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 Zuiko 24mm f2.8 on a Sony A7R

Continuing this series of mini reviews of my favourite old lenses on the beefy A7R’s 36Mp sensor, this time it’s the turn of the tiny Zuiko 24mm f2.8. This was a cracker of a lens on the APSC Canon 60D so I’m hoping for lots of good things…. All shots taken in RAW mode and ‘developed’ in DXO Optics 9 using default settings.

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

The 24mm doing what it does best – cramming lots of landscape into the frame.

The most striking thing about this all metal lens is its size – a shade more than 3cm (1 1/4 inches) long and weighs in at 220g (7.8 oz). It has almost the same dimensions as the Zuiko 50mm f1.8, and is about as small as it’s possible to make a manual focus lens and keep it useable. It accepts 49mm filter, apertures run from 2.8 to 16, the minimum focus distance is about 25cm and the aperture is – unfortunately – made up of only six blades which means hexagonal bokeh – if you ever see it with such a wide-angle lens.

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

Take off the lens cap and the filter and it’s even smaller!

Ergonomically on the A7r it’s perfect – the focussing ring is smooth and well geared and the camera/lens combo is wonderfully light and easy to use.

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

This looks like a mid era model – maybe late 1980’s?

With an angle of view of 84 degrees it’s noticeably wider than a Zuiko 28mm lens (75 degrees) and not that far off an 18 mm lens (100 degrees) or the 21mm Zuiko (92 degrees). With this level of ‘wide angle-ness’ verticals start to heavily distort if the camera isn’t parallel with the subject so unless you really like correcting this in pp, be careful!

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

Just a slight tip upwards produces converging vertical. Fixed easily in pp.

Vignetting is obvious at f2.8, gradually fading to nothing by f8 – nowhere near as bad as the Zuiko 18mm f3.5 at max aperture (few lenses are!) but something to bear in mind.

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

Sharp, good colour and snappy contrast – looks good.

The contrast and colour are all as good as they were on the Canon 60D, but the A7R seems to over saturate greens with this lens which is odd but there you go.

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

This isn’t the worst example of flare I could have shown – it’s just that it’s so ugly when it happens I didn’t want to take the shot!

Flare is a big problem with this lens, and the hexagonal nature of the aperture makes things worse. To be fair, most old MF lenses suffer from flare to some degree but this is worse than most. A lens hood won’t help much on such a wide-angle lens so you just have to be careful and recompose if necessary.

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

That contrast and colour again – excellent.

Chromatic aberration is minimal, probably removed easily by DXO Optics 9 when processing the RAW files for this test, so a major plus.

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

It’s possible to create some nice converging lines by getting in close and letting the wide-angle distortion do it’s ‘thing’.

Resolution then – on to the mill.

The whole frame (showing that vignetting nicely at f2.8).

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

f2.8

Centre

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

Edge

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

f5.6

Centre

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

Edge

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

f11

Centre

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

Edge

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

f16 (just for completeness)

Centre

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

Edge

Sony A7R, Zuiko 24mm f2.8

The positive first then – the superb resolution at the centre is obvious from f5.6 to f11 just as it was on the Canon 60D. f5.6 is especially impressive. The obvious problem though is edge resolution – it’s very poor at f3.5, cleans up a little by f11 where it’s still not that good, and by f16 everything is starts to fall apart again due to diffraction. Quite a disappointment as I had high hopes for this lens.

This doesn’t appear to be a problem with the adaptor as the right hand side of the frame is just as bad as the left. I mention this after reading Lensrentals analysis of using adaptors with non-native lenses here (it’s an interesting article!).

All in all then, something of a mixed bag on a full frame camera. Centre resolution is excellent at the right apertures, colour and contrast are good, chromatic aberration never makes much of an appearance and distortion is controllable if it’s used properly. It’s wonderfully small and light and a joy to use. Set against that is pretty terrible flare, vignetting till f8 and the poor edge resolution.

If you aren’t too picky this isn’t bad for the price (sub £100), but it’s effectively a 24mm f5.6 (to f11) lens if you want the best results and I would imagine a modern zoom lens would beat it hands down at the edges (maybe not the centre!). On an APSC sensor where the weak edge definition and vignetting don’t matter so much it’s a different story, and for smaller sensors I can heartily recommend it as a 35mm – 40mm standard lens. For full frame sensors though it’s not quite so easy to recommend.

Thanks for looking, hope you find this useful.

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.

 

Upgrading from a Canon 60D to a 5D MK2

If you’re a Canon APS-C shooter who’s lusted after a full frame DSLR then this post is for you. It’s not a review of either camera – there are loads of them available already – rather it’s about the experience of moving from one to the other. Having used 60D’s for almost four years and the 5dMk2 for six months it seems about time….

Canon 60d and 5d Mk2

The lighter, more rounded 18Mp 60D on the left, the more muscular 20Mp 5DMk2 on the right.

The first thing you’ll notice is the weight and size of the 5dMk2 body. It’s only 150g heavier (790 g vs 932 g) but the all metal body ‘feels’ much heavier, and the body seems to sit less easily in smaller hands. Add a 24-105mm to the 5DMK2 and a 15-85mm to the 60D and the weight on your shoulder goes from 1.4 kg to 1.6 kg. Not much on paper, but you can feel the difference after an hour or so.

Canon 60d and 5d Mk2

The 60D on the left has a more rounded shape and sculpted grip which reduces fatigue.

The grip on the 5DMK2 is noticeably more ‘chunky’ and less comfortable after a long period of shooting.

Canon 60d and 5d Mk2

The 5D’s joystick control is to the top left of the LCD – the 60D doesn’t have one at all!

The next major difference is the lack of an articulating screen on the 5DMK2. The 60D’s is one of the best out there, and I’ve really missed it for low angle shots and video. This may sound like a minor niggle but repeatedly squatting down to see a tripod mounted 5DMK2’s LCD induces backache!

The 5DMK2’s viewfinder seems to be about 1/3 larger which is great but it’s no brighter than the 60D. The extra size is a mixed blessing though, as it needs a good look around the screen to check composition before shooting. The info readout on the bottom of the screen is dimmer on the 5dMk2 making it more difficult to read on a bright day.

Oddly, ‘Auto ISO’ on the 5DMK2 cannot be limited (to say 1600 ISO) which makes it’s use risky.

The 5d MK2 drains batteries sitting on a shelf at a remarkable rate – much more so than the 60D.

The 5dMk2 exposures when using old manual focus lenses are more random than the 60D. However the larger screen makes focussing easier.

Compact Flash cards (5dMk2) are significantly more expensive than SD cards (60D) for the same capacity.

The 5dMk2’s LCD when viewing taken images can be misleading – much more so than the 60D’s. Replaying images look rather washed out and it’s difficult to judge contrast and exposure, so using the histogram becomes a must.

Dust – the 60D hasn’t needed a sensor clean in four years of use, the 5D MK2 needs one every six months.

Canon 5dMk2 70-300mm lens

5DMK2, 70-300mm lens and some subtle and accurate colours.

Finally the controls. The top plate buttons and display are instantly familiar, but the back of the 5DMK2 with its joystick control and line of buttons on the left is completely different. The articulating screen of the 60D is the obvious reason for the difference, but using both cameras on the same shoot can become frustrating. The oddest difference is the lack of a dedicated movie mode on the 5DMK2 – the 60D stores preferred movie settings when you go back to stills, the 5DMK2 just has ‘current settings’ which are used across all modes . This can be frustrating as it’s easy to forget to set things back how they should be, especially the colour profile which is best set as a flat low contrast and sharpness profile for movies and a more normal profile for stills. The best way around this is to use one of the ‘custom settings’ on the mode dial.

Canon run two lines of lenses, one for full frame (EF) and one for APS-C (EF-S). EF lenses can be used on APS-C cameras with a focal length multiplier of 1.6, but EF-S lenses don’t have a large enough image circle on full frame so are pretty much useless. If you’ve bought lots of EF-S lenses this upgrade is going to be expensive!

The batteries of both cameras are the same which is useful on a long day, and having two chargers makes recharging pretty quick. The 5dMk2 seems to use up battery charge quite a bit faster than the 60D when shooting video. It also drains batteries when sitting around doing nothing, something the 60D doesn’t do at all.

After all these slightly niggly points, where does the 5DMK2 start to win some points over the 60D?

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5DMK2, 24-105mm. The quality of the image can only really be appreciated at full size rather than this tiny version.

The first is control of depth of field – full frame allows shallower depth of field using the same lens (see an earlier post here), and has no focal length multiplier – a 50mm lens is a 50mm lens! This is especially good if you use a Lensbaby as the 35mm Sweet 35 gives a significantly wider view on the 5DMK2 than on the 60D.

Second is the quality of stills. The resolution isn’t that different but the 5dMk2’s images have a more polished ‘look’ to them which is difficult to explain. It’s to do with the subtle colours, the crispness delivered by the 24-105mm lens and the even graduation of tones which give shots greater depth and quality. The larger 5d’s pixels produce less grain at higher ISOs, and remain smooth until 1600 or 3200 ISO – 800 ISO is as high as I like to push the 60D.

Third is the quality of the video where the large 5DMK2’s sensor leaves the 60D struggling to compete. The 5D’s footage seems less prone to moire which is irritating on the 60D on occasions. The 60D’s however now have Magic Lantern installed which opens up lots of video possibilities (I haven’t dared use it in the 5dMk2 yet!).

Canon 5dMk2 50mm F1.4

5dMK2 50mm F1.4 on an overcast day – razor-thin depth of field and soft tones.

Is it worth upgrading? That depends on whether you’re prepared to put up with the extra size and weight, the less slick handling and the sometimes less than helpful controls when switching between stills and movie mode (update : fixed using ‘custom settings on the mode dial). In exchange for these inconveniences, the 5dMk2’s results (when you get it right!) are clearly superior in many ways as you would expect. However the 60D is easier to use and carry with more user-friendly features and isn’t that far behind where it matters. In conclusion, if I was shooting for fun rather than to make money, the 60D would be the clear winner, but for commercial use it’s easily the 5DMK2. Having said that, if I was just shooting for fun I’d probably never use a DSLR and stick to something small and light such as an Olympus PEN or an old film camera!

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking. If you’ve got any questions about upgrading just ask.

 

The Lensbaby Sweet 35 on a Canon 5d Mk 2

The next lens in line for a mini-test on a Canon 5d Mk2 is the Lensbaby Sweet 35, a 35mm fixed focal length special effects lens used for many years on a 60D. The ‘test area’s for these shots were Kimmeridge Bay and Corfe Castle in Dorset (UK) , both popular with summer visitors. By using the Lensbaby I was hoping to blur away the modern ‘clutter’ and get a more timeless set of images. The Sweet 35 was in a ‘Composer’ mount, and all shots processed in DXO Optics 9 and Filmpack 4.

Canon 5d Mk2 Lensbaby Sweet 35

First shot – Corfe Castle. The Lensbaby at max aperture has done a great job of ‘eliminating’ the tourists swarming around the base.

In use it’s a nice surprise to have something small and light attached to the heavy 5D body rather than a bulky zoom lens.

Canon 5d Mk2 Lensbaby Sweet 35

A second shot from inside the village – this has worked well – the area under the houses was full of cars and pedestrians!

Focussing is easy on the large screen but best of all it’s now a proper 35mm lens rather than a 56mm equivalent on the 60D, giving a moderately wide angle view. After years of wanting a wider view on crop frame sensors using this lens, this is brilliant!

Canon 5d Mk2 Lensbaby Sweet 35

Some distracting telephone wires and TV aerials have been blurred away on this one – certainly easier than the Photoshop clone tool….

On to Kimmeridge for this shot.  The romantic tower on the cliff is Clavell’s Tower – available for holiday lets as long as you’re willing to book several years in advance.

Canon 5d Mk2 Lensbaby Sweet 35

I’d never seen these odd circular out of focus areas (see lower left) on the 60D – looking at them they are at the edge of the frame so the smaller sensor probably didn’t see them. They only occur at max aperture.

Not a bad result at all. Apart from the odd bokeh seen in the last shot, the wider angle of view is very welcome, and on full frame, the blurry edge of the frame is even more effective.

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.

One Manual Focus Lens, Three Cameras

Sensor format and lens focal length is one of the most puzzling aspects of digital photography. Everyone probably knows smaller sensors mean increased depth of field for a given focal length and that sub 35mm frame cameras have smaller focal lengths to achieve the same angle of view. This creates the 2x focal length ‘crop factor’ on a Micro Four Thirds format, a 1.6x on APS_C and, well, 1.0x  on full frame 35mm. How much difference does this make in terms of depth of field (or depth of focus)? I’ve always wanted to try this out, so time for a play – a test, sorry.

Canon 5d Mk2, Canon 60D, Olympus EPL5, Zuiko 50mm F1.4

A ‘full frame’ 20Mp Canon 5d Mk2, an 18 Mp  ‘APS-C’ 60D and a 16Mp Micro Four Thirds Olympus EPL5 (with Micro four Thirds to EF lens mount adaptor attached). The lens is a venerable Zuiko 50mm F1.4 from the Oly 35mm film days. All three needed an OM to EF adaptor.

There’s a nice diagram illustrating the difference in sensor sizes here (Wikipedia). All shots taken in RAW, converted to JPEG using DXO Optics 9.

Firstly – field of view. These next three are all shot from the same tripod position at f1.4.

Canon 5d Mk2, Canon 60D, Olympus EPL5, Zuiko 50mm F1.4

5D Mk2 at 1.4. Apologies for the edge of the card at the bottom – I hadn’t quite anticipated how wide 50mm was going to be as I started this series on the EPL5. Oops. Note the vignetting at the edge of the frame – quite common for a fast lens at maximum aperture.

On the 50D it’s a 50mm x 1.6 so an 80mm equivalent :-

Canon 5d Mk2, Canon 60D, Olympus EPL5, Zuiko 50mm F1.4

As only the centre portion of the image is used, no vignetting!

On the EPL5 its 50mm x 2 so a 100mm equivalent :-

Canon 5d Mk2, Canon 60D, Olympus EPL5, Zuiko 50mm F1.4

The shot here is wider than either of the Canons due to the ‘aspect ratio’ of Micro Four Thirds (in plain english the sensor produces images which are effectively ‘fatter’ in portrait mode and ‘taller’ in landscape mode).

What’s happening here is that although the effective focal length is changing, the depth of field from the same shooting position is the same for all three lenses – the smaller sensors are just sampling a smaller rectangle of the same 35mm image circle. The EPL5’s image is like an enlargement of the centre of the larger sensors’ images. It’s worth bearing in mind that the EPL5 has more pixels in it’s frame (16Mp) than an equivalent cropped 5DMk2 image (around 12Mp I’d guess).

Now – to try to create the same shot with all three cameras. This isn’t as easy as I first thought! What’s expected is that there will be greater depth of field on the smaller sensor as we’re further away from the subject. The common focus point is the blue reel of cotton with the red spool, focussed using the LCD and focus magnify.

First the 5d Mk2 (50mm) :-

Canon 5d Mk2, Canon 60D, Olympus EPL5, Zuiko 50mm F1.4

Razor thin depth of field – the furthest grey cotton reel is just a vague blur.

Then the 60D (80mm equivalent):-

Canon 5d Mk2, Canon 60D, Olympus EPL5, Zuiko 50mm F1.4

Taken from a position further from the subject. Still very narrow depth of field but the far cotton reel is now visible.

Then the EPL5 (100mm equivalent)-

Canon 5d Mk2, Canon 60D, Olympus EPL5, Zuiko 50mm F1.4

Even more depth of field – that far grey cotton reel is now clearly visible.

Something of a surprise here – the difference in depth of field between the EPL5 and the 5dMK2 is obvious, but between the 60D and the 5dMk2 it’s not as great as I would have expected.

What this little experiment confirms is that for any given lens – in this case a 50mm f1.4 – the effective depth of field for smaller sensors is deeper than larger sensors when taking the same photograph. It’s still an  f1.4 lens for exposure purposes, but for blurring away a background and isolating a subject the large 35mm size sensor is better.

However, not everyone wants shallow depth of field – if you don’t, these results could be seen the other way around! It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

For macro, landscape and telephoto photography (where depth of field is at a premium) I can see ‘Micro Four Thirds’ having an advantage.

For portraits and isolating subjects against a blurred away background ‘Full Frame’ is a winner with ‘APS-C’ not far behind it.

For general photography using intermediate focal lengths at medium to infinity subject distances there isn’t that much difference (I’m not taking into account high ISO noise, cost or any of the tens of other differences between sensor formats).

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking!

A Canon 5d Mk2 and a Zuiko 85mm f2

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

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

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

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

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

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

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

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

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

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

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

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

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

Canon 5d Mk 2 Zuiko 85mm f2

At closer distances though – it’s superb!

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

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

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking!

 

 

Canon 5d Mk 2 Meets a Helios 85mm f2

Having just got my hands on a new (well new to me) 5D Mk2, my first thought was – how does my favourite MF lens perform on the full frame body? It’s a bit of a star on a crop frame 60D (review with lens specs here) so I’ve high hopes. Here’s a first test batch of lightly processed shots all shot at 100 ISO with a ‘Neutral’ colour profile :-

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

The smooth bokeh looks slightly better than the 60D – looks like a good start.

Focussing is pretty easy at f2 just using the default focussing screen – just make sure your viewfinder dioptre adjustment is correct (it’s the small wheel to the top right of the viewfinder when the camera is viewed from the rear).

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

This heavy lump of a lens overwhelms smaller cameras like an Oly EPL5. On the heavy 5D it’s much more evenly balanced.

The same mount adaptor as the previous test has been used – a cheap M42 to Canon EF from Ebay which cost £10. As it’s so cheap (and so am I apparently) the lens doesn’t align properly (see above). Not that it matters…

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

On a bright day the 1/8000th second shutter speed still isn’t quite short enough at f2 and 100 ISO) so carrying an ND filter might be a good idea.

The 5D’s metering is more confused by this lens than the 60D – exposures were all over the place using centre weighted and evaluative modes. If you’re going to try this make sure you shoot in RAW as there’s going to be quite a lot of post processing involved. All the images will need a substantial contrast boost and a manual ‘levels’ adjustment as a simple ‘auto levels’ isn’t enough.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

This is an elaborate scarecrow standing in for a portrait model on a sunny day. The hair should be blue, it’s not white balance problem!

The major difference between using this lens on a full frame sensor vs a crop APS-C sensor is that it now has a proper 85mm focal length, not a 135mm equivalent. Where you can easily fill the frame with a subject on the 60D, on the 5D you need to get closer, and for the first time the minimum 80cm focus distance becomes a restriction.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2 Jupiter 9

Close focus results are rather nice too.

So time for a proper mini test and back to the mill : –

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

Here’s the frame – with a wonky horizon but never mind…

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

At f2 – the edge of the frame and not that good, but nothing much was expected here. This is a soft portrait lens after all.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

Centre at f2 – a slight max aperture ‘sheen’ but not too bad.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

f8 and much better – as they should be at this aperture. There a hint of chromatic aberration but not much. Things start to tidy up around f4 but f8 is best.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

f8, centre of the frame and it’s tidied up nicely.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

f16 edge – still good.

Canon 5d Mk2 Helios 85mm f2

centre at f16 – very good indeed!

So – pretty much an identical performance as on the 60D which is a surprise, especially at the edge of the frame which the cropped frame 60D doesn’t ‘see’. The odd orange tint seen on the 60D wasn’t present in any of these shots.

It’s very useable for general photography past f5.6. At f2 – f4 it excels as a specialist lens for producing ‘portrait mode’/narrow depth of field/soft bokeh images – just what it was designed for 50+ years ago! What’s encouraging is that it still does a cracking job on full frame digital which means I’d better do a few tests on my old Zuiko collection…..

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.

Thanks for looking, hope you find this useful.

Olympus VF4 Viewfinder Review

I’ve liked Olympus cameras for many years – from my very first ‘proper’ camera, an OM-1n through Trips, OM2s, an E400, an E620, an EPL3 and now an EPL5. The EPL5 is a great upgrade to the EPL3 but I’ve never been a fan of ‘arms length’ LCD camera operation, so it’s not quite ‘perfect’. Adding a viewfinder to the PEN EPL5 seemed like a good idea so I took the plunge and ordered a VF4 a week ago – and I’m very glad I did. This is a high resolution Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) – not an Optical Viewfinder (OVF) as you might think by looking at it from the back.

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The EPL5 PEN, kit 14-42mm lens and the shiny new VF4 – it appears bigger on this picture that it really is….

Firstly, an upgrade of the camera’s firmware from 1.1 to 1.2 was required – it just won’t work without it. This is done through the Oly ‘Viewer 2’ software and is pretty easy as long as you’re patient and leave the camera to update itself. The process takes around 5 minutes. You can check the firmware installed in your camera via the menu system.

After that’s done, just slide the viewfinder into the accessory port on the top of the camera and off you go. It’s worth pointing out that EVFs on the PENs take over the hot shoe – so no use of the supplied flash unit while it’s attached. This may be a problem to some, but as I never use flash it’s fine for me personally.

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The VF4 from the rear – the button is the EVF/LCD switch. The two blue circles are probably the eye sensor – not used on the EPL5  unfortunately.

The only controls are a button on the back – this switches between the LCD and the EVF, and an eyesight diopter adjustment on the right. If you’ve got a top of the range PEN there is an eye sensor which switches between LCD and EVF automatically, but on the EPL5 you’ll need to use this button. There is also a lock button on the lower left which secures the viewfinder – a nice touch as losing this rather expensive accessory would be a tragedy!

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The diopter correction wheel – this is quite stiff so won’t move accidentally.

It adds some bulk to the smallish EPL5 but not that much and seems nicely in proportion. To provide a bit of extra versatility it will also pivot at it’s front to allow the eyepiece to swing vertically through 90 degrees (and all positions in-between), which means you can compose landscape shots as if you were using an old Twin Lens Reflex camera, peering down into the viewfinder from above – very nice.

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The EVF in the vertical position. There’s a ‘push/click’ type catch which keeps it in place when ‘closed’ in the horizontal position.

What you see in the viewfinder is the ‘active’ central portion of the LCD – i.e. the strips of shooting information either side of the image on the LCD are either pushed into the image area or not reproduced e.g. the touch screen icon. The image is large, bright and detailed (2.3 million pixels) and doesn’t ‘smear’ when it’s moved – in fact it appears about as wide as a Canon 60d’s viewfinder but taller due to the 4/3 aspect ratio of the camera (the 60D is 3:2 so wider). It can’t quite match an Olympus OM system viewfinder, but it’s not too far off!

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The unlock button on the left side.

However the really – and I mean really – big improvement when shooting is when using manual focus lenses. To achieve critical focus the ‘focus magnify’ button is used to enlarge a portion of the image while focussing. On the LCD this is OK, but the LCD image is relatively small at arm’s length. On the EVF however it’s huge – and so much easier to get perfect focus.

It’s very like using MF lenses on a film SLR and so instantly familiar and comfortable – a real pleasure to use and a massive change in how useable the camera is. This is probably going to remain permanently attached!

So, if you’re thinking of getting one, especially if you shoot using MF lenses, I’d heartily recommend one.

Thanks for looking!

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!

Just Wandering Around…

A few more from the Sony RX100 – and no infrared at least for a short while. As the weather in the UK (Dorset at least) has suddenly broken, and after a cold spring, late spring/summer has finally arrived. The late summer has resulted in every plant bursting out in one go, flowers and pollen everywhere…

This first one is using’ the Toy Camera’ JPEG setting, plus a -1 exposure compensation to make sure the yellow colour channel isn’t blown out (the green/yellows of this camera are over saturated).

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  This one uses the ‘Rich Tone Mono’ setting where three shots at different exposures are combined to extend the dynamic range. The whites of the flowers are a bit overexposed – my fault – but it’s a nice image.

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  “Short while” over …. I couldn’t resist two more infra-reds – processed as per the last post. When you’ve got an IR R72 filter in your pocket and a sunny day on the heath – well what can you do?

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  This tree is ancient – growing on an old Roman road running from Badbury Rings to Salisbury and this is the first shot I’ve got of it which I’m happy with.

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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….

DSC00007s

Unbelievably small!

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

DSC00006s

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.

_DSC0434edge

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.

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!

_MG_8939s

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.

_MG_8937s

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.

_MG_8799s

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.

IMG_0128s

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.

IMG_0127s

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.

f4.5s

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.

f4.5 centre

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.

_MG_8716s

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!