Simon Hawketts
Orange tip butterfly
Orange Tip butterfly

I know the orange tip butterfly is not a rare or endangered species, but I’ve seen them flutter by me for the last 4 or 5 years since I’ve been interested in macro photography and I’ve never been able to get a shot of one. That’s why I was particularly pleased when I finally managed to get a half decent shot this morning of an early specimen which fluttered by me.

We had been out for a walk when…

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Ickworth House in Suffolk
Ickworth House in Suffolk
Ickworth House in Suffolk

Ickworth House in Suffolk

Today we spent a day at Ickworth House in Suffolk which is a National Trust property and I took a series of pictures with my Takumar prime lenses in preparation for out holiday when I intend to only use fixed focal length prime lenses.

It was quite a cold day, although dry and I set out with the full compliment of lenses. Since we were away all day, I’ve not had time to…

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I have had a few opportunities to take a few more pictures with my camdiox wide angle adapter or focal reducer so as I said I would I have included them in a separate post. They are not specially interesting artistically, but they show the sort of technical image quality possible. I shall add more images to this post as I obtain them. All of the pictures below were taken with a takumar 28mm f/2.5 lens

Camdiox focal reducer real world examples I have had a few opportunities to take a few more pictures with my camdiox wide angle adapter or focal reducer so as I said I would I have included them in a separate post.

I did a post yesterday about the camera kit I am taking on holiday in a couple of weeks and the manual Takumar lenses I’m intending to use. As I’ve been getting the kit together and working out which accessories I would need I’ve also been considering how I’m going to track which lens was used for which picture. Although it isn’t essential to know this, it’s a very useful piece of information as you are sorting through your pictures and of course the best place to store the data is in the exit metadata for each image. In fact it’s the one downside to using manual lenses compared to the modern lens which communicate this information to the camera body.

Whilst thinking about this I had a look on the android app store and found an app called Exif4film which allows you to record the settings for each image taken and is aimed at film users as a replacement for the notebook many people used in the past. It also had additional features like GPS tracking and timestamp which would give more information than many digital cameras record. Although this looks like a great app, I couldn’t help thinking It was a bit more complex than I needed and that I probably wouldn’t actually record every picture I took so it would end up as an incomplete record.

I then thought about writing my own android app and lightroom plugin which would allow me to simply timestamp each time I changed a lens. I visualised a simple app with a button for each lens I have so that as I changed lenses I selected the correct button on the phone app and it would record the time I switched to that lens. Later, as I imported the images into Lightroom the plugin would analyse the change times and add the relevant tags to the pictures. Although this is something I may still do and I’m reasonably confident about the android side, I don’t have experience of writing Lightroom plugins, so I probably wouldn’t get it done in time (watch this space though!)

So in the end I came up with a much simpler solution. I have a set of exposure cards which live in my camera bag which are used get a proper white balance. The idea is you take a picture of the white card and use that in Lightroom to get the white balance correct for subsequent pictures. So I thought “why not do something similar for the lens change?”

So I’ve produced a series of simple cards which have the lens name on them which I can use to take the first picture as I change lenses. When I import them into Lightroom I can manually select all the pictures taken with the same lens and manually add the keywords for the lens on import. Because it won’t be easy focusing on a small card with a long focal length lens, I’ve made each of them a different colour so even if I can’t read the writing, I can still tell the lens used. The cards are shown below.

I’m hoping this will allow me to keep my images correctly tagged with the lens used.

By the way – if anyone thinks the android app/Lightroom plugin is a good idea let me know in the comments below.

Keeping track of manual lenses I did a post yesterday about the camera kit I am taking on holiday in a couple of weeks and the manual Takumar lenses I’m intending to use.

This is a short post showing the macro performance of a takumar 55mm f/1.8 m42 lens when a 16mm extension tube is mounted behind the m42 to nex adapter. With this combination I was able to focus down to about 4 inches away from the objects shown in the pictures which I found around the house and garden. The majority of these shots were taken at F/1.8 to emphasise the shallow depth of field and I carried out my normal Lightoom processing steps.

Takumar 55mm f/1.8 macros This is a short post showing the macro performance of a takumar 55mm f/1.8 m42 lens when a 16mm extension tube is mounted behind the m42 to nex adapter.

Ok – the title of this sounds like a BBC television comedy but in fact it’s a description of the kit I am taking with me on a family holiday in a couple of weeks time.

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This will be the first occasion when I use the Nex 6 in the primary role I purchased if for – namely as a light, portable camera on family holidays or trips out. When I bought it however I didn’t realise what a catalyst it would be for using vintage manual focus lenses. In the last few weeks I’ve bought several soviet lenses in the jupiter and Industar ranges and the 3 Pentax M42 mount Takumar lenses which are pictured above.

The takumars are going to form the central core of the camera kit I’m taking, along with a pentax k mount Soligor 28mm f/2.8 and my camdiox wide angle adapter. With these lenses in the bag I have the following focal lengths at my disposal:

  • Takumar 28mm f/3.5 with camdiox adapter = 30mm f/2.8
  • Soligor 28mm f/2.8 = 42mm f/2.8
  • Takumar 55mm f/1.8 = 82.5mm f/1.8
  • Takumar 135mm f/3.5 = 202.5mm f/3.5

Also of course I have the standard kit lens which gives the equivalent of 24 to 75mm.

I  would like to pick up a takumar 35mm f/3.5 before we go as this would provide a 52.5mm equivalent to give a full range of prime lenses covering just about anything  I can think I would need. I might also take my Vivitar series one 70-210 to provide a bird photography telephoto option.

I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the takumar lenses I’ve added to my collection over the last few weeks and I’m sure that they will give me better quality options than the slower zoom lenses I’m traditionally used to using. I’m looking forward to posting some pictures when we get back.

On holiday with the Takumars Ok - the title of this sounds like a BBC television comedy but in fact it’s a description of the kit I am taking with me on a family holiday in a couple of weeks time.
Camdiox unit with box

Camdiox unit with box

In this post I’m going to review my reasons for purchasing a focal reducer and give my assessment of the performance of the Camdiox unit.

What is a focal reducer?

When I was a teenager (quite a few years ago now I’m sorry to say) I used to own an add-on lens called a tele-convertor which fitted behind any lens on my Zenit B slr and doubled the focal length of the lens. I used it with an inexpensive telephoto lens to try to take pictures of birds feeding in our garden but it was less than successful because the unit was very cheap, (I believe it was a prinzflex which was sold in Dixons at the time) and the images had huge amounts of purple fringing. Also the tele-convertor reduced the amount of light reaching the film because the image projected by the lens was much bigger, so the shutter speed had to be reduced to compensate, leading to much more chance of blurry images.

What does all this have to do with a focal reducer? Well a focal reducer is the opposite of a tele-convertor, in fact a more accurate name might be a wide-angle convertor. Instead of a magnification of 2x, a focal reducer typically has a magnification of around 0.7x which makes the image circle projected by the lens smaller and therefore increases the view angle of the camera. Although this would have been possible years ago there had not been a market for such a product before because on a film camera this would have resulted in the image projected by the lens being smaller that the film frame ie very severe vignetting. The reason it is available and popular now is the result of the change to crop sensor cameras with no mirror box like the Sony Nex and Fuji X-E1 etc.

Because mirror-less cameras have a much shorter distance between the sensor and the back of the lens (the registration distance), it’s possible to fit older, classic SLR lenses to them with an adaptor. Many photographers have these lenses from their 35mm film days, and others are discovering what gems are available for only a few pounds. Obviously, the automatic functions of the camera such as auto-focus won’t work and the lenses have to have the aperture set with the adjustment ring on the lens rather than the dial on the camera, but many people look on this as a nostalgic advantage! With these lenses fitted to an APS-C camera it’s possible to take great pictures, but the lenses will always have the crop factor of the lens applied and so will appear to be longer that they actually are.

This is where the focal reducer comes into play. With a magnification of 0.7 or so the lens will be brought back to something close to the ‘real’ focal length of the lens. How does this work? Well as an example suppose I’m shooting with a classic 50mm lens. On my nex 6 I would need to apply the crop factor of the lens so my 50mm would give the same angle of view as a lens of 50 x 1.5 on a 35mm film camera. This makes my pictures look like I’ve taken them with a 75mm short telephoto lens. If I now fit a focal reducer however, I will have an effective focal length of 50 x 1.5 x 0.7 which is 52.5mm so I’m just about back to my 50mm! The focal reducer has removed the crop factor of the sensor.

There is another advantage to this as well. Since the aperture is just the focal length of the lens divided by the opening in the front of the lens, because the focal length has been reduced the aperture has increased! Now when I first heard this I assumed this was some mathematical calculation and didn’t actually make a difference in real life – but I was wrong. There is actually more light reaching the sensor and any exposure you make will be able to have a faster shutter speed or lower iso as a result. This is because all the light is now falling on the sensor rather than some of it being wasted outside the dimensions of the sensor.

This second effect is the reason the best know of these devices is also known as the speed booster – there is an effective boost in the speed of the sensor.

So this device is a way of getting some great old 35mm film lenses back to their original focal length, restoring a wide angle view, and getting a slightly faster lens into the bargain.

Reasons for purchase

So the last sentence above gives a pretty good indication of why I decided to buy one of these devices – now we come to why I bought the unit I did.

The first focal reducer available, the one which gave the idea the name ‘speed booster’ is the Metabones Speedbooster. This is the first unit I considered because it has been fully reviewed and has a solid reputation. However it is also the most expensive unit at something like $600 (about £370 + postage), and I couldn’t easily find one for sale in the UK.

The next unit I considered is called ‘Lens Turbo’ and is made in China by a company called Mitakon. These are a more attractive price range at about £130 and I could get one with UK delivery, but only in M42 mount. Now, M42 would be a useful mount to get, but I do have some K mount lenses which are designed for full frame cameras so it would make sense to get a unit which would also allow K mount lenses to be fitted.

It was at this point that I decided to do a bit of research into the most adaptable unit to get. I know it isn’t possible to get a K Mount to M42 adapter, at least not a K mount lens to M42 body, so I thought about getting a K mount unit. This would allow me to fit K and M42 lenses but after a bit more research it found that the most adaptable mount is actually the Canon EOS mount.

It’s possible to get cheap metal mount adapters to both K mount and M42 to EOS. These are simple metal ring adapters without glass elements and some quick research suggests it should be possible to get similar adapters for Olympus OM and Nikon which would also open the possibility of fitting other lenses.

So I decided to get an EOS to Sony Nex focal reducer and tried to find one with UK delivery. The one unit I could find is made by Camdiox, so that is the unit I ordered.

Now the obvious question, bearing in mind my problems with a cheap tele-convertor, is why not go for the best unit available since this is going to fit behind a top quality lens?

Well there are several reasons :

  • Another supposed advantage of these units is that they are meant to increase image sharpness because of the way they compress the number of lines of detail in the sensor area. I’m not sure that I believe that, but I will find out more when I do the review section of this post.
  • I think the Metabones unit is too expensive. To have the unit delivered to the UK would cost almost the price of another Nex 6 body and that is simply too much.
  • Another big reason not to spend excessively is that my only real world use case for this device is to restore my wide angle lenses to a wide angle view. I wouldn’t use a focal reducer on a 50mm lens for example; I’d use a 35mm lens and use the crop factor to give me an equivalent of 52.5mm.
  • I’ve had my Nex 6 for about 2 months now and I’ve been hugely impressed with it. So much so that I can see my next upgrade path will obviously be to a Sony A7 full frame or the camera which replaces it. If that happens I can still use all my manual lenses and they will have their original focal length anyway, so I will have no need for this unit.

The last reason more than any meant that I didn’t want to spend £300 – £400 and so I settled on what I thought was a Chinese copy which I could get from the uk. I suspect there isn’t a lot to choose between any of the copy units so decided I might as well give the one I found a go.

Description of unit

However it turned out that the last sentence above is actually untrue – the Camdiox unit I bought is actually made in Germany not in China. Just after I placed the order I received a confirmation e-mail which listed the web site of http://www.roxsen.com so I’m not sure if this is made by Roxsen and sold by Camdiox or the other way round. One thing I can say it that the unit Roxsen sells looks very similar to the unit I eventually received.

I received the unit packaged in a small jiffy bag about 5 days after I placing the order on Ebay. Inside the bag the unit itself is supplied in a small round cardboard container with a push on lid. It looks fairly solid in construction and is supplied with plastic protectors fitted to both mounts.

The first impressions, which struck me when I first opened the box, were the size of the lens in the unit and its weight. For some reason I thought the lens element would be much smaller, although when I think about it that is a bit silly. The lens is about an inch across and has obvious coatings as it has purple/blue reflections when looked at an angle. I noticed the weight when I fitted the unit to the Nex 6 because it was noticeably heavier than with the nex – m42 adapter.

The unit fits to the Nex 6 with a solid click and there is no noticeable slack in the fitting. The lens also clicks nicely into place on the adapter so the whole combination feels pretty solid. The pin which releases the lens from the adapter wiggles about a bit, but that seems common with lens adapters as a whole, and it seems to work well to release the lens.

Adapter tests and sample shots

So now we come to the actual tests of the adapter for which I used my Takumar 28mm f/3.5. I used this lens chiefly because this is the lens which will be most typically fitted to the unit. The process I used is as follows.

I set up a still life arrangement in our conservatory and set the Nex on a tripod with the Takumar fitted via a standard nex-m42 adapter. I then took pictures in aperture priority at all the full stop apertures the lens offers with the iso set to 100. For the purpose of the tests I ignored my usual rule of only shooting in RAW and used Jpeg’s straight from the camera. These pictures are my ‘control group’ and are the best images I can expect from the camera and lens combination.

Next I replaced the nex-m42 adapter with the Camdiox adapter and shot another series of shots in aperture priority at all the same settings and with the iso still set to 100. These shots give the performance of the focal reducer. Obviously the angle of view will be different because the lens will be closer to it’s film setting of 28mm, so I also produced a series of crops in Lightroom which show how the adapter has affected the particular areas of the image we can compare.

Then I replaced the lens / adapter with the standard sony kit lens and set the focal length to 19mm which gives an effective focal length of about 28mm. This was to see if the takumar and focal reducer actually performed better than the kit lens (which is certainly something I’d like to know before I start shooting lots of images with it). A feature of the camera of course is that corrections are automatically applied to jpeg images when the kit lens is fitted, so those shots below will have those corrections applied.

The results of these sessions are shown below arranged in F stop order and I recommend that you look at them in full screen to draw your own conclusions of the tests.

Conclusions

So I come to my conclusions. Obviously you are able to make your own conclusions from the pictures I’ve supplied, but these are my findings:

  • Blurred/Softened corners - The Camdiox adapter has softened the corners of the pictures at the widest aperture of f/3.5 even within the cropped area shot however this is less noticable at f/5.6 and almost gone at f/8.0
  • Stop extra speed – The shots with the camdiox fitted do seem to generally be about a stop faster as measured by the shutter speed recorded.
  • Definition - When I look in detail in Lightroom at the shots it does seem to me that the center detail in the camdiox shots is slightly improved over the straight Takumar shots.
  • The kit lens seems to have produced a slightly warmer picture compared to the other images.

I think the camdiox is a pretty good performer for the £70 I paid. It certainly hasn’t blurred images to the point of making it unpleasant to use but obviously I’ve not yet explored it fully so I intend to use the takumar / camdiox combination over the next few days and give a fuller description of my findings with more real world examples in my next post.

Camdiox Canon EOS to Sony Nex focal reducer review In this post I’m going to review my reasons for purchasing a focal reducer and give my assessment of the performance of the Camdiox unit.

This is a post about this classic lens which I bought this week for use on my Pentax and Sony cameras.

As I hinted in my last post I bought this lens on eBay last Sunday evening for £34 plus £4 postage. I was amazed that I won the auction for only £34 because I’ve seen these lenses on ebay ‘buy it now’ offers for up to £70. Admittedly this example didn’t come with a lens case or hood so that might explain it, but it does have the original Asahi Pentax lens and bottom mount cap.

History

The takumar series of lenses are the lenses which pentax fitted to their M42 mount slr cameras before they called them Pentax which happened at about the same time the K mount was adopted. They have a reputation as a top quality performer, but don’t attract the price tag of leica or zeiss lenses. Like most lenses there are different versions which are detailed on the Pentax Forums website. Mine seems to be a series 3 lens which makes it a quite late version – about 1971.

Description

This is a compact lens of about 2 inches in height and about 1.5 inches in diameter. The aperture adjusts from f/3.5 to f/16 with half stop clicks up to f/11 then a full stop click to f/16. There is an Auto/Manual switch just above the lens mount which sets the lens to automatic or manual operation. This lens was made to work on a Pentax spotmatic 35mm SLR, and the Automatic setting would close the aperture to the correct setting when the shutter was released. This allowed the user to view the scene and compose the image with a fully open aperture, and when the picture was taken the camera stopped the lens down to the correct setting. For use on my Sony Nex I set this to M and just adjust the aperture appropriately whilst in either Aperture priority or Shutter speed priority.

A possibly helpful tip to anyone with a similar M42 lens – when it’s not mounted on the camera the Auto/Manual switch will not operate and it’s possible to break the mechanism if you force it. There is a tiny pin on the very back of the lens next to the screw thread which enables the switch (shown in one of the pictures above). If you depress this pin with your finger nail (or if the lens is mounted on a camera) the switch should operate normally.

In operation the lens is very nice. The focus ring is nicely damped and smooth and the aperture ring has a very positive click. On the nex to M42 adapter I have the lens focuses slightly beyond infinity. This is most likely an error in the adaptor, and possibly one I could fix. Since it is focusing beyond infinity that would suggest I should push the lens slightly further away from the sensor. Since the m42 part of the adapter is held in with grub screws I could take it out and pack behind it with some thin card to correct this. However, since that would probably make very little difference to the lenses close focus I may not bother!

  • Takumar Super Multi Coated 28mm 1:3.5
  • Focal length 28mm
  • Effective focal length on APS-C 42mm
  • Maximum aperture f/3.5
  • Minimum aperture f/16
  • Mount M42 screw thread
  • 49mm filter thread

Samples

I’ve had very little time to go out and get any sample image yet but I did get these quick pictures in our garden and house yesterday; the close up images were taken with a 10mm extension tube fitted. Although I haven’t taken many pictures with this lens I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. There seems to be plenty of detail and the colours also seem to ‘pop’ nicely. I can see why these lenses are sought after.

These are all taken on my Sony Nex 6 because I don’t yet have a K-mount to M42 adapter so I can’t yet try it on the K5.

Takumar 28mm f/3.5 wide angle m42 mount lens This is a post about this classic lens which I bought this week for use on my Pentax and Sony cameras.

The lens I’ve had fitted to my Nex 6 today is a Soligor 28mm f/2.8 k mount lens from about 1980 which is another of the lenses my father bought to use on his Pentax P30. To make a change I wandered down to Stevenage old town this lunchtime to try a few shots in less familiar surroundings.

I don’t think this was a particularly expensive lens when my father bought it, in fact I think it must have been quite cheap because we didn’t have loads of money, so I wasn’t expecting brilliant results from it. A quick search on e-bay suggests that you could pick one up for between £25 and £75 depending on the mount fitted.

If you examine the images at 100% for pixel peeping quality you will find that the corners of the images, when the aperture is fully open are a bit smeary and soft, but if you look at the overall image at a normal size I would say this has produced quite nice results. There is a fair amount of detail in the shots and the colour rendition is nice. I particularly like the fact that this lens allows close focusing, and used it to take some nice closeup flower pictures, although the majority of the pictures here are not close ups. I deliberately tried shooting a shot looking up at the railway bridge with the sun peeping out of the corner and there is remarkably little flair showing. For the record, I had a ‘Sigma perfect hood’ clipped onto the front of the lens for the duration of this test and a 49mm Hoya skylight (1B) filter fitted.

These shots went through my normal Lightroom processing steps.

Lens details

  • Soligor C/D Wide-Auto 1:2.8 28mm
  • Focal Length 28mm
  • Effective focal length 42mm
  • f/2.8 max aperture
  • f/22 min aperture
  • ‘A’ position on aperture ring
  • Macro focusing to 1:4
  • 49mm filter thread.
Soligor C/D Wide auto 28mm f/2.8 macro on nex The lens I’ve had fitted to my Nex 6 today is a Soligor 28mm f/2.8 k mount lens from about 1980 which is another of the lenses my father bought to use on his…

I was out again yesterday with my Nex-6 and Pentax smc 50mm f/1.7 prime lens and noticed the buttercups making a carpet of yellow under the trees next to the main route to Hertford, I thought is made a nice contrast to see the flowers slowly growing next to the busy main road so I got down low and took these shots with the cars an out of focus blur.  I had to use the back panel lcd on these as I couldn’t got low enough to see through the viewfinder and found the manual focus magnification quite useful to pick out one flower and focus on it.


These were all taken in aperture priority mode at between f/2.8 and f/5.6 and iso set to 200. A blanket of buttercups I was out again yesterday with my Nex-6 and Pentax smc 50mm f/1.7 prime lens and noticed the buttercups making a carpet of yellow under the trees next to the main route to Hertford, I thought is made a nice contrast to see the flowers slowly growing next to the busy main road so I got down low and took these shots with the cars an out of focus blur.