Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cheap 'n Cheerful Lens Review

Since I have been able to acquire my favourite Black and White film, I've wanted to use more manual focus lenses on the Nikon F3HP. Trouble is (or was) that I had only a few manual focus lenses. So off to eBay to find some cheap n' cheerful (under 20$ US) lenses to test and shoot with.
Over the 40 some-odd years the Nikon F mount has been around, hundreds of no-name makers have put out lenses in that mount. I thought it would be fun to find some of those no-name brands, long forgotten, and put them through their paces.
I've not been successful in that regards.
What I have fouond, however, are some very nice well-known brand lenses. Starting with Tamron.
I've actually had this one for some time now, but I didn't have a proper mount for it. Way back when, Tamron had a brilliant strategy, rather than make lenses for each mount (Canon FD, Nikon F, Pentax K, Minolta MD, etc) and increase production costs, make one lens with a universal mount, then sell special mounts for each camera. Thus, Tamron's Adaptall mount was born.
This 135mm f/2.8 lens was bought for pennies (well under 5$ US) because it was advertised with a Canon FD mount. FD mounts are obsolete these days (Canon switched to EF and to a lesser extent, EF-S) and converting them to modern digital Canons is somewhat problematic, so FD lenses languish in the dustbin of history and as such are dirt cheap on eBay. But since it was an Adaptall mount, off the FD mount went, on went the F mount and the lens could have a new life. For starters, look at this lens, it's a work of art:

The lettering and distance lines are of a beautiful font rendered in a delicate shade of blue. The feet markings are in orange, easily distinguishable from the meters, the silver of the lens stands out and brings something special to the look. The knurled focus ring has the perfect amount of grip and the built in lens hood snaps in place with satisfaction. In short, this lens is a work of art. I wish modern lenses looked half as good as this one does.
But a stunning lens is nothing without the sharpness and clarity to back it up. Thus, a test was born.

In order to test the lens against the other ones I have, the test needed to be fair, and repeatable. All elements had to be identical, from lighting down to subject matter. For all my Cheap 'n Cheerful lens tests, the following parameters were in effect:

Nikon D2x
ISO 100
1/5 sec shutter speed
Two 150 watt hot lights on full burn
Xevoz Quick Slinger toy.

No PhotoShop or other alternations have been done to the subject. What you see, in terms of clarity and sharpness and all other factors, is what you get.

First image here, the full shot:

And here is a 100% crop of the above image:

Tamron produced this lens from 1976 through 1979. When it was introduced, the initial price (in Japan) was 24,000 yen, this (roughly) translates to 500$ US today. So the depreciation value is pretty much total. Given this was long before any kind of special coatings or optical tricks, or even computer aided design, the lens holds its own for sharpness and colour rendition. Now this is a "laboratory" experiment, under controlled conditions, and eventually this will only be used on film cameras, where the grain of the film will come into play, as well as the weather and so forth. BUt I am pleased with the lens, very pleased, and am actively seeking out other Tamron Adaptall lenses.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Accidental Portraiture

From the metal band, Spiral Fracture. This is their lead guitarist. Nice guy and one heck of a shredder. The lighting when they were on stage was very iffy and most of the pics weren't very good, but I liked the way the rig backlit his hair.
Had my camera cranked to the max settings for this. 50mm f/1.8, 1600ISO, 1/100 sec shutter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Apocalypse is upon us

 A good friend of mine is in a metal band. A proper thrash metal band and was playing at a local club known to have good lighting. Naturally I had to be there, I've been away from concerts too long and I needed to get back into it.
The show was hampered by two things, my rustiness for one, and the lighting guy was asleep at his job. He only woke up when Hypokalypse (my friend's band) hit the stage. About that time I got my skills back, and here are some of the results.
The band knew how to interact with the audience, which always helps to make good shots, and they had a fog machine which diffused the light, making it better to shoot by.
Nikon D2x, 50mm f/1.8 at 1600ISO with a 1/100sec shutter speed. Run through PhotoShop to reduce noise.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One Last Action Shot

Again, in film, manual focus 135mm. The scissor dancers were under a tent so the lighting came from the side, with a little fill light from some overhead cans. They were in full swing, leaping, dancing, swirling around. Getting one in focus was quite the challenge. From the local folk fest, shot with my Nikon F3HP

That Old Time Religion

As I mentioned earlier, here are some proper film shots with my Nikon F3HP. There is a smooth look that I just cannot get with a digital SLR. I think in large part because the grain on film is truly randomly placed in the creation process, whereas in digital, there is no true randomness. The top shot was done with a 135mm f/2.8 and the bottom one with my 50mm dedicated Macro at f/8. This was for a contest, of sorts, and I wasn't real pleased with the lighting, but that was part of the rules, so I worked with what I had. A true photographer would have used some GoBos (Go Betweens) so adjust the ambient light to his advantage, sadly I don't have any.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Back to Cheating

 This weekend it was still raining cats and dogs (I know, I just stepped in a poodle) but the Alex Meixner Band was back to rock the local folk fest. Although I wanted to do more film work, I also wanted to save my remaining roles of BW400CN for other things, so out came the D2x and 80-200mm lens.
The lighting at the show was a mix of ambient light from the side of the tent, and white lamps mounted near the ceiling. The pictures I took in colour were uninspiring. The colours were muted and the overall feel lacked punch.
So, out came the B/W conversion tools built into Lightroom. After conversion of a few I felt they were much better, so I converted all of them to Black and White. Here are two of my favourite shots.

By the way, if you look up Alex on youtube, his live shows are much better than his CDs. He really interacts with the audience and gets them going.

An Assortment of Oddities

Around June of this year, my system finally gave up the ghost. Admittedly it was an ancient rig and while I had all my data backed up nine ways from Sunday, re-installing all my software onto a new PC was tedious. Setting things back up the way I was used to (preferences in Lightoom, Chrome, etc.) was a real pain.
Just prior to my PC taking a nosedive I'd shot a large gathering of bands and never really finished processing them after the new PC was up and running. By that point I'd moved on to the Belize shots, Colour Runs and taking care of the new house. So given a rainy three-day weekend (let's hear it for State work) I managed to force myself through them and pick the best.
Here is a selection of them. ISO 1600, 50mm f/1.8 and around 1/125sec shutter speed. The concert was crowded, given Nile were headlining but the lighting was flat, mostly white which made for dull shots. 

Proof That Men Cannot Win

So the other day, my girlfriend and I were discussing pets, and she had mentioned a story about an owner that had lost her cat, and had posted a lost ad on the local CraigsList. The story had a happy ending, as the owner was reunited with her cat, but in the process, had been given a lot of grief from various people claiming she didn't love her cat, etc etc etc.

My girlfriend's comment was that most cats are outdoor animals and should be let out from time to time.
I agreed with her.
She stated I was wrong.
So, there you have it folks, proof positive that even when you agree with women, you are wrong.

As the law of thermodynamics states:
Zeroth: You must play the game.
First: You can't win.
Second: You can't break even.
Third: You can't quit the game.

Now for the record, I am not a cat person, and my gf knows this. When I was agreeing with her, I was agreeing for an entirely different reason, and she knew it. Hence calling me wrong.

But the point still stands, even when we agree with them, we are wrong.
Let that be a lesson to all you male followers of my journal. If a woman says something, grunt and pass out.

It's the only way to win.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

More Film Work

Shooting with a film camera is easy. Shooting with a manual focus lens is easy. Shooting a concert in a brightly lit area is easy.
Shooting a concert with a manual focus lens onto film is difficult. Very difficult. I cannot begin to imagine how concert photographers back then did it. Probably sat and waited for one good shot.
Here is a prime example, an energetic accordion player at a local folk fest, shot in B/W on BW400CN film with the Nikon F3HP using a manual focus 135mm f/2.8 lens. Not sure I nailed the focus however. Nonetheless I am pleased with the shot. I will be doing more folk fest work tomorrow, but I'll be going back to digital cameras and auto-focus lenses. 


We have had a rainy summer here. This is a river that you could walk from one side to the other (about 1/4 mile) without getting your feet wet. As you can see, that's no longer the case. The river is much more interesting when the bottom is revealed, tons of rocks and water-worn branches make for good photography.
Fujicolour film, ISO200, Nikon F5, 17mm lens.

Come on and Join the Vertigo

Same story as above, a colour converstion, shot with the F5 and a 17mm lens, giving that slightly fisheye effect. 
Parking garage staircase near where I work.

Back to Film

I managed to score a deal on my favourite film, BW400CN, which I took out shooting today in my Nikon F3HP. This shot isn't from that roll. Instead, this is from my Nikon F5 in some Fujicolour film, converted to a stylized Black and White look. The proper stuff in undergoing developing and will be here shortly.
Angel, from local Cemetery, 50mm lens.

Government Shutdown

As I have mentioned before, this journal isn't a platform for anything other than photography, but when it interferes with photography, it's fair game to rant about.
Case in point, NASA launches are on suspension until the gov't decides to start back up again. It's still giving money to foreign countries on a daily basis, most of whom don't like us (historically, current NSA events notwithstanding) but furthering man's knowledge of the universe around him? Well that's just gonna have to take a back seat, son.
In any case, no more rocket pictures, links or stories until further notice. But always one to stay topical, here are a few shots of still life for your approval (shown above)