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 flag stones. 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.



A stage shot of "Mina" with a dagger. Pentax K-1 and the 100 2.8 Macro.

"Mina" for the Zach Theatre Production of "Dracula." 
Written and directed by Stephen Dietz.

I love technical rehearsals. They happen just a day or two before the dress rehearsal so pretty much everything is set. What I love about tech is that there's no audience in the house and I can move to any position I want in the entire theater (as long as I stay off the stage).

On this particular evening I was experimenting with a camera and lens that were both relatively new to me at the time; the Pentax K-1 and the Pentax 100mm f2.8. In a matter of weeks since then the K-1 has become my favorite day-to-day shooting camera. I enjoy using it very much every time I toss it in the car and bring it along. 

This shot was was done at 1/160th of second, f3.5, using ISO 3200. I used the spot meter setting (since I couldn't pre-chimp) and set the white balance manually. 

I'm happy with everything about this shot except that I've centered it too much. An easy fix with cropping tools in post...

10.24.2019

A simple portrait of a Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens.

James. With an old 50mm on the front of his A7riii.

I still do it. Every single time. When I buy into a new camera system I reflexively pick up that system's trusty 50mm lens (or equivalent).  Probably started when I bought my first SLR camera, the Canon TX. It came in a kit with a 50mm 1.8 Canon lens and it was awesome! I spent a year, at least, as a one lens/one camera photographer and those early times no doubt imprinted the 50mm focal length into my visual DNA.

My very first "real" camera was the now cultish Canonet QL17 which I still have in my filing cabinet, just in case digital goes out of style and we get to revert to photography the way God intended it to be.

I was thinking about this today as I post processed a location portrait I made yesterday. The most used focal length on my zoom lens yesterday? About 50mm.....  I should have left the zoom at home and just taken along the 45mm f2.8 (I was shooting with the Lumix S1).

in other notes: I'm getting excited about the Dia De Los Muertos parade coming up here in Austin on Saturday. Seems some of my photographer friends are already making plans to come in for it.

Also, looking at some travel over the third week of November. I can't believe hotel rates are so low outside the USA. Looks like it's a prime time for a bit of tourism.


10.23.2019

Day of the Dead; "Dia de los Meurtos" is popping up all over Central Texas. Let's go.


Parades, costumes, altars, and more are on the schedule in the last week of October and the first week of November here in Central Texas. I'm going to the "Viva la Vida" parade, here in Austin on Saturday, October 26th (I think it starts at noon on East 6th St.) to photograph the costumes and the people. I'm also bringing along the Lumix S1 in full video mode so I can get a taste of the V-Log profile in action. I think that camera, along with the 24-120mm lens, the audio adapter and an Aputure Diety microphone will make a nice, handheld rig... The jury is still out on which camera I'll use for photographs.

After Austin I'll head down to San Antonio for their three day event for the holiday at La Villita in downtown. That will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday (the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of November). I'm sure it's going to be a big deal and admission to the event is free. I'm going for the costumes and the food. 

San Antonio knows how to celebrate big-ly so I'm probably going to book a hotel room on Friday and Saturday so I don't miss anything. 

It's bound to be a street photographer's paradise.... 

Here are the details for the Austin event on the 26th: http://mexic-artemuseumevents.org/upcoming-events/2019/10/26/viva-la-vida-parade

Live far from Austin? Get those airline tix now!


Now that's how you do a back door!!!










10.21.2019

Taking a look at some photos I did with the Pentax K1 and the 100mm f2.8 macro at "Dracula". "Bitingly" sharp? "Bloody" good?


A few weeks ago I photographed a technical rehearsal of "Dracula" at Zach Theatre in Austin, Texas. I brought several different cameras with me but I mostly played around with the Pentax K-1 and two lenses. I brought along the 28-105mm f3.5-5.6 (because it's the only Pentax zoom I currently have) and also the new 100mm f2.8 macro. I'd played around a lot with the zoom and was comfortable with the performance envelope provided by it, but I'd just recently purchased (new in box) the 100mm macro and I was curious to see how the lens would perform in a live theater environment. I was pretty sure it would be sharp but I worried that the focus might be too slow.

Both of these images were created using the 100mm and I'm satisfied with both of them. They were taken one half stop down from wide open and the camera/lens combination did a fine job nailing focus and providing good sharpness and tonality in the photos.

Relative to a long (70-200mm) zoom lens, the 100 macro is small and light, and since it is so well optically corrected I had no compunction about using it either wide open or just slightly stopped down. 

Based on the image quality I could see in the images I took that night I pressed the 100mm into service recently to take some portraits. I wanted to use a lens with good resolution and a high megapixel count camera body because I wanted to work in a square format which meant going from a full frame resolution of 36 megapixels down to a 1:1 format resolution of 24 megapixels. While an uncropped, square, 24 megapixel file is adequate (perfectly good!) for just about every use I left a generous amount of space around my portrait subject in order to leave lots of cropping options for my graphic designer/ final client. If she cropped tight, in a vertical orientation, we'd lose another 6-8 megapixel of information and, being a worrier, I always like to build in a margin of safety for commercial work. Everyone was pleased. 

With Vampires in the neighborhood everyone was having a bad day. 

I've also found a new use for the two Pentax K-1 cameras and that is shooting with flash at dimly lit events. We're doing our yearly photographic assignment of making candid portraits of about 400 people (200 couples?) gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel here in Austin to raise money for the Texas Appleseed Foundation (legal and constitutional issues...). I've used all kinds of cameras in the past as I've photographed this event annually since the days of film. It's the one kind of photography assignment that I've come across where a traditional optical viewfinder can be superior to an EVF. Mostly because it's all lit with flash in a not so bright interior ballroom.  

With an EVF camera if you keep the camera in the "Constant Preview" mode and you are shooting at f5.6 or f8.0 at 1/60th of a second (or faster) at ISO 400 with flash you'll find the image in the EVF to be very dark. VERY DARK. If you take the camera out of the constant preview mode the EVF has a slow refresh rate, lots of noise in the frame, and an automatic exposure setting. Neither option is particularly good for working with on camera flash!!! 

I've used mirrorless cameras in this venue/event before and my work around was to switch to using totally manual flash exposure, and carefully maintaining the same camera to subject distance whenever possible. But I've also shot with cameras like the Nikon D800 with TTL flash and walked away with more keepers more easily. 

This year I'm planing to lean on the Pentax K1 with a Godox V1 flash, using TTL exposure. I've got a second body as a back up and a couple of fully manual hot shoe flashes as a back up for the Godox. My lens of choice for the social hour of the event is the 28-105mm zoom lens.

I just took delivery of the flash today and as soon as the battery (a big, lithium one) is fully charged I'll start testing it around the office. 

Funny/strange to buy a flash for the Pentax because doing anything to flesh out that system seems counter-intuitive. I really can't help it though as I've been loving the files I'm getting out of the system. And, as I wrote, this is one situation where the traditional DSLR really seems to shine....

In related news: I had lunch with my friend, Andy, at El Mercado on Burnet Rd. today. Every time I have lunch with Andy it ends up costing me big bucks $$$$$$. The issue is the close proximity of the restaurant to Precision Camera. After a great lunch of Tex-Mex food we tend to talk each other into dropping by our favorite camera store to see what's new. Last time we lunched I went with him to Precision Camera where I stumbled across the first Pentax K1 and ended up buying it. That's where the slippery slope of Pentax-ality all started for me.

Today I was irresistibly drawn to a $1,700 lens. Not for the Pentax..... but I guess we can discuss that here on the blog tomorrow. 

Hope everyone has had a good start to the week. If you are having problems with alcohol please see Michael's Sunday post on his site. If you just want to read about the unplanned purchases of a serial camera buyer then come on back here.... we'll be waiting. Sitting here reading the latest catalogs...



10.20.2019

Designing the perfect lens for me. Balancing needs and wants.



Photo review sites spend way too much virtual ink describing, reviewing and deliberating about camera bodies. They spend too little time discussing lenses, and that's too bad because most good photographers think lenses are where the magic is. I remember back when Modern Photography Magazine was still published. It was generally a big deal when a camera got reviewed; especially since new camera body models were rushed to the market far, far less often than they are today. What the magazines concentrated on instead was the reviewing of several, or a handful, of popular lenses along with one or two speciality lenses thrown in just for good measure. Nearly every month. 

Instead of comparing the Nikon Z7 to the Sony A7r4 camera bodies I'd love to see a side-by-side comparison and in-depth review of each maker's "holy trinity" of zoom lenses (14-24, 24-70, 70-200) to see where the whole system stands, not just the naked body. Perhaps a comparative overview of all the different macro lenses on the market. How about a toe-to-toe exploration of zooms in the 100-400mm focal length ranges? And with all the new and pricey 50mm lenses coming out maybe we could see a nice comparison there. 

Just one of the many problems with this idea is that most reviewers are very ham-fisted about how they measure stuff and I'd hate to see a lens with beautiful characteristics get denigrated because its corner sharpness was a few lines per millimeter less than a crappier lens that has a flatter focus field and maybe slightly faster focus acquisition. I'd always like more data than just easy to understand, cookie cutter data.

One area of lens evaluation that Roger Cicala at Lensrentals.com has brought to light is that, because of the complexity of new lens design and the equal complexity of the manufacturing processes involved in assembling modern lenses, there is a lot of sample variation even among identical models of lenses. Centering of the elements is a big issue as is calibration of the overall optical system. Any really meaningful evaluation of lens performance should probably included testing at least three samples of each model.... That's a ton of work and much harder than just deciding that one likes to have cameras with panorama modes or that one doesn't like cameras that can't process their own raw files. As if those "features" matter to any of us...

It's also clear that when popular sites do get around to reviewing lenses they tend to always do the reviews about big fast zooms and almost totally disregard really stellar single focal length lenses, unless such a lens comes with such a high price tag that the price becomes good click bait news. 

So, here is a suggestion to the big review sites: Review some lenses! Review some that aren't extreme wide angle zooms, or boring but fast 24-70s, or endless iterations of the 70-200mm models. Review some portrait primes. Review some normal focal length lenses that are price-accessible for the average camera buyer. Review some slower, standard zooms. But don't just stop with lines per millimeter measurements. Try your best educate your reviewers to understand that different kinds of sharpness profiles and rendering characteristics can also be good and interesting in real world use. 

For years Leica designed lenses for high center sharpness and acutance, and the trade off was lower performance in the corners. Not lenses that measured "well" across the frame but lenses that were loved and in demand by some of the world's most discriminating lens users. Currently, lens designers are trying to make reviewers happy by giving all of us lenses that have the same sharpness characteristics across the frame. The lens makers generally have two choices in the design process: they can make the lens equally sharp across the frame but at a lower overall level of sharpness than the numbers they could get from a lens that had its highest sharpness in the center and allowed the corners to degrade, or.... they could make the lenses equally sharp, across the frame, but only by making the overall lens enormous, costly and very heavy. (Hello Zeiss Otus. Hello Sigma 50mm ART). 

I recently bought a lens that is a counterpoint to what I consider the blunt hammer of current lens design and marketing. It's a small lens made for the L-mount system. It's a normal focal length (45mm) but it's slow, relatively speaking, as it only opens up to f2.8. It's also a bit unusual in that it isn't necessarily blindingly sharp across the frame when used wide open. The center is pretty much perfect but sharpness falls off towards the edges and corners. It's a really nice look if you have something interesting in the middle areas of the frame and want sharpness to fall off a bit at the edges. Stop it down to f4.0 and it's nicely sharp across the frame. Stop it down to f5.6 and it's perfect. 

But it's also small, light, well built, and one of the few lenses made for the L mount system that's under $1,000. 

So, as I mentioned in the title I'd like to design the "big picture" parameters of a lens that's personalized for me; for the way I most often use my favorite lenses. This isn't to suggest that you'll want anything even close to this for your own use. This is just my pipe dream....

I'll start with focal lengths and I am defaulting to a zoom lens. I want something that starts at 40mm and tops out at 110mm. According to the metrics from various Kirk Catalogs of images this is the range I use for 90% of my day-to-day, having fun, imaging. If I want something wider I can bring along a discrete 24mm or 20mm. If I want something longer for a particular I can be like everyone else and default to a 70-200mm zoom instead. 

By limiting the focal length range I think a good lens design team could design these focal lengths into a decently small package even though I would want a constant aperture f2.8 for my zoom. But they needn't give me something that's super sharp even into the edges, wide open. I'd be happy with a lens that consistently delivers a very sharp image in the central 2/3rds of the frame and then delivers average or adequate results in the corners. The corners and center definitely don't have to match! 

I also don't really care if the lens has absolutely zero distortion. As long as what distortion there is can be corrected with mild measures, by software, in post production. This would keep the size and weight manageable while still providing me with a performance profile that would work well for my usage. 

I want a real manual focus setting ring, delivered via the pull back clutch mechanism that Olympus has on their 12-100mm Pro and their 35-100mm f2.8 Pro lens. It's nice to know exactly where infinity and also the closest focusing point is on my lens. This is also something that the L-Mount Panasonic 70-200mm has...which moves me to consider that lens as a potential buy too. 

Finally, I am not interested in having image stabilization in the lens. I would depend on the image stabilization in bodies like the Fuji X-H1, the Pentax K-1 and the Lumix S-1 to stabilize my jitters for me. This also reduces the needed size and complexity of my "perfect" lens. 

I'd love to have this built as well as the 45mm f2.8 from Sigma and I'd be willing to pay up to $2,000 to own such a lens. I'd be even happier to spend about $1200 instead!

The lens I'm describing would be for full frame cameras but you can shrink the focal lengths proportionally and offer it as an APS-C lens with a max aperture of f2.2 or in micro four thirds (shrunk once again...) with a maximum aperture of f2.0. Olympus was on the right track back in the pre-micro days with their two fast zooms for the 4:3 system. The 12-35mm f2.0 and the 35-100mm f2.0. The later was way too heavy and big but it was a killer optic. The 12-35mm was just about perfect. ...

So, the 40-110mm f2.8 Kirk-O-Flex lens has now been described in detail. I just need to sit back and wait for Sigma or Panasonic to make me one. You can have one too. I hope they make lots of them. 

If you could design a personal lens, just for your own use, not considering whether it would be widely sellable, what would it look like and what would it do? Just curious how far off the mainstream I might be.....

Thoughts?

10.19.2019

A much overdue gear review. My new goggles.

Tyr Velocity Goggles.

If you swim in a swimming pool you're going to need a pair of goggles. Otherwise the chlorine and other chemicals pool managers put in pools to keep you from dying of stuff like cryptosporidium or brain eating organisms are going to make the whites of your eyes turn red, temporarily mess up your vision, and make you look like you just smoked a big bowl full of hash. From a competitive swimming point of view it's a hell of a lot easier to swim fast if you can see clearly where you are heading. Finally, the clear, underwater vision provided by goggles will probably keep you from having collisions with the other swimmers in your lane as you circle swim. 

For many swimmers goggles are something they use for more hours during a normal day than they do their cell phones! If you are competitive and doing two workouts a day you may be spending up to 4 hours each day in the water. You'll want to find goggles that are comfortable, optically non-distorting, and which don't leak. Some people have faces that make selecting goggles tougher than others. Just as I'm a 40 regular and can buy business suits off the rack, my face is pretty easy on goggles which means I have a wider range that work well for me than some of my buddies with deeper eye sockets or noses of a certain shape and proportion. 

My big issue is that I'll find a pair of goggles that I like only to have them be discontinued (like fashion) and replaced with something that's different enough to cause me some operational friction. I've been using several sets of Speedo goggles for the last few years; buying them in batches of three, but I can't find the ones I like anymore. And, no! Goggles don't last forever. The nose pieces break over time, the straps degrade with extended exposure to UV and pool chemicals, and sometimes they just get....misplaced. 

My last pair of Speedos was nearing end of life (always a bittersweet moment) when I ventured in to Austin Tricyclist to get another tranche. The ones I wanted were gone but I was drawn to this set of TYR goggles because they were a close variation of the Speedos. 

I bought a couple of pairs (big spender!!! Yeah, they cost $16.95 each....) and adjusted them to my face. The first step is to make sure you have the right interchangeable nose piece (the part holding the two eyepieces together) in place. The goggles come packaged with three nose piece variations. Once you've got that done your only other real task is to tension the strap so that it keeps the goggles in place when you are doing your most dramatic flipturns and racing dives. But you don't want them so tight that they create an uncomfortable pressure on your face. The little, soft rubber cups surround the eyepieces go a long way toward keeping the goggles comfortable but if you have them on too tight you'll have "raccoon" eyes for the rest of the morning....

A good fitting set of goggles will feel so comfortable that you'll forget you are wearing them after a few minutes. But a good performing goggle is also set you can wear for a couple of hours without any leakage. Low optical distortion is important to prevent eye fatigue and to not visually misrepresent where the wall is when you are coming in for a turn. 

I give these goggles top rating for everything but racing. If you are hellbent of going all out and doing a perfect racing dive at the beginning of the race, you'll probably want to pick a pair with a lower profile and a tighter fit. It's hell when, after your dive, your goggles slip down around your neck and you have to swim the rest of your race half blind....

I need to add one more pair to the mix but this time I'll look for a clear pair instead of a pair with a dark tint. The darker ones work great almost all the time but with the days getting shorter I sometimes get to Barton Springs well before sunrise. Even before first glow. And there are no lights underwater in Barton Springs. Clear goggles provide a bit of situational awareness and safety. You can see the ends of the pool and better see swimmers coming your way. By the same token you'll get a clearer picture in a pool that's not well lit. 

But at $16 bucks I think I can collect a variety of types for a variety of swim conditions. 


I also wear my goggles at my dermatologist's office when he decides he needs to use liquid nitrogen to burn some actinic keratosis (or some such thing) off my face. No sense taking a chance with one's eyes. Right?

If you have a favorite set of goggles please let us know so we can share that information with our entire blog readership who, I am sure, are anxious to get this information. 

on another note: The 7:30 a.m. swim practice was packed with people this morning. Apparently UT is having one of their mindless/gladitorial football games today and people have been "tailgating" since the middle of the week. The UT masters have figured out that on game days nobody is able to get to their pool so we seem to get the refugees from football in our master program. We were four or five people deep, per lane, for the full hour. Fortunately we all circle well together and sharing lanes with four people can be easy as pie. The trick is to distribute people with similar interval times in the same lanes. You don't want a mix of slow and fast in one lane. Everyone in lane seven (the fast lane) should be able to repeat 100's on 1:10 while everyone in lane one (the slowest lane) should be able to do their 100's on 1:50.  The pace clocks are our guides and we try to space a five second interval between each swimmer. 

Good luck to all the VSL swimmers. Crank out the yards. Stay skinny. Live long and prosper.