Simon Hawketts

Dragonflies have alway been a problem for me to photograph, so I am particularly pleased that I managed to get quite close to a small golden dragonfly today when I had my specialist macro lens fitted to my Sony Nex 6.

I’m not sure of the species, but I found this dragonfly sitting on the end of a stick which was acting as a stake for a small tree. Normally if I find a dragonfly sitting anywhere it will be gone as soon as I can collect my camera, and it would definitely fly off as soon as I got close. This particular creature however not only sat still whilst I got my camera, but it very kindly sat on the end of the stick in the bright, hot sunshine whilst I took several pictures of it. It even sat patiently whilst I took about 15 pictures with the lens set to maximum aperture (because the K mount to NEX adapter I use had the aperture actuation ring set to ignore the aperture of the lens)!

Fortunately I spotted the problem with the aperture and managed to get a series of pictures with the lens reset to f/8, which sharpened up the image nicely. I took several pictures from a distance away and then gradually got closer and closer to try to get some nice portraits. Although these images are not the best macro pictures I’ve ever taken, I’m quite pleased because of the subject matter.

Macro photography – Small golden dragonfly Dragonflies have alway been a problem for me to photograph, so I am particularly pleased that I managed to get quite close to a small golden dragonfly today when I had my specialist macro lens fitted to my Sony Nex 6.

This is a family holiday post with a few pictures from the new Woburn Forest Centre Parcs site where we went for a short break. I’ll update the post with more pictures as I get them processed. All these pictures were taken with my Takumar prime lens set and processed in Lightroom using my normal post-processing workflow from the raw files.

Centre Parcs – Woburn forest This is a family holiday post with a few pictures from the new Woburn Forest Centre Parcs site where we went for a short break.

It’s been a hot day here today and I’ve been out with my macro lens trying to get some interesting insect pictures.

Although it is hot, almost as soon as I got to Priors wood (where I usually go to get insect pictures) the sun went in and the light levels dropped quite a lot. Although that didn’t make it in anyway impossible to take pictures, it meant about 3 stops less light, so most of these were taken at a higher ISO or with less depth of field than I would have ideally liked.

All of these pictures have been processed in Lightroom using my normal post processing techniques.

Butterflies and other insects It’s been a hot day here today and I’ve been out with my macro lens trying to get some interesting insect pictures.

This is a review of my Takumar 135mm f/3.5 M42 mount lens on my Sony Nex 6 camera.

Description

This lens is an M42 mount lens made in about  1973. It has an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/22 and a closest focusing distance of about 1.5 meters, or 5 feet. The aperture ring is controlled by a small pin protruding from the bottom of the mount, and there is an Auto/Manual switch fitted to disable the pin and make the aperture controllable by the aperture ring. I bought my copy from eBay for £26 and I paid another £3.50 for an original Takumar screw on lens hood to match it. The takumar len range was produced by Pentax for their M42 spotmatic slr range before they moved to the K mount bayonet fitting when they changed to using the Pentax name. They have the reputation of being exceptional lenses, and some examples, like the 50mm f/1.4 carry pretty high price tags.

Usability

Compared to a modern telephoto lens this is a nice lens to carry and use because it is lightweight. Obviously it doesn’t have some of the features of a modern lens such as an autofocus motor or image stabilisation, but personally I find manual focus with focus peaking faster and more reliable than autofocus and image stabilisation, although nice, adds considerably to the cost.

On my Nex the lens is quite long with the adapter, lens and hood fitted. The focus ring on my example is perhaps slightly too well damped; It certainly wouldn’t slip out of focus, which is nice, but it can take quite an effort to move it and it would be difficult to rapidly change focus. This could be completely down to my example of course, but all the other takumar lenses I have are also on the well damped side so I suspect this is typical. The actual adjustment range is good, taking about 3/4 of a turn from infinity to closest focus point and the machined grip is easy to grasp with a gloved hand. The aperture adjustment is a click-stop ring with half stop click from f/3.5 to f/16 then a full stop to f/22. The aperture auto/manual switch is positioned at the top of the lens to make it easy to operate, but on a modern digital camera like the nex the lens is left in manual mode because there is no pin actuation machanism to stop the lens down as the picture is taken. If I use the lens on my spotmatic however it is easy to set it to manual from the normal auto setting.

Bokeh

The background bokeh on this lens will not have the perfect circles of a lens with more aperture blades (this lens has 6 blades) but being a telephoto focal length means it will be pretty easy to get background de-focus effects. These are often used to good effect in portraits to isolate the subject, so I’ve included a few samples below of a couple of concrete bears which sit in our garden taken at different apertures. These images are all straight from Lightroom with no post processing other than the white balance.

Definition

I have found the definition of the lens to be very good – certainly exceeding the quality I would expect of a modern kit lens. I think some of the sample pictures below show this.

Macro use

With the lens fitted to the camera using an Nex to M42 adaptor it is not very effective as a macro lens because the close focusing distance is too far away. However the addition of a short extension tube can make a world of difference and turn the lens into a pretty effective macro tool. The shots in the gallery below were all taken with this lens and a 10+17mm extension combination at a variety of apertures and although they don’t have huge levels of magnification, they are still well defined close up shots, if not true macro.

Video

Whilst I was out taking the pictures for this post I also took a short video clip which may be useful to some people who like to use manual lenses for video work.

Some other sample shots taken with this lens.

These are all shots taken with the takumar 135mm f/3.5 over the course of the last few days whilst I’ve been preparing this post. They have all been post processed in Lightroom to try to show the lens off to its best.

All in all I think this is an excellent quality lens which is well worth the price I paid for it and a useful addition to my Takumar family.

Takumar 135mm f/3.5 on Nex This is a review of my Takumar 135mm f/3.5 M42 mount lens on my Sony Nex 6 camera.

In a similar post to yesterday’s post which published the remaining pictures I took at Kentwell Hall, this post is a collection of the pictures I took during our holiday visit the the National Trust property at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. It is mostly a family holiday post, but anyone who is considering a visit may find it interesting.

All of these pictures were taken with my takumar prime lens kit which I took on the holiday.

Sutton Hoo Pictures In a similar post to yesterday’s post which published the remaining pictures I took at Kentwell Hall…

As I have mentioned in a previous post we went to a tudor day at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk in April this year and I’ve posted several pictures which I took that day, but I still have a large number which I wanted to publish so I’ve collected them all here in a large gallery.

I can thoroughly recommend the Kentwell Hall tudor day if you are in the area or would consider travelling. It was the best day we had during our holiday both from an entertainment and an educational point of view.

Kentwell Hall, Grounds, Interiors and characters

Kentwell hall Tudor day pictures As I have mentioned in a previous post we went to a tudor day at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk in April this year and I’ve posted several pictures which I took that day, but I still have a large number which I wanted to publish so I’ve collected them all here in a large gallery.

This is a short pictorial review of the Pentacon 29mm f/2.8 Multi Coated manual lens on the Sony Nex 6 camera.

This is another M42 mount lens which represents incredible value for money if you are prepared to do a little more setup and manual intervention in your photography. You won’t get lots of automatic settings, but you can get some brilliant images if you just apply a little thought and can use the focus ring!

The normal cost for one of these lenses ranges from about £5 to about £40 on ebay, depending on when you buy it and who you buy it from. You will normally pay less for an example bought in an auction rather than with a ‘buy in now’ offer, but I doubt you would pay over that range for a good example.

On a crop sensor camera like the nex the lens is an equivalent focal length of 43.5mm, so a widish standard lens.

I used this lens on my Nex 6 to take some pictures about Stevenage today in Jpeg+Raw mode. Normally I would only shoot in Raw mode, but this gives me the ability to show the ‘out of camera’ performance which may be useful to some people.

From Camera JPeg Pictures

The camera jpeg images were on the most part slightly over exposed. On most of these shots I had to reduce the exposure by about half a stop when I produced the Lightroom Processed version. Other than that, the images show a tendency for softness in the corners when wide open but this reduces as the aperture is stopped down. The CA seems pretty well controlled and being a prime lens there is little if any distortion.

Once the raw pictures had been processed, there were a few images which I would be happy to use, although this lens is certainly not of the quality of a takumar 28mm f/3.5. As well as adjust the overall exposure, in many cases I reduced the highlights, boosted the contrast and added a bit of midrange definition with the clarity adjustment.

Processed in Lightroom Pictures

In conclusion this is a reasonable lens which is good value for money if you can find one, as I did, for a few pounds. It is not of the quality of the takumar 28mm f/3.5, but will provide reasonable image quality if you shoot in raw and put a little effort into processing your shots.

Pentacon 29mm f/2.8 lens on Nex This is a short pictorial review of the Pentacon 29mm f/2.8 Multi Coated manual lens on the Sony Nex 6 camera.

This is another camera which I inherited from my Father – a Lubitel 166b Twin Lens Reflex.

This is the only twin lens reflex camera I own. It’s a very fragile looking, tin plate and plastic affair which looks pretty poor quality, although if I look on Flickr for example pictures taken with this model of camera, it was obviously capable of some very good results. As you can see from the pictures above the top lens, which was used for focusing the picture, is very dirty and if I try to compose a picture with it now it actually difficult to make out the image for the dirt. I don’t know if this could be removed and cleaned, but the light seals look shot and I doubt that this particular example will ever work again.

Still, from an historical point of view it is interesting because, in the same way Zenit opened the door for many people to 35mm SLR photography, this camera made medium format photography an affordable hobby for many people.

The camera takes 120 film which is loaded into a reel in the bottom of the camera and runs over the back of the camera to a take up spool sitting in the top. I was a feature of 120 film cameras that once the film was exposed you take the bottom reel off and place it in the top as the take up reel ready for the next film. There is no film counter or wind on ratchet system to make sure you wind the correct amount of film between exposures – the film had a backing paper which had numbers on and you wind the film until the next number shows in a small red window in the back of the camera. On this camera there is a small blanking plate over this window and a little knob to move it out of the way when you are advancing the film.

Once the camera was loaded, the picture was composed on a glass screen fitted in the top of the camera which you view by looking down on it from above. One advantage of this is it encouraged images taken from a lower level than eye level finders. I quite often try to take pictures from a lower height to improve the interest so in that way this camera has an advantage.

There is a non-removable lens fitted to the Lutitel 166b – although some TLR’s had replaceable lenses, this model didn’t. It is fitted with a 75mm f/4.5-f/22 picture lens and a coupled viewfinder lens of f/2.8. The two lenses are coupled by a gearing arrangement which keeps them in sync, and of course the aperture only applies to the bottom picture lens, so the picture you view and focus is always at maximum brightness. This arrangement is very good as long as you aren’t too close to the subject when parallax error would start to come into effect.

The shutter is a very odd arrangement. There is a small lever on one side of the lens which is brought down and when it clicks in place the shutter is ‘cocked’. There is then another lever underneath it which is pressed to release the shutter.

The aperture and shutter speed are set using small levers mounted around the lens. The range offered is

  • B, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 sec
  • f/4.5, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

Other features of this camera are a tripod bush on the bottom, a ‘cold’ flash socket on the side with a sync socket fitted to the lens and a self timer mechanism.

I know my dad was a camera collector like me and I believe he bought this second hand when it was quite old. Unfortunately I can’t get him to confirm that now, but I’m sure he had some fun with it and that in itself is a good enough reason to buy it.

 

Vintage camera collection – Lubitel 166b TLR This is another camera which I inherited from my Father - a Lubitel 166b Twin Lens Reflex.

This is a short post about a 35mm viewfinder camera I bought this week – A Beier Beirette model 11.

This is different from the cameras I usually buy because it is a simple viewfinder camera with a non-removable lens. I normally buy cameras with a lens which will be useful on my Nex 6 but in this case I bought the camera because it is similar to the first ‘proper’ camera my Dad owned in the mid 1960′s. In fact the model he bought was a Boots Beirette, which was a version sold by the well known chemist shop in the UK, and he used it for a good number of years until he upgraded to a Zenit B.

It’s a very simple camera. There are just 3 shutter speeds 1/125, 1/60 & 1/30 and then a B setting. The aperture is continuously adjustable from f/2.9 to f/22 and the focus is adjusted by setting the distance on the lens. I remember my Dad had a rangefinder unit which he fitted to the hot shoe which allowed him to find the distance and then transfer the reading to the focus.

There is a cable release socket fitted above the shutter, and a flash sync socket fitted to the side of the lens unit and that is about it for connections.

The film wind on is odd because it doesn’t have anything which stops you winding on frame after frame and it isn’t coupled to the shutter. This means you don’t ‘cock’ the shutter – it will fire as many times as you push the button. This is very useful if you want to make multiple exposures, but you would need to have a proper mental system in place to make sure you always know if you ‘wind and fire’ or ‘fire and wind’. Of course it could be that my version is broken and there should be some mechanical stop on this action.

The film chamber is also different from any other I’ve seen. The pressure plate which keeps the film flat is not fitted to the camera back but hinges down from the top of the chamber. To insert a film you would lift up to pressure plate, thread the film through and drop the plate back down, then refit the back of the camera which is a separate unit on this camera.

All in all this is a simple 1960′s camera which I wouldn’t normally buy but because of the connection to my Dad I got it. This is made more poignant by the fact that we lost my Dad to cancer last week.

Vintage camera collection – Beier Beirette model 11 This is a short post about a 35mm viewfinder camera I bought this week - A Beier Beirette model 11.

These two camera’s are a new addition to my camera collection which I bought primarily for the Helios 44M lens which was attached to each, however they are still historically of interest to me because the first ‘proper’ camera I owned was a Zenit E, and my Dad had one for a long time too.

Although these camera’s are slightly different from the Zenit E I owned, the differences are fairly minimal from memory. I certainly remember the substantial ‘clunk’ as the shutter is released and the weight of these beasts!

In terms of these two cameras the 11 seems slightly more ‘feature rich’ than the EM. The 11 has a hot shoe fitted and a slot on the back where you can put the index card from the film fitted to the camera. It also has a slightly nicer shutter adjustment dial and the addition of a second tripod bush on the bottom of the camera only slightly off-centre. If that sounds a funny thing to write, it’s nothing like as funny as designing a camera with the tripod bush mounted on one side, but that is exactly what both these camera’s have – a tripod bush under the film advance lever!

One slightly rare feature of the Zenit EM is that it is an olympics special version with the 5 inter-joined circles on the prism housing. Mind you, having written slightly rare, I’m not sure it is – there seem to be plenty on ebay with that insignia so perhaps there were a lot made.

Description

I’m going to write one description for both camera’s because, as I’ve implied above, they are more similar than different.

They are 35mm film SLR’s of a fairly basic design. There is an in built light meter for measuring exposure, but it isn’t a through the lens recording of light – this is simply a selenium cell fixed above the lens mount and a dial fitted around the rewind crank. To make a reading you point the camera at the subject and then turn the dial until a small circle lines up with the meter needle. You can then read the exposure from the scale fitted above the dial and apply those settings to the shutter/aperture. It’s a simple system, but from what I remember it was remarkably effective and easier to use than having to carry a hand-held light-meter.

The range of shutter speeds is limited to B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 & 1/500 with flash sync is at 1/30. With today’s camera’s offering typically from several seconds to 1/4000 or 1/8000 that seems a very limiting range of values, but again at the time it seemed fine. I remember that I always though I could freeze motion at anything over 1/125 !

Both camera’s have essentially the same focusing screen fitted which consists of a matt fresnel screen with two circles in the centre to assist but no split rangefinder style circle. The eyepiece has a knurled ring round it to allow it to be corrected for the users individual eyesight. On my EM model there is a slightly darker brown line down the middle of the focusing screen which I think may be inside the prism housing. I certainly can’t see anything on the mirror or the focusing screen itself.

Both camera’s have automatic lens aperture stop down, provided by a metal bar which pushes the pin on the lens as the shutter is released. This mechanism also allows the lens to be stopped down as the shutter button is half-pressed.

Other features which are essentially the same is the frame counter round the film advance lever, a self timer fitted to the front plate, a flash sync socket fitted at the top of the front plate and strap lugs fitted to the front.

In all these are simple cameras and not at all sophisticated, but they are an important part of camera history. There are innumerable photographers today who started their photographic careers  with a Zenit because they provided good quality and a reasonable feature set at a very reasonable price. I certainly count myself in that band and I know my Dad did too.

Vintage camera collection – a pair of Zenits These two camera’s are a new addition to my camera collection which I bought primarily for the…