1Ds with 28mm

The weather has gone lousy again so it looks like photo shoots stop for a while. Of course it could all turn around tomorrow: it does that at this time of year. Still not clear enough to go to the cabin, but maybe next week? We’ll see.

In the meantime I took a few shots with the 28mm f3.5 Super Takumar on the Canon 1Ds. This is not my favourite lens for this camera. It works fine and is plenty sharp of course, but it doesn’t ‘fit’ right in terms of taking pictures. In fact the lens-body combinations that work best (to my eye) are the 50mm on the full-frame 1Ds, the 35mm on the Pentax K100s, and the 28mm on the Canon T100 (the last two are APS-C sensors with 1.5 and 1.6 crop factors respectively). Not really a surprise as that’s as close to ‘normal’ lens/body combinations as you can get with these equipment choices.

So let’s see the pictures.

Dead rose hips. Square format for purposes of composition.
Hat tree chain saw carving made by my friend Lorne. Remember digital doesn’t have to have rigid dimensions.
Detail of the carving showing the woodpecker peeking out.
Marley napping. This is a segment of full-frame to see how well it stands up to magnification. Okay.
Winter colour. The tones of this camera are subtle.
Sit, Marley! Checking the dynamic range which is good.

A quick on-line check shows the shutter count on this camera is less than 31,000 – which means it will probably outlast me since they are supposedly good to 150k.

I have yet to try this out on night photography due to lack of weather co-operation. We have already got to the point where you have to stay up ’til 10:00 PM to get a truly dark sky, and that will get worse as we near the Summer solstice and get almost 16 hours of daylight!

There are only two things I don’t like about this camera. The first is the weight, which is enough to relegate it to studio-only work. I can’t imagine even a young photographer gaily toting this 3.5 lbs. body plus lenses over hill and dale. Sure, I’ve handled heavier cameras but that was when there was no choice. It makes me wonder if this wasn’t the driving force behind mirrorless design; all for the sake of weight!

The second issue is the controls are pretty badly thought-out. Many of the most-used items (like ISO) are stupidly complex to operate or are in dumb locations. That big turning wheel on the back for selection is absolutely moronic: four simple arrow buttons like everyone else uses would be infinitely better. The major selections for operation are again stupidly done, where a simple PASM dial would be welcome. Even the ON/OFF switch is poorly located. I think no photographer was involved in the design. For my purposes this isn’t a major issue because I usually “set and forget” things in advance – a particular camera has a particular job and doesn’t get altered from the best settings for that job. The exception to this is the ‘experiment’ camera (Canon T100) which suffers all sorts of changes depending on the experiment of the time.

Otherwise I like the larger sensor size for giving exactly what was expected of it. I don’t see it as the miracle solution for bad photography it is often subliminally touted as – by the same people who think more megapixels cures the same problem. I still haven’t tried it for astro or landscape really, and that’s what I really want to do with it. I don’t think I’ll be buying any more lenses for it specifically, other than in so much as the T100 also takes EF lenses.

Time will tell.

6 with the 35

Struggling to find anything like light around here lately, but at least I did clean the sensor on the Canon 1Ds! These were taken with that camera on manual, using the 35mm f2 Super Takumar.

Camera Decision says this camera is no good for landscapes. I disagree.
First shot was looking West down my road, this one is looking East.

Okay the landscapes themselves aren’t very good pictures, but there’s nothing wrong with how the camera captures them.

Big rock in my front yard. You can do a lot of photos with this rock.
Berry close up. That lens is very sharp, like the other two Takumars I have are.

That’s a segment of the full-size image of the berry, by the way. So much for the “11MP is very low resolution” crowd.

A section across the road. The colours from this camera are not the rich, saturated tones of the T100 but I like them anyway. Very realistic.
Subtle, moody shades. More artistic than what I usually shoot.

Next for this camera I will try the 28mm f3.5 Super Takumar. I am debating buying additional lenses for this camera because I’ve come across a deal on a couple, and I find I like the camera fairly much – aside from the absolutely idiotic controls arrangement. No photographer was consulted on the layout of them, obviously.

I will be ordering a larger CF card because this “ten picture limit” is driving me nuts. I can’t really go out in the field and shoot a “whole roll of film” because of the storage limitations.

Not possible to get out to the cabin yet as snow and ice is still all around and keeps coming back. I have q few pictures taken with the Nikon P610 to share, and a photo shoot ‘job’ to do this week. Who knows; maybe the sun will shine long enough to capture it.

Mini Manual Manual

Being basically lazy, I rely heavily on automatic settings. Hey, I paid for ’em so I’m gonna use ’em right? Besides which my eyesight isn’t that great so autofocus is a must.

Except when I’m using classic lenses, which don’t hook up to today’s automation technology.

It is then that I fall back on 50+ years of being behind a camera (any one of hundreds), and go “full manual”. This means “pre-setting” everything, and then hoping for the best. If you can judge the light and the distances it usually works (we didn’t always have light meters and rangefinders, you know). Here’s how to do it, in as brief a lesson as I can manage.

1). Set ISO. The only rule for this is that higher numbers mean more noise, the digital equivalent of grain. Otherwise it’s a matter of choosing your favourite film speed, or in this case as close as possible. I’m picking on the Pentax K100DS for this experiment, and it only goes down to 200. Ordinarily I’d use 100.

ISO set to 200 because there is no 100 on the camera.

2). Set shutter speed. There are two rules-of-thumb about this. The first is the “exposure rule”, wherein shutter is set to “1/ISO” or as close as possible. In this case 1/250. The second is the “image stabilizer rule” wherein the shutter is set to “1/focal length” (or higher) to minimize blur problems with long focal length lenses. Since I’m using the Pentax Super Takumar 35mm f2, this isn’t an issue. Thus we go back to rule #1. Now if you plan on shooting things in motion, the high speed shutter rules apply and you may have to go even higher than you would ordinarily as it’s all relative. This means you might crank the ISO up another stop or two as well. Remember that 1 stop increase in ISO is double the current number, and for these APS-C cameras 800 is about the upper limit for acceptable results regardless of what they can be set to. (Me thumbing my nose at manufacturers’ ridiculous claims.)

Camera on ‘M’, shutter at 1/250.

3). Set lens. This is the big one. This is where the trickery comes into play. That ‘trickery’ is depth-of-field, which enables sharp (or sharp-ish) imagery before and beyond the actual focal point. So we start by closing the aperture as much as possible, which on this lens is f16. Yes I know it’s all the rage to shoot wide open all the time these days. That’s just so much dingo’s kidneys. This full manual trick will not work at maximum aperture because there’s almost no depth-of-field available – we’re looking for exactly the opposite of the blurred background effect that’s so popular today it has become a cliché. The second half of this part is setting the focus to where infinity is at one edge of the D-O-F scale for the aperture. On this lens that’s about 8′ (2.5M), giving a range of sharpness from around 4.5′ (1.4M) to infinity.

Setting aperture and focal point to give maximum range of sharpness.

Now we can take pictures. These are corrected for exposure (under-exposed is your friend for digital; over-exposed is just an uncorrectable loss), white balance (including in this case negating the thorium yellowing of the lens glass), and then reduced to ‘Internet size’.

Bleak tree. I finally got all the crud off the sensor!
Eight feet from the Whale, the actual focus point.
Closest focus possible. Image is sharp!
Not framed: I just held the camera up to the roof and pushed the button. You can see the range of sharpness here.
Close up and cropped in, Marley’s image is sharp.

A couple of notes: bright light is your friend for this procedure. There was some variable cloudiness that effected the available light on these pictures. I did not change the settings, I just compensated in post-processing (sometimes as much as 2 stops). You can adjust the aperture in the field if you want to, but remember it will alter the depth-of-field and you may lose sharpness where you want it. Longer focal length lenses have less D-O-F for a given aperture and don’t work as well with this trick. Also if you want to focus closer you can, but you have to remember to switch back when you return to scenic shooting.

Some people may think this is a silly thing to do, as it basically turns an expensive DSLR into a box camera. But frankly I have no sharper modern lenses than these old Takumars, and some that are much worse. Other people may be a bit miffed to find they don’t need all the fine complexity of the modern digital camera to turn out halfway-decent photos. And didn’t I myself once say I paid for those auto functions so they better work? Yet here I am not using them. Sometimes, at least.

BONUS SECTION!

I said I’d compare the Pentax K100DS 6MP to the Canon T100 18MP (both APS-C size sensors), and here are those shots:

Barn shot #1
Barn shot #2

Taken with the same ISO, the same exposure, the same focus, in fact with the same lens (the 35mm f2 Super Takumar) switched from one body to the other. Slight adjustment to white balance for each to rectify exposure but nothing else. Both shrunk from their native size to “Internet size”, with no cropping. Go ahead: try and figure out which picture came from which camera.

K100DS at 500-ish pictures

Believe it or not, I’ve almost got all the dirt off the Pentax K100DS sensor. Only “almost” though, as it seems every time I’ve scrubbed one bit away another appears. At the moment there is still a small dot in the lower right. So far I’ve gone through half of a cleaning ‘kit’, or about six swabs and an ounce of methanol. This in addition to a lot of air, some isopropanol, and regular lens cleaner & swabs. Maybe I should have started with a shovel.

Meanwhile the autofocus has gone from working occasionally to not functioning at all. I’ve also used up two sets of AA batteries. If I ask myself objectively “is this camera worth it?” I have to answer “no”. True it can produce some good pictures (with a lot of effort) but so will my other cameras – with a lot less effort. With a ‘success rate’ of around 2% at best, the infamous “Mystery Camera” is destined for a shelf somewhere.

In the meantime, here’s some scenery shot with it. Some have had the spots retouched, but the last one hasn’t.

Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4

Lens used was the 50mm f1.4 Super Takumar, all manual settings.

I should do a piece on how I preset for ‘all manual’. I also want to do at least one comparison shot between this APS-C camera (1.5 crop factor) and the other, the Canon T100 (1.6 crop factor), using the same lens (Super Takumar 35mm f2 which is close to ‘normal’ for this format) and settings on both to show how the sensors compare (6MP vs. 18MP).

Maybe after I clean the sensor. Again.

Mystery Camera Revealed!

Pentax K100D Super!

Yes that’s the camera I’ve been using to make all those fuzzy, spotty pictures with. At long last I’ve got an adapter to put the old Super Takumar lenses (specifically the 35mm which is a ‘normal’ FL on this camera) on it in place of the truly awful 18-55mm Pentax DA that came with it. Of course it can only be used on manual with the old lenses, but the auto exposure is usually wrong and the autofocus doesn’t work anyway so …

A raven, of course.
Rich colours. Finding camera settings that worked well took some experimentation.
Fallen ice.
Snow gnome’s hat.
Bleak tree.
Testing with the Vivitar 135mm.

There are still a few spots on the sensor:

Most noticeable spots.

Some of these images have been post-processed a bit beyond size adjusting, including sharpening, white balance, exposure correction, and cropping. This was about getting the best out of it, as the worst it can do is easy to achieve: out of 400+ images I’ve taken with this since the start, about 20 are any good at all. It’s been getting better as I managed to get a lot of the dirt off the sensor and switch to a lens that isn’t fuzzier than a bear, but still not a good record (we’re talking image quality only here, not composition issues).

I’m not sure if I’ll try another cleaning or not. The camera has some good aspects, but it has a lot of flaws as well. These are mostly due to age and misuse although some are design issues. On the whole I prefer slightly more MP resolution even though a shrink shots way down all the time. Plus it seems a shame to have automatic features and not be able to use them. Overall the Olympus E-410 was a better buy.

I am now holding out for a full-frame Canon as that is a camera which will actually add to my repertoire (low-light and landscape images).

Forty millimeters

In an odd detour of my “Master Plan” I have purchased a Canon 40mm EF ‘pancake’ lens. I wanted to see if a prime/EF lens was sharper than a zoom/EF-S lens, and I came across this one for about half the price of a new one. 50% off is always a good deal. Unfortunately the weather has not been good for picture taking lately, so I only have a few test shots to evaluate it with. If the sun ever shines again I’ll try and do some comparisons with the short zoom/EF-S (18-55mm). EF-S lenses are made specifically for the crop sensor cameras and do not work well on the full-frame ones (vignetting). They are cheaper, smaller, lighter, and not as well made. The EF lenses work with either sensor size, but of course cost more. Sometimes a lot more.

My first comment has to be: “What were they thinking with that focal length?” On the APS-C camera it’s slightly telephoto at 64mm equivalent. On a full-frame camera it would be slightly wide-angle. Really 5mm less would have made more sense (56mm on the crop sensor, 35mm on the full-size). As it is I found myself backing up and backing up and backing up more when I took this ‘standard shot’ of the cabin. I wasn’t quite standing in the lake, but it was a near thing. I have taken this same view numerous times with wide-angle and regular lens focal lengths, so the telephoto effect is noticeable to me.

Need to back up a ways to fit the whole cabin in.

The critical test of a lens is how sharp it is. You can always make an image softer, but you can’t make it sharper. I fell back on my favourite subject for lens sharpness evaluation, the thorny wild rose stem.

Full image of the wild rose stem.
640×427 crop of full-size image. Note the grain rather than blotchiness.

Here we see that when you go to 100% the edges fall off not to blur but to the ‘grain’ of the sensor, just as it would be with a film camera. This is the effect we want to see. I’d rate this lens as ‘very good’ for sharpness. Certainly above the two Canon zoom/EF-S lenses I have, but perhaps not as sharp as the Pentax Takumars.

The focus on it is fast and accurate, except in low-light conditions (only full-size sensors really handle low light conditions well). Much faster than the Tamron and possibly a little faster than either of the Canon zooms I have. There are a couple of factors in this, one being the simpler single focal length design and the other being the sharper glass.

This image amuses me.

There is still the matter of colour rendition. This is where the testing conditions were not ideal so I can’t say for certain how good it is. It is clearly acceptable, but without bright light the colour temperature is off and we don’t know how ‘true’ it is.

On the trail.

A hidden yet visible advantage of this lens is how compact it is. True the focal length is limited to 40mm which doesn’t fit with my usual shooting regime, but for use with the ‘experiment camera’ it offers the advantage of being easily carried and donned/doffed which makes it simple to use as a ‘light meter’ to double check my intuitive settings when taking pictures with the purely manual classic lenses. Even the short zoom is a bit of a nuisance to carry just for that purpose.

One small step for a man …

I hope to take some more images with this in sunlight as so far it’s fairly impressive.

As for the rest of the Master Plan, it’s in abeyance. Someone else bought the bargain Sony HX350 and I don’t have a spare $680+ to buy the used Canon 5D with. I shall have to bide my time and see what, if any, other opportunities arise.

BTW, the photos in this series follow the week: the cabin taken Tuesday, the rose Wednesday, the truck & dog Thursday, and the footprint Friday. That’s how the weather has been!

Canon (snap) shots

These are some photos I took in the rare sunshine the other day, using the Canon T100 and Super Takumar 35mm lens. This is part of testing whether or not that focal length would be a good ‘prime’ for me before I shell out hundreds of dollars on a coupled automatic lens. As it is, with the old lens exposure is ‘guestimated’ and focus is manual – and every shot has to be post-processed to remove the thorium yellowing (which also affects the sharpness and contrast).

You can see that with just using auto white balance correction there is still some colour shift. I found decreasing the yellow in the images all by itself also worked, but at the occasional expense of the actual image tone.

Anyway I need to shoot some more varied scenes before I decide if it’s worth getting a new lens in that range. The old lens looks best in B&W:

dogshade
Shadow of the Dog

That’s picture #5, square cropped and desaturated to monochrome.