An A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f1.2

This is a short – well not that short – description of the spectacular Zuiko 50mm f1.2 on a 36Mp A7R. I’ve had this lens for about a year and it rapidly became my favourite 50mm. It was bought on the pretense that my old 1.4 was falling to pieces after thirty years of use, but if I’m honest I’ve always wanted one and it was up for sale in mint condition at Ffordes. And of course I’m a complete sucker for fast Zuikos, especially 50mm’s.

For those of you with the 1.8 or 1.4, I’ve included a brief comparison. All shot in RAW and developed in DXO Photolab. There aren’t any profiles for old lenses like this so you’re on your own when it comes to corrections. Luckily 50mm’s don’t need much correction.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Bokeh… This lens produces some very nice examples.

So starting with a description – it’s a bit wider and longer than the 1.4, but a lot bigger than the tiny 1.8. Despite being a 1.2 it takes 49mm filters like the other two. From left to right, the 1.8, the 1.4 and the 1.2. Prices are £10-20 for the 1.8 (or free with an OM2), £80-100 for the 1.4, £350 for the 1.2

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

1.8, 1.4 and 1.2 – it’s the other way round in the next diagram!

Untitled-1_DxO

The lens designs from the 1980’s Zuiko lens catalogue. The 1.2 is essentially an upscaled 1.4, the 1.8 shows it’s more humble design with fewer elements. If you’re interested in the historic development of lenses have a look here – fascinating :- https://wordpress.lensrentals.com/blog/2011/08/lens-geneology-part-1/

As per the other two, minimum focus is 45cm and the smooth rack from infinity to min focus is achieved in around 120 degrees. Like the 1.4, it has ten aperture blades, the 1.8 has eight.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

On the Rayqual adaptor which has solved some of my wideangle edge definition problems due to its precision (thanks for the tip https://phillipreeve.net/blog/)

It’s nicely balanced on the A7R, being nice and light (11.6 oz, or 330 g), and has a lovely smooth focus ring and snappy aperture ring. Altogether a real pleasure to use in a discrete package. As it’s a relatively recent Zuiko it’s got some very effective multi-coating, but I still like to use a lens hood.

So, physically it’s a lovely lens and a pleasure to use, but how does it perform?  You’re not buying this lens to use at f8 so let’s look at f1.2.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Shallow depth of field and heavy post processing to produce an abstract.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An example of the ‘Trioplan’ style bubble bokeh at f1.2. I like this effect but you may not. If you don’t you’ll be happy to know it’s gone by f2.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

An example in colour. Note the classic flattening of the bokeh circles towards the edge of the frame.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

And another with some light green/purple CA on the harsh table reflections. It’s no too difficult to remove in post, but here doesn’t distract from the shot IMHO.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

And some creative overexposure just for good measure.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

At middle distances the shallow depth of field is less obvious but adds some subtle depth to an image.

Sony A7R Zuiko 50mm f1.2

Colour, contrast and sharpness are exemplary at f5.6 to f8, but this wouldn’t look that different at anywhere between f2 and f16.

It may be a bit tedious, but no lens test is complete without a full aperture range set of samples, so here we go…..

_DSC3493_DxO

The test frame at f1.2. Some light vignetting in the corners – it’s gone by f4. As you can probably see, f1.2 for landscapes isn’t recommended unless you like a ‘vintage’ effect or are good at post-processing.

f1.2 centre

12c

f1.2 edge

12e

As you can see there’s some overexposure which would need fixing in RAW, a little CA and a veiling flare across the frame. It’s possible to tidy most of this up in post, but importantly edge and central definition are already quite good.

f2 centre

2c

f2 edge

2e

All tidied up at f2. Centre and edge definition are already very good.

f2.8 centre

28c

f2.8 edge

28e-e1543164012857.jpg

f5.6 centre

56c

f5.6 edge

56e

f8 centre

8c

f8 edge

8e

f16 centre

16c

f16 edge

16e

So, to my eyes, very good centre and edge definition from f2, excellent at f5.6 and f8, and hardly deteriorating through diffraction at f16. Even f1.2 is usable with some work in post.

In conclusion then, the very best Zuiko I’ve used. Most of them are just ‘good enough’ on the 36Mp A7R with a fairly narrow ‘sweet spot’ of resolution at mid apertures. This lens though is very good to excellent across most of the aperture range and reminds me of the excellent Sigma 50mm f1.4 on a Canon 5d Mk2 at at half the price and a fifth of the weight and bulk, albeit without autofocus (but that’s easy when you’re used to it). I may have bought it for the f1.2 aperture but what like most is the excellent performance from f2 to f16. I also can fix it’s faults at f1.2!

Is it worth £350? I’d say so if you’re a perfectionist. £350 for an old lens isn’t on the face of it that cheap, but I could put this up against some of the best modern, more pricey 50’s and I think it would put up a respectable fight. It’s not that surprising – this was a very expensive lens thirty years ago and it shows. The 1.4 is excellent value for < £100, and the 1.8 is a steal for < £20, but for the really critical (obsessive?) photographer, this 1.2 is in a different league.

I was wondering about doing a shot by shot comparison between the Zuiko 50’s (1.2, 1.4, 1.8, 3.5 macro) is there’s any interest out there. If so let me know – it will take quite a bit of effort.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking.

Rob

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 ‘Art’ on a Canon 60D

Having played around with this lens on a 5d Mk2 (here), I had to try it on an APS-C Canon 60D. Sharing the same EF mount, it will be an 80mm equivalent but testing against the 60D’s greater pixel density (18mp in a smaller sensor) should be interesting.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A good start at f1.4 – smooth bokeh, focus correct with good colour.

I feel it’s rather well suited to the smaller 60D body – a good balance with a bright viewfinder due to that 1.4 aperture.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

At close distances – lovely! f1.4

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

For close-ups (the min focus is 40cm) at 1.4 this lens produces dramatic isolation and blurred away backgrounds. f1.4

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

At close focus distances the bokeh can be surreal – those two dark peaks in the background are yew trees. f1.4 at around 60cm/two feet at f1.4. These extreme effects – stronger than a Zuiko/Canon EF 50mm 1.4 are probably down to the larger front element of the Sigma (6 cm vs 3.5 cm) which is designed to reduce vignetting.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

At longer distances the sharpness shines out. It’s difficult to believe this is at f1.4 (it is – I promise)!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

It does have other apertures….. At f8 sharpness and contrast are exemplary.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sharpness at the edge is better on the 60D – this isn’t really the edge of the full frame image circle so it should be.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

More leaves, spectacular bokeh etc etc (you’re getting the idea).

So – you guessed it, quick test time for something approaching a scientific test – the full scene with which you may be familiar. Centre AF point only.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The first, and major problem is the the autofocus on the 60D mis-focusses quite often – much more so than the 5DMk2. The initial series had to be re-shot with manual focus.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

AF result at 1.4 – not good.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f1.4, manual focus – better. There’s a bit of CA – more than on the 5D, but this can be removed manually (the DXO profile has already had a bash at these but not quite succeeded).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

1.4 edge – excellent

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 – faultless

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 edge

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 centre

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 edge – this is even resolving more of the mesh across the chimney entrances!

After the results from the 5DMK2 this isn’t exactly unexpected – this is an exceptionally sharp lens on full frame, so APSC results should be too. There’s more chromatic aberration than on the 5DMK2, possibly a result of the DXO optics module not being so well tuned – it should already be removing it as part of its default processing. It’s easily fixed with some manual adjustments.

The biggest problem on the 60D is the greater proportion of mis-focussed shots using autofocus. This can be corrected using the optional USB dock, but I wouldn’t relish the prospect as the problem seems to be quite random. It might also mess up focussing on the 5dMk2 which is fine out of the box and the camera this will be used on most of the time.

Why this is may be down to the less sophisticated AF in the 60D, or just the fact that it’s an older camera – on a 70D it might be fine. I’ll stick to using manual focussing at apertures less than f4 – it’s not that difficult when you’re used to it, and the results are spectacularly good when you get it right. Alternatively use live view where the results should be 100% in focus.

All in all, an excellent lens if you’re prepared to put some work in. Resolution at f1.4 is breathtakingly good at both centre and edge. Some may think it too sharp for a portrait lens, and as an 80mm equivalent its ideally suited to portraiture. However it’s easy to soften a sharp image, but not so easy the other way round!

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

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

Initial Impressions – The Sigma 50mm F1.4 ‘Art’ on a 5D MK2 (lots of images)

I don’t usually post about modern lenses – there are lots of reviews out there already of any photographic kit made recently. However, this is the exception which proves the rule as this promises to be one of the best third-party lenses of recent years. All shots taken on a 5D Mk2, processed in DXO Optics 9. DPP (Canon’s RAW developer software) won’t help with distortion etc as this isn’t a Canon lens, but DXO has all the correction profiles available.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

What was hoped for. Contrast, bokeh, colours and sharpness (including spider’s web). A good start to say the least.

Having been distinctly unimpressed by the weak construction of the Canon 50mm f1.4 (it needed a £150 repair after a slight knock) I started looking around for a replacement, and there isn’t that much available which is affordable (i.e. not the Canon 50mm f1.2), optically sound and well-built. There is the manual focus Zeiss Otus available, but as I don’t have £3k+ free it’s a non starter (I’ve had cars cheaper than that).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Left – Canon 24-105mm f4 ‘L’, centre the Sigma 50mm f1.4, and for comparison with the way things were done in the past, the compact and excellent Zuiko OM 50mm f1.4. Amazingly the Zuiko is the equivalent of the Sigma!

Onto the lens. It’s big and heavy! It feels about as heavy as a Canon 24-105 f4 and it’s around the same size. Much has been made of this, but as I’m now used to the size and weight of the 24-104 on a 5D Mk2 it’s not really a problem. Build quality is excellent, the autofocus is quiet and the whole thing exudes a feeling of quality. Costing £700 it should I suppose!

Using Live View (CDAF) the focussing as fast as any lens on the 5D Mk2 (ie slow), using the viewfinder (PDAF) it’s as fast as the 24-105. Low light focussing seems as good as the 24-105 too.

Is it any better than the Canon 50mm f1.4 in the sharpness dept? At f1.4 through to f5.6, definitely and noticeably yes. After f5.6 they’re about the same.

Here’s the full picture in this quick test :-

_MG_8950_DxOs

What a surprise – it’s The Mill again!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f1.4 centre – excellent for a 1.4 –

Update – having tested manual focus on a 60D here this may be ever so slightly out of focus when using autofocus – a little AF tuning required. Having done some MFA in camera adjustments -5 seems the best compromise for all distances (the correction required is different at various distances).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Here’s the result using Live View and manual focus shot on a different day – much more like it!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f1.4 edge using autofocus and slightly mis-focussed – the trees are out of focus even at these distances (see later shots)

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 centre – AF

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f2 edge

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f4 centre – as good as it gets

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f4 edge

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f5.6 centre – astonishingly sharp!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f5.6 edge – and again.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 centre

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

f8 edge – things soften slightly at f16.

 

What’s noticeable other than the superb sharpness, is that at wider apertures, the trees which are 100 yards or so further behind the chimney in the edge shots out of focus – see the shots at f8 where they are. This narrow a depth of field isn’t something you’d expect for a 50mm lens focussed close to infinity, illustrating just how important accurate AF is. For a much more professional discussion about this see Roger Cicala’s excellent post about using fast lenses here.

This shallow depth of field ‘problem’ explains why some users are initially disappointed with the results from fast lenses – these lenses are difficult to use wide open, you need to be very precise with your focus point and shoot a few shots each time as the focus can vary slightly – even a tiny amount with this narrow margin for error can be disastrous.

Let’s try another shot:-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Autumn on the way (at f2.5)

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Centre crop – that is very sharp.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Top centre crop – very sharp too.

Depth if field at close distances is tiny as you would expect :-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The Siggy at around two feet (60cm) at 1.4 – a centre 1/3 crop of a frame and that depth of field is around 1/8th of an inch (2-3mm). To get more in focus the focus point would need to be the centre of the bell rather than the bottom and maybe use f2.8. You need to be careful with this lens!

Contrast at 1.4 is OK, but picks up quickly – by f4 the lens shows quite strong contrast – maybe a ‘neutral’ rather than ‘standard’ colour profile would be best if you like to shoot JPEGs.

Colours are very good to excellent straight from the RAW files, with a tendency towards a cooler neutral look (the Canon 50mm f1.4 produced ‘warmer’ results) :-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

It’s all going on here – shallow DOF, contrast, colour and bokeh!

 

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

My stand in portrait model at f2 – the hair really is blue.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A crop from the centre. Focus on the eye is spot on!

Bokeh when the background is deeply out of focus is lovely, but when it’s ‘almost’ in focus it can be bit ‘busy’ :-

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Very out of focus bokeh – this is as good as the old Helios 85mm f2 used in previous posts!

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A full range of ‘out of focus-ness’. The intermediate distance bokeh displaying a slight degree of jitter with a detailed subject.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

This subject though – because it has less detail than the leaves – fades smoothly into soft bokeh.

Chromatic aberration is evident at wide apertures but DXO corrects it very well (sometimes with the manual sliders) –

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

A crop from the above – a hint of slight green and magenta on out of focus areas but for a shot at 1.4 this is excellent.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Centre(ish) crop

I didn’t need to do any lens callibration focus adjustments on the 5dMk2 (the Canon rather huffily just reports ’50mm’ for the lens in the MF adjustments screen!), and it looks as if it’s also fine on the 60D though this needs proper testing. I only ever use the centre focus point – edge points may not be as accurate.

I haven’t worried about vignetting – DXO does an excellent job of removing it (I didn’t see any in other words). I also tried to get some flare without the lens hood attached but wasn’t successful, which may mean the lens hood isn’t needed….

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

So, all as advertised it seems, but who is going to buy one given the price (3x the Canon version) and the weight? Other than me obviously.

It seems to me that this lens offers an alternative to the fast/sharp in the centre/blurry at the edge/heavily vignetted fast prime ‘look’ which has been accepted for years. To have a f1.4 lens which is sharp wide open at the edges opens up some interesting opportunities, whilst allowing for ultra sharp images across the frame at f5.6 onwards. Photographers who would like to make the most of this new wide aperture ‘look’ will find this attractive.

The weight is a non issue in my humble opinion  – if you’re carrying a full frame DSLR with a 24-104mm or 24-70mm zoom you already don’t care about weight and do care about maximum image quality (if you do care about the weight you may have the wrong camera system!).

Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART,Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Based on this initial series of images, the Sigma produces some of the best results I’ve seen. It’s not the easiest lens to use – where you place your focus point is critical, and choosing backgrounds with less detail provides better bokeh at mid distances (a universal rule not specific to this lens). If it had a proper aperture ring and image stabilisation it would be perfect!

Thanks for looking, hope you find this useful.

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

p.s I have no connection with Sigma – just using their products

Zuiko 50mm F1.4 on a 5D Mk2

A post from last year tested this lens on a Canon 60D, and found it to be an excellent manual focus alternative to a modern AF lens. As my Canon 50mm f1.4 is going for repair after a bash resulting in misaligned lens elements, the older 50mm has been resurrected. To illustrate the difference in construction quality, the all metal constructed Zuiko is 34 years old and has been knocked around over the years. The modern plastic made Canon lens has lasted 6 months of light use and failed at the first collision …..

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Doing what it does best at 1.4. Shallow depth of field, heavy vignetting, and an ‘expensive’ look.

Anyway, gripe over, is it as good on a full frame sensor as on a crop sensor? On the 60D it’s a 80mm-ish equivalent lens, on the 5dMk2 it’s a proper 50mm.  You would use this as a general purpose standard lens on the 5DMK2 to create shallow depth of field effects, half length portraits and in low light – 1.4 is very fast. The filter thread is an economical 49mm, hence the B+W filter – unusual as I’m usually too cheap to pay for expensive filters. The EF to OM adaptor is the same old Fotodiox used for earlier posts.

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Mounted on the 5DMK2 body – maybe a little on the small side for this body but it works well.

It looks a little small on the bulky 5dMk2, but not ridiculously so. It’s quite heavy and doesn’t protrude too much so is nicely balanced. Focussing is easy at f1.4 on the standard focussing screen.

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Close focus at f1.4 is tricky as any slight movement after focussing moves the shallow depth of focus area – literally millimetres deep! Focus bracket if it’s a good shot. This figure is around 12 inches high.

Right then, onto the test area – the mill. It’s effectively a brick wall, but a very scenic one. If you don’t like looking at test results, look away now (well scroll down to the conclusion anyway). All shots processed in DXP Optics Pro 9, downsized and resized in Photoshop.

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The full test frame.

At f1.4 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f1.4 centre crop

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f1.4 edge

Soft and rather ‘ethereal’. Not bad for f1.4

At f2.8 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

2.8 centre

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

2.8 edge

No problems here.

At f5.6 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f5.6 centre

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f5.6 edge

Or here…

At f11 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f11 centre

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f11 edge

At 1.4 images are a little soft with low contrast as you might expect, but by f2.8 things are sharp, the contrast has improved and the vignetting has disappeared. An excellent result all round and very useable, with performance peaking at f5.6 to f8.

Just out of curiosity I also shot this test frame using a 24-104mm L series lens at f8 at 50mm for comparison purposes.

Canon 5dMk2 24-105mm L f4

Canon 5dMk2 24-105mm L f4

The L series has an advantage as DXO knows what lens is attached so can do lens specific corrections, distortion correction and bespoke sharpening – something it can’t do for the Zuiko. The Zuiko can’t match the modern zoom for biting sharpness in the centre, but it is three stops faster and looking at these full size on a monitor (rather than pixel peeping) I’m not sure I’d notice the difference.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The slightly greenish hue to out of focus areas is a feature of the old Zuiko (and many fast lenses).

In conclusion, it’s just as good on the 5dMk2 as it was on the 60D, with shallower depth of field (see equivalence), a super fast f1.4 max aperture and an ability to produce images with real ‘depth’. Get hold of one if you can. I’m rather glad I didn’t sell it six months ago!

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.

A Jupiter 85mm f2 on an Olympus EPL5

The popularity of the review of this lovely lens back in February on a Canon 60D’s APSC sensor made me wonder how well it fares on a smaller Micro Four Thirds camera, as some readers are obviously interested (all three of you!). The 2x ‘crop factor’ makes this a 190mm equivalent, so getting into mid telephoto territory. All shot on an unseasonably warm and bright winter’s day, here are the results.

_DSC1480

The ‘brute’ on the EPL5.. The adaptors are a Micro Four Thirds to Canon EF then to M42 thread mount (the lens mount of the Helios). You may notice that the lens isn’t quite lined up – due to the cheapness of the EF to M42 adaptor!

The Olympus EPL5 is a very nicely built 16Mp mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, and it usually has an ultralight Lensbaby Sweet 35 ‘welded’ to it’s front. Surprisingly the weight of the all metal bodied Helios feels quite reassuring on the small camera body, and doesn’t seem overbalanced, but it’s close. The use of the EPL5’s (optionally attached) grip helps handling a lot.

In terms of appearance, it looks exactly like it was made on heavy machinery in a russian industrial complex (it was – probably in Krasnogorsk – ‘Made in the USSR’ is stamped on the underside), with basic aperture and focus markings and an intermittently milled focus ring. Though a bit of a brute I really like it, and the results justify it’s use. There’s obviously no autofocus, and centre weighted metering should be used, along with RAW as exposures can be a little random.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That fantastic bokeh reappears on the little Oly! This is quite encouraging. As with the Canon 60D the depth of field close up at f2 is razor thin.

On the Canon 60D (below) the lens produced some odd ‘swirly’ bokeh, and a orange colour cast. On the Micro Four Thirds sensor the results are more conventional without any colour shift, but still very good.

_MG_8462s

On the 60D and an APSC sensor

Generally the results weren’t as spectacularly good on the EPL5 as on the 60D. Then towards the end of the test my brain engaged and the reason is obvious:-

On a 60D (1.6 ‘crop factor’) this is a 135mm equivalent, on the EPL5 (2x ‘crop factor’) it’s closer to 200mm. This means to frame the same shot I’m standing further away with the Oly, and as depth of field increases the further away a lens is focussed (or conversely narrows the closer a lens is focussed) the extreme depth of field effects on the 60D just weren’t being allowed to happen on the EPL5 for the same shot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Though they don’t have the same ‘erased away’ appearance as the 60D shots, this is still pretty good – much better than a kit lens.

This isn’t a macro lens as such, but with a minimal focus distance of 80cm and a 200mm equiv focal length you can get quite close :-

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Close up (a few feet), and the colours are great.

All in all then, a pretty good lens for the EPL5, even though getting the special ‘look’ of those images on the 60D is more difficult. It’s certainly better than a kit lens on the EPL5 for achieving some decent bokeh – more or less everything is in focus at most apertures with the 14-42 kit lens.

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

Unlikely Combinations

Experimenting with Lensbabys, old MF lenses , layers/PP, infrared etc is one of the best aspects of photography – straightforward clean, sharp images can be a bit dull sometimes. However this experiment plumbs new depths of oddity – infrared with a lensbaby…. I’d discussed this with friends some time ago as a possibility but they just shook their heads!

_MG_0455_DxO_DxOFPs

The best image of the set – focusing the Lensbaby with an R72 attached is difficult but possible in bright sunlight.

Anyway, here are the initial results – and they’re not too bad, i.e. pleasingly weird. The “Lensbaby effect” is more immediately obvious that the “infrared look” as in order to take these the maximum aperture of the Sweet 35 was required giving the strongest edge blur.

_MG_0453_DxO_DxOFPsAll shots taken on a Canon 60D, Sweet 35 wide open (F2 I think?), Hoya R72 infrared filter, ISO 5000. post processed in DXO Optics 8 (my new favourite new PP program). There were hand held at slow shutter speeds but any camera shake is lost in the general blur anyway. Aggressive noise reduction can be used to get rid of the high ISO noise as – again – there is no real detail to lose!

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Finally the most extreme of the lot. Your eye has to search the image before it realises what’s going on – so I’m pleased with it!

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So not something for everyday use, but an intriguing technique which could produce strong images. If you’ve a Lensbaby and an IR filter give it a go. Next step is trying the plastic lens – wonder how it will handle infra red?

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

Last Few Weeks

Not many posts over the last few weeks as I’ve been completely absorbed in planning a complex time lapse video project. Some stills have been taken despite recent developments, so here are the best ones, though it’s a pretty random selection!

First – a plastic lensbaby shot of some fresh leaves with the sunlight edging in from behind. The flare, sharpness and chromatic aberration are terrible by conventional standards, but working with a lensbaby is primarily about finding shooting situations where that doesn’t matter.

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Next a Sony RX100 shot of a dumped TV in a pond on the nearby heathland. This is very unusual as most people respect the area, but there are always those who don’t. The contrast between the disposable consumer goods dumped in an ancient landscape provided a striking contrast.

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This time a macro with the venerable 50mm f3.5 OM system lens mounted on extension tubes on a Canon 60D to get a really close focus. The subject is just a crow’s feather found in the garden – always a fascinating subject.

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Finally an off centre shot with the Helios 85mm f2 of a weathered ‘sculpture’ (can’t think of a better word) near a church door.

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All pictures for the book cover market – as always. Hope you like them!

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.

The Best of the Last Few Days

Four images here – all taken on the chalk downland where I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately. All taken with a Plastic Lensbaby on a Canon 60D in very nice weather.

Focussing on the LCD using ‘focus magnify’ is pretty much essential with these lenses – the viewfinder is more or less useless for nailing perfect focus.  This is mainly because the zone of focus for the plastic is very vague with no aperture disk installed. The 1/8000th of a second shutter speed of the 80D is very useful at max aperture in bright sunlight.

This first one really shows off why I really like the plastic lens and make images taken with it unlike any others.

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Next a more conventional ‘soft’ image of some railings – pretty simple but good nonetheless.

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Third one is door metalwork on a medieval church door – that tone as it blurs to darkness is lovely.

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Finally one featuring some grasses with a distant house adding something to the image – just blurred enough to be recognisable, not sharp enough to be to obvious – perfect!

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Hope you like them – all shot for the book cover market. Thanks for looking.

Latest Roll of Adox CMS20

Too much messing around with digital lately – time to return to film. This set is from the last roll for Adox CMS20 – shot at 12 ASA it’s perfect for brighter days where you want to achieve a shallow depth of field.

All shots on an Olympus OM2N – mainly as it has a 12 ASA ISO setting which makes things easy… Developed in the recommended Adotech II developer for a bit less than the recommended time (8 mins rather than 8.5 mins), Ilford stop bath for 30 seconds then the rather unnerving 45 seconds in Ilford fixer.

This first one is slightly blue toned, shot on the Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at f4 – just enough to give a nice blur to the bridge in the background.

Next – the remaining river bank supports left standing after the winter floods. Maybe a bit more contrast ?

Finally a real surprise – the lighting in this unspotted scan is really odd – as if there was a light source shining on the gate. I suppose it was light reflecting from the gravel path but I’m not complaining!

As usual, the grain is almost invisible even at maximum magnification – easily out classing a Plustek 7500 film scanner. Excellent stuff!

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

Some More from the Plastic Lensbaby (and a few infrareds)

It’s been an odd week this week – been organising print sales through a local art gallery, so there’s not been much time for taking photos. These are a few from the limited opportunities where time and the weather allowed, using the plastic lens/Lensbaby Composer on a Canon 60D (my current favourite combo). The infrareds are taken on a Sony RX100.

The poppies are out in Dorset – having driven and walked around to find some, this was growing next to the car park!

This one’s a bit of an abstract – no aperture disk for this (so at f2) and long grasses blowing on the downland, post-processed and toned. The flowing blur near the horizon was unexpected…

This one (continuing the floral/grasses theme) has some nice depth even if it’s an odd composition. F4 aperture disk, post processed and toned in DXO Filmpack.

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And now for the inevitable infra reds – this one is Horton Tower. It looks spooky but it was built in the 18th century so the local landowner could keep an eye on the progress of the fox hunts around the landscape after he became to old to ride with them.

And finally a barbed wire/aged fence post. I think the RX100 is just going to be used for infrared at this rate!

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Thanks for looking – hope you like them, and have a good weekend!

English Downland and a Lensbaby Plastic Lens

Been out today in some brilliant weather – up on the chalk downland which is in full summer mode with grasses, butterflies and birds everywhere.

In an attempt to stop taking IR shots on the Sony RX100, an old favourite was attached to a Canon 60D – the Lensbaby composer with the plastic lens and (very) manually changed apertures. As I’m not really a landscape photographer, the best subjects to concentrate on were the flowers and grasses, rendered very softly with this odd lens.

In order to boost the contrast the ‘Clear’ colour profile was used in camera. Other important settings were centre weighted metering, magnified LCD focussing and RAW file output as exposures can be all over the place – display a histogram on the LCD and keep an eye on it! Unless you really like lying down and getting up a lot, the pivoting LCD screen on the 60D is very useful for this sort of subject, though it’s difficult to see in bright sunlight. It’s all a bit hit and miss to be honest.

First some buttercups, post processed to give the yellow of the flowers a reddish hue. No aperture disk so very soft – just the essentials of the subject really. A neutral density filter (x3) was needed to prevent overexposure at f2.

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This was shot with the f4 aperture disk and converted to black and white in DXO filmpack to give it a harder contrast to cut into the softness and let the chalk path burn out.

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Finally another at f4 (once an aperture disk is in I rarely change it). Some odd flare top right, but given the lens it doesn’t seem to matter.

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Not a bad day at all – I may have picked up a slight suntan too!

Thanks for looking, hope you like them!

Five Hundred Shots (and Two Weeks) with a Sony RX100

I’ve been hunting around for a pocket camera which can produce commercial quality images for some time now, and I’ve finally found one which fits the bill. This mini-test describes some ‘first impressions’ after a few weeks.

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Good colour and exposure in macro mode – good start!

In order to be useful it needed to replace my old Canon G9 (which has done a brilliant job as a “carry everywhere” workhorse), be truly pocketable and have around 18-25 Mp resolution to prevent excessive image resizing to meet minimal agency requirements. It must also shoot RAW to give the widest flexibility in post processing….

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Unbelievably small!

Here’s another on a CD with the roll of 35mm film – it really is tiny!

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The lens is a 28-100mm equivalent, f1.8 to f4.9. f4.9 is slow for a 100mm lens – however my Canon 15-85mm zoom on the 60D is f5.6 at 85mm so it’s not that bad! In bright light, the 1/2000th of a second shutter isn’t fast enough for f1.8 at 28mm so a neutral density filter is needed if you want to get shallow depth of field effects (it can be held over the lens).

The physical controls are very configurable – I’ve assigned ISO to the rotating ring around the lens mount, and exposure compensation, image quality, DRO optimisation level, AF mode etc to the Fn button. In aperture priority mode the rear control dial varies the aperture, and it all works well. The camera keeps up well with frantic setting changes so no complaints.

20Mp image quality is very good with low noise to to ISO 800 – about the same normal working range I’d use on the 60D. The large sensor is obviously making a significant difference.

Sharpness at 28mm and f1.8 is a bit weak probably due to distortion correction, but cleans up by f2.5. At longer focal lengths its sharp enough across the frame for me.

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Test shot in good light – colours tweaked from the default using an ACR colour profile (see later). 18mm, f5.6, 1/500th at ISO 100.

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Centre of the frame – the lens is sharp enough to pick out some telephone wires behind the tree which is impressive.

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Edge definition is fine too.

The Sony RAW converter is OK – but converting the ARW files to DNG format with Adobe’s RAW converter then using Adobe Camera RAW processing gives better results with more flexibility. Colour seems a little over saturated in RAW – especially a yellow hue to greens. ACR colour profiles by Maurizio Piraccini here allow for more neutrals results – and add a few colour options (thanks!).

Macro at 28mm and f1.8 is excellent, but the minimum focus distance increases dramatically as the focal length increases. The shallow depth of field at these close focus settings produces some good results – but it’s not a fast 50mm or 85mm on APSC or 35mm.

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Macro and some late bluebells .

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The last of the apple blossom. The slightly curved out of focus background highlights are like those produced by a Zuiko 50mm f1.4.

It reminds me most of a 35mm Minox camera which was a lovely small camera with a fixed sharp 35mm f2.8 lens. I really liked that camera – until it broke through overuse.

The special effects modes (JPEG only) aren’t bad, 10 frames per second is a bit over the top for me, but the multi frame dynamic range options and DRO settings look promising – I’ll do a test at a later date. All in all a very flexible package, and combined with an IR R72 and Neutral density filter (58mm diameter) a very portable one too.

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking.

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!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 300mm f4.5

This is the thirteenth of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap(ish) but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. The series ends with the monster Zuiko 300mm f4.5, on loan from Pete and Jayne who might be happy that so much bulk has been temporarily removed from their house. I’ve lugged this thing around for a week or two, trying to get six decent shots to test its qualities but it’s a tough challenge, mounted on a tripod or hand-held.

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Horton Tower from the North – it’s on the horizon a mile away from where this was taken. Quite good contrast and sharpness.

With an effective cropped focal length of 480mm it’s well into specialist lens territory, and the tiny angle of view and huge magnification make it’s use difficult at best.  Supporting the bulk of the lens with the left arm when shooting hand-held made the muscles ache after a few minutes – photography and weight lifting at the same time – a novel experience!

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The bokeh is a bit ‘busy’ but not too bad at all.

Just aligning the lens with a small distant subject is in itself a bit of a knack. The best way is to line up the top of the lens looking down the outside of the barrel, them move the eye to the viewfinder. I imagine it’s the way old cannons (not Canons) were aimed.

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Telephoto perspective compression is extreme – as is the shallowness of depth of field at all distances.

Apertures run from f4.5 to f32, the minimum focus distance is 3.5 metres and the filter size is a standard 72mm screw in type.

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After a plenty of practice, the trick is to find something fine and contrasty to focus on, in this case the telephone wires. If you need to make sure do some focus bracketing!

The attached tripod mount addresses a definite requirement for camera stability, and suggests that the Olympus designers thought the weight might put unacceptable strain on all metal OM bodies. Even on a day with light winds, using ‘focus magnify’ on the 60D’s LCD, the image jittered around –  and it’s a fairly heavy tripod.

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The attached tripod mount at the base of the lens. The knob is to loosen it so it can be rotated for portrait/landscape – or any other – orientation.

The lens itself is probably the best made lens I’ve seen – solid, precise all metal with a wide focus ring – generally gorgeous. It’s far removed from the tiny ‘jewel like’ Zuikos everyone’s familiar with.

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Even the bulky 60D is made to look insignificant – this lens is a giant. With the built-in lens hood extended it only gets worse. The Fotodiox adaptor used wasn’t relied upon to support the lens unaided, but I’m sure it would have coped.

Just a few test shots this time. It’s difficult to find a suitable subject at this focal length – you need to be a long way from it. This tower seemed like the best bet.

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This is Horton Tower from the South and a but further away. The frame to the right is darker due to a very out of focus tree – nothing to do with a lens fault.

But lurking in most shots with backlit subjects is a bit of a horror – really bad chromatic aberration. It’s most obvious at f4.5 but it never really leaves images taken at any aperture. It also appears around the out of focus areas as red/green edges to the highlights.

Sometimes it’s purple.

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This is the top left of the tower. Not good.

And sometimes it’s red. I had the Zuiko 180mm f2.8 years ago and it suffered from the same problem. Maybe it’s inevitable at these focal lengths and fast apertures.

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This is an enlargement from the centre of the frame.

So,  is this lens worth the £300 they go for second-hand?

Unfortunately – no.

Unless you’re the sort of photographer who doesn’t mind its drawbacks of chromatic aberration, very difficult manual focussing and epic weight and bulk. At f4.5 it’s only just faster than the f5.6 at 300mm of an AF zoom, which is a fraction of the weight and performs just as well – better in fact for CA.

It’s a beautifully made thing though, and I can see why collectors buy them. For practical photographic purposes though it’s pretty bad. In this case at least, a very high quality lens with an extreme focal length which was good enough for film just doesn’t cut it for digital. It really makes me admire the skill of 35mm photographers using MF lenses like this to capture fast-moving sports images.

Still, it’s been great fun – if slightly frustrating – to have a play around with. If I’m honest though I’m glad this test is over!

Thanks for looking and hope you find this 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.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!