The Sony A7R and a Zuiko 21mm f3.5

It’s been ages since I posted anything here (sorry!), mainly because I haven’t bought any more lenses! This nice 21mm f3.5 was swapped for my Zuiko 18mm earlier in the year as it was a bit too wide for my tastes, and really I always wanted the 21mm. It hasn’t been used that much so far so I thought I’d give it a proper test and share the results. Wandering round with just this lens was an interesting experience for someone who’s current favourite focal length is 50mm – sometimes it seemed just too wide an angle of view.           Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Physically it’s tiny and light – about the same size as my 50mm f1.8, 1 1/4 inches long (3cm ish) and it weighs 7 1/2 ounces (212 g) so very portable. The angle of view is 92 degrees and a very close focussing distance of 8 inches (or 20cm) to infinity focus is achieved in around 1/4 of a turn. And of course being a Zuiko it’s very well made too. It matches the A7R very well as do most of the smaller Zuikos. The A7R’s love of a default 1/60th of a second in ‘A’ mode with MF lenses is also nothing to worry about at 21 mm.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Five apertures to choose from – 3.5 to 16 and a focussing ring – can’t get much simpler than that.

The filter thread is the normal 49mm screw in, but even thin filters cause vignetting so I’ve stopped using them on this lens, so no polarizer or NDs unless you’re prepared to do some cropping in PP.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

At f3.5 and insanely close, this is the best bokeh I could manage. Using a 21mm lens as a macro lens is – er- eccentric to say the least.

Focussing using focus magnify works well, though at smaller apertures it’s more difficult as there’s a lot in focus, and the changes when the focus ring is turned are fairly subtle. The ‘focus peaking’ feature is pretty useless with lenses as wide as this for the same reason. As with the 18mm, the depth of field scale is pretty optimistic and the zone of really sharp focus is narrower than you might expect – in other words, always use ‘focus magnify’!

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Starburst at f16 (with a tiny amount of flare)- not bad at all if you like this sort of thing. Shadows pulled up in PP (the A7R is brilliant for this).

I couldn’t provoke much flare on a sunny day – this lens seems excellent in this respect. I did find an odd circular internal reflection in one shot when the sun was pretty much in the centre of the image which I quite like :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Native vignetting is moderate at f3.5, gone by f5.6 :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f3.5 – nowhere near as bad as the 18mm but then few things are. I can live with this and even use it occasionally.

 

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f5.6 – hardly noticable and it doesn’t reappear at other apertures.

Distortion when pointed upwards is obvious – what you’d expect really from an ultra-wide :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

This was taken with a slim UV filter but its still vignetting!

Close distance distortion is also remarkably low – this was taken very close to the fence and is uncorrected :-

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

OK – it’s all looking good so far, what about the resolution? All of these are straight RAW conversions so note that the minimal CA and distortion could be cleaned up quite easily. Here’s the test scene (same as earlier in the post), edge crop from the centre left.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f3.5, the edge crop darkened by the natural vignetting of the lens.

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f5.6

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f8

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

f11

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

Sony A7R Zuiko 21mm f3.5

So – optimal between f5.6 and f8, tailing off slightly at f11 and f16 (not shown). Quite predictable really. However this is a remarkably consistent performance across the aperture range with minimal CA wide open. It’s nice and sharp in the centre at all apertures, but the edges are never really achieve the same resolution.

In conclusion then, apart from the edge performance which I’d call ‘good’ (or ‘good enough’ for my purposes) a very good lens. Small, light, low distortion, low CA, sharp in the centre and can do sun stars as a party trick. I might use this lens ten or twenty times a year and for me the positives easily outweigh the negatives so I’m keeping this one! If you use this focal length all the time and need better edge performance something more expensive might be in order.

Second hand they range in price between £200 and £300 which is pretty cheap. As with all older lenses exposures have to be carefully monitored (they tend towards one to two stops of under exposure so watch the histogram), some PP will be required on all images, mainly contrast enhancement but the clarity slider in CS is remarkably useful too.

Hope you find this useful, thanks for looking!

 

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A Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6 on a Sony A7R

This mini test has been done to try out a free (to me) 1980/1990’s mid range zoom and to test my assumption that only good quality prime lenses are up to the A7R’s 36MP sensor.

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Bokeh at f3.5 and 70mm – not too bad at all!

When zooms were being introduced into mainstream 35mm photography it was widely believed that they were grossly inferior to quality primes which put me off using them until partially moving to digital from film in around 2005. Are my old prejudices justified? I had to give it a test!

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

In its favour is its diminutive size and light weight. It’s not as small as any individual prime lens in the useful 28-70mm range, but it’s lighter than all three usually used in this range (28,50 and 85). The rear element disappears far into the lens barrel past 50mm which is slightly disconcerting and doesn’t fill me with confidence as it seems to be quite a primitive design. It does have a ‘red ring’ at the front which might appeal to ‘L’ series users – unfortunately it’s not a Canon lens.

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

On the A7R – moderately compact and surprisingly good to use.

Carrying just this lens on the camera and no camera bag is rather refreshing. It has a 1:5 macro mode so isn’t a macro lens at all but the close up mode is reached by rotating the zoom ring past 70mm, and it’s better than nothing!

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

It’s not a very fast lens – unsurprising given it’s size – but if sharpness rather than spectacular bokeh is your goal you probably won’t move the aperture ring far away from an optimal f8 so it’s no real problem. The aperture is made up of 6 blades giving hexagonal out of focus highlights, the filter size is 52mm and it’s nicely made and satisfyingly compact and dense. The ‘SD’ bit of the name stands for ‘Super Low Dispersion’ lens elements used in the lens to reduce chromatic aberration. We’ll see!

In use it’s controls are nicely balanced and although it doesn’t exude the quality feel of a prime Zuiko lens (oops – Zuikoholic prejudice coming out there!).

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

As a ‘walk around’ macro it’s not bad at all. Pleasing contrast and natural colours here.

Starting with macro – it’s quite useful when wandering around for casual close ups but not for exacting macro work.

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Quite pleasing and fun for macro work all in all. The focus aids on the A7R as always managed to nail focus hand held.

Generally it seems like a reasonably sharp and contrasty lens :-

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Onto the acid test then and Kingston Lacy house used as a test subject, all at f8 so as good as this lens is going to get :-

28mm whole frame

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

28mm centre

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Centre and OK

 

28mm edge

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Edge is a bit vague and chromatic aberration will need some more post processing.

 

50mm whole frame

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

50mm centre

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Centre – very good

 

50mm edge

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

edge – better – optimal on this lens

 

70mm whole frame

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

70mm centre

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Centre – good again

 

70mm edge

Sony A7R, Tokina SD 28-70 f3.5-f5.6

Edge – it’s getting vague again…

 

The centres at all focal lengths are ‘good’ to ‘very good’, but the edges of the frame are a bit of a let down. Even at f8 it would take a lot of work to sort these out in post processing.

In conclusion then I’d say it’s a nice, portable lens which does a basic job of covering the 28-70mm focal length range. The edge definition lets it down badly, but the contrast makes up for some of the shortcomings. The A7R is flattering to older lenses based on previous experience, but I’m afraid that the convenience of carrying just a zoom lens doesn’t quite balance out the loss of quality at the edges of the frame so this lens won’t be used again.

Looks like my prejudices were correct based on this lens – the A7R needs the best prime lenses at their optimal aperture to make the most of it’s sensor. Maybe using the ‘crop mode’ to sample just a central APS-C sized portion of the sensor would work, but life – as they say – is too short!

I can’t complain too much – though – this lens was ‘free’!

Thanks for looking – hope this was 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.

 

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.

 

A Roll of Efke 820 IR Film (found in the film box in the fridge!)

I was sorting through the tupperware box of film in the fridge last weekend and found a bit of a treasure – a roll of Efke 820 IR film ordered last year and completely forgotten about!

efke3sAll fired up with enthusiasm I waited for a sunny day, and for a bit of fun, loaded up the OM2N and shot off the roll inbetween some other photo business . Exposures were bracketed at  at 2/4/8 seconds at f8 and gently developed in ID11 stock for 8.5  minutes (rolling the liquid in the developing tank rather than inverting it) – these are the results. Much grainier than I’d remembered – almost reticulated, but the temperatures of dev, stop, fix and wash were all 20 degrees centigrade. Maybe it was a dodgy last batch of film, these not being made any more, but in an odd sort of way I like it.

efke4tifs

What’s better is that there’s another roll left! As it’s the last one I’m not sure whether to treat it reverently and take immense care, or just have some fun with it. Rollei IR film – at least judging by these results – produces better images so not many regrets at it’s demise.

Hope you like them – thanks for looking!

p.s. apologies for the repetition of subject – I’m spending a lot of time at Knowlton lately!

Another Roll of Expired Film

I’ve got a long term fascination with shooting old film. The results are hit and miss, but all the better for it!

This roll expired in 2003, a roll of Fuji Superia, exposed at 100 ASA, one stop overexposure relative to it’s original speed of 200 ASA. All shot on an OM2N with a 50mm f1.4 and a neutral density filter (x8) to allow wider apertures. The processing was standard lab C41 with no special instructions.

The subject is a vintage car rally, with lots of old cars with what are now relatively unknown names. Wolseley anyone?fuji4

This film seems to age with a preference for a blue hue which I personally like, but others may not. The softness of the light is like flare, but it in this light it couldn’t be – the sun was behind me.

fuji18

Finally a really typical image on old film – these aren’t manipulated with any software – just straight off the scanner with some levels adjustments. Ten years hasn’t done much for the grain in the final images, but it’s all part of the process.

fuji20

If you’re lucky enough to be given an old roll of film, don’t throw it away – use it! The results may be be more interesting than you anticipated!

Thanks for looking, hope you like them.

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A lens with a long name beginning with ‘Meyer’

This is the eighth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who are thinking of using relatively cheap old manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time the full name of the lens is ‘Meyer Optik Gorlitz Primotar E 50mm f3.5’ which an impressive start!

_MG_8597s

Very soft pastel colours and a soft diffuse glow at maximum aperture – nice!

It’s an old East German-made lens in M42 screw fit and usually was sold with Exactas and Praktica cameras as the mid 20th century version of a ‘kit lens’ – i.e. a 50mm. On an APS-C DSLR it’s the equivalent of an 80mm lens. My hope was that with only a few lens elements, no multi coating and a relatively low contrast, it might be good to give a classic 1950’s look to images.

_MG_8604s

Closer to infinity, and again a strange ethereal appearance – I’m beginning to like this effect. It’s more noticable at larger image sizes.

00041838

The bokeh is unusual too.

The barrel is solid turned aluminium which is good, but the controls for focus and aperture are very thin making using it uncomfortable to use on a cold day. The min focus is around 50cm, filter size 40.5mm and the aperture range is f3.5 to f16. Oddly, the aperture is hexagonal at max aperture on my copy – which means hexagonal bokeh at all apertures. With the mount adaptor, there’s only stop down metering available.

IMG_0114s

The lens from the top and the thin focus and aperture controls. At the top the last ring has black and red dots – operating on the original cameras the red dot aligned with the red arrow keeps the aperture open for focus, moving the ring so the black dot is aligned closed the aperture to that chosen on the aperture ring. Unfortunately on the mount adaptor it makes no difference!

IMG_0113

It’s quite a nice lens on the 60D – despite being small these old lenses are heavy.

So having notched up some nice initial impressions, off to the mill for a quick test.

f8s

The test frame in all it’s glory.

f3.5 – soft in the centre and very soft at the edge, with that odd max aperture sheen seen earlier. On the Zuikos it was a bit unpleasant but on this lens it’s quite nice.

f3.5comp

f8 – very sharp in the centre and not bad at the edge

f8comp

f16 – softening again  but the edge is better.

f16comp

Viewed as a ‘normal’ lens it’s not bad, except at f8 to f11 where it’s very sharp. However at f3.5 it’s age and flaws give it’s results something of the look of a Lensbaby plastic lens at smaller apertures where the softness is better controlled. The soft rendition, pastel colours and the way light bleeds into shadow when light and dark areas coincide are a nice effect. It certainly lives up to expectations in producing vintage looking images, and would make a very good 8omm equivalent portrait lens.

So if you see one cheap (it’s much cheaper than a Lensbaby) give one a try – even 50 year old lenses can sometime produce a pleasant surprise.

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.

Shooting Militaria Part 1

A while ago I had a chance to shoot some military artefacts – a friend’s father collected them and I was generously given as many as I wanted to photograph for a weekend (thanks Andy). Quite an exciting challenge though I’m glad the police didn’t pull me over and inspect the boot of my car on the journeys there and back… It turned into one of the busiest weekends I’d had.

First a WW2 gas mask – I tried various lighting but this seemed to work best, split between light and shadow and rather disturbing.

00029075

Next is a cap badge of the 17th Lancers/Queen’s Royal Lancers – the motto led to the phrase ‘death or glory boys’ . Very graphic and quite fascinating!

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This one is a military sword, but the shadow adds something to the dynamic of the shot.

00029070

Finally a few bullets illuminated with tungsten light. Given a handfull of (deactivated) bullets, it’s surprisingly difficult to come up with a composition.00029069

As always these shots are taken for the book cover market, and all comments, critiques and questions are welcome.

Thanks for looking!