Friday, July 26, 2013

Breaking the Rules

Maybe I am finally becoming creative in my old age. After spending a half a century actively avoiding things like shooting onto the sun as I was taught by every book, pamphlet or instruction ever written on the subject of photography I am now doing just the opposite – with some interesting results.

Above is a shot of a bench in a clearing in the woods. Normally I would have walked around to the other side to get the sun to my back before taking the shot, but then the composition would have lost all interest.  Using one of my K-mount bodies loaded with Fuji Superia 400, I shot through a 50/1.7 Zeiss lens mounted on a CY/K adapter at about f4 and 1/60. 

My goal was to see if the Zeiss lens was a good as it is reputed to be. This photo does nothing to confirm or refute that supposition but it was a picture begging to be made so I indulged the moment and enjoyed the results very much.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

C/Y TO K Lens Adapter a Total Success – Kind Of!

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what to say about my Contax/Yashica to Pentax K-Mount lens adapter I received for Father’s Day. As you can see from the photo above it clearly works. You might even say it works pretty well. The only “fly in the ointment” is that when I close the aperture (set it on anything other than f1.7, the widest lens opening), the view through the viewfinder darkens.  Apparently there is no “open aperture” viewing with the adapter in place. f2.8 or even 3.5 is not too bad but by the time I’m down to f8 or f16 it’s gotten so dark that it’s almost impossible to focus properly.

Manual focusing is not my strong suite these days. 35 years ago when I bought my first all manual 35mm SLR focusing was not a problem. These days with progressive lenses and older eyes it’s a challenge in the best of light. Having a viewfinder looking like a foggy dusk doesn’t make it any easier.

Using the lens and adapter on the Pentax K-01 seemed great at first until I realized that changing the aperture setting has no effect what-so-ever. The phase detection focus assist makes focusing a snap but alas the lens can only be used at its widest lens opening, in this case f1.7. The ZX-7 also has focus assist but apparently it doesn’t work with the CY/K adapter so like all my other SLR bodies it requires unassisted manual focusing made more difficult by the “stopped down” mode of the lens.
Another thing I noticed is that the adapter seems to rob me of a full f-stop on my exposure values. My first experiment was with Portra 400 film and I noticed that the TTL metered exposure values were not what I would normally expect from 400 films. I checked a few and the TTL metering on the camera was consistently one stop slower than it should be. After doing a bit of research online I realized that the adapter itself has a lens and not only does it rob me of one stop it also “magnifies” the image slightly so that the 50mm lens is really functioning like about a 55mm – 60mm lens with an “effective” aperture of f2.8.

With that said, I guess the real question is whether the quality of the Carl Zeiss 50/1.7 that the adapter allows me to use is good enough to warrant the extra effort needed to use it. On the Pentax K-01 the answer is, “maybe.”  One aperture setting, especially f1.7, is just not enough for practical use although for shooting shallow depth of field portraits it is perfect and the combined focal length of the lens and adapter with the 1.5 crop factor of the APS-C sensor provides for an excellent portrait lens roughly comparable to an 85mm to 90mm lens on a 35mm SLR. An 85/1.7 Zeiss lens is still a pretty sweet thing to have in your camera bag even if it is a “one trick pony.”

On my other bodies, the answer is “probably not.” I have a 50/1.8 which produces very good images without all the disadvantages of using this adapter.  It makes much more sense to me to just use it instead on those bodies so I think the Zeiss lens and adapter are officially assigned to the K-01 bag from now on.

Knowing what I know now would I buy the adapter if I had it to do again – probably not. $40 is not a bad price for a dedicated, fast, high quality 85mm portrait lens, but my Pentax 40mm f2.8 pancake lens (60mm effective focal length on the APS-C K-01) does just as good a job with none of the problems associated with using this set up and it’s an AF.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pentax DA 40mm f2.8 XS Lens

I recently read a review of the Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM Pancake lens that went on and on about how great this lens was. Well, I can’t say much about that because I have never used that lens but I can assure you that the Pentax DA 40 is one of the sharpest lenses I have ever had the pleasure to use. I got it along with my K-01 which is a pleasure to use as well, and that’s hard for me (as a film fan) to admit.

The shot above was taken in my garden on a pretty gray day. The lens was wide open at f2.8 with a shutter speed of 1/80 and ISO @ 200. One of the great things about using this lens on the K-01 is its ability to focus as close as 15” away from the subject allowing me to just kind of “stick” the camera out where it needs to be and compose the photo on the big bright viewing screen at arm’s length.

Here’s another example below.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Can’t Resist Comparing

I know I said I was done with the film vs. digital debate but sometimes I end up with two images of the essentially same thing, one film and one digital, and I just can’t resist comparing the two.

 The image above was taken with a 50/1.7 Carl Zeiss lens mounted on one of my all manual K-mount SLR bodies and loaded with Fuji Superia 400. I don’t recall the exact settings but believe it was about f2.8-3.5 with a shutter speed of 1/125 (I use a Y/C to K adapter for the lens that robs me of 1 stop). The film was processed and scanned by The Darkroom.

This is not a high resolution so when you “zoom in” you will see pixels before you see grain but even at that level of scrutiny the quantity and quality of the textures and tints is just amazing which explains why this image just seems to vibrate with life.

Below is a similar image taken the same day with my Pentax K-01.

Now by now you guys know that I also shoot digital and I truly love my K-01. It produces some amazing images with its state of the art 16 MP sensor. There are many cameras with more MP’s that can’t come close to the IQ of the K-01. The IQ and resolution of this shot is excellent but next to the film image it just looks dead. Could it be improved in post processing – maybe, but why bother. I’d rather just shoot film! With high resolution scans or better yet – wet lab prints, there really is no comparison.