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.

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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…..

_MG_1914_DxO2s

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).

_DSC0103_DxO2s

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.

_DSC0058_DxO2s

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!

_DSC0058_DxO2zm

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.

 

Still Quite Fast – Fuji Neopan Professional 400

As part of a series testing films which are faster than I’m used too (100 ASA essentially), the next one up is Fuji Neopan Professional 400. After testing the 100 ASA version of this film (here), the 400 ASA version should hopefully be as good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This was taken at a local Iron Age hillfort which floods between the ramparts after heavy rain. The landscape is quite surreal and a good location for some abstract landscapes. This is a very good start! Vivitar 17mm.

Physically the film exudes a high quality feel as the canister feels very robust – it’s quite difficult to prise it open when it comes to development. Efke films canisters used to just fall apart in the darkroom!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Another abstract shot round the other side of the hillfort. Vivitar 17mm.

The film loads very easily on to a film spiral – always a good thing – and usually a sign that film is well made.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This is something of a nice oddity from the start of the roll. There’s an area down the left extending over to the upper part of the shot which looks like a strange light leak into the canister. Not that I’m complaining – I like the effect. Zuiko 50mm f1.4 and soft (or mis-focussed!) wide open.

Exposed at its box speed these were taken on an Oly OM2N in aperture priority mode (I’m getting lazy!), adjusting exposure as necessary. Various lenses were used – if I can remember what they were I’ll put it in the caption!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 28mm f2

This one’s a bit of a test of DR (in digital speak). Shadow detail is lost to preserve most of the highlights with the sun behind the obelisk. The film has coped well here – again very good. Zuiko 28mm f2 closed down to f11 .

Developed in D76 stock for 7 minutes (these were taken in contrasty conditions so 30 seconds were taken off the recommendation) the results look pretty good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at f11 – nice and sharp and a good range of tones.

An enlargement of the centre portion :-

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This grain for a 400 ASA film is excellent – if I didn’t know I’d guess this was a 100 ASA film.

There hasn’t been any dust spotting or ‘dust and scratches’ correction on these negatives so it looks like it’s resistant to gathering dust when drying. This makes it’s use worthwhile just on it’s own and is quite remarkable!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Close up (well ‘ish’), 50mm f1.4 blurring the winter background away. The range of tones captured is excellent again.

Unfortunately if you like the look of this stuff and want to cheat with DXO Filmpack you can only approximate the look with something like Acros 100 as there is no profile for this film – on my installation anyway – so a direct comparison isn’t possible here.

Oddly enough the conclusion of this test isn’t what I was expecting to write at all. This is virtually indistinguishable from 100 ASA film which makes it a useful film for use in the winter when the light is low. Unfortunately I’m currently trying to get more grain in my shots so it didn’t quite do what I wanted! I’ll try pushing a roll a few stops and use Rodinal or Neofin Blue on the next roll to see if I can coax some grain from this excellent film.

So highly recommended – unless you’re after some grain! Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

Zuiko 50mm F1.4 on a 5D Mk2

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

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

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

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

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

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

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

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

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

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

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The full test frame.

At f1.4 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f1.4 centre crop

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f1.4 edge

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

At f2.8 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

2.8 centre

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

2.8 edge

No problems here.

At f5.6 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f5.6 centre

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f5.6 edge

Or here…

At f11 :-

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f11 centre

Canon 5dMk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

f11 edge

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

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

Canon 5dMk2 24-105mm L f4

Canon 5dMk2 24-105mm L f4

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

Canon 5d Mk2 Zuiko 50mm f1.4

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

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

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

Hope you find this useful – thanks for looking.

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!

Adox CHS100 II – Initial Impressions

Last April I used my last roll of Adox CHS film (the 50 asa version, article here), a film with a long history which produced soft, subtle images with an ‘old school’ look. Ten months later I’ve finally got round to testing it’s replacement – CHS100 II. The 100 asa version replaces the 25, 50 and 100 asa versions of the discontinued emulsion.

chs2_08b

A very good start – exactly the same ‘look’ as the old version.

Adox have worked hard to reproduce the characteristics of the original, updating certain materials and producing it in a more modern facility (the reason the factory closed and the film discontinued, was in part down to the age of the machinery and the costs of keeping it running). Adox’s page about the film is here.

Physically the film now has a PET base making it easier to use, get on a film spiral etc. The old emulsion was so delicate that at 25 degrees C it separated from the base, and very gentle development was required, rolling (rather than inverting) the tank during development. No such restrictions apply to the modern film – it’s very easy to handle and process. A major improvement is how little dust is attracted to the drying negatives. The old version’s soft emulsion attracted so much dust that I gave up scanning a few rolls as the post-processing would have been tortuous. The 35mm cassette is also better made – the metal ‘end caps’ were often worryingly loose on the old film.

chs2_06s

Subtle greys – what this film excels at.

This first roll was shot on an OM2N in Swanage in Dorset at the box speed of 100 asa using a Zuiko 50mm 1.4 and a 28mm f2 (mainly at f5.6 to f8). The film was developed in stock Ilford ID11 for six minutes. A note for users of stock developer – this film gives the developer a yellow colour rather like indicator stop bath. I don’t think it’s a problem, but I’ll know when I develop the next roll! The scanner was a Plustek 7500 using an APX25 film profile with just resizing in photoshop. I tried an ‘auto levels’ but it made no visible difference.

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Here’s the test shot for the ‘pixel peeping’ (should be ‘grain peeping’ really).

The grain is unusual, being a bit larger than I’d expect for a 100 asa film, but soft and not intrusive.  This was developed in ID11/D76 – whether this would be the case with using Rodinal is something I’d need to test – I’d expect sharper results but harder grain.

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The central portion of the above image.

To some readers these may appear to lack contrast, as we’ve become used to a contrasty, modern digital rendering of the world. However, it seems to me that this isn’t the point of this film (though you can always play in photoshop to increase contrast if you want to!). What this film does extremely well is reproduce a mid 20th century film emulsion, and the look associated with it. Where a wide range of subtle mid tones is required, this is hard to beat. In larger formats it’s going to be superb.

So – thanks for looking, and hope you find this useful. I should also thank Adox for plugging a gap in a film photographer’s film choice!

Bits of Autumn So Far

Here are a few stills from Autumn so far – not that many but there you go.

Though it looks pleasant this was taken last Saturday before the storm which swept in on Sunday/Monday morning and it was pretty windy. The cliffs are Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks. Canon 60D, 70-300mm, processed from RAW in DXO Optics 9 (which is superb by the way!).

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Postbox Dorset Ballard Down Old Harry Rocks

Here’s the RNLI Lifeboat making headway against some heavy seas – a small enlargement from the centre of the frame, taken from the cliffs at Durleston.

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Lifeboat RNLI

Next a quieter day – but some nice colours through a Zuiko 50mm f1.4 on the 60D. I say the 60D, but there are now two in the camera bag. As the 70D has come out the 60D is really cheap – at least by comparison to it’s price three years ago. I really like this camera’s balance and features, so rather than upgrade, I just got another one. With results this good it seemed like a good idea.

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Canon 60D 50mm f1.4 Autumn Bench

Finally a bit of an odd one and I’m not sure if I really like it or not – a Dorset cottage path with some fallen apples. Zuiko 50mm f1.4 again – this is rather an addictive lens…

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Canon 60D 50mm f1.4 Cottage Autumn

So, a vague Autumn theme. The next post should have something a bit more coherent!

In the meanwhile thanks for looking, hope you like them.