Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back in a Macro Mode

If you have been following my flickr post you will know I have been buying manual lens. All the fancies you find in the latest and greatest from Nikon are nice to have but there is the $$$ problem.

If you don't mind twisting a ring to focus the old fashion way, you can find excellent lenses for very few $. For example I'm quite fond of my Osawa (never heard of that brand? Read on.) 300mm prime. With that one I paid more for shipping than I paid for the lens. Still when I go out with the D7000 after nature shots, it will find a place in my camera bag. To see why, an example is below.

Another lens I'm fond of is my Nikkor 55mm f3.5 macro. That one cost more, $50, but it came with the busted Kiron made 28mm f2.0 that I fixed and blogged about previously, a heavy but sturdy tripod and a film camera I'm unlikely to ever use.

Unlike Canon who obsoleted all their manual lens when they went autofocus Nikon stuck with the F mount. Which is good. But that doesn't mean there aren't different flavors of F mounts, non aI, Ai, Ais, camera motor autofocus, and lens motor auto focus.

With the D60 it didn't much matter. They all mounted on the camera and worked with limitations.

The D7000 is different. Non Ai lens don't mount. If you force them on, they can damage the camera. Unfortunately the 55mm macro I've come to love is non Ai. Even worse so are all the other low $ macro stuff I've collected. Bummer.

There are several solutions to this problem:

1--Get out of the prehistoric manual world and spend the $$$ to buy the "right" glass. Advice a newbie will get whenever they ask newbie questions about lenses. "Right" glass being the lens the poster is bragging about owning.

2--Keep the D60 as a back-up camera and use it for macro work. After all I have taken decent macros with that camera.

3--Have the 55mm converted over to an AI mount. Nikon stop selling the DIY AIs kits back in the 20th century but there are still a few lens repair shops with a milling machine in the back room that will make the necessary mods. That would destroy the antique value of a pristine lens and cost more than I paid for the camera outfit but it could be done.

4--Put on my thinking cap and come up with my own DIY solution. Which I did. Even if, as I must confess up front, my thinking cap went on cocked and backwards.

The 55mm macro needs a M2 extender tube to take macros from 2-1 to 1-1. I happened to have a more or less useless 3 element, AIs mount, 2x tele extender in the junk lens box that's the right length. All I had to do was remove the lens parts and I would be home free.

Which would have happened if the thinking cap was on straight and if after studying the converter and D7000 I grabbed a vice grip out of the tool box and unscrewed the lens elements.

But the cap was cocked. I took off the mount plate, removed the unneeded metering tab, reassembled, mounted the lens and discovered it would not mount on the camera. Had I messed up my reassembly? Another disassemble. If the iris tab was to work, I had assembled correctly. And the teleconverter went on fine. But when I put it and the lens together it wouldn't....What in the hell was going on here. So I---

To make a long blog shorter, when I set the lens's iris between f3.5 and f16 everything mounted. At f22 and f32 the outer AI ring jammed up with the mating tab on the D7000. While things now worked sort of, the camera was overexposing every shot by 2 stops.


The now extension tube started life as a 2X teleconverter. This cost the lens combination two stops of light. To compensate Vivitar shifted the position of the outer AI ring. As machined it would never work.

The fix--Mount the coupling mechanism with one screw and (I hope) enough double back sticky tape to hold everything in place in the field.

The perfect fix? No. On the D7000 the 55mm can take hand held macro but not closeup or normal images. But it will let me play around and measure just how good the lens camera combination is. With the D60 I resolved detail in the 7-10 micron range. With the D7000-- watch for the blog post.

I expect my ultimate solution will be #2. Keep the D60 as a back up and macro camera. So if you see me out on the trail with two DSLRs around my neck--how professional does that look?

Note--Osawa went into and then out of the 35mm business in the 1970's. A case of good optics coupled with bad cameras. They survived their bankruptcy and other fiscal problems and now make lens for medium format cameras.

Monday, December 20, 2010

D7000--- W0Ws and BOOs

A few first impressions.

First WOW--My eyesight isn't what it used to be. Partly this is because Scrib can now be called Old Scrib. Partly it is because Scrib in his youth was too friendly with a high power UV YAG laser . (For the scientific minded readers. YAG lasers become UV lasers when you frequency triple and quadruple the normal IR output. Focus that radiation down in air and you now have your own $10,000 to $15,000 firecracker simulator)

But back to the WOW; Scrib's conversation does slide away from the topic at times.

One of the first things I did at the Camera Company was fiddle with the diopter adjustment on the viewfinder. And guess what, it has a wider adjustment than my D60 does. Now I don't have to wear my reading glasses to check the camera's focus. From that moment, I began to feel warm and fuzzy about the D7000.

a WOW and boo. A while back I discovered a smaller version of ebay where lenses could be bought cheap cheap. With several I paid more for shipping than I paid for the lens. If I did my homework and googled around to discover their IQ--Image Quality in the lens spec world--some of them even turned out to be good lenses.

One attraction of the D7000 was that unlike the D60 it was designed for legacy lenses. The focus dot and range finder arrows that tell you which direction you should twist to manually focus are big and bright in the viewfinder. You can also register up to ten legacy lens and have exposure and focus info in the pic's EXIF file. Or for that matter not register the lens--it still works without the info. So when I mounted one of my best manual lens, a Vivitar series I 35-80mm f2.8, and saw how well that lens worked--the big warm and fuzzy feeling became even fuzzier.

Now the boo. My D60 will mount just about any F-mount lens that Nikon or a third part ever made. AI, AIs, auto focus or NonAI, it don't matter. Unfortunately my D7000 won't mount NonAI lenses. So about a third of my manual lens collection won't work with the D7000.

With some lenses, I don't care that much. For others, my 400mm and and two 500mm, I bought a new AI T-mount adapter that should arrive tomorrow. But all my macro stuff, extension tubes, bellows, Nikon 55mm 1 to 1 macro and other goodies, are NonAI and won't mount

Some work-arounds are obvious. Keep the D60 as a backup and use that for macros, something I was thinking of doing anyway. Buy new macro stuff, a clean solution but expensive. Or a DIY project I came up with. Not quite so clean a solution, but cheap because I already own everything I think I need. Will blog what happens when Xmas is over and I have the time.

And finally the BIG WOW--the low light low noise images.

There has been a lot of talk in the forums about a D7000 hot pixel problem. With some sensors the problem is real. Nikon is working on a firmware update to make the problem less obvious. But because of the talk, people are pushing some perfectly good D7000s to the extremes. If they see even a slightly warm pixel, they start screaming. "Nikon screwed up big time."

So, since Scrib likes to show off his knowledge, I spent some hours last weekend posting about what you could reasonably expect from any digital camera. Thom Hogan did the same thing, only with far more authority, in his review of the D7000 yesterday.

In the process I learned a new fact. To be an official hot pixel it has to be be 4 standard deviations brighter that the noise. Or in talk less geek, it has to be bright.

I also pushed my D7000 up to near its limit with a ISO1600 30 second dark frame. With any big problem that should have brought the hot pixels out of hiding. As I hoped they stayed hidden. I had to drag the dark frame into Photoshop, add a levels layer and bring the slider down to 8 from 255 before a few out of 16.2 million became bright enough to pass the 4 STD test. That works out to shooting at an ISO of roughly 50,000. Not shabby, Nikon, not at all.

to be continued.
Better and more comprehensive noise tests will be coming

Monday, December 6, 2010

Impulse--thy name is empty the checking account.

Don't even want to look to see how many months ago I said I would be blogging more often. So on to the news of the day

Bought a Nikon D7000 today complete with the 18-105mm kit lens.

Was I planning to do it. Yes, after reading the early buzz I told myself, and my wife, that in some far future when the D60 died, died (I'm up around 40,000 shutter actuations) I be looking for deal on a good used camera. One like the D7000. But not now.

After all, it's the photographer not the camera that takes.....blah, blah, blah.

Then this weekend when I was down with a cold, I decided to toss in my two kopeks into a flickr discussion on RAW workflow and histograms. Before I started to write that post I needed to check a few facts about Raw Therapee, the free GIMP converter.

I was not expecting to see much new so I was pleasantly surprised to discover a group of camera hackers were hard at work on version 3. An alpha hack at the moment but near a beta release, I download the latest build. And since dpreview had the D7000's noise images up on their site and RAW Therapee handles jpgs like they are RAW I downloaded dp's ISO 25,000 noise test.

And after I pulled that image into RT and ran the default noise routine to see... HOLY DAMN DOGGY.

The screen crop is a bit hard to see and having the globe in the center of the gray scale didn't help, but you get the idea. The noise reduced ISO 25,000 line profile is on the right. Old Scrib didn't pound the noise in the ground either. He had to stare hard to find traces of smudged detail in the cleaned up image.

Today started as a future planning day. Up at auction was an Nikon 85mm f1.8 with a price that hadn't quite reached the e-bay stratosphere. One of the earliest non AI mount ones. Since I had to go by the Camera Company on another errand, I packed up a Viv Series I AI lens and a non AI lens and decided to stop by and take a few test shots.

And--the only problem is that the West Side Camera Company was sold out and I must wait til 10:00 tomorrow to pick up the one that is coming in from the East Side store.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stats and Other Matters

Now that Blogger has its new stats widget I discovered this blog does have occasional readers. My scribbles aren't falling into a black hole. So I shall blog more often. Photography will still be the main focus but I shall try to be a bit less technical.

PhotoMidwest opened last Friday with the Seven State juried show at the Memorial Union. Once again I paid my entrance fee and submitted a set of photographic masterpieces; once again all were rejected by the juror.

Only this time I had slammed up against the juror's prejudices. All my photos were people pics. And out of the forty seven pictures selected only one could be remotely called a people pic. In the two or three others that included a human figure, it was there as an accent to a landscape.

To see what I mean, click on and watch the slide show. This year landscapes and still-lifes ruled. The juror also didn't show up for the traditional speech to open the show. All I can say is "BOO!"

But PhotoMidwest isn't a total washout. I have nine people pics up at the CPM Human Interest Group Show. If you are in the Madison area the show is hanging at the Social Justice Center, 1202 Williamson Street through October 31st.

Three photos formed the large Young Shakespeare Players triptych I hung when the Human Interest Group was the Photographer of the Month at CPM earlier this year. Rehanging that show was the original plan, but since we had double the wall space at the Center, a call went out for more photos a few weeks ago. I contributed four. Finally when we hung the pictures yesterday morning we still ended up with an empty gap at the end of the main hallway. Since I had two large photos that fit the theme--What Makes Madison Unique-- already framed I brought them in and hung them just before the reception opened. May have ended up with more than my share up on the wall but that happened honestly.

Williamson Street being Willy Street, three street people showed up to open the reception. One heaped up a plate and filled a couple glasses of wine before moving on to another reception. Yesterday was Gallery Night and he had fifty or so other openings to visit.

The other two dropped their packs and decided to stay. One was quite tha talker. He kept us amused with a long confession on how cocaine and booze had cost him the $500,000 house and the fancy cars and 36 foot boat and how he was now born again and straightening out his life. As to how much of the tale was story and how much was true...? But I will give him credit on straightening out his life. He kept away from the free wine and beer.

The last one was much quieter and genuinely interested in the pictures. He studied them all before settling in a chair in front of one of mine.

"The best; the best" he told me in broken English. "Going to come out and roll all over me." A man down on his luck but still with a good eye.

All and all, not the usual gallery opening.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Maybe. Or maybe not.

Big explosion on the sun. Maybe northern lights. Maybe a clearing sky. Or maybe not.

So around 9 I maybe in the mood to walk out doors. Look for stars. Look for a hint of the Aurora B. Fetch my camera with the rebuilt Viv 28mm f2.0 lens. Head out to fight off mosquitoes in the conservatory. Watch to little greenies land cause this is the night!!

Or I'll read my newest murder with classical in the background.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two lenses--and maybe a third

I have two lenses on a FedEx truck and heading to my doorstep. One is a Bushnell 1:3.5 f=35~105mm. The second is a Tele-lentar, 1:2.8, f=135mm.

Why did I buy them? Price--one reason. The action price was $8.00 for both of them--definitely not cult-classic lenses.

And curiosity. Bushnell is a division of Bauch&Lomb of binocular and telescope fame. For a few years back in the 80's they made or distributed a relatively small number of camera lenses. Google turned up very little info about their lenses. But I figured they couldn't be that bad. Bauch&Lomb had a reputation to maintain. Plus the lenses zooms from 35-105mm--normal to short telephoto on my 1.5 crop D60--a zoom range I don't own.

I'm not even certain the Lentar 135mm f2.5 comes with a Nikon mount. But it does have some sort of universal mount. The iris ring has marking that good both CW and CCW. I may be surprised but I have bought lens that came with Adaptal and T4 mounts so I should be able to make it work. As for the curiosity, I have a Nikkor 135mm f2.8 and I want to compare the two lenses. Make an interesting discussion in the forums if the $4 no name lens turns out to be as good or even better than the Nikkor.

The third maybe lens. A super cult classic very hard to find Viv 100mm 1:1 macro. There is only one for sale on ebay--a Buy it Now for $299. The maybe is now at $18.87 with 4 hours and 22 minutes to go.

A very under advertised lens. Someone had no idea what he/she was selling. If you didn't recognize the makings in a couple uninformative photo you would not know it was the 1:1 macro. So the question now is how many other collectors like myself are waiting in the weeds to pounce and make a bid in the last few seconds of the auction. Find out in about 4 hours.

Twas not to be. Three of us lurked in the grass and I was out bid. Boohoo

Sunday, May 23, 2010


I may be able to salvage the Osawa. So far I haven't discovered any missing or broken parts.

After I removed five screws by the mount the back assembly--camera mount, double group of lenses and iris-- pulled out from the barrel. I cleaned off the fungus on the lens surface just under the iris with rubbing alcohol and a q-tip. Unfortunately more fungus is growing on the underside of that lens. So I'm looking at a total tear down and cleaning.

No problem once I get around to it. This is a learning experience and if I end up with a useful lens so much the better.


Except for two small bubbles in glass of the rear lens the Soligor 80-200mm f4.5 C/D is perfect. It arrived with in clean hard case and with original front and rear caps plus a promaster uv filter. At f 4.5 it's slower than my Kiron f4.0 but it is lighter and balances better on the D60.

It is also a C/D lens. I have no idea what the initials C/D originally stood for but when Vivitar came out with their Series 1 pro lenses Soligor countered with their C/D lenses. Not only were the two distributors in completion, they often sold the same lens.. My Tokina made Soligor 90-230mm is identical to the Vivitar version except for the name and markings.

The Vivitar Series I lenses went off to become expensive cult classics that can go for hundreds on ebay. The just as good Soligor C/D's went off to become---the brag price on my lens is $3.00. I was the only bidder.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A tale of two lenses.

One of the lesser joys of a lens collector's life is to receive a tracking number and then follow your magnificent new lens as it move across country to your door. Then after the doorbell sounds and the UPS or Fedex guy has disappeared back into his/her truck you have the even greater joy of pulling out your beat up jackknife and cutting open the package. Then you savor that final joy holding and look thru and testing that pristine piece of glass and metal and thinking how you will brag that "I stole a ----- when I only paid $-.--" to the envious other collectors you know online.

And if you have two lens arriving from different parts of the country on the same day--heaven.

The first to arrive was a Osawa 70--220mm f4.5 macro zoom that set me back $18.75 ($6.oo for the lens, the rest shipping).

If I bragged about this find in certain forums someone will come back and say, "Why did you waste $6.00 on a no-name brand like OSAWA!!" They are the ones who buy only super expensive Nikon glass and refuse to admit that you can find excellent glass mounted in no-name metal. Like I did when I bought an excellent Osawa 300mm-a lens that deserves its own post.

Anyway back to the 70-220mm. When I looked down this lens I muttered "Oh Sugar!" Or maybe I snarled "Oh S..." My purchase had grown enough haze and fungus to mess up a dozen lens!! Even worse when I twisted a few rings the front lens unscrewed from its helix.

So what will I do with my less than perfect lens.

*** This post was interrupted by the arrival of a Soligar 85-205mm f3.8. First impressions-pristine glass except for a minor coating scuff. Soft at f3.8 but sharpen up as I close down the iris--not unexpected with a lens this old.***

What to do--take it apart of course. Following the good lens-taker-parter's advice. Document each step--note book and photo. Tape down each tiny screw and piece on a piece of paper. Mark how everything lines up. And as you do each step think about how you will put it back together.

Something I've already started. But since this post has been interrupted several more times and just refused to auto save I will cut it short. More tomorrow

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Been awhile

Been awhile since I posted. Six months plus.

Not that I haven't been taking pictures. In my backup 16, 17 and 18 folders starting on Dec 1st 2009 and ending yesterday I have 18,450 files. Since I shoot both RAW and jpgs and the folders also hold my post processing files that works out to around 8000+ images.

Keep up at this rate and my D60 will be needing a new shutter. Which won't be a total disaster since the salesman talked me into an extended warranty.

Been doing other photography stuff too. Collecting and using manual lenses mainly. Except for my 35mm f1.8 which I use for indoor candid shots my other two autofocus lenses haven't been on the D60 in months. Part of this is the challenge of using all manual lens and part of it is that my other two kit lenses aren't all that sharp.

So I'll be posting more regularly. About lenses. How to use them. And how to test them. Plus my adventures and misadventures as I find them. They made good glass in the old days. They also made their share of stinkers.