Tuesday, 29 October 2013

(not just) another FD lens adapter review

Lens adapters for using Manual Focus lenses (from mainly 35m cameras) on my micro 4/3 is something which I've not written much about for some time.  Well really not much has changed, until I spotted this little guy on the market.

As you can see its a reasonably vanilla looking basic lens adapter. To me there is not much difference between the various FD adapters on the market except if they do or do not have an iris engagement pin ring on the adapter, this does.

What does stand out immediately to me however is this adapter also has a tripod mount on the adapter.

Now to me thats something to mention!

I'd seen a few of these pop up in the in the past, but as this was so bloody cheap I thought I'd just get one.

One of the problems that you have with cameras is when they have a big lens mounted on them that does not have a tripod mount on the lens. Now normally lenes don't have a tripod mount on them but bigger lenses do. 200mm seems to be the turnaround point where they may or may not, but by 300mm they usually do.

That can become a slight problem for balance on the tripod (when you adjust the tripod the lens just goes 'whack' down from the cantilever). Also I feel that there is more likely to be vibration in the tripod + camera mount with the lens a cantilever on the camera that's on the tripod.

Back when I used 35mm gear I often wished there was a tripod collar for my EF100-300mm lens because of all the above reasons. When I was after the EF200mm f2.8 I really was surprised that it didn't have such. I guess its because on full frame 200mm is on the edge of hand holding and so many use it that way : thus no tripod collar needed.

I have an FD200mm f2.8 which is more or less the same design as the EF and when using it on the micro 4/3 (it being an effective 400mm) there are many times I'd like to have it on a tripod. When using my GH1 and that lens I've often thought it would be more well balanced that way too. So here it is on the adapter on the tripod...



and then with the camera mounted behind it.


which to me now feels much better.

Now in going around the internet forums people often seem to obsess with the effect of the weight of the lens on the front of the camera. The confident newbie veteran (of 5 months experience with owning a camera, but years of forum banter) knows that using a lens of such weight on the camera will lead to 1) inevitable damage their pride an joy and 2) lead to unfathomable grief.

This adapter will go a long way towards ameliorating those issues, and probably one more too (which is not an issue IMO).

The other issue which seems to be a source of anxiety among the newbies veteran photographers who are obsessed with image clarity is that of the effect of the lens not being 'tight in the mount' or that the mount may not be precise enough.

It seems that the stress of the mass of the lens on the mount may cause the lens to "tilt" and loose accuracy. Something like a few microns is all thats needed I read. This sort of incredible accuracy is the stuff which NASA would also like to obtain as well as makers of instruments such as the Hubble telescope. Microns of tilt mean that you will loose precious resolution from the system. No wonder people with large format cameras have been struggling with image clarity over the years. Such miserably flimsy wooden cameras as used by Ansel Adams could not have allowed him to produce anything of quality.
 
Such reports have been circulating the net recently. No evidence, just "a well trusted source". Probably its Jason who was being creative with his macBook Pro.

So, if the main thing you photograph is test targets on precision glass with your camera rigidly mounted then probably don't bother using anything other than native lenses. Some photographers may also require a "high speed lubricant", look for low temperature high speed in the specs. Always wear safety glasses in case something comes off.

Anyway, back to the adapter ... as I mentioned this adapter has a ring for 'engage' and 'disengage' of the FD lens iris. This has two benefits:
  1. you can mount the lens easier
  2. you can set the lens to (say) f5.6, "open" it to focus more accurately (than you could with it stopped down) and then close it again to take.

Compared to previous adapters I've tried with this system this one has kept the ring a bit more compact and doesn't get in the way of my fingers.


Please read this blog post about the operations of the iris and the lock / open ring. However what I said of relevence there was to engage and disengage the iris control this adaptor gets around the problem of needing to engage the FD iris coupler during the mounting process and the iris coupling is engaged by turning the ring after mounting.



To mount the adapter, first move the ring to "open". There is a red dot on FD lenses, so line this up with the red dot on the adapter. Then mount and turn the lens to engage normally.

At this point the iris is not yet engaged, to to engaged (and allow it to be stopped down) turn the ring on the outside of the adapter (which moves the engaging pin as in the diagram above).

The last point that I'd like to raise on this adapter is the tripod mount.
This is essentially a foot made of a single piece of alloy that is then bolted to the adapter with two small bolts (really small) that run up the center of the foot. The kit came with two spare bolts (should you loose / break one) and a 'patch' to cover the area if you decided to take the foot off.

The image to the left here shows the foot taken off and the bolts I mean.

The foot "keys" into a surface of the adapter so as to minimize twist, but if you had an accident with it, then its possible you could bend a bolt or shear one. So its nice to have some spares.

I'm intending to put a smear of fingernail polish on these bolt threads when I put it back together as a form of 'poor mans locktight'. This will actually be a good thing because:
* it will provide a firm bed for the threads to meet
* will prevent any metal expansion differences (the adapter body is alloy, the bold steel) which in winter can cause bolts to loosen
* keep them from vibrating loose over time.

such things are common in manufacture, but are absent here.

Actually it would perhaps be good to do the same with the three stainless steel threads on the front surface as I've found them to come loose after time too.

drawbacks

As you may guess, the entire system can't be rotated. So unlike proper collar designs (as on my FD300mm f4). I really like the FD lens tripod collar, it allows smooth and precise adjustment of camera alignment (vertical and horizontal) and is very nice on a mono-pod. The tension on the clamp is adjusted by rotating a knob on the side



and can be released by pulling it out popping open the clamp to allow you to quickly remove the lens from the tripod (if you decide to go hand held or pack it away leaving the clamp on the tripod.
This is something this adapter can't do ... but then you previously couldn't mount the lens on a tripod anyway ;-)

UPDATE: usage observations


Today out in the field with it I was attempting a HDRI and found that the camera was 'moving' around in the horizontal plane. I checked the tripod and found that it was actually the adapter foot moving on the mount. So I'll need to add some locktight there too. The keying of the foot into the adapter is not precise enough.

Then I discovered that I forgot to 'engage' the aperture stop down. So I ended up taking everything at f4 even though I was intending f5.6 ... not a "big" deal but a lesson. Get used to an adapter and have that in your routine so as to not introduce to many factors into your routine.

conclusion

So there you have it. A low priced adapter (in this case for FD) to put your longer lenses onto your micro4/3 camera and mount the lens on the tripod (rather than mounting the camera onto the tripod). For the price I reckon you just can't loose.

Now if precision is your gig (and it might not be) then I reckon you can't  go past the adapters made by ciecio7 who sells on ebay (and aside from having bought his adapters and thought them great have no financial kickbacks or interests). His stuff is top shelf, machined from a single bit, he even declares the materials his adapters are made from!

His adapters like this one are $90, so you get what you pay for ;-)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Colonial boy sensor cleaning

Muck got onto my GF-1 sensor

I have totally no idea how it got there but it did. A tiny bit of hair and some spots of stuff that looked like dried specks of something liquid.

It was clear in the shots first, and a quick inspection revealed it.

So with little to lose on my GF1 (it being worth less than a sensor cleaning cost) I decided to mung up my own sensor cleaner.

Armed with a small section of a type of thin sponge available here , a paddlepop stick and some windex (applied to one end of the paddlepop cleaner, the other left dry) I now have a clean as a whistle sensor.

Windex (or windex-alike) was chosen because:
  • it is less likely to leave streaks
  • its (possible) ammonia component as well as its alcohol content will kill mold spores (you don't want them growing there and given time they will grow, see this link)
The swab applicator is made so that its much narrower than the sensor and I can sweep across in two overlapping wipes from left to right.

The technique is to drag (not push) the wetted (with windex) sponge across the front of the sensor so as to sweep the items off and the windex will assist in the dislodging (and being moist prevent any static attraction).

When you've done that then use the dry end (again, dragging) to re-sweep the area and the dry applicator sponge will absorb any remaining windex and give you a nice dry surface.

Job done.

Total cost was around 2 bucks ... which was the icecream ... which I ate to get the stick.

win win

Recall that you are not touching the sensor surface (as it is mistakenly thought of that way) but you are instead touching the surface of a sheet of material designed to protect the surface of the sensor. Its also true that you will not remove every microscopic skerrick dust, but then as the sensor is some way below that surface (with respect to the microscopic dust particle) of the dust shield it will not be visible on images (only larger particles will).

As my saying goes "its the man with nothing to loose who has everything to win", and as I've also said before: "if it jams force it, if it breaks it needed replacing anyway"

 apply the above with caution and thoughtfulness

woohoo

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Panasonic 0.79 adapter on camera

well after looking at my post on the image quality of this adapter (over here) I thought I'd add a little of what the adapter looks and feels like on the camera as well as putting it onto the camera.

From the image below you can see that it adds a little onto the front of the GF1 with the 14mm mounted. 


Since the 14mm is already a snuggle little lens its actually not a big issue but certainly means I can't just stuff the camera into my backpack side pocket. Fortunately its really quick and simple to take the lens on and off the front but brings with it a small issue. You can't just put the lens cap back on the 14mm because the plastic adapter is in the way.

As it happens I don't find that a big problem because the plastic adapter is itself a functional protector of the lens, as the front of the 14mm lens is recessed back in there a little way. It almost acts as a sort of lens hood anyway.

NOTE TO PANASONIC

it would be a simple thing for Panasonic to make another plastic cap to include with the kit, that attached to the lens side of the adapter to click on and click off, giving you a lens cap to use when you leave the adapter ring on the 14mm lens.

{update: Panasonic has now addressed this issue, see my quick review of that here}

The wide adapter with its caps on slips into a pocket no problems.

One of the things which bewildered me when I was first researching this lens was the comments on various forums about how clumsy it was to use. People remarking that it unscrewed when you removed the GWC1 from the lens side mount. Clearly they aren't looking or reading the manual. I think that the lens is so intuitive to use, that even if you can't read (to be able to write on a forum) you should see the symbols on the lens side of the adapter which make it clear what to do. <shrug>

Basically after you thread the adapter ring onto the 14mm, the GWC1 attaches with a twist. You twist in the same direction to put it on as you do to get it off. In this image green is on, red is off.
  • put down
  • twist
  • use
  • twist same way
  • lift off
 


This has the effect of tightening the plastic adapter collar to the right tension, so any questions on how tight should I screw it on are answered by the device itself.

Simple. I've put together a quick video of this to show this (as well as why I'm not involved as a TV presenter) in case it wasn't obvious my meaning in the above image.



So there you have it. A low priced alternative to get you into wide angle on your micro 4/3 camera. Of course if you already have the 12mm lens in your focal lengths its hardly worth it, but if you have instead the 14mm prime (as it came with your camera ... or even just the 14-42) this adapter will give you that extra width for minimal weight penalty and just a few bucks.

For instance:
  • $800 for the 12mm f2 (130g)
  • $1000 for the Oly 12-40 f2.8 (382g)
  • $1300 for the 12-35 zoom f2.8 (300g)
  • $500 for the 12-50 zoom f3.5 ~ 6.3 (211g darker and quite a bit bigger too) 
  • curve ball : $330 14mm f2.5 + $150 0.79 adapter = $480
or just $120 to put this onto your existing pancake 14mm when you just want that wee bit wider than the 14 gives. The adapter only weighs 70g so including the 55g of the 14mm lens you have a total weight of 125g (which you don't have to keep on the camera at all times). This is lighter than anything in the zoom range and about on par with the 12mm f2 (and actually nearly exactly the same size too).

Think of it as nearly the Olympus 12mm f2 but as a 2 for one lens and cheaper ;-)


Here is a composite showing the GF with (left to right) the 12mm, the 14mm and the 14mm + the GWC-1


Bugger all difference in size between the 12mm and the 14mm + 0.79 ... and you can take it off making it a "more compact lens" without taking the lens off the camera...

In fact, I like it so much I've sold my 9-18mm zoom

:-)

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Rat Race - when winning means loosing

Some years ago I lived in Tokyo.

Coming from Australia Tokyo seemed to exemplify "the rat race".

Higher density than I'd ever actually walked around in and perhaps more concrete and motorway and high-rise residential accommodation than I'd ever seen in my life.

Seems the logical way to go when everyone wants to be in the same place (or perhaps only want to make money and thus come there for that). Unlike other animals we choose to live in the places where we congregate for work.

Academics have discussed the benefits of cities for most of the latter part of the twentieth century, particularly from the standpoint of economics. It makes good economic sense to bundle everyone together. History it seems was filled with examples of ones (which curiously many of which were now being reclaimed by jungles or so far decayed we barely know they are actually there).

Well failure never seemed to stop people from doing things in the past.

So it was with interest that I noticed this article in the Guardian today. Apparently in Japan people are not interested in sex anymore.

Japan's under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex.
and
A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all....
... 45% of women aged 16-24 "were not interested in or despised sexual contact"


I was struck by the same thing ten years ago when I was there. Everyone was dressing 'sexy' but they had nothing in their hearts. It was like going through the motions but not being interested.To me it somehow seemed a consequence of over crowding and the attendant social issues.


Some years earlier I came across an interesting research where a fellow set up mouse cities to see what would happen. I recently stumbled across a WWW site which reviewed his work, so it was fresh in my mind again.

The fellows name is John B. Calhoun  and information on his work can be found here. A really interesting website which sumarises it can be found here. Compelling stuff if you take the time to read it.

Essentially the made a metropolis for rats, providing shelter, food water and sanitation. What happened was that eventually the populations stopped growing. Some salient points from the CABINET summary page:
  • Mice found themselves born into a world that was more crowded every day, and there were far more mice than meaningful social roles
  • Normal social discourse within the mouse community broke down, and with it the ability of mice to form social bonds
  • Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. 
  • The failures and dropouts congregated in large groups in the middle of the enclosure, their listless withdrawal occasionally interrupted by spasms and waves of pointless violence 
  • Elsewhere, cannibalism, pansexualism, and violence became endemic.
Perhaps the most interesting thing in his research was the finding that even after the populations dropped down again:
On day 560, a little more than eighteen months into the experiment, the population peaked at 2,200 mice and its growth ceased. A few mice survived past weaning until day six hundred, after which there were few pregnancies and no surviving young. As the population had ceased to regenerate itself, its path to extinction was clear. There would be no recovery, not even after numbers had dwindled back to those of the heady early days of the Universe. The mice had lost the capacity to rebuild their numbers—many of the mice that could still conceive, such as the “beautiful ones” and their secluded singleton female counterparts, had lost the social ability to do so.
Seems pretty close to the situation playing out in Japan to me ... perhaps parts of it even in other western big cities.

Planners have sought to solve the problems of cities for centuries, sanitation, power, water, hygene and more recently even greater social security via money. Money is something you can't live without in a city. Can't just draw water from your well, go shoot a rabbit for dinner or even grow any food. Heck if you live in an apartment you probably can't even do anything meaningful like repair and service your car / house / stuff.

Even less meaningful roles exist when you don't have a job (but can survive with social security). Another interesting quote:
No matter how sophisticated we considered ourselves to be, once the number of individuals capable of filling roles greatly exceeded the number of roles, only violence and disruption of social organization can follow. ... Individuals born under these circumstances will be so out of touch with reality as to be incapable even of alienation. Their most complex behaviors will become fragmented. Acquisition, creation and utilization of ideas appropriate for life in a post-industrial cultural-conceptual-technological society will have been blocked.

Japan is of course suffering from a problem that I think perhaps we'll see in other developing countries soon.


Personally never liked big cities to live in ... ok for work or a holiday, but I personally prefer the natural world.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Christians (and drowning)

A friend of mine once noted to me that many christians are a poor advertisement for the Chruch. He is a Church going Christian (and a nice bloke just to make this clear).

For some reason most christians (note the lack of C and c instead) get tied up in espousing dogmas and 'teachings' like "Old Faitful" geyser. They squirt it all up in the air and take little responsibility for anything they say. It is after all gods words.

Yet despite their strong convictions and deep love of god these assholes seem to act in the main in quite contradictory manners to their stated positions.

They seem to have never heard that there was this fellow born in Nazereth some years ago who through the writings of others taught a philosophy of forgiveness, compassion, understanding, helping your fellow men and turning the other cheek. The existence of this fellow is not in dispute as he is documented even by non-Christians, the issue which is in dispute by many (but I don't really care) is was he the Christ or not?

What I care about is the assholes who "jam it in my nose" about god with a righteousness and the authority of god, when they don't even stop for a minute to see they are walking all over the grass of every single thing that this Jesus bloke taught.

To me if you wish to call yourself a Christian then you should try to follow the teachings of the Jesus you call Christ. If you don't hold that dear than your just a christian.

It is a kind of irony to me that the country that considers itself a "Christian" nation is perhaps most guilty in the world of tyranny, oppression, acts of war and the making of weapons.

It of course comes as no surprise to me that the "christians" from that shithole are the most offensive least tolerant and most jam it in your face.

Rome In this variant particular of the "emergent evolution" of a complex systems game rules (which is running around the world today on the hardware of humanity), the values of the Roman Empire seem to have re-emerged and finally vanquished the Christians that Rome once put into the Colosseum.

Personally I'm part of the walking wounded in this "war of maths". I'm one who values the teachings of the fellow from Nazareth but believes that what he tried to teach about God is too complex for humans. The result is that "god" is subjugated into the form of a weapon of control and used to group together many to become a powerful force. Such a bundle held together is also a fasces. Once a symbol of power in Rome, it has come to have another meaning in politics.




Strangely this isn't what I think Jesus wanted us to take away...

So yes, I've got issues ... yes I'm struggling. I'm angry and I say shit. So I'm exactly the sort of person that christian will take issue with.

While drowning its bloody difficult to remain calm. As noone in society has taught me (us?) how to swim this particular sea of torment I am expected by those still in the boat to struggle in an appropriate manner. Few in the boat seem to want to help, some can't swim either (and understandably fear being dragged down too) while others simply move to the other side where they can't see me.

Somehow I think the older church may have had a better method:
  • I'd say something like "the lord is a rottern bastard"
  • They'd stone me to death or burn me at the stake
  • it would be intense for a while but would be over soon
  • I wouldn't need to struggle with notions of suicide cos they would kill me for my sins
amen

Friday, 18 October 2013

Panasonic 0.79 wide adaptor on the 14mm (image quality)

background: why?

I happen to like wides. As a kid with 35mm I just couldn't afford wide enough, the typical zoom back then was 35-80 or perhaps 28-70 and most affordable wide primes were 28 anyway.

When I got my first 24mm lens I was quite happy, finally I could see things as I liked to see them.

Some people see things up close only in 'mental macro' and focus on the details, but as I move in closer to things I like to look around and see the shapes, the relationships to the backgrounds and to see the perspective of being close.

28mm (on a full 35mm frame) is just not wide enough for me, 24mm or 21mm is where I like it most, although modern lenses have shown me that sometimes I like it that bit wider.

Sadly I just can't afford the 15mm or the 12mm lenses which can really only be used for very specific subjects (to me). Of course most of that sort of thing can now be done with stitching. Stitching images also gives increases in resolution which is good too.

Anyway, on my G series cameras I have lamented that there isn't really much in the wide area which is compact (and affordable). For some time I have been using the Olympus 9-18mm zoom via an adapter on the G series cameras and have been really happy with it optically. I've written about that lens back in 2009, and found it to be a great lens except for its bulk. Note that this comparison shows my 9-18mm on its adapter ready to use alongside my 14-45 and my friends 7-14 beside his 14-45 ... it was the only way to compare them ... its a long story (read the blog post from 2009 if you are interested ;-)



So you can see that the Olympus 9-18mm on the adaptor is actually a bit larger than the kit 14-45 and even bigger than the 7-14 Panasonic.

With my G1 / GH1 the 7-14 may be attractive, but with my GF1 its not an attractive alternative (and certainly not a cheap one) because its not compact. When I bought the GF camera it had the 14mm f2.5 pancake lens on it, which is exactly what I was looking for as a compact camera. However its not really very wide, it being the equivalent of a 28mm lens, which isn't what I'm really fond of.

Enter the Panasonic DMW-GWC1 0.79x adapter

I was initially skeptical that the adaptor would be optically any good, as my experience in the past was that such things were not any good. The adapter would turn the 14mm lens into a 11mm lens or in full frame context a 22mm lens. This is right in my ballpark. So, rather than keep wondering I bought one to see. The image below shows the 14mm with the adapter already mounted on it, beside my Olympus 9-18mm 4/3 lens.


As you can see even when the adapter is mounted on the 14mm its significantly smaller than the Olympus 9-18mm 4/3 lens. Now the 9-18 there is the ZD lens for 4/3, which of course needs an adapter to use on micro 4/3 (you know, because its gone without the mirror to make everything more compact) With the 9-18mm on the adapter it looks less attractive.


Now the purpose of the adapter is to hold the lens that bit further away from the sensor to allow the mirror to flap around (recalling SLR cameras have mirrors between the sensor and the eyepiece). this of course adds to the price of the ZD 9-18mm zoom.

The reason I mention this is that it has been an option for me to consider getting a compact regular 4/3 body (like the Olympus E-420) and putting the 9-18mm onto that ... as when its mounted on the body the whole thing really just doesn't feel much bigger than it did on my G1 ... and the laughingly called "micro" 4/3 lens isn't really that micro at all. Sure when you see it sitting beside the three lenses (the ZD 9-18 without an adapter, the "new" 9-18mm and the Panasonic 7-14) it looks a bit smaller than the old Oly ...


However when you consider that to actually use the stupid thing it has to 'unfold' and telescopes up, it becomes more or less exactly the same size as the ZD 9-18mm for 4/3 cameras anyway.

So much for the promise of compact.

All marketing bullshit if you ask me, which drives me spakko. Worse than this from what I read the new 9-18mm designed for micro4/3 is not optically as good as the older ZD lens anyway ...

So we're back to the wide angle adapter on the pancake 14mm as the most compact alternative (and lower cost too).

So getting back to the 14mm with the 0.79x VS the 9-18mm zoom what do images look like?


Well below is an overlay of 3 shots taken with camera on a tripod just the other day, widest is the 9mm end of the 9-18mm zoom, middle (orange frame) is the wide adapter on the 14mm and the inner most image the segment (green frame) of the image that the 14mm sees.


So the step from 9mm to 14mm is huge, but the 11mm is (as expected) right in the middle. Knowing that I'm already happy with the view of a "24" (full frame) then this 11mm (equaling a 22mm) will be wide enough for me, and as you can see is quite a bit wider than the 14mm view. The overviews are taken from the JPGs

So, lets have a look at some of the edges. To make this 'even' I have used dcraw to convert the RAW files.

Why dcraw? Well dcraw can produce regular exposures and uncompensated images this allows me to see the lens as it is, without any corrections. It is important to remember that with micro4/3 (especially Panasonic) that lens corrections are recorded in the camera system and JPG images are developed in-camera including these corrections. Many RAW converters also use this metadata to build in the corrections into what you see too ... thus using dcraw allows me to side step this and see exactly what the lens produces. Essentially it means also that final images can be improved from there.

Below are 100% crops from the images above. Tone and contrast vary from the above because these come from linear TIFF conversions from the RAW files.

9mm LHS


adapted LHS

You will need to load these in windows and look carefully to see the differences. This of course means that the reality is you won't see differences on anything other than the largest prints...

Now, over to the right hand side:

9mm RHS


adapted RHS

Again there is some subtle difference in quality between the two images, but its not chalk and cheese. One is really pixel peeping here, and so unless its a prize shot which you are going to blow up to A3 sized print its going to be neck and neck really.

The Olympus 9-18mm zoom has a long standing reputation as being a solid performer and a well corrected optic. It comes from back in the days where lens corrections were part of lens design, not post processing. The 14mm requires corrections and with the adapter more so again. While the 14mm is corrected in JPG (and you can really see the differences when you look at the uncorrected RAW files) it is not corrected in combination with the adapter (well, and if you think about it it can't be as the lens won't know that its looking through the adapter).

So what this means is there is room for improvement in the images with the simple addition of a tool like PTLens. I've used PTLens on other lenses in the past with very pleasing results. As it only costs $25 to buy you can then essentially get even better output from the 14mm + 0.79 adapter than we see here.

Currently the combo is not part of PTLens's database of lens combos, but I will hopefully submit some test images to the author of PTLens soon and then it will be supported.

Conclusion

The 14mm is a compact lens, and if you already have it the 0.79x adapter makes it into a nice wide lens. The adapter is quite modestly priced (about $150), so bang for buck this gets you into the area of a 9-18mm at less than 1/4 of the price!

If you happen to be after a wide and don't want to spend a lot of money then this pair is the ticket. The adapter dismounts from the 14 when you don't want it on there, so you essentially get a "28" walk around wide lens for your micro4/3 camera with a slap on conversion to make it a "21" for those times when you want that wider look.

The down side is that you have to handle an adapter ring and put the lens on and off. That sort of required a blog post of its own, so I'll do that soon ;-)

Part 2 now done

And that post is here
PPS after having sold this set I bought another (because I found I missed it, and liked it so much) so I've added another brief comparison here.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

real life VS romantic fiction

Just as in life, in movies and in literature people dealing with grief and the loss of those they love go to the places where they last were with that person.

Even though they may have seen the body of the person dead in another place, even if they have been to the funeral and said their good byes and watched the coffin lowered into the ground.

Despite seeing that and experiencing all that we still seem to be wandering around looking for them. Half expecting them to walk around the corner, wanting them to turn up.

In the arts writers get to fulfill this wish.

Those grieving can get to speak to and perhaps hold their loved one more time, even after death.

I think its a desire we all have.

In the movie The Crow even Eric (himself dead) goes to the places and sorts though the things and the photographs of his beloved Shelly while back in life for his revenge.

Sarah gets to speak with Eric and this helps her to come to terms with her loss and perhaps eases her into accpetance that she has to deal with feeling alone, and learn to spend her life without Eric and Shelly.

Sadly for most of us (well probably all of us) this just isn't how it goes. Like Eric I have been able to revisit the places and to touch the things we shared.  But unlike Sarah (or the policeman) we don't get to meet our loved ones again here.

Perhaps the closest we come to this is in dreams. Sometimes I get to meet Anita in my dreams. Mostly it is just to do things together as if nothing has happened. This seems to be just the subconscious bringing out things as it normally does.

Recently I had a dream about her that was a bit different. In this dream I was somehow in a place which was our home, but yet things which are not yet completed were completed. The renovations of one area were done and I was admiring the work that Anita had done. I liked the solution she had found to a problem we were discussing and I liked the colours she had painted it.

While I was admiring this she came home.

I was intensely pleased to see her and just held her in my arms. She seemed a little surprised and I understood that she did not know. She somehow had never died and it was just some future (or perhaps present) point as if life had gone on normally from August last year.

Watching The Crow I wished that I could have those moments that Sarah did, to one more time hold her in my arms and feel her and smell her.But then I realised today "what would that bring me?". Surely as the sun will rise tomorrow I will have to get by without her all over again. Perhaps if I can't have her here with me again that dreams are somehow better than such visits of fiction and drama. For I know she is not here, but only that she is there.

Like Eric Draven I  have been able to go through the things of our life together and some of the things of her life before.

When I cam back to Finland I found some of her artworks in the ceiling. Wrapped by me for storage back in 2006. I had forgotten they were there till I found them (and instantly remembered ... oh yeah)

This one struck me as soon as I looked at it. It was one that I was "not allowed to look at" (as is the wont of some artists at times). Among the many things which I saw in that image (and I'm not turning this into a critique) it was clear to me that there was an element of self portrait in it. Knowing her face as I do it was immediately like she was staring out of the picture at me.

Being the photographer I am, naturally I have some images of her on hand. Tonight I thought I'd just compose a section of that to see how well my mind had put them together.

So while I don't get to hold her that one more time I do at least have the short visits of dreams and the things which are left behind.

Curiously many of the images I have are only digital, having never been printed there are perhaps equally ephemeral and intangible as the dreams (for without a computer and some electricity they can't be seen and are for all intents not here either).

My only wish is that when I am passing we will be together again ... somehow

Sunday, 6 October 2013

newer bigger better faster

Sometimes you can't have everything (well, where would you put it?), and just like my title of 4 words you don't always get all togther.

As mentioned in previous posts I like my compact camera to be compact. Sometimes when I'm out and about I like to have another lens around in case the opportunity arises and my compact 14mm wide angle is not what is needed. With the GF series cameras I like that lens to be small too, something in keeping with the cameras philosophy.

Sometimes bigger isn't better and newer isn't always better either. My case in point today is a small review of my newly purchased Pentax 110 70mm lens. Introduced by Pentax sometime in the late 70's early 80's this little lens is perhaps the best of the 110 series lenses in terms of manufacture quality and feel.



One thing is true this lens sure isn't newer.

In this post I'd like to show the lens to those who may not have seen it, discuss the lens handling and feel and then examine some images made with it. This is not a review in the normal modern manner. There'll be no shots of brick walls to show its ability to hold a square, or MTF curves ...

The lens is made of a mixture of metal and plastic. The lens barrel is metal and the focus grip is beautiful to work with, its rubber which is still looking good more than 30 years later ... I can't say the same of my kit 14-45 (which is an optically good lens btw). The focus turns nicely and with a sense of precision.

Sat beside the more modern more plastic feeling (not that that's any sort of problem for me) Panasonic 14-42 zoom we can see that the little Pentax is quite compact.


Please excuse the softness of this shot it was taken with my FD50 f1.4 on my GH camera, wide open because I was too lazy to get better artifical lighting .... None the less it shows that the lens is really small. This is in my view quite in keeping with the philosophy of the micro 4/3 system compact concepts.

Interestingly the 14-42 zoom extends quite a bit when zooming. Even though it only gives a focal length of 45mm (significantly less than 70mm) it ends up looking like this when zoomed:



With that lens on the camera it starts to look like more of a big lens on a small camera than a than a compact camera system.



To me its looking decidedly less compact ... but then I guess thats what people want ... bigger compact things, because it couldn't possibly be any good if it was small right?

Personally I feel that the GF series cameras (as distinct from my SLR alike GH series camera) benefits from a more compact lens ... and actually the little 70mm looks and feels really nice on the GH too. The Pentax 110 70mm lens is actually not only a compact lens, but a high quality lens that follows the philosophy of small cameras with big image quality.

Faster


so what's the fuzz with faster. For reasons I don't really know people seem to get all confused about this. Well I think that the simplest way to understand this is to do something no one does anymore, and that's look at my light meter. For a given exposure an f5.6 lens will need a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second while the f2.8 lens will snap the shot in a mere 1/125th of a second (that's 4 times faster).



So not only is this little guy faster he's way faster.

But wait, someone says:
Oh who needs speed I can hand hold at a 30th with OIS 
 well sure you can, but if you're photographing people they just might move...

The lens is not only nice to hold but has a very smooth damped feel to the focus and (importantly) a long throw. This means that you have to turn the lens more to get a change in focus. When you're dealing with wanting shallow depth of field smaller movements make it much easier to get exactly what you want in focus.

Portraits


When taking portraits one wants to be a little further away (to not intimidate the subject) and get a smoother rendering of their face. In case anyone is still of the "zoom with your feet" school of thought I would argue that there are differences in portraiture. This shot was done in just such a manner with the subject staying in exactly the same spot and me just 'zooming with my feet' to show what mild telephoto VS wide angle in closer does to a persons face.


so if you want your friends and family looking like the portrait on the right, go on using your iPhone and stop reading this post now ;-) (and yes that's my shadow in the image on the right)

Noone volunteered for being subject on this lens test so sorry to say you won't be getting any people shots with this lens. None the less there are two things I look for in a portrait lens ...
  • shallow Depth of Field
  • soft out of focus rendering
So I thought that I'd explore this with some images. First this one:

shot in available light (because setting up lighting is just so spontaneous) and hand held at about the perfect framing for a head head and shoulders shot. Background is quickly out of focus and yet at the critical point of focus the lens is sharp. A segment of that image shows this.


Sharp enough to see the threads ... Now I have not added any sharpening or contrast control here, so you have room to do some local area masking and selective sharpening also. Ultimately this is not bad for hand held and shows the advantages of that faster lens (so I suppose this means I look for 3 things in a lens then ...)


So next I'd like to answer two questions:
  • is it sharp on the edges
  • is there any point in going from 45mm to 70mm as they're both tele (and how much tele do you need?)

To answer both these questions I took the following shots with the focus at the edge of the image (probably further to the edge than you'd realistically put a portrait) and also use the 14-45 at the 45 end (which btw isn't really fast as its f5.6 at that length) the 70mm in question and for the heck of it a 50mm 110 lens which I also have which at f2.8 is much faster than the 45 end of the zoom while not being that much more telephoto. I wrote a little bit about the 50 in a few pages, for instance in the last blog post here and quite a bit more back a few years ago here, where I compared it to the kit 45 and an OM 50mm f1.8.

So, anyway rendering of depth of field (how it looks). It could be said that because one is in closer with the 45mm that even though its slower that f5.6 may give a similar rendering to the 70mm further away *(since we know that as you move away from the subject DoF around the subject increases)

Now in all these shots I moved back from the position that one needs to be in for the 45mm to see keep the composition of the portrait the same and to see what happens to the image. My focus in all images was the white wooden edge of the house.

The 45 @ f5.6

The 50mm @ f2.8

The 70mm @ 2.8


I think its pretty clear that the DoF between the images varies remarkably and focus is more keenly had on the place where I wanted it. 

I included the 50mm f2.8 to show that even with its more shallow depth of field that by moving further back and using the more telephoto did indeed give a better out of focus effect. Personally I very much like the rendering of the 70mm to give good background / subject separation.

Lets look then to edge sharpness.

The 45mm


The 50mm

The 70mm

Personally I reckon that the edge sharpness (the white board) is plenty, probably more than is needed for portraiture (when the ladies will be asking you to use some Photoshop 'love' to cover the wrinkles and any skin pores).

Conclusions

So there you have it the Pentax 110 70mm from a time long gone does a great job on the micro 4/3 (which is the same size sensor as the  110 film area was BTW) and makes a great lightweight compact lens to add to your micro 4/3 kitbag.

Now I know that Olympus makes a very similar lens (75mm f1.8) which is actually a native lens. This means it will have:
  • auto focus
  • a working aperture
  • better optics
  • is slightly faster at f1.7 (consulting our light meter about double, so 300th)
why not just get that one?

Sure ... if you feel like putting down $1000 for the Olympus I'm quite sure you'll be very pleased with it. But this lens cost only $50. Yes that's right fifty dollars vs a thousand dollars.

I'm a hobby photographer ... so for me if I get 90% of the benefits for 5% of the costs thats only good right? I don't have clients to impress, just family. Of course if you were a business photographer probably you'd be able to build a better business case for the returns on investment on the Olympus 75mm f1.8

Even if you were thinking of getting the Oly, but you weren't sure, well you could try the Pentax and see if you are actually getting much use out of it after a few months.

Won't cost you much ;-)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

keeping my compact camera compact

One of the reasons I moved to the micro 4/3 in the first place was that it gave me a quality of image equal to my Canon 20D brick but without the weight. There seemed to me to be few compromises and so I ended up (after some time) selling almost all of my EOS stuff and have gone over to micro 4/3. 

 As I started my micro4/3 with the G1 the absolute pocketability of the camera was not my main prioity, and even though that camera was a 'SLR-alike' form factor it was still much lighter on the shoulder than the EOS DSLR's

Liking manual focus (well having grown up on it) I reveled in the availability of low priced Manual Focus legacy lenses (such as Olympus OM or Canon FD) and found the G series (I'm now using a GH1 instead of my trusty G1) to be perfectly suited to it. For some time however I gazed over at the GF series and wondered ... would I benefit from the more compact camera.

Initially I was suspicious feeling that the lack of EVF (and my getting older and needing glasses for anything closer) and the lack of compact lenses would mean it had little benefits for me. When the GF was released there was only the (gosh that's expensive) 20mm pancake. So other than that it was down to using the 14-45 zoom.

Since that time however Panasonic has also released a 14mm pancake (at a more attractive price than the 20mm was) and a compact power zoom (too expensive for my tastes at the moment) making it more attractive. So last year I decided that the only way to know was to do it, so I bought a GF-1 to try it out. I bought one with the 14mm pancake lens (because that's obviously the most compact) and had a go.

I loved it. The GF was slim enough with out the screen / eyepiece / grip to slip into my backpack side pocket, even if it didn't fit into my pocket

However, as expected, as soon as I put my 14-45 lens on it it stopped being compact.

It wouldn't fit in my bag and generally showed how (as I have said before) the micro 4/3 are failing to deliver compact lenses to make an advantage of the compact bodies. Even with the zoom 'retracted' you can see that the zoom tiself is much thicker than the camera. This image (compiled from the great site Camera Size) makes it clear how much bigger the zoom is on the GF series camera.

Bye bye compact ...

In practice it is every bit as non-compact as it looks in that computer generation ... for when you use it at anything but 14mm the end extends out of the zoom ...


So the camera that could previously slip into my backpack side pocket now wouldn't without taking the lens off and on. Not always wanting to use the 14mm pancake, I wanted a bit longer focal length from time to time.

Well having a few legacy lenses around already I thought I'd try some of them.


I had in the past tried the Pentax 110 lenses on my G1. While they were incredibly compact with the G1 camera the form factor didn't seem to give any benefits to using those lenses. In fact the regular 35mm film lenses actually felt better.

But with the GF camera suddenly the size difference was important.  You can see here between the Olympus 50mm lens (for 35mm film) and the Pentax 110 camera 50mm lens (the large-small one on the right) are significantly different in size.

Particularly in light of the size of the adaptor needed for the 35mm SLR film lenses (which were designed for a much greater flange distance) adding to the overall size of the effective lens. Here is the same situation with the Pentax 110 50mm lens...


Well as you can see above suddenly the camera + lens is small again. Also this lens being a 50mm has a slightly better telephoto reach than the kit zoom (which is still only 45mm even when extended as in the further above shot) this shows in the image difference of perspective.

I also have a 24mm which (is a normal focal length) is even more compact than the 50mm is ...


So this gives me a 14mm, a 24mm f2.8 and a 50mm f2.8 which are really compact to use on the compact body, giving me a compact camera system!



As you can see the 50mm is quite small in diameter as well as not being much higher than the 14mm Panasonic lens. I think it looks quite good on the camera too...



Ok ... so now we've got a versatile camera system that is compact ... but can it take pleasing shots? Personally I think it takes excellent shots. Here is one from the 50mm, which being a f2.8 lens is quite a fast lens with a pleasingly shallow DoF and quite nice Bokeh.



and for the pixel peepers who have to know will it tolerate 'enlargement' below is a 100% pixel crop from the image ... so the answer is in my view:


YES! In this above image you can see how shallow the DoF is around the center of that play yard toy. While in the upper image you get a good idea of the out of focus rendering as well as the lenses contrast.

Its a sweet little lens that you can add to a walk around compact outfit and even if you mainly use the 14mm for its excellent purpose in snapshots with the advantages that a native lens has (like AutoFocus) for not much space in your pack (or pocket even) you can add a great lens to your outfit with bloody little money.

Perhaps it is not as perfect in quality as the native Olympus 45mm f1.8 but then again its not as expensive either. Similarly the 24mm can produce some nice images too.


Oh ... money ... that's right. These little Pentax 110 lenses are really cheap and so are the adaptors. I paid something like:
  • $30 for the adaptor,
  • $40 for the 50mm
  • $20 for the 24mm
Which is much less than any native possibility you can name.

Sure its not for everyone, but for a photographer who wants to play around a little with creative photography and not spend a fortune its a compelling option.

Enjoy :-)