Some More From the Zuiko 50mm F1.4

Been trying something simple today – just one fixed focal length lens on the Canon 60D – the lovely Zuiko 50mm f1.4. Having only one focal length really makes you work for the pictures but the results are usually better – especially when used at a wide aperture to give a narrow depth of field. All shots required a bit of post processing as the exposures and colours can be slightly off using old MF lenses – easily fixed in RAW though.

The butterflies were quite still this morning – allowing me to approach to around 50 cm.

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Without the help of the 60D’s 1/8000th of a second shutter the use of such a wide aperture on a sunny would be impossible at ISO 100 without a neutral density filter (which I always forget to carry with me).

This note tied to a branch by a ribbon is at the ‘Wish Tree’ at Knowlton (see previous posts), an evocative location at all times of the year.

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Same location for this home made pendant. The 50mm’s out of focus areas never disappoint!

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Finally in an attempt to get a ‘different’ angle on the ruined church, a shot from down the road through the roadside grasses.

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As always – taken for the book cover market – hope you like them!

A full review of the lens on this blog is here, or have a look at several Zuiko lens reviews on the “Film, Camera and Lens Review Index” tap at the top of the page if you’re interested.

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Compact Camera vs DSLR – a silly comparison?

Most keen photographers have always faced a dilemma – their DSLR (or SLR for those who still use film) and standard zoom produce very good results, but carrying one all the time is a pain and opportunities are everywhere! A small camera is the solution, but small digital cameras are usually compromised by limited ISO performance, they’re not often that small and even their best results aren’t as good – at least that’s what I’ve found having used several (small film cameras are a different matter). A test is in order…

So to see if things have changed here’s a test between a two-year old mid range DSLR with an upgraded kit lens against a new top of the range compact. Not a fair test on the surface, but who said anything about fair? The differences in size and weight are obvious but the results are a bit of a surprise….

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The APSC sensor format Canon 60D with interchangeable EF-S 15-85mm (24-135mm equiv) lens on the left, Sony RX100 with smaller one inch sensor on the right with a fixed 28-100mm lens. The 60D boasts 18Mp, the RX100 20Mp – a negligible difference in practice.

The Canon has been used consistently for over two years, and has never failed to impress over ten thousand images with a wide variety of lenses. The Sony is relatively new (three months)  but is up to 1000 shots already. It’s images are more ‘consumer’ oriented with brighter colours and what looks like more sharpening, but very good nevertheless.
The Sony’s lens is a bright f1.8 to f4.9 across it’s zoom range, the 15-85mm a more modest f3.5 to f5.6. I’ve no complaints about the handling of either camera, neither having any irritating quirks which would drive you mad. My personal choice for useable maximum ISO is 800 on the RX100 but the Canon can be pushed further to 3200 in an emergency.

The Sony is doing a lot of processing to work around the design compromises of fitting such a tiny fast lens into a small body. Here’s a close up (ish) wide angle image with distortion correction on and off (done in the Sony Raw converter). Although the correction is done very well my initial thoughts would be that this much correction must result in poor edge performance – we’ll see! It’s worth stressing that this correction has to be explicitly switched off in the RAW converter to see this – you won’t see it on the camera’s replay function or in JPGs or RAWs by default.

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Sony -distortion correction on and off

The main ‘problem’ with the Sony is the colour rendition – reds, greens and yellows are all a bit ‘off’ for my taste, but shooting in RAW and using a correcting colour profiles in ACR (see Maurizio Piraccini’s website here) fixes the problem to give a more subtle result.

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Corrected colour – here a red postbox, the corrected on the left and the straight RAW to JPG result on the right. DPReview found the same thing in their (much more scientific and exhaustive) test.

So – on to the mini test and it will be familiar to anyone who’s read the film and lens test from earlier in the year – there’s a lot more vegetation now though! All shots in RAW and converted to JPG using the supplier’s RAW converter. The Canon’s ISO setting was 100, the Sony’s 125 (it’s native ISO). I haven’t worried about colour here as it’s important to compare default outputs.

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Wideangle on both lenses – the 15-85mm Canon is a bit wider than the Sony – 24mm vs 28mm, but not significant for these tests.

Starting at max aperture, this definitely a surprise and a significant difference. The Sony is producing very sharp results (it’s sharpening is at a higher level by default), and the edges which have been heavily ‘corrected’ aren’t bad at all.

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Canon – 15mm setting f3.5. Centre and top right crops.

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Sony 28mm setting f2. f1.8 would gave resulted in more overexposure.  Centre and top right crops.

At mid apertures things are much more even – mid apertures usually produce the best results in all lenses.

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Canon – 15mm setting f5.6. Centre and top right crops.

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Sony 28mm setting f4.5. Centre and top right crops.

On to approximately a 50mm setting :-

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Canon at 50mm f5 (max aperture at this focal length) and excellent.

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Sony at around the same focal length (not exactly – hence the slightly different edge crop – apologies). This is good too!

Finally at tele setting – 135mm equiv on the Canon, 100mm on the Sony.

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Canon at 85mm f5.6 (max aperture at this focal length) – bit soft at the edge but OK.

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So definitely a surprise. I checked then double checked that the images were correctly attributed, but it was right first time! The little Sony is matching or even exceeding the Canon 15-85mm in terms of sharpness and detail, as well as having a wider maximum aperture. As I remember this lens alone cost as much as the compact camera!

The differences are probably down to the default sharpening parameters in the Sony, and highly polished image optimisation for a fixed zoom lens – the Canon can have hundreds of different lenses attached and can’t optimise images ‘in camera’ for all of them.

The Sony isn’t a replacement for the 60D – far from it. There’s no optical viewfinder for a start (composing on an LCD in bright sunshine is pure guesswork), the lens is fixed and the 60D’s sharpness and colour rendition is much more neutral and allow more latitude in post processing. Having said that, the RX100 is producing very impressive results without any work in terms of sharpness, and the ability to tweak the results in pp means that the gap between DSLR’s and compacts has definitely narrowed and I can use the RX100 with confidence in most situations.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

p.s I’m, not (unfortunately) sponsored by Canon or Sony – just using the cameras….

Yet More RX100 Infrareds!

Dorset is experiencing something weird this year – summer! The skies are clear, the temperatures are hitting 30 degrees C and for people used to cloudy wet summers with just a glimpse of sunshine now and then it’s all most disturbing…..

So using this hot weather as an excuse to shoot yet more infrared handheld on the unmodified RX100 (with an R72 filter) , here we go.

First, a few of the pedestrian bridges over the River Stour near Tarrant Crawford – the leaves and grasses radiating IR like mad. All taken at 28mm setting at f1.8 using RAW, the ‘Black and White’ creative setting (for composition) and +1 exposure compensation.

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This is the next bridge along – the field boundary is heavily overgrown on either side which help isolate the dark path.

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And the same view but in landscape orientation with a lower contrast – can’t make my mind up which of the two is best. _DSC0948_DxOFP

Finally a small avenue of trees taken on the same day, the shadows on the road being an integral part of the composition.

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As usual, all taken for the book cover market – hope you like them!

Variations on a Theme

Or maybe this should be called “messing around with an old key” because that’s what it is…. This old church key must be around one hundred years old, and opens a very heavy wooden door. These were all taken on a fairly quiet drizzly day, wandering around trying to get some inspiration.

All shot on a Canon 60D with a Fotodiox EF to OM adaptor and the ever amazing Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at maximum aperture. All taken at around 40 cm – closest focus – the tiny depth of field and lovely bokeh complement the subject nicely. The background is the sill of a church window, with soft light filtering down from above. The toning is done in DXO filmpack.

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Same subject – lower angle. I tried several shots moving the focus point back and forth, but this one seemed the best.

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Finally one casting a slight shadow.

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Just goes to show inspiration can crop up from anywhere!

All images shot for the book cover market – hope you like them.

Abandoned Military Installation

Here’s a few more from a day on Portland (Dorset UK). These abandoned buildings are part of a Victorian artillery battery built on the island and abandoned decades ago. The subject was perfect for a drop more IR on the Sony RX100 (what a surprise) – so here we go. All shot at the 28mm setting at f1.8 handheld – the camera is unmodified.

This is a view down one of what I suppose was the tracks which brought ammunition from the stores to the gun positions – the concrete walkway over the rails is unexpected…

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Portland is great for this sort of shot – the island was heavily used by the military then handed over to prison services and much of that dark architecture remains. Can’t resist barbed wire!

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Back to the main fortification and some overgrown steps leading out of the depression in the ground which houses the gun position. _DSC0763_DxOFP

Finally a view of some of what I suppose were store houses, the sparse grassy vegetation slowly growing over the banks and stone. _DSC0754_DxOFP

Altogether a wonderful spot – and good weather for IR photography. The R72 filter has got to be left at home for a while now. That and the plastic Lensbaby are taking up too much time!

Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

Some Summer Flora

Summer is in full swing, and the grasses and flowers are providing some great subjects for photography. I’ve never really tried photographing these subjects before so this is a new one for me. All post-processed in Photoshop and DXo.

First – a really simple soft abstract using the plastic Lensbaby. As always with this lens, the results were pretty hit and miss, but when they’re good they’re unlike anything else.

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Next one with the Helios 85mm f2 wide open – the Canon 60D’s 1/8000th of a second shutter speed is really useful in bright light at these apertures.

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Back to the plastic Lensbaby and some wheat bending over in the wind towards the camera. There’s a dark line to the left which is an out of focus weed – shame I didn’t spot it.

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Finally a few poppies – can’t resist them at this time of year. I saw this large patch from the car but it needed at fifty minute walk to get there from the nearest place to park. This one was with the Zuiko 50mm f1.4, one knee in a muddy puddle!_MG_9625_DxOFP

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!