A Review of a "working" lens; not a "show off" lens.

Some lenses for digital cameras are "show off" lenses. You probably don't need them and you almost certainly paid too much for them but it's so much fun to pull a super-fast 28mm, 50mm or even 135mm out of your camera bag, put it on you camera and marvel at how supersharp it might be while also decimating the detail in a background with the lens's splendid bokeh. It's also fun to see the expressions on fellow photographers' faces when you pull a $10,000 Noctilux out and casually lock it onto the front of your camera. Silly stuff, but most of us do variantions of that (but mostly more subtle). Deep down we tend to believe that some esoteric and frightfully expensive lens has some magic incorporated into its design and if we just try hard enough we'll be able to make wonderful photographs that will once and for all prove that we are worthy, first tier photographers. But after using such lenses, with results that are very rarely any better than our rank and file lenses, we calm down and, if we're excellent at deflection, we blame the camera and start doing research on the newest camera bodies. Ah well. Human nature. 

At some point, especially if you are a "working" photographer (as in: you need to deliver or you'll starve) you come to the conclusion that there are a number of lenses that are in no way prestigious but which are called on time and time again to actually complete assignments with. These are the lenses that are not usually the most expensive but on an income-producing-to-original-cost calculation these are the ones that really deliver most of the profitable images for us. Some are common sense. 

If you are an event photographer you almost certainly have a 24-70mm of some kind and also a 70-200mm lens as well. You might have some fancier, faster lenses in the bag too but if you are honest you'll admit that the hard-working twins, the normal zoom and the tele zoom do most of the heavy lifting for your business. 

I admit that I was absolutely seduced by the alarmingly expensive, 50mm f1.4 Lumix S-Pro lens. It's the "reference lens" for Panasonic's entire L-mount system. It's a lens reviewers rave about and which Panasonic trots out when they want to talk about the quality of their line up. Every rep from Panasonic I've ever talked to about the lens always turns it over to show you the "Leica Certified" engraving on the bottom side before launching into a soliloquy that makes the lens out to be the ultimate achievement of modern optical engineering. 

The only problem is that it's a lens I almost never use. The same was true with my first version Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens. I loved the idea of them but I barely got any use out of the 85mm because it was just too heavy and just too slow to focus for anything other than totally stationary subjects. The 50mm is a focal length I love to walk around with. But the S-Pro is so big that it blows any pretense of discretion right out of the water. Too bad I'm so attached to the idea of it that I just can't part with it....yet.  

These are the show off lenses. They sound so good. And in use the image quality of the two I mention above is, indeed, spectacular. But just like a low slung sports car that you'd love to drive more, if it won't clear the traffic humps in the parking lot it's not really useful...even if the theoretics of it are breathtaking. 

Then, on the other hand, there are the lenses we find we can't really work without. With every camera system I've owned I find that I eventually need to shell out for a macro lens, for one reason or another. It used to be that I got a lot of calls for micro photography of small semiconductor chip dies. At the time I'd shell out something less than $1,000 for a beautifully corrected macro lens and use it to generate many, many multiples of the purchase price. I also had a wonderful collection of copy stands, macro bellows (loved the Nikon PB-4) and extension tubes. Also, quite a collection of lens reversing rings. 

I've stopped doing that kind of work and I'm several systems past my last collection of macro equipment but after being asked to do a digital copy of an old slide I realized that I have a backlog of stuff that needs to be documented and, until the slide request, had never bothered to duplicate the macro capabilities I used to have previous to L-mount system. 

The Panasonic system and the Leica system are both guilty of having zero macro options in native L-mount versions. Sure, you can source older Leica macros and use them with adapters but even the older ones made for the R series are expensive and hard to find. Thankfully, Sigma has several macro lenses available for the L-mount systems and the one I bought is, in context, downright cheap. It's a "working lens." The kind of lens you buy because it does a few things very, very well and when you need what it does there are few workarounds that will fill the bill; you just need that specialty feature set. 

I purchased a Sigma 70mm f2.8 Art series macro lens in the L mount last Friday and have tested it enough to know that it's a keeper. It's a bit big and somewhat heavy but nothing like the other f1.4 and f1.2 lenses in the Art line up. In addition, the front filter ring is a diminutive 49mms. The lens retails everywhere for around $560 and it also available in other, lesser mounts. 

My first task was to get a perfect high resolution copy of the Ann Richards slide I showed last week. You know your macro lens is good enough when it sharply reproduces the actual film grain, complete with sharp edges on the grain. This lens does that at 1:1 (which is the maximum magnification ratio).  The lens was easy enough to use on a Panasonic S1R. I switched the camera to electronic shutter and set the shutter delay at 8 seconds to make sure there was no movement at the time of exposure. I stopped the lens down to f8 partially because I think most macros are sharpest there, but also because the added depth of field helps to compensate for film curvature if you are shooting your slide while it's in its original cardboard mount. With nearly 50 megapixels of raw detail to work with the slides I shot on Friday, and again on Saturday, were as good or much better than any I had previously scanned with dedicated film scanners like the Nikon LS-4000. And being able to do each copy with a single shot was vastly more efficient than the multiple passes of the older technology. 

The extra stand-off distance of the lens from the subject is nicer for me than the typical 55 or 60mm macro lenses but it also more useful for a wider range of subjects than the 100, 105 and 180mm versions. The Sigma's 70mm is a Goldilocks focal length for me. I like it. 

Besides the heavy weight and bigger size of the lens there are one or two things which you might not like. They don't bother me but then I'm not a universal measure of how things should be done, and my taste doesn't always transfer well if you have different imaging needs. The first thing people complain about with this lens is that when shooting in the real macro ranges it is slow to focus. I find that while the lens dawdles a bit it's accurate and eventually gets where I need it to be without many misses. If you need a super speed, AF focusing macro you might have to look elsewhere.

Another stumble is that the lens is not internal focusing. The front of the lens trombones as you can see in one of the photos below. That's actually a feature; at least Sigma and I think so. Since the front lens element and front tube move forward when focusing the lens doesn't change to a shorter and shorter focal length as you get closer to life-size. That focal length change is similar to the idea of focus breathing in video. 

With internal focusing lenses the lens's focal length gets shorter and shorter as you focus. This changes the composition and the overall look of an image when compared to the same lens used closer to infinity. Not so with the Sigma. It doesn't change angle of view throughout its focusing range. 

If you can live with the lens barrel extending as you go for smaller and smaller magnification ratios (closer and closer to lifesize) then this lens makes sense because, optically, it's pretty darn great and it's about one half the price of competitive lenses from Sony, et al. The one other thing to consider is that the lens doesn't have image stabilization built-in. On Leica SL2 cameras and Panasonic S series cameras this isn't an issue since both company's cameras have very, very good IBIS. 

If you take the lens out of the studio and use it as a conventional street shooting lens you'll find that with judicious use of the focusing limiter switch you get fast autofocusing and quick lock-on without many episodes of focus hunting. You'll also be treated to a lens that is critically sharp from side to side by f4.0, which is where I tend to set this lens unless I know I need or want more depth of field.  (more following the pix) >
This is the Sigma DG 70mm Macro f2.8 Art lens in the L-mount
attached to a Panasonic S1 body. The lens is fairly large
but about half the weight of the first generation 85mm
Art lens for the L-mount. It's mostly metal and has a very high
caliber finish. It's a solid choice for everyday work.

The 70mm has some controls on the side of the lens.
The top control is a garden variety AF/MF switch while the bottom
switch allows you to quickly set focusing ranges to speed up shooting 
in known distance ranges. I mostly worked with the camera set 
to the 0.5m to infinity range on the street today.
On Friday and Saturday I use the 0.258-0.5m range.
This speeds up focusing and helps prevent hunting. 
It's a good feature to have.

While the lens lacks a traditional focusing scale wrapping around the lens barrel
the Sigma 70mm features a very useful close up scale on the tromboning 
front barrel. It's a different way of working but more precise for 
macro work and easy to get used to. Plus, it looks science-y.
When you get into the macro ranges the manual focusing takes a lot 
of turns of the focusing ring. That means it's slower to manual focus 
but you can be very precise as the long "throw" gives you 
heightened, exacting focus discrimination. Couple this with 
focus magnifying and you'll get ultra sharp stuff 100% of the time.

While my preliminary tests are more in line with my typical use cases for a macro lens I'm always interested in how it performs as a long, normal lens when shooting on location for clients or out on the streets for myself. Today, since the worst of the cold fronts is yet to strike, I thought it would be wise to get in yet another walk. After I lovingly wrapped the last of the pipes and gently applied mulch to all nature of plants and trees, I took the S1 and the 70mm for a quick two miler around the downtown area. I tried to shoot a mix of magnification ranges. I was very happy with everything I photographed. I sometimes forget that the S1 is the spiritual center of the S system and is perhaps the best overall combination of features, resolution, speed, high ISO performance and price. It matches with the Sigma macro very well. And I am always surprised by how good the image stabilization in this camera is.  (more>)

The succulent on the white table just outside a series of beauty salons was a nice test subject with which to evaluate the out of focus rendering of the lens. I used f4.0 and found the background to be calm and balmy, in the best possible way. If you can handle the sharpness the 70mm would make a very good portrait lens. It's long enough and fast enough to give one good control over depth of field with a good ability to blur background detail in a way that doesn't draw too much attention to the effect. 

I was trying to see how well I could handhold the lens and still get a good, sharp and well magnified image. The image just above is the full frame while the image just below is an approximate, 100% crop of the image above. I love the sharpness of the spider webs....

The beauty of the larger size of both the Panasonic S1 body and the Sigma lens is that they are easy to handle and shoot with while wearing gloves. Both are very straightforward and feel like real photographic gear and not so much like artless constructs wrapped around mini-computers. While I'm coming to grips with my new Leica SL 2 I must say that working with the S1 series Lumix cameras has gotten to the point for me where they have become almost completely transparent in use. And that's exactly what I want in a work camera and a work lens. 

The 70mm is a good, inexpensive addition to the overall system and even though some of its functionality matches the recent 65mm lens I purchased they are different enough to each have their own specific uses. The 65mm is a nicer street and travel shooter, is one stop faster and has a unique and adorable optical character. The 70mm will come out for small, technical table top stuff and also slide and film copying. I should probably take a breather on new lens purchases and actually get out and use some of this stuff. I'm about 35 days away from both having the second dose of the vaccine followed by the 15 day wait for full immunity. After that I can travel with relative impunity. That's just what I've been waiting for...

Home Note: I want to thank everyone here again for the quick tutorials on surviving a giant cold snap. Our neighborhood association got 3 cords of firewood delivered and I get to pick up as much as I can stick in the Subaru tomorrow. We got the plants well mulched and added a work light to the water pipe junction box after which I re-covered it. I was going to put a digital thermometer in so I could check the internal temperature via Bluetooth but decided that was unnecessary. We have extra water, tons of food and have covered just about everything that can be covered. With all this planning I'm convinced that the weather people will have gotten the forecast wrong again and we'll have a few snow flakes, a couple hours of bitter cold followed by a week of mild temps. At least that's my contrarian hope.



A bit slow on the draw here with a blog post. Here's why....

 photo of B. is just for fun and has no relevance to the blog post.
Just FYI.

We're about to get socked with cold weather that most of us central Texans are totally unprepared for. The forecast low for Tuesday morning is 3 degrees Fahrenheit. We've never, ever seen three degrees in Austin, Texas before. Never. Most of our water pipes are buried about three inches down in the ground and we all fear that the number of pipes rupturing next week will be mind-boggling and horrible. We're also pretty sure that most of the plants we've loved and nurtured will be dead as a doornail by the end of a week that will feature lows in the teens, and low 20's, throughout. I'm making a valiant attempt to put a foot of mulch over the root beds of my smaller trees; like my Japanese maples and I may wrap my smallest Japanese maple with a Christo-esque swirl of muslin background fabric. 

I found the spot on the property where the water pipes meet the meter box and realized that about six inches of pipe is above ground!!! I've actually built an enclosure for them with layers of insulation around them in all directions and a 8 inch layer of hardwood mulch over the top of the construction. We'll keep those faucets dripping on Sunday (12°) and especially on Monday (3°). If we get through that we'll hold our breaths for the rest of the week as we pilot through the low 20's. 

I went for a walk this morning figuring that today and tomorrow will be the last really walkable days until maybe Wednesday. We don't have snow blowers here, or snow shovels, and there's not a ready supply of rock salt for driveways and sidewalks. In fact, I was on a main road this morning that still had lots of icy patches from last night. All the pedestrian bridges downtown were icy this morning and untreated. I think the city has a different set of priorities. Like sheltering our large and growing homeless population.

Belinda headed to the grocery store earlier this morning and when she came back home she told me that the store (an enormously large operation) had been well picked over by last night and they were waiting for re-supplies which come from San Antonio. The delays right now on IH-35 are legendary and people are being cautious after hearing news of last night's 100+ car and truck pile up just north of Ft. Worth, on IH-35. Seven people, so far, died on that icy stretch and estimates are that 70 or more were injured. The news footage looked as through an aerial bombing run had taken place down a long stretch of the interstate. 

I'm heading out to put mulch are one or two more trees and then I'm coming back to spend some time writing about some impressions of the Leica SL2 as well as the Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro L Art lens. 

I know that to northerners our sense of almost desperation over the winter weather conditions seems overblown but imagine if the conditions were reversed and you found yourselves living through a week or so of 112° days with high humidity and it was something that was rare enough to be maybe a one hundred year cycle.

The emergency sales of air conditioners would be off the charts. And sunscreen.

Wish us luck. It'll be touch and go for a week. Then we should thaw out and get back to normal.

Additional tragedy? The pool is closed today and will be closed Sunday, Monday and most probably Tuesday. I am almost inconsolable.

Hot tea to the rescue.

Saturday afternoon addenda: The Weather Service has revised our forecast down to 1° on Monday, as a low. They have also revised Sunday's low down to 10°. 

Heading into Canadian Territory now. Not sure what vegetation will survive. The end is near....


A short, quick follow up to my vaccination experience yesterday.

I heard so much misinformation before going to get my first dose of Moderna vaccine that I thought I might bleed out on the spot. Or that a few hours later all of my DNA would dissolve and be replaced by Lemur DNA. Or that I would become neurotic (but how can you be double neurotic?). Or that a cabal of sinister dark state hooligans would drain my bank accounts. Or that the nano-transmitters in the vaccine would mess up my wi-fi reception. Or that I would start vomiting newsprint and be unable to stop. Or that I would grow a second head which would try to turn on the original head and bite it. Or that I would become a zombie (been there, done that). Or that the vaccine was poison and only Q'Anon could give me the antidote.

I'm happy to say that none of these things happened. Well, I have no way of knowing about the DNA but I haven't morphed into an endangered species so that's some comfort.

Here's what happened this morning: When I woke up I took a battery of I.Q. tests and find that now I am 30 points smarter than I was yesterday. I am also ten years younger. I decided to walk up to the neighborhood coffee shop but I felt so good that I ended up sprinting to a nice place about ten miles from here instead. I lost five pounds of fat overnight and gained ten pounds of rock solid muscle. My waist shrank from a size 32 to a size 28. When I checked my retirement account this morning it had tripled overnight. My wife told me that I am adorable. As did all 17 of my mistresses; newly acquired; just since the vaccine. 

But it doesn't stop there. My neighbor's car had a flat tire and no tire jack. I didn't mind in the least holding the rear quadrant of the car off the ground while he changed the tire. But I will say that those Chevy Suburbans get heavy after a while.

But yeah. My right shoulder is just a bit sore. I guess you have to take the bad with the good.

That's all I've got on this subject. Do what you want. Your results may vary.

Oh, one last thing; for a limited time yesterday, at least here in Austin, everyone who got a vaccine also got a free Leica M10R. Nice. 

 Added on Thursday to make something clear. This is directly from the CDC website:

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without us having to get the illness. Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of “memory” T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.

It typically takes a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination. Therefore, it is possible that a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection.

Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building immunity.

Have a nice day.


Delivering 1984 Kodachromes in current tech times. File organization? Who? Me?


Texas Governor, Ann Richards
at a Mondale-Ferraro rally in 1984.
Austin, Texas.

I was working in the ad business back in 1984 but I still spent time walking around with my camera. I heard that Fritz Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, who were running for president and vice president at the time, would be at a rally at the Texas State Capitol so I put on a pair of shoes, grabbed a couple rolls of Kodachrome 64 (as in: ISO 64), my favorite camera and a 135mm lens. 

Politicians weren't as precious back then so there weren't layers and layers of security to wade through in order to get close to the speakers and presenters. You could just, kinda, walk up to the front row, about 30 feet from the candidates and claim a bit of territory on which to stand. So I did.

I photographed a handful of frames of Mondale and Ferraro and then Ann Richards gave a short speech. At the end of her speech everyone cheered and someone handed her a bouquet of yellow roses. She reached up and tipped her hat and I shot a frame of film. Slide film. No wiggle room. No post processing magic available at the time. Thankfully, I nailed the exposure but I was hand-holding the camera and lens at around 1/60th of a second and it was before the wimpy times of image stabilization everywhere. It's not the most tack sharp frame I've made in my career but it's acceptable.

The image turned out well enough and got some use by the Richards people for a spell. I wish I had taken more frames but in that time period, if you weren't on assignment and were shooting for fun, you might try one frame and save the next five or six shots on the roll in case anything else, weirder or more picturesque, popped up. 

When Ann passed away a few years back I had a bunch of requests for use of the image. I searched my computer and found some that I'd scanned at a decent (but not great!!!) size. I think the biggest scan was something like 1600 by 1000 pixels. But everyone's use was either newspaper or web so everyone was happy to get the smaller files. It's a good thing I had the scans because I was unable to put my hands on the original transparency even after searching for days....

Yesterday, one of the partners at Pentagram, (https://www.pentagram.com) which bills itself as "The world's largest independent design consultancy", got in touch and asked me if they could use (and pay a fee for) that image to integrate into a project about Ann Richards. I was flattered and thrilled as I have followed the agency, and the requesting partner, for decades.  We e-mailed back and forth and agreed on terms. He'd sent along a digital copy of the image as a reference for our conversation so I assumed he had what he needed.

As you might guess, a half hour later one of the people actually responsible for production got in touch and requested I send to them the highest resolution version possible of the image that I might have. I panicked. 

I spent most of yesterday evening busting open boxes I've been storing for decades looking for that one chrome. I looked through every folder in every drawer in every filing cabinet but kept coming up empty-handed. Finally, I dusted off the last box, poured everything out onto the floor of the studio and went through every slide page. And there, at the very bottom of the stack, was that Ann Richards image, stuck in a slide page with 19 unrelated images. 

My euphoria was short-lived. I had donated my last film scanner about eight years ago and I have no idea who in Austin still scans slides. I decided to do it myself and ran into the next brick wall. I no longer have a copy stand or a set of macro lenses with which to do slide copies. I took a breath and looked up an article about copying slides using newer, high resolution cameras and macro lenses. At that point I was confident the new Leica, or the ancient Panasonic S1R, would resolve more detail than the slide contained, but I lacked a well corrected macro lens. Rabbit hole, rabbit hole. 

I showed up at the camera store a bit after they opened today to buy the Sigma 70mm f2.8 Art series macro lens and a horizontal arm for my tripod. Back at home base I put my camera into electronic shutter mode and set an eight second delay to prevent any sort of vibration from degrading the shots and, after super careful focusing, I banged off five or six big, 47 megapixel raw files. I spent an hour dust spotting and fine tuning and then sent along huge, layered PSD and Tiff files. 

If I submitted this job to a business expert they would quickly divine that I'd done everything wrong and could have had the slide scanned for about $20. If I wanted a really wonderful scan I might have paid $60. Instead I dropped something like $650 to "scan" a fairly low resolution, 37 year old Kodachrome slide in a cardboard mount. I don't really care. I always wanted to do something with Pentagram. And I needed to figure out a quick way to copy more favorite old 35mm and MF negatives that I want to use from time to time. I'll mark this as a win... but also a hard lesson about filing and organization. I'm not sure you really own something if you can't find it. 

Why did I write this? Because I'm scared of two things in life: shots and blood tests. This post kept my mind off my upcoming, 5:00 pm appointment to be vaccinated; for about an hour. A good trade off yet again. 

Now I have copies of my favorite "Ann" photograph on multiple hard drives and also tucked away up in the cloud. Next time someone asks to use the image it should require nothing more that a few mouse clicks to get to a huge file. But I'm less happy imagining all the time it's going to take to organize a couple hundred thousand other slides..... Maybe it's best to not even start.


Chasing relevance.

I had coffee with a friend who is slightly older and much wiser than I. We met at a local coffee shop and sat at a table outside. I told him that I was sorry not to have brought along the new SL2 camera but he told me he didn't need to see the camera...he was hoping I'd just bring one of the $275 camera batteries since he'd never seen one that expensive before...

I don't know exactly why but I started to explain why I bought the new camera and he more or less stopped me and suggested that the successive purchase of cameras, along with the dogged pursuit of the blog, and my interminable walks through an over documented downtown, might all have the same purpose. 

I asked him to explain and he did so with his usual economy of words. He said, "You have to stay relevant." 

My connection to photography, to the blog, even to a venue like Instagram is my attempt during the long running pandemic to maintain some feeling that I am still relevant in some form. 

I think he hit the nail right on the head. It certainly popped my eyes open. 

To my mind that's one thing that draws all freelance creative people together; our collective need, both emotionally and for many, commercially, to feel relevant to the world outside ourselves. We want to know that we are still acknowledged and our visions and opinions broadcast. But to what end?

To say we are here? To ask the universe to count us among the people who haven't metaphorically checked out yet? To always be under consideration for the next project? To be respected for our knowledge and experience by a contemporaneous audience? 

These are all interesting questions. The answers for many living in the United States of America swirl around the cultural roles for older men. Meaning anyone over 50 years old. We tend to be more isolated from, and less integrated into, our own national culture by this point in our lives and careers. For so many our identity is partially dependent on viewing ourselves by the reflections of our jobs and career pursuits. 

As we age out of different parts of our cultural matrix our friendships seem to become more diffuse and our connections less strong and resilient. We might find that people we counted as friends were only work acquaintances and when our employment changed the fabric of those relationships was laid bare. 

Photography is what I know how to do so I reflexively hang on tenaciously to every part of it that I can. The blog gives me a sense of connection to like minded photographers. New cameras give me a sense of adventure and purpose but mostly end up giving me something new to write about and share. 

While thinking about all of this I was reminded of a photograph I shot in Rome, many years ago. It shows a group of older men sitting at an outside table in an old, residential neighborhood. Some are engaged in a game of cards while others look on or talk amongst themselves. It's the middle of a weekday. These guys are hanging out together, sharing life together. Maintaining, at least in their own group, their relevance. 

One of my friends who, at the time, was a practicing psychologist in private practice saw the black and white image and asked if she could buy a print. I sold her one and she had it framed for her office. I asked her why. She said that a big part of her practice was spent helping older men who had long professional careers,  many spent in the top ranks of the C suites, find their footing after retirement. The biggest issue each faced, in their own way, was a self-aware sense of lost relevance, followed closely by the loneliness brought on by losing the bulk of their work driven social connections. The photo was a jumping off point which engendered conversations about the need to re-discover relevance and social connection. 

I get the point. 


Well, well, well. It's vaccine time! And no! I didn't skip the line.

In Texas everyone over 65 is now eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Yippee.

 I was talking to a friend in Calgary, Canada today and he brought me good luck. I've been trying to get a Covid-19 vaccine for several weeks now. Austin Public Health has an online sign up system that's torturous to navigate and fraught with issues. It crashes more regularly than it stays up. The system demands that you jump through many hoops for (literally) hours before sending you to a final page which lets you know that  your session has crashed and you need to re-load. Refresh. And start again. 

Today I spent an early morning hour trying to lock in an appointment for this week. I gave up and went to swim practice. When I was talking to Eric a bit later I was sitting in front of my computer and I would refresh the page of the APH site from time to time. We finished our call and I reached over to try my luck one last time. Almost like playing the slot machines in Las Vegas. And finally, I hit the jackpot. 

I have an appointment across town at 5 pm tomorrow and I'm excited to finally be moving forward on something. Anything. While I have an abject fear of needles and injections this is one instance in which the fear of NOT getting the shot is actually greater. 

The syringe above is not the one I think they will use. This is a special, lead lined syringe for injecting radioactive (medical) material. It sure looks sinister... Used only by radiologists. Yikes.

If everything goes according to plan I should get a second dose in early March and, if it's protective against some of the newer virus variants I'll be a happy camper. I have heard that the body's reaction to the second dose can be uncomfortable for 24 hours or so. It's got to be better than having a full blown infection. 

I was going to document my experience with a camera but my friendly, favorite doctor reminded me of the HIPA rules and suggested that the new Leica be put to a better use. I concur. I'll have my hands full trying to keep myself from fainting.

It's a good start. I hope we get to finish strong. 


Do you photograph with a mirrorless camera? If yes, you might want to find a good, film era, 135mm lens and an adapter. They seem to have, miraculously, gotten much better than I remember them having been.

The one feature that mirrorless cameras ushered in and which I embraced from the outset is the ability to magnify the preview image in the finder/LCD so that we can manually focus more accurately. We seem to think that lenses only just became really good in the age of digital cameras and digital sensors but, more and more, I'm finding that older "legacy" lenses could already be very good on their own; even if some of the optical design considerations were different for film than for digital.

I started buying mirrorless cameras when Olympus came out with the EP-2 which offered an EVF attachment that allowed eye level focusing and composing. The camera was among the first with a shorter lens flange to sensor distance which allowed one to use dozens of adapters to retrofit hundreds or thousands of lenses to the body. I bought my first mirrorless camera specifically to use with my collection of Olympus Pen-FT half frame lenses; many of which are still quite good performers. 

The Panasonic S1 series works very well with older, manual focus lenses that were originally designed to be used on film cameras. If I find an interesting older lens that was designed for use on an SLR I go to Amazon and check to see if there is an adapter available for that lens mount family which will work on an L-mount camera. Usually the adapters are available in the $20-$50 range and it's rare for me to get one that doesn't work well with both the camera and lens. I've gotten one or two really cheap ones with too much play but most are well made and almost every one I've gotten has allowed for infinity focus.

I recently picked up two Contax Y/C Carl Zeiss lenses at bargain basement prices. These were both lenses designed to be used on the mid-1980s Contax line of SLRs. The lenses and cameras were built in Japan by Kyocera but before you turn your nose up remember that Kyocera was the maker of several well received Leica SLR zoom lenses, and that the engineers at Carl Zeiss designed their branded Contax lenses and set the parameters for their manufacturing and quality control. In short, with a few exceptions, most of the Contax lenses from that time period, if well maintained, are good-to-excellent and, perhaps a step above other brands from the time period. 

I owned a number of Contax lenses back in the late 1980s when I shot with an RTS II, and then an RTS III camera, and never had reason to complain about their optical performance. 

When I found a little collection of the lenses in the used department of a camera store I opted to buy the 28mm f2.8 (which I wrote a bit about yesterday) along with the 135mm f2.8. Both are later, MM mount lenses with slightly improved coatings and no "Ninja Star" aperture artifacts. You can tell which lenses are the later models because their smallest aperture settings/numbers on the external aperture rings are colored green. 

There was a 50mm on offer as well but I skipped that because I already have a good copy here in the studio which I had originally bought to use with an earlier Sony A7 variant. In retrospect I might as well have bought the one at the store since the supply is ever dwindling, but I'm trying to curb my reckless avarice for lenses. 

I found an adapter supplier I like for two reasons. First is that every adapter I've bought from them has fit both camera and lens snuggly and allowed focus to infinity and, second, they are priced at under $20 apiece. I have two of the adapters and use them on the two Contax lenses I use most, switching out when I need access to the third lens.

When I shot with 135mm lenses in the film days we did not have image stabilization or really good focusing assistance from our cameras. Sure, the optical finders were optimized for manual focus lenses, and there were split-image or microprism focusing aids but all focusing was done strictly at whatever the viewfinder's fixed magnification was. Now we can "punch in" 16 time or even 20 times on most higher end digital cameras which means we're focusing at multiple times the accuracy that was available on something like a Nikon F3. 

While I did an acceptable job focusing a 135mm lens on a traditional camera I can plainly see the huge advantages of magnifying the viewing image in order to fine focus. And that brings into clear view the advantages of focusing while the images are being stabilized.

We tend to think of image stabilization as a benefit only at the time of exposure. We push the shutter button and the image is stabilized for the duration of the exposure. But if you think about it from a different point of view; that of IBIS being a focusing aid, you'll see that stabilizing the overall view of the image while manually focusing also allows for much more precision and accuracy in the process. Which means a much higher number of better focused keeper images. 

All of a sudden, and maybe for the first time, we can actually see and take advantage of the innate qualities of some of the lenses we previously dismissed as "good in their time, but...." 

When I looked at the results of my casual test shots with the older 135mm I was happily surprised that, like the 28mm lens, the 35 or 40 year old lens was entirely capable of matching current AF lenses in that focal length range, without issue. An interesting observation for someone like myself who is happily disposed to experimenting with old lens-to-new camera adaptation.

Some cities have statues of war heroes. We have statues of musicians.
The statue of Willie Nelson sits in front of the Austin City Limits Theater.

funny how a detail of a chair can be visually appealing to me.
I saw this in a downtown hotel and enjoyed the contrast of the bright 
red against a background which I could see with my eyes but which 
fell off into darkness in the photograph.

Making faces out of traffic barriers. 

Another face created by light.

Donuts. Essential business. Happiness is good.


Out enjoying an early spot of Summer weather while savoring the odd magic of a 28mm lens. And an ancient camera body.

For some reason I'm lately captivated with getting wider. Well, not me personally but my appreciation for wider angle lenses than the normal focal length (50mm)  and longer lenses that have always been a more comfortable part of my routine. The 28mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss Y/C lens in particular has me working to better understand composition with that angle of view. I've come to like these older, film era lenses for several reasons. First, they didn't have in-camera distortion correction when this lens was made back in the 1980s so Zeiss had to make it as geometrically correct as possible. Now, that doesn't mean it's necessarily sharper in the corners but it does mean that there is no interpolation black magic happening which sometimes ends up looking as through an image has been unnaturally stretched. The interpolations to correct for inherent lens distortions also means that the stretched corners have made up pixels which can sometimes be...unconvincing. It doesn't need "fake" corrections since it's already well corrected. 

I used the lens with an inexpensive C/y to L-mount adapter which allowed me to put it on a Lumix S1 for today's casual photography. After an hour or so I was reminded that although the S1 is not the most expensive or extravagantly spec'd of the three four Lumix S1 series cameras it is, nonetheless a very good image making machine and using it just a day after spending time with a Leica SL2 I was surprised how close the performance, viewfinder image, and file integrity is. In fact, it's a highly competitive camera body for the L-mount systems. I'm beginning to wonder just how well it might perform with the Leica 35mm f2.0 SL lens might work with it. If I find some more change in between the couch cushions I may just find out...

But camera bodies aside, I am surprised and impressed by how good this particular lens, which was used and purchased for little more than a song, is when it comes to rendering highly defined detail and rich colors. I imagined that newer lenses would be leaps and bounds better but I'm constantly revising my opinions about optical progress. I'm almost ready to believe that many earlier lenses were designed and built to very high standards but that cameras of their time didn't allow photographers to fine focus reliably and accurately the way current cameras with 5.7 megapixel EVFs can when used with 16X image magnification when manual focusing. I noticed the same uncanny improvement when it came to shooting with the 135mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss lens from the same period. My memory of the lens when used in the film days was that it was good but not "great." Now it seems much, much better. But I guess I'm not taking into consideration that I'm comparing relatively low res Tri-X film performance, sans image stabilization, with super accurate focusing, much higher imaging resolution, total control over contrast and quite good image stabilization. Those factors elevate nearly every lens. At least I think so. 

The beauty of photographing with a good, manual focusing 28mm lens is that one can operate in either of two modes. You can use a smaller aperture, like f8.0, and zone focus when you are out shooting scenes that require deeper focus and quick reflexes, or you can take a bit more time to use your EVF, punch in on the point you'd like to target for the plane of sharpest focus, and then shoot. Either way you'll be able to get lots of stuff sharply focused and I'm thinking that a well focused image makes every lens look like it's been improved. 

I like having a smart watch. I got the newest generation Apple Watch for my birthday last October. I used it for many things today but the most fun was using it to measure the distance of two different walks today. The first was up and down the hills in our neighborhood. I walked with Belinda and we did a leisurely 2.5 miles with about 800 feet of changing elevation. I walked this afternoon with the camera and logged in about 3.75 miles. Mostly on flat, urban terrain. It's nice to quantify a walk and see just how much movement you are getting. No wonder the soles of my Merril hiking shoes are wearing down through all the tread... I guess I knew they would not last forever.

I am always amazed at this "green space" at the Seaholm development. 
People love to bring their kids here to play on the green Astroturf. 
There's no mud to worry about and the kiddos live the flat uniformity of
the space. But dog owners and their dogs also love the space
and the cute little pooches love to relieve themselves on the fake grass.
While I'm sure the whole surface gets power washed each morning...
I'm not sure I would feel comfortable laying out on the 
ground cover to work on my tan. Just conjecture...

 After all the excitement of getting the Leica SL2 it was a comfort to walk around with a more familiar camera and a vintage lens. There is a familiarity that makes the camera seem so well sorted and well integrated into a walk. It's like strolling with a friend. 

It was a balmy 72° this afternoon and blue sky everywhere. I cleaned both bathrooms this morning and felt like I really deserved some quality time with my camera and lens. I am amazed at how nice a day it was. 

We're going to get cold later in the week but we like to "make hay when the sun shines." Or photographs.

So far, on a personal level, the year is off to a good start. No big drama and no big changes. And that's good since I fear change. Everyone does. Don't write a comment about how you never fear change. We'll have you well pegged as either delusional or a liar.