The Sony A7R and a Zuiko 21mm f3.5

It’s been ages since I posted anything here (sorry!), mainly because I haven’t bought any more lenses! This nice 21mm f3.5 was swapped for my Zuiko 18mm earlier in the year as it was a bit too wide for my tastes, and really I always wanted the 21mm. It hasn’t been used that much so far so I thought I’d give it a proper test and share the results. Wandering round with just this lens was an interesting experience for someone who’s current favourite focal length is 50mm – sometimes it seemed just too wide an angle of view.           Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Physically it’s tiny and light – about the same size as my 50mm f1.8, 1 1/4 inches long (3cm ish) and it weighs 7 1/2 ounces (212 g) so very portable. The angle of view is 92 degrees and a very close focussing distance of 8 inches (or 20cm) to infinity focus is achieved in around 1/4 of a turn. And of course being a Zuiko it’s very well made too. It matches the A7R very well as do most of the smaller Zuikos. The A7R’s love of a default 1/60th of a second in ‘A’ mode with MF lenses is also nothing to worry about at 21 mm.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Five apertures to choose from – 3.5 to 16 and a focussing ring – can’t get much simpler than that.

The filter thread is the normal 49mm screw in, but even thin filters cause vignetting so I’ve stopped using them on this lens, so no polarizer or NDs unless you’re prepared to do some cropping in PP.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

At f3.5 and insanely close, this is the best bokeh I could manage. Using a 21mm lens as a macro lens is – er- eccentric to say the least.

Focussing using focus magnify works well, though at smaller apertures it’s more difficult as there’s a lot in focus, and the changes when the focus ring is turned are fairly subtle. The ‘focus peaking’ feature is pretty useless with lenses as wide as this for the same reason. As with the 18mm, the depth of field scale is pretty optimistic and the zone of really sharp focus is narrower than you might expect – in other words, always use ‘focus magnify’!

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Starburst at f16 (with a tiny amount of flare)- not bad at all if you like this sort of thing. Shadows pulled up in PP (the A7R is brilliant for this).

I couldn’t provoke much flare on a sunny day – this lens seems excellent in this respect. I did find an odd circular internal reflection in one shot when the sun was pretty much in the centre of the image which I quite like :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Native vignetting is moderate at f3.5, gone by f5.6 :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f3.5 – nowhere near as bad as the 18mm but then few things are. I can live with this and even use it occasionally.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f5.6 – hardly noticable and it doesn’t reappear at other apertures.

Distortion when pointed upwards is obvious – what you’d expect really from an ultra-wide :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

This was taken with a slim UV filter but its still vignetting!

Close distance distortion is also remarkably low – this was taken very close to the fence and is uncorrected :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

OK – it’s all looking good so far, what about the resolution? All of these are straight RAW conversions so note that the minimal CA and distortion could be cleaned up quite easily. Here’s the test scene (same as earlier in the post), edge crop from the centre left.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f3.5, the edge crop darkened by the natural vignetting of the lens.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f5.6

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f8

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f11

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

So – optimal between f5.6 and f8, tailing off slightly at f11 and f16 (not shown). Quite predictable really. However this is a remarkably consistent performance across the aperture range with minimal CA wide open. It’s nice and sharp in the centre at all apertures, but the edges are never really achieve the same resolution.

In conclusion then, apart from the edge performance which I’d call ‘good’ (or ‘good enough’ for my purposes) a very good lens. Small, light, low distortion, low CA, sharp in the centre and can do sun stars as a party trick. I might use this lens ten or twenty times a year and for me the positives easily outweigh the negatives so I’m keeping this one! If you use this focal length all the time and need better edge performance something more expensive might be in order.

Second hand they range in price between £200 and £300 which is pretty cheap. As with all older lenses exposures have to be carefully monitored (they tend towards one to two stops of under exposure so watch the histogram), some PP will be required on all images, mainly contrast enhancement but the clarity slider in CS is remarkably useful too.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking!

 

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Six Months with a Sony A7R and OM Zuiko Lenses

It’s about time for a summary of using the Sony A7R and a selection of OM Zuiko lenses over the last six months. There are still a few lenses left to review, but enough time has passed to give a balanced personal opinion.

Zuiko OM 50mm f1.4, Sony A7R

The 50mm f1.4 close up.

I traded in my Canon full frame kit earlier in the year due to a back injury – weight was the only factor in the decision – and the A7R is the only camera I’ve used in the last six months or so. Various lenses have been tested (have a look on the Film Camera and Lens Review tab if you’d like to see them in detail), but here’s the general summary.

The Camera

First then, the positive.

The decision to save weight has worked very well – I can walk further without becoming fatigued (and therefore disinterested in taking pictures!) and the camera’s ergonomics are now completely familiar. The images produced are satisfyingly detailed and most post processing problems (white balance was the worst) have been solved.

Lensbaby Plastic Lens, Sony A7R

Even a Lensbaby is pretty good on the A7R.

The A7R can wring the maximum performance from manual focus lenses because the manual focus viewfinder tools make precision focussing fast and easy. The results are much more precise than anything possible using an optical viewfinder and it’s quite a surprise how much less is in sharp focus than the depth of field scale would suggest. The lack of an anti-alias filter also makes a big difference to the sharpness of the images – I rarely need to use anything but low default sharpening to obtain clean, sharp results. I haven’t noticed any moire either.

Zuiko OM 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R

The 50mm f1.8 – a shot resulting from just carrying the A7R and the 50mm on a casual walk.

Exposure control is perfect for me. The use of zebras to prevent overexposing highlights along with the ability to pull up shadows in PP without excessive noise results in some stunning dynamic range.

The loud shutter is no worse than a full frame DSLR – certainly a 5D MK2.

The 1080 HD video is a big improvement over the Canon 60D’s output (the camera I’ve used for video over the last few years) – not really a fair comparison as 60D is fairly old now, and APSC.

Zuiko OM 85mm f2, Sony A7R

The 85mm f2.

I haven’t noticed any dust on the sensor – and I change lenses more than most and shoot at smaller apertures. A periodic blast with a rocket blower is all it needs. In contrast the 5dMk2 was a dust magnet which needed cleaning very frequently which was just a pain.

The other most quoted problems – shutter shock and compressed RAW – I haven’t noticed at all. Having said that I’m careful with shooting technique, don’t use long lenses that often and rarely feel compelled to take pictures in near darkness.

But nothing is perfect :-

The Auto ISO implementation when using aperture priority isn’t much good when shooting longer manual focus as the camera will use 1/60th and the lowest ISO setting, forcing the use of shutter priority. Things may be different with non manual focus lenses.

Battery life isn’t as much of a problem as thought it was going to be. Two spares are more than enough for a day’s heavy shooting. What is a negative is being effectively forced to buy a charger (which should have been included) and a spare battery. Interestingly Sony bundle a spare and a charger with the A7R Mk2…..

White balance is a bit random in cloudy conditions producing blueish greens. This can be solved using the ‘neutral’ colour profile with RAW and developing troublesome shots with Adobe Camera Raw (rather than DXO Optics 9 which does a fine job on non-problem files).

Zuiko OM 28mm f2, Sony A7R

The 28mm f2 and one of those shots where the greens needed some non-default processing to remove a slightly blueish tint. The shadows were pulled up in pp.

Using the otherwise excellent EVF in bright conditions isn’t as good as using an OVF – darker areas cut to black quite early. However the histogram and exposure aids (zebras) make getting that perfect exposure much easier. Sort of a balance there.

Finally, there’s no auto correction for MF lenses in DXO or ACR – you’re on your own I’m afraid. Luckily the prime lenses used here didn’t distort that much – but you’ll become a dab hand removing any chromatic aberration and using the ‘levels’ tool!

The OM Zuiko Lenses

The A7R works wonders with manual focus lenses – an ideal companion if you like. It can’t however work miracles and some lenses just don’t make the grade of producing quality images on a 36Mp sensor. With this level of resolution even excellent film era prime lenses are pushed.

Zuiko OM 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R

The 50mm f1.8 again!

Before we start it’s worth starting that all of these lenses need to be shot at optimal apertures (f5.6 – f11) to approach the Sony sensor’s resolution. Alternatively open them up to their widest aperture and trade resolution for some attractive bokeh.

In addition they will all flare easily by comparison with modern lenses so a lens hood and careful technique are required – just like using a film camera really. They are all wonderfully small and light – a perfect match for the small A7R. Remember when hand holding the camera to always use at least twice the focal length of the lens as the shutter speed e.g. 125th of a second for a 50mm lens to prevent camera shake – 1/60th (by the old 35mm rule) doesn’t always work at these resolutions.

As anticipated, zooms fare badly. The Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-5.6 and Vivitar 70-210 f3.5 Series 1 both had some serious flaws with edge definition and chromatic aberration which would make them pretty unattractive for serious use.

The old primes are a different matter :-

The Zuiko 18mm f3.5 isn’t a resolution monster but produces very low chromatic aberration and distortion.

Zuiko OM 18mm f3.5, Sony A7R

The 18mm at f8.

The Zuiko 24mm f2.8 isn’t up to the job I’m sorry to say – the edges are too soft at all apertures. APSC only.

The Zuiko 28mm f2 – Just about good enough though prone to flare.

Zuiko OM 28mm f2, Sony A7R

28mm f2. Some pp brought up the shadows after exposing for the highlights here.

The Zuiko 50mm f3.5 macro – still good even at these resolutions. No need to replace this one.

Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro, Sony A7R

Copied from an antique book of photographs under less than ideal circumstances but the 50mm f3.5 macro performed admirably as always.

The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 and f1.8 – 50mms are easy to make well – both are good but the 1.8 has the edge and is cheaper – a bargain.

Zuiko OM 50mm f1.4, Sony A7R

The 50mm f1.4 wide open and close up.

The Zuiko 85mm f2 – pretty good – edges are a bit soft even at f8, but for portraits/mid tele work still good.

Zuiko OM 85mm f2, Sony A7R

The 85mm f2 blurring away an untidy background.

The Helios 85mm f2 – resolution isn’t its strong point but for sheer character this is still worth using (I have a soft spot for this lens which defies all logic).

Helios 85mm f2, Sony A7R

The soft, romantic images produces by the Helios 85mm f2 though not of very high resolution are still unique – I love this lens on any camera it’s attached to!

The Zuiko 135mm f3.5 – solid if undistinguished with a little chromatic aberration – just about good enough.

Zuiko OM 135mm f3.5, Sony A7R

The 135 f3.5 on a frosty morning.

The 18mm is the only lens which would cost over £100 – most would be under £50 and some under £30.

All of these lenses are ‘just good enough’ but great bargains – 36Mp is probably their limit and any more sensor resolution would be a waste.

Using lenses longer than 135mm is difficult – no IS, the need for fast shutter speeds and the difficulties in manually focussing them mean I’d leave this job the Canon 60D and a modern AF tele zoom.

In the interests of fairness, I’m sure the Canon/Nikon/Minolta/Pentax equivalents would be just as good if you have any hanging around.

Conclusion

There isn’t a simple conclusion to be drawn on using the A7R and MF lenses for all photographers – but I’ll have a go! As someone who started in the film era, I’m used to working around kit limitations and I don’t expect (or want) kit to do everything for me.

Zuiko OM 50mm f1.8, Sony A7R

50mm f1.8.

The A7R is a specialised camera which is aimed at people who take their time with their photography and are willing to put up with some quirks to wring the most out of that amazing 36Mp sensor. In this context, slow startup times, manual focus etc become irrelevant – you’ll be there for a few minutes taking the shot anyway.

Use it without concentrating on what you’re doing and it will treat you with contempt and spit out some truly disappointing images. Use it with care and it will jump through hoops for you.

The A7R second-hand is now under £1000 which is a fantastic bargain for a modern full frame 36Mp camera. Add a few fast old MF lenses and an adaptor or two for around £500 and – for the amount you’ve spent – you’ll have an amazingly good setup. Lusting after old prime lenses is cheaper than eyeing up their modern AF counterparts – especially Zeiss lenses! I’d recommend Ffordes in Scotland for second-hand kit – it’s always checked before being put on sale and I haven’t been disappointed yet (I’m not being paid to say this unfortunately – I’m just a satisfied customer).

Zuiko OM 50mm f1.4, Sony A7R

Finishing up with the 50mm f1.4.

I used to use a medium format 6×6 camera (a Yashica 124G) along with my old OM 35mm cameras. It was slow and fairly difficult to use but produced stunning results if you put the effort in (6×6 Velvia film was shockingly good). Think of the A7R with old primes as a (lightweight) medium format camera, and an APSC Canon 60D with zooms as the 35mm SLR equivalent and you’ve pretty much got the perfect analogy. I still use the Canon 60D when IS and autofocus are needed – they complement each other nicely.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

Detailed (well relatively detailed) mini reviews for all of these lenses are available on the Film, Camera and Lens Review tab.

The Search for Grain Continues – Kodak Tri-X. Lots of Shots and Some Photographic History.

Approaching a review of Kodak Tri-X provokes some nervousness. Tri-X has been around since 1954 (though reformulated many times since then) and was the black and white film which defined a photographic era for fashion and journalism in the 1970’s and 1980’s, creating a dark gritty look which is still used today. It’s still the best-selling mono film (according to Kodak).

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Salisbury Cathedral again on an overcast day. This needed some PP but the dark ‘look’ I remember is still there. Zuiko 28mm f2 though not as grainy as I’d remembered.

The great Don McCullin used Tri-X for his famous photographs of the Vietnam war. For David Bailey, Irving Penn, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Cartier Bresson it was a mainstay too. In short it’s one of the few films which has legendary status so I’d best be thorough! For a fuller description see here for an excellent history of this film.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Inside the cathedral and that tonality is lovely – enough to feel optimistic! Vivitar 17mm lens.

When a film has been going for 60 years it’s got to be good – but does the modern version capture that ‘look’ I loved thirty years ago? Best shoot a few rolls.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

A further interior – and good too. Vivitar 17mm lens. The textured stone of the interior masks the graininess as always.

All these shots rated at 400 ASA on a Olympus OM2N with a variety of Zuiko/Vivitar lenses and developed in D76 – D76 and Tri-X must be a classic combination. Scanned on the usual Plustek 7500 and subjected to some levels and contrast adjustment.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

The last from Salisbury and a bit of a gothic type shot – working as hoped. Vivitar 17mm lens.

The film feels like a quality product in a well made cassette with solid felt light baffles. It’s difficult to break into for loading on a film spiral – always a good sign. It loads easily onto the spiral too.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Hard light suits this film. The humble Zuiko 50mm f1.8.

Drying it doesn’t attract much dust and is quite a ‘hard’ emulsion when dry. When you’ve had 60 years to perfect a film it should be one of the best I suppose!

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Zuiko 50mm f1.8.

One of the properties of Tri-X was to capture a subject’s essential details – complete with grain, dirt and darkness in the process. It was famous for it’s deep black tones and is often used to emphasise the grittier side of life – with a bit of PP in the contrast department it does it well.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

To portray dark grittyness this is excellent. Zuiko 28mm f2.

Exposure latitude is wide too allowing shooting in a wide variety of situations.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Shooting into the light and a nice result – flare, grain and all.

However – is it grainy enough? That’s what this search is all about!

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

The whole frame.

And a small enlargement :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

This small section of the negative looks quite detailed with reasonable grain for 400 ASA.

Nope – I’m looking for more grain than this. Let’s try uprating it to 1600 ASA and push processing it for 12 minutes.

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

This is a little more like it in low light. 50mm f1.8.

Outdoors in soft sunlight :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

Time for a frame enlargement and here’s the full frame. Zuiko 135 f3.5 (a recent acquisition!)

 

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

And here’s a small section enlarged. Slightly harder grain than a 100 ASA film but not that much.

Well it’s made things a little more grainy but not as much as I’d hoped. Tri-X is made to be pushed to higher speeds so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. These were developed in D76 but it’s (annoyingly!) done a good job on the grain structure that I’m thinking for the next roll it will have to be souped in Rodinal which should harden the grain up a bit. It’s amazing how good modern film is by comparison with 30 years ago. All of the high-speed films tested so far have proved highly resistant to heavy grain formation – so much so there’s not a huge difference between them and 100 ASA film. Even Ilford 3200 was tame at 1600 ASA.

Finally – for those who don’t like slopping chemicals around – can Tri-X be replicated digitally in DXO Filmpack? There’s a preset for it so let’s see.

Here’s a Tri-X ‘original’ :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, D76

And here’s a DXO converted shot from an EPL5 :-

Kodak Tri-X, 35mm, Olympus OM2N, DXO Filmpack

Close enough I’d say, though film development and PP variations (in both cases) mean that DXO can only really do an approximation of the final ‘look’. The stonework on the house is brighter in the later shot due these being taken many weeks apart – the DXO shot has the advantage of some sunlight on the wall face.

Well what to make of it? Tri-X is still an excellent film just past it’s 60th birthday and as good as it’s competitors if you prefer a darker look (think of it crudely as a fast Ilford PAN-F). As a photographer who still shoots lots of film as well as digital, it’s worth a thanks to Kodak for keeping this stuff in production. My recommendation is to give it a try – I’m about to order 10 rolls!

Thanks for looking – hope this is useful!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

 

Still Quite Fast – Fuji Neopan Professional 400

As part of a series testing films which are faster than I’m used too (100 ASA essentially), the next one up is Fuji Neopan Professional 400. After testing the 100 ASA version of this film (here), the 400 ASA version should hopefully be as good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This was taken at a local Iron Age hillfort which floods between the ramparts after heavy rain. The landscape is quite surreal and a good location for some abstract landscapes. This is a very good start! Vivitar 17mm.

Physically the film exudes a high quality feel as the canister feels very robust – it’s quite difficult to prise it open when it comes to development. Efke films canisters used to just fall apart in the darkroom!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Another abstract shot round the other side of the hillfort. Vivitar 17mm.

The film loads very easily on to a film spiral – always a good thing – and usually a sign that film is well made.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This is something of a nice oddity from the start of the roll. There’s an area down the left extending over to the upper part of the shot which looks like a strange light leak into the canister. Not that I’m complaining – I like the effect. Zuiko 50mm f1.4 and soft (or mis-focussed!) wide open.

Exposed at its box speed these were taken on an Oly OM2N in aperture priority mode (I’m getting lazy!), adjusting exposure as necessary. Various lenses were used – if I can remember what they were I’ll put it in the caption!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 28mm f2

This one’s a bit of a test of DR (in digital speak). Shadow detail is lost to preserve most of the highlights with the sun behind the obelisk. The film has coped well here – again very good. Zuiko 28mm f2 closed down to f11 .

Developed in D76 stock for 7 minutes (these were taken in contrasty conditions so 30 seconds were taken off the recommendation) the results look pretty good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at f11 – nice and sharp and a good range of tones.

An enlargement of the centre portion :-

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This grain for a 400 ASA film is excellent – if I didn’t know I’d guess this was a 100 ASA film.

There hasn’t been any dust spotting or ‘dust and scratches’ correction on these negatives so it looks like it’s resistant to gathering dust when drying. This makes it’s use worthwhile just on it’s own and is quite remarkable!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Close up (well ‘ish’), 50mm f1.4 blurring the winter background away. The range of tones captured is excellent again.

Unfortunately if you like the look of this stuff and want to cheat with DXO Filmpack you can only approximate the look with something like Acros 100 as there is no profile for this film – on my installation anyway – so a direct comparison isn’t possible here.

Oddly enough the conclusion of this test isn’t what I was expecting to write at all. This is virtually indistinguishable from 100 ASA film which makes it a useful film for use in the winter when the light is low. Unfortunately I’m currently trying to get more grain in my shots so it didn’t quite do what I wanted! I’ll try pushing a roll a few stops and use Rodinal or Neofin Blue on the next roll to see if I can coax some grain from this excellent film.

So highly recommended – unless you’re after some grain! Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Speeding Things Up a Bit (with Ilford Delta 3200)

Time for playing with some faster film. For agency shots 100 ASA grain is about as extreme as I like to shoot as too much grain can be distracting. Recently I started wondering if it might be worth challenging that assumption and as a consequence there’s now a healthy stock of fast grainy goodness in the fridge waiting to be used.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This looks like a brilliant start – though the grain is very well disguised by the textured nature of the subject. Don’t worry – there is some grain!

Starting with the fastest film in the tupperware box, Ilford’s Delta 3200, here are some of the results from the first roll, all shot in or around Salisbury Cathedral (Wiltshire UK) on an overcast winter’s day. A bit of research indicates that this film is best shot fresh and developed quickly after – something done here and I’ve no complaints.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Smidge of camera shake here even at f3.5 – oops.

The first problem is that the OM2N used for this only runs up to 1600 ASA. However, when you look up dev times you realise it’s not that much of a problem as this film can be exposed at all sorts of high speeds with appropriate development.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Can’t complain at this at all. The figure is Sir Richard Colt Hoare – a pioneer of archaeology and owner of Stourhead in Wiltshire in the 1700’s by the way.

All shots on the OM2N, a Vivitar 17mm f3.5 lens or a Zuiko 35-70 f.4, scanned on a Plustek 7500.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

With the contrast tweaked up this is starting to look nicely gritty.

Developed in stock D76 at 20 degrees centigrade for 9 1/2 minutes as recommended by the ever useful Massive Dev Chart. These were all then cropped and had dust and scratches removed in Photoshop – not that there were that many as  this film doesn’t seem to attract too much muck when drying.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

The central font – a 3 metre wide modern engineered masterpiece which is quite hypnotic.

Outdoors against clouds the grain shows up much more clearly. I like it but others may not. If you’re in the former camp it opens up some creative opportunities for some atmospheric shots.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

The spire from fields nearby. The height doesn’t really come across in a photograph – it’s huge!

In most cases the contrast needed a boost in Photoshop as expected – faster film is usually less contrasty than slower film. What did come as a pleasant surprise was the range of tones captured using just basic development. Depending on taste you can go for a darker look bringing out the grain or keep it subtle – though the grain is always going to be heavier than slower film.

Ilford Delta 3200, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Crop from the centre and a look at that grain structure.

 

http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/visit-what-see/cathedral-font

The Cathedral towering over the houses of Salisbury. The grain here I think adds to the shot looking quite atmospheric.

All in all a bit of an eye-opener. The range of tones captured is very good, and for subjects with some texture the grain isn’t that much of a problem at all. Where the grain becomes more obvious – outdoors against a cloudy sky in these examples – it can be use to create either a soft romantic effect at low contrast or a gritty dark look with the contrast turned up. However, if you’re planning to make 20 inch prints it may be worth considering something slower!

Based on this I’ll try some winter landscapes for which it should be well suited.

Hope you find his useful – thanks for looking!

 

An Efke Swansong

Well it had to happen one day – my final roll of Efke 820 ‘Aura’ has been hiding in the fridge for a few years, but it’s day has finally come. The ‘Aura’ bit of the name is due to the film not having an anti-halation layer, producing a soft glow around highlights something like the ‘diffuse glow’ filter in Photoshop.

Efke 820 Aura

A bridge on the river Stour in Dorset.

The equipment used was minimal – an Olympus OM1N, a Vivitar 17mm f3.5 lens, an R72 filter, a tripod and a cable release. Exposure bracketing between one and eight seconds at f8 usually produced a decent result. The use of a wide-angle lens helps avoid the infrared focus adjustments required on longer lenses – at f8 pretty much everything is in focus and it’s possible to just use the depth of field scale on the lens to make sure everything is sharp.

Developed in ID11 for eight minutes at 20 degrees centigrade.

Efke 820 Aura

And from further down the river. There are some internal reflections going on which add a certain something.

This style of shooting is really relaxed – plonk the tripod down, take off the filter (it’s opaque), compose, replace the filter and shoot. With bracketing your only going to get around twenty images from a roll so you really take your time. It’s all a bit like fishing and as far removed from blasting away with a DSLR as it’s possible to get.

Efke 820 Aura

Even further down the river there’s this pedestrian bridge. For mid November there are a surprising amount of leaves still left reflecting IR light on those trees.

As always the resulting negatives can be rather dusty, so a quick clean with a soft cloth is worthwhile before putting them in the scanner. I still needed a pass with the ‘dust and scratches’ photoshop filter to remove some of the remaining dust.

Efke 820 Aura

Even more odd internal reflections inside the 17mm lens. I’ve never seen these using conventional film.

Even with the post processing the use of the clone stamp tool to remove the larger dust particles is needed (something I didn’t do for these as you can see).

Efke 820 Aura

The final location and something a bit ‘gothic’ – this film really makes the most of these locations, and the ‘aura’ effect is very noticeable in the distant trees.

I remember this as extremely grainy film, but giving it longer exposures seems to help – I must have been underexposing it in the past.

Efke 820 Aura

Finally a recreation of a shot taken thirty years ago on Kodak HIE speed infrared film – a suitable last shot for the roll! Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Amazingly it’s still available (for a high price!) on some websites – Lomogaphy being one of them – but as the Efke factory in Croatia has apparently closed this must be quite old stock. Either that or someone is making it again which seems unlikely.

A pleasing last roll of a film I’d grown to like over the years. From now on it will have to be Rollei’s IR film (£6 a roll) which is better behaved and less grainy but doesn’t get as near to look of the best IR film ever – discontinued in 2007 – Kodak HIE Infrared. Ilford also make an IR film (SFX 200) but at £13 a roll in the UK it’s an expensive option.

Thanks for looking!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

A Canon 5d Mk2 and a Zuiko 85mm f2

This is the second of a series of tests using my old Olympus OM fit manual focus lenses on a full frame Canon 5d Mk 2. This time it’s the rather nice Zuiko 85mm f2, which was quite good on an APS-C sensor 60D, albeit with a 135mm equivalent focal length and a cold colour cast.

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

Narrow depth of field, smooth gradation of tones and easy to focus – an excellent initial impression!

All shots taken with a ‘Neutral’ colour profile and post processed in DXO Optics Pro 9 (which has absolutely no idea what lens is attached via the simple OM to EF adaptor, so can’t do it’s usual sharpness, distortion and vignetting corrections).

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

The slight telephoto compression and subtle vignetting impart a real ‘atmosphere’ to some shots.

The lens is described in the 60D test  here so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say it’s a beautiful ‘old school’ all metal built lens, and very easy to focus at f2, the focus ring being fluid and responsive. It’s quite well-balanced on the 5d but seems rather small by comparison with the great lump of the body – especially when compared to a large AF zoom lens – not necessarily a bad thing.

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

Changing aperture and focussing are of course both manual – not really a problem when you get used to it. As always, shoot in RAW to correct any exposure problems. Oddly, on 5D the ‘evaluative metering’ mode works best, on the 60D ‘centre weighted’ metering was needed.

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

Colours are bright and the contrast is pretty good too – no need for auto levels as was the case with the low contrast Helios 85m lens tested earlier. The red of the poppy looks natural, even with Canon’s tendency to over saturate reds.

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

The bokeh is still a little busy at medium distances – as it was on the 60D so no surprises here.

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

At closer distances though – it’s superb!

On the 60D I much preferred the soft, swirling bokeh of the Helios 85mm f2, even though it was much harder to focus, especially in cold weather. On full frame however, the Zuiko is a clear winner. It’s easier to focus, produces much less clinical colours than it’s results on the 60D and produces images with real impact. At around £100 it’s cheaper than the Canon AF equivalent, and is so easy to focus AF seems irrelevant. If you can find one – snap it up!

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking!