Category: Photography Equipment

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Samyang 12mm f2 NCS CS | A low cost lens for everyday usage

Samyang 12mm f2 NCS CS | A low cost lens for everyday usage

Capture more of the world with this portable 12mm extra-wide-angle lens

The Samyang 12mm f2 NCS CS is an extra-wide-angle manual focus lens designed for APS-C crop sensor mirrorless cameras. With low distortion and wide angle, photographers who want wide-angle photos such as landscape and architectural images can create great images with very little effort. At F2.0 this lens is very bright so it captures clear and vivid images even in relatively dark environment.

For the first time in Samyang Optics history, NCS (Nano Coating System) technology was used. It creates even lower reflection rates than the original UMC (Ultra Multi Coating) together with higher contrast. Also, the light penetration rate is very high to minimize flare and ghost. Optical construction of Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS features 12 elements in 10 groups – among the lenses, there are 1 aspherical lens(AS), 1 hybrid aspherical lens (H-ASP) and 3 extra-low dispersion lenses(ED) to provide high image quality. H-ASP minimizes color aberration to realize exceptional image quality and high contrast for center and corner of the image even when its aperture is fully opened. ED lowers unnecessary light dispersion to drop color aberration effectively. With such optical construction, it has 0.2m of minimum focal length.

There are 6 aperture blades designed to be almost as a full circle when aperture is closed which expresses starlike ray clearly and deep depth of field images. The body of the Samyang 12mm F2.0 NCS CS is compact and solid since it is made of high-strength aluminum alloy. Amazing images can be captured even under the most difficult environments and the provided petal-shaped lens hood helps protect the lens from unnecessary light reducing flaring.

The Samyang 12mm f2 NMC CS is available for 5 camera mounts: Canon M, Sony E, MFT, Samsung NX, Fujifilm X 

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All images taken using the Fujifilm x-t1 with Samyang 12mm f2. Images are straight out of camera (SOOC) with no additional processing. Recipe used was based on Classic Negative.

Part 2: Digitising film with a camera setup!

Part 2: Digitising film with a camera setup!

If you are familiar with this blog you’ll already know that in recent times I have been experimenting with film, film developing and more laterly, trying to get my film negatives into the digital domain. Now, the constraints I have set myself for this experiment has been to use what I have readily around me. I no that to do a professional job I need to spend money but the brief here is to do it with the bits of kit l have easily to hand. If i go down the route of spending money to achieve 1st class results, I will document this with another blog. On y va (let’s go!)

If you have read Part 1 of this blog you will already know that I pursued the scanning route as an easy first option. For these experiments I used an old HP flatbed office scanner and a home made back lighting system to digitise the image to my PC. You can find out how this went by visiting the article here . This second part then is to photograph my negatives using either my Fuji x-t1 or my Nikon D600. Now, I’ve tried various lenses with the x-t1 with the most successful so far being the Fujinon 18-55 f2.8-4 albeit that the magnification of the image is pretty poor as you would expect. That’s primarily because the closest focusing distance is a tad under 12″. Other lenses for the x-t1 that I have tried include the Samyang 12mm f2 and the Viltrox 23mm f1.4, both of which focus closer but the short focal length is tending to cause problems. Before I go on to discuss the inadequacies of these lenses in any more detail, I just want to talk a little about the negatives I am trying to digitise as the quality of these is hugely pertinent to this post.

With regards working with film, in this case Kentmere B&W film, I have noticed several key factors that are going to affect the quility of the digitised results irrespective of the digitising method used. These issues are:

  • The film stock chosen (not all film is created equally)
  • The camera used to capture the images
  • The lighting / exposure associated with the film at time of capture
  • How well the camera focused on the subject at time of capture
  • The quality and consistency of the development process

Developing the film aside for one moment, one of the the bigger problems I have found is that what I thought were good negatives on initial inspection were in fact, incredibly variable across the roll. The biggest factor in this was thinking that my old Pentax SLR was going to behave in the same way to light conditions as my newish Fuji x-t1 digital camera. If I thought that, I certainly need to rethink that now! In addition, I am using a manual camera, the Pentax KM is fully manual, with a manual lens and so nailing bank on exposure and focus, especially with these old eyes, is not as easy as I remember it. I haven’t used this old Pentax KM seriously in about 40 years. As such, it is possible that the Pentax is showing it’s age as much as I am!  The two lenses I have for this camera are a Vivitar 35-70mm f2.8-3.8 zoom and a Pentax 50mm f1.7 pancake. Now, I’m prety sure that these lenses are probably more than acceptable if I have been using them at anything other than f8, which I am pretty sure I have, then I am likely to be on a hiding to nothing with regards image sharpness. For example, trying to use focus peaking on an old SLR is proving somewhat more of a challange for these old eyes than I imagined it would be. This all being said, my concern is that irrespective of the camera and lens setup that I use to digitise the negative, that setup is going to struggle if the base image is poor. More on this later.

Going back now to the lenses I do have access to, while the Samyang has the closest focusing distance of the three, it’s about 9″, it’s really difficult to focus manually especially in a setup where you can’t easily access the viewfinder. The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 has improved on this situation in that it has automatic focusing and is tack sharp at f8 but it’s closest focusing distance is about 11″ so i moving further away from the negative, not getting closer to it. That leaves me with the 18-55mm which has improved on the situation again, especially at f8. The down side to all these lenses is that the shooting speed has been down around 1/4s when I really want to be shooting at 1/30 -1/60 so as to avoid any shutter shake which will undoubtadly make the situation even worse. This is because I really don’t want to push the ISO up, I am using 200 for these experiments, as this will degrade my images. Besides, in order to achieve 1/30s I’d need to increase ISO by 3 stops which would mean an ISO of 1600 and that will mean a degredation of the image and a big injection of noise and that is not something I want to do.

So, given all of this playing around, am I getting anywhere? Well actually yes, I think I am. The results of using the 18-55 @ f8 despite the slow shutter speed produce the best IQ I have managed to achieve so far. Substantially better in fact than the Heath Robinson scanner experments I outlined in my first blog a day or so ago. It’s clear from what i am finding that, irrespective of the quality of the image I am starting with, that using a mirrorless or DSLR camera with a good close focus lens and a suitable, high quality light source and negative holder is going to yield dividends.

The images above are part of a 6 image strip that I have been playing with. I have digitised them using the Fuji x-t1 and 18-55mm setup discussed above. While they do suffer from the shooting defects I have been talking about e.g. poor focus and highly variable lighting conditions, they are better than anything else I have so far managed to digitise. Here’s the gear I used for this experiment.

  • Fujifilm x-t1 mirrorless camera with Fujinon 18-55mm f2.8-4 lens
  • Manfrotto tripod with multi-adjustment ball head
  • Huwaei P20 Pro with a downloaded white backlight app
  • Lomography Digitalizer 35mm Scanning Mask

So, what next? Well, I feel at least that I am on the right track using a camera rather than a scanner to transfer the images from negatves to digital. The problem I have is that it’s becoming clear that I am going to need a decent close focus lens, ideally a 1:1 macro lens. I also need a more robust light source so that I can shoot at higher shutterspeeds as well as maintain f8.  The images above were back lit by my old Huwaei P20 Pro which although doing an admirable job, is not ideal so I need to find a more consistent, high CRI rated light box. Finally, I’d also like to use the Nikon D600 purely because it’s a good quakity 35mm digital camera so the IQ of the image with the right lens should be much better than from the Fuji x-t1. Another reason for wanting to use the D600 is that it is sitting in the cupboard gathering dust so this would give it a new lease of life. Besides, with a decent macro lens it might prompt me to take it out a bit more as it shoots great photos.

35mm Scanning Mask – An epic Ebay failure

35mm Scanning Mask – An epic Ebay failure

Well, my attempts to buy a Lomography 35mm Scanning Mask on Ebay have met with abject failure. My first attempt, a cheeky Make An Offer for £10 fell foul of the seller with a reply of “oh, I let my auctions run, I didn’t know I’d set make an offer, sorry”. BidSnipper also failed to win it for me, my top bid of £17.39 was pipped by one for a measly £1 more at £18.39 although he could of course had set a higher bid. Bugger!! That was a nusence.

Let me explain. I want to digitise some 35mm film negatives and I don’t want to spend £200+ on a scanner such as the Epson V600, useful though it is. I’m therefore looking at various ways I can do this for pennies or a few pounds. My idea then is to use a DSLR, in this case my Nikon D600, which will sit above the film and take a 35mm image which I can later crop and process in On1 2021. The easy part is to build a light box. My idea is to use a sturdy cardboard box, A4 size, this being lined with maybe metal foil (I need to check this idea in practice as it may affect the light white balance) or at least use something reflective to push the light upward onto a flat plastic diffuser and then onto the base of the film. It’s possible just a piece of white card curved to focus light might do the trick. To help with focusing, I’m going to use a daylight LED reading lamp, the USB type which will sit below the aperture in the lid. A flash head will also protude into the box, this being the main back light when triggered by the camera taking a photo. The idea is that the flash will obliterate the LED lighting so it doen’t matter too much about whether this stays on or off or what the WB is. The only problem left then is to hold the film negative perfectly flat and parallel to the box lid and this is where the scanning mask would have come in handy as it is precision made. 

Going back to my little story, Plan B was to bid on a Diana F+ toy camera kit with loads of goodies including, yep, you guessed it, a Lomography 35mm Scanning Mask which was hidden away in the small print. Current bidding was stuck on £21, even though these little camera kits sell for £70 new.  Now, I needed to be a bit careful here because I can buy the 35mm scanning mask from Speed Graphic for £29 plus shipping so this had to be taken into account, especially as I don’t really want the camera stuff. That being said, I felt that getting a toy camera thrown even if I had to pay a little bit more, say £5 wasn’t too bad of a deal so worth a punt. No such luck!! Even though BidSnipper did it’s stuff, yet again the eventual buyer pipped me by £1 getting it all for £34.91. Damn it!! Of course, I don’t know what his highest price could have been, he could have set his max bid at £40 or more for all I know.

Watch this space as they say!

A Single Image | Feb 27th

A Single Image | Feb 27th

Gorgeously clear skies today so yet more opportunity to put the Fujifilm x-t1 and Viltrox 23mm f1.4 through it’s paces. This image, taken in the Geopark in Paignton, caught my eye purely for the colourful paintings on the sculpture against the bright blue of the sky. As usual, this image is a jpeg SOOC so no post-processing needed. It is based on my Superia 100 (Classic Negative) film simulation. The falloff at the top corners is not something I have noticed in other shots but here it is very apparent. I’m not too bothered by this as it’s quite reminiscent of the effect I have seen on film.

A Single Image | Feb 26th

A Single Image | Feb 26th

My mate Paul is a budding musician who’s been playing the saxaphone now for a couple of years. He’s been a great friend so I was really pleased to give him his first saxaphone, a student something or other, that I had from when I closed down my music shop a few years earlier. He’d mentioned his interest in learning the clarinet on several occasions and while I knew I had a clarinet knocking around somewhere, I couldn’t lay my hands on it at the time so I persuaded him to take the alto sax instead. Paul was somewhat reluctant but my way of thinking was, it’s free and you blow in to it so how different could it be!! Persuaded, he took on the challange.

Two years and a huge amount of practice later, Paul has without any doubt mastered the saxaphone, so much so that he recently asked if I would take a few photos for his facebook profile. Of course I said yes. Social distancing when taking photos is not paricularly difficult and current rules mean that we are allowed to meet one friend socially for some exercise and unusally, the sun was out so I felt that some nice colour shots might help him out.

The above shot is a one of a handful I took using the Fuji x-t1 with what I tend to call, a Superia 100 feel. Actually, looking at some old photos from the 90’s, I think it’s a cross between Fuji Pro 400H and Fuji Superia 100 but I’m quite happy with that. The Fuji x-t1 doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of let’s say an x-t4 or x-pro3 so achieving something as “film like” as this is a real bonus for me.

For the most part, this image is SOOC but for those pixel peepers out there, I did add a small amount of grain using On1 PhotoRaw 2021. Sadly, there is no way to add grain in the x-t1 which to my mind and experience is what makes film look so uniquely different to digital. Anyway, here’s the Fuji recipe for anyone who’s interested in recreating or improving on this look.

  • Camera: Fujifilm x-t1
  • Lens: Viltrox 23mm f1.4
  • Target Film Look: Fujifilm Superia 100
  • Film Type: Pro Neg Hi
  • Custom White Balance: Grey card -1B -1R
  • EV: +1/3
  • DR: 400
  • ISO 800
  • Shadows: +2
  • Highlights: -2
  • Colour: -2
  • Sharpness: +2
  • Noise reduction: 0

I have to say that part way through the shoot I did reduce the ISO to 400 which results in the dynamic range being reset to 200 in camera and I also reduced the EV from +1/3rd to 0. This was because it was an incredibly bright day and the camera was shooting at such high shutter speeds that the electronic shutter was kicking in. No problem with this but I just felt I was pushing the envelope a little and backing off on the amount of light entering the sensor might yield a bonus. I cannot in all honesty say then that the shot shown above was at the exact settings I have outlined, it could have been at ISO 400, DR200 and EV 0.

Before I finish, a word on the Viltrox 23mm f1.4. This lens is crazy good for the money. Fast, sharp and colourful and a great addon to the Fuji x-t1. I have shot this lens with a few film simulations now, for example classic chrome, astia and pro neg but I come back mostly to the custom settings shown above.

A not so nice day at the seaside!

A not so nice day at the seaside!

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The weather here at the moment is bloody aweful. Rain, rain and yet more rain. Oh, and grey skies!! While getting out and about isn’t a huge amount of fun at the moment, it does offer some interesting opportunities for photography, especially if you’re into street / documentary as I am. Normally I seek out umbrellas as I just love the images this prop creates but this photo is quite typical of others I search out. Here, i’ve gone for what is called SOOC (straight out of camera), a technique I have been leaning towards more and more recently as I’m a big Fujifilm camera fan. I’m also a big fan of analogue film so getting “non digital looking” shots is a pastime of mine. This puts me at odds with many of my Sony, Canon and Nikon friends who all seek pixel perfect shots of everything from daffodils through to mountains but even so, it’s a technique and a style I enjoy.  My most recent digital stuff also looks remarkably like the photos I have from the 60’s, 70’s and later so a big plus there.

This shot, taken with the Fuji x-t1 with Viltrox 23mm f1.4, is typical of the jpeg’s you can get SOOC with the Fuji. The recipe I’m using is based on ProNeg Hi with modifications to shadows, highlights, WB, noise reduction, sharpness and dynamic range (through manipulating ISO). Top end Fuji’s have even more options to play with such as more film stocks eg Classic Negative (Superior 100) and grain which adds to the analogue realism that can be achieved. Although this photo has not been processed in any way,  I might sometimes lift the shadows a little as well as add a little film grain but here I haven’t bothered as I just like the simplicity of the image. It’s quite nice not to spend hours on editing.

Hands on with the Viltrox 23mm f1.4

Hands on with the Viltrox 23mm f1.4

If you are thinking of buying the Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 then hold on a moment, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s not pulling his punches!! The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 is pretty much a no brainer when searching for the ideal 35mm equivelent street lens. With a full frame equivelent focal length of 35mm the Viltrox 23mm has to be one of the best bang for the buck prime lenses on the planet and an ideal companion lens for anyone shooting candid, street or documentary. Sure the Fuji version might be better optimised for use on Fuji equipment but I doub’t you’ll notice any difference whatsoever let alone anything significant. It’s an amazing lens at a steal of a price. I think mine cost me £230 here in the UK.

The Viltrox 23mm renders colour extraordinarily well, has very limited distortion and weighs practically nothing. Supplied with a lightweight metal hood, the Viltrox 23mm oozes class. It looks great, works great and feels great. It there is one tiny flaw it is that is has no detent on the aperture ring (distinct click) so you may inadvertantly open or close the aperture in use. Personally, I prefer a detent click but for £500 less that Fuji version, I’m not going to get too precious about that.

When I’m shooting lazy street I simply set the ISO to 800, aperture to f4 or f5.6, put the Fuji x-t1 on auto and start snapping. The autofocus is super quick so you simply can’t miss any shots with that setup. Why such a high ISO? It’s because I like to shoot SOOC and with the ISO set to 800 and dynamic range set to 400, the shots I get have maximum dynamic range. The photos above are from a while back when I had just bought the Fuji x-t1 so I think I was shooting classic chrome simulations then. Nowadays, I tend to use ProNeg Hi as the base film with DR400, ISO800 and EV +1/3 – 2/3rd but that very much depends on the light I’m dealing with. The images below are from today and these were taken at the same basic settings as above but with EV 0. I was using ProNeg Hi with a custom white balance based on the ambient light and a grey card. I set the WB at the beginning of every shoot as well as if the light changes throughout the shoot. If I was taking these images again now, I would use EV +1/3 just to lift the expsore a little plus I would probably softent the shadows. I suspect with this recipe I am using Shadows +2 whereas I think for this lens, +1 would be better. Something to think about for next time.

I personally don’t chase pixel perfection in my images. I’m a child of the 60’s so my earliest photographic moments were with a Pentax KM with manual everything. Nowadays, I prefer my images to look look like they were taken on an old SLR rather than a super sophisticated digital camera. If I wanted that I’d buy a Sony.

The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 is something every Fuji shooter should have in their camera bag, whether you’re into landscape, candid or documentary. I personally wouldn’t use it for portraiture as I prefer a nifty 50mm or 85mm lens but it renders colours accurately so no reason why you couldn’t, especially for candid / street portraiture. The Viltrox coupled to the Fuji x-t1 is also something else. The x-t1 can’t compete with it’s younger sibblings e.g. the x-t3, x-t4, x100v or x-pro3 but my gosh, what a sweet camera to have with you when you’re out walking the streets. It compares nicely to my other favourite street camera, the Lumix GX-85 which when coupled to the 12-60mm is a dream boat of a date. These two cameras are simply amazing for street work but either will equally excell at portraiture or landscape given the right lens combo.

The Fuji x-t1. What’s not to like?

The Fuji x-t1. What’s not to like?

It’s no secret that I am a great fan of Fuji tech. I think that their X series in particular offers some amazing opportunities for photographers of all interests and abilities. Not only perfect in size, even the top of the range x-t4  is easy on the shoulder, but in operation too especially with those sexy retro dials and yester-year looks. Add to that the second-to-none jpeg engine every model of the x series has access to and we are talking special.

At the moment, my squeeze is the x-t1 pictured here. Old by today’s standards but no less a gold mine of useful functionality from the amazing viewfinder to it’s retro looks and styling. Show me another camera outside of the Fuji range, and I’m not an old-school SLR, that looks like this and I’ll (maybe) eat it. Now, don’t get me wrong, the x-t1 isn’t going to knock spots off even some of the lower end of the Sony range  but that’s not the point. It’s a joy to use, a joy to experiment with and it produces some great images, especially jpeg’s SOOC despite its diminutive 16Mp X-Trans II sensor. Recent enhancements bought Classic Chrome to the firmware making it possible to get somewhere close to vintage Kodachrome styled jpeg’s albeit that a little bit of tweaking is required in post to add some grain and modify the tone curve very slightly to get the true film experience. That being said, there are plenty of SOOC jpeg’s that will pass muster “as is” especially in the right lighting conditions. My personal preference for achieving a true film look is shooting contra-jour, or against the light as this just seems to roll off the highlights in a way very similar to film.

With regards lenses, to-date I’ve persevered with the 18-55 f2.8-4 kit lens, although I actually bought mine seperately from the camera, the Samyang 12mm f2.0 which I bought for a interior photo shoot and the Viltrox 23mm F1.4 which I have had little opportunity to use at present. Other than these, the 16-80mm f4 definately interests me as well as maybe something a little longer. That being said, I haven’t felt that I am overly limited in any way because I tend to shoot documentary and candid so you’ll generally see the whites of their eyes when shooting.

In terms of outlay, the Fuji x-t1 cost me just £180 in perfect almost unused condition, and I picked up the 18-55 on Ebay for another £180. I also splashed out £130 on the battery grip from MBP as I’d read this makes the camera so much more useful on long shoots. All in all, I put this kit togther for just £490 which I feel is a good price for what is an amazing bit of kit. Since buying the x-t1 it’s been my primary camera despite the fact that for candid / documentary I loved using the diminutive Lumix GX-85 with go-to 12-60mm lens. That’s a great street camera by anyone’s standards and well worth looking out for if you like the idea of a touch screen and a great menu system.

Given that you can pick up the x-t1 for a song, especially if you already have a cupboard full of x-mount lenses, the x-t1 makes an ideal 2nd body or even a primary shooter if you’re on a tight budget. It’s a great way to get started with Fuji and I’m pretty sure that it won’t be the last Fuji you buy.

Franglais group

Franglais group

One of the things I’ve missed the most over the past 12 months is my weekly visit to groupe franglais at Pierre’s Restaurant, the group set up by Helen Branton here in Torquay for people with an interest in learning and speaking french. The weekly wednesday morning sessions over a breakfast of croissants and coffee were to many, myself included, one of the highlights of the week. It seems forever since we last met. Hopefully, with lockdown restrictions easing over the next few months we’ll all be able to return to the club and enjoy all that it offers.

Canon reveals further EOS R5 details

Canon reveals further EOS R5 details

Achieving the ‘impossible’, Canon Inc. confirms the EOS R5’s video capabilities will far exceed that of competing cameras on the market. With its ability to internally record 8K using the full width of the sensor at up to 30p, the latest Canon EOS R camera is set to redefine mirrorless with its market-leading features. In addition, in all 8K modes it will support Canon’s renowned Dual Pixel CMOS AF.