Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Picking up a few Zuikos

Some months back, I decided to try some "alt glass" on my 1Ds II. There were some M42 (screwmount) lenses I was fairly curious about, so ordered a Fotodiox adapter. Noticed they had an OM adapter as well, and figured it wouldn't hurt to at least try it, since I had an old 50/1.8 Zuiko sitting around. Well, the M42 glass didn't knock my socks off, but the little cheap Zuiko did.

Canon 1Ds Mark II, Zuiko 50/1.8 wide open

Didn't expect quite such sharpness, especially at f/1.8, from a tiny, very inexpensive piece of glass like this.

I did some more shooting with it, and continued to be surprised at how nicely it
renders, and how crisp the images were. Again, wide open (and check out the smooth bokeh).

Going through yet another gear reshuffle, I decided to part with the M42 glass and "standardize" on OM/Zuiko as my non-Canon, adapted glass. Did a little reading and based on my focal length needs and what I saw, found three lenses that I wanted to try out. A trip to ebay yielded a sample of each: 50/1.4, 28/3.5, 24/2.8 -- I would love to get my hands on the 85/2 but the Canon 85/1.8 is such a spectacular lens that I can't justify spending the $300 or so that the Zuiko runs.

The 50/1.4 arrived first, and I was eager to compare it to the 50/1.8. Alas, an unpleasant surprise awaited me when I opened the box.

It appears that a piece of light sealing material has come loose--likely from a deteriorating seal of some sort--and was moving around between two lens elements. In addition to that, the aperture blades moved at the speed of glaciers; this wouldn't be the end of the world since I am using stop down metering, but certainly was far from what I expected based on the description in the auction. Thankfully the seller is offering a 7 day return policy, so back it goes. I did try a few shots since shaking the lens a bit would move the thing out of sight temporarily, and found the lens to be very soft and low contrast, definitely far inferior to the hunble 50/1.8. I gather that later 50/1.4 lenses are far improved, supposedly those with a serial number in the 1.1 million or higher range. I might try to locate one of those later on.

A few hours later, UPS dropped a 24/2.8 on my doorstep. This one I was a little worried about when I bid on it since it was described as feeling a little "looser" than the seller's other lenses. For the price it was worth a gamble, I though, and was pleasantly surprised to find that whatever slop was in the focusing mechanism was so minor as to not affect anything at all. The lens came with the case and original metal hood (which I believe is the same as on the 28mm Zuikos), and the optics are in like-new condition. And like the 50/1.8, it's wonderfully sharp. The below shots wide open.

It is worth noting that the lens focuses down to 0.25 meters which gives you a lot of flexibility; not a true macro by any means, but close enough to get some interesting shots. The bokeh is a little "busier" than my Canon lenses, but not unpleasantly so. The sharpness does not come as a great surprise after I'd read this lens test which put it up against some top level Canon and Nikon glass, where it held its own admirably.

My 28/3.5 just arrived as I was typing up this post, so will post some images from it later. It appears to be in excellent shape, and for the money it should be quite the bargain. Yes, it's a little on the slow side, but where else would you find a decent performer in this focal length for the $30-40 they usually cost? Check out the Zuiko 28/3.5 love thread on FM for some really nice shots from these lenses.

One thing worth mentioning is that these lenses all use 49mm filters; if you are a frequent filter user (I am not) this might be a bonus.

As I spend some more time with these lenses, I will share some more images and impressions. For now, I think that they are true bargains when taking the optical performance and build quality into consideration.

Friday, November 20, 2009

By golly, it's Jupiter

50D, 400/5.6, 1.4x

Well, this represents about 1/30th or so of the original frame. Even 560mm on a crop body doesn't get you very far! Still, amazed that I managed to get a planet...

The moon showed up too, though it's a little too "new" still.

Yashica F521 flickr group

Be sure to visit the flickr group dedicated to this great little toy camera. It's slowly growing and people are posting some great shots!

The discussion area is worth a visit too, with a fair bit of interesting chatter about the camera and its potential.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some more vignetting tests

It looks like the vignetting mod is even better than I expected... see within.

Take a look at this crop from the edge of the above. The rocks continue all the way to the edge but see how they get all smeared into oblivion? I didn't quite expect that, but it looks like the vignetting mod has caused some optical issues as well -- bonus!

More images... macro seems mostly unaffected.

Again, look at the (lack of) detail in the lower left. Definitely getting somewhere.


Friday, November 13, 2009

It's a mystery to me...

...the game commences, for the usual fee, plus expenses.

Err, yes, where was I? The strangest quirk of my "digital Holga" so far: when I open the door to remove the SD card, and thereby remove power from the camera, all my settings reset. All, except for language. It remains in English. The date/time resets immediately, but the language setting remains.

Yeah, explain THAT one to me.

(Nothing more to say, so here's a picture of some trees (Leica and beat up Summar)).


Vignetting Mod (I can't keep a secret)

OK, OK, I was going to sit on this for a while and have people guessing but... I am terrible at keeping secrets. Vignetting mod described here. Disclaimer: don't sue me if you break something.

The two screws on top of the lens "plate"? Unscrew 'em. Then fold out the entire mess (it has catches on the bottom). Stick a suitable washer on the back part of the "lens" (really just a fake lens and a plastic element on the front). Mine was attached with gaffer's tape. Reassemble (try to keep from getting dust inside). Voila! In-camera vignetting, and we're one step closer to a "digital Holga". When you reassemble, make sure that you line up the lens with the plastic catch that controls the "macro" function; just set the lens to whichever of the two positions it was in when you removed it.

As a bonus, if you use a shiny washer it should add some potential reflections off the internals, for some unexpected flare.


Anyone up for figuring out how to "ruin" the optics properly? I tried putting a big bubble wrap "bubble" in front of it and as long as you can keep it smooth it "smears" the image nicely, but let it wrinkle and you see the wrinkles in the final image. Maybe some sort of plastic lens, like from a cheap pair of reading glasses, would work?

TTL and further vignetting

Yashica F521, shot through Jupiter-9

Gets you pretty close... but wait, there's

Another "TTL" shot. This time through Zuiko 50mm lens.

First test of Super Secret Vignetting Mod (to be revealed). This is a test shot with no manipulation other than resizing. Just about the right amount of vignetting for me... oh yeah, it might add some occasional, uncontrollable flare under the right circumstances too. Now we're getting somewhere!


B&W Pelicans

50D, 400/5.6

Dull light, but a B&W conversion can help in these situations.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Speeding Sandpiper

Full of purpose, never a slow moment.

Though, sometimes the camera can freeze a moment, turning the frantic hunt into something more peaceful.


"Digital Holga" -- part one of something

Yashica EZ F521, B&W mode

It's here, and it rained all day. Managed to get out in the evening right before the sun went away, and got to play with it a bit. Some comments and thoughts here.

As I mentioned in last night's very brief post, it's a very small camera. Even with the protruding lens (and I wonder how much of the lens is really optical elements and actually needed; could this camera be made flatter?) it fits just fine in the front pockets of my jeans. It is also quite light, as can be expected from its "frugal" all-plastic build.

The viewfinder is no better or worse than that on other compacts I've used. The fact that it even HAS one is unusual these days. One odd thing, though: the LCD can be turned off (the DISP button cycles between off, image only, and image with some info overlay), but when you then press the shutter button it doesn't take a picture, but rather turns the LCD back on. You then have to press the shutter button again to capture the image. This is a little unexpected and I must confess I don't quite understand what the logic was behind this. The LCD itself isn't a bad one; no adjustments or anything, but it refreshes smoothly, has decent enough resolution, and gets the job done. Better than I expected, to be honest. One bonus is that when you put it in any of the "effect" modes it's reflected in the LCD preview -- so you can see a black and white, or sepia, or funky colored image on the LCD before snapping the shot.

Even in "high" quality jpeg mode, there's often visible artifacting in various areas. Nothing terrible or unexpected however. You can apply "effects" to already captured images, and it will create a copy of the image with the effect applied while leaving the original intact. Cool!

One nuisance (but again, nobody bought this camera expecting smooth functionality or high quality) is that the settings for effect, exposure compensation etc are reset whenever the camera turns off. There's no way of disabling the automatic shutoff (and nor would you want to based on how quickly it eats through batteries from what I can tell), so if you want to use B&W mode with -0.7 compensation you just have to reset it every time it wakes up or powers on.

Slow shutter speeds can be fun

One thing of note is that all my shots have ISO 100, f/2.8 embedded in the exif. The fixed aperture is something I expected (I did not think such a cheaply constructed camera would have aperture control), but it is supposed to have "Auto ISO" so either the exif data is incorrect, the specs are incorrect, or something isn't working as intended. I snapped some available light indoor shots and compared to my 50D, and the camera seems to be unable to expose past 1/17 second, ISO 100. Curious and something that I'll have to investigate further.

Well, this covers my initial experience, brief as it was. I look forward to further experiments with the camera, and will look into whether anything can be easily done to modify or change the lens. I initially suspected it was entirely decoupled from the rest of the camera, but at a minimum it does have a switch to sense when put into "macro" mode (it being a fixed focus lens, this is the only change you can make to focusing distance). I am not sure what this switch might do other than turning on a small LED on the back of the camera, though!

Keep an eye out for further posts; hopefully we'll see some sun in the next few days so I can get some less gloomy looking shots.

PS: if you came here looking for information on how to change the language from Japanese, it's the bottom menu entry in the "tools" area.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Eagle has landed (F521 arrives finally)

Got home late this evening and a box from Japan was waiting for me. More tomorrow!
Initial thought: light and much smaller than expected. (More)