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!

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Miscellanea

Been doing a bit too much infrared lately – messing around with a new toy (an RX100). So it’s time for a few completely unrelated and non-infrared images of bits and pieces, which were the subject for a few stock photography shoots.

First – a high contrast image of three monkeys picked up in an antique shop – diffuse glow added to the effect.

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This one is from a pack or razor blades – the gap between the blade and the paper is done with a piece of blu-tack (very useful stuff).

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These were a pair of antique glasses (another antique shop)  – shot on an Oly 620 using a Helios 85mm f2 lens. This really is a star of a lens!

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Finally a miniature bicycle made from drinks tin scraps shot with a lensbaby in strong sunlight on a card background. 00083994

All shots for the book cover market – thanks for looking and hope you like them!

A Few in a 1930’s Hemmingway Style

Having tested loads of old manual focus lenses on a Canon 60D, this post is about using them for a practical, commercial purpose (rather than just mucking about with them!).

This set was shot for a specific request from the agency for images of a typewriter, booze and a cigarette – I suppose in a sort of vintage  Hemmingway style. The typewriter was bought two years ago in a second-hand shop because, well, I couldn’t resist it for £10 (did I mention I’m a terrible junk buyer), and it finally came in useful! The ‘scotch’ is unfortunately only cold tea….

All taken on a Canon 60D with various manual focus lenses, then given different treatments in DXO Filmpack.

First one – on  a Meyer Optik Gorlitz Primotar E 50mm f3.5 (tested here) with an M42 to EF adaptor. The softness wide open seemed to compliment the subject. 00325899

Second – on a Zuiko 50mm f1.4 (used previously here) – that narrow depth of field blurred away the otherwise modern looking kitchen.00325897

And finally, two shots with one of my favourites – the Helios Jupiter 85mm f2 (tested here), stopped down slightly to give just a hint of the scotch and cigarettes in the background.

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So – they do have a practical use after all, especially for shooting ‘vintage’ look shots. DXO Filmpack added to the images by giving them a final ‘film’ tweak.

Hope you like them and thanks for looking.

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 85mm f2

This is the fifth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but very fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This one’s dedicated to the Zuiko  85mm f2 – a direct Olympus equivalent of the Helios 85mm f2 reviewed earlier. The APS-C crop factor make this a 136mm equivalent, and at f2 it’s pretty fast.

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As you’d expect the depth of field is very thin at f2 and close focussing distances – something which can be used for creative effect. ‘Auto Levels’ applied to improve the contrast.

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The bokeh isn’t as smooth as the Helios – more ‘structured’ if that makes sense.

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Even at distances of a few metres the background becomes blurred at f2. There’s a hint of purple chromatic aberration on the original – a few pixels.

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Unlike the gorgeously eccentric Helios with it’s saturated colours, the Zuiko produces colder, more subtle results with no colour cast.

It’s well built, light and all metal and in size just a few mm longer than the 50mm f1.4. The filter size is the Oly standard of 49mm, minimum focus is around 85cm and the aperture range is f2 to f16.

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Test shots then – here’s the frame.

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f2 – A good start but some softness in the centre.

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f4 – well as sharp as it gets!

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f8 – slightly improved at the edge – excellent.

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f16 results were identical.

In conclusion then,  a very impressive result – capable of lovely bokeh blur wide open, and at smaller apertures sharp and contrasty. At around £100 its a bargain, 3 stops faster than a kit lens and just as sharp at similar apertures. The only disadvantage it has by comparison with the Helios is it’s cold, almost clinical rendering of colour, which is something which can be easily fixed in post-processing or with custom white balance.

As a ‘Zuiko-holic’ I’m very pleased with this, though the bonkers Helios is still a very nice lens, in the same way that a Lensbaby is – sheer eccentricity!

Thanks for reading and hope this is useful!

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.

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Helios Jupiter 9 85mm f2

This is the fourth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who are thinking of using relatively cheap old manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time it’s the Helios Jupiter 9 85mm f2, an old USSR made portrait lens in M42 mount, with oodles of character. The APS-C crop factor makes this a 136 mm equivalent, and by ignoring the worst performing frame edges of a lens designed for 35mm it might do quite well.

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A magically disappearing background with a gorgeous silky soft bokeh.

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Wide open at f2 – a scarecrow standing in for a portrait model in this one. The mild orange colour cast is a ‘feature’ of this lens – or maybe its age.

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Depth of field is razor-thin at the minimum focus distance – the easiest hand-held focus technique is using the LCD – compose, roughly focus then use focus magnify and move the camera gently backwards and forwards to get it spot on. Take the shot in ‘focus magnify’ mode – if you switch back the focus point will move again!

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Colour rendition can be very highly saturated! Easily fixed in post processing but a bit of a shock till you get used to it…

On to the lens itself. They just don’t make them like this any more – a solid metal barrel (its not a light metal either) and lots of glass make this one feel like it would stop a bullet. If quality of construction were the sole benchmark of quality this would outshine a Canon ‘L’ series lens!

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The mount adaptor is a cheap 42mm to Canon EF – £10 from Ebay. The screw thread stops at the wrong point so the lens info isn’t quite on the top of the lens when mounted. The focus ring is very stiff in the cold and can start unscrewing the lens when turned clockwise as well. All part of the experience!

The aperture is made up of 15 blades (just counted them!) maintaining a perfectly circular aperture across the range from f2 to f16 – very nice. It’s a ‘stop down’ mechanism which is odd if you’re not used to it – setting the aperture ring just sets a ‘stop point’ for another ring which varies the aperture from wide open (for focussing) to the aperture chosen. As we’re not using an external exposure meter but the 60D’s internal exposure system you can just set the aperture stop point to f16 and vary the aperture across the range, judging the depth of field on the LCD. Minimum focus is just less than 80cm.

So – not expecting too much (this is really a soft portrait lens) how well does it do for sharpness etc?

Standard test subject – I’ll have to change this soon – as we go up the focal lengths I’m running out of room on the road and will end up in the river).

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Full frame of test image.

At f2 – pretty soft and strong ‘open aperture sheen’.

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f4 – centre is better , edge marginally so.

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f11 – not bad but still soft at the edge.

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It doesn’t change at f16 either!

Not really a surprise though – this is a classic portrait lens – just sharp enough in the centre and soft at the edges to give a flattering effect.

Is it worth getting one? At around £100 they’re quite cheap, and the f2 aperture is seriously fast for this focal length. The bokeh is one the best I’ve seen, and for flattering portraits or special effect close-ups – where you want the subject isolated by a blurred away background – it’s brilliant. For more general photography it’s not quite so good – stick to the kit lens unless you really need the extra  three stops of speed.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking! To see how well it on a Micro Four Thirds Olympus EPL5 look here.

For some more reviews of M42 mount Helios lenses, Veijo Vilva has tested most of them here – it was these reviews which helped me with my manual focus lens choices so thanks Veijo!

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.

Update – to see how this lens performs on a 5d MK2 see here.