10.30.2019

So, how does that old, crusty Zeiss 50mm f1.7 lens work with a $15 adapter on the Lumix S1? Is it pure crap or was I able to salvage something?

Gone cheap. Thank God!

I've been buying up stuff like a Saudi prince with a open-ended credit card at Rodeo Drive. I put on the brakes but when I was looking through the gear drawer I found an almost forgotten Contax/Zeiss 50mm f1.7 manual focus lens. I went over to the computer and searched for a cheap adapter so I could use the lens on a Panasonic Lumix S1 camera. I found an adapter for about $15 so I ordered it. 

Today I put the adapter and lens on the camera and drove over to the lot next to the lake and then headed off on foot through downtown. I didn't shoot much but I did try to pay attention when I was shooting. You know, get the focus right (thank you, Mr. Peaking) and get the exposure nailed in. 

To say I am "happy" with the performance of the camera and lens together would be an understatement. They work very well together. The lens, by f4.0, is exquisitely sharp and even wide open it's better than decent. Pretty amazing. Putting a used $125 lens on a $15 adapter on a $2,500 camera and I'm as happy as I could be.

Two cons: you have to manually focus so you're not going to be following super fast action, and there is a bit of barrel distortion to the lens. Not that I care....I wasn't shooting test charts with it.



The right eye of the doll on the right, just above. 

This is a pretty good starting point for enjoying art. 
In the perfect world the tacos would be free. 



All done. Dusk. Twilight. The limits of my hand holding.

The cloudscape after the cold front blows through.


We had a cold front blow through last weekend (we're having one blow through right now!!!) and the next day the sky was filled with puffy clouds interspersed with blue sky. I headed out for a walk and I took a most basic set of gear with me. One Pentax K1 and one 50mm f1.4. I put the lens at f5.6 and the camera on turbo and set out. Everywhere I turned the sky was doing something new and different. 

I love shooting cloudy dappled skies because they make for great personal stock when I need to PhotoShop in a new sky in a photograph that had to be taken when the weather was less than cooperative. I have a folder now with about 600 or 700 cloudscapes. When we have to photograph against bald skies I've got my remedy close at hand. 

The weather is restless here this week. We started off pretty but now we've spent a day weaving in and out of rain. The wind has been less than discreet as well. Nothing like what the center of the country is experiencing but a bit disquieting for Texans. Tonight we're dipping down toward freezing but the forecast for tomorrow is sunny skies. Another day to shoot for the cloud folder. I can shoot outside until 3 p.m. but after that I'm booked to shoot a handful of different projects at the theater. I'd like to use the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens for most of the projects but I'm still on the fence. It just seems like another extravagance.....








So. Now we've had our two days of Fall. Get ready for our two weeks of Winter....

10.29.2019

I spent $15 dollars and now I have a 50mm Zeiss lens for my Lumix S1...


One thing that's kind of addictive about nearly all the mirrorless cameras is the way you can adapt older lenses that you might already own to the new bodies you love to buy. I have a 50mm f1.7 Zeiss lens that was originally made for the Contax (y/c) line of cameras that were on the market in the 1980's and 1990's and I've used it on micro four thirds cameras and APS-C cameras with very good results. The lens is one that consistently gets high marks when I look around for actual user reviews. It's in short supply these days because several influential budget lens adapters decided that the f1.7 is sharper than the more expensive and faster 50mm f1.4 Zeiss lens from the same family.

While I'm happy as a clam with the "normal" lens (Sigma 45mm f2.8 L-mount) I bought for my Lumix S1 I was sad to see the old Zeiss languishing in a drawer, unused. I went online and found a $14 (+tax) Fotasy brand, "dumb" adapter that would allow me to attach the old lens to the new camera and, since shipping was free, ordered it.

It came yesterday and I put the lens on the adapter first. It fit snuggly but not so snuggly that I might not ever be able to get it off again. Then I gingerly placed the combination on the camera and, with minimal use of force, turned the assemblage on the lens mount until the lock snicked into place. I turned on the camera and was happy to see that in "A" mode the camera meters correctly. Focusing was a little tough until I figured out how to turn on focus magnification and then everything fell into place.

The lens is as nice as I remember it. It's not as sharp, wide open, as some of the 50mm lenses I've owned but once you're past f2.8 everything is gloriously defined. And the lens has a different look than does the 45mm Sigma lens. I'm happy enough but I really didn't need one more option for the camera at that focal length.

What I do feel I need is a fast, fast, fast 85mm for the Lumix S1. To that end I'm currently considering the Sigma Art 85mm f1.4. Lenstip.com reviewed this lens and it even trounced Ming's sacred 85mm Zeiss Otus lens. Sigma makes an 85mm Art in an L-mount and my local bricks and mortar camera store has one for a whopping $1200. But, in comparison with the Otus lens I guess I should consider that to be dirt cheap.

My question to the collective brain trust: Has anyone here used the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens? The mount you used doesn't matter, I'm just interested to hear how you liked the optical performance of the lens. Anybody? 

I've read the reviews but until I hear from real people I always feel like I'm going in blind. Help?

Rainy, cold and damp here. I've pulled the office space heater out of the closet and I'm pulling my meager collection of winter wear out to see what's still fashionable enough to wear to work. I shouldn't really care about how cool something looks around the office but I don't want to embarrass Studio Dog if she has company over....


10.28.2019

Belinda helps to execute a durability test on the Panasonic Lumix S1 and a lens.


I've seen a lot of camera reviewers put a new camera and (weather resistant) lens under a shower of water, and one reviewer routinely pours water over camera+lens from his water bottle, but I don't see very many videos of people taking their own brand new cameras and dropping them from two or three feet in the air onto solid concrete or rugged rock terraces. Just generally not done. But we all hear about how "rugged" some cameras purport to be....

Now, Belinda and I did not do a dinner time "crash" test on purpose but I figured that since it happened I'd related the findings here. 

We were having delicious smoked ribs, and lots of healthy salads and such, at a photographer friend's home. It was a beautiful evening and this house has a wonderful terrace with a hand made picnic table and benches set on a rock-floored terrace. Of course I had my camera with me and I had used it a few minutes earlier to take a photo of my son, Ben, sitting at a second table nearby. I put the camera between Belinda and me on our bench and promptly forgot about it. 

A few minutes later Belinda got up to go in the house to get the beautiful chocolate cake which she baked from scratch for my birthday. As she stood up she dislodged the camera from its very tenuous and ill considered parking place and the camera spun off the bench and crashed down to the terrace smacking the uneven flagships. And it bounced more than once. 

Which camera? Of course it was the newest one, the Panasonic Lumix S1, outfitted with the wonderful, little 45mm f2.8 Sigma L mount lens. Everyone looked at me. I don't know if they thought I was about to cry or if I was angry but ..... hey....it's just a camera. I picked it up, dusted it off and went back to the ongoing conversation. We can always replace a camera we have a harder time replacing wonderful events....

The point of impact seemed to have happened first to the metal lens hood which bent inwards a bit, and also had some paint and bit of the underlying aluminum scraped off. There's a tiny nick on the frame of the rear LCD but no other visible damage anywhere. I turned on the camera, clicked off a few frames and everything seemed to work just as before. Only now the camera gets radio signals, and the volume of the radio can't be mitigated by any control I can find. I wouldn't normally mind but the camera only seems to play country and western music (which I mostly hate with a white hot passion === excluding Bob Wills...) so I am a bit chagrined. 

Just kidding about the radio play (not kidding about my distaste for country music, especially current country music...) but seriously, the camera seems to have survived a kinetic aerial ballet from about 2.5 feet in the air to a hard, scratchy surface. Now I just need to take that bend out of the lens hood. 

Oh! And I should mention that the camera makes nice photographs. I try to help.

The imputed point of initial impact, writ large.

10.27.2019

So, what do you get the photographer-who-has-everything for his birthday? I know, I know! How about a new 70-200mm lens for his Lumix system? Yeah. That would work.





Lumix 70-200mm f4.0 Pro. 

Guest post by Studio Dog.

How often do you have a birthday? It's really only once a year for humans, right? So I thought hard and long about what to get my favorite photographer on his special day. I mean the guy never buys anything for himself, right? No kibble. No liver treats. No tennis balls. So I asked around and I almost got him a guide to better understanding Olympus camera menus but that seemed too difficult for him. He is a bit slow on the uptake. But then one of his closest admirers suggested that perhaps a new lens would be a better gift. 

I took them at their word and went out in search of a nice, shiny lens that might bring a spark of joy to his birthday. And there it was. A brilliant Leica 90-280mm f2.8-f4.0 Zoom lens for only $6395. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend so I asked that sales guy in the plaid jacket with the skull head bolo tie hanging in front of his striped shirt if there was perhaps a less expensive lens....something better than Canon or Nikon but not as pricey as the Leica. He assured me that this particular lens would do the trick.

It's a Panasonic Lumix Pro series 70-200mm f4.0 lens. I put it next to his food bowl this morning along with a chewed sock (so he'd know who it was from) and I have to say that I think Kirk liked it. He started to drool, rolled over on his back and let me scratch his stomach and, boy! was his tail wagging...

But what a selfish human, no matter how much I hint around (and believe me I am NOT subtle) he still won't share! He refuses to play "fetch" with his new toy. And to tell the truth I feel a bit deflated --- he keeps playing with it, and I've bitten it a couple of times, and neither of us can find the squeaker. How does Panasonic get away with making such pricey toys if they don't even have a squeaker.

Ah well, you never really know what makes these humans happy. But I think it will be a good birthday for him, I nearly caught that plump squirrel in the backyard and I'm pretty sure I'll get him next time. And, unlike that ungrateful human, I'll actually share.


I found the squeaker. Every time he reads this he squeaks just a bit.

Must smell pretty good to humans...

Day of the Dead in Austin. Flailing around with a Lumix S1 and the kit lens, trying to stay out of operational confusion.


It was  perfect day for a parade and festival. Saturday the 26th. Cool in the morning and comfortable by noon when the hour long parade started heading west from IH-35, on Sixth St. I got into downtown just ten minutes before the start of the parade and hadn't done a logistics/parking analysis before I got there. I didn't waste time, I just parked at the Fairmont Hotel and hustled in to the heart of downtown. 

I went in heavy/lite; one camera and one lens, but a bulky combination of Lumix S1 and the overwhelming 24-105mm kit lens. I roamed around and shot stuff at random. I didn't really have much of a plan to my shooting but I did want to get my hands all over this camera and lens and start getting comfortable with it.

Halfway through the afternoon I got a call from a photographer friend who was in town. I took a break to meet him for coffee over at the Hilton Hotel and then headed back to the Fairmont to grab my car. I've been keeping an eye on one homeless guy and his (incredibly great) dog who hang out at Sixth St. and Brazos, and when I checked in with them on Friday I asked if they needed anything. The answer was an umbrella and a warm blanket. I needed to drop those by. 

Since fate provided me with a good, new parking place right in the center of town I finished my delivery and headed back into the afternoon-long festival for the Day of the Dead. Loved the face painting, the altar assemblages and the general warm, happy tenor of the crowds. Everyone was just enjoying a perfect day in Austin.

What did I learn, camera-wise, from my four hours weaving around downtown?  I learned that the Lumix S1 is the heaviest camera I've owned in a while; more so with the 24-105mm f4.0 on the front. I learned that you really have two less than perfect choices when it comes to power management with that camera: You can set the camera to shut down within seconds of removing your eye from the eyepiece, or your finger from the shutter release button, which then requires you to "wake up" your camera every time you want to take a photograph or....you can use it in a more regular mode where the camera eventually goes to sleep but gives you minutes of "ready" time instead of seconds. And if you choose the second option you can have the added excitement of watching the indicator of charge in your battery drain faster than most modern cameras. This, in spite of having an extra big (comparatively) battery. 

I learned that I really like the flexibility of having a wide range of focal lengths at my disposal but that I like even better the restraint and concentration that's a result of just having one focal length at a time to shoot with. Give me a zoom for work. Give me a prime if I'm pretending to do ART.

The camera focuses quickly. I used the AF-C and it worked well. I used the AF-S and it worked even better. A strength of the camera not mentioned before is the way it consistently nails exposure. I had few frames I needed to massage, the exposure was right on the money in a way that allowed me a lot of leeway in post. No blown highlights nothing approaching the dark vacuum of space detail-less black. 

The camera files have a smoothness to them that I like and I'm crediting to the long dynamic range. I used the standard zoom lens mostly at f4.0 so I'm happy with the way the focus falls off in the backgrounds but equally happy when I punch in to 100% and see nice details and well delineated eyelashes. Tossing a bit of shade at the idea that lenses can't be useably sharp wide open....

Still not sure why I bought this camera and have a passion to learn it. Boredom? Grass is greener on the other system? Nostalgia for my Panasonic G9s? Good advertising on the part of Panasonic? The Lure of being able to use Leica lenses on it? I'm not sure I know yet. I'm not sure I'll ever know. But there you are. 

I didn't shoot nearly as much as I usually do but that had less to do with the camera and lens and much more to do with my state of mind yesterday. I worked hard in the pool that morning; we clocked nearly 5,000 yards in our hour and a half. By afternoon I was tired but happy. I think my motivation in going downtown was less to test a camera than it was going down to enjoy the event and just be....outside with people. 



There was a person at the event shooting with a 4x5 view camera.
That takes commitment. More about him in a later post.

Loving the theatrical contact lenses.


No Costume. All spirit.

Lumix does red roses well. 


Leafy Greens.

Did they make Frida Kahlo into a saint when I wasn't paying attention?



The cutest thing I saw all day long. 











What's a parade without spectators?


Love the background. That's nice bokeh. 

10.25.2019

My current, favorite street shooting camera system and lens. Totally rational irrationality.

Pentax K-1 with the older 50mm f1.4 AF lens.

I never imagined, back when I tossed down $900 on a minty, used Pentax K-1, on a whim, that I'd be singing its praises as one of the most enjoyable all around cameras I've ever shot with. But that's exactly what I'm doing right here. I have a bunch of different cameras here in the studio and can probably put my hands on any number of other interesting cameras from vendors or friends to test out, but every time I head toward the office door these days I find myself checking to make sure there's a fresh battery and a clean SD card in the Pentax which I then put over one shoulder, lock the door behind me and head off to make photographs for fun.

But why? One answer would be that Pentax knows how to make cameras that fit in one's hands nearly perfectly. At first glance the camera looks big and bulky but compared to the Lumix S1 it's small and light. It's probably smaller and lighter than the Fuji X-H1 with a battery grip as well. The viewfinder, while not an EVF, is big, bright and pristine. The menu took a few weeks to master as opposed to Sony and Olympus menus which might take a lifetime to understand (note: if someone tells you they have mastered either of those two menus completely do NOT do business with them because they are either lying or they've devoted every waking hour not to shooting but to rote memorization of things no one should have to/want to know. Either way they aren't showing the best judgement.  That's not to say that normal people should not use Olympus or Sony cameras, only that you need to limit yourself to just learning the 10-25% of the menu you'll actually need to know to take photographs...). 

For the price I paid for either of the K-1 bodies I've picked up they are amazingly good image producers. The raw files are incredibly detailed, the color very accurate/pleasing and the dynamic range about as good as the very best (and most expensive) cameras on the market right now. Good battery life is also included....

Sadly, I can not make the Pentax full frame cameras into my primary system for all of my business because they just don't have the lenses I want and there seems to be no assurance that Pentax will stay in the camera business as the entire industry shrinks while Pentax market share shrinks quicker. But! Here's the deal; I see the two K-1's and my small assortment of Pentax lenses as a kind "personal" or "art" system. One to be used in conjunction with other systems that are more geared to day-to-day work for clients. 

For example, the Pentax offers only rudimentary video features and does not offer 4K of any kind. Since our last six or seven projects have all been originated in 4K that makes the Pentax a non-starter. The Fuji system works well for video, and my current lens collection for Fuji gives me tremendous reach. I can go from 8mm to 400mm (basically 12mm to 600mm in 35mm equivalent parlance) and do so with state-of-the-art lenses. With three inexpensive X-H1 bodies I can do three camera shoots, all in 4K, and have enough overlap with lenses to give me ultimate flexibility. And that's great for work. 

But the Pentax feels ready and rugged for everyday shooting, and my own personal work rarely falls out of the confines of the lens range I've assembled for the system = 28-135mm. 

I cemented the deal in my mind when I chose to take the single Pentax K-1, along with the 50mm f1.4 AF and the 28-105mm kit-ish zoom lens on vacation to Montreal. I never had a moment of regret or dissatisfaction with my choice. And the images I was able to make are also technically just right. 

On the other hand...while I know and like the Fuji system very much I'm still trying to get up to speed with the Lumix S1 and the three lenses I've put together for that system. While everything I've shot with that camera and those lenses over the last two weeks has been technically excellent I'm having hesitancy in warming up to the shooting experience. I'm hoping to get over it by really leaning on the S1 for single camera video projects. But we'll see. My track record for warming up to cameras is mixed. Some, like the Nikon D700, just didn't do it for me when they were current camera models but when I came back to the D700 years later I found it to be a wonderful imaging tool. I had changed, not the camera.

I hope I don't have to sell and then re-buy the S1 and assorted lenses in order to finally appreciate the system and then have to buy it all over again. That gets expensive....



The 36 megapixel sensor is one of the best I've ever used.
This 50mm gets panned a lot but from f2.0 down to f11
it makes me happy. And, if it gets trashed I won't cry too hard 
as the initial investment wasn't ruinous. 

I'm not suggesting you go out and buy one but I am 
letting you know that the K-1 has been a bit of a revelation for me.