Posts Tagged ‘zuiko’

Rationalizations and Reasons

30 November 2011

Dear J-

I got a screamin’ deal on this lens, but at a price: it’s infected with fungus. I’ve had lenses with a little fungus before and it wasn’t too big of a deal — the fungus didn’t spread, and I didn’t hang on to the lenses long enough for it to spread to other lenses. This one, thogugh, I wonder: as it’s clearly been sitting in dark storage for too long, the fungus is pretty advanced (did they discover this in a swamp and clean it up before selling it?) and has spread over more than one element. The coating is likely irreparably damged by now and I’d gotten this as part of a projected lightweight two-lens that if my experience with the other lens is any indication, I’m only going to use occasionally enough to ensure that the fungus is only going to spread unless I take action to kill it now.if you’re not familiar with lens fungus it sounds just as the name implies: it’s a thready-looking organism that thrives in damp, dark places, like lenses stored in high humidity and never exercised. Given time and opportunity it can be arrested and killed but it may not be worth it in this case with clean lenses going for a few hundred dollars more.

I’m willing to accept it but I’ve fed my paranoia by wondering how contagious it is: if I use it regularly, is it going to spread to other lenses? This particular lens is a 4x zoom notorious for being an air-pumper as it grows during zooming to almost double the volume. Does that mean that spores are being blown back from the lens into the body? It’s almost worth saving the inevitable fight (and peace of mind regarding this fungal contagion) to return the lens within the allotted week, no muss no fuss. The advantages of keeping the lens are relatively few (I already have this focal length range covered albeit at greater weight, and I would be driven insane if the rest of the lenses got infected) and advantages are few but it’s still not an easy choice. But as Spock says the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — or the one — so I’m thinking baack it goes.

I may end up getting one of these lenses evventually in the future, but I’m happy enough with what I’ve got and I remember passing up other opportunities to get the lens in the past, as we needed the money for other things. Call it my Christmas givt to myself or at least to my sanity: google searches are pretty evenly divided over the potential for spreading lens fungus and we live in a dry enough climate that it wouldn’t be an issue anyway but if I didn’t need it before, I don’t need it now and certainly not at the expense of the other glass in the stable.

Mike

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Wide Zuiko Review

30 May 2009

Dear J-

As part of my sporadic photographic review series, I probably should write up something about the lens that’s lived on the camera for the last six months — really, since I got it, the whole idea of using adapted lenses hasn’t made much sense to me, so it’s almost by default. All the advances of the past sixty years — from automatic diaphragms to automatic focus — were made for a reason, and going to adapted lenses loses much of that, no matter the brilliance in optical designs. On the other hand, I’ve also had another 4/3rds lens in my possession, with a theoretically more useful focal length range; but whether it’s the weather sealing or the feel of the lens, it’s the Zuiko Digital 11~18mm f/2.8~3.5 that’s gotten far more use.

Most folks agree that in the range it overlaps the 14~54mm, the shorter lens is better — whether that means sharper, less distorted, or what, it’s more likely that the 2x zoom lens will be less optically compromised than the 3.9x lens (and 3.9x is already a pretty short range to begin with). I’d looked at the 12~60mm lens as well — having wanted a lens that was at least weather-sealed — but ultimately decided that despite its brilliant sharpness, the 12mm end was too compromised, distortion-wise. One of the problems with wide zooms is that they’re often stretched into something that covers wide-to-short telephoto, and the wide end gets saddled with a complex mustache (“wavy-line”) distortion, where the corners are a bit overcorrected. All this is an exercise in pedagogy, as I have no experience with those two lenses, nor the inclination — for reasons I’ll explain.

I’ve read several different schools of thought on how people employ the 11~22 lens, but the one that resonated with me was the person who said he used it as a prime, with a bit of framing flexibility. To be honest, it’s my first extensive experience with zooms besides the ones stuck on the compacts I’ve used; I sometimes refer to them as bang-bang lenses, as I often find myself hitting the stops on one end or the other of the zoom. Having been raised on primes, though, the zooms made me lazy — instead of walking back and forth, twiddle the dial or play the trombone. Other folks said that f=40mm (on a 135-format camera) was the most natural perspective, so I walked around the first month or so at f=20mm, but unhappily — it was a bit narrow, and once I set it to f=18mm, it felt like I was able to breathe right again.

Pending Noodles 2736 -sm

The most important thing is that once I found the right focal length, the lens doesn’t impede my vision — I bring it up to my eye and it picks out the scene I see; no matter the aperture, there are no funny quirks to be worked around — no exposure compensation penalty to remember when working wide-open, no artifacts, no flare. Aside from the bulk, there are no significant vices to using it. If that’s boring and sterile, I’ll take it over the mental catalog I needed to carry around with each separate legacy lens I put in front of that E-1. The camera is best when it’s not obtrusive; I picked the E-1 because of its quiet operation, which does not disrupt the subject — now the lens doesn’t interrupt my train of thought.

One last thought: where do I go from here? My dalliance with Leitz lenses has been dizzying; both the price and consistency have been spectacular, but will there ever be a digital body that you can use them with automatic diaphragm at a price I can justify? The Nikkors that litter my life make me think that my future lies in the Nikon camp, but I wonder if the backwards compatibility is more than lip service from Papa Nikon. So if I delve deeper into the Olympus world, I go further towards a system that’s prime-lens-deficient; though the zooms are unparalleled, the prime lineup has gaping holes (no wides aside from the fisheye; no long macro, no affordable long lenses) that aren’t likely to be filled soon. Yet the f=18mm “prime” I’m using is seriously flexible, ready for nearly everything I throw at it; six months on, it’s been an incredibly wise investment, and a good first choice for a system.

Mike

Seeing Wide

30 October 2008

Dear J-

You’ll see it in the pictures from Palm Springs, aside from the zoo pictures; frustrated with having to stay far from my subjects, I picked up and started using the adapted 16mm Fisheye-Nikkor for a good portion of my shots.  The distortion is actually pretty subtle — it looks like a lens with noticeable barrel distortion, but as long as you keep the lines running through the center, they’re not bad at all.  It made it easier to grab some of the group shots in San Jose, too, where quarters were tight and the adapted 35mm Elmarit-R was a touch too isolationist.

So that’s why, for my first autofocus lens, I chose a wide zoom.  It’s fun to stick the manual glass in front of the 4/3rds sensor, but ultimately limiting; short of exotic focal lengths and lenses (without the Fisheye, I’m not sure that I would have stayed sane for much longer), there’s no easy way to get the angle of — let alone focus — anything much shorter than a true f=35mm lens.  Even that’s a mild telephoto when put onto the 4/3rds system, and while it helps isolate the attention onto what you want, it’s a crutch for composition.  Let me explain.

I once read an interview with Jay Maisel, where the joke was that a f=300mm lens (in 135 film terms) served as his wideangle, and knowing the arsenal he had (reputedly the longest lens Nikon ever made in regular production — the f=2000mm Reflex-Nikkor), I can believe it.   Seeing wide is a matter of editing your views; you have to be able to make sure that everything in the frame strengthens the picture.  The point is that it’s relatively easy to isolate and cherry-pick some interesting detail with a telephoto; Maisel had the trick of finding patterns and geometry in those details as well.  Peeping through the viewfinder now is a revelation; I used to say that the first time I held up a f=35mm lens on my old film cameras, it encompassed pretty much exactly how I saw the world.  With the adapted lenses, I think I’ve gotten a bit of tunnel vision, and the new lens has been like taking that cone off my head.  It doesn’t mean that I’ve got the hang of it again, but I’ll keep at it.

Mike

Double Brace

31 August 2008

Dear J-

I’m now happy (?) to report that the home for unwanted tripods is nearing capacity.  In the past month I’ve doubled the number of tripods for no appreciable reason.  The latest orphan is a Bogen 3051 standing with a “FREE” sign in front of a neighbor’s house.  After the fiasco that is the 3036, I swore off that style of tripod (with individually-adjustable leg braces; any time you think that you save with the quick-flip or quick-deploy legs you lose in screwing down those individual braces, doubly so as you try to figure out how to get them all even — it’s a great concept, but the execution is lacking), but free is free, and I’ll probably sell it, the 3036, and the large Manfrotto 116 (mk 2) head that came with the eBay Gitzo 415.

Yes, the Gitzo 326 is still hanging around somewhere hoping that I’ll take it somewhere (someday I’ll get around to converting that Bogen hex plate system to something more useful, I swear — the Kirk SQRC/Hex is calling to me), but in the meantime, there’s the broken-center-column 415 as yet another interesting project (on these systematic tripods, the whole center section pops out — you can swap it for a flat plate, a rapid column, or a geared column).  It seems to be a 4-series tripod, based on the leg diameter, but predates the wing locks for the first section.  It’s an interesting bit of history, but assuming I can ever find out how to order spare parts, new locks are going on as soon as I can get my hands on them.

You might assume that all I ever think about is camera gear.  You would probably not miss by much.  I continue to obsess over wide-angle options, wondering how good that Leica-rebadged Minolta fisheye is compared with the equivalent Nikkor 16mm f/3.5, or if both options are silly compared to having a full-blown Digital Zuiko 11~22mm (or the 12~60, honestly not that much more, though not as wide, either) instead.

Mike

Aquarium Lens

22 June 2008

Dear J-

As part of the campaign to find air conditioned spaces in San Diego (the four major malls closest to us — University Towne Center, Fashion Valley, Mission Valley, and Horton Plaza — are all outdoor malls) we spent part of the afternoon going through the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  When I was younger my imagination was sparked by the romance of the sea, specifically treasure-hunting sunken-ship divers like Mel Fisher (who discovered Atocha) and, later, folks with a more scientific bent like Robert Ballard (Titanic and Bismarck).  Dr. Ballard worked for Woods Hole, who always maintained a friendly rivalry with their West Coast counterparts, that same Scripps we visited today.

But onwards to the lens; put simply, bring along the fastest lens you can lay your hands on.  Today, I used a f/1.8 lens wide-open at ISO 800 and still found myself wishing for a bit more speed for some situations.  The angle of view was equivalent to a 100mm lens on 35mm film (10 degrees, horizontally), which turned out pretty much perfect to frame most of my shots without getting in anyone’s way, or getting anyone else’s fingers in my way.  Maybe for 10% of the shots I would have chosen something a little wider — the octopus in full fury, cruising along the glass was a sight to behold, and some of the larger sharks would have been nice to get a full-body shot of up close — but the humble little Nikkor did the trick today.  In fact, the only thing that would have been better would have been a macro lens — thus the Digital Zuiko 50 f/2 I keep telling myself I need to save for.

It’s a nice aquarium to visit; not so huge that figgy got bored halfway through; this time she delighted in pointing at the numerous fish all capering seemingly for her entertainment.  The crowds were thin enough that we never had to wait an interminable amount of time for our turn at the window.  Funny how all at once it strikes you, sometimes; I asked theVet several times today when it was that we had this daughter.  For some reason it feels both like forever and forever new, all at once.

Glassy Eyes

19 June 2008

Dear J-

The more I shoot with my current setup (Olympus E-1 with vintage lenses) the more I’m tempted to acquire more glass, even though I swore off more acquisitions only a month ago, and this even despite already owning multiple lenses in those same focal lengths.  What I’d be smart to do is set money aside for some actual Olympus lenses instead of making do with the motley crew of lenses I currently rotate.

For example, Olympus makes a 50 f/2 macro lens for the 4/3rds system; that lens is fast, compact, autofocus, and a 1:2 macro lens to boot, so why would I even consider instead spending a fraction of its purchase price on something like a Summicron-R 50 f/2?  I will say that there’s something seductive in the way the Leitz lenses feel:  well-damped, solid, and with an impressively long focus throw.  Here’s where my limitations come into play, though; anything less than 50mm or so of actual focal length and I can’t honestly say that I’m focussing accurately.  Besides, giving up on manual focus and aperture rings would mean that one-handed operation would be a bit more feasible; considering that for most photographic opportunities I find myself juggling baby, dogs, and camera, a free hand would be greatly appreciated.

I’d also like to be able to regain wide-angle photography without having to resort to pulling out some of my exotic lenses; the full-frame 16mm Fisheye-Nikkor works surprisingly well with minimal distortion, but what I’ll probably save my pennies for is either the 11~22 zoom or the 8mm fisheye, along with the 50mm macro.  The 14~54 has had great reviews, but considering my recent usage of that focal length range (on the LC1, I’d usually rack the zoom out to full-wide or full-tele, 28 or 90, and be perfectly happy with those results).  I don’t generally find myself limited when shooting with single focal lengths, although that may be a by-product of the lenses I’ve owned.  Now if Olympus would just lower the price on that 7~14 …

Mike