A Year with a Sony RX10 Mk3

Hello again after a long break from blogging. I’ve a few articles planned for the next few months as there are a few new Zuiko lenses waiting for a test. This though, is about a Sony RX10 Mk3, which is a much more interesting camera than you might think. No really.

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To the left the RX100 Mk3, to the right an A7R with a Zuiko 50mm f3.5 (for no particular reason).

Many years ago I had a Sony R1 which was an unusually designed camera but produced excellent (for the time) images. My nephew still uses it. Fast forward to 2017 and I bought it’s descendant, the RX10, as a general purpose stills and video stock camera. The headline attraction is that 24-600(!)mm f2.8 to f4 lens and a one inch 20Mp sensor which I like so much in my RX100. So after a year, here are my impressions for stills photography – the excellent video abilities would take another article.

All shots processed in DXO Photolab which does a very good job, especially with Prime noise reduction (see later).

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At the 24mm setting.

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And a more obtrusive 600mm setting.

Knowing where to start with such a fully featured camera is difficult. Let’s start with the lens. Actually that wasn’t a difficult decision at all. There is a de-clickable aperture ring, manual focus by wire is available (though not recommended) and a focus lock button to the rear left hand side of the lens. It takes 72mm filters. There are various focus options selected on a front-of-body switch, but I’ve really only used single AF using a central area point.

It uses standard Sony NP-FW50 batteries and two are more than enough for a whole day’s demanding shooting.

I’ve only shot RAW with this camera so I’ve no comments on the JPEG performance.

Strangely there is a cable release thread on the shutter button which is a nice touch. The camera weighs in at about 1kg (2.2 lb) which feels about the same as my old Canon 60D with a good standard zoom on it. The LCD panes flips up and down a bit, but doesn’t flip out which would have been very useful.

So, let’s get on with it, what does a 24-600mm lens range look like?

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24mm….. Kingston Lacy House on an overcast day.

 

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600mm. This is just the top bit of the building!

Quite (!) a wide to tele lens then, and it’s a good performer throughout the full range – unbelievably so. There’s a lot of processing going on under the hood of course, and I wouldn’t like to see uncorrected RAWs, but the end result is very good. It seems best at f4 throughout the zoom range, but I suspect Sony didn’t build this camera for people who worry about such things.

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The Channel Island ferry with Bournemouth on the horizon at 600mm. Haze and heat distortion start to be more visible at longer focal lengths – something which should be borne in mind when taking the shot.

Minimum focus at 24mm to 50mm is quite good (3cm) but this extends out to about four feet by 200 mm then strangely back to three feet from 300mm to 600mm. A 600mm lens focussing to three feet opens up some interesting possibilities, though auto-focus can be a bit hit and miss so it’s best to take a few shots each time.

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A wary Damsel Fly.

 

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And another. I became a bit obsessed taking insect pictures over the summer with this camera.

The image stabilisation works pretty well – it needs to at the longer focal lengths. Longer focal lengths need faster shutter speeds and therefore higher ISO’s, which is where DXO Prime noise reduction comes in. With noise starting to appear at around ISO 1000, you’d better be prepared to use something good to get rid of it for best results.

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It has a 24mm setting too!

Colors are fine to my eye though I’m used to Sony colours. Blue sky can appear a little cyan sometimes, but it’s easily corrected in post.

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Autumn produce in a dimly lit shed. Not too bad!

Although only having a small sensor, you can get some nice bokeh at longer focal lengths and close focus distances.

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This is as good as my Helios 85mm f2 on an A7R for out of focus blur – and that’s pretty good.

So technically all very good, apart from high ISO performance which can be corrected – within reason.

With such a wide zoom range at your fingertips, walking around a large event presents a sometimes overwhelming set of possibilities. I found concentrating on just wide angle for 1/3 of the time, just tele for another 1/3 and normal mid focal lengths worked for me. The following are a few from the 2017 Great Dorset Steam Fair which is always a good photo day out.

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All in all quite an impressive performance and an excellent ‘reportage’ type camera. You could get technically better shots with a DSLR and a range of lenses, but to cover this focal length range you might need an assistant to carry them all or be a weightlifter.

In conclusion then, I’ll sum up by firstly listing the ‘not so good’.

  • In terms of image quality it’s not up to a micro 4/3 or APSC sensor camera (but not far off at low ISOs), and it won’t focus as fast (or at all) in low light.
  • It’s a bit clunky to operate until you get used to it.
  • It’s not a camera for ‘pixel peepers’.
  • You’d best have some good noise reduction software available for post-processing as well.
  • It’s not particularly charming either – I think Sony just let their engineers loose to design it without hindrance from the aesthetics department.  It’s possibly the best example I’ve come across of a camera designed to be ‘just a tool’. An Olympus Pen F or Sony A7R it isn’t.

However, if you can see past, and work within these limitations, what it does, it does very well – provide an excellent, versatile zoom lens with good image stabilisation and macro capabilities which offer an almost boundless set of photographic possibilities. And a lot of fun!

A 600mm f4 equivalent lens in a package this small would be remarkable enough, but a 24-600mm which performs well across it’s whole range is amazing.

I haven’t touched on it’s video capabilities, but the 4k is very nice. With the timelapse app I can speed time up, and with the high frame rate video (250 fps 1080p) I can slow it down, using focal lengths from 24mm to 600mm. If you’d told me twenty years ago that such a camera would exist I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m not sure I do now.

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I bought this thinking I probably wouldn’t like it but couldn’t resist the technical specs. I can’t say I love using it like the A7R with old lenses, but I do have a huge respect for it’s abilities and can’t think of any camera I’ve used which is as versatile, while producing  results which are good enough (after PP) to submit to some picky stock photography sites.

‘Everything in life is a compromise’ is a phrase I’ve heard often – does it apply to the RX10 Mk3? Well not as much as you’d think.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking.

Rob

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 Sony A7R and a Vivitar 70-210 f3.5 Series 1

Continuing this series of mini-reviews of old MF lenses on the superb Sony A7R, this time it’s a Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm constant f3.5 aperture zoom from the 1970’s. It’s very different in terms of size and weight to the small Zuikos tested so far, but it showed some promise on the Canon 60D and I need to at least try to find a decent telephoto option before lashing out lots of cash on a Zeiss/Sony zoom. All shots taken in RAW and converted using DXO Optics 9 an ‘auto levels’ in Photoshop.

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The history of the Series 1 line is described nicely here – suffice to say avoid later models with variable apertures. The earlier models were very highly regarded in the film days – at least equal to most camera manufacturer’s equivalents if not superior. If the build quality is anything to go by this lens is already a star – heavy at 967g (2lb 2.2 oz) and built to an extremely high standard of metal construction, it still feels precise, solid and reliable after 40 years, not surprising as this one was made by Kiron. It feels best to hold the lens rather than the camera when carrying it!

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Nice soft bokeh – close upat 210 mm f3.5

The filter thread is 67mm and this one has VMC (Vivitar Multi Coating) which looks effective, and this model also sports an innovative if slightly clunky macro mode I’ll describe later. The aperture range is f3.5 to f22 and the aperture has six blades.

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The lens on the camera. Not well balanced at all, so support the lens at all times! This is a one touch zoom so pulling the focus ring back zooms in, rotating it focuses it, much faster than a two touch designs if rather under geared on the focus. The only major sign of age is that some of the yellow paint has flaked out of the etched ‘macro’ focus channel. It’s possibly one of the best finished lenses I’ve seen.

In use the focus is easy (as with most MF lenses) using focus assist tools of the A7R’s EVF, though focussing gets more difficult as the focal length increases. There’s no image stabilisation so shutter priority is the best exposure mode – set twice the focal length e.g. 1/400th for the 200mm long end of the zoom) and use your best shooting technique to avoid camera shake.  My only criticism is that the focus mechanism could be more highly geared – sometimes it needed lots of focus ring turn to rack focus from infinity to close up – around 180 degrees. Closest ‘non-macro’ focus distance is around 2m/6ft.

 

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The macro button – a plastic white release, puts the lens in macro mode when the lens is at 210mm with a twist of the knurled ring. Once in macro mode, zooming in and out quickly changes focus, turning the focussing ring gives finer control. It’s not effortlessly smooth but the results are good and once the lens is ‘in or out’ of this mode the operation is pretty smooth.

Macro results are very good. I found ‘zooming’ quickly to achieve rough focus then turning the focus ring nailed focus quickly and easily.

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The maximum macro reproduction ratio is around 1:2.5 (ish), about the same as the Zuiko 50mm f3.5 macro without extension tubes. There is some variable telephoto magnification going on as well, but what the focal length is in this mode is guesswork at somewhere between 135 and 200mm.

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Closest focus distance is around 5cm from the front element. Not bad for a ‘walk around’ lens but not as good as a proper macro lens.

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Nothing to complain about in the bokeh department at max aperture in macro mode.

So for macro it’s pretty good, apart from a tendency towards chromatic aberration in closer distance highlights at maximum aperture. How about normal ‘non-macro’ close focus?

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210mm at f3.5 at around 10 m (30 ft) – good too.

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Nothing to complain about here.

And finally medium to far distance, and a change of subject from my normal test – Kingston Lacy House. All at f8.

70mm, f8

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Centre

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Edge

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135mm, f8

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Centre

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Edge

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210mm f8

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Centre

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Edge

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In conclusion then, this is a pretty good ‘old’ lens – especially if you can get it, as I did,  for £10 (yes ten!) on Ebay. The macro performance is outstandingly good if your camera is level, but pointing the camera downwards allows the zoom ring to creep forward. In ‘non-macro mode’ things are good at 70mm, deteriorate slightly by 135mm and the edges are starting to fall apart by 210mm but the centre holds up. This isn’t unusual for telephoto zoom lenses where the long end lets things down and is provided as a sort of ‘free extra’ (or example, the relatively modern Canon 70-300 mm f4-5.6 is fine until 200mm then falls away quite fast). Chromatic aberration is slight at f3.5 but gone by f5.6 across the zoom range.

I didn’t notice any flare without a lens hood except at 70mm where it was comparatively minor.

Is this resolving 36MP? Well it’s good at 70mm, but past 100mm definitely not. However the macro mode is very useful so for sub £100 it’s worth it just for that – and the 70-100mm performance.

Whether it’s worth £1000+ for a Zeiss/Sony AF version with all the AF bells and whistles is entirely up to you…..

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking.

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

The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 on a Sony A7R

I know what you’re thinking – putting an old MF lens on a modern 36Mp body is a waste of all that resolution. However, these old OM Zuiko prime lenses were – and still are – considered very high quality pieces of kit, but I still had my doubts. 50mm lenses are usually the easiest to design and the sharpest in a focal length range so let’s see….

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Wide open at f1.4 and there’s classical fast prime vignetting and shallow depth of field.

Firstly, ergonomics. OM Zuikos are wonderfully light, small and precision made in metal. Compared to, say a Canon 50mm f1.4 EF, they’re almost indestructible – this lens has been heavily used for 34 years. I know this because I bought it new and it’s still working fine. My short-lived acquaintance with the Canon equivalent ended in a slight bash, a repair then it being sold. Performance is around the same as the Canon which not surprising as they use loosely the same double gauss design.

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Shot in a sea mist and heavily post processed – the RAW files have a wide latitude to pull up shadows and draw down highlights if carefully exposed.

Focussing and aperture changes are fluid and precise, focussing is easy using focus magnify (focus peaking isn’t that precise) and it’s generally a pleasure to use. I’m using a mid range Novoflex adaptor which works fine – it doesn’t really have to do much as there is no electronic communication between the camera and lens. Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4As the A7R doesn’t use ‘auto aperture’ like the OM bodies, the aperture set is always that ‘in use’. The EVF displays the depth of field as it will be in the final shot which is useful, but at smaller apertures focus peaking becomes pretty useless as it thinks everything is in focus and covers the EVF in white high contrast pixels (as it turns out when focus magnify is used, everything isn’t in focus, but it does mean that it’s possible to really accurately nail it)

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Set f8 and you get f8 straight away – no depth of field button required. The EVF maintains brightness at all apertures unlike an OVF.

Colours are excellent one you’ve cracked post processing of the raw files. DXO Optics 9 sometimes produced magenta-ish blue skies on the ‘standard’ in camera colour profile, but Adobe ACR and a neutral colour profile in camera are very accurate. The A7R’s white balance in ‘auto’ mode is often wayward so either shoot in raw and correct in post or it’s best to set white balance in advance if using JPEG. This seems to be an A7R problem rather than a Zuiko problem.

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The lack of an anti-alias filter allows this lens to perform to a higher standard on the A7R than any of the other cameras it’s been attached to. Typical of a fast prime, at large apertures there’s vignetting, chromatic aberration (CA), low contrast and the centre is sharp but the edges soft. Stop down to f8-f16 and everything sharpens up nicely across the frame and contrast and CA improve. Here are a few more images (some with the agency) :-

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Shot at f2.8 the out of focus areas aren’t insanely out of focus but are just enough to lead the eye to the steps.

 

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

I should have used f16 for this rather than f8 to get all of that cherry blossom in focus – this camera will punish any mistake!

 

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Colours, detail and tones here are excellent.

 

At these web resolutions it’s not possible to really judge much about the files produced so – it’s back to the traditional test subject on this blog, the mill.

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Not The Mill again! – afraid so… The detail leaps out of the full sized file. f8.

 

At f1.4 to f5.6 things are ‘decent to good’ so I won’t bother you with the shots, but at f8 to f16 this is the sort of resolution this camera and lens is capable of :-

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Centre crop out of that huge 36Mp image at f8 – sharp enough I’d say.

 

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

I was impressed that the superb Sigma 50mm f1.4 ‘Art’ could resolve the wire guards on the chimney (top left of the whole image). The Zuiko has done quite a nice job too.

 

It isn’t a criticism of the lens but shooting with this much resolution means you really need to be careful of technique and focussing. A shutter speed of 125th of a second on a well held camera is the minimum I’d use with this lens, higher for closeups, so in low light, use shutter priority and auto ISO. Outside in bright light aperture priority and auto ISO are fine. In both cases limit the max ISO to 3200.

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Post processes in DXO Filmpack to give a Kodachrome look, this one made it to the agency.

 

I’m frankly amazed that this lens works so well on the A7R. It’s not as good as the Sigma 50mm f1.4 ‘Art’ lens, but then it costs, and weighs, a lot less. It’s also more prone to flare than modern lenses so some care must be taken when shooting – so I really must buy a lens hood!

For some reason I like the 50mm focal length on this camera more than any other focal length so far. So much so it’s been used for 90% of the shots taken over the last few weeks. I haven’t missed a zoom lens at all (I’ve got feet!) and the results of such a simple setup are producing some very good results. This may be down to me being used to using small, light OM film cameras which this camera so much resembles – I’ve even tried to advance a non-existent film lever a few times….

Sony A7R, ILCE-7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

A rough pulling up of shadow detail from a high dynamic range image – amazing again (this is more down to the A7R than the Zuiko though!)

 

In conclusion then, a cracking combination of lens and camera which produces fantastic results in a small, light package and very highly recommended.

Thanks for looking, hope to find this useful.

p.s. If you’re interested in how well this lens (and lots of others) work on other bodies check the  film, camera and lens review index tab.

Ultrawide on a 5d Mk2 – a Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This lens worked out pretty well on a Canon 60D crop frame sensor (here) and it’s also quite handy on Olympus OM series film cameras. ‘Full Frame’ digital though is a lot more demanding, especially at the far edges of the frame so how well does this vintage lens shape up on the mighty 5D Mk2? I need a wide-angle lens for this camera so it’s been dusted off for a test. All shot in RAW and converted in DXO Optics 9.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

The waterfall at Kimmeridge Bay in full flow. The flare to the bottom left is a ‘feature’ of this lens – I quite like it and here it fills a dark area of the frame.

On the bulky 5d Mk2 even this relatively heavy old MF lens feels fine. It’s lighter than a 24-105mm ‘L’ so it’s quite reasonable to carry around without becoming fatigued. The filter size is 67mm and infinity to minimum focus (25cm) takes a rack of around 180 degrees. The majority of this rack is taken getting from one metre to 25cm so you probably won’t see that bit of the scale very often.

This lens seems to cause the 5D MK2 more metering problems than any lens I’ve attached to it. Evaluative and centre weighted modes both occasionally produced wildly overexposed shots so keep an eye on the playback histogram after each shot.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

On the 5d Mk2 via an Olympus OM to Canon EF Fotodiox adaptor. Nicely balanced and a pleasure to use. Manual focus is very difficult due to the huge depth of field so the LCD of depth of field scale are preferable.

One of the traditional uses of such a wide-angle lens is for course landscapes and initial impressions are impressive at f8. The colours are natural and everything looks sharp enough – without pixel peeping.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

What it should do well – and it does. There isn’t much curvature on horizons (pincushion distortion) as long as the horizon is near the centre of the frame though it’s not that bad generally.

The other traditional use is interior shots and with an angle of view of 90 degrees it’s quite good at that too!

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Remarkably I haven’t seen any chromatic aberration which usually plagues wide-angle lenses, but there are a few odd internal reflections and flare when shooting into the sun which you can either live with and use creatively or just try to avoid by being very careful with your compositions.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

As with all wide-angle lenses converging lines look particularly dramatic – you end up looking for them everywhere. The closer you are to the subject the more dramatic the effect is.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

As there’s so much depth of field you can also use the depth of field scale to ‘shoot blind’ and just hold the camera near the ground like the following shot. After lots of experimenting it seems the depth of field scale is a bit optimistic – use the next widest aperture scale (i.e. set f16 but set a hyperfocal distance for f11). Maybe it was ‘good enough’ for film but it’s not for critically sharp results on the 5D…..

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Using such a wideangle lens for close-ups isn’t advisable due to distortion which increases the closer you get. The closest focus distance is 25cm – use it if you dare!

And another using the same technique – one of the few shots of snowdrops I’ve taken which I like – and I’ve taken loads!

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Bokeh with such a wide-angle lens only appears when the lens is closely focussed. It’s slightly fussy but not bad.

After all these promising results, time for some proper test results. This scene was chosen to be especially demanding for a wide-angle with bare branches acting to test the sharpness.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

The full test frame.

At f3.5 centre :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

f3.5 edge :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Well wide open it’s not that good at all – the edge is terrible, but having read detailed test results for such lenses – even modern ones – the extreme edges of wide angles are often poor. Conclusion – avoid f3.5!

at f8 centre :- Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2f8 edge :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Improved as you’d expect, though still not exactly brilliant!

at f16 centre :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

f16 edge :-

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Much better – relatively… The extreme edges of the frame are still not great but better than I expected.

All things considered, this is remarkably good for a £100, thirty year old lens. As long as you keep it at f8 to f16 the performance isn’t too bad at all and on a par with many modern ultrawides (especially mid-priced zooms). It’s so much fun to use that I don’t really care too much about the soft edges – with such a wide angle of view they don’t seem too important. If you’re a perfectionist or pixel-peeper though this may not be good enough for you.

For someone who needs such a wide-angle lens infrequently this is good enough for me (and becoming a favourite lens). The lack of chromatic aberration is remarkable, the flare which crops up now and again is quite attractive (to me anyway) so all in all it’s getting a hearty recommendation for the price.

I’ll finish with another shot from the waterfall sequence – the slight vignette is caused by stacked ND filters, not the lens.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Canon 5d Mk2

Thanks for looking – 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.

Full Frame on a Budget – A Canon 28-105 f3.5-4.5 USM on a 5D Mk2

This post is a bit of an oddity. Usually the only older lenses I play with are vintage manual focus lenses from the film era – Zuikos mostly – but this is a discontinued film era Canon EF autofocus lens from around 2000. EXIF info for once is quite welcome.

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

105mm @f5.6 – a bit of a ‘grab shot’ which went well.

Why bother? Well it’s more or less the same zoom range as a 24-105L F4, it’s much cheaper (£130 second hand vs £500 second hand for the “L”)  and importantly, it’s much lighter (201g vs 670g). Filters are much cheaper at 58mm than 77 mm though it has no IS like the ‘L’. Also I’ve got on loan and I’m curious!

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

On the 5D the light weight is very welcome. It almost makes the heavy 5D MK2 into an effortlessly portable camera.

 

It’s constructed with a tough plastic exterior and a two barrel zoom action, the minimum focus about 50 cm (marked as ‘macro’) and the USM focussing is smooth, quick and quiet. It feels quite tough if a bit brittle, but it is fifteen years old. This is the earlier model, an improved model (1999-2002) made some minor improvements.

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

A Canon 24-105 ‘L’ and the 28-105 ‘not an ‘L’. Smaller, lighter and just about as versatile. Apologies for the distortion.

 

To be clear from the start, this isn’t the sharpest lens around so I won’t do a lengthy series of test shots. At 28mm the edges are soft wide open, things improve through the mid focal lengths then decline as 105mm is reached. However if you keep it at f56-f11 it will produce decent images at all focal lengths which are more than adequate for most purposes as the following should demonstrate.

Two huge enlargements from the first image are below – the tower and some of the gulls shot at 105mm @f5.6. DXO Optics 9 has already tried to remove CA from these images but a small amount remains, even if it is only a few pixels.

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

Colours are generally good though as with all older lenses, a quick ‘auto levels’ is always useful.

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

68mm @f4.5 Nice clean colours in good light.

Flare is quite well controlled even without a lens hood. This was metered without the sun in the shot, the exposure ‘locked’ using the ‘*’ button, then recomposed.

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

28mm @f8. Kimmeridge Bay at an extremely low tide – the lowest in twenty years apparently.

Macro mode is reasonable too with some slightly busy bokeh. The auto levels has produced some rather grungy colours in the lower right but other than that not too bad.

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

105mm @f4.5

An extreme chromatic aberration test here looks good – though this is more down to DXO Optics than the lens itself. Turning off CA correction in DPP produced some nasty purple fringing on the sunlight reflections.

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

63mm @f16

 

Canon 5D, 28-105 f3.5-4.5

28mm @f8 on an overcast day – not bad at all.

All in all quite a reasonable all-rounder for the price. It would make a good starter lens while you saved up for a better general purpose zoom and would be useful on shoots where kit might get dirty or damaged. Old zoom lenses from the film era are rarely as good as modern ones but this one is better than most.

At this point you’re probably thinking I’ll come up with some killer reasons to use this lens. There really aren’t any other than the price and weight. It’s ‘OK’ for most purposes but fifteen years have seen some serious improvements in lens technology and digital imaging is much more demanding than film. If you’re not going to print past 10×8 it’s fine – otherwise something more modern may be in order. I really like the light weight and the convenience though!

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

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

 

A Stormy Day and Some Long Exposures (and some myths debunked!)

We’re having some stormy days in Dorset lately which is a good excuse to get the tripod and neutral density filters out and do some long exposures on the coast. All shots on a Canon 60D using a Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 lens.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

Kimmeridge Bay and Clavell’s Tower. 10mm focal length, 15 seconds at f16, heavily tweaked in DXO Filmpack using the Rollei Retro 80s film profile – then even more contrast was added! The composition was helped by the very strong wind blowing the clouds and waves straight at the camera.

There isn’t a great amount of light around, but if shutter speeds of up to thirty seconds at ISO 100 are to be used, a x8 (three stop) ND filter isn’t enough by a long way. There were all taken using a stacked pair of x8 and x64 (six stop) Hoya ND filters and even then f16, f22 and f32 were all used to get long enough shutter speeds. The first myth to be debunked here is that old rule ‘never go below f16 – resolution will suffer because of diffraction’ – here the advantage of a slow shutter speed easily outweighs any slight softness created by a small aperture so just use it anyway!

Surprisingly there was no vignetting from the stacked filters.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

3.2 seconds @f25. This one at the same location was taken with a view to converting it to a ‘moonlit light’ type shot. The brightness is dropped and a blue tint added to give the illusion of a moonlit bay. I’ve just finished reading ‘Moonfleet’ so that’s probably what made the shot come to mind.

The second golden rule which didn’t seem to apply was that muck on a wide-angle lens at small apertures will spoil a shot as it will be visible. I’ve always meticulously cleaned the front filters of such lenses, but despite the front filter being caked in dried salt and sand by the end of this shoot nothing was visible on the shots – at 10mm focal length using f32 in some shots! Something else not to worry about!

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

A bit more abstract – f13 10 seconds. Post processing as per the first shot.

It’s best to take lots of shots at different apertures and shutter speeds as the variation between different wave timings and slow shutter effects is remarkable. I couldn’t predict how the waves were going to hit the beach so just took ten or so shots at each tripod location – even then some weren’t too good. This is pot luck in short!

A heavy tripod is recommended and even then don’t extend it but use it at it’s lowest setting with the centre column down. Strong winds were shaking the camera with the legs extended by even one section and if it blows over onto rocks in salt water it’s probably time to wave the camera and lens goodbye….

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

2 seconds f10 with the wind blowing from left to right. Post processing as he first shot.

I had more difficulty than ever keeping the horizons straight so several of these were straightened in pp. Composition in a gale is more difficult than it looks even using the flip out LCD and grid lines – the viewfinder is very dark due to the ND filters and close to the ground which means it isn’t very comfortable to use.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds @f5.6.

For these conditions shutter speeds of 2 seconds to 15 seconds produced the best results. At 30 seconds the sea became too ‘blurred’, below 2 seconds and not enough movement was captured.

A very different location – the sheltered marshes behind the dunes at Studland and the pool surface was just being ruffled by the wind.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds @f10. Generic Ektachrome film profile in DXO filmpack brought out the red hues which contrast with the blue sky reflection.

Next a similar shot at the same location.

Canon 60D, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6

5 seconds at f10 – a blue cast seemed to suit this one but it would work well in black and white.

Finally it’s worth mentioning that the most important kit when shooting stormy weather near the coast isn’t camera kit at all – good outdoor clothing is essential otherwise you’re likely to get freezing cold and wet – not good for concentrating on photography (sorry to nag).

DN0A0105

What not to do (as I did) – get caught by a large wave (it’s on it’s way out in this shot) which overtops not particularly waterproof boots, giving you freezing cold, wet feet for the rest of the day. Oh – and almost lose your camera at the same time! Thanks for the picture Jayne even if you were laughing when you took it. The first picture on this post was taken when this happened so it was worth it.

The best part of shooting in bad weather is that you feel that you’ve done something productive rather than sit around indoors and I really must do more of it. With better boots, a towel and a spare set of socks next time though.

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

A Plastic Lensbaby Lens on a Canon 5D Mk2 using a ‘Clear’ Picture Style

The Plastic Lensbaby mounted in a Composer did well on a 60D, but as an 80mm equivalent lens it was restrictive for general purpose photography. On a ‘full frame’ 5D it should be a more useful 50mm lens (I really like 50mm lenses!) but a larger sensor should show more ‘Lensbaby softness’.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

‘Clear’ picture style, f5.6. There isn’t the soft misty look I’d expected which is odd, probably caused by the picture style which creates highly saturated and contrasty images.

A day’s experimentation is called for….All shot in RAW + JPG (the final picture style is ‘baked into’ the JPG but not the RAW – just in case).

If you’ve never seen or used a Lensbaby a brief explanation is called for. They’re manual focus lenses with a very basic construction, in several designs most with ‘Waterhouse’ removable aperture disks (see below). Their uncorrected optical flaws are there to be exploited and the main reason for using them. Fitting smaller apertures (they’re held in place by magnets) reduces the optical flaws, but even at f16 they’re still there!

The Plastic lens is a 50mm f2 with aperture disks running from f2.8 to f16 (you could make your own if you liked!). Note that the Sweet 35 lens has a conventional internal aperture so no need for the ‘box of apertures’.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The blue ringed plastic lens (not ‘L’ series then!) with the aperture disks to the right (see f16 and f5.6?). The disk holder is on the right, the lid looks suspiciously like a 35mm canister lid, and the end of the ‘stick’ is a magnet to remove the disks from the lens. Simple but ingenious. It is a temptation just to leave one aperture disk in all day!

They’re very small and light, almost transforming the 5D into a lightweight camera (I’m used to the weight of 1 24-105mm lens). As you can see from the next shot, the lens can be pivoted around to move the central sharp part of the image around in the frame, though I must admit I hardly ever do this, preferring to keep the ‘sweet spot’ of sharpness in the middle.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The ‘lens’ as seen here is really a secondary mount called a ‘Composer’ – there are several types. Different lenses (glass, plastic, pinhole etc) are then slotted into this to achieve different results.

To counter the inherent low contrast of these lenses you can either correct in post-processing, or cheat and use Canon’s ‘Clear’ picture style which pushes contrast and saturation to extremes. Installing extra colour profiles on your DSLR  is easy, some are already installed (‘Neutral’,’Standard’ etc) but there are three spare ‘slots’ for extra profiles – look here. Alternatively they can just be applied in Canon’s RAW DPP software – the result is the same but using software is a lot more fuss.

Focussing is best done on the LCD screen as these are low contrast and low sharpness lenses and the ‘Clear’ picture profile is simulated on the screen. It’s quite easy if you’re used to using MF lenses.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The first image with no ‘Clear’ style applied, just an ‘auto levels’ – not quite so dramatic. Still no soft mistiness which was so prominent on the 60D – interesting!

Enough about what it is – how well does it do?

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

Keep it simple and abstract!

Firstly, the softness at the edge of the frame is stronger on full frame than APS-C – as expected (I didn’t expect quite this much though) so smaller apertures will be required unless you really want to go wild. As on the 60D, simple, bold compositions work best allowing the blur at the edge of the frame to emphasise the main subject.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

At f8 – the centre is surprisingly sharp, the edges smearing into some nice blur.

To add to your creative ‘arsenal’ the lens will flare like crazy if sunlight shines over the front element :-

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

Sun out of frame to the upper left.

This shot was taken moving the camera very slightly to the right. Note that spectacular chromatic aberration on the roof!

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

Better!

Though oddly it’s not bad if you shoot straight into the sun!

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

The proper 50mm focal length is much more useful for landscapes, though again, smaller apertures work best.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

f5.6 disk – a bit too much blur maybe.

The ‘Clear’picture style really drags some good colour out of a scene on a cold winter’s day – a bit of de-saturation in Photoshop would tone it down nicely though if that’s more your taste.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

At closer distances the blur looks more like that of a really fast lens – well, almost but not quite! The soft pastel colours in the stone and leaves look good here I think.

Canon 5d MK2, Lensbaby Plastic, clear picture style

What to make of all this?

On a full frame camera you’ll need to use smaller apertures than on a 60D to tame the Plastic Lensbaby’s extreme edges (assuming you want to of course). Smaller apertures unfortunately seem to remove the soft, dreamy look that the lens produces on APS-C – these look more like the results from the glass lenses. On the other hand a 50mm field of view is more useful for general photography. I’ll test the glass lenses next, but so far I’d say it’s better on a 60D.

Using the ‘Clear’ picture style certainly adds a bit of zip to these low contrast images – it’s invaluable to help focussing and visualising the image before it’s taken, and can be changed in DPP if you prefer a more subtle result.

Lensbabys are a bit pricey new, but have been around long enough to buy cheaply second-hand. Unless it’s been run over by a truck there’s virtually nothing that can go wrong with this kit (no IS, no AF and not very sharp to begin with!) so it’s a pretty safe thing to do.

Hope you find this useful – it quite surprised me – thanks for looking!

The Zuiko 28mm f2 on a 5D MK2 (at last)

This blog is named after my favourite lens – the Zuiko 28mm f2, so this mini test is overdue. It’s been tested on a Canon 60D, but not on a 5dMk2 – it’s ‘native format’, full frame 35mm. Lets hope it’s as good as I’ve always thought!

This is a manual focus lens from the days of film mounted using a lens to camera adaptor, so no image stabilisation, no autofocus and no communication with the camera so some missing IPTC data. The exposures can be a bit random using old lenses like this – aperture priority centre weighted metering and RAW is the best way to use them, but even then you may need to bracket exposure.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Mounted using a Fotodiox OM to EF adaptor. The lens and body are evenly balanced due to it’s all metal build and the amount of glass in there.

Focussing is smooth and it’s relatively easy at f2 on the standard focussing screen in good light. In low light it’s better to use the distance scale if the subject is at infinity – ‘infinity’ for a 28mm lens isn’t that far away, look at the distance scale. The next marked distance is 3m! Alternatives are to focus bracket, use the depth of field scale and f8 in which case everything between infinity and around 2m is in focus, or to use the LCD .

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

At f8 the resolution is very,very good – there isn’t much CA in low contrast conditions, the colour is faithful, so all good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Crop from the centre – superb! f8

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Crop from the edge top left and again – superb. f8

A good start! As I’d hoped at f8 it’s as good as it gets – but this is an ‘easy’ scene, front lit with gentle autumn light. Let’s push things a bit.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

In more extreme conditions shooting into the light there can be some light flaring around silhouetted areas which I quite like. This isn’t unusual in older lenses – I suspect there’s some internal fogging of the lens elements. This lens is over forty years old! f4.

 

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Shooting into the sun there can be some internal reflections/flare – not surprising for a lens of this age and speed. This was taken at f2. Easy to avoid with some slight re-framing but something to be aware of. Alternatively it could be used for creative effect. The bokeh here for a wide-angle lens is pretty good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

There’s a touch of blue/green CA in the tree branches – this is uncorrected in this shot but can easily be fixed in PP. Otherwise this great.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Indoors in a dark church at f2. Note the distortion (not corrected automatically).  It’s sharp enough though.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

This is the best bokeh I could get for this test at f2 – not bad with a slight curve. I like it but others might not.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Close up – this lens has floating internal elements which optimise performance at close distances. Overall it does a good job though using a 28mm as a close up lens is somewhat eccentric!

So time for the standard scene –

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

The complete frame. Note the vignetting at maximum aperture.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Centre f2 – a tad soft but useable – this is a huge enlargement.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Edge f2 – top right and soft at the very extreme edge.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Centre f4

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

Edge f4

I won’t bother posting any more – the results are identical to f11, softening at f16. F2 results are a little soft and the vignetting is quite strong – this isn’t unusual for a fast lens. Note that modern lenses can have their vignetting automatically corrected by software like DPP or DXO,  but for older lenses this will have to be done manually.

In summary then, a cracking lens for its time, very sharp when used in optimal conditions, but showing its age when pushed to take shots into the light when flare and internal reflections can be noticeable. Going back to manually correcting vignetting and distortion manually is a bit of a nostalgic pain.

This is where you’ll fall into one of two camps.

Either

You’ll go for a modern made lens which probably isn’t as well made or sharp at f8 but has AF etc and behaves better when shooting into the light

OR you’ll like the technically flawed results under difficult conditions and use these optical faults creatively to give your shots a ‘vintage’ look.

I’m in the latter camp as I generally like some ‘character’ in lenses and I don’t mind messing around in PP.

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 28mm f2

So highly recommended with some caveats – often the story with old lenses. This lens is quite rare on the second hand market and go for $250/£160 so cheaper than most modern 28mm lenses. Things may change when the new Sigma 28mm f1.8 ‘Art’ is released – if it’s as good as the 50mm, the standards by which a 28mm lens is judged may change!

A comprehensive technical description of this lens can be read here, and an interesting discussion of the use of lens adaptors by Roger Cicala of Lensrentals can be found here.

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

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.

A Few More from the 5DMK2 and a Lensbaby Sweet 35

This is turning out to be a really good combo! The increased ‘lensbabyness’ of the image and the wider angle of view are proving useful!

All these were taken on a pretty uninspiring day in Jersey at Saie Harbour, a mixture of rocky outcrops and sand.

This first one has had a touch of the ‘cross processed film’ filter added to tune the colours a little. There may be a layer added too!

5d Mk2 lensbaby sweet 35

Just a layer for the next one – that tide was coming in very fast, a slow walking pace. For some reason the horizon never looks straight in this no matter how often it’s corrected…..

5d Mk2 lensbaby sweet 35

Finally a last variation on the same theme.The lovely ethereal rendering this lens gives is, to my at least, superb.

5d Mk2 lensbaby sweet 35

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

Some more from the Kod-pus…

Not a weird novel title, but some shots from the unlikely combination of a Kodak Folding Autographic rollfilm camera (1919 ish), and an Olympus EPL5. I did wonder about calling this contraption the ‘Olydac’ but it sounds a bit too much like a Sci-fi character. Come to think of it, that’s not completely inappropriate. If anyone has any alternative names I’d welcome suggestions.

Kodak Autographic Olympus EPL5

This isn’t bad at all – but it needed some help with ‘auto levels’ as the original image contrast is very low (this is a 100-year-old un-coated lens remember). The soft bokeh is exceptional, and the colours vivid.

The details of the setup are here (from a previous post ). For these shots though there’s been some decent light, and the focussing mechanism has been loosened up to make it easier to use. With some further practice (I really should have better things to do!) some interesting results are cropping up.

Kodak Autographic Olympus EPL5

Here is is for those who haven’t seen it in the last post. Just one look should give you some idea how it all works (note the aperture priority mode).

These shots aren’t bad but there are lots of failures – focus is hit and miss at best and exposure is a bit wayward too so these are a small percentage of those taken. When it works though it’s really good – just like a Lensbaby – but the Kodak only cost £5!  These are the best ones so far:-

Kodak Autographic Olympus EPL5

A nice dreamy image – just what I’d been hoping for. The softness in the trees is especially good.

Kodak Autographic Olympus EPL5

The best yet! Not much obviously in focus but who cares with a result as good as this? The glow around the out of focus areas is lovely.

Kodak Autographic Olympus EPL5

‘Macro’ isn’t too bad either – the Kodak bellows go quite a long way out. This was taken at about 60 cm/two feet. The odd colours just popped up when ‘auto levels’ was applied.

Maybe this is more useful than I originally thought – this all started as a bit of an experiment earlier in the year and initial results weren’t good at all.

It’s not for that ‘once in a lifetime’ photo shoot, but for a gentle wander around messing about its great – as long as you don’t mind some odd looks and the occasional comment! It does show that almost any lens is capable of delivering images with some care, and all that AF/multiple focus points /zoom palaver isn’t essential (it does make life easy though).

I’ll submit some of these to the agency and see what they think – you never know!

Thanks for looking, hope you like them.

 

Kodak No 2 Folding Autographic Gets a Digital Back!

Well, almost. You could think of this as a Kodak Brownie (£5) with a tiny digital back, or an Olympus Pen with a cheap Lensbaby. Either way, shooting with a 100-year-old lens on a modern digital body was always going to be a bit of fun on a wet Sunday afternoon….

Quite a promising start in flat overcast light.The low contrast has been boosted just a little in these shots as they really were flat. This experiment is really pushing a cheap mass-produced lens – the Micro Four thirds sensor is tiny by comparison with the area of medium format film so we’re in effect ‘pixel peeping’ this lenses abilities.

The Kodak was a real success at the beginning of the last century – 1/2 million made. A real ‘camera for the masses’, most prints were probably small contact prints from the medium format rollfilm.

Here’s the lens and shutter. We’re not going to worry about the shutter – just put it in ‘T’ mode (one click opens the shutter, the other closes it when you’re finished several hours later). The aperture has been left wide open – I’ve got enough difficulties focussing this thing already thanks.

If you’d like to know what all these interesting looking controls are look here.

The focus mechanism is a rack type arrangement with bellows between the film and the lens. It’s very hard to move smoothly, even after oiling, but just about useable.

_DSC1700_DxOs

Here’s the sophisticated mounting system – the back comes off the Kodak to load film, leaving a hole just about the size of an EPL5. The writing on the Kodak body is notification of all of their patents in Great Britain, Canada and Australia – 1909 to 1919. This was taken with the much more sensible RX100.

There’s no point in worrying about lens alignment – the lens is already ‘out of true’ on the bellows, and I’m not even sure the EPL5’s sensor is in the middle of the image cast by the lens anyway. The focal length? My guess is around a 4/3 100mm equivalent and the effective aperture is going to be tiny. Just like using a Lensbaby, aperture priority with centre weighted metering is best (‘best’ here is a relative term!).

Bulbs overwintering in a tray – no harsh areas of lighting so quite good all things considered. ‘Quite good’ in this context means we can see what this is…

The soft ethereal light is partly the drizzle, but mainly the tendency of this very old lens to flare at the slightest opportunity. I really like this effect. The colours are surprisingly good – this camera predates colour film (the Kodak, not the Oly obviously)!

Focus not nailed here (at least I don’t think so!), but what a good rendering of the out of focus windows.

A nicely misty/flared shot of mistletoe on a bare tree. This could be useful with some post processing…

In the interest of true experimentation, a ‘Dramatic Tone’ just for good luck. I’m sure this is a world first with this combination!

What to make of all this?

Is it useful? Er, not really, but it’s a cheap alternative to a Lensbaby if you don’t mind the baffling degree of messing about with the focussing rack. It does show that you can create an image – albeit a rather fuzzy one – using some very old kit indeed.

It was however the most photographic fun I’ve had for a while, and just like the early days of using film, I’m just pleased to get any result at all. I’d really like to have another crack at this on a brighter day…. I’ll post the results when I get round to it.

Hope you like them, thanks for looking!

 

 

Dramatic Tone Landscapes

Having liked this effect on chalk downland landscapes in an earlier post last November,  it was only a matter of time before another shoot. These were all taken on an Oly EPL5 with a 40-150mm Zuiko on the Wiltshire/Dorset border (southern UK) in January during a brief break in what has been truly terrible winter weather.

The ‘Dramatic Tone’ effect – if used with care – can produce some impressive images on a dull day. Winter seems to be the best time to take these as the bare trees and ploughed fields seem to suit the moody darkness of the images.

These are cropped to a square format from the 4/3 ratio of the Oly because they (and a few others) are going to be printed and framed in groups of three as a series of triptych type arrangements.

The shot above was a quick ‘grab shot’ – the lonely figure looked perfect, but only for a few seconds as he disappeared over the horizon.

Finally a nice sweeping landscape looking towards Shaftesbury – the edges of the downs are quite impressive too!

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

A Recommendation

Every so often you meet someone who has provided good advice and is willing to spend lots of time ‘helping out’ with a new venture. One such person is John, a Fine Art printer in Shaftesbury, Dorset (UK) who uses the very best materials to produce Giclée prints.

Stormy Pier

The first image (of many hopefully) accepted for John’s online gallery

I’ve been experimenting with print sales in a local gallery, and he recently offered to host a few of my pictures on his online gallery (varying over time) here:-

http://www.sotegallery.biz/index.html

John at Salt of the Earth Printers (http://www.salt-of-the-earth.biz/) is a really nice chap who provides excellent quality prints from his workshop in Shaftesbury.  I usually take twelve images for evaluation and whittle the selection down to just a few, expecting a rather critical ‘hmm’, or something more verbose….

I don’t often offer a recommendation for such things but I’m going to break my rule here – heartily recommended. He does a lot of printing for clients across the globe too.

So – well deserved plug for someone else’s business over and done with – hope you find this useful , thanks for looking!

Olympus PEN Dramatic Tone

As you might have guessed from the previous post, I’ve been messing around with an Olympus EPL5 lately, having sold my EPL3 earlier in the year. What I really missed was the ‘Dramatic Tone’ art filter, which is proving useful in dragging some useful images out of an otherwise overcast few days (it’s quite useful when used on video too).

A walk up on the downland on a dull day – the filter really pulls detail out of flat cloud and the pseudo ‘HDR’ effect can produce a subtle infra red effect.

It’s not great for every scene, but when the light is just right – mixed overcast when normal photography produces flat uninteresting images – this can produce some intriguing results.  These are all straight JPEGs (plus a Raw file as a backup), toned in DXO filmpack.

Sometimes the results are a real surprise – this looked nothing like this to the naked eye, but through the viewfinder (or LCD) the effects can be judged quite accurately. A real transformation of reality!

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Shot a few minutes earlier that the first shot – and completely different.

These are shot using the monochrome filter, the colour version produces results which look too artificial for my taste. You could of course argue that these look artificial – however years ago I used to work for hours in a wet darkroom to produce similar effects and it never occurred to me that I was doing any ‘unethical’ post processing. Maybe our negative attitude to computer/camera based post-processing is that the results weren’t produced by traditional darkroom skills? Whatever the reason, the results are good enough for me not to worry about it any more!

In some circumstances the images just look like a lightly dodged/burned print :-

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This result was more predictable – the cloud forms were visible to the naked eye and all it needed was something interesting in silhouette.

And on other occasions the dodge/burn effect is less than subtle…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This one is possibly looks too over-processed!

So, whatever your attitude to post-processing images – thanks for looking and hope you like them.