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
One reason I love shooting Landscape images with square format prints and images in mind for the final results is that your images get closer to your subjects, you loose lots of details in the frame that you mostly do not need.
These images are taken at Lake Windermere in the Lake District and I feel that their square format helps in capturing this great place in a truly focused and closer way.
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 Irish Landscape offers some of the most wonderful views in this part of Europe, with rolling mountains and rocky, spectacular coastlines, there are many forests and powerful flowing rivers.
One of the area’s of photography I love the most is black and white and I feel that the Irish landscape is made for black and white images, often the days are wet and stormy and dark. I feel that shooting images in black and white captures these atmospheric days very well. On good weather days in the summer months getting out early or late to capture the sun low in the sky also works very well in a black and white photograph.
Below are some of the black and white images I am most happy with, so far during 2014.
Irish landscape photography – Black and White Gallery
Digital Compacts and Sensor size
Ever since Digital cameras became available to the professional and the Consumer market alike there has been an ongoing debate about the sensor size that the manufacture selects for each Model.
You can see all the possible types and sizes of sensors here : Image Sensor types and sizes
As well as SLR cameras , I own two cameras that have sensor sizes below what most people, stereotypically would consider are professional, by which people mean that you would be able to sell the images to be printed in magazines or used for commercial reasons.
Most of the time I use these cameras when I know that their images will be used for the Internet or for personal reasons like Holidays or Family pictures.
However the Boss of Nikon-USA last year made a statement that the size of the sensor is now being made less important than ever before, simply because the image quality being produced by most sensors over that of a pocket camera or an i-phone was increasing year on year.
His statement was sure to and did raise some debate, specially from the owners of very expensive Nikon Cameras !
So , over the last few months I have taken a closer look at what he was talking about and the results are very interesting, below I have posted six images taken by a Nikon P7000 and then a Canon G1x , which as you can see from the diagram above on the left, has a much larger sensor that the other camera used here a Nikon P7000.
Many top end compact Cameras have a sensor size of 7.60mm x 5.70mm in size, the Canon G1x has a much larger sensor that measures 18.70mm x 14mm.
Many Photographers who make money selling images fell that the Canon G1x has a very acceptable image quality for a good 80% of image types and keep this compact-camera as a backup or as a carry anywhere camera. Sometimes a large and heavy SLR is just a pain to carry and makes you very conspicuous !!
So the question I was asking myself is , is there a big difference in image quality between these two Cameras here ?
Well the images below don’t appear to show many if any at all, the Nikon has a 10mp output and the Canon 14mp so if your are printing the images you could get a 36x27cm print from the little Canon and a 30cm x 23cm print from the Nikon, both at 300dpi.
This is a large surprise to me and I am sure could and would be questioned in a camera review lab but I am taking real world images from both sensor sizes and comparing them.
In all other respects I can see little defects in the RAW images coming from the Nikon as opposed to the Canon, the Colors are very good they both contain about the same level of detail in the shadow areas and the highlights such as bright areas of sky and clouds and have an image noise level that is acceptable.
So is the Boss of Nikon America correct, well yes, in many respects from looking at the results of most cameras with a sensor size of and over the 1/1.7″, with these sensors you will get some great images provided the camera itself is designed to let you do so!
Will I be throwing my full sized sensor SLR in the bin , well NO! not just yet but it is very reassuring to know that at last you can take these kind of cameras anywhere (Holidays, long walks, tops of mountains and family events) and get very good results , something that has not always been the case!
Just as some final comments,
At some point I will compare these cameras to my SLR and study these difference’s, However the very fact that a close study of the image quality difference’s is even needed shows just how good top end compact cameras have become.
I started the post by saying that this area , sensor size has always been a hot topic and it always will be but you will hear many people tell you that a type of camera is not good, when you ask “OH!!! why ?” they will bring up areas such as depth of field being Shallower with full frame sensor slr’s, very true , what they will not say however is how often they need this ability and how often they use it !!
What they also leave out is that in Macro photography you want a much deeper depth of field, otherwise that Bee your trying to get a picture of will only have its head and not its body in focus!
Three images of the same image scene
Canon G1x followed by Nikon P7000
One of my all-time favourite photographers James Ravilious, once while being interviewed by the BBC said about the colour Green in the Landscape :
“England is a very green country, and “greenness” creates a monotonal view, and one that it’s difficult to achieve much contrast or colour gradation in. Transposing to black and white allows you a richer tone palatte, and to draw attention to the subject more subtly. Black and white contains a bright silver to deep black tone range in landscape images and thus turns a green flat image into a wonderful tonal picture”
This monochrome effect in landscape images is something that has always interested me, Landscape photographers like Ravilious used Black and white film, which when developed correctly in the dark room produces the wonderful tones he talks about.
River Torridge at Sunrise © James Ravilious
I have worked for a long time to both find landscape subjects and black and white processes that can help in getting me close to the same results.
This blog contains many of the black and white landscape images I have taken and in the Gallery below I want to use some local Landscape images to show, how landscapes taken in colour can look when processed in Black and white.
I have placed the colour images first followed by the black and white images, have a good look at them, see what you think and comment if you like.
Some photographers don’t get black and white others love it and will only produce images in monochrome.
Green or Black and white Gallery
The changing light as the river flows
Walking along the river Suir on a springtime evening with the sun about to set, is a wonderful experience by itself but one of the things I love the most is the changing light. The light changes almost moment by moment and the reflections of the sun from the water is just amazing as you walk past some of the many bridges.
One of the best things about photography however is the ability to capture just how much this light does change, I recently put together this small collection of images and I think they show the way the light changes as the sun sets.
The entire landscape changes from yellows and and olive greens to deep blues and blue – greens.
I personally feel that the type of sun light and the different colours it brings is one of the most powerful tools in the art of photography and taking a little time to record your most loved locations at different times of day and weather conditions is a powerful learning tool for getting strong images and for you to have fun with and enjoy yourself.
The changing light as the river flows, Gallery
Using Old M42 lenses on a digital SLR
Over the years that I have been taking images using SLR cameras both film and now Digital, the items that I have always show the most interest in are the lenses I have Purchased.
These days lenses are usually purchased as a secondary item to the camera body, with all the dazzling features and technology that goes into cameras and marketing them, it is easy to forget just how important an item a lens is.
It is the lens that produces the image, the camera just records this image and if its a great lens then your image stands a good chance of being so too.
Something that becomes very clear to you, the longer your into photography is that for the most part, lens technology the parts of the lens that really create the image, has been very good for a long time. Little development is needed with the type of glass and the coatings that are used on the lenses.
Most of the development today is with adding lens features such as image stabilisation, the process of moving some of the lens elements to allow for any movement in the camera while it is being held in your hands and help produce a stable image.
So just how far back do you have to go to get a good if not great lens ?
Hoya is a lens filter and lens coating company, they have done huge amounts of research and development over an very long period of time. you may know of them mostly through their UV filters that are attached to a lot of peoples lenses.
Back in the 1970’s along with a lens manufacture Tokina they also sold a limited number of great lenses, I am lucky enough to own a Hoya 28mm f2.8 M42 lens in very good condition, it cost £50 in 1975. I have used this lens for many years for Landscape work and have always been very happy with its results.
This is a fully Manual lens , No auto focus, no stabilisation, No auto exposure and just perfect for Landscapes.
I feel that landscape photography should take a little time and the fact that everything is fully manual with this lens, just adds to this experience. You have to think through all the settings and this extends into your thoughts about what your taking images of.
I feel that this Hoya lens is one on the best I have for reproducing great colours, contrast and sharpness.
The Gallery below is just a quick sample of some very recent images taken using this lens.
Hoya M42 28mm, f2.8 lens gallery
What is Bokeh
Wiki have a great description here : Lens Bokeh
“In photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”.
However, differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting.
Bokeh is often most visible around small background highlights, such as specular reflections and light sources, which is why it is often associated with such areas.
However, bokeh is not limited to highlights; blur occurs in all out-of-focus regions of the image.”
I have been looking for a way to test this feature of my lenses for a little time, then at Christmas we put up some little led lamps as below. So using two different lenses one a Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens and A Mamiya 45mm f2.8 lens I took some images of the lights, with the lens as out of focus as I could get them.
I think that the images below clearly show the effects that are described in the Wiki link, seeing clearly the effects of the number of aperture blades and their shape.
The Nikon lens as seven blade but they are not curved , the Mamiya lens blades are curved. You can clearly see that the shapes created are very different.
Lens Bokeh examples
Mamiya Sekor lens
Nikom AIS Lens