In yesterdays post I talked a little about how film based photograph is now back a big way! with many of the film manufacturers having over the last few years seen a big jump in their sales figures. Many films that had disappeared from the photography market have now started to be produced again, Kodak are event about to re-introduce their world famous Ektachrome film, a high resolution positive film used at a commercial level of photography in the past.
It is now possible for the first time in many years to get online and purchase any type or speed of film, from Colour to Black and white, ISO 50 to ISO 3200
. This is a big opportunity for film loves to regain long lost skills, such as black and white film processing at home, setting up a dark room studio using chemical based film processing and printing. If this is not for you however, you can still opt for just purchasing the type of film you want to try out and once you have exposed your full roll, you can send it in the post to processors such as Lomography, who process any type of film for about the same price as it cost way back in the original film days.
One film I always love using was Ilfords XP2 Super, ISO 400, black and white film, Its a C41 processed film which is the same processing methods used with colour films. This film can be exposed at camera ISO setting between 50 to 800 as described in the instructions that come in the box, ISO 400 is the optimum setting but if the film is exposed at setting that overexpose the film, the film grain visible on the final prints will be much reduced. If you do play around with your ISO setting, you have to remember that with film you have to specify to your development lab that you did so and tell them what ISO Setting you exposed the roll of film at, also unlike digital for each of the 24 or 36 exposures on your roll of film you have to stay with the same ISO setting all the way through the roll.
ILFORD XP2 Super PDF
Like all rolls of film, XP2 Super has its own grain look and texture, you can see from the image below that the grain is very visible in the more well lighted areas on the frame. Its not unpleasant and adds lots of character to the image, this is an ISO 400 film after all and as such perfect for use indoors.
Ilford XP2 Super – Sample images, scanned using a Minolta Dimage Elite film scanner
Thanks to Sharon Walters Knight a fellow WordPress blogger and Facebook friend , I have in the last three weeks started to take a look again at 35mm film photography.
Over the last three years or so Film is starting to make a big come back, mainly with the help of film suppliers and film fan supporters lomography, they sell and process films along with camera bodies and offer some great new ideas as to how to use film and get some creative results from it.
I have just finished shooting my first role of 35mm black and white film supplied from Lomography Europe, using my Nikon FM2 and when I get time this week I will post this roll of film off to them and wait for the negatives and online scans to appear!
For the moment I have been looking at some of my old negatives and scanning them, the results are good I feel for these old black and white frames, My impression of how film compares to current Digital cameras is one of surprise, I love the grainy and organic feel to black and white films!
I had not realized since I stopped looking at film as my main photography medium, just how much digital has moved forward year on year! I feel that even when scanning a film frame at 10 megapixels with a good scanner, even with ISO 100 film the detail is so much less that can be found in todays digital sensors. Film grain is loved by many, yet when you look closely a lot of the image details are lost in this grain. A simple fact however when using film is that while digital cameras have kept developing all the time, film scanner have not. Another fact often lost today is that film was not designed with scanners in mind but with wet/dark room printing on light sensitive photo-papers, often designed by the film suppliers to match the film being used. Thus it could still be true that the best results when printing from film can be achieved in the dark room and not using a scanner at all!
I still love the idea of using a film camera at times when you want to use a simple process and travel light, just packing a film camera, a few lenses and rolls of film, without the need to take battery chargers and laptops with you. Another fact is that Film cameras work better when your outside and need to keep changing lenses, you never have to worry about dust and dirt getting to your sensor!
Here are some film shots I have taken over the years, at some point this week I will post more on them, including some closer looks at just how much detail is in the full sized images and just how film grain looks at 100% print size.
Ilfords Black and white film Gallery
Classic lens review : Tamron Adaptall-2 135mm f2.5
I have a few classic Nikon and Tamron lenses in my kit of photography equipment as I find that there is something truly enjoyable about using an older manual focus lens.
One of the lenses I love using the most is my Tamron Adaptall-2 135mm f2.5 lens, it dates from the late 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s, as it was in production during this period. On both an FX and DX camera this lens offers a great field of view in your images. It is also a very fast lens at f2.5 however as with many fast lenses when wind open they are not at their sharpest, yet by using a still very fast F2.8 this lens produces very acceptable images.
These images are an attempt to show the sharpness that can be obtained, these images are taken outside and handheld …..
These images are just a very quick sample of this lens at different apertures, outside in the real world and without the use of a tripod. I feel that this is a very good way of showing just how usable this lens is in a real world environment and on a day to day basis.
Depth of field
One of the great features of a lens with this focus length (135mm) with a fast aperture is that you can isolate subjects that are at some distance from the camera, this is a powerful tool when used in your images and can help to create some interesting effects.
Here I post some very basic examples of using a different depth of field for the same subject.
Build Quality and Verdict
I feel that another great feature of this lens is its build quality, the copy I have is many years old yet still feels like new, its a great lens to use and a pleasure to work with. The focus and aperture rings are both wonderful to operate. Manual focus lenses from this era are built to last, constructed using all metal and built to operate with precision and smoothness. The colour and contrast produced are also among the best I have seen, even when put against my modern Nikon lenses.
All in all this is a lovely lens to use. Its very important to me that I like the equipment I use and this great little lens is right up there with my most loved in this respect.
If you can find one I would highly recommend this lens to anyone!, however as for my copy its not for sale! as I look forward to using it for many more years to come 🙂
Tarmon SP 500mm F8 Mirror Lens, Real world review
When you make a start in the world of Photography, Sooner or later you will want to own a dedicated Long Telephoto lens. These lenses offer the ability to get some great images in the world of (Landscape, Wildlife, Portrait and Sports) Photography.
Fixed focus (None Zoom) Telephoto lenses come in many focus lengths, but the most usable are 200mm to 600mm, depending on how much magnification of distant subjects and objects you need. The cost of these lenses my surprise many starting photography and to be honest even many long term photographers, they can start in price range from around €800 and end up way into the many €1000’s.
There is however an alternative option with this type of lens, this being to look at what are called Reflex or Mirror Lenses. These kind of lenses replace some of the glass elements within their construction with two Mirrors both used to fold the light entering the front glass element in much the same way as a reflex telescope does.
i.e. NASA uses this method in the Hubble space telescope that has produced some amazing ground braking images of the cosmos.
Third party and OEM Camera manufactures started making these lenses in the 1970’s and continued through to the 1990’s, today mostly only third party lenses are available. The quality of these Early OEM/Third party – mirror lenses was very high, even second hand some of these lenses can set you back some €300 to €800 on ebay, even today in 2017.
I purchased a Reflex lens made by Tamron (500mm SP F8) way back in 1988 and in this post I just wanted to share my thoughts on some of its upsides and some of its downsides.
To be honest, I have not used this lens very much, for two main reasons.
Firstly : at 500mm and with an lens aperture of F8 it needs to be Tripod or at the very least mono pod mounted in order to create very sharp images. This maybe a little unfair as this is true for most long lenses but Nikon VR lenses are so good at helping go handheld!
Secondly : these lenses have one very different down side to that of refactor (Glass only) lenses, they produce a doughnut ring effect on bright out of focus objects or even just areas in the image that have a bright, lighting than the darker areas around them. I have included some examples at the bottom of the posts images below.
With the first point above, today in 2017 with the high ISO abilities of SLR cameras such as the Nikon D7200 and D750, this issue has been made redundant to a great extent! When this Tamron lens was produced, 35mm film could only produce clean images at a rating of no more than ISO 400.
Today the Nikon D7200 can work very well between ISO 3200 and 6400 with very little help from good noise cleaning software in post processing, this up-rates the usable shutter speeds for hand held work for even a lens of 500mm at f8, letting you work handheld more than ever before !
Remembering that even on a DX sensor slr, you need for some 750mm (X 1.5 DX factor!) to keep a shutter speed of 1/800th to 1/1000th to create fully stable images, If you have a steady hand. Even on a cloudy day ISO 1600 gives a shutter speed of around 1/1600th and ISO 1600 on a D7200 is little to worry about! noise wise. It is for this reason that I am starting thinking of trying using this lens again.
For the rest of this post and review of the lens, I will let the following images do the talking, with a small amount of comments made in each of the related image types.
Tarmon SP 500mm F8 Mirror Lens – sharpness and quality
To test for the image sharpness and quality I placed the camera on a tripod, I don’t use a remote release, so there could be some small effects but all in all these are sharp images.
You can see from the below image that this lens can produce some very sharp images under the correct conditions, its just as good as some much more expensive glass only lenses from Nikon.
I have no worries here and would be very happy in trusting this lens to produce sharp images from corner to corner of the frame.
Above : Nikon D7200 with Tamron SP 500mm Mirror lens, Tripod Mounted
As image sharpness has been tested above, what about color fringing and other detects, color fringing is visible in an image at bright edges in the frame, so I used the wires and other equipment on the telegraph post in this image, I see no fringing Green, blue or otherwise in this image.
So again I would trust this lens to produce sharp and clean images that need little or no post processing to clean them up later.
Using the lens – in the Landscape
The following images speak for themselves, just general landscapes and animal images from medium focus distance subject to long distance landscapes, the town and wind farm in the last landscape is some 8km away from the location of taking the image, crazy!. Again its sharp enough taking into account the haze of the atmosphere, no color fringing problems in the wind turbines.
With the main set of images here, I am less happy with the out of focus effects as the bokeh of this lens is not great!, anything bright and a little out of focus (i.e. The grass!) takes on a distracted look, feeling tangled and distracting with the image smoothness, Most noticeable in the two images of the sheep sitting down.
Those Doughnuts !! OMG!
As you can see from the photo of this lens sitting in my camera bag at the top of the post, a mirror lens is constructed very much like a reflecting telescope, like this diagram :
You can see that the center of the front glass element is used to hold the housing for the smaller secondary mirror in the construction, that folds the image light back down the lens and into the camera.
This system works amazingly well but for one problem!
For in-focus areas of an image the central lens obstruction is never visible, however for brighter areas of an image that are out of focus this central obstruction created by the secondary mirror housing, created a bright doughnut effect.
In the below images this is very clear!
The light gaps in the trees below turn into bright cycles, the rain on the table in the background focus also does the same.
In some images you can work around this effect and even use it as an interesting advantage?, you just have to get to know when this kind of lens is and is not usable !!!
For the most when you have a subject that has the potential to create this circle effect ! it just distracting and not likeable. This is the point at which the little price you paid to get a budget Telephoto lens €300 not €2000 starts to gets you back !!!
Getting Arty , MayBe?
Like any camera lens, Mirror lenses have their down sides (Slow, bright Cirles, Manual focus, etc …), you just have to get to know these features and ether use them to your advantage or don’t !!!
Some people love the bright rings and make good use of them 🙂 , one use could be nighttime street photography ?
So then ?
So if your looking for a cheep way to get a telephoto lens into your camera bag, a Mirror lens is well worth looking at in my own opinion. Don’t expect to work quickly with them or be lazy in your approach, however – but then most telephoto lenses need hard work to get good images, with a mirror lens you just have to add a little on top!
In the end, just like with all of your image making, you get out what you put in !!!!
Will I take this lens out more than I have? Maybe ! most likely not !! Watch this space ?
If I was starting again with few lenses and wanted a low budget long lens, would I get a Mirror lens , Hell YES !!! , With Great high ISO SLR’s even more so !!!
Sometimes the harder you have to work to get good images , the more you learn !!!!
Also see : Mirror Lenses – how good? Tamron 500/8 SP vs Canon 500/4.5L, a older review, ISO has moved a long way since this article but its a great comparison test (€300 Tamron v €2000+ Canon).
Its easy to think that the best lens to spend a full day of Photography with would be a zoom lens, however my favorite and most respected lenses are all prime lenses(fixed focus lenght lenses).
One of my most respected and trusted lens is my Nikon 50mm f1.4, its fast , can work very well in low light and even at 75mm on my DX D7200 body (50mm on an FX) it makes me think in a very creative way. You have to frame you shots well before you click the shutter button, I find this much more creative that just walking around and zooming in and out at everything 🙂 although this can be a very fun experience.
While you need a zoom lens in order to make sure you can capture some subjects, Prime lenses make you think about the subject you want to capture!
So what kind of images can you produce if you only take one lens with you , A 50mm Prime?
Nikon AF-d 50mm f1.4 Gallery
These images from yesterday include a morning walk and then an evening walking alone the strand at Tramore, County Waterford
The world we live in is full on the most amazing things, some of these things we see everyday around us in a very clear and detailed way, others we have to stop and take a little more time in order to observe. This is why when I get this time I love using a Macro Lens, you can get in close to the small things of life, getting a view that is hard to get from a distance.
This summer more than ever before I want to use my macro lens in order to record the small things in nature 🙂
Using classic Camera lenses
In the world of Digital photography it feels like a new bit of equipment is released almost every month, new Camera bodies, lenses, flash guns etc….
In the last few years however the image quality of digital cameras has begun to reach such high standards that its hard to see as bigger need than every before to keep upgrading your SLR camera body. I remember so clearly the day I first purchased a digital SLR, it was a Nikon D100, a body that was very closely based on the Nikon F80. I also remember reading sometime later that for a digital Camera to match the print size of 35mm film you would need 24 million pixels, a target that was reached sometime back in the Nikon range and surpassed with the 36mp Nikon D800.
Looking back at Film cameras, most of the end print size and quality came from the type of film you selected to use. The camera bodies themselves offered different levels of capture capabilities, some bodies offered all you needed to take landscape images while other more advanced bodies allowed you to capture fast action activities such as sports.
Once you had the camera body that you needed, for the type of photography you worked with, there was little need to upgrade until you had almost worked your camera into the ground.
Today in 2017, it is a very legitimate question to ask if at last after many years of the megapixel race, have we not now reached the point that you can purchase a camera body and keep it for life or until you finish it off by using it so much ?
What about Lenses ?
In the first years of digital SLR cameras it was not always possible to use all your old lenses with your new wonderful Digital body, Many Cameras would only for example allow you to use the latest Auto-focus lenses.
Over time the manufacturers started to launch bodies at the top end of their range that allowed you to use many older lenses including Manual focus lenses. Once this happened many photographers started to look backwards at the classic lens market, to workout what lenses from the past still offered great performance on modern cameras.
Personally I love using classic lenses and the Tarmon Sp 35mm-210mm F3.5-4.2, is one of the lenses I love using the most, produced by Tamron in Japan in the early 1980’s and only ended production in late 1987, it was available new well into the 1990’s.
This lens is one of the best made Zoom lenses of all time and even includes a Macro mode, offering a close focus of 11.8″ (0.3m), for a zoom lens this is very good. It is also very fast and falls into the professional level of F3.5 at 35mm to F4.2 at 210mm, on a current Digital slr with its low ISO noise this speed is excellent. It also has some amazing Lens flare that when used in video mode is amazing !
For times when I can use manual focus and want a zoom lens that has a great focus distant range and is fast, I am more than happy to have this lens with me. Its sharp at all F-stops, feels just amazing to use and can take any kind of usage in any type of conditions.
I will let the images below do the rest of the talking here, its fair to say however that not all old camera equipment is outdated and not worth using anymore. Great Lenses like these ones, if looked after last for ever.
When new this lens would have cost top money and for a reason!