I took the day off and wandered around with this lens to see how it would work with my Sony Nex 7.

Being able to use legacy lenses is a wonderful reason to own one of the mirrorless cameras. Any one of the mirrorless cameras.  But don't do a search for lens company called, "Legacy." That's just what everyone calls older lenses that, against all logic, can be made to fit on new cameras. 
Mirrorless cameras.  

Right of the bat I've got to tell you that I love the Sony Nex 7 and the files it produces. But I'm tired of continually buying lenses for this camera and that so I decided to try the self-reliant, after all civilization collapses approach to putting lenses on the front of the camera. I reached into the Olympus Pen FT drawer and pulled out some of my favorites. They came to my camera pre-bought. That's the nice thing about leaving old stuff in the drawers long enough: sometimes it becomes new stuff all over again.

I thought about this lens when I looked at the price for the Zeiss 24mm lens that's made for the Nex cameras. Now, I've sure that the Zeiss optic is stunning to use and rests in the hand in such a perfect way that once you pick it up you'll never want to put it down. But it's also not a focal length ( about 37mm on a FF) that I rush to pick up when I make photographs. A great 50mm eq. gets my attention every time but 35-37 is really nothing special or particularly inviting for me and the thought of spending $1000 on a lens I'll use sparingly was too much.

The 25mm Olympus G. Zuiko Auto-W f2.8 is a lens I picked up in 1985 for $65. It's absolutely solid and the focusing ring is as smooth as the day it came into the studio. The glass is clean and the aperture ring still turns and click stops with authority. I didn't use this lens much on my original Pen cameras because I was more captivated by the fast 40, 42 and 60mm lenses. I had no idea how it would work on a very modern digital camera with a very high resolution sensor but with nothing to lose but time and shoe leather I was game.

I packed a very small bag with the 60mm 1.5 and an extra battery for the Nex 7. I stuck in my iPhone and a couple bucks as well as my car key and parked the car in front of Barton Springs Pool. The whole park was empty today. Thursdays the pool is closed for cleaning and the rest of the park is being decorated for the annual Trail of Lights.  I set the camera to manual exposure, big jpegs, fine, landscape creative setting, etc.

I've shared with you all recently that I am not particularly gifted with the use of wide angle and even moderately wide angle lenses but someone left a shred of advice in one of the comments. That was to use the near/far relationships for drama and depth. So that's where I started. The image above is the spill way at the end of the Barton Springs Pool. Those are the lunar rocks in the foreground. Well, not really lunar rocks but if you lit them just right and waited until it was dark outside and....

The lens is lower in contrast than current lens designs so I added some contrast and a little saturation in post. Good lesson. More contrast. Easy to do.

I use the Sony Nex 7 in the bottom of a leather never ready case as it adds some more grip-able surface to the camera and protects at least part of the camera from my episodes of not paying attention and then walking into doors or repeatedly dropping the camera down concrete stairs.  (Is that covered under warranty?). I was looking for purple fringe around the leaves in the image above but I was disappointed. No fringe. No purple.

This is what I'm talking about when I think about wide angle chaos. I like the brightly color trees but look at all that crap in the foreground. Never happens to me with a 50mm or longer lens... (Is that an Olympus blue sky or a Sony blue sky?).

So, I'm walking along the south shore of Lady Bird Lake (yes, really. They re-named it after Mrs. Johnson) and I'm about to pass under the Lamar bridge and I actually thought,  "Someone is going to take me to task for shooting nothing but distant shots and they'll complain that it's hard to see if the lens is sharp, or whatever. I should find something I can shoot at the near focusing limit of the lens." And just then I notice that someone has systematically stacked dozens and dozens of flat river rocks on top of each other in little pyramids. Almost like a wild, impromtu Zen garden. (What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor? "Make me one with everything."  Bazinga.)

So I crouched down and put my elbows on a little wall of rocks and carefully focused using the focusing magnification and I put the focus on the stack of rocks on the left hand side of the frame.  Thought perhaps we could do a bokeh test at the same time.  To make everything more obvious I included a close up section of the foreground rock construction in the frame below. It is a crop from the image above.

In my seat of the pants analysis the lens is adequately sharp. Wonderfully sharp compared to some I have used... If you click on the image above it will open bigger in it's own window but the brilliantly programmed Blogger software will probably throw you back to the beginning of the article when you dismiss the window. (21st century? Right...)

Gotcha's? You bet. This lens wasn't designed to work with sensors. Film works differently. For the most part everything is hunky dory but I found out the hard way that once you stop down past f8 you will start to get a magenta color shift around the edge of the frame. Go to f16 and it's absolutely pronounced. About 26 points of magenta.  Very apparent in the sky areas. The image above was shot at f16 and it was gruesome. I tried to neutralize it with the adjustment brush in Lightroom but was stymied by sheer laziness. That's why there's still some magenta in the top left and on the far right of the frame. Oh, I meant to leave it in there to illustrate the copy.....That's the ticket.

I stumbled around the downtown area for a while being drawn in by clementines and appalled by all the relentless building. Everywhere you turn in Austin companies are digging GIANT pits that will become parking structures which will sit at the bottom of high rise resident towers.  It's like we're playing trust funder musical chairs. They're moving here in droves because of our city's reputation as one of the coolest places to live on the planet. And here I do have to take some blame for being a living example.....(meant as a joke. Notation for the humor challenged.)... of my city's coolness...But at some point it will be like bacteria on a petri dish and they'll realize that by sheer numbers they've sucked all the coolness out of the city and everyone will start moving somewhere else. I'm already looking.  Desert? Patagonia? San Angelo?

But the clementines were attractive and useful and if you hit the image above and blow it up a bit you'll see lots of good detail and great color.

This image is my bold attempt to be a landscape guy. I like the image but I think the sky is blah. I guess I could drag the image into Portrait Professional and see if I could enhance it with some pouty lips and bold irises.

Somewhere along the course of the walk I lost a couple of dollars to a coffee shop and eighty nine cents to Whole Foods for a vegan chocolate donut. It tasted pretty good and it gives you a small dose of inner smugness knowing that most of the people around you didn't have a vegan chocolate donut.  Sorry dudes.  But eventually all walks lead back to my pool and I made it over to the Western Hills Athletic Club early enough to take calming photos of the water and lane lines.  Don't the black lines on the bottom of the pool remind you of the declining curves in the DXO tests charts for signal-to-noise over increasing ISO? That means we've been reading too many camera reviews.

At ten minutes of noon I put up the camera and got my bag of swim goodies out of the car. Hand paddles, a gaggle of Speedo Endurance Jammers, my own special goggles with the green straps and my training fins----which failed utterly today.  It was seventy degrees and sunny when I hit the pool. The water was clean and clear. We had a good group at practice today. 

I goofed around too much and got the stink eye from the coach. But that's what happens when you skip out on work and take the day off. Youthful exuberance.  I spent the rest of the day laying on the floor of the studio alternately napping and re-reading the Hobbit with my dog. I'd read her the exciting passages and she'd just look at me and shake her head. Every once and a while I'd give her a dog treat, just to keep her interested.  Like trying a new lens.  It works.

When in doubt about the artistic integrity of one of your images just 
dunk it into Snapseed and pound it with the grunge filter. Then everyone 
will know it's art.

Funniest thing I saw on the web today: My first book, Minimalist Lighting, which usually sells at Amazon at a discount (like all the other books on Amazon.com) was on NOT SALE today for its actual printed list price of $34.95.  I have no clue.

If you're feeling perky go do some shopping on Amazon and use one of the links below to get there. Your purchase of ANYTHING on Amazon will support my blog and it won't cost you a pfennig. Such a deal. Buy a car...please.


John Krumm said...

Some colorful photos that remind me of film in a way. Looks like your eye warmed to the focal length as you went along. I shoot a fair amount of moderate-wide angle and it's not always easy, as you note. You need an assistant with a weed wacker and perhaps a chain saw.

ChazL said...

Kirk, I was gonna let this pass (since you've likely forgotten more about photography than I know) BUT. . . Since you've again mentioned your discomfort with wide lenses, and as you've indicated that you're more-or-less OK with Ken Rockwell, I thought that you might enjoy reading this:


Yes, he's talking about ultrawides here, but the underlying principles apply well to all wide-angle photography. I liked Ken's message here, and I hope that you do as well.

Craig Yuill said...

Your style of shooting with that lens is similar to mine when I shot 4x5 film with a 150mm (wide-ish normal) lens. I tended to emphasize the foreground and get a lot of near/far look to my photos. Having a tiltable and swingable front standard also helped keep both near and far subjects in focus.

While I like my new made-for-digital zooms, like you I have been using my own pre-bought lenses designed for film cameras. I have used my "old" Tamron 24mm f/2.5 lens with my cropped frame DSLR. It works quite well, especially stopped down a bit. But I've enjoyed using my "old" nifty fifty AF lens more. Thanks for sharing these photos taken with your classic lenses.

Gregg Mack said...

Great photos, great story, and very funny humor. Thanks for kick-starting my day with a big smile on my face!

Corwin said...


"Adobe DNG Flat Field plug-in" is what you want. Maybe. :) Capture One 7 (or 6) has it built-in. Just profile your lens against white/grey wall or so and use it to correct color shift. And its gone.

Only downside is that it usually comes with lowered resolution in corners, which unlike color shift, cant be corrected. Its cause this lens were designed for very short flange distance and NEX-7 doesnt cope with this kind well (new 10-18mm OSS from Sony shows exactly same issue).

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks Corwin, I check that out that plug in. Good info.

Kirk Tuck said...

That should read, "Thanks Corwin, I'll check out that plug in. Good info." Sorry for the too fast typing.

Anders C. Madsen said...

You were swimming. In an outdoor pool. On November 30.

God, I *SO* hate you right now...! ;-)

Kirk Tuck said...

Anders, we swim outdoors year round. The water temperature is a carefully and painstakingly controlled 80 degrees fahrenheit at all times. The air temp in Austin is rarely, rarely under 30f. We don't swim if the wind chill temp is under 25f. Too much risk of ice on the decks. Happens once or twice a year.

Anonymous said...

I'm pea green with envy. Always wanted that lens for my Pen F but what with all the mirrorless cameras coming out the prices are through the roof. I do have the 20mm f3.5 Pen Zuiko though. If you have one of those perchance you could try it on your Sony?

nudge nudge, hint hint

John Robison

Kirk Tuck said...

Will do. Give me a few days. I'm in love with the Sigma 30 just now....