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Summitar 50mm f2 and Leica M9

November 17, 2011 13 comments

Leica M9 and Summitar 50mm f2 (1949)

Leica M9 and Summitar 50mm f2 (1949)

The beauty of any camera system capable of utilizing an M-mount lens is that you have a nearly endless selection of glass from which to experiment with and explore.  And while you can get M-Mount adapters to use Rangefinder glass on cameras like the Sony NEX-5, or Olympus E-P3, the only way to do it right is to use a full frame camera like the Leica M9.  This is particularly important when one is using one of the “character” lenses.  What I mean by “character” is, in a nutshell, sub-par optical performance.

Modern lens designs such as Lecia’s Aspherical Summilux series are as optically perfect as has ever been achieved.  The images they produce have a richness and pop that is hard to explain, it really must be seen to be understood.  But for all that perfection, there are more than just a few photographers out there that prefer a somewhat more organic experience.  I liken it to those that prefer the crackle, hiss, and pop of vinyl to the crystal clear digital perfection of a compact disk or MP3.

One of the more famous of character lenses is the Summitar 50mm f2.  It is a L39 screw mount collapsable lens design, which is great for saving space in a camera bag.  To use it on the M9 one must get an L to M mount adapter, and for those of you that were wondering, it does safely collapse on the M9.

The basic design dates back to 1939 and it was produced until 1953.  Lenses manufactured after WWII were coated, and the original 10-bladed diaphragm was changed to a 6-bladeed version in 1950.   The version I own is from 1949, which places it right in the sweet spot so it retains the 10-bladed aperture, yet is coated.  The aperture control does not have any click-stops, and the focusing tab has an infinity lock.

Most of the images I will show here weer taken wide open, but I have included one sample image taken wide open and f2, as well as f8, just to give you an idea of how the performance of this lenses changes as you stop it down.  Please note: most of these images have at least a little adjustment to them in LightRoom 3, normally just a quick “Direct Positive” filter application.

Minimum focus distance, F2

Minimum focus distance, F2

Infinity focus distance, f2

Infinity focus distance, f2


f2

f2 - Even wide open, notice the razor sharp center. But it aslo retains that wonderful swirly bokeh that people have come to prize this lens for.

Minimum focus distance, f2, shooting into the sun to get some flare going

Minimum focus distance, f2, shooting into the sun to get some flare going

f2, notice the soft corners

f2, notice the soft corners

f8, notice how much sharper the corners are

f8, notice how much sharper the corners are

The two photos above show just how easy it use to use this lens as a character lens one minute, then as a very respectably sharp normal lems the next.  I apologize for the slight difference in framing, these were all shot hand held.

This image demonstrates what a wonderful combination this lens is with the M9.

This image demonstrates what a wonderful combination this lens is with the M9.

The lower overall contrast of the Summitar compliments the relatively high dynamic range of the M9 sensor to allow one to shoot in challenging light conditions with relative impunity.  Shadow detail is retained, and highlights are well under control.  Note: I did apply some in-camera exposure compensation on this image, but even so, the range of lighting would have sent one of my Cosina Voigtlander lenses to its knees with its high contrast imaging.

Stopped down to f2.8

Stopped down to f2.8

Stopping this down to f2.8 all but eliminates the characteristic swirley bokeh, but it still retains a pleasing 3D rendering.

f2

f2.8

Selfy at f2

Selfy at f2

f2

f2

minimum focus distance f2

minimum focus distance f2.8

f2

f2

f2.8

f3.5

f2

f2

f3.5

f3.5

f2

f2

f2.8

f2.8

f8

f8

f2

f2

So there you have it.

I do have to say that this lens has exceeded my expectations, particularly since I was able to find one in near pristine condition for less than $400.  It is nowhere near as sharp as most modern lenses.  The Cosina Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 Nokton and 50mm f2.5 color skopar blow it out of the water in the sharpness department.  But what it lacks in edge to edge sharpness, it mor than makes up for in character.

I like it so much in fact that on my upcoming trip to Kyoto, the Summitar will be the only 50mm lens that I will take with me.  I’ll be leave the 50mm Summilux pre-Asph at home in favor of it’s much older and slightly slower sibling.  I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the sharp center and swirley edge bokeh for some fall color shots.

I’ve been to Kyoto more times than I can count, but each time I go I bring a different set of gear to shoot with, and I think the Summitar/M9 combo will fit the bill nicely.  To round out my M9 kit I will likely be taking a CV 28mm f1.9 and Leica 90mm f4.  For extreme low-light work I will bring along the the FUJI X100 as it very decidedly blows thew doors off the M9 in the high ISO department.  It also takes care of the 35mm field of view if I happen to need it.

So if you are in Kyoto between 23-28 August, you just may run into me there.  I’ll be easy to find, just look for the guy with the smile on his face. 🙂

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Categories: gear talk Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Nikon D700 versus Canon 5D

February 8, 2009 27 comments

Click HERE for todays photos.

The reason for the change in the look of Sushicam is because I just mapped the sushicam.com URL to my 2yen.wordpress.com account.  I did this to try and prevent the continual hacking that I experience from disrupting the site even more.  

I no longer have to worry about keeping my WordPress installation current on my own server anymore.  I can rely on the good people at WordPress.com to take care of that for me.  In doing so I do loose some of the freedom that hosting your own website allows, but I think its a small price to pay to stop the hackers from continualy disrupting the site.

Well, another weekend has come and gone.   As sit here at my keyboard the clock is sweeping quickly toward 9 p.m. and all too soon I’ll have to head off to bed.

Yesterday I spent some time in Tokyo shooting my new D700.  It was my first  real chance to get out and do some shooting with it since it arrived a little less than a week ago.   So far I can say this coming from the 5D:  The high ISO image quality of the D700 is nothing short of extraordinary.  I set it for auto-iso, ranging up to 6400, and forget about it.  With the 5D I rarely went as high as 1600.  It really is a big step up for me, especially since I love to shoot in “available darkness”.  

I’d say as a baseline the D700 has about a 2-stop advantage compared to the 5D.  But in reality, the quality of the noise from the D700 is much better.  

I’m not sure exactly how the engineers over at Nikon achieved it, but the chroma noise on the D700 is extremely low.  

I mean Really low.  

Think “Danny-Devito-doing-the-Limbo” kind of low and you’ll get an idea of how low I am talking about.

At a given ISO the 5D has much higher chroma noise, and this leads to the greenish-purplish blotches that are so noticable and really degrade the image quality.   In contrast the D700 noise is almost entirely constrained to Luminance, and this allows it to look a lot more like film grain instead of digital nosie. 

I guess the big question is this: will the D700 replace my 5D?

I would have to say no, not entirely.  

I still love to use all of that great manual focus glass I have aquired over the years, and the EOS mount of the 5D is the ultimate in verstaility in this department.

Which one would I choose if I could only have one of them?  

This question is a bit harder.  I’m currently loving the D700.  But the 5D has been a real workhorse over the past 3 years, producing great looking images for me.  I guess I will only really know the answer to that one once I have more time to shoot with the D700.

Categories: Photography Tags: , , , , , ,

Thank you for your support

October 25, 2008 Leave a comment

 Click HERE for todays photos

Thank you to all who have expressed their feelings about the recent hacking here at Sushicam.  

Yes, it does royaly suck, but the viewers here have shown their true quality with your messages of support and offesr to help.  Steve seems to have saved the day (again) and it appears that after a not so small amount of cutting and pasting I should be able to recover nearly every post.  

I’m so happy to know this since this site moreso than alot of others has become quite a close-knit little community and it would be a sad thig to see it’s history evaporate. So please bear with me as I set out on my “cut and paste” campaign to ressurect the past content.

Most of todays photos were taken during last weekends Tokyo Cameras Photo club meetup.  I was shooting with my 5D, 24-105/4 L IS, and Pentax 50/1.2.  And I have really fallen in love with the Pentax.  As of late I’ve gotten myself invested in a lot of manual focus fast 50’ish mm primes. (Nikon, Zeiss, Olympus, Pentax,  Minolta)  And to date I would say that its a toss up between the Pentax 50/1.2 and Minolta Rokkor 58/1.2 as far as my absolute favorite. 

In other camera related news, my trusty Epson R-D1 went on the blink today.  I had slung it over my shoulder as I headed out the door to get a bowl of Ramen for dinner.  I was happily snapping some photos on my way there when suddely the shutter would not cock.  

I’m not sure just how many photos I have taken with the R-D1 over the past 3 years (I need to check my exif data to be sure) but I knew that evetually it would need to be serviced. And I do prefer to get it serviced since even with the Leica M8 now into it’s second itteration, I still feel that the R-D1 is a superior camera which holds true to the classic rangefinder shooting experience.  

The Epson is also A LOT less expensive than the Leica, but even if cost were not a factor I think I would still end up gravitating to the R-D1.   The repair will cost me an extra $400-$600 that I did not plan on spending, but I’ll just tap into the funds I recently made through selling photos, which was the funding source for the R-D1 in the first place. The cycle continues… 

Categories: gear talk Tags: ,