Tuesday, 28 September 2010

comparing 200mm FD lenses

For some time I've been using an FD 200mm f4 lens on my G1. I bought it back some time ago for not much money (like about US$60). I wrote a blog post comparing it to the native Panasonic 45-200 zoom back here, but this is essentially what it looks like on the camera.

I've really liked the lens as it is is both light and bright. I've taken some very satisfying photographs with it, such as this image while walking along a national park beach

pied oyster catchers and terns

Weighing in at 440g and actually letting more light onto the sensor than the zoom (as mentioned in that above blog post) its really quite nice to have a lens which gives me the same sort of reach that a 400mm lens would give on my full frame stuff but at a tiny fraction of the cost and weight.

There are however times when I'd really like that little bit more light (and perhaps shallower DoF too), such as on this rain forest walk when I came across a Noisy Pitta.

noisy pitta

Even with the lens wide open, to get a safe 125th of a second (and avoid motion blur) I had camera maxed out at 3200 ISO (which looks less than ideal on the 4/3 cameras). It may only be one stop more, but even so I've been eying off the FD 200 f2.8 for some time.

So I finally bought one (well two actually) and thought that I would spend a little time to discuss my findings for anyone else who may be considering the move to the 2.8 in search of more light.

So, here we have the 200's in a lineup. Left to right we have:
New FD 200 f2.8 , New FD 200 f4 and the Older (but still New FD) FD 200 f2.8

Now, why (you may ask) are there two New FD 200 f2.8 lenses? Well the answer is that Canon revised the FD200 f2.8 some time towards the end of the life cycle (as you can see here).

The difference essentially is that the newer lens uses an Inner Focus system (be careful, this is not IS, its IF) which means that the lens does not change length when focusing. The same is also true of the 200 f4 (which does not change length when focusing). So when you focus the older 2.8 the lens extends (quite common, see my blog post on the differences between the FD and OM lenses here) ... to give you some idea of how much it extends, we have the older lens fully extended here:

This has the effect of changing how the lens feels (I mean the mechanical feel) when focusing.

Myself, I prefer the feel of the newer one (that's the one on the left up there).

This is not however the end of the story, because as the extension occurs the image actually enlarges in the viewfinder and you get a slightly tighter frame of view (just like what happens in macro photogrpahy). So if you intend to use this lens to photograph close items it enlarges the image more (gets you in closer) than the newer lens does.

So its swings and roundabouts and (as always) you should consider what you're intended use is before picking one or the other.

Now while the above shot of the lens on the camera may make you feel that it looks big, you need to keep in mind how small the G1 camera is. The lens is only 12cm long (thats under 5 inches for the americans and britts out there still mired in the old imperial measurements), so it really does make for a compact little tool. The 2.8 is not significantly longer but it does feel heavier and bulkier in hand.

At 740g it is around 70% heavier than the f4. So you need to ask yourself if the one extra stop is worth the extra weight and cost?

Don't ask me ... as I'm still working that part out myself.

So, how do they look?

Well after taking a few shots here and there for a few weeks trying to compare the lenses I thought I'd settle on showing these images. I took these in my back yard of an Orchid at about 5 meters distance. I thought it would give a good idea of DoF , contrast and bokeh with some of the out of focus strands of orchid roots.

Here is the overview


All images were photographed in RAW, converted to DNG and opened in (my now quite elderly version of) Photoshop

They were all processed in the same manner.
(for the interested:
<crs:WhiteBalance>As Shot</crs:WhiteBalance>

I present below some screen shapshots at my usual viewing of 50%.

Firstly I thought it would be good to see if there is any difference between the lenses when photographed at f4. As the lens performance usually improves with stopping down it puts the two 2.8 lenses at an advantage over the f4 lens as they will be stopped down a little and the f4 will be wide open.

so the 200 f4
the new series 200 f2.8 at f4

and the older 200 f2.8 also at f4
I recommend you open each of these in their own tab and switch between them just to compare them as I saw them, but already I'm sure you're seeing (as I did) there really isn't much difference between them. Note the detail of the small twin strand falling between the two flowers there ... almost identical from picture to picture.

You would need the largest of enlargements to tell them apart.

Which means that the 200 f4 performs as well wide open as the other two do stopped down to f4: meaning that unless you need or desire that extra stop (for speed or DoF) then the 200 f4 is an excellent performer and streets ahead in value for money and handling.

to be continued ...

Monday, 20 September 2010

compact evolution takes a new step

I was over at DPReview earlier and found a great announcement
The Fuji X100 camera. This is a an exciting development in bringing back to photographers a simple and elegant camera which (hopefully) will enable high quality image capture.

Particularly I like to see this part:
EXR Processor Newly Developed

* When combined with the high-performance lens and high-sensitivity sensor, the newly developed EXR Processor achieves the highest definition, sensitivity and wide dynamic range image quality of any digital camera produced by Fujifilm.

Toddle over to DP Review and have a look

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

the brain of a bird

Who can tell exactly what goes through a birds mind when its making a decision about nesting. Plovers (or more specifically "masked plovers") in Australia are renown for both strange choices and being oblivious of things around them when it comes to picking nesting sites.

Walking into my work building the other day I noticed that this one seemed to be nesting on the small patch of grass right outside.

Certainly, she's nesting...

Its not a smart location because when viewed from another angle (like from upstairs) she is about here...


Right in front of our building ... I've put a red circle on the bird (who went for a walk off the nest) and the nest site.

While I'm up here I can show you that she has 4 eggs on the go ...


Its interesting to note in this photo just how many cigarette butts there are littering the ground out front ... and to think we teach medical staff ...

As a brief diversion. When I was in Singapore I noticed this on the footpath at traffic lights ... right where people look down ...


and still they smoke ... but I digress. From ground level the eggs are quite well concealed.


but of course the mother makes it pretty obvious.

Its worth mentioning that this is the entry to a University library and (later in the day) gets quite busy. Now, while plovers seem to not care where they put their nests that's not to say they don't take exception to anyone walking close to the nest ... like along the path.

So every time someone walks past the joint she runs off the nest and starts chattering and making noise to drive off the intruder (while attempting to distract them from the location of the nest).

and they can get quite agitated if you don't go away soon too.

its not going to be a restful location to raise her brood ... for anyone

Friday, 10 September 2010

curious robots

I came across this very cool page today, which had the following great exploration of simple rule based automatons. You should go to the site to read more, but essentially the little robots will examine your cursor, follow it around in "their world" and flee if you bring it too close.

not unlike cattle in a field ... or people watching an event in public spaces in a city

wierd world

People often say that the world is getting stranger, while I agree I also feel that the world was once much stranger than it is today.

In some surfing on the net my wife came across a site with a collection of weird ads (here). One of the ads was particularly disturbing to me ...

and if this isn't soooo close to pedophilia it is certainly pandering to that market

... eewww (shudder)

So we do seem to be getting better as most people would (I hope) now see this as wrong.

Monday, 6 September 2010

blue tongue

my wife called me at work today to say a lizard had made its way into the laundry and vanished.

I immediately suspected a blue tongue.

When I got home I found him (or her) wedged under the freezer. They love places like that ... and the motor is warm too ... ouhhh

We'd been doing a little clearing in the back yard (and so too had the neighbor) so we'd probably ripped up its habitat.

So not wanting to let it either get stuck in the laundry or get mauled by a cat we lifted up the freezer and I caught it. We put it in a box while we had dinner, and thought perhaps it might like a slice or two of the steak we were cooking ... seems it did.

So after dinner we took it down to the bottom of the hill where there is a little remnant bush and let it go.


Seemed a little sluggish (well it was night time and he'd just eaten)


but soon enough it was off into the bushes...


and hopefully to continue a long and happy life.

If you've never seen one up close they are quite cute, one from another day:

and have the most interesting details, like the little scales which cover their ear holes

this fellow I did not relocate, but left lying around in my yard. He (or she) didn't seem to mind the photography session, but some weeks later I found him ripped apart by some local kitty cat.

I don't like cats in Australia, they are responsible for the deaths of many native creatures here.

Pitty one can't get rid of the local cats....

Friday, 3 September 2010

party nonsense

I read this morning that Andrew Wilkie has made a choice to sign up with Labor and have left the Coalition wondering. One opinion writer phrased it as:
As the Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie stood in a parliamentary courtyard declaring he was a Julia man, it was very nearly possible to hear Tony Abbott banging his head on the wall of his office

That's a funny image, but somehow I think Wilkie may have made the right choice. That writer goes on to say:

Hadn't Wilkie arrived in Canberra bearing a list of priorities, the very first of which was the replacement of Royal Hobart Hospital?

Hadn't he, Tony Abbott, offered to do just that at the cost of a cool billion bucks?

And what was Wilkie's response? Why, holy hell, he'd taken instead a piddling $340 million from Julia Gillard for a hospital renovation and he was out there in the courtyard claiming it was a superior deal, with the big money going to hospitals far outside his electorate!

Which is interesting as perhaps what happened was that Tony Abbot did his usual "whack it on the table" take-it-or-leave-it with strings attached, while Julia did some negotiation.

This is to my mind what politics should be about, negotiating outcomes not bullying.

Later I read that Andrew Wilkie is getting some flack about the distribution of preferences here

But for the Liberals none of this matters. All that counts for them is that Wilkie got over the line with their backing and has now rubbed their noses in it. The next election will bring revenge.

revenge ... right ... sounds more like the sort of unhelpful bully tactics which have been the mainstay of party politics for the last 20 years.

If we want our government to stop being "a place away from us" I think we need to move away from this and move back to the leaders being representatives of the electorate; to go into parliament and do their best to negotiate for the prople they represent (their electorate). Not bend over on towing some party line.