, this lens has a close-up feature which is very useful to get a sort of pseudo macro.

The 28-70mm focal length is more useful on full frame than crop sensors, as 28mm is quite wide and adequate for most situations. Many people do not like variable aperture zoom lenses, especially in the film days, but with digital it just makes no difference at all.

As I use the A7 more, I find that some of my lenses that were simply unsatisfactory on crop sensor bodies work like a new lens. The Leica-R 28mm f2.8 Elmarit is one, and this one surprises me as well. I don't regret getting rid of the Canon 5D Mark II and got the A7 at all. In fact, the A7 has become one of my favourite cameras.

Crane - Sony A7 & Contax 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 at f8

Sunday, June 22, 2014

St. Lawrence Antique Market

The St. Lawrence Antique Market runs every Sunday (if you are a food lover, Saturday is Farmer's Market) and it draws huge number of people who are looking for unique stuff. Among the antique sellers, there are few who sell photographic equipment. No guarantee there are good deals on photo related stuff, but sometimes you can find some bargains. That's why it's fun to browse and you never know what might turn up. In warm days, the market extends to the outside, which makes browsing even more enjoyable.

Mural outside the market - Sony A7 & Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8ZA. Click for larger.

Outside market - Sony A7 & Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2.8ZA. Click for larger.

Today's find: Old classic SRT-101 with Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.4 [Stuck Aperture], $20. This PF 58mm f1.4 shares the same design as the well loved Rokkor-PF 58mm f1.2. It's a real beauty in terms of build and condition and produces nice pictures with pleasing bokeh, like the f1.2 version. I am hoping I can fix the stuck aperture.

Today's find: Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 105mm f4.5. Not really a good deal at $40 but I like to try this Tessar. It has no scratches on the glass, which is amazing considering its age, and how worn out the outside of the lens is. Someone really did take care of this lens.

Today's find: Yashica-44 in exceptionally good condition. Never going to use it for film, but I will put it on the shelf for $35 :)  Comes complete with original case.  The shutter and self-timer work very nicely.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wollensak 162mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar - Couple More Samples

In my last post on the Wollensak 162mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar, I meant to include a picture at wide open to compare the sort of weird spin wheel bokeh when stopping down a bit. I have now posted the comparison below. I like both but the stopped down version is more interesting.

Bokeh at wide open - Sony A7 & Wollensak 162mm f4.5

Bokeh at slightly stopped down - Sony A7 & Wollensak 162mm f4.5

Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron - Couple of Sample Pictures

As far as bokeh goes, the Summicron 90mm f2 [Canadian version, E55] is one of my favourite. I had an older version before, but the minimum focus distance was not as close as this one at 0.7m, which is excellent. Most lenses in this focal length is at about 1m. Like all Leica lenses, it's built to last. Every time I hold it in my hands, it reminds me how a beautiful lens should be made. Every time I look at the images captured by this wonderful lens, I thank Dr. Mandler, who gave the world so many world class lenses, including this one.

Images taken with Sony A7 and Leica-R 90mm f2 Summicron.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spin Wheel Bokeh - Wollensak 162mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar

We have looked at square bokeh, Spaceship shaped bokeh, ugly bokeh, swirling bokeh, and of course the normal bokeh, and today, the spin wheel bokeh. It's interesting how the shape of the aperture blades can create weird and unusual looking bokeh.

This one is a Wollensak 162mm f4.5 enlarging raptar that came with its own shutter. In the old days, large format enlarging lenses can be used for taking lenses, and vice versa. It has the spin wheel aperture blades, but lacks a focusing mechanism. I put the lens on a 135mm lens barrel, with the Yeenon Focus helicoid, so that I can take close up pictures. On it's own, the minimum focus distance is quite far. Let's not forget the lens hood, without which the pictures will come out hazy.

The lens is sharp but very low contrast. Not as good as my favourite Wollensak 209mm f4.5 Raptar Copy Lens, which has the traditional circular blades. The pictures come out of the Wollensak 162mm f4.5 lens is very interesting, and well worth the effort.

Wollensak 162mm f4.5 Enlarging Raptar with its own shutter. Click for larger.

Mounted on the lens barrel, Lens Bubbles style. Click for larger.

Bokeh #1 - Sony A7 & Wollensak 162mm f4.5. Click for larger.

Bokeh #2 - Sony A7 & Wollensak 162mm f4.5. Click for larger.

Bokeh #3 - Sony A7 & Wollensak 162mm f4.5. Click for larger.

Bokeh #4 - Sony A7 & Wollensak 162mm f4.5.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Infrared Photo Set

Today was a beautiful day for Infrared pictures. I have been practicing taking close up pictures in Infrared. Due to focus shift, it's not as easy as one might think, if you don't have an infrared camera with live-view. This gets me thinking about getting a really cheap NEX or Micro 4/3 camera and convert it for infrared use. With live-view, I won't need to worry about getting the focus correctly. Unfortunately, the Infrared filter for the sensor is expensive, and even more so for the labour of conversion. The conversion could run into $500-$600. I guess I will just enjoy what I have, at least for the foreseeable future.

All pictures below taken with Infrared converted Canon 20D and Pentax-M 20mm f4.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tai Chi Man

Saw this man doing Tai Chi by the lake and his two dogs were patiently waiting by the side. Too bad he was near the end of the moves and I only had a few frames, and only this one turned out OK. I was using the Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5 which worked quite well on the NEX-6 but it vignettes really badly on the full frame Sony A7, even stopping down to f8. I am sure that should not be the case, otherwise they couldn't see the lens with this kind of vignette. Perhaps it was the built-in hood, or the adapter, or something completely different. In any case, this lens does not work well on the A7.

Tai Chi Man - Sony A7 & Soligor C/D 80-200mm f3.5 @ f5.6. Some cropping.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

National Iced Tea Day

Today is National Iced Tea Day. Not that I knew about it. I stumbled on up the occasion quite accidentally.

This afternoon I decided to go to Dundas Square for some shooting, as it's a busy place and there is usually events going on. Sure enough, the occasion was free iced tea tasting, along with live music. This actually was a great opportunity to test the Olympus 100-200mm f5 zoom lens. I wanted to see how it performs on the Sony A7.

Surprisingly, the lens works very well on the A7. No visible vignetting even wide open (f5) and completely acceptable even wide open. The second pictures shows a 100% crop at f5. I think that's pretty good, no? Seems to perform better on the A7 than on NEX-6 or OM E-M5.  Sometimes very cheap lenses can produce very good results.

Live Music - Sony A7 & Olympus OM 100-200mm f5 @ f5. Click for larger.

Crop from picture above. Click on it to see 100% crop. For some reason, Blogger reprocesses the pictures as I upload them and make them brighter than the original. This is very annoying and sometimes very bad, like this time, and sometimes it's tolerable.

Lining up for free iced tea sample - Sony A7 & OM 100-200mm f5. Click for larger.

Enjoying the free music and iced tea - Sony A7 & OM 100-200mm f5 @ f5. Click for larger.

Videographer - Sony A7 & OM 100-200mm f5 @ f5. Click for larger.

Lead Singer - Sony A7 & OM 100-200mm f5 @ f5.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Canon FD 20mm f2.8 S.S.C on Sony A7

I feel like the Sony A7 has given me a totally new set of lenses, even though they are still the same ones I used on the camera bodies with smaller sensors. Wide is now truly wide and it's liberating!

Last time I looked at the Pentax-M 20mm f4, the tiny, pancake like lens that's one of my favourites. It performed very well on the A7, considering its age. My other 20mm lens, the Canon FD 20mm f2.8 S.S.C, is a stop faster, but how does it stack up against the Pentax? I wouldn't do a extensive comparison in this post, because I intend to shoot them side by side in a later date.

The Canon 20mm f2.8 vignettes very heavily at f2.8, but it's still very sharp, and even the corners are very respectable. The picture below was how it came out from the RAW file. I would say at least 3 stops of light loss in the periphery. It's definitely not desirable in most situations, unless you want vignettes in the picture.

Downtown toronto - Sony A7 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8 @ f2.8. Click for larger.

But, the vignette mostly goes away by f5.6. At about f8, the lens is very sharp and the corners are relatively sharp, but not as good as the centre. I would say it's on par with the Pentax-M 20mm f4.

Very wide angle lenses are hard to control, and I am terrible at it. The fact that it captures so much information in the frame, finding a balanced composition is not an easy task to me.

Untitled - Sony A7 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8 @ f5.6. Click for larger.

Last Rays - Sony A7 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8 @ f8. Click for larger.

Sugar Beach - Sony A7 & Canon FD 20mm f2.8 @ f8.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Steinheil Auto-Quinar 135mm f2.8 Sample Pictures

The Steinheil Quinar 135mm f2.8 is one of the most beautifully made lens I have. The gorgeous chrome finish has no sign of fade or aging. It simply looks like new after many decades. The good look is supplemented by the great optics. It's sharp without harshness; just very pleasing rendering.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Some Random Pictures

I have been trying out different lenses on the Sony A7. All of them take on a different perspective than when they were used on the crop sensor cameras. I found the A7's sensor is even more forgiving to old lenses than the NEX-6, as the pixel density is slightly lower on the A7 due to its larger sensor size. So far, I am very happy with the A7.

11even - Sony A7 & Leitz Hektor 135mm f4.5. Click for larger.

Megan - Sony A7 & Birns & Sawyer 150mm f3 Cine Lens. Click for larger.

Dead Leaf - Sony A7 & Meyer-Optik Primoplan 58mm f1.9. Click for larger.

Tulip - Sony A7 & Taylor-Hobson 75mm f2 TV Lens. Click for larger.