01 Oct

360VR with Sigma 4.5mm and a55

In Uncategorized by Greg / October 1, 2011 / 0 Comments

I have been testing out the Sigma 4.5mm with some 360VR’s to see how well it will stitch. I did calibrate my NN3 tripod head almost perfectly for this lens, but I still had some issues getting a decent stitch in the real world, this was most likely because of the tripod leaning between shots. The lenses no-parallax point is almost at the very front of the lens, for the entire camera sits very far back on the NN3 arm making the whole rig slightly unstable and causing my lightweight travel tripod to lean at little bit between each shot. I am going to be practicing shooting 360VR’s handheld for an upcoming trip where I wont be able to take my pano head. Even though there are obvious stitching errors, I think it still creates a very usable 360VR, and with a bit of ‘shopping it would be easy to make it near perfect. I did not do any tripod removal or post processing because I was just testing to see how well this lens would work.

Stitched from 3 shots in PTGui:

08 Sep

The Last of my Film

In Blog by Greg / September 8, 2011 / 0 Comments

last of film

The other day I finally started scanning the negatives from the last shots of film I used. I had 22 rolls processed, I was using 4 different film cameras at the time which I will post more on later. My scanner (CanoScan 8800F) has been running as much as I can keep it loaded with negatives for the last 6 days and I still have 6 or 7 more rolls to scan! It takes about an hour to scan 12 35mm negatives at 4800 dpi which gives you a resolution of about 30MP – well beyond the maximum useable resolution of the film, I find this works pretty well to get the most out of the scans.

Looking at all the pics I took, it really makes me wish I had not decided to quite using film. Film is really great for the aesthetic it gives, you would think that all the flaws, the inaccurate color, the narrow dynamic range would be major turns offs, but there is a certain texture to film that you don’t get from a digicam. I am currently looking at ways to recreate the film effect without all the extra hassle involved, using programs like DxO Film Pack or even homebrewed Photoshop actions, some of witch work surprisingly well. I will post more on this later.

08 Sep

LCDVF on the a55

In Gear by Greg / September 8, 2011 / 0 Comments

a55 and LCDVF

I was finally able to acquire a metal surround to use my LCDVF on my Sony a55 camera! When I purchased the LCDVF 16:9 it only came with 2 surrounds and both of them were needed for my NEX-5’s. I also really wanted to use the LCDVF on the a55 since the view you get through it is far superior to the a55’s EVF (though its not bad in the world of EVF’s, it just can’t compare). Peering through the massive display the LCDVF gives you is about like sitting close to a big screen TV, its not at all like using an EVF or even many OVF’s. There is almost no strain on the eye and I rarely need to use zoom focus check when manually focusing with the LCDVF.

For some reason it is not easy to find the LCDVF 16:9 and accessories in the US (the other sizes are readily available here). I had to search on and off for the last 5 months to finally find a web vendor in the UK (Glidetrack) willing to ship the LCDVF 16:9 surrounds to the US for reasonable enough price. It cost about $45 with shipping for 3 surrounds. That price stinks when you realize all you got were 3 metal rectangles with sticky tape on one side, but considering how useful they are I can’t complain too much. I bought 2 extra because the shipping cost was the same and figured I might need them later.

One small mod I had to make was to add some velcro to the backside of the LCD display of the a55, this keeps it from falling down with the heavy LCDVF attached to it. I may find a better way to deal with this in the future since the velcro prevents the LCD from sitting flush against the camera, but for now it gets the job done.

07 Sep

Learning Timelapse

In Blog by Greg / September 7, 2011 / 0 Comments

Today I went out to try making time lapse, this is only the 3rd time I have ever tried it. I have images for another that I need to process, but below you can see the final attempt I made tonight. I didn’t have a plan really, I just planted the camera and set the remote…and waited. The lens was slightly out of focus (stupid me). I used my a55 with Tokina 11-16 lens and a YongNuo intervalometer remote. 202 images, adjusted in Lightroom before exporting to 480 height and processed using JPGAvi / Windows Live Movie Maker. Perhaps if I try to do them more than once a year I can get good at it. For now I am just winging it to see what happens when I do this or that.

06 Sep

New Desk Arrangement

In Workstation by Greg / September 6, 2011 / 0 Comments

I am trying to make the most of my desktop area so that I can get everything I need and not have too much junk (I like to keep things simple). I have a lot of requirements like being able to use my Wacom tablet, but since I am a lefty for drawing I have to have it on the left side of my keyboard, but I use the mouse right handed…so it means both sides of my keyboard are used up. Below is what my desktop looked like at the beginning of the day yesterday.

desktop original

The left monitor is my secondary workstation, typically used for scanning (that monitor is also connected to my primary desktop), the middle monitor is for my primary desktop where I do most of my photo editing, and the right monitor is connected to my media pc where I play music or TV from. All of the monitors are mounted on rotating stands so I can use them for portrait editing when needed. This arrangement has worked pretty well for a couple years, but it was time for an improvement.

After much rearranging (and cleaning), I ended up with this:

Desktop New

I now have room for my Wacom tablet, I also have more than enough room to setup all my cameras for downloading pictures (though I really should get a memory card reader instead of hooking up the cameras to the PC every time). I added a 4th monitor up top for TV, and the right monitor is now used with my Macbook and iMac (the iMac’s original monitor died). In case you noticed, the right monitor appears to be Windows 7, this is because I now run Win7 exclusively on my Macbook after running into an issue I could not work around well enough in OSX. I like OSX but sometimes its annoying switching between 7 and OSX because of minor differences in shortcuts and whatnot, but that’s another blog post. All of my computers are controlled by one keyboard and mouse using Synergy Plus, possibly one of the most useful tools ever made.

While I was at it, I made a spot for all my iDevices to be hooked up for syncing and charging off my primary desktop:


My printing area didn’t change much, it has been this way for a couple years:


And lastly my scanning area where I scan my film negatives and prints, this is also where my Mac’s reside:

scanning area

I would eventually like to get a nice big curved desk as that would make things a lot easier, but for now I have to work with what I have and I am pretty happy with it.

02 Sep

Getting the Most Out of the NEX-5

In Infrared,Reviews by Greg / September 2, 2011 / 0 Comments

When the NEX cameras were first announced in May 2010 by Sony, many people were surprised by how small they were. At the time (and I believe this is still true) they were the smallest APSC sensor cameras ever made. This was a really big break through. I was very interested in the cameras for other reasons entirely –

1. I knew these would make great candidates for infrared conversion. Why? See my previous post here for more info.

2. It would not be possible to make better use of old obsolete lenses. If you say it was already possible to adapt lenses to the m43’s cameras, I would have to agree, but the advantage to the NEX is getting closer to using the full coverage of the lens. Instead of having a 2x crop factor on the m43 would only have a 1.5x crop factor, which as a DSLR shooter I am already very comfortable with.

The small size of the NEX-5 turned out to be more of a hindrance (thank you Sony for listening and creating the incredible NEX-7) than a help for me. I was excited 3rd parties out there like Ownuser and LCDVF came to the rescue. The Ownuser battery grip (I will do a write up on this grip in a later post) really makes the camera easier to hold. The LCDVF helps by giving you a giant viewfinder to look into the NEX’s LCD display, it also lets you use the camera eye level propped against your head, which can help you get a DSLR perspective and help with stabilizing the camera in low light situations. I hope to do more in-depth write-ups on these different products in a future posting. For now, suffice to say that the NEX can be useful a lot more like a “normal” DSLR but with all the advantages I was looking for that a mirrorless offers. Oh, and it looks really cool too:

NEX-5 Decked Out

02 Sep

Pete Ganzel Rokkor 58mm Conversion

In DIY,Mods,Technical by Greg / September 2, 2011 / 0 Comments

In March this year I purchased Pete Ganzel’s Rokkor 58mm A-mount conversion kit. Pete was extremely helpful in providing information on how to swap out the ring and properly adjust the lens so that it will focus perfectly and all the distance scale lines up correctly. The lens was amazing on the NEX with an adapter, and it is even more amazing on my a55 and a700. I highly recommend this conversion if you have a Rokkor 58mm f/1.2. Also, Pete makes this conversion for other mounts as well, including m42 which he recommends. It is also possible to get a chip to install in the lens mount so that it will be recognized by the camera for focus confirmation.

For more information on Pete’s conversion see here: Pete Ganzel’s Rokkor 58mm Page

And here is what it looks like on my a55:

a55 and Rokkor 58

02 Sep

Infrared Controlled Lighting

In Infrared,Technical by Greg / September 2, 2011 / 0 Comments

One thing I have been researching and practicing is strobe lighting (and continuous lighting as well) for use with infrared studio photography. I have not done a tone of actual shooting, but the first thing I have noticed so far is that light fall of is much sharper when using ordinary flashes for IR studio shots. The flashes themselves output a surprising amount of IR light, but their coverage is a lot more narrow. I dont really know what causes this yet, but will continue to experiment and learn what I can.

I think Minolta Rokkor lenses look really cool in IR because they have a silvery look, the two photos below were both taken with an infrared converted NEX-5 using a Rokkor 35mm lens. Both shots required quite a bit of post processing to get them to look reasonably nice, this was mostly due to the heavy light fall off toward the edges of where the flash was pointed.

Rokkor 8mm in IR

Rokkor MCs

31 Aug

Got a New Siggy

In Gear by Greg / August 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

Ain’t she beautiful?

sig 4.5mm

I have been debating the purchase of the Sigma 4.5mm circular fisheye for at least the last year, but perhaps more like 2 years. This lens is currently the one and only circular fisheye lens designed for APS format cameras. Most circular fisheyes you will find are 8mm and are designed to produce a circular image on a full frame camera. The biggest beef I have about the Sigma 4.5mm is that the image circle is too small for ordinary APSC format found in Nikon and Sony dslr’s so that it can accommodate Sigma and Canon cameras which have smaller format sensors. This means that on the larger sensor of my Sony cameras, there is a lot of wasted black space in the image. Ideally, a circular fisheye should be designed to fill to the edges of the narrow portion of the image to maximize coverage while still getting a circular image.

The small image circle means many pixels get wasted and will need to be cropped out. It also means that it is a lot less useful for one of my primary purposes for such a lens – 360VR’s. The lower resolution shots from the lens will obviously mean lower resolution 360VR’s and for those resolution makes a huge difference. The main advantage to using a circular fisheye over a diagonal fisheye or even a wideangle is that you can do as few as 3 shots to get complete coverage, where with a diagonal it takes 6-10 shots and with a wide even more.

Now that Sony has announced the new a77 with 24MP sensor (which I have pre-ordered), this lens has become a lot more appealing. I should be able to achieve approximately 38MP 360VR’s while taking only 3 shots. That is pretty good considering I only get 66MP with my current diagonal lens – the Rokinon 8mm. These numbers may seem quite high, but when you consider the wide field of a 360VR, you quickly realize the resolution is not all that much.

Until the a77 arrives this lens will primarily be used on my a55 where it can produce about 17MP 360VR images, not too shabby for web uses and practicing. It also partially fills in that hole I’ve felt since I sold off my Sigma 10mm last year – its a great lens but I just realized the Rokinon has better IQ and I couldn’t keep both.

27 Aug

Focus adjusting adapters for infrared

In Infrared,Mods,Technical by Greg / August 27, 2011 / 0 Comments

The issue with some lenses and infrared is that they will not properly focus at some or all focal lengths in infrared, because the focuser just doesnt go far enough. This is because infrared light always focuses slightly behind visible light (ie if you focus for visible light, the IR light will be focused behind the camera sensor). Most lenses still have enough room in their focus range to allow proper focusing in IR, but others do not. I noticed this was an issue first with my Rokinon 8mm fisheye so I started looking for ways to address it.

I borrowed the idea from Pete Ganzel who makes a conversion kit to convert Rokkor mount 58/1.2 lenses to A-mount. In the conversion kit from Pete are a small assortment of spacers which you will need to test to find the proper spacing of the replacement a-mount ring so you can properly focus. Well I applied the same principle to an aftermarket a-mount to e-mount adapter (this probably would not be a good idea to try with the LA-EA1 because of the electrical contacts, and not wanting to destroy a much more expensive adapter, of course).

So here is what I did:

First I removed the A-mount ring from this adapter, and then added some spacers where the screws mount to the ring. These are just test spacers which will get replaced with complete rings once I have time to make them, it was just easier to cut small strips for testing. There is no set rule to how much space youll need to add, try adding one spacers, put the assembly back together and test the lens you are having trouble with. If you really want to get it perfect you can keep trying until the distance markings on the focus ring line up perfectly when focused in IR.

adding spacers

The other thing to keep in mind is that the manual aperture lever in the adapter (if it has one) still works, since adding spacers may prevent it from reaching the lenses aperture lever. Also, you will want to check that the lens locking pin will still lock, I added a small screw to act as a spacer behind the spring which provides pressure to the lock pin to hold it in place when the lens is mounted. You will have to do trial an error to get these things right, and not all third party adapters will lens themselves well to this adjustment process.

Here is what mine ended up looking like with the test spacers in place:
spacers added

And here is what the adapter looks look on my IR converted NEX-5, with Minolta 28-135 mounted:
lens mounted

Lastly, the result? I can now properly focus the Minolta 28-135 and Rokinon 8mm in infrared, this shot below is with the Minolta at 28mm:
ir test shot