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 Few Abstract Landscapes

The chalk downland between Dorset and Wiltshire is a superb location for photography. The gently rolling ploughed fields produce some hypnotic patterns which are the subject of this weeks post (well most of it). All shot on an Oly EpL5 using the basic 40-150 f4-5.6 kit lens which is excellent given it’s price and light weight and pretty sharp one stop down from it’s modest maximum aperture.

EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

To get that ‘flattened perspective’ the long end of the telephoto zoom range is needed – not normally considered a landscape focal length, but as some readers may have noticed, on this blog it’s all about breaking those classical photographic rules to achieve a ‘different’ result (or maybe just being contrary)…

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

To further enhance the abstract effect, monochrome has been used, and to maximise contrast the Oly’s ‘Dramatic Tone’ and some heavy post processing has been ‘inflicted’ on these images.

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset zuiko

The jpeg’s straight out of the camera are already heavily stretched across a broad tonal range, so they’re quite ‘brittle’ during post processing. The worst side effect is a tendency to see heavy banding in the sky so careful exposure is required (it’s just visible in the shot above).  This is usually only seen in clear blue skies, but with a 300mm equivalent lens to play with (150mm on micro four thirds), just cheat and don’t include too much sky…

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

These lines of trees have yielded some good images in autumn – looks like they’re also quite photogenic in winter too.

Olympus EPL5 40-150 f4-5.6 Wiltshire Dorset dramatic tone zuiko

Next one of those odd ones which I quite like but I’m not sure why. The two trees frame the distant view,  and the dramatic tone effect has given a lightening effect around the trunks. The bokeh produced by the little 40-150mm Zuiko is quite good too!

Finally – one not in the slightest way connected with abstract landscapes but I thought I’d throw it in anyway just for fun :-

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This looks like a grad filter effect but it’s a result of that dramatic tone doing odd – but very good – things….

Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

 

p.s. if you like this effect, have a look at this WordPress photo blog (he’s rather taken with ‘Dramatic Tone’ too!) – Postcard Cafe.

Even More Dramatic Tone on an Oly EPL5

This ‘Dramatic Tone’ phase in a dark cloudy winter is hopefully over soon! Overcast is an uninspiring light source at the best of times so any useful technique helps. A recent trip to Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay in Dorset (UK) provided a chance to use it again.

Tyneham – a village taken over by the army and never returned to the previous owners (the Bond family). The Bond’s family motto ‘The World is not Enough’ was used as a Bond film title.

This isn’t just a gimmick – it’s genuinely (commercially) useful at those times of the year when light is limited and flat and you need to inject some drama into an otherwise bland scene. ‘In Camera’ effects are often criticised for being a bit crass – the ‘Dramatic Tone’ is genuinely useful in black and white if used carefully, so I beg  to differ.

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A published book cover (Arcangel Images/Rob Lambert) using this technique!

Corfe Castle shot from the south. The original was pretty dreary but this is good.

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Corfe Castle – a remarkable range of tones for a winter landscape, shot with the 40-150mm kit lens.

Finally, a shot of an old farm building near the coast, inhabited by some wind battered trees.

Using the 14-42mm kit lens. The remains of a farmstead on the way to Worbarrow Bay.

Thanks for looking – hope you like these!

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.

Latest Roll of Adox CMS20

Too much messing around with digital lately – time to return to film. This set is from the last roll for Adox CMS20 – shot at 12 ASA it’s perfect for brighter days where you want to achieve a shallow depth of field.

All shots on an Olympus OM2N – mainly as it has a 12 ASA ISO setting which makes things easy… Developed in the recommended Adotech II developer for a bit less than the recommended time (8 mins rather than 8.5 mins), Ilford stop bath for 30 seconds then the rather unnerving 45 seconds in Ilford fixer.

This first one is slightly blue toned, shot on the Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at f4 – just enough to give a nice blur to the bridge in the background.

Next – the remaining river bank supports left standing after the winter floods. Maybe a bit more contrast ?

Finally a real surprise – the lighting in this unspotted scan is really odd – as if there was a light source shining on the gate. I suppose it was light reflecting from the gravel path but I’m not complaining!

As usual, the grain is almost invisible even at maximum magnification – easily out classing a Plustek 7500 film scanner. Excellent stuff!

All shots for the book cover market – thanks for looking and hope you like them!

Some more Adox CHS20 Developed in Adotech

After sorting out some problems with a very unwell PC, this one comes from the new one – which is working well – at least so far.

These were all taken on the latest roll of Adox CHS20, developed in the recommended Adotech developer at 12 ASA in an OM2N with various Zuiko lenses. The extremely slow speed of this film allows the use of fast primes wide open even in quite bright conditions – and it would be a shame to waste such an opportunity!00325928

The range of tones captured in the flaking paint is wonderful – they’re green ‘in colour’.

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A gate and the opportunity using the 85mm f2 to blur the background away.00325914

Same gate – different angle .00325913

Finally some rather odd bokeh from the Zuiko 50mm f1.4. It keeps surprising even after 20+ years.00325910

The next roll will be developed in Rodinal – if anything results I’ll let you know!

Thanks for looking – hope you like them.

A Few More Adox Silvermax Samples

(Five images). This time in better lighting conditions! The previous shots were all taken on overcast days, so a bright  weekend and a few hours by the coast was the obvious excuse to burn off another roll. These are all straight off the scanner using the Agfa APX100 film profile, which after some messing around seems the best one. All the shots are from one roll, shot at box speed using an Olympus OM2N and developed in Ilford ID11 stock.

First one and a dynamic range challenge which the film has coped with very nicely. Zuiko 28mm lens.

smax_07

This larger portrait oriented shot shows how little grain there is and how well this film/developer combination works. Zuiko 85mm lens.

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This is the best of the lot – shot on a Vivitar 17mm lens, the range of tones for a bright day is impressive.

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Next – a  ‘torture test’ – deep shadow and bright sky, but excellent result again.

smax_11

This was a bit out of the DR range of any film or non-HDR digital image – the sky a few stops past rendering any detail, but the rest is fine.

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The bright light shots from this film confirm the claims Adox make – the extra silver content seems to be making a real difference. I’m really impressed – and now need some more rolls….

The seaside shots at Kimmeridge Bay, and the church is in Kingston nearby in case anyone’s interested (Dorset UK).

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!