23 September, 2016

Happy (belated) birthday to the blog

Sony/Zeiss 55mm, f/1.8 - Colour in the backyard [Click image to enlarge]

The blog turned six last Tuesday. 

Just a note about the photo above: I'm not a gardener. So, when there's colour in the backyard it's nothing to do with me.

Photokina is on, and everyone else is talking about it. So, although I'm not there, I'll mention two announcements that caught my attention. The first is about the Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art, and the other is the Zeiss Loxia 85mm.

Sigma 85mm, f/1.4 Art: I'm a big fan of the Sigma 24mm, f/1.4 Art when used with Sigma's MC-11 adaptor. So I know that Sigma has the expertise to make lenses of outstanding quality. The new 85mm Art looks like an inexpensive alternative to both the Zeiss 85mm, f/1.8 Batis and Sony's 85mm, f/1.4 GM lens — without a significant loss of quality. If the quality of the new Sigma is in line with it's predecessors, it's going to be a serious contender in the price/quality stakes.

Zeiss Loxia 85mm, f/2.4 Loxia: This is the logical lens to complete the Loxia lineup (21, 35, 50, 85mm). If I was into video, I'd be looking very carefully at this line. I love the Loxia 50mm. It's my everyday lens. But, I already have an 85mm Batis, so I'm not in the market for another 85. 

(I'm watching out for a 135mm autofocus. Zeiss, Sony, Sigma; are you listening?)

18 September, 2016

Back from vacation

Sony 70-200mm - Kirra Hill [Click image to enlarge]

Sorry for the gap, but I've been on vacation at the beach.

For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Brisbane City and the State of Queensland: While Brisbane (in the southeast corner of Queensland) is semi-tropical, for beaches you need to head north to the "Sunshine Coast" or south to the "Gold Coast."

From Brisbane we went 100 kilometers south to the southernmost part of the Gold Coast — Coolangatta. Coolangatta is just at the border of New South Wales.

Australian Spring is the time of the whale migration back to the Arctic and we could often see them from the beach. (And, no, the 70-200mm was not long enough to provide useful shots.)

28 August, 2016

Samyang 135mm for the Sony E-Mount

Samyang 135mm, f/2.0 - In the call centre [Click image to enlarge]

This isn't a full review of the Samyang 135mm (also sold under the brand name Rokinon). Its optical qualities have been reviewed by more qualified reviewers than me, so I've provided some links to those, below. But, my experience has been very positive and without reservation, I can say this lens is a high-quality bargain.

A couple of months ago I was photographing the work in a call centre. There were limitations: There were some workers I was not able to photograph, and on the walls of the cubicles and on the computer screens there was material that I couldn't show.

I shot everything wide open. At f/2.0 the lens allowed me to keep my shutter speeds up and provided the shallow depth-of-field I needed to keep the faces in focus but signs and computer screens sufficiently out of focus.

It's a big lens and (relatively) heavy. But a fast, full-frame 135mm is always going to have a lot of glass. It might be the longest focal length E-Mount prime at the moment.

But now the slightly bad news. The Samyang is a manual focus lens and that slowed things down. I lost some shots. It's also manual aperture, but I shot everything at f/2.0 so that wasn't a problem in that situation. 

The focus ring on the Samyang is relatively smooth, but has a fairly short throw — a little over half a turn. The build quality is really good for the price.

Focus peaking was not good enough to be the only guide. Happily, the focusing assistance on the A7RII helped to get the job done — even when I had to hold the camera up over my head. I don't think I could have done the work with the Samyang on a DSLR.

The Samyang does not report any EXIF data to E-Mount cameras, so the Sony stabilisation (on the A7RII and A7II, for example) is only 3-axis, rather than 5-axis; so you have to manually set the focal length. But the A7RII's stabilisation did its job. (I believe the Nikon version reports focus confirmation.)

If I could have found a used, Sony/Zeiss 135mm f/1.8 (A-Mount), I would have gone for that. But those kinds of used A-Mount bargains seem to have dried up. I'm sure that's because of the utility of the A7 line using Sony's LA-EA4 and LA-EA3 adaptors. 

There are rumours that there will be a Zeiss Batis (E-Mount) 135mm. I hope that's true. I'd be happy with f/2.0, but what a bonus it would be to have f/1.8.

A Sigma 135mm Art that would work with their MC-11 adaptor would also be very welcome.

Only time will tell.

Some Samyang 135mm reviews:
Dustin Abbott 
Patrick Murphy-Racey (YouTube) 
The Phoblographer 
Samyang 135mm, f/2.0 [Click image to enlarge]

22 July, 2016

"Nice camera you got there, Buddy."

I have two topics: The first is about the, "Nice camera you got there, Buddy," view; and, the second, is about the belief that judgements about lenses (or cameras) can be made from the images displayed on the web. (Reviews with high-res examples or 1:1 crops excepted.)

None of this is about a lack of good will. Everyone has been very kind to me, and we are all just trying to make sense of what we find on the web. I'm grateful for all the comments that fellow forum users have made over the years. I've learnt a lot.

I've used both of the images shown in this post on the blog before — the Bahá'í Temple from the post that precedes this one, and the Bookseller from a post in April of last year.

Bahá'í Temple (Loxia 50mm, ISO 100, at f/4.0, 1/1600) [Click image to enlarge.]

I put the The Bahá'í Temple picture on a forum, and I had a very kind comment about the image with a remark that it was a "very sharp lens!" I was surprised at the mention of sharpness because the web image is only about 1 megapixel (783 x 1280 pixels).
There is no way of judging the sharpness of a modern lens by a 1 megapixel image.

There isn't enough space (or interest, I'm guessing) for an in-depth discussion of acutance. But in the case of the temple, because there is so much contrasty scroll work, the viewer's eye immediately recognises that detail, making it appear sharper than it really is.

I wasn't thinking about how "sharp" that scroll work would appear when I took the shot, but I did know what it meant when I went to do input sharpening in Lightroom. And, when I downsampled it to an sRGB jpeg at 1280 pixels vertically, I knew it would be a good screen match.

The Bookseller (Loxia 50mm, ISO 250, at f/2.8, 1/60) [Click image to enlarge.]

Another commenter felt that the Bookseller image demonstrated Zeiss "pop." The Loxia does exhibit a bit of its own "pop;" but the photo has "pop" because the subject was surrounded by white plastic that brought in soft light for his face (it had begun to rain at the market) contrasted by the muted colours of his sweater, jacket and hat, and the plane of focus caught his glasses, his pupils and his beard.

Both photos were made using the Loxia and a Sony A7II. Both were shot in good light (see the settings), and neither was heavily cropped.

I love the Loxia and I know what it can do, but I believe that I could have taken either picture with similar web-display results with my loved, 10.1mp (but now long gone) Panasonic LX3 from 2008. Neither image, on the other hand, could be printed effectively without the qualities that I expect from the Loxia and the A7II.

Most displays are very low resolution and are working hard to address the whole of the sRGB color space. And, in any case, most images on blogs, websites, and in on-line galleries (including my own) are low resolution. (We keep them low-res to avoid having them stolen.) And, those images will not be made higher resolution by being viewed on a higher resolution display (such as an Apple Retina). And, most images on the web are in the sRGB color space. Their color gamuts will not be expanded by being viewed on a wide-gamut display.

Of course, the simple answer to the comment, "Nice camera you got there, Buddy," is, "Yup."

17 July, 2016

Is the frame half full or half empty?

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Bahá'í Temple [Click image to enlarge.]

The Bahá'í Temple in Wilmette, Illinois can be extraordinary bright as the cement used in its construction is embedded with clear and white quartz. On this day (above) the temple was significantly brighter on the other side; and, in any case, my 50mm was not going to capture the whole building. (And I didn't want to stitch frames in post.)

I think the half-building image is more interesting in any case.

16 July, 2016

New Gallery

My new Gallery's landing page looks like this.

It's taken a while, but I finally reorganised my gallery. I still have some tinkering to do, and I'm sure I'll find some errors; but this is the final format.

I've broken it down into a number of categories. This isn't because I think there are devotees of photos in those categories, but because they will serve as aids to finding (or, it's to be hoped, re-finding) images.

When in the gallery, you only need to click on an image to resize it to your browser page.

To get to the gallery, just click on the "Gallery" tab at the top of this blog. To return to the blog, just click on the "My Blog" link at the left of the gallery pages.

Before any new image goes to the gallery, it will first appear here, on the blog.

08 July, 2016

Epson Legacy Papers - Australia

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Santa Monica Pier [Click image to enlarge]

At the end of last year I wrote about the (seemingly) impending introduction of Epson's new line of Legacy Papers. Epson has now officially announced the papers in the US with a press release last month. That US release, however, wasn't mirrored on either Epson's international site or their Australian. And, I think it's telling that the Australian market is entirely lacking the preview information that has been all over the US wide-format printer paper market.

There are, of course, ways to get the new papers through overseas delivery. While B&H won't ship the Legacy papers to Australia, Adorama will (25 sheets of A3+) for US$145.00. The only hitch is that the shipping is $92.60. That's brings the cost to US9.50/sheet. Regardless of price, I'm not interested in sourcing paper through overseas deliveries.

The short version is that I'm not going to be testing the Legacy papers in the near future. I'm only going to test what I might be using myself and that means papers available through the regular channels here in Australia.

I suspect that the Legacy Baryta and Legacy Platine are made by Canson in any case, and I'm quite happy with those papers under the Canson banner. Since the Epson versions seem to be more expensive, they probably have their own formulae and those might have some useful improvements.

The Legacy Paper that most intrigues me, however, is Epson Legacy Fibre, which appears to be a matte paper with enough holdout to be able to accomodate photo black ink. That I'd like to try — seemingly, not for a while.

07 July, 2016

Sigma 24mm with the MC-11 - low light on the street

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 "Art" w/MC-11 adaptor - Election Campaign - Brisbane [Click to enlarge]

I was out the other night using the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 with the MC-11 adaptor (see above). The important bit of this report is that I didn't have to think of it as an adapted lens at all. It functioned seamlessly as an E-Mount lens.

The 24mm is my only Sigma lens, so I keep the MC-11 on it all the time. That's important for me because when I change lenses, the rear cap from the lens going on goes onto the lens coming off. With the MC-11 always on, the Sigma 24mm is just another E-Mount.

It was reasonably low light, so the focusing speed wasn't what I would expect in normal daylight. I haven't done any side-by-side testing, but in low light I think the Sigma is about as fast as the Zeiss 85mm (Batis).

03 July, 2016

The Greens Campaign in Ryan 2016

As I've mentioned before, the Australian Greens in the Federal seat of Ryan in Queensland have been kind enough to allow me to photograph their volunteer campaign work.

Over the many weeks of the recent election campaign here in Australia, I've seen door knocking, meeting organising, placard waving, phone calling, roadside sits, bicycle tows, polling-place banner raising, and the handing out of "how to vote" cards — and I didn't see all of it, or even a large part.

What I learned is that for the Greens it's not just a campaign, it's a cause. It's not just about votes, it's about ideas.

My thanks, again, to the Greens workers that let me follow their efforts, and to the candidate for Ryan, Sandra Bayley, and her campaign coordinator, Don Sinnamon.

28 June, 2016

Zeiss Loxia 50mm — Still my favourite

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Low Tide on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]
Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Late afternoon on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]
Zeiss Loxia 50mm - View from the Ferry Jetty on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]

The Loxia 50mm f/2.0 continues to be one of my all-time favourite lenses. I have to admit, however, that when things are moving a bit quicker, then the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is the better choice.

Work carried me out to North Stradbroke Island for the day, but I only had a few minutes to grab a few personal shots. All of these are from the bay side of the Island. The other side is the open ocean side. It has gorgeous beaches and features the transit of the whales when they move to and from their Arctic waters.

It was a little cooler than it looks. It's winter on this side of the world, but Brisbane is semi-tropical, so a jacket was enough.

18 June, 2016

Door Knock 2016

The Australian Greens in the Federal seat of Ryan in Queensland have been kind enough to allow me to photograph their volunteer campaign work. 

Every weekend, volunteers take to the footpaths to talk to their fellow citizens about the issues that matter most. It's a huge undertaking. (So, of course, I could only photograph a small part of it.)

The door knock is only one of the many efforts of the volunteers; so my task of documenting their work is far from done. At this point, however, I do have enough photos that I'm happy to share, in this short slideshow.

Thank you to all of you who tolerated my shadowing you. And my thanks to the Greens candidate for Ryan, Sandra Bayley, and to the campaign coordinator for Ryan, Don Sinnamon.

16 June, 2016

Sigma 24mm with the MC-11

Sigma 24mm "Art" w/MC-11 at f/1.4 - Bardon Queensland [Click on image to enlarge.]

The Sigma MC-11 mount converter does give the Sigma 24mm the feel of a native Sony FE-Mount lens. The focusing is quick and accurate and all the expected information is reported in the Exif data.

Lightroom is able to apply Adobe's Sigma-lens profile with no problems. But even though I have a user preset to apply lens profiles on import, it's not automatic for the 24mm. That may be because the 24mm is a Canon mount.

There is a bit of focus noise, but I don't know if that arises from using the converter, or whether it's inherent in the lens. It doesn't bother me, however, as I think only the photographer can hear it. But then, I'm not a videographer.

The mount connection between the lens and the MC-11 has confidence-building tightness — no wobble. And it's a match aesthetically.