Ten Years of Digital Imaging or “How Many Megapixels Do You Need?”

A while ago I did a post on how much imaging technology had improved over the last decades from 35mm film to digital and concluded that within limited parameters (low ISO, good exposure etc) it wasn’t a massive difference. Then I found my first digital camera in a drawer – a Sony 5.1 Mp Cybershot from 2005 and thought “You really must test how well this will stand up against a 15Mp Oly EPL5, an 18Mp Canon 60D and a 36Mp Sony A7R”. So here we are.

Insanity? Probably, but if you don’t test assumptions you’ll never know if they’re right! And it sounded like fun. This post has turned out longer than I planned – sorry!

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This shot has nothing to do with this post – I just needed something to look good on the reader page – no-one is interested in my bookshelf…. A7R, Zuiko 50mm f1.8

Before we start I’m not bashing or promoting any particular camera. I’ve bought all of these and still use them – with the exception of the old  Cybershot 5 Mp compact. The EPL5, 60D and A7R are all great cameras.

A high tech test scene was organised (my bookshelf and some bits and pieces) and to equalise the test the same Zuiko OM 50mm f3.5 macro lens was used on all the cameras except the tiny Sony Cybershot which has a fixed zoom lens. All shot at base ISO at f11, manually focussed on a tripod, straight RAW development in DXO Optics 9 (except the Cybershot jpg) and ‘auto levels’ applied to all in Photoshop. As there are variable camera crop factors involved, the distance to the subject was changed to keep – approximately – the same shot.

As a preamble to the shots here are the frame dimensions and file sizes :-

Cybershot 5.1 Mp    2592 x 1944 pixels, 1.7 Mb. Sensor will be tiny and is now ‘obsolete’. This camera would be worth around £5 now.

Olympus EPL5        4608 x 3456 pixels, 15.5 Mb. Micro Four Thirds. Around £500 when new, about £200 now second hand.

Canon 60D              5185 x 3456 pixels, 17.8 Mb. APSC DSLR. Around £800 when new, about £300 now second hand.

Sony A7R                 7360 x 4912 pixels, 33.6 Mb. Full frame mirrorless. The only camera without an anti alias filter. £1300 new, about £1000 second hand now.

frame

Onto the crops then – they get larger on-screen as we’re cropping out of progressively larger images.

Sony Cybershot 5.1Mp Crops – first the centre then the lower left. The card in this camera was a Sony Memory Stick of 128Mb (Yes MB!)

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wsc100a

Then the EPL5 15Mp –

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now the 18Mp Canon 60D

60db

60da

And finally the 36Mp Sony A7R

a7ra

a7rb

Well let’s get the bleeding obvious out of the way first – a 10 year old 5Mp camera doesn’t compare that well to mid range or top of the range sensors. However when looking at all the shots at around 8×6 inches on the screen the differences are quite subtle. I doubt I could tell the difference from the humble 5.1 ‘jpeg only’ image and the RAW processed 36Mp A7R image in a consumer print of the same size (i.e. 8×6 inches).

The EPL5 and 60D are very roughly the same frame dimensions, but the 60D looks slightly better in these enlargements – not much but it’s noticeable. There is obviously a big difference between 15Mp/18Mp and 5Mp sensors, but not between 15Mp and 18Mp sensors.

The A7R – not surprisingly – is resolving more detail than the 60D and the EPL5. However, all those extra megapixels aren’t adding that much extra so a bit more of a zoom in with the test ‘how far can I enlarge before I can see pixels?’.

60D

60dhuge

A7R

a7huge

Well – if you really look closely enough there’s a definite difference, but pixel peeping such a tiny section of a frame seems extreme. The 60D has an anti-alias filter, the A7R doesn’t, which, along with its extra pixels accounts for the extra sharpness.

Finally what happens if you downsample the A7R to 18Mp. This is a bit sharper that the 60d – if you can be bothered to go to so much effort.

a7rhugerescale

What conclusions regarding resolution then at base ISO? IMHO :-

If you never crop, never print more that 8×6 inches or only use your shots on the web – 5Mp is fine and anything more is just clogging up your disk drive and increasing your credit card bill. The same would apply to camera or tablet phones.

If you want to crop or print larger than 8×6 inches then 15 to 18Mp is fine – even for large prints like 22 x 15 inches (which I’ve done and sold!). These Oly/Canon cameras are useful all rounders which are well evolved, easy to use and can cope with most photographic subjects. They are very good value.

Cameras like the A7R are really only practically needed if you either want to print to huge sizes, or you wish to sell your work (as I do) when clients/agencies value larger file sizes as the extra resolution gives them more flexibility. Of course if you just want that extra resolution because you’re a perfectionist – and that’s fine by me as I’m one too – it’s there, and the Sony sensor is superb. It’s just that the improvement in image quality might not be as great as you expect. You’ll need to use the best lenses (ideally primes) at optimal apertures and the best technique to really make the most of the new sensors. The A7R Mk2 looks like it will be more forgiving that the A7R but it’s not cheap!

At higher ISOs it’s a different story of course, and this doesn’t take into account other variables like dynamic range (excellent on the A7R), image stabilisation, noise or colour rendition. Also video from older cameras is often very poor compared to more up to date models – an area where progress has been even more rapid.

It’s fair to say that ten years of digital imaging improvements have made a huge difference – though whether moving past around 20Mp is worth it is up to you. I’m sure in two or three years time 36Mp will be the ‘standard’ sensor resolution with the cutting edge sensors topping 80Mp! It’s worth pointing out that the very best, very expensive prime lenses resolve around 30Mp of detail, the best zooms around 25Mp on high resolution sensors according to DXO……

Oh – and that 30 year old Zuiko 5omm f3.5 lens is still excellent!

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking (and for reading this far!).

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Initial Impressions – a Sony A7R and some old Olympus OM lenses.

This detailed post is the result of a bad back, a feeling of dissatisfaction with a camera and remembering something from years ago – just so you know….

Forgetting I’m not 18 years old any more I badly strained my lower back helping someone move out of a shop over Christmas. Since then, carrying a Canon 5d MK2, a Sigma 50mm f1.4, a 70-300mm and a 24-105 ‘L’ on long photo trips has become painful.

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 Sony A7R

Taken with the A7R and Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at ISO 100 with the shadows pulled up slightly – remarkable!

Secondly, apart from the weight, a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the 5dMk2 has been brewing lately – it’s not that much better than my 60D so it’s turning into a paperweight. It’s also irritatingly bad at attracting dust onto the sensor. The Sigma 50mm f1.4 though is possibly the best lens I’ve ever used, but again it’s very heavy and is turning into a ‘stay at home’ lens.

Zuiko 28mm f2  Sony A7R

The Zuiko 28mm f2 @ ISO 1600.

Thirdly I remembered what I always wanted from digital photography when it started to become viable, and that was a full frame digital back for my OM1N. 10Mp would have been fine, but for probably obvious reasons it was never done…..

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A size comparison clockwise from top left – the A7R, (full frame 36Mp), the Oly EPL5 (micro 4/3 16Mp), the Oly OM2N (er film!) and the Canon 5d Mk2 (full frame 20 Mp). The Sony is taller than the OM2N but narrower and with the adaptor weighs almost exactly the same.

So – what to do?

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 Sony A7R Novoflex adaptor

The Sony with the E-mount (or NEX) adaptor to Olympus OM. Its fits tightly with no lens ‘wobble’ and feels precisely engineered.

Something radical is called for. Trade the 5D and the Sigma 50 1.4 for a Sony A7R body and a Novoflex adaptor and go completely ‘manual focus’ using my old OM lenses. In size the Sony is around the same size and weight as an OM2/1 though the mount adaptor adds some extra length to lenses and it’s slightly taller. Some tinkering with the kitchen scales showed I’d been routinely carrying around 13 lb (6 kg) of kit (including a tripod) which could be more or less halved, This will be very welcome on long hikes. It will also yield up easily cropped 36 MP images, and more resolution is always welcome, though I wasn’t sure if the old OM primes were up to it.

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 Sony A7R

Pixel peeping a 50mm f1.4 shot taken at f8 ISO 100.

 

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 Sony A7R

Detail from the centre – I hadn’t even seen the gent in the window but he was recorded in some detail! The edges are inevitability slightly softer but better than expected. The centre is amazingly sharp.

 

Initial impressions of the body are very good. It didn’t take long to set up (i.e. switching to RAW, airplane mode on, configuring the function buttons) the build quality seems excellent and it feels light and solid with well damped and placed controls. Reassuringly it ‘glued’ itself to my smaller hands immediately – almost tailor-made. The camera bag fully loaded with 17mm to 135mm lenses can now be carried effortlessly and has lots of room left over.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Sony A7R

The 17mm f3.5 – I really thought this lens would be very soft but at f8-f16 it’s not bad at all even at 36 MP.

 

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Sony A7R

It’s possible to just make out the writing on the bench plaque.

The viewfinder is electronic (an EVF) and delivers a view roughly comparable to Oly’s VF-4 – i.e. very good. The information displayed in the viewfinder of the Sony is better organised around the image rather than over it and seems a little crisper, but there’s not much in it. Occasionally the Sony seems to need time to think over things, when moving around menus or if switched on soon after switching off, but it’s nothing I’d really complain about.

Manual focus using ‘peaking’ isn’t as precise as using the ‘focus magnify’ feature which nails focus every time (as per the EPL5). What’s slightly disturbing is that the OM lenses which I’ve used for thirty years have much less depth of field than I’d thought – the A7R shows the focus point moving very rapidly as the focus is racked and focussing for critical sharpness is tight. I can only guess at how approximate the split image/microprism method of focussing is on the OM1/2. On a 60D or a 5d focussing using the optical viewfinder is vague to say the least – hence some past sub-par results.

Zuiko 85mm f2 Sony A7R

The 85mm f2 though trickier to focus is good too.

Post processing takes a little longer due to the size of the RAW files. The 7360 x 4912 RAW files are around 35Mb, and DXO Optics 9 produces huge JPEG files of the same size or larger! Photoshop compresses the JPEGS more efficiently to around 8-15Mb. Opening and saving files takes a few seconds longer than 20Mb images too and DXO Prime noise removal takes around 4 minutes (vs 2 minutes for 20Mb files).

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 Sony A7R

The 50mm f1.4 wide open producing some showy bokeh. Shots wide open with this lens always need some chromatic aberration correction in PP.

The lack of an anti alias filter seems to make the resolution of the OM lenses shine through. When you can really nail the focus, shoot at a high enough shutter speed and stop down to f8 to f11 these old lenses produce some remarkably good results. They’re still prone to flare and some internal reflections, but results when compared to the results from the 60D/5D Mk2 are in a different league. To various degrees they suffer from some softer edges but subsequent posts will go into this in more detail.

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 Sony A7R

Sony reds are still rather oversaturated for my taste but they’re better than the RX100’s purply reds.

 

The most extraordinary thing about the RAW results though is how far shadow detail can be pulled up without producing noise.

Zuiko 28mm f2 Sony A7R

Some PP pulling up the shadows just a little produces excellent dynamic range. The 28mm again.

As for the infamous ‘shutter shock’ problem – I haven’t noticed it so far. As there’s no image stabilisation you need to be extra careful about shutter speeds and shooting technique and – so far – I’ve had no camera shake. The ‘double shutter’ noise doesn’t really bother me either really – by comparison with an EPL5 my 5d Mk2 sounds like someone hitting a shovel on a car bonnet (something of an exaggeration but you get the point!). Keep the shutter speed reasonably above the focal length of the lens and use good technique and all will be fine. You can push the ISO to 3200 without any real noise problems.

Vivitar 17mm f3.5 Sony A7R

There’s no automatic distortion correction software as there’s no EXIF lens data saved with the files – not even aperture. The 17mm if tilted upwards can produce some distorted verticals so keep it horizontal!

Infrared – look elsewhere I’m afraid. I’d hoped the A7R would be as good as the RX100 but no – the A7R is very insensitive to IR frequencies (see below).

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30 seconds at ISO 100 f8 with an R72 filter and underexposed – so useless for infrared. Hand held IR would have been great but I’m expecting too much!

Ultra high ISO is – as usual – not that useful. ISO 25600 (I thought ISO 3200 extreme!) is OK for a small print but otherwise not that good, even with DXO’s Prime noise reduction. ISO 100 -400 is essentially grain-less and up to 3200 ISO nicely controlled – this is a 36Mp image so for any given print size noise is less of a problem.

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High ISO 25600 is pretty ugly as you’d expect even with a run through DXO’s PRIME noise removal tool – which took 5 minutes! Stick to ISO 3200 or less!

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A fascinating close up of my well organised bookshelf…. For 25600 ISO this isn’t bad but then it isn’t that good either.

 

For a full days shooting I’ll need a second battery. Sony thinks in camera charging is a good idea unfortunately. Not providing a charger as an alternative is irritatingly cheap of them when selling a camera in this price range.

Overall after one week I’m very impressed. If you’re a photographer who takes their time and doesn’t mind manual focus and a few delays here and there, the A7R will extract the maximum detail from those old MF lenses with a ‘focus magnify’ feature which is very efficient (like the EPL5). To really like this camera you’ll also be the sort who doesn’t mind a bit of post processing to extract the best from RAW files. If you put in the effort the files produced are sharp, detailed and exceed by a country mile what I wanted 15 years ago with a digital back for my old OM1N.

Zuiko 50mm f1.4 Sony A7R

The 50mm f1.4 @1.4 doing what it does best.

As a setup with MF lenses it would be comically inadequate for any sort of action photography or for telephoto lens use past 135mm but as I don’t shoot that sort of stuff I don’t care! I’m sure anyone with a collection of old quality prime lenses would find this camera just as good. The lack of an anti alias filter over the sensor seems to make a huge difference to sharpness using these lenses.

It’s not perfect, but it’s 95% there for my purposes (not necessarily yours!). I’ve now got so much room in the camera bag I can even take along an OM2N as well!

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking.

p.s. If you’re interested in the internals of this camera have a look as Lensrental’s disassembly of an A7R here.

 

Olympus Dramatic Tone Long Exposures

Looking for something new to try on a photo trip out to Swanage in Dorset, I had the diminutive EPL5 and some neutral density filters rattling around the camera bag so thought I’d try some long exposures using the ‘Dramatic Tone’ art filter.

Olympus Pen, Dramatic Tone, long exposure

Four seconds at f18 with the camera firmly braced against a sea wall produced this – not bad at all.

 

This special effects filter produces some spectacular results, pushing the contrast in the midtones and dragging detail from otherwise overcast skies. While shooting, the results look great but looking at hundreds of shots later when processing them brings home a sinking feeling – this effect should only be used sparingly as too much of it becomes tiringly repetitive!

Olympus Pen, Dramatic Tone, long exposure

Two seconds at f22 and more streaky seabirds….

 

Two stacked 58mm x3 ND filters on a hairy contraption of 37 ->49 then 49 ->58mm step up rings allowed their use on the tiny 14-42mm kit lens. When things briefly brightened up a circular polarizer was added to cut the light getting through to the sensor was added too! The resulting JPEGs were post-processed in DXO Filmpack using some of the ‘designer’ presets to give a toned result which adds an extra dimension to the monochrome images.

Olympus Pen, Dramatic Tone, long exposure

A river discharges into the sea here and there’s always a lot of seagulls milling around. The streaks in the sky are them flying past. Two seconds at f22.

 

The Oly’s IBIS (in body image stabilisation) and hand holding the camera on various posts, railings etc at exposures up to 8 seconds at f16-f22 worked reasonably well but there were around 50% failures due to camera shake (I was pushing things to extremes here!).

Olympus Pen, Dramatic Tone, long exposure

One second at f22 was all that was need here

 

There were a few dust spots on the sensor which have been cloned out – and the sensor given a quick clean. The processing required to create these if shooting in RAW+JPEG takes a few seconds at normal shutter speeds. With long exposure noise reduction processing added, it takes around five seconds to process and save each shot so don’t expect this to be a quick process.

Overall I’m reasonably pleased with this as a technique. It adds an extra twist to the well trodden ‘Dramatic Tone’ approach and might be useful for art print sales – though I can’t see it being much use for book covers. Mainly though, it’s simply good fun – give it a try if you have a chance.

Thanks for looking, hope you like them.

Things Probably Best Not Done – But….

The Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens has proved a bit of a star on a Canon 5d MK2 and a 60D. I use old Oly lenses on an EPL5 via a Micro Four Thirds to EF adaptor fronted by an EF to OM adaptor (you can see where this is going) which means it’s possible to mount the Siggy on the EPL5, so it had to be done, purely for experiment’s sake.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Good start.

The first thing to realise is that there is only one aperture available – f1.4 – there is no electronic communication between lens and camera using this adaptor, and no external aperture ring. At f1.4 this lens is sharp, so maybe there’s some potential.

The second limitation is no autofocus, but the EPL5 has a VF4 viewfinder attached which is great for manual focus using ‘focus magnify’.

The third is that this combination is somewhat out of balance, the EPL5 looking like an end cap. Still I can carry the lens with the camera hitching a ride.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

One aperture, no AF and ridiculously unbalanced – it’s got to be done!

However it is a 100mm f1.4 equivalent and the EPL5 has ‘in camera’ image stabilisation so worth a try…

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

A handsome model down at the allotments. Good isolation and bokeh – this could be useful.

‘Macro’ is around 40cm, but with a 100mm equivalent on the EPL5’s small sensor you can get in quite close :-

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Good colour using the ‘i-enhance’ colour profile. If you need greater depth of field – tough – there’ only f1.4

Using ‘focus magnify’ is interesting – it’s very precise but the magnified display in the VF4 jumps around when hand held making things tricky. Maybe a tripod is called for.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

This isn’t too bad at all – if you can nail the focus.

Good for closer stuff, but how are things at further focus distances? It’s the mill again…..

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

The complete frame focussed using the VF4 as best I could. At this size it looks sharp enough.

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

The centre of the image.

This is odd – there’s more chromatic aberration but that’s probably down to DXO Optics 9 not doing auto correction (these images are straight conversions). Parts look sharp but others don’t – strange! As this camera and lens combo wasn’t meant to be used together it’s not too surprising. The lens adaptor may also be partly to blame as it’s not a very good one…

Olympus EPL5, Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Couldn’t agree more!

Is this combo useful? I certainly wouldn’t suggest buying an expensive lens like this for use on an EPL5 with no aperture control or AF – a Zuiko 50mm 1.4 with external aperture control would be better and much cheaper even if the performance at f1.4 would be inferior to this lens. If you’ve already got one though it might be useful where you need a 100mm equivalent lens at f1.4 (portraits in low light, stage photography etc).

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful – or at least some fun!

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!

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.

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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!