Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out and about with the Canon F-1

Canon F-1 outfit
Over a month ago, a colleague at the Museum gave me a nice present -- his Canon F-1 with the following lenses: 50mm f/1.4, 28mm f/2.8, 135mm f/3.5, and 50mm 3.5 macro lens, plus the extension tube. Now, I sold off all my Canon FD gear over a year ago, thinking that I was up to my ears in SLR systems. However, this nice kit was too wonderful to say "no" to. I did some cleanup of the camera, and put in two hearing-aid batteries, as the mercury cells that the F-1 uses are no longer available. The meter sprang to life, and I was ready to do some shooting.

Now, Canon's F-1 is a lot more similar to the Nikon F2 than the Nikon F. It too, lacks a standard ISO hot shoe over the prism, as prisms are removable. Therefore, there is an attachment for a flash adapter centered over the rewind lever. I don't plan on using a flash with the F-1, so that's not a problem. It's a fantastically sturdy camera that is a far cry from models such as the AE-1. Of course, it is fully manual exposure, and if the batteries die, it still works without metering. Ergonomically, it is nicer than the Nikon F2, and one does not have to fiddle with the "Nikon twist" to get the lenses synched with the metering prong. Okay, so how is the camera in the field?

I took it with me to Toledo in mid-May and shot 2 rolls of film near the Toledo Museum of Art, and another roll in Ann Arbor a few days later. All were Kodak Gold 100 C-41 prints film, which I had developed at Huron camera, and then I scanned the negatives at home on my Epson scanner at 2400 DPI.

Ferns in the Garden, 50mm macro lens.

getting the picture
Getting the picture at the Toledo Museum of Art

Painted Ladies
Painted ladies

Toll House
Toll House


Not that the above images are anything like a real test, but The Canon F-1 and I got along very well, and I can see why it has such a good reputation. It is a pro-level camera that still works very well 40 years after it was made.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Series Filters on a CCTV lens

In my previous post, I extolled the virtues of the Micro 4/3 system, and my experience thus far with my Olympus Pen E-PL1 camera. Since then, I have been using the 25mm f/1.4 CCTV lens with the c-mount adapter A LOT. The images that I am getting from it have been fun, amazing, and have given me a creative spark that's been a bit lackluster over the past few months. One of the oddities about this c-mount lens is that it exhibits a central spot of flare when wide open, and only when the light is in front of the camera. Second, it doesn't exactly close focus as much as I would like. The solution is to use a lens hood to help with the flare, and diopters to magnify the image, resulting in close-ups. Hmmm. How to attach those things to an odd-sized lens? Solution...I looked into my drawers of Series filters and adapters and ended up finding EXACTLY what I needed. A Kodak Series VI ring with a 31.5mm diam. push-on adapter. No screwing-onto the lens, this adapter just slips right over the outside of it with a fit that is perfect.

A series system consists of a retaining ring, a non-threaded filter, and the adapter. Different types of Series filters can be used with just one pair of adapter and retaining ring, or you can have various adapters for different lenses, and still just use the one set of filters.

The assembled filter. A yellow filter is great for improving the contrast of B&W images under certain conditions, even with a digital camera. Make sure that you set the image capture to Monochrome!

Of course, the diopters and the lens hood are also used with the adapter, and the lens hood simply screws onto the adapter without using the retaining ring.

I am pretty sure many of the series adapters were used with cine lenses in the past. I even have a Series VI gel-holder, which is quite interesting. I could cut colored gels to fit in and achieve all kinds of interesting results. For now, though, the few things I use most are all that I need for the CCTV lens. That is the beauty of using Series filters. A few different filters and the adapters are all you need to use with different camera or lenses. You can also buy Series adapters that fit 49mm and 52mm screw threads, etc., as well as Series VI to VII or V to VI adapters. It's quite old-school, and almost all of these items were made before the 1980s, and almost all in the USA.

Now that I have assembled a kit to go with my CCTV lens, I realized that I have many extras in the boxes of accessories in my basement. After some sorting, I have enough parts to put together 4 sets of Series VI adapters + a set of diopters (+1, +2, +3), and a yellow filter.

Here's the kit. I am offering these kits for $25.00, which includes USA shipping. The adapter is specifically a 31.5 mm diameter push-on for a CCTV lens like the one pictured. I cannot modify the kit for any other size. Payment can be made via Paypal. You can contact me at mfobrien[at] Unfortunately, I have only one other lens hood like the one pictured, so it's not for sale.


No diopter, here, just the lens hood. That 25mm lens is just awesome!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I Have Been Converted

I recently sold off my Canon Powershot G11 and all the accessories that I had for it. Although I really did get some great shots with that camera over the couple of years that I owned it, getting a speck of dust over the sensor convinced me that the tiny sensor P&S was no longer in my future. On that small a sensor, a dust speck can look like a black hole. Part of the reason is also the G-series design, as the lenses are not sealed. What did I replace it with? I have been secretly envious of the folks that have been parading around their micro 4/3 (m4/3) cameras, such as the Olympus Pen E series, and the Panasonic Lumix G series cameras. The compactness, the 4/3 sensor, and the possibility of using all kinds of lenses via adapters opens up new possibilities that I just could not get with a p&s fixed lens camera. Anyone that knows me well can attest to my love of funky lenses and using Lensbabies, Holga, and Diana lenses on my SLRs.

New Addition

So, I bought a new Olympus Pen E-PL1 body from Cameta camera for $149 with free shipping. I then bought an Olympus OM to m4/3 adapter for about $20, and used some of my OM lenses on the PL1 for a bit. I liked it a lot better once I realized there was focus peeking at the touch of a button, since one has to use the LCD screen for everything. The "Art Filters" are fun - especially the "pinhole" and "diorama" filters. I also enjoy being able to shoot in 6x6 format, and see on the LCD screen exactly the same square framing. I have had the camera for a less than a month now, and I really enjoy it more and more as I get accustomed to it.


my favorite clematis

stoplight with legs

My next purchase was the 17mm 2.8 Olympus lens, which I found as a factory demo for $189. A perfect size for this camera, and it is the equivalent FOV of a 34mm lens on a 35mm camera. So far, so good. Next, I bought a 25mm 1.4 CCTV lens from China with a C-mount adapter for $27.00 Now I'm talking cheap here, but I do love the bokeh and the distortion and vignetting of the lens. It has been getting a lot of use, and I really like my results with it.

I see the m4/3 as a wonderful tool for those of us that enjoy experimenting with lenses and filters. In addition, the small, yet well-proportioned camera just feels right in the hand. I am seriously considering selling some gear and buying the Olympus OM-D in the future. The ability to use many different lenses with adapters is very appealing, and I am always looking for a lens that will give me something different -- something that sets my images apart from others. It may not always be to everyone's liking, but it satisfies me, and my vision of what I am trying for, and that's what matters most.

A few shots with the CCTV lens...

fixing the itch

Cobblestone Farm.

Bloomin' Onion

Bloomin' Onion

Britton Mill4

Britton Mill

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Blue Waters of Port Huron

Almost a month ago I went on a road trip to Port Huron, MI and Sarnia, Ontario with my buddies John Baird and Marc Akemann. I finally have scanned in the second roll of Ektar 100 shot with my Minolta X700 from that day. Early April isn't the most summery weather, and it had cooled down from the record-setting March warmth of a few weeks earlier. However, it was a beautiful cloudless sky and just warm enough to not feel cold. We traipsed around the downtown a bit, and hit some of the areas along the St. Clair River. If you don't know much about Michigan, you should at least know that aside from the southern border of the lower peninsula and the south-western border of the Upper Peninsula, it is a state defined by the Great Lakes. Port Huron sits at the bottom of Lake Huron, and the St. Clair River flows S into Lake Erie. Across the water to the east is Canada. Fishing and boating are big along this corridor, and it was apparent in Port Huron. Of course, the St. Clair River is also a commercial waterway, with Great Lakes freighters coming through, and industrial areas along the shorelines of both countries near the urban centers. Like many small cities, Port Huron is not the place it was a century ago, but it seems to have held its own pretty well, and the downtown is a mix of old and new, with only a few empty storefronts. We had lunch at the Cavis Grill (really, it is more of a diner), and enjoyed our meal there.

Enough of reading. Here are some images from the morning there. All were shot with my Minolta X700 and a 24-70 lens or the 135mm lens on Kodak Ektar 100, which is a superb color print film that reminds me a great deal of Ektachrome.

Looking over towards Sarnia, Ontario. The St. Clair River really was a opalesque turquiose blue.

Waterfront property is waterfront property. You don't need a mansion to feel rich when you have a place on the waterfront.

Ring-billed gulls are ubiquitous in the Great Lakes. Yet, I love watching them and their adroit flying skills. The ones that hang around the Bridge to Bay Trail (see following images) are probably quite vigilant in watching what the people fishing are doing. There are a series of sculptures along this sidewalk, and each one had a couple of attending gulls.

There were a number of people fishing along the river, and each person had multiple rigs set up on jigs to hold them on the railing. I am not familiar with fishing laws, but I know that when I did fish, I thought one was limited to no more than two rods in the water at the same time. I asked the guys what they caught, and said they got all kinds of fish there. I didn't see any activity while we were there, but fishing is like the ultimate test of patience in my book.

No bites yet.

This guy was actually casting.

There are lots of channels and docks around Port Huron, and it is obviously a busier place in the summer months.

Well, that's it for this photo essay. It's always a different feeling when shooting film instead of digital. One is more economical with the shots, for one, and two, I think I generally put more care into the composition. Three, every film has a different characteristic, and that's what makes using it so much fun. Try some Ektar 100.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A repost from the past ...It was 1976, and I had an Exa 1a

I have been going through some of my old web pages that used to be up on my server at UM, and here is one that I am reproducing as a blog post, and slightly updated...

My first “real” camera was an Ihagee Exa 1a. My parents bought it for me in 1974 (probably from Cambridge Camera in NYC) while I was a junior in high school. I used that camera for nearly 10 years, when I replaced it with a Pentax MG. I learned basic photography with that Exa 1a and shot mostly slide film with it. I used the sunny-16 rule. Plus, the pocket Kodak Photoguide was my only source of photography information. No meters, no eye-level prism, either. It had the el-cheapo waist-level viewfinder. Good thing my eyes were better then. I certainly didn't know any better that a prism would have been a wonderful thing.

In the summer of 1976 I was a summer camp counselor at Wavus Camps on Lake Damariscotta, Maine. Weekends, I hitched rides up and down US 1 to places that are probably now a lot less picturesque. I didn’t have a lot of money, and I didn’t shoot a lot of film, but I did get a few good images, and amazingly enough, I still have all of my photographs from then. Best of all, I shot mostly Kodachrome 64.

The Exa 1a is a strange SLR. The mirror is the shutter, which all one unit. Not a horizontal cloth shutter like the beefier Exaktas. There is a very limited range of shutter speeds and of course, the shutter release is on the left side! I sold that camera about 12 years ago on I wish I still had it, even if it was not the easiest to use camera. Still, it taught me a lot about photography. About 7 years ago, I ended up with a lot of Exakta equipment which I used for a time, and then sold off. However, I kept an Exa 1a as a reminder of my early days in photography. The images below were taken in Wiscasset, Maine in July 1976. The two ships are now gone, having been removed in 2004 or so.
There was a lot of crud on the slides, and removed most of it in Photoshop. Considering that they survived moving around in college and nearly 30 years of being left in a slide box, they are in pretty good shape. I doubt anyone’s CD-ROM of images taken in college today will be around 30 years from now.

Last... not from 1976, but May of 1977. It was the first spring with my girlfriend Adrienne, now wife (we married in 1978). We were roaming the countryside near Sharon, CT when I shot this (not so great) photo of a fern growing out of a fissure in a rock. Same camera, but not Kodachrome. Might have been Ektachrome.