Testing the Olympus 70mm f2.0 (Pen-FT) lens with the very good Sony a6300. Surprising results...

I have owned the Olympus 70mm f2.0 lens (originally made for the Pen F half frame cameras in the late 1960's and early 1970's...) for a very long time and I always thought it was the least sharp of the vintage Olympus lenses that I owned. Recently, I decided to try it with the Sony a6300 by using an inexpensive, Fotodiox, adapter. My previous experience using the lens on a Sony Nex camera was with the Nex 7 and it was always a bit suspect because the Nex 7 was known not to play nicely with other makers wide angle lenses and even less nice with older, legacy lenses. 

I am happy to report that the a6300 is the model of accommodation. I started shooting a bit this afternoon using just the focus peaking to try and hit sharp focus. I immediately chimped at 100% and was disappointed to find the images looking soft or out of focus. My next tests were done using the focus magnification feature. With magnification enabled I could see that the fault lay not with my lens but with my technique and with the camera's overly optimistic focus peaking indicators. 

The frames on which I used the magnification to do my manual focusing I was happy to see that most of the apertures right up to f16 were able to yield sharp images. Since the coatings are from another era the images do benefit from a bit of added contrast and the judicious use of the dehaze slider in the latest rev of PhotoShop. 

I know that I promised not to shoot architectural bits and pieces as examples for my blog articles but it's the middle of the Summer and all of the Austin super-models have gone to a super model convention in Aspen...

I have tweaked these files. I did it not to fool you into thinking that this 40+ year old lens looks better than it is but because images from modern lenses are routinely tweaked and enhanced by in-camera processing which sharpens, fixes vignetting (which is not required with the 70mm), fixes geometry (which was not required with the 70mm), and fixes chromatic aberrations ---- also not required with the 70mm.  What I did do was bump the overall saturation and contrast a bit because there is an apparent difference of philosophy in lens coating from then to now. In the modern times we are intended to be able to use the files right out of the camera without modification but in the days of yore, when the lens was popular, the images would either be processed and printed in black and white or color; or they would be processed as color slides. In each of these processes it was best to start with a "flatter" negative and add contrast as you went along since you could never go in the other direction. At least not with good, predictable results...

I am extremely happy with the performance of this lens. At f5.6 and f8.0, with appropriate processing, it certainly stands up well to current lenses. In fact, I think starting with a lower contrast original file may actually help photographers to achieve a longer dynamic range and allow for more flexibility in processing. I give this classic "two thumbs up" and an honored place in my camera bag.

Shot wide open at f2.0

I still don't understand this signage. I would pay an appreciable amount to cut 30% off my best swim times but when I inquired at this clothing store the woman at the counter mumbled something about a price reduction on swimwear. Crazy; right?


Thoughts about the two, new Fuji Cameras: The XT-2 and the X Pro-2. And some personal history...

©Kirk Tuck. Not a Fuji Photograph.

I'll start this blog out by saying that I was very early adopter of Fuji's digital cameras having purchased the DS-300 all the way back in 1998. That camera was configured like a bigger, consumer point-and-shoot camera and it NO rear screen, just a small, monochrome screen on top for changing settings. 

The camera was aimed at the professional market and it delivered 1.3 million pixels (1280X1000) from its 2/3rd inch, CCD sensor. The fixed lens was a zoom with a 35-105mm range (equivalent) and the camera wrote its files to a huge, 16 megabyte PC card. You could use an RCA plug to attach a television if you want to quickly review your shots. That would be an SD television....

The camera came complete with an RX-232C interface but if you really wanted to speed up file transfers, etc. you could buy a "grip" attachment that would give you a full sized SCSI connector. All viewing was done through a smallish optical viewfinder. There was no way to preview your shots, something we take for granted now some 18 years later...

Were we able to do "professional" work with this camera? Well, as I write this I recall a job we did for Motorola a week or two after getting the camera. We took our lighting gear and the new camera and a small television set (with which to review our images) and we headed to the Renaissance Hotel in north Austin. We set up an impromptu studio in the grand and glorious lobby (so fresh back then) and took portraits of arriving attendees for one of Motorola's big, Horizon customer events. Out of the 1200 or so attendees we probably made portraits of 300 of them during the day. Some people declined and some got tired of waiting in line. It didn't matter.

The goal of the giant portrait shoot was to provide content for another part of the show. The event company was constructing towers of rotating 12x12 inch boxes that would constitute a bordering line along each side of the walk-in path to the main event of the show. Each "tower" consisted of a pole about ten feet tall with cubes (like pieces of meat on a shish kabob skewer) from about four feet high up to the top. The cubes could rotate freely and people could spin them around to see all four sides as they walked along the red carpet and into the grand ballroom for the start of the first session.

Every side of each cube (but not the tops or bottoms) was covered with a photo that was borderless and sized to fit the cube face exactly. The display consisted of about 250 cube faces and the production company estimated that we'd need to print 125 edited images X 2 (on set for each side of the aisle. We would need to edit down, process and print 250 images on 13 by 19 inch paper, trim them to size, and deliver them by 5 am (overnight) to make the deadline of having the prints installed and ready to go at 9am the next morning for the opening of the show. 

At the time that was a lot of prints to push through an ink jet print workflow. 

We shot images until 4pm and then fought the traffic back to the studio where we had set up two workstations with an Epson wide carriage printer attached to each. We had also stocked in 300 sheets of heavy, matte surface, 13 by 19 inkjet paper and hundreds and hundreds of dollars of ink cartridges. 

My assistant and I got straight to work color correcting and enhancing the files and then pushing them through a program called "Genuine Fractals" to enlarge them to 12 inches on the short side. The color correction step was critical as the camera DID NOT have raw files and the color science of the early cameras was not as advanced as it is today. The files enlarged pretty well and we made our deadline. The images were rotating on their sticks in the morning. We filled a large trash can with reject prints and the edges of the keepers that had been cropped off. The clients were ecstatic and we were well paid.

My next experience with Fuji digital cameras was with the S2 camera which used the first in a long line of non-standard, Fuji sensors. It was basically a six megapixel camera (based on a Nikon N80 film camera) that had an interpolation scheme that yielded a (faux) 12 megapixel file and more dynamic range. The files worked well and looked good but the body was a bit of a melange and used two different battery types that were famous for alternating their untimely expirations. The most elegant of the Fuji clan of "professional" camera were the S5 cameras which finally used a single battery, did not corrupt CF cards with anywhere near the frequency of previous bodies, and which had the same, basic, good looking files. These cameras were the mainstream,  preferred portrait cameras for many. 

For the most part my experiences with the later Fuji cameras were very positive. I have fond memories of shooting golf courses and trash dumps while leaning out of helicopters with my Fujis. They were good imaging tools for the early days of digital imaging. You could have a career with several of them and a box of Nikon lenses. 

Which brings us up to about three years ago and the launch of the X Pro-1. As a long, long time Leica shooter I loved the idea of the X-Pro-1. It seemed that people in Fuji marketing and Fuji product design had conspired to create a camera that spoke to the hearts of M Leica users. I was enthralled and, when the call came, I rushed to my local dealer to try out the new camera and a few of the cool new lenses that were just surfacing. 

The first disappointment was when I pulled the camera to my eye, saw the blurry viewfinder and starting looking around to find a diopter adjustment. Which did not exist. Oh, you could (theoretically) order a screw on diopter and wait for it to arrive but that's never a good option. I tried to overlook this set back and pushed on to try to find things to love about the camera. But the focusing was as mushy as the uncorrected viewfinder. And the camera shut down a couple of times while I played with it. I handed it back to the clerk and resolved to press on with the (many) cameras I already had in inventory.

I resisted the siren song of the mirrorless Fuji cameras even though a number of my friends raved about the quality of the lenses and people like Zack Arias gushed endlessly about the Xt-1. A representative from Fuji's cinema division came into town and arranged a meeting with me when the XT-1 was just hitting the market. We had coffee and he put the camera in my hands to play with for a while but I was unconvinced. While the camera felt great in my hands the interface was a bit strange and the lower resolution, compared to the cameras I was currently shooting, felt like a step backwards for me, even though I knew it was purely and emotional response.

More great lenses came on to the market and from time to time I would look at the primes wistfully, all the while trying to grapple with the AF mysteries of my Nikon D810 as well as the recalls of my Nikon D750s.

When the Fuji X-Pro-2 came out I had just sold off the Nikons and moved to Sony full frame and APS-C cameras (along with the quite virtuous RX10 cameras) and I was resistant to even touching the new Fuji for fear that it would induce post cognitive dissonance, and that my faithful readers would finally draw the line at what could only appear as a blatantly promiscuous un-faithfulness in my camera  buying adventures. And I get tired of being labeled a fanboy of more than one camera system in any one fiscal year.

But I did go to Precision Camera in Austin, Texas and hold one in my very own hands. Fuji got so much right and so little wrong with the X-pro-2. I was shocked at how improved this camera was over its predecessor. The 35mm f2.0 and the 35mm f1.4 are both purported to be amazingly good 50mm equivalent lenses and the lens range overall is continuing to expand. While I am happy with the Sony A7x cameras in my current inventory I'm not sure I would have made the same call if the Fuji had been on the market at the same time ---- my upgrade may have gone in a different direction.

Now, for the past 36 hours, the photo press has been hemorrhaging information and photographs of the new XT-2 and I must admit that it's a gorgeous camera body. It has just enough nostalgic reference to remind me of the cameras that were on the market when I first got interested in the sublime art of photography. I've been reading the specs on site after site and I see so much that I might really like and take advantage of. Things like the film looks and the physical control interfaces. I was miffed when I first learned that the new camera had 4K video but no headphone jack until I learned that, like the Olympus OMD EM-5.2, the headphone jack is incorporated in a battery grip. That worked well when I shot the Olympus cameras in video so I can't argue with the logic of doing the same in the Fuji. After all, if you shoot video professionally the addition of an extra power source is a zero brain decision.

To say it straight out, if I had nary a camera in the house and I had about $10,000 cash banging around in my pocket, and I had a Texas sized hankering for a new camera system instead of a used car or a bottle of good wine, like a Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France, I'm of the mindset today that I would probably piece together an all prime lens system that revolves around the X-pro-2. It's an irrational choice because I am involved in video projects and the XT-2 has more advanced video features and the potential to have really good color in the files. But it's the body style of the X-pro-2 that interests me the most. The camera's style is a charming nod to the old rangefinder cameras while harboring really solid imaging capabilities. 

Alas, for the near term I don't think Fuji will be able to wrest the money from my hands and seal any sort of deal. While the lure of sexy product design is tempting I've had too many occasions to actually use the massive imaging power of the Sony A7R2 and it would take a lot of convincing from some camp to make me give that up. I've also shot commercially successful video with the A7x bodies, the a6300 body and the two RX10 cameras and while the Fuji might take really great images I have to remind myself that my business doesn't really exist in that fantasy universe of perfect prime lenses. I might imagine myself marching into a job with a single, faux rangefinder body and three exquisite single focal length lenses but a quick think back to my last 50 jobs quickly shows me how important my various Sony zooms are and how little use I get from most of my prime lenses, in the real world where I work.  I do get good use from my 85-135 range but more and more I reach for the 70-200mm f4.0 Sony zoom just because it's so easy to get exact framing, get everything wicked sharp, have enhanced I.S. and be able to fall back on eye detect AF. 

The Fuji cameras would be my throw back fantasy cameras while my Sonys are everyday working cameras. At least that's my point of view today. But you know that around here camera choices can turn on a dime. If only the A7R2 wasn't so damn good!!!

I will say that the Fuji cameras are going to be mean competition for Nikon and Canon when a whole new generation of buyers goes camera shopping and they arrive without all the baggage and preconceptions of what my generation thinks "pro" cameras should be... Almost makes me think that in five years the real competition will be Fuji versus Sony with Canon hanging on in third place. Weirder things have happened, just ask Kodak.


Shooting square today and using a counter-intuitive portrait camera.

A photograph from a traditional, square format, film camera.

Both yesterday and today I pressed two cameras into service that don't get much respect or interest from advanced hobbyists or my fellow professional photographers. And that's fine with me. I'll let them spend the money and get big ass cameras and ponder the wonders of the Hasselblad instead. Me? I'll take the left over cash (and time) and have more postcards printed. Or hire a designer to re-do the website. But I sure won't be dissuaded from using the new tools. It just takes some people longer to come around. 

When I left the studio yesterday I had written a post that was all future tense: we're going to do this; I'm going to do that... So first thing, I thought I'd report back about yesterday's shoot. 

If you'll remember I was talking about how hellishly hot it was. I packed up the car and headed down to San Marcos and found the last available parking spot in the park. The river was flowing well and the rapids through the park were a popular attraction to lots of central Texans. I parked the car, cracked the windows, put the reflective shade across the inside of the windshield and then texted my client to let him know exactly where I was. Then I quick-scouted the park and found a perfect position that would put my client in some precious shade while, visually, the layered waterfalls flowed directly behind him. It would be a 400 meter hike from the car but that's why we acclimate and stay in good shape, right?

I was twenty minutes early while the client was twenty minutes late so I killed time waiting in the shade. When he showed up I told him about the location, offered him water, and we marched over with the minimum of gear. He chilled in the shade while I set of the small octabox and the diffuser. I decided to use the camera handheld (a departure for me but...we were shooting at 1/1250th of a second... so I felt pretty confident I could hold the camera steady. Especially with Sony's ridiculously good image stabilization.

I'd tested everything previously and the camera, flash and radio triggers worked as expected. In fact, the first shot; my test shot, was right on the money for color balance and exposure. Which is a good thing because when the heat index climbs up to about 110 you really, really don't want to keep a good client standing around --- even if you do have some shade. 

We shot 45 shots in about three minutes. I shot medium, wide and some fairly tight. The brief was to do an environmental portrait so the surroundings were important. The EVF kept me from having to chimp on the rear screen with all the ambient light bouncing around. We called it quits after the 45th frame because we were both starting to sweat. It wouldn't mess up the image if I was sweating but as soon as some sweat spots soaked through the client's shirt we knew we might as well be done. Working in extreme weather can suck because it's easy to miss stuff or get lazy and cut corners. 

We shook hands and I grabbed the stands, camera and sandbag and headed back to the car where I drank a liter of water. And then headed on to San Antonio for another engagement. 

This morning I opened the files and processed them in Lightroom. The images were well balanced and the flash lighting worked well. I did my usual retouching and later tossed in some retouching via PhotoShop's new Facial Liquify. I wanted to open up or enlarge the subject's eyes a little bit to compensate for a very slight squint that was inevitable in the bright environment.  I made a gallery with 20 photo selections and sent it to my client's marketing team. Someone had forgotten to let me know that we were on a short deadline until they remembered and left a text in the middle of the night, last night, asking for a quick turn. They are a good (excellent) client so we obliged. 

I got the final selection from their designer right after lunch today and went to work on the real retouching. Since we were shooting in a public park I started by removing recognizable people from the frame. I took out a plump woman in the background who was wearing far too ambitious a swim suit, as well as stacks of yellow floats, a red cooler and some trash. I worked on my subject's face and eyes and made sure to eliminated any glare on his skin. In the end the image turned out quite well and is already on its way to becoming an integral part of an advertising piece. I felt that the RX10ii was a solid plus in getting this job done in our time frame and with the results everyone expected. It was also nimble to use in a physically uncomfortable situation.

That led me to do a last minute re-pack for today's shoot. 

Having just spent some quality time at 100% with a raw file from the RX10ii I decided to dump out the full frame cameras I had packed for an interior portrait shoot this morning and re-pack with the Sony RX10iii. We were scheduled with a tech company to shoot ten portraits before lunch in a conference room with west facing windows (no direct sun in the morning). 

In keeping with making everything light and mobile I packed portable, battery powered flashes again. A Cactus RF60 into a 60 inch, white umbrella for fill lighting and a Cactus RF60 into the small (32")  Westcott Octabox; both triggered by a VF6 in the hot shoe of  the camera. 

Tired of the tyranny of limited aspect ratio choices in most cameras, I chose one of the RX10s specifically so I could shoot a big, high res file in 1:1. Affectionately known as "square."   You've heard of the "golden ratio", right? Well the visual scientists at the Visual Science Lab are renaming the square, "The Platinum Ratio." The RX10ii and iii get you there with a full 13 megapixels to work with. More than enough for anything I can think of publishing on the web. 

I composed my frames with enough leeway to crop a nice rectangle in either axis and it made shooting so much more convenient. Go Platinum Ratio!!! Go Square! 

I made 665 photographs over the course of the morning, all on the initial battery. There was 15% power left when I finished. Of the 665 photographs shot I edited out 0% because of focusing errors. The raw files were easy to work with in Lightroom, mostly because we nailed the color with a custom white balance at the outset. While I would welcome more control in putting the backgrounds out of focus that is absolutely my only hesitation in using that camera for everything. It's just that good. 


Testing a lightweight alternative to big flash for shooting outdoors in the heat wave. It takes a certain camera.

Now is when it gets too hot to live and work in Texas. I would guess the heat has already effected my brain because I haven't retreated to a more temperate clime yet. So jealous of Michael Johnston just kicking back in the cool woods of upstate New York. He probably can keep his ice tea cold just by setting it on the back porch.... But we have heat advisories from the National Weather Service for the next few days, in the Austin, Texas area. We're looking forward to heat indexes of around 110 degrees (f) during the afternoons and today those will be compounded with wind gusts of 20-25 mph. Just imagine a nice, humid, convection oven...

And, of course, we have an outdoor advertising portrait scheduled for 1 pm.

Now, normally, I'd grab the big Elinchrom Ranger RX AS with the two heads (30 pounds+/-), four C-stands (two for lights and two for diffusion scrims/sun blockers) four sand bags and various other goodies. I'd head over to the location and set up a big softbox and we'd shoot like that. We would need the big rig if were shooting with one of the full frame Sonys, and that's the way I used to shoot exterior with the big Nikon D810 but, I'm just not feeling it today. I'm out to reduce the load in deference to the heat. 

I mulled the shoot over and suddenly remembered something really cool about the Sony RX10 series of cameras; they have mechanical leaf shutters (or switchable electronic shutters) and can sync with flash all the way up to 1/1250th of a second. This is a great thing because it means I can use a smaller, battery powered flash, sync'd at a higher shutter speed and get the fill flash I want for the image outdoors. However, we never take any information on face value when $$$ is involved so I grabbed the RX10ii (it has the built in ND if I need it...) and started testing. 

Using a Nikon AS10 hot shoe to PC cord adapter I could trigger just about anything that has a reciprocal PC plug but I wanted to see if I could use the Cactus V6 radio trigger along with the Cactus RF60 flash instead. I didn't know exactly what the performance parameters of the triggering mechanisms were in terms of max sync speed but the easiest way to find out is to test. I switched the camera to mechanical shutter speeds and ISO 100 and then started firing away starting at 1/1600th. 

No love at 1/1600th so I dropped down to 1/1250th and there it was: full flash sync. Bright across the frame. Not wanting to leave anything to chance I tried an entire range of shutter speeds down to 1/60th and all worked well. Just to be thorough I pulled the RX10iii out of the drawer, tested it in the same way and it too passed with flying colors. I dropped it into the bag next to the model 2 to serve as a back up. I'll be shooting as long a focal length as I can, commensurate with getting the background scene I want but I know I won't need to go longer than the equivalent of 200mm in this job.

The ability to sync flash at a wide range of shutter speeds is a good thing if you are shooting in contrasty daylight and need to fill in shadows. We'll take this feature and combine it with the way I usually deal with sunlit portraits. We'll find the background I want first and then figure out the relationship between subject and background that is most pleasing. I'll set a base exposure for the general scene. I'm aiming for f4.0 as my base aperture at ISO 100 so I'll be nudging right up to the shutter speed 1/1250th and might need to accommodate the sun by switching to f4.5 to get perfect exposure. Alternately, I could engage the ND and drop down nearly three shutter speeds to play around 1/250th. 

I'll put a diffusion panel or light blocking panel about two feet above my subject's head and sand bag it well. This takes hard light off my subject but it also drops his exposure at least two stops under daylight and that's where the flash comes in. I'll use it to bring the exposure back up on his face but without the squinting that the constant sun would cause. 

But I have no intention of using raw flash; that would just be replacing one hard light source with another. I'll use the flash in a modifier. Today I'm going to go with a smaller, 32 inch, collapsible Westcott octabank. It's quick to assemble and is a nice, soft source that lends itself to being used in close to the subject.  

Other gear includes: Wide brimmed hat, sunscreen, cooler with water, tripod, etc. 

I look forward to spending an hour in the heat and then getting back into the air conditioning. 

Image from a hot Summer day at Barton Springs Pool. Taken with the predecessor of the RX10; the Sony R1. A wonderful camera with a smaller than APS-C sensor and a permanently attached, Zeiss zoom lens. The tradition continues.

Last week our yard was emerald green. Who knows how close to this west Texas desert scene we'll end up in a week or so..... (Olympus EP-2 and Pen F 60mm f1.5). 


A Portrait of a Graphic Designer. In the studio on Westwood Terrace.

©Kirk Tuck

When I lose confidence in my abilities as a photographer
I run back to the very basics and start my 
education all over again. 

One light. One subject. 

Then I regain my footing. 

It would be so sad if we couldn't light people....

It was impossible to do commercial photographic work with digital in the early years of this century because, you know, resolution and noise.

Image from Kodak 660 and Nikon wide angle lens, circa 2000. 

And dynamic range. And sharpness. And color.

Hmmm. Maybe it was just a learning curve.

(Sarcasm strongly implied).

Shooting food at Manuel's Restaurant for their website.

Portrait made in the 500 San Marcos Studio. Big light, slow film.

©Kirk Tuck

Hand printed on the premises.

A Portrait Made with Agfapan 25 and a Big Light.

Anna-Marie in the 902 Studio.

All that matters is what the audience sees.

Primary Packaging. New York.  "A Chanel Press Sheet".

The pendulum swings.  We revered available light.  Then everything got lit with big softboxes.  Then we revered available light.  Then we lit things with lots of small flashes.  Now were heading back to our reverence for available light.  When I went on this job in NYC I took a few lights and some umbrellas with which to modify them.  But the entire factory was lit by white, translucent windows that ran the whole length of the building.  You can see the windows in the background.  The rest of the plant was suffused with a mix of skylights and florescent lights.  The light had a direction and texture that was so rich you could reach out and taste it.

We carted the lighting stuff around but we only used it for a few images done in conventional offices on a different floor.  On the press floor it was all about the unguent, luscious light.  It was a job that changed my point of view about lighting.  For the first time I realized how important it could be not to light.  And I loved that.  That's when I discovered my abiding love for tripods.  That's next.

These are copies of prints we made on DW fiber paper (Oriental Seagull) for the agency and client.  No exif as they were on film.  Hasselblad 501cm,  top image:  80mm.  Bottom image:  120 Makro Planar.  Film:  All Tri-X.


Go to this website http://cantineaustin.com scroll to the bottom and watch the video again.

I'm happy with the video with did for this Austin restaurant.

I did this with James Webb (he and I shot together and then he edited) last year and I put it aside after we launched it for the restaurant. I just watched it again today (making some dinner reservations) and I forgot that James had done such a nice job with the edit. Sometimes it's great for people who make stuff to circle back and see what they were doing in the past to inform them about what they might do next.

Click through to the website; It's my friend, Emmett Fox's wonderful restaurant. cantineaustin.com (The video is embedded at the bottom of their page).


And what was I writing about in 2009? A bit of light reading for the holidays. Or, "Damn, a re-run."

Looking for Independence on a walk around Austin.

One of the many things I like about Austin is the willingness of people here to come outside in all kinds of weather. It was hot today. The "heat index" hovered around 106 or 107. The air was still and moist, but people still came out. There was a crowd down near the Convention Center and, at the other end of downtown, the Graffiti Wall was packed with people posing and spraying. 

I walked for a long time today, looking for fun stuff to see and photograph. I thought I would see lots more evidence of Americana given the big holiday tomorrow, but no. I usually make my passagio a non-stop circuit but it was so hot today that I stopped at LaVazza Cafe on Congress Ave. for a glass of hibiscus mint iced tea, a prosciutto and brie panini, and a really fine cappuccino. It was a good midpoint on a three hour tour. I wore a hat, applied my sunscreen and wore a long sleeve, tech fabric shirt that blocks UV while wicking away moisture to facilitate evaporative cooling. But one must drink enough fluid to fuel the evaporation... 

At the "Wall" I was looking for scenes that fit into the constraints of the lens I'd brought. Nothing too wildly wide and nothing too surreptitiously long. Just 28-85mm. I was also on a search for images that were layered. By layered I mean that you can see things on multiple planes. I'm practicing trying to see those situations quickly enough so that I can capture them before they dissolve...

I am currently being mystified by the food truck culture of Austin. I get that it's a bootstrap way to start a food service business around a new concept or new foods but I don't understand the economics of paying the same amount for food off a truck as one would in a restaurant. If the food is equivalent you are giving up a nicely air conditioned environment, bath rooms and, in some cases, good atmosphere for the privilege of eating food with your dirty hands while squatting on a rock wall or drain pipe on one of the muggiest and most uncomfortable days I can imagine on which to eat anything. But then I also came across two of my good friends having lunch at an outdoor table at a downtown restaurant. What the heck? 105 degrees and fifteen feet from a busy street. Did they imagine they were on the Via Veneto in the Spring? At least this truck is product logical. Cold drinks for a hot day. And at least the product is actually meant to be portable.

When I finally got back to the house I was sweaty and parched. Now that I've had some Gatorade, another glass of iced tea, some water and a IPA beer I am most happy and comfortable to be sitting in front of the computer looking at images and having fun writing about photography. Hope your day is also interesting and satisfying. We are officially deep into Summer in Austin.

Painted patriotism at the Graffiti Wall. Just in time for the 4th of July!

Flag at the Graffiti Wall. Austin, Texas. July 3rd. 2016
Camera: Sony A7ii
Lens: Contax 28-85mm
©2016 Kirk Tuck

This is a pink house. Very pink.

In the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin. Just minutes from downtown. 

A re-test of the Contax 28-85mm f3.3-85mm without using Super Steady Shot. Oh my goodness...

I sure liked the color I was getting out of my new, old, used but "like new" Contax C/Y 28-85mm f3.3-4, Zeiss Vario Sonnar zoom lens the other day, but I wasn't too thrilled with the apparent sharpness (or subtle lack thereof) when I really dove in and examined the frames at 1:1 in Lightroom. Even though I am just a humble artist I tried real hard to figure out what an engineer or other technically adept person might do by way of more rigorous testing. I wanted to see if the lens was at fault or if I had mis-set something on the camera to cause an issue. But gosh golly! That kind of analytical thinking comes hard to flighty arts and crafts people so I called to see if there was a "genius bar" at the local camera store, you know, to see if any one had some ideas about, you know, sharpness. 

That didn't work out but I was lucky enough to meet some young geniuses up at the swimming pool when the lifeguards cleared the pool of kids at the top of the hour (to do a body count? To let adult swim laps for ten minutes?) I turned to a couple of the five year old dudes who were sitting next to me on the deck and asked their opinions about the whole lens sharpness issue. One of the kids told me he just didn't keep up with the mirrorless products but the other kid, right off the bat, asked me if I'd had the Super Steady Shot feature of the A7ii engaged. I told him that I had. He just shook his head and chuckled. "Look." he said, "I know everyone loves Image Stabilization but it's really a mixed blessing with those old legacy lenses. Especially zooms." 

"But why?" I asked. 

"Well, because you can't lock in a single appropriate focal length setting for the zooms in the camera menu and that means you are always either over compensating or under compensating with lenses that have no data sharing." The kid adjusted his goggles and snuck another look at the Rolex Submariner Jr. on his wrist. He was anxious to get back in the water.

His friend chimed in: "You also have to consider that with the 4x size of the sensor, compared to smaller sensor cameras, the mass of the moving assembly is harder to control. You'll never get the same results as you would with a smaller format camera; especially one with 5 axis image stabilization." The kids started fidgeting as the clock counted down the seconds till the pool re-opened. I was about to ask about nano acuity (always puzzling for artists but never for engineers and the technically blessed) but the lifeguard blew his whistle and the two kids jumped back into the swimming pool and sped away. 

I got up to leave and the lifeguard leaned down toward me from his perch on the lifeguard chair and said, "Sir, I really wouldn't worry about the idea of perfect sharpness, it's an oversold idea in photography, and so much more depends on your focusing technique anyway..." I nodded and grabbed my towel, and I looked for my flip flops because the deck had gotten hot. 

As I walked away one of the mom's supervising some of the smaller children in the kiddie pool walked over and said, "I'm sorry to eavesdrop but I had the same problem with a Noctilux and an adapter on an A7sii. You really can't fully trust focus peaking either. Especially with higher res files. Be sure to try punching in the magnification and fine focusing at 10X or more. Then you'll know if it's the lens or your technique. But really, the kids were right about the compromises with legacy lenses and Super Steady Shot. Sometimes I'm just tempted to go back to my Mamiya RZ67..."  She gave a little laugh and turned back to smear sunscreen on one of her kiddos. 

I'm a bit slow to understand lofty technical ideas so I sat in my car in the parking lot for a few minutes and wrote down what I thought I had learned on an index card. When I got back to the studio I asked a teenager to Google the owner's manual for my camera and read, several times, about how to turn on and off the SSShot. Then I got the teenager to help me set the control to "off" on the camera. 

I went out today and tried my whole test over again and I was amazed. The five year old swimmers were right. Turning off the Super Steady Shot was just the ticket. When I look at these images on my monitor, even at 100%, they are just as sharp as they can be.

I hope those two kids are at the pool again some time this week, I have some tax questions I want to run by them.