Monday, October 26, 2015

Topcon UV Topcor Lenses

It's often confusing when it comes to Topcon Topcor lenses, because it could be one of the two mounts: modified Exakta or UV mount.  The lenses themselves are physically very different between mounts.

The Topcor UV mount is the very cheap line, with aperture controls on the camera body, but thankfully, focusing is still done on the lens.  With the lens detached from the camera, the UV mount lens looks incomplete; they look like half lenses.  This is the whole point of this line of camera/lenses.  To be made cheap.  There are very few lenses available for the UV mount.  I have the 50mm f1.9, 53mm f2, 35mm f3.5, and 135mm f4.  Other UV lenses made were 28mm f4, 100mm f4, and 200mm f4.  Not many, and no fast lenses other than the 53mm f2.

Two Topcors. Left: Topcor 5.8cm f1.8. Right: UV Topcor 50mm f1.9
Mounting these lenses could be a problem.  As far as I know, there are no proper made adapters to use them on digital cameras.  You can make one with the mount from the camera, like I did here, and this is probably the only way to go.  I tried the lenses and I was not blown away by their image quality.  They are pretty much run of the mill quality in the same era as other lenses in the same class.  However, the 53mm f2 have pretty nice bokeh.

UV Topcor 53mm f2 on Sony A7
Spent an hour today shooting with the 53mm f2 UV Topcor.  The lens is quite sharp in the centre at f2, but the corners are kind of mushy.  Since aperture is controlled from the camera body, there is no easy way to control it on the lens when adapted to digital, so I just shot everything wide open.  That's not a great loss for me, as I like shooting wide open.  The only thing I couldn't do is the test the smaller apertures and see how the lens performs.

Overall, not really bad for a cheap lens.

All pictures below were taken with UV Topcor 53mm f2 & Sony A7.

F2 at infinity.  Not bad at the centre.

Flare -- Even the best lenses could not do much better in this situation.

Growing out of the wood --  Bokeh #1.

Milkweed Pods -- Bokeh #2

More Milkweed Pods

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Full Frame Versus This and That

If you search the web on full frame vs. other sensor sizes (M4/3, APS-C, etc), you will no doubt be presented with all kinds of comparisons.  Some are very good, but many are pointless, to the point of being silly.  Consider a scene taken with a 24mm lens on full frame, and one taken with M4/3 with a 12mm lens, with aperture set at around f8, and compare away. With recently designed cameras, a picture like this will probably look identical in most cases, except the colour/white balance.  I am pretty sure few people can tell the difference between the two pictures if white balance is equalized. Personally, I think this is the wrong way to compare cameras systems.

Choosing a camera should reflect the kind of pictures you want to make, and you make sure the camera you choose has the lenses that allow you to realize the style of pictures you want.  Obviously, if you love to shoot architecture, you would want a camera that has tilt-shift lenses for it.  If you a thin depth of field freak, you want full frame with large aperture lenses, and if shooting sports is the primary use of a camera, then a DSLR with fast tracking focus system should be the main consideration.  The point is, the sensor format does not really matter much any more if viewed purely from the image quality standpoint, except when pushing the low light limit, in which case the full frame sensor usually has an advantage.  What really matters is that the chosen camera meets your needs.  Of course, if you have the means, and you really, really want, you can always have more than one system, to get the best features/functions from each system.

I chose a mirrorless full frame camera as my main system, because I like legacy lenses, and I am a thin depth of field freak.  The short flange of mirrorless cameras allows pretty much all lenses ever made for previous cameras to be used with proper adapter, which is what I like to do.

The Light -- Tamron Adaptall 60-300mm f3.8-5.4 & Sony A7

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Camera Shows in Toronto - A Thought

Today was the annual camera show organized by the Photographic Society of Canada, the "Big One", as they advised.  Previously, this show was held in Woodbridge's Soccer Centre, taking up half of the indoor field, and was a huge show.  For the last couple of shows, they moved back to the original location in Etobicoke, much closer to me, but the venue is smaller.  I can't help but noticed that most of the camera shows in Toronto now have fewer vendors (tables) and are dominated by a few large (commercial) vendors, and fewer individual sellers.  The large vendors have some good selection of lenses, but very pricy.

What maybe happening is that these shows will eventually die, when all that's left are the large vendors.  I have been making conscious efforts to skip the commercial vendors' tables, since they seldom have any good deals.  If the shows ever end, that will be a very sad day.

I did spent more than I should have at today's show, as it usually happens.  One of the items I bought was the Voigtlander Prominent with an Ultron 50mm f2 lens.  I have been looking for this lens for a very long time, and I bought one today at a reasonable price, but the lens has separations in the rear elements.  From experience, this hardly causes any issues with image quality, and I hope I am right about this one.

Voigtlander Prominent with Ultron 50mm f2

One good deal today was the RE Topcor 135mm f3.5 for $5.  Every time I go to a camera show, I keep any eye open for the Topcor lenses, since Steve mentioned them in the comment section of this post.  They are not very common here in Toronto as I don't see them often.  I am happy to find another one for the collection for a low price.  But his one has a modified EXA mount which won't fit the Exaktar adapters.

RE Topcor 135mm f3.5.

Found another Vivitar 2X Macro Teleconverter for $15.  I have 6 or 7 of them now and I usually pick them up if they are under $20. I use them as focus helicoids for those lenses that don't have focus mechanism.  In the What Was I Thinking Department, I bought a C-mount 75mm f1.4 lens, hoping it would at least be usable in APS-C sensor, but the image circle is rather small.  Works well on the E-M5 though.  I haven't used C-Mount lenses for a while, and I really don't understand why I bought it.  Finally, a couple of broken rangefinder cameras that I will remove the lenses from.  A Nikkorex Auto35 with a Nikkor-H 48mm f2, and a Minolta AL with 45mm f2 lens.  Hopefully I will be able to make the lenses work.

No-Name (but 90% certain it's a Cosmicar)  75mm f1.4.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I Have A Small Problem

Last time I did a count on my f1.4 “standard” lenses, I found 13 (actually 14 as one eluded the tally). I had a day off last week, so I decided to do a more comprehensive inventory of all my lenses with focal length between 40mm and 58mm.  The result astonished me.  Before that, I estimated I had about 40 to 50 of them.  I was way off, by a large margin.  All the lenses, including the projection, enlarging, and lenses from rangefinder/folder cameras, totalled 123, or thereabouts; just between the focal length of 40-58mm.

I felt really, really bad, and guilty.  Perhaps I purposely underestimated my collection, so that I could continue buying them without too much guilt.  In any case, I broke down the lenses by groups and found that the most duplicated lens was the Pentacon 50mm f1.8, with 5 copies (6 if includes the Meyer-Optik Orestor, essentially the same lens).  Perhaps, reviewing and writing this would help me stop and think the next time I see another normal lens.

The German Origin -- 45 count:

     Row one, from left to right:
  • Pentacon Multi Coated 50mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Pentacon Multi Coated 50mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Pentacon Multi Coated 50mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Pentacon Multi Coated 50mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Orestor 50mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Pentacon 50mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Exida-Xenar 50mm f2.8 -- M42
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2 -- M42  

    Row two, from left to right:

  • Domiplan 50mm f2.8 -- M42
  • Domiplan 50mm f2.8 -- M42
  • Domiplan 50mm f2.8 -- M42
  • Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Primotar 50mm f3.5 -- EXA
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2 -- EXA
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f2 -- EXA
  • Kilfitt Makro Kilar D 40mm f2.8 - EXA
    Row Three, from left to right:
  • Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f1.4 HFT -- QBM
  • Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8 HFT -- QBM
  • Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8 -- QBM
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f1.9 -- DKL
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f1.9 -- DKL
  • Contax Carl Zeiss Tessar 45mm f2.8 -- CY
  • Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 -- Leica-M
    Row four, from left to right:
  • Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Primoplan 58mm f1.9 -- M42
  • Meyer-Optik Gorlitz Primoplan 58mm f1.9 -- M42
  • Carl Zeiss Tessar 50mm f2.8 -- M42
  • Carl Zeiss Tessar 5cm f3.5 -- EXA
  • Carl Zeiss Tessar 5cm f3.5 -- EXA
  • Carl Zeiss Tessar 45mm f2.8 -- Fixed from Contaflex
  • Staeble-Kata 45mm f2.8 -- L39 (non-standard)
  • Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 5cm f2 -- EXA
    Row five, from left to right:
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f2 -- Fixed from Kodak Retina
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Retina-Xenon 50mm f2 -- Fixed from Kodak Retina
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Xenon 50mm f2 -- From Diax IIb
  • Rodenstock Heligon 50mm f2 -- From Balda folder camera
  • Leidolf Weztlar Triplon 5cm f2.8 -- Fixed from folder camera
  • Steinheil Munich Cassar VL 50mm f2.8 -- From folder camera
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Radionar 5cm f2.9 -- From folder camera
  • Rodenstock Trinar 45mm f2.8 -- From folder camera
    Row six, from left to right:
  • Voitlander Color-Lanthar 42mm f2.8 -- Fixed from Voigtlander rangerfinder camera
  • Voitlander Lanthar 50mm f2.8 -- Fixed from Voigtlander rangerfinder camera
  • Voitlander Color-Skopar 50mm f2.8 -- DKL
  • Schneider-Kreuznach 50mm f4.5 -- Enlarging Lens
  • Rodenstock Omegaron 50mm f3.5 -- Enlarging Lens
  • Rodenstock 50mm f2.8 -- Enlarging Lens
  • Schneider-Kreuznach Componar 50mm f4.5 -- Enlarging Lens
  • Leitz Wetzlar 5cm f3.5 -- Enlarging Lens
The Fast and the Curious -- 9 count:

    Row one, from left to right:
  • Canon EF 50mm f1.2L -- EF
  • Canon nFD 50mm f1.2L -- nFD
  • Canon FD 55mm f1.2 S.S.C -- FD
  • Canon FL 55mm f1.2 -- FL
    Row two, from left to right:
  • JML TV Lens 50mm f0.95 -- C-Mount converted to E-Mount
  • Canon FL 58mm f1.2 -- FL
  • Kowa 50mm f1.2 -- Projection Lens
  • Kodak Ektagraphic 50mm f1.2 -- Projection Lens
  • Lomo 50mm f1.2 -- Projection Lens
The Russian Connection -- 11 count:

Row one, from left to right:
  • Zenith Helios-44M-4 58mm f2 -- M42
  • Helios-44M 58mm f2 -- M42
  • Helios-44M 58mm f2 -- M42
  • Helios-44-2 58mm f2 -- M42
Row two, from left to right:
  • Arsat 50mm f2 -- Nikon F
  • Helios-103 53mm f1.8 -- Kiev/Contax 
  • Helios-103 53mm f1.8 -- Kiev/Contax 
  • Jupiter-3 5cm f1.5 -- L39
Row three, from left to right:
  • Jupiter-8M 5mm f2 -- Kiev/Contax
  • Jupiter-8M 5mm f2 -- Kiev/Contax
  • Industar-2 50mm f3.5 -- M42
Canon Legacy -- 8 count:

Row one, from left to right:
  • Canon FD 50mm f1.4 S.S.C -- FD
  • Canon FD 50mm f1.4 S.S.C -- FD
  • Canon nFD 50mm f1.4 -- nFD
  • Canon FL 50mm f1.4 -- FL
Row two, from left to right:
  • Canon FD 50mm f1.8 -- FD
  • Canon FD 50mm f1.8 -- FD
  • canon FL 50mm f1.8 -- FL
  • Canon EF STM 40mm f2.8 -- EF

Pentax Love -- 7 count:

Row one, from left to right:
  • Macro-Takumar S-M-C 50mm f4 (1:2) -- M42
  • Macro-Takumar 50mm f4 (1:1) -- M42
  • SMC Pentax-A 50mm f2 -- K-Mount
Row two, from left to right:
  • SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8 -- M42
  • SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 55mm f1.8 -- M42
Row three:
  • SMC Pentax-M 45mm f2.8 Pancake -- K-Mount

The [Mostly] Japanese Club -- 15 count:

Row one, from left to right:
  • Auto Chinon Multi-Coated 55mm f1.4 -- M42
  • GAF 55mm f1.4 -- M42
  • Auto Chinon 55mm f1.4 -- M42
  • Auto Chinon 55mm f1.7 -- M42
  • Auto Chinon 55mm f1.7 -- M42
Row two, from left to right:
  • Vivitar 50mm f1.9 -- M42
  • Vivitar VMC 50mm f1.7 -- M42
  • Olympus F.Zuiko 50mm f1.8 -- M42
  • Mamiya-Sekor 55mm f1.4 -- M42
  • Sony 50mm f1.8 -- E-Mount
Row three, from left to right:
  • Yashica Yashinon 50mm f1.9 -- M42
  • Yashica ML 50mm f1.9 -- CY
  • Nikon Series E 50mm f1.8 -- F-Mount
  • Auto Topcor 5.8cm f1.8 -- Topcor/EXA
  • Haiou-64 (Seagull) 58mm f2 -- MD
The Minoltas -- 8 count:

Row one, from left to right:
  • Minolta Rokkor-X PG 50mm f1.4 -- MC/MD
  • Minolta Rokkor-PG 58mm f1.4 -- MC/MD
  • Minolta Rokkor-X 50mm f1.4 -- MD
Row two, from left to right:
  • Minolta Rokkor-PF 55mm f1.7 -- MC/MD
  • Minolta Rokkor-PF 55mm f1.7 -- MC/MD
  • Minolta Rokkor-PF 55mm f1.7 -- MC/MD
Row three, from left to right:
  • Minolta Rokkor-QF 50mm f3.5 macro -- MC/MD
  • Minolta Rokkor-X 45mm f2 -- MD
The Family Portrait -- 123 count:
This picture includes some of the lenses not in any of the group pictures above.  This does not include 2 Xenar 45mm f2.8 DKL and a Leica-R 50mm f2 which I couldn't find (and possibly others as well).  Also some 50mm lenses still mounted to the cameras.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Haiou-64 (Seagull) 58mm f2 Biotar Clone

China is certainly not known for producing photographic equipment.  A little while ago, I saw a 58mm f2 lens that was made in China, I was partly fascinated, and partly because it was very cheap (probably something like $10) so I bought it. Definitely not a common lens in North America, as I don't think this lens and the camera it came with was for export to the West.  This lens is a Biotar 58mm f2 clone (or it could be a clone of a clone, the Helio-44) in Minolta MD mount, and was probably made in the 70s and 80s.  It's optically clean, but something is not quite right, because as soon as I start focusing, I can feel the there is some play, like something is loose inside.  Very annoying.   But then again, this lens is a few decades old.  It might have been abused before.

The lens mount and barrel is made of metal, and the focusing is still relatively smooth with a tiny bit of coarseness.  The aperture has 6 blades, like most old East German lenses from the same era.  I really shouldn't complain too much for such a cheap lens.

I am quite surprised the lens is optically quite good.  Very sharp even wide open, and by f8, sharp across the frame on the A7.  In terms of characteristics, no surprises here.  It's similar to the pictures rendered by the Helios-44 or the Biotar 58mm f2, and this is a good thing!  These lenses are known to produce creamy smooth bokeh.

At the end of the day, it's good value for the money.

Grafitti & Wildflower - Sony A7 & Haiou-64 58mm f2. Click for larger.

Port of Toronto - Sony A7 & Haiou-64 58mm f2. Click for larger.

Milkweed Pots - Sony A7 & Haiou-64 58mm f2. Click for larger.


Milkweed Pots - Sony A7 & Haiou-64 58mm f2. Click for larger.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Signs that You Are Addicted to Gear and May Have G.A.S

G.A.S = Gear Acquisition Syndrome.  A disease that affects mostly men.  It infects the central reasoning area of the brain and makes men vulnerable into thinking more gear make them better photographers, and thus buying gear that they don't need.  There is no known cure, but there is a silver lining; some men are able to recover as the photographs they make shift from pictures of cameras, lenses, brick walls, and resolution charts to other form of pictures.

I just realized I have a lot of "normal" lenses between 40mm and 58mm, probably in the 40 to 50 in total, so I decided to see how many of them are f1.4.  The tally?  13.  Just the f1.4 lenses.  I thought I should write down some of the things that might be signs of gear addiction, and was very surprised how quickly the list came out.  Duh!  Of course it's quick.  Most of these apply to me!  Without further ado, here is the list.  Feel free to add your own in the comments:

  • You buy printed photo magazines just to look at the ads
  • You have a copy of A Lens Collector's Vade Meccum
  • You know exactly what a "normal" lens is
  • You have all 5 versions of the same lens
  • Words like Noctilux and Otus motivate you to make more money so that you can buy them
  • You name your daughter Tessar, and your son's name Nokton is not misspelled, and your dog's name is Skopar
  • You think Hologon is the most beautiful word in the world
  • You scare your partner at night uttering words like "Fisheye", "Bigma", in your sleep
  • You justify all your gear purchases as investment
  • You buy similar looking cameras so that your significant other can't tell the one that you use is not the same as the 4 others in the locked closet that only you have the key to
  • You tell your wife it's worth the expense of the 85mm f1.2L because it would make her look more beautiful in the picture
  • You convince yourself that the purchase of a Leica Summilux will one day make you as good as Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Every time you see a red band, or gold band, it reminds you of your favourite lens
  • You are a Pentaxian, and you know the word "Limited" is not a disadvantage
  • You have been buying K-Mount lenses for the last ten years, because you believe one day, there will be a full frame Pentax camera, like you believe in Santa Claus
  • You get excited when you hear words like Holly Trinity, Magic Drainpipe, The Dust Pump, Sigmarit, and you know exactly what they refer to
  • You use Ikea shelves to store your cameras/lenses because you can't afford better shelves since you spent all your money on cameras/lenses
  • Decimal numbers like 0.95, 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 bring tears to your eyes
  • You just realized that the lens you bought yesterday is exactly the same as 2 others that you didn't know you had
  • You take pictures with enlarging, projection, and printing cell lenses on your mirrorless camera
  • You have many lenses without apertures
  • You have many lenses without focus mechanism
  • You have drawers full of lens adapters
  • You have a large bin of lens hoods, and most of them don't fit your lenses, but you tell yourself one day, you will get the lenses that will fit the hoods
  • You can't understand why anyone needs to use the aperture on the lens, since you always shoot wide open
  • You feel no shame when others look at your ugly self-made lens contraption in disgust
  • 100% of your pictures contains 99% bokeh, and 1% subject that's in focus.
  • Your favourite pastime is to browse antique/flea market for vintage cameras/lenses
  • You never miss a single camera show
  • You created an app with a SQL database to catalogue and keep track of your cameras/lenses because a spreadsheet has reached its capacity
  • You remember the minute details of a lens, but forget your kids birthdays
  • Your wife is annoyed that you spend more time with your gear than with the kids, or with her
  • You blog about your favourite lens in length, and the only picture that accompanies the blog entry is the picture of the lens
  • You have 9 camera bags, and all of them are full of gear
  • You have 8 different tripod heads, and each one has a specific purpose, and each one is used exactly once
  • You fondle your cameras/lenses and talk to them like they are your lover
  • You spend more time on Flickr and online forums than taking pictures
  • You carry your camera with you everywhere you go, but you hardly take any pictures
  • You can't understand why anyone would read whatever Ken Rockwell has to say, and you visit Michael Johnston's theonlinephotographer blog religiously
  • You tell your wife you paid $20 for the very beat-up Speed Panchro that you actually paid $2000 for and she believed you
  • 80% of the photo in your Flickr stream is picture of cameras and lenses
  • Your wife thinks your planar is something to organize your daily tasks
  • Your wife can not understand why all your lenses do not zoom or focus themselves
  • You made your kids call you Prime Master
  • You have a RAID 10 storage setup to protect the terabytes of pictures you took of your cameras and lenses
  • You have another RAID 10 storage setup to protect the setup above
  • You drove 4 hours to photograph a sunrise, only to find out you shot everything wide open out of habit, and all the pictures are overexposed
  • You made penholders out of broken lenses
  • You have a box you call treasure that's full of parts from dismantled cameras and lenses. 
  • You hope that you can use them to repair lenses/cameras, but deep down you know that will never happen because that's why they became parts in the first place
  • You use a stack of filter rings in place of a hood
  • You have a dozen rolls of exposed film in the drawer from 1998, but never developed
  • You get bored of the auto focus lenses you spent tens of thousands of dollar buying, and are having a blast with a $20 enlarging lens taking pictures of your AF lenses
  • You know by heart the first two digits of a Vivitar lens serial number corresponds to which manufacturer who made the lens
  • You love pictures in RAW, and hate those cooked in jpeg
  • You have thousands of tiny screws harvested from dead cameras/lenses

Fabulous Fifty f1.4s