7.05.2012

Did I mention that I really like 50mm Lenses? Really?


Sometimes I think buildings are just something to offset beautiful skies. I was out shooting the sky around Austin the other day and this building was near my starting and ending point. I'm not sure I like the architecture especially well but I don't dislike it. I keep coming back and shooting it because it seems to attract those beautiful cloud swirling blue skies that seem like something out of an old western movie done in Technicolor.

I was shooting with one of the cameras that keeps me from buying esoteric new toys like the Olympus OMDEM5 or the Fuji Pro 1.  It was the Sony a57 and it was sporting a 50mm 1.8 DT lens.  If you've read the blog for any amount of time you probably know that I really have an affinity for the classic 50mm lens in any of its permutations. And it's no different now that I'm shooting primarily with the Sony crop cams.


When I use a 50mm lens on a full 35mm format camera it's pleasant and neutral.  When I used it on an APS-C crop frame it's burrowing into the "nice portrait length" territory.  When I use it on a Sony a57 or a77 camera it becomes something even more flexible and special and I'd like to explain why.

There's a Jpeg-only option on these cameras called smart telecon.  It's a digital teleconverter.  On the a77 it gives you a choice of 1.4x and 2.0x magnification. The effect in the finder is seamless and there's no additional light lost as there would be with an optical teleconverter. The camera essentially just zooms in on a crop but the finder shows the crop as a full frame in the finder.  We wouldn't have used something like this in the 6 megapixel days but with the a77 I've got pixels to burn. When you set the camera to use the 1.4x setting on the smart telecon it drops the overall resolution to "M" which is still a big, healthy file.

One touch of the smart telecon switch makes my 50mm into an 84mm which is the angle of view equivalent (on APS-C sensors) of my all time favorite portrait lens, the Nikon 105mm 2.5.  If there's a drop in quality I sure can't see it.

On the a57 the control works as a digital zoom and allows a continuous range of magnifications, from the existing focal length up to 2x.  

I didn't use the telecon settings on the photos above.  I changed size and perspective in a very old fashioned way.  I moved my feet and brought myself and the camera closer to the building.  It worked well.  I'll have to teach a workshop about it someday to all the people who were raised on zooms.

Why do these cameras keep me from buying other cameras? Well, there seems to always be another setting or feature I have yet to discover and I find the files to be really nice.  The way we used to think about the colors in Olympus Jpegs. All the stuff works well but the real reason is that I am curious to see what their next full frame camera will be.

My most trusted source in the camera industry (hasn't been wrong in over 20 years...) tells me that the full 35mm frame Sony is a "done deal" and should arrive this Fall.  If they do a great job with the sensor I'm ready to snap the 70-200mm 2.8 G lens on the front and get cooking.

Reading the freakin manual is a great way to unlock the astounding secrets of your camera.  Any camera. I knew that this feature was there but I thought, "amateur."  It was only when I explained the feature to Ben that I got, in a flash, why it was so cool for me.













19 comments:

Craig Yuill said...

Kirk, I too really like 50mm lenses. It has been my most-used lens lately on my own crop-frame DSLR. I like the sharpness and bokeh my 50mm f/1.8 produces. I agree that reading the manual is a great place to start learning how to use features in any camera. But I'm sure you would agree that the best way to REALLY learn how a feature works is to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more using that feature. I've found there's really no substitute for experience and experimentation.

On a similar note, I should mention that thanks to some of your recent posts I'm reacquainting myself with one of my old 6x6 TLRs with 80mm f/2.8 lens. That too is a great MF camera/lens combination.

Jim said...

When I used to teach beginning photo classes the assignment for lesson 1 was go home and get out the manual to your camera. Sit down with it and the camera and go over the whole manual until you know what each setting does. Of course that was in film days and all there was to learn was the light meter, focus, apertures and shutter speeds. Some of the new digital cameras are so complex you probably couldn't learn it all in a week.

kirk tuck said...

I love TLRs. I wish I had the money to buy a couple of the recent Rolleiflex TLR cameras, the new models with the meter. That would be so cool. Not entirely practical but so cool.

kirk tuck said...

I was just reading over at the Online Photographer about how mystified Michael Johnston is by the menu on the OMD. Clearly there are becoming too many things to chose.

Claire said...

Olympus menus are just nightmarish, even for seasoned photographers experienced with a lot of systems and brands. I bought an el cheapo E-PM1 in anticipation of the E-M5, just to test the UI and jpeg engine. The menus set me screaming and running for life. Sold the darn thing as fast as I could. Brrrr...

Claire said...

"Any camera that's too complicated for me to figure out is too complicated." Ssweet. I'm going to borrow this. I need to say I HATE Olympus for making such a great camera so bad.

kirk tuck said...

Maybe the reason I've avoided buying an OMD is because I've just now mastered the EP3 menu and I bought that camera nearly a year ago... But after using the EP3 menu now it's hard to go backwards to the EP2 menu. The Sony a77 has a very, very logical menu and I never get lost in it. Perhaps they can lend Olympus some software engineers....

Unknown said...

As a long time user of TLR's , let me recommend a Minolta Autocord, It produces , dare I say it, much better images
than the Rollei's, The film transport system is reversed so there is none of the film flatness issues,
You can buy then all day for $150 or less

kirk tuck said...

I'm not thinking of vintage Rolleis but the current product which is very much state of the art. Sadly, at state of the art prices... A modest $6700. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/303163-USA/Rollei_66607_Rolleiflex_4_0_FW_Medium.html

Craig Yuill said...

$6700 for a new Rolleiflex TLR? Ouch! Someone on my local Craigslist was advertising a Rolleiflex 80mm f/2.8 (exact model unspecified) WITH prism for $600 just yesterday. There was also an ad for a Hasselblad 500 ELX with 150mm f/4 Sonnar and A12 back for $700. It's a great time to pick up used medium-format film gear.

Stan said...

"I changed size and perspective in a very old fashioned way. I moved my feet and brought myself and the camera closer to the building." What is this nonsense of which you speak :) Next you'll be talking about photography for the sake of making great photos, rather than testing cameras.

cidereye said...

Funny this should come up, I was saving away for a Hassy 500 C/M until a rather nice Rolleiflex T came up for sale a few days ago. Couldn't resist it and back to being a Rollei user once more. Bye bye Hassy, hello again Rollei.

Ken Owen said...

Inspired by your pic, mention of movies and Technicolor. Buildings have done away with windows. Occupants view the outside world via wall-sized monitors either in real time or as a recording. Go ahead, choose your field of view, pick an effect (tobacco grad's my current fave), switch to an entirely different scene - perhaps that view across the lake from your weekend cottage. Want to save that sunset? Erm...wait a mo, I know it can do that, it's in this menu somewhere.

AdamR said...

Ugh, don't remind me of my Rolleiflex. Its sitting on a shelf unable to move the winding lever and I can't select shutter speeds above 1/15th. I don't have the cash to get it fixed at the moment but I really, really miss it. Certainly the camera I most enjoy using. (Not that I've used very many cameras)

Adam

Gregg Mack said...

Yes, the OM-D has an awful lot of Custom Menu options. Most of the default settings are just fine, but I did change 6 or 7 of them to fit me better. The problem is that you have to sit down with the horrible Instruction Manual and spend a LOT of time just to figure out what all of these settings do.

Olympus really needs to get a competent Tech Writer on this. For instance, why on earth is the Table of Contents on page 35? I really had to spend a significant amount of time figuring out the Zoom Frame AF feature, and there are two modes of that - depending on some obscure menu item called "LV Close Up Mode" - and neither one does what you want it to. The other feature that has a very bizarre set of instructions for, is how to set a custom white balance. Why Olympus chooses to use the term "One-touch white balance" for what everyone else on earth calls "custom white balance" is bad enough. Trying to figure out how to perform a "One-touch white balance" is so confusing and frustrating, that I am certain that I will attempt to explain how to do that in a blog post next week.

The camera is fun, and takes great photos. The number of menu choices is frustrating simply because it takes a LOT of time to learn what they all do. That time is lengthened considerably, simply because the Instruction Manual is inexcusably confusing.

Miguel Teixeira said...

Not sure if you are referring to the metal tank that is the Nikkor 105mm f2.5 pre-AI, but it works great as a tele lens on a APS-C D3100 (even though it obviously feels more natural attached to my FM2).

JJ Semple said...

Sony a57 works for me.

Nice results on latest assignment — shooting a house, the brick and mortar and timber, exterior and interior constituents, as well as the ineffable soul of a dwelling element.

kirk tuck said...

Gregg, I feel your pain. Stuff should be easier. Much easier.

kirk tuck said...

All of the 105mm 2.5's were spanking good. And if you want to spend even more $$$ you should look at the 105mm 1.8's they are awesome as well.