Right. Had it all figured out. Monday, mow lawn before it starts raining Wednesday.
Er, starts raining Tuesday.
Uh … didn’t even get the mower started before the sunshine turned to dark clouds and the rain began – on Monday.
So much for plans.
Now for other things.
This is the reason why I looked into longer lenses for the Canon (more on the Nikon at a later date). I had some fun looking at ‘bargain’ long lenses, reading and watching reviews. Well what do you expect from a $150 lens? Right. While the reviewers put their best faces on and try not to say anything bad … well one of the lenses bent noticeably in the middle like a wet noodle. Yeah, that’s quality build! *LOL* Some of what I looked at were mirror lenses. I had one once. Guess what? The laws of physics haven’t changed since then.
The apologetic reviews were about how you can fix the flaw in post, ’cause you know everyone is willing to spend hours correcting images that took a fraction of a second to make. Hmm. Might be easier to just draw the scene by hand on a piece of paper with a pencil.
Anyway … no new lenses. Oh and from when I started looking a week or so ago until this post the prices on every one went up about 33%. I make that 1700% annual inflation rate. You know, every time I go to the store at least $100 disappears and yet even in my feeble state I have no problem carrying the bag in.
Never mind. At least it isn’t snowing. That’s scheduled for tomorrow.
Could see the full moon eclipse Sunday due to clouds. This is half a moon taken with the big camera. Another reason why I want a longer Canon lens.
So it’s “play it by ear” from now on as I try to sort the many little and some not-so-little jobs of Summer into a scheduled fraught with rain.
The second subset of the Nikon replacement problem is a Duesy! The P610’s lens not only has incredible zoom range, but incredible sharpness as well. It can go from this:
In one go without changing lenses. There are about four new cameras available that can manage that, and two of them are Nikon’s ‘replacements’ for their P610 model. Both of these are fraught with problems, including having too much zoom – and too much price.
Honestly if I were to design a replacement for the P610 I would have made improvements like better manual focusing and a larger (not necessarily higher resolution but 20MP would be nice) sensor. Think about it: the P1000 has the equivalent of a 3000mm lens on it. Now if they were to use a 2.3 sensor (6.6 x 8.8) instead of a 1/2.3 sensor (4.55 x 6.17) that would still give 1500mm equivalent telephoto (much like the P610’s 1440mm) but double the sensor size (in square area) meaning it would be better in low-light conditions – even with more pixels on it. Oh I’d certainly also do something about that tiny, dim EVF as well. Imagine the marketing: “largest, brightest viewfinder yet!” Or something like that. Really, somewhere between the LCD panel which can’t be seen in broad daylight and the tiny EVF which I can’t see in any light there has to be a spot where there’s a way of viewing the scene properly under normal shooting conditions. It’s an electronic image; it can technically be any size and brightness you want it to be. One thousand pixels stuck in a hole 10mm across is not the answer.
Anyway with the P1000 and P950 dismissed, the other two new camera options are the Canon SX70 and the Panasonic FZ80. The latter has a touch screen I dislike and the the former is about 2 times the money. Both have their other flaws as well. You’re not getting me to part with hundreds of dollars for a camera that falls short of my needs, no matter how many cup holders it has. What is the point of buying any camera that is, to put it bluntly, unsuitable?
So let’s look at my existing cameras and lenses instead. They also fall far short of my needs, but the money has already been spent.
This one is obviously soft. On top of that, 300mm is short for bird photography and in no way close to the Nikon’s telescope-like abilities (even after the crop factor of 1.6). I could buy another of these lenses for about $150, but would it be any sharper? Maybe, but it certainly wouldn’t be any longer. There is an IS version as well which might help some with blur, but that one is $600+. If spending that kind of money I might as well get the Canon SX70 and have the truly long zoom range (65X), even if the finder is not as bright.
Focal length is the main issue here. It has got IS and does a good job, but even with the crop factor it’s only 400mm equivalent and that’s 1000mm shy of what the Nikon can do. Add a 2X lens extender you say? Forget it: that’s reduced resolution, more money spent, and 800mm still isn’t 1440mm. Again better to buy an entire new super zoom camera.
This is not as good as it looks. Mainly because it’s a cropped segment of the full image (at 100%) and because I was maybe 15 feet away from that bird. On the Olympus, 150mm is equal to 300mm for a full-frame camera because the 4/3 size sensor has a 2X crop factor. There is a longer zoom available for it, with maximum 300mm which is like 600mm. That might just about do it – for $400+ and the hassle of importing it from Japan. The Panasonic FZ80 is about the same money without the import issues and has longer range. What’s more, the E410 is an out-of-date camera with a fairly ‘low’ resolution of 10MP (making cropping problematic at times) and the lenses are not really, shall we say, ‘Nikon-sharp’. It’s a pity because there are things I like about this camera. If only Olympus hadn’t fallen for the bean-counters’ insistence on mirrorless designs they might today be building a modern 4/3 DSLR that would be worth buying.
If you’ve read enough of my posts you know I have a few ‘classic’ long range zooms from the film camera era as well. You also know that they are very large and very heavy – and not all that sharp. Probably the best of them is the Hanimex which is a Pentax K mount, meaning it only fits on my Pentax K100Ds – which has the lowest resolution sensor of all my cameras. None of these old lenses are a practical solution.
What is, then? Well, maybe this:
What on Earth is that? Me playing around with things: a totally different genre/shooting style that owes nothing to my wildlife photography but is far easier to achieve within budget (as in it costs nothing).
Not sure I like the prospect of no more long telephoto shooting.
Now we come to the last of the ten (usable) lenses I got in the great deal, the Asahi Pentax Super Takumar f3.5 135mm.
This is a lens I’ve wanted for a long time: it is the ‘missing’ member of the ‘standard trio’ of lenses for my Pentax Spotmatic 1000. Back in the day when I was using this as my main camera I managed to obtain a (radioactive) 35mm Super Takumar wide-angle to go with the 50mm standard lens, but could not afford the 135mm version. Instead I purchased a much cheaper 135mm f2.8 Vivitar, which I still have. Now through the good fortune of one deal I have the Pentax telephoto. There are longer Super Takumar lenses, and shorter ones too (I also have a 28mm), but the combination of 35-50-135 was considered a ‘proper kit’ of lenses in that age of film SLRs. There is also an f2.8 version of the 135mm, but that is not the one I have found.
So let’s see how well it works.
The next photo was taken on a cloudy day, yet contrast and colour are good. Sharpness is nothing to complain about either, and no sign of chromatic troubles. But let’s push the limits.
Now when we do the digital zoom thing we see sharpness falling off and chromatic troubles arise. Not as bad as some of the other lenses recently tested, though. But is this how the lens would typically be used?
If you don’t zoom in digitally everything is fine, especially in bright light when you can stop down to f8 (the ‘non-existent’ sweet spot for this lens). I shot quite a few ‘standard’ pictures and found it to be more than adequate under normal conditions.
Although 135mm is quite short for my usual photography I can see there are times when this lens would be just the right thing.
I rate this lens as very good. Even though the performance has some shortcomings, they only appear when it is pushed to perform under less-than-ideal conditions. What’s more the actual handling of the lens (focus and aperture rings) is the usual high-quality of Super Takumars, so I have no complaints on operation.
Well that’s the last of the ‘deal lenses’. Of course they were not all the equipment I got in the deal, but much of it really isn’t of any use to me. The question remains: was all of it together worth the money?
Notice I haven’t yet revealed how much I spent.
What did I get that I will continue to use? A couple of cases and three lenses: the 28mm Vivitar, the 58mm Helios, and this 135mm Super Takumar. Now, what is a lens worth?
One of the on-line sources I follow has posted a list of “the best M42 lenses for $150-$300”. That’s per lens, and even the low end is expensive by my standards. Okay, I’m a cheapskate. So what would you be willing to pay for any one of those lenses (assuming you wanted one of them)? Half the ‘starting price’ mentioned in the article (i.e. $75) perhaps?
How about $60 for the whole boiling?
Come to that, I’ve probably had that much money’s worth of fun playing with the lenses and other things.
And I intend to have more fun with some of it in the future.
(This in an age when people can’t understand the concept of effective focal length and wonder why their lenses aren’t physically that long, and “professionals” declare there’s no such thing as depth-of-field or aperture sweet spot.)
The lens extender is a laughingly simple concept: stick a magnifying lens on the back of your regular lens and voilà – you have a longer focal length!
They were very popular back in the film SLR days because they were the cheap alternative to buying a medium telephoto to complete your ‘kit’: you bought the camera with its ‘normal’ 50mm lens, a wide-angle lens of usually 35mm, and finally either a 135mm telephoto or for a lot less money a 2X lens extender that magically transformed your 50mm into 100mm. (Hey you could buy the 35mm lens, a 1.5X extender, a 2X extender, and a 3X extender and save even more money. But I guarantee you wouldn’t like the results at 315mm equivalent.)
This works, after a fashion. But as simple as the concept is there are some obvious built-in flaws. Obvious if you understand the basics of lens design, that is. For one thing the added magnification also increases any flaw inherent in the base lens. More so than if the same flaws were present in a lens manufactured as a longer focal length to begin with. For another the extenders add in their own flaws, both in terms of the quality of the product and the inescapable problems of their functional design.
Let’s discuss those. To start with they ‘use up’ light. Everyone knows that as you move a lens away from the image plane the amount of light available there decreases. You can demonstrate this with an extension tube. The principle can be expressed as the difference between an f stop and a t stop; with the tube or extender the f stop remains constant (focal length divided by aperture diameter) but the light on the film or sensor is less intense so compensation must be made. You see the opposite effect with so-called “speed boosters” which in essence are the inverse of an extender (a concave lens as opposed to a convex one) because they concentrate the light on the image plane. (Note you also don’t see the compounding of other problems with the speed boosters because they operate in the opposite direction, as it were. I should also point out that the purpose of speed boosters is mainly to reverse the “crop factor” effect of using less-than-full-frame sensors.)
The other major problem is that extenders refocus light that has already been manipulated to fall on the image plane in a certain way. As such the effort that went in to edge-to-edge sharpness in the lens is now challenged by being redirected in new pathways. This gets complicated because how severe the affect is on the final image depends not only on the quality of the extender itself but on the design and quality of the original lens. Thus extenders work better with some lenses than they do with others. For best results you’d use a high quality lens and extender from the same manufacturer that were meant to be used together. Even then “best results” may not be as good as using a lens that is the equivalent focal length in the first place.
Amongst the selection of accessories I recently acquired were two lens extenders (see first picture). One is a 2X Royal brand (on the right) which I never heard of, and the other is a 2X-3X Vincor brand (center) which I also never heard of. It doesn’t matter much because not only did I already have a 2X Vivitar (on the left) of fairly good quality but I don’t bother to use even that one due to the poor results as outlined by the above description of extender function.
The thing is, that 2X-3X Vincor is intriguing. It has a dial on it which shows the f-stop equivalent in a little window for a given aperture. It is not a fixed chart, but a stop-by-stop conversion shown one at a time. Odd, that. Odder still is that I can not see any way of shifting between the two magnifications. The lens within is spring-loaded and moves back to front and pops back instantly, but there is no apparent ring or lever or whatever to bring about this effect for when it is in use on the camera; it can not be made to stay in 3X mode. Either I am missing something obvious or it is. I would think it should be the one twist ring, but that has no means of affecting the position of the glass inside. In fact the scale revealed through the window changes to a different one for the 3X compensation when you move the lens, but not the other way around. I’ve had it apart and can see no sign of what mechanism is supposed to be employed to bring about the change in magnification.
Not that it matters as I’ll never use it, I’m just curious as to how it was supposed to work.
(By the way I had a 1.5X extender for my Exakta equipment. It too saw little use.)
The weather here remains abominable. We had more snow on Thursday and now the total is around 2 feet (about 60 cm). Temperatures remain below zero Fahrenheit (less than -18 Celsius). By the time you read this I will either be dead or out shooting more pictures. I sure haven’t been doing much photography in this weather! As such the lens testing series is on hold, which is a shame as it’s nearly complete and I’m sure you’ll all be glad when it’s over.
To kill time, then, I have been watching Youtube videos on various things, including photography. I always have an interest in what other people use and what they do with it. There have been some interesting finds, such as confirmation of my evaluations of certain equipment I have – some of which could have saved me money if only I’d seen them before purchasing. In one case this has worked because the other people’s testing of the Sony 55-210mm lens confirms it is not right for me. Others confirm the the much more expensive 70-350mm would be more suitable for my purposes. Oh well. That purchase isn’t going to happen.
While I’m going on about lenses, one recurring theme was people testing ‘very fast’ lenses, many of which produced the same disappointing results. The reports went along the lines of “here is the new [brand name] 50mm f1.1 lens!” (In some cases the maximum aperture was less than 1.) Followed by “wide open it is unacceptably soft.” One manufacturer even says in its promotional material that the lens will be soft at maximum aperture and better results will be obtained at f2.0 or smaller.
Well, then, what is the point of making it with a larger opening?
Understand the “f” value is a calculation of focal length divided by aperture diameter. In theory you could build a lens with a negativef value simply by making the lens hugely round and very short focal length (not really, of course; this is a joke). The “why we don’t do this” is hinted at in a lot of wide-angle lenses that are made.
But the point is, the whole reason for promoting a lens as “very fast” is to have a lens that is usable at such a low f value. If you have to stop your f0.95 lens down to f2.0 anyway in order to get a minimally acceptable picture, then putting that extra large diaphragm in it serves no function.
No, I tell a lie: it does serve a function. It fools people into thinking they are getting a better lens than they actually are. It’s hyperbole. It’s marketing. It’s organic fertilizer. Very much along the lines of “more megapixels = automatically better camera” and used in conjunction with the urban mythology that if you simply buy the “best” (i.e. most expensive) equipment your photography will magically improve.
Nope. Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. No way José. That’s not how it works.
While I’m ranting about lenses, can we please stop the pathological obsession with background blur? You know the word I mean. I won’t use it because it has not only become a cliché, but an unhealthy fixation wherein it is perceived as the be-all and end-all of lenses and images. Give it a rest. The function is a secondary aspect of composition, not the primary one.
Another thing I want to rant about is a certain photography couple who have a lot of money and even more arrogance (hey, I am allowed my arrogance; it comes built-in with my French heritage) and almost enough knowledge to know what they are talking about. Let’s say self-deprecating humour is not their strong suit. I wouldn’t mind so much if they were right all the time or even if they were wrong all the time, but they manage a mix-up with no apologies which grates across my nerves.
From these two we get such amazing revelations as “there is no aperture sweet spot” (something disproved by thousands of lens tests and which anyone can evaluate for themselves) and “there’s no such thing as depth-of-field”. Wow. Why did manufacturers put those little lines on all those lenses decade after decade then? And how come we can actually see the effect in our images? Come to that, I must be a sorcerer because I actually use this non-existent phenomenon to make sharp pictures at fixed focus points. Perhaps what they mean is “it’s not depth-of-focus” which is correct – and I have heard many people over the past half century inaccurately call it that.
To be fair, perhaps the whole problem is that this couple aren’t always expressing themselves clearly. Just to give them the benefit of the doubt. Anyway their style too is irritating to me, but if you like them by all means enjoy. And no I’m not just jealous because no manufacturers or anyone else is handing me free equipment and/or gobs of money. If you recall, I sort of did that the other way ’round myself a few years ago.
Are there any of these photography videographers that I like? Yes indeed. Here’s my top four:
Dave McKeegan Accurate, not annoying, and a nice Lancashire accent which some of you may have trouble with. (I don’t because I married a Lancashire Lass.) Seriously: this one.
Christopher Frost Nice, soft-spoken gent who knows his stuff and has a pretty wife to boot.
Arthur R A bit more raucous than the others, but not to his discredit. I appreciate that he uses a Sony a6000 often so there’s a bit of “common cause” for me. Also has a pretty wife.
Simon Another English gentleman with a real handle on classic lenses and their usage. Lots of info on the old glass.
There are quite a few others which are worth a look-in on occasion, including one lass who quite swiftly skewered Youtube videos in general and their absurd click-bait headlining nature. You know the bit: lots of superlatives, absolutes, exclamation marks, and exaggerated claims meant to get you to watch the video. I see these as a sort of warning to prospective viewers: if it says “TOP SECRETS YOU’RE DOING WRONG THAT THE PROS DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT!!!!!” that’s a sure sign it’s not worth watching.
Would I ever do videos? No. Can’t see it happening. Not even with a ton of up-front money. Besides which they are all pretty much lost in the vast sea of so much to see. As such there is little chance of success. And any that do manage respectable viewership numbers also get trashed by certain other (jealous) ‘channels’ out there that seem to exist just to try and make traffic off lies like “WHY THIS TOP YOUTUBER IS BEING SUED!!!!!” and “HOW MUCH MONEY SO-AND-SO REALLY MAKES!!!!!”
This entry is about a lens I’ve already had one of before. (Wow; that was an awkward sentence.) Back in the good ol’ days when film was the only option I had quite a kit of Exakta cameras and lenses, including an Exakta VX500 – which was the ‘low price’ version of the VX1000 – and it had one of these lenses on it: the Meyer Domiplan 50mm f2.8.
As such I thought I knew what to expect from this M42 edition, which was “not much”. The one I had on the Exakta was not particularly great, although in fairness that was in comparison to other lenses such as a Zeiss Tessar and a Meyer Primoplan (the one lens I regret not stuffing in my pocket and bringing home with me in 2018).
This one is noticeably better than the first one I had. Hurrah for that, eh?
Although obviously not the sharpest lens in the arsenal, it is certainly better than several of the others. But it is unspectacular. The contrast is a tad low, but the colour rendition is accurate and there’s no sign of chromatic aberration.
Over-all I’d rate it as “good”, but not “very good” – especially considering its small control rings are something of a pain to work. It is also an “automatic only” lens, meaning it won’t function properly on the Canon adaptor.
Right now it is serving as a “body cap” for the Pentax Spotmatic as I’ve confiscated that camera’s 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar for my shooting arsenal. But with a little effort it can make a decent photo:
(I’m not trying very hard with the photos because hey, it’s -35C and there’s 38cm of snow on the ground.)
In other news my wife is apparently stuck in England for a couple more weeks at least – we don’t know for sure as it is impossible to get a definitive answer about anything from anyone. She spent over 9 hours on hold with the airline one day, until she fell asleep. Other contact attempts have included her being cut off and her being hung up on. Gee, Westjet, you’re really helpful. Our government here has issued Orders, but no directions as to how they can be complied with. The province is at capacity for testing and can’t promise anything. Worst of all, everything is subject to change without notice.
Taking a break from lens testing to do a little lens testing.
You might have suspected that the Sony’s high resolution 24MP sensor is great for showing up any and all flaws a lens might have, and you’re right; it does.
What then would be the result of using the lowest resolution sensor I have available, the 6MP Pentax K100Ds? Not needing to reduce the image as much for “Internet size” pictures means you also can not increase it so much to spot the flaws. You can get away with a lot if you don’t look at a picture too closely!
As you can see if you don’t ask too much from a lens it can deliver something better than you expect. (All except the Sun Actinon, which still proves to be a very poor lens indeed.) In fairness, these images are not “straight out of the camera”; they have been processed, including ‘sharpening’, to achieve the best possible result with still a minimal amount of effort.
A little preamble: many of the lenses I’m trying out here are “pre-set” types where there is one ring to set the minimum aperture stop and a second ring to change between wide open and closed down to the selected number. Using them with ‘Aperture Priority’ mode on the Sony is easy and works well; I often just set the ‘stop’ ring to its limit (f16 or f22 for these lenses) and then just dial it in to where I get the depth of field or shutter speed I want. However with each lens I have tried to take at least one shot wide open so I can see how sharp it is at maximum aperture. This doesn’t always work in bright sunlight even with ISO set at 100 as the Sony’s top shutter speed is 4000. In some cases I’ve shot under lower light conditions just to have a look, but I don’t always include those shots.
The next lens in the line-up is the Cunor 200mm f4.5:
Once again we have a lens without any significant information about its manufacture. No worries, because results are what matter! Ah, shame about that. I wanted to like this lens because a 200mm prime could be useful. Not this one. I took pictures and then I took them over again. I checked the glass three times. Nothing helped. Particularly not the f4.5 maximum aperture. It takes a lot of glass and brass to make a ‘fast’ lens and this one hasn’t got it and isn’t. Herein I’ve tried to find the best shots it did in the equivalent of a whole roll of film.
Doesn’t look too bad, right? Now look at a 640×427 segment from the full size image:
It’s like that in every shot at any distance or aperture; soft to the point of blurriness. Combined with the ‘slow’ maximum aperture, slightly low contrast, and a somewhat stiff focusing ring and you have a lens I must rate as only ‘fair’. I am not surprised by this however, as I wasn’t expecting great results from a “no-name” brand lens. Colour rendition is okay if a bit muted and no sign of significant chromatic aberration.
With some effort you can get ‘artistic’ results:
(The last three shots were post-processed in many ways; the lens does not perform on its own.)
Oh well. Another ‘fair’ lens. We’re 0 for 2 so far.
And so we begin with the series testing the recently acquired M42 mount lenses. The criteria is simple enough; look for sharpness, contrast, chroma, and the very vague “ease of use”. I will post examples showing the characteristics of each lens, but not all of the pictures that contributed to the evaluation. The order of testing is based on my initial thoughts of expected outcome, starting with the likely lowest-quality lens and working up. There will be an “over-all” rating of each along the lines of “poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent”. I’m only expecting one lens to land in that ultimate category.
The camera is the Sony a6000. It could just as easily be the Canon T100 as either is capable of using the M42 mount lenses. For that matter so is the Pentax K100D, although the low resolution of that camera’s sensor as well as other factors make it a poor choice for this experiment. I am trying to do all the pictures alike, using fixed ISO 400 and aperture preferred metering (setting the f stop on the lens and letting the camera pick the shutter speed) to keep things ‘even’ across all attempts. I have cleaned the lenses, in some cases more than once, looked up such info as I could find about each, and did some preliminary shots to explore any potential operational problems.
The process is to take some “general scene” pictures near and far, as well as specific close-ups to check sharpness especially wide open. As mentioned above, not all images will be used in the reports. Also I must repeat that my eyesight is not the best and I have difficulty focusing, especially close where there is limited depth of field to compensate for inaccuracies.
So here we go with the first lens, the Opticam 135mm f2.8:
What can I say? I couldn’t find any solid information on this lens and I wasn’t expecting much from it. That’s exactly what it delivered, although over-all it turned out to be not the worst of the bunch.
I truly expected this lens to be a lot worse than it is. Although I don’t think I’ll be using it much and wouldn’t mind passing it on to someone who would, it still earns a rating of “fair to good”. I’m setting it aside for further testing, including trying it on the Canon and Pentax and, most importantly, comparing it to my other two 135mm M42 lenses.