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.