When 50(mm) is 80(mm)

In continuing my ‘practising’ with the Canon T100, I shot the next series of images using the 50mm f1.8 Canon EF lens. There were a large number of pictures that weren’t any good. This was due not only to the usual factors, but also because I don’t normally shoot in that focal range (equivalent to 80mm on a 135 film camera). Also, the weather was grey much of the time and when you shoot on a grey day you get grey images. But here are the very few that turned out acceptable.

Scenery #1
Scenery #2
Lone cone
Bird on a branch
Clouds of fluff
Bird in the clouds

This lens is better on the Canon 1Ds (full frame) where the focal length is ‘normal’ and both are well-suited to landscape photography.

In the past couple of weeks I have passed on some equipment offered because I figure if I can’t make use of what I’ve got there’s no sense in getting more. I will be shooting additional ‘practice’ shots with the T100, utilising the short-range zoom and some adapted fixed focal length manual lenses (the Super Takumars mainly). I still have a great deal of difficulty using the viewfinder, even though it is much larger and brighter than the EVF on the old Nikon P610. This has nothing to do with the camera, and everything to do with my failing vision. Perhaps I should try firing blindly around me with a wide-angle lens and see how that goes. Probably wouldn’t be any worse than trying to take pictures on purpose.

I have also dug out the Sony A6000. Originally I intended to try and sell it again, but failing that I might as well see if I have any more luck shooting with it. It’s smaller and lighter, which has both advantages and disadvantages. It also adapts old lenses more readily, which is good because Sony E lenses are very expensive. But these days, what isn’t?

Another boring lens test post

Okay, I bought a Canon 50mm f1.8 EF lens. I would not have done so if a 40% off the lowest regular price around sale had not come up. I especially would not have done so if I’d known about the unexpected $250 in vet bills that came up afterwards or the unexpected $186 in other expenses or the price of gasoline going back over $2 per litre. Let’s face it; if we could see the future we’d all win the lottery.

But it seems every Canon owner has one of these lenses so … why not me? Just how good is it anyway?

50mm on the 1Ds.
40mm on the 1Ds.

The quality is almost identical to the 40mm ‘pancake’, and indeed it’s not much bigger. For general shooting, both are ‘good’ but neither are ‘excellent’. In fact not only does the classic Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 utterly destroy them in sharpness, the venerable Nikon P610 is also noticeably better (when it actually manages to get a correct focus lock, which is rare these days). This is the sort of thing that makes me want to try a Nikon DSLR.

Now let’s see the two lenses on the crop sensor Canon T100 (from the same place):

40mm on the T100 – about 64mm equivalent.
50mm on the T100 – about 80mm equivalent.

(You may notice the T100 overexposes and the colours are not as rich.)

How is the 50mm for really close-up sharpness?

On the T100 – notice focus did not lock in the right place.
Segment of 100% image at the sharpest area.

Of course these were taken wide-open to give it the toughest test. Again, it’s good but not excellent. Frankly I expect better from Canon. Oh I get it: you’re supposed to spend the big money and buy their top quality lenses instead of spending reasonable amounts and getting mediocre results. That’s another shoot-yourself-in-the-foot strategy from Canon, which goes with their no-third-party-RF-series-lenses announcement. They don’t seem to get the idea of “brand = reputation” and that people will accept lower quality from ‘off-brand’ makes at lower prices but won’t accept lower quality from ‘name brand’ makes at any price. (I have seen this failed marketing strategy before, as in when certain car makers introduced junky low-priced cars to ‘compete’ with the import makes when all they wanted was to get people into showrooms and talk them into higher priced, higher profit vehicles.)

So it’s not the best lens, but can you take a good picture with it?

Evening sky with the 50mm on the 1Ds. No adjustments other than sizing.
Fuzzy seeds with the 50mm on the T100. Cropped and sharpened.

Yes, I guess so. Although it seems to work better on the 1Ds (full frame) than on the T100 (crop sensor). The ‘medium’ focal length afforded by the 1.6 factor on the APS-C camera puts the lens in a range I don’t normally use. Frankly it’s a little disappointing over-all, like every purchase I’ve made lately.

Anyway … Once this holiday weekend is over it’s on with the wood harvest (a couple more loads at most) and then close up the cabin for the season.

Marley finds lens testing boring.

Analysis Part 3: handling

To start with, I looked up the average size of an adult male’s hand and checked several sources for confirmation. It’s about 19cm (7.5″) from wrist to tip of middle finger. Thus my hands are actually normal size, and not gigantic as so many of the tiny devices in our lives today have led me to believe. This doesn’t really change things, though.

Over-all, ‘handling’ is a highly subjective criterion. Gripping the camera easily is surely the main part, and secondary to that would be the controls falling into place where those most frequently needing changing would be readily accessible. This is somewhat (but not very much) standardized across camera makes and models these days, with only the occasional “gotcha!” cropping up to ruin the experience. Your actual mileage may vary, as the saying goes. So let’s look at me gripping my cameras and discuss some other minor details.

The ‘camera to beat’: Nikon P610

I generally have no trouble holding this camera or operating its controls (except when they stop working). The grip area measures about 4″, which is a little shy of accommodating the whole hand but does take up more than half. I’m pretty comfortable with it. My major complaint about the controls is that ISO is buried in the menu settings instead of being a dedicated knob or at least easily-accessed adjustment. There may be some way of programming that, but even if so I’d never remember where it is. I don’t like “programmable” buttons for that reason. If you only have one camera or multiples of exactly the same camera you might remember which button is set to do what, but … not me.

Second best: Canon T100

As you can see it’s a little smaller handful than the Nikon, despite having a larger sensor and generally being about the same body size. The ‘finger grip’ in front simply doesn’t stick out as far. Still very usable, and some of the small controls are more sensible on this camera. Of course there’s no zoom control because of the detachable lenses. The ‘PASM’ dial, which also serves as the on/off switch, on top is fine. The ISO access button on the back is okay. Adjusting shutter speed or aperture when in the respective ‘preferred’ mode is also okay with the thumb dial, but I do prefer actual dedicated controls.

Getting difficult: the Olympus E410

I like using this camera. It has the build and ‘feel’ of a 35mm SLR. But holding it is something of a challenge. There’s almost no ‘finger grip’ and the body is small (and lightweight). Most of the controls are well-placed, and it has a door on the side for memory cards (in this case CF or xD: no SD card) where it should be. Yeah putting them under the same access as the battery is a cost-saving measure, not a better design. The settings access for ISO, shutter, and aperture could definitely be better than it is. I still like using it. Too bad the battery is failing and only lasts about 20 shots at best. Also the auto focus is abysmally slow. Then again it’s an old (by digital standards) camera, dating from 2007.

Here’s trouble: the Sony a6000

This one is problematic in the extreme. I can practically encompass half the camera in my hand, and its utter lack of front ‘finger grip’ means my palm hits buttons on the back changing settings when I don’t want to. This can make it really annoying to use. Paradoxically, it has ‘handy’ knurled wheels for adjusting settings which are right where you can change them with your thumb – albeit sometimes you do so accidentally. Other than those problems, which are significant, it’s a good camera that takes good pictures. In some ways it’s the best I’ve got, such as the speed of autofocus and ease of adapting vintage lenses. It’s a dust magnet though, and the handling really is problematic. Oh I said that already. Did I mention the handling is problematic?

I will take a moment here to talk about lens rings. I like them. I want one for focus, one for zoom, and one for aperture out there in front like a film camera would have. None of my cameras meet that spec, although zoom and focus rings are present on some of the DSLR lenses. The Lumix has a ‘pseudo’ lens ring which can be assigned different functions such as zoom or focus or program adjustment, but it is not dedicated and sorting through the menu to find the adjustment is frustrating. The Sony’s kit lens has both a zoom button and a zoom ring which is redundant and annoying. Duplication of controls is never helpful. Using manual lenses eliminates a lot of this, but also eliminates autofocus and exposure. I see many Fujifilm professional cameras have very ‘film-like’ controls and so I envy Fuji users that. I certainly can not afford one though.

Now let’s step over the edge of the cliff into the realm of the sublimely ridiculous:

Are you strong enough? Canon 1Ds

Right. Same hand, different camera. No argument about a “too small” body here! It would be great – if it didn’t weigh in at over 1.5 kilograms (more than 3 lbs.) and did have a 1500mm lens – which it would need to be because it’s a full-frame camera. Only 11MP, but great for low-light photography like night skies or infrared work because of that ‘low resolution’ in combination with the sensor size. Fairly impractical for daily shooting, though. Of all my cameras this one has the worst controls for convenience of access. Nothing is straightforward or dedicated about them, and a lot of ‘double pushing’ is needed to change things (hold one button down while advancing settings with another).

Tiny power: Fujifilm F80 EXR.

Yes if the lens were retracted I could hide that one in my hand. There are smaller cameras than this, but they do not take as good pictures. Again the viewfinder issue (it hasn’t got one) and focal length limit. But you can carry it anywhere. Besides that it’s the only one that automatically shifts resolution to get a better picture. That EXR function is quite a thing: so good that I never take the camera off automatic. This one is point-and-shoot heaven.

Is there a winner here? Yes, and it’s the *cough* Nikon P610. Were you surprised? One of the things against the P950 and the P1000 is that they are physically larger (and heavier), but offer no advantage from that increased size: they have the same tiny sensor as the P610 inside. Mostly the bodies got bigger to hold the larger lenses which at 83X and 125X respectively are probably best described as “overkill”. Or maybe “clunky”. I guess the thinking was “half an improvement is better than none”? The P610 aside, the next best in my collection for handling is the Canon T100. It is the most modern as well, with an 18MP sensor that allows some reasonable cropping (the 24MP Sony a6000 is actually an older design).

I don’t know how a Canon SX70 or Panasonic FZ80 handles and it’s unlikely I’ll find out. There are no camera stores near me and the closest is over 2 hours’ drive away, with no guarantee they’d have what I want to look at.

Even if I could afford it.

Addendum: adding a picture of the Pentax K100Ds. As you can see it fits my hand as well as the Nikon does, and indeed is a very nice-to-handle camera. It has a few faults, though: it’s only 6MP which I find too low for my usual photography (even though the images get shrunk way down before presenting), I’ve only got one auto lens for it and any new one costs as much as a lens for the Canon or Sony, and the pentamirror is desilvered to the point where not only are there large black spots in view but the light transmission is lower than normal for a DSLR. But it is a nice camera. I would have had the slightly newer K200 but ego-Bay killed me before the sale was complete. Another thing to ‘thank’ them for.

Pentax K100Ds

Analysis Part 2: lenses

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:

Ice Bubbles (cropped close up)

To this:

Tangled Tree at full telephoto

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.

Canon 75-300mm EF. Good thing I only paid $50 for it.

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.

Canon 55-250mm EF-S. Sharper, but not longer.

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.

Olympus 55-150mm.

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:

Not a drawing.

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.

No, I definitely do not like that prospect.

Analysis Part 1: viewfinders (Updated)

Okay putting on my engineer’s hat to examine the whole “replacement camera for the Nikon P610” issue in detail. To start with I’ve broken the big problem down into four smaller problems: viewfinder clarity, lens focal length & quality, over-all handling, and price. What we’re up against, then, is the matters of my eyesight having difficulty with the P610’s EVF, most other cameras (particularly not any I already have) not matching the Nikon’s 60X zoom capacity and sharpness, difficulties in operating certain cameras with my (by today’s standards, apparently) large hands, and the eternal bug-a-bear of budget.

First step, then, is looking at the viewfinder issue. I have noticed and mentioned in an anecdotal way that not only is the old Nikon’s finder fading, so is my eyesight. Thus even the newer cameras I have with better EVFs (the Sony a600 and the Lumix ZS60) are a challenge to use. Now let’s get some non-subjective evidence:

Viewfinder luminance testing set up.

Two lights either side, white card in front, one light overhead. Lots of light. Each camera set to allow maximum light to the viewfinder (i.e. wide-angle lens at full aperture). I tried taking a few ‘all at once’ shots but the angles through the finders were so different that there was no point of view which rendered all of them equally. So I fell back on taking individual shots of the finders using the Lumix because it’s easiest to get close-ups with and wasn’t needed for the comparison (it’s no better than the Sony). Here are the results:

Nikon P610. Yes, all you can make out is the superimposed focus brackets, it’s that dim.
Sony a6000. Brighter than the Nikon by far, and yet …
Olympus E410; optical is brighter still.
Canon T100. Note it is about the same as the Olympus because both are optical (and have similar maximum apertures).
Canon G11. Unfair comparison because this camera’s finder is basically a window unto the world. The shadow on the left is due to the strap getting in the way without me noticing.

Oh yes when we get in close like that and blow up the images you can really see the dust on the glass! Which brings up another part of the problem: size of the finder. The Nikon’s finder is a circle 8mm in diameter. The Sony’s is a rectangle 14mm on the diagonal. The Olympus is a rectangle 16mm on the diagonal. The Canon T100 is a rectangle 13mm on the diagonal (it would be nicer if it were double that, or about full size instead of half). The Canon G11 is an 8mm diameter circle just like the Nikon’s, but far brighter. So the P610 has not only the dimmest viewfinder, but the smallest as well.

I don’t know if something like an Olympus OM-D has a bigger, brighter finder than the Sony a6000; it’s not one of the things manufacturers tell you about. They just try to sell you on insane amounts of megapixels and outrageous ISO number claims. But what good are those numbers if you literally can not see the scene you’re trying to take a picture of? Imagine the paradox of setting ISO to 25600 when the image in the finder is only barely visible on a bright sunny day!

Anyway, that’s the first part of the analysis and if there’s any ‘winner’ here amongst my existing cameras it’s a tie between the Canon T100 and the Olympus E410.

 

Update to add this: viewfinder of the Pentax Spotmatic 1000. It’s 15mm on the diagonal, and yes brighter than the two DSLRs.

Low-cost lens cavalcade BONUS!

This is not one of the lenses from the Great Deal. I bought this off ego-Bay before they branded me Public Enemy Number One and forbade all interaction. It wasn’t as cheap as the deal lenses on an individual basis were, especially not after having to buy an adaptor for it. What is it? It’s a Super Albinar 28mm f2.8 in Canon FD mount:

Odd lens out.

This is one of those “store branded” lenses made by who-knows-whom, in this case for photo retailer Albi’s. I originally got it thinking it could be adapted to the Canon T100, but to do that correctly requires an expensive adaptor with a piece of questionable-quality glass in it to get the focusing re-aligned to where infinity isn’t 2″ away. So I ponied up another $20 to fit it to the Sony and tested it alongside the other lenses.

As a ‘scene lens’ it does alright. Try to ignore the recurring spots on the image sensor.

I usually do not shoot with wide-angle lenses. Yet I seem to have collected up two 28mm ones, an M42 mount and this one in Canon FD, as well as a 24mm Vivitar. All three, it turns out, are perfectly good lenses. That’s the thing with store-branded equipment; you never know until you try it if it is any good. It could be made by a quality company but the price-point demands of the retailer can compromise performance. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.

Nothing to complain about here.

In this instance the luck is with us. Nothing wrong with the colour or contrast, and the controls work fine (even though the adapted mount is fiddly and you have to check to be sure everything is locked and the aperture actually stops down properly when you turn the ring). But is it sharp?

Full image

Crop 640 x 427 from 100%

Larger than life.

Uh, I think we’ll take that as “yes it’s sharp”.

Under some circumstances there is ‘fringing’ and other signs of chromatic aberration. But it is not a dominant characteristic that shows up all the time.

Odd tracks.

Over-all I’d rate this lens as very good and even though it’s not a focal length I typically use I have got some pretty good pictures out of it – some more of those coming later. Of course I’m going to keep it, because I can’t actually unload any of my surplus equipment now (thanks ego-Bay, may you rot in hell).

I would like to do some more ‘testing’ of some of these old lenses, but circumstances right now are extremely limiting and the future isn’t looking very good either.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #10

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.

Saving the best for last.

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.

Duncan in the snow. What a 135mm lens is meant for.

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.

The full view.

640 x 427 segment of the upper chickadee.

640 x 427 segment of the lower chickadee.

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?

The neighbour’s house.

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.

The lens can do quite well.

Although 135mm is quite short for my usual photography I can see there are times when this lens would be just the right thing.

When all the elements come together …

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.

Low-cost lens cavalcade #8

If anyone ever listened to my advice I’d probably tell them something like “don’t spend a lot of money on old telephoto and zoom lenses”. The reason for this is that lens design has improved greatly over the years, and the longer focal lengths have benefited the most. For example this entry’s test subject is an old Vivitar 300mm f5.6.

One long and heavy lens.

This is a large lens. It weighs in just under two pounds and does quite a job on the tripod trying to hold it steady. If this were mounted on the Canon 1Ds it would be an unmanageable 5+ lbs. of equipment. It is also a ‘slow’ lens at only f5.6, but at 300mm it’s the kind of focal length that is suited to much of my photography. By the way the “P&B” on the front of the lens is for Ponder & Best, the ‘maker’, who started using the Vivitar name in the 1960s – when this lens probably dates from given its design. In fact their equipment was made by other companies under license. I have a Vivitar 135mm f2.8 lens that is excellent, and also a 24mm f2.8 (acquired in the same deal as this long lens) which also performs very well. This 300mm, however, is not as good.

A “medium shot” of the Nissan.

Sharpness is lacking, contrast is low, colours are dull, and chromatic aberration shows up too often. Despite this it is possible to get decent pictures with it, but you need just the right conditions – such as bright light so you can use f8 and a tripod because hand-holding this beast is a challenge.

Full image of a black-capped chickadee.

100% segment of the last image. Cute little bird (with a sunflower seed in its beak), but the detail is fuzzy not feathery.

With some effort it can render a decent image.

A cap wearing a hat – of snow.

With enough light, a tripod, and the proper alignment of all the stars in the universe …

Although it is possible to get a good picture from it, most of the time it fails. It’s hard to use too, due not only to its large size and great weight but also looking through a maximum aperture of only f5.6 is difficult for my fading eyesight. I have a Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 that is smaller, lighter, sharper, and has better colour & contrast. Over-all I can only rate this lens as “fair”. It doesn’t even have any particular characteristics that make it interesting, unless you like schlepping around a lens that can double as a piece of weight-lifting equipment.

Miscel-LENS-eous

Dear Folk;

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.

Bleak. Very bleak.

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 negative f 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.

Torn-down Tokina; it’s hopeless.

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!!!!!”

Yeah, bugger that for a noise.

It’s getting warmer. No, really it is.