Thursday, April 20, 2017

The myth around the Nikon "universal" mount.

Before some people start to go crazy about what I wrote, be advises that I have used Nikon for years. From Nikkormats to D800. So just relax and read before raging against someone who dared to say something against your god. =) 

It's all about Nikon and a huge legion of its users and fans saying about that Nikon has the most backward compatible lens and mount system on earth, and because of this you can use any Nikon lens on any Nikon body. Wrong.

The real fact is that Nikon has no total backward compatibility and even worse, even lenses and camera bodies from the same year may not be compatible.

Lenses from 1959 to 1976 are the original A mount type. They can't be mounted in ANY Nikon body except the ones that have a foldable aperture index tab on aperture coupling ring, like the flagship Nikon DS. 

If you try, for example, to fit an old Nippon Kogakku 50mm F1.4 from 1970 , not modified to Ai, on ANY camera without the folding tab you may break the body's aperture coupling ring and stuck the lens.

There are two types of autofocus lenses, with the AF motor built in the lens itself and without it. 

Lenses without motor won't AF on camera bodies that don't have motors. 

For example:

The D5XXX has no AF motor on the body neither the aperture coupling ring. You can use AF lenses with motor and Ai/Ais manual focus lenses that have electronic contacts. No contacts = no light metering.

The D7XXX has AF motor and the aperture coupling ring. You can use all lenses on it , but any old "PrĂ© Ai" lenses.

There are even lenses with and without aperture ring. You can't use any lens without aperture ring in any non AF nikon, for example, the FM2. The FM2 will accept just Ai/Ai-S lenses or AF fullframe lenses with aperture ring.

The mess:

- Pre Ai lenses
- Ai and Ai-S manual focus lenses with aperture ring
- AF lenses with and without built in motor
- AF lenses with and without aperture ring
- Full frame and APS size sensor sizes
- Cameras with and without aperture ring
- Cameras with and without built in AF motor


- If you have an OLD Nikon like a Nikkormat you need a pre Ai lens or an Ai lens with the famous "horns" to couple the lens aperture ring with the camera aperture ring.

- If you have a camera like the FM, FE, FM2, N2000 you need an Ai / Ai-S or pre-Ai converted to Ai lens, with aperture ring for proper metering.

- For autofocus cameras like the D70 and D5xxx you can use AF lenses with or without aperture ring but you need the AF motor on the lens to have autofocus. You need lenses with CPU for proper light metering.

- If we're talking about high end autofocus cameras like the D600 and D7xxx you are allowed to use all nikon lenses but NOT pre-Ai ones, unless they were converted to Ai. Those cameras should work with all AF lenses, with or without autofocus motor and aperture ring.

- Finally if your camera has a retractable tab on the aperture ring you'll be able to use any kind of Nikon mount lenses on your camera.

If you want a really universal SLR system, go for Pentax. All K lenses work in any K bodies and you can also use M42 screw mounts on a Pentax K body.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mamiya 645E: Medium Format SLR

The Mamiya 645E is a medium format SLR that proved the concept of a professional specs camera in an affordable body.

Mamiya 645E

It has an internal metal chassis and a platic body. It's still very well made, and it's like a sort of EOS Rebel cousin. It's indeed a very reliable camera. Maybe the best example of "plastic fantastic" equipment. 

Main features:

  • Uses 120 film and shoots frames of 6x4.5 cm. This is more than three times the area of a 35mm film
  • It can be used in aperture priority or in manual exposure mode, with AE lock and exposure compensation from -2 to +2
  • Has a HUGE, extremely clear viewfinder with a split image and microprism focusing aid.
  • Shows selected shutter speed on viewfinder
  • Exposure time goes from 8s to 1/1000s
  • Diopter adjustment from -4 to +4
  • Mechanical film advance
  • Manual focus
  • Flash hot shoe
  • Uses one 4LR44 alkaline battery

The standard lens is the very fine Mamiya Sekor 80mm F2.8 and it's extremely sharp, one of the best medium format lenses I've ever used.

Note that most of the MF 80mm lenses have maximum apertures around F3.5-4.5 .

The metering is center weighted and usually very precise with negative film, but depending on the situation you may need to compensate in some situations if you're using positive film, for example, making photos at a sunny beach or snow.

There are plenty of lenses at a very fair price on market.

- 35mm F3.5 
- 45mm F2.8
- 55mm F2.8
- 70mm F2.8 Leaf shutter
- 110mm F2.8
- 80mm F1.9
- 80mm F2.8
- 80mm F4 Macro
- 120mm F4 Macro
- 150mm F3.5
- 150mm F4
- 210mm F4
- 300mm F5.6

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why Apple Photos Sucks

One of my biggest frustrations about software in the recent years was the Apple Photos, intended to be an iPhoto replacement and some sort of Aperture simples option.

It's indeed an improvement in some areas compared to iPhoto. The user interface is cleaner and more fluid to use. Some image controls are cool for beginners, like the rotation tool.

Other adjustments, like color presets, crop and retouch tool will make most of the beginners happy, but they are very limited. Again, ok for beginners.

The only GOOD thing is that it allows the use of extensions (plug-ins) like DxO for Photos and some other ones.

Photos also induces the user to keep everything on iCloud.

But Photos has some serious caveats in my opinion:

  • No star rating. Apple says that now you have to do is to create keywords like "1star" , "2star" and so and use those keywords in the search field. Seriously ? This is a bad joke !
  • No "flag" , colors and rejected anymore. Just a "like" !
  • A mediocre search tool
  • No hierarchical keywords
How the hell Apple want someone with slightly more than an extremely simple photo collection to use Photos as a DAM ?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Apple Aperture is Not Dead (for now)

We all know by this time that Apple stopped to maintain its image editor and DAM software known as Aperture.

There are many rumors about why Apple decided to discontinue it, from supposed deals with Adobe to cut the costs with future updates. Who knows ?

The fact is that Aperture still rocks. And rocks well.

  • Excellent DAM capability. It can manage very large libraries easily and it's very comprehensible. I did some experiments with libraries up to 35k photos and 400+ gigabytes on size ! But my advise is to keep the original files not in the Aperture's Library, unless you plan to use Aperture Vaults and/or a Time Machine backup.
  • The best, by far, search tool. You can search by name, size, rating and so many other properties (Like Exif) in a way that no other software goes even close.
  • Has a very good raw engine. It's not part of Aperture itself, but part of the operational system and used by other softwares like iPhoto and Photos. From time to time, Apple updates it.
  • The image editor is very good, if you don't need layers. It's for image adjustment not for modification.
  • The retouching tools are amongst the best.
  • Its library backup system is very advanced. It can make copies (Apple calls them Vaults) locally, on network and even on remote servers on the Internet.
  • Can use external editors.
  • I tested it with MacOSX El Capitan and works flawlessly.
  • It can tether lots of camera models.
  • It's extremely stable.
  • Excellent documentation.
  • Low cost.

But honestly, read the manual. There are so many features that you can overlook. I know that reading manuals sucks, but at least take a look.

There are other quite neat features, like dozens of high quality plug-ins and a fantastic degree of integration with Apple Automator and Applescript.

Recently, Google released the whole Nik Collection for free and they work as plug-ins for Aperture.

The Nik Collection is made of:

Analog Efex Pro: Simulates film/vintage look
Color Efex Pro: Effects, retouching and correction tools
Silver Efex Pro: Simulates Black and White film
HDR Efex: Self explanatory
DFine: Noise reduction tool
Viveza: Simple sharpening tool
Sharpener Pro: A more complete sharpening tool 

There are other cool plugins that deserve a look:

DxO Film Pack: Professional film look simulation
DxO View Point: Professional geometrical corrections
Noiseware Professional: Professional noise reduction

The later versions of the RAW engine can handle fairly well the Fuji X-Trans raw files. Much better than Adobe Camera Raw. The raw engine is part of the operational system, not Aperture's.

The bad thing is that Apple removed it from Application Store, but if you purchased it before, you'll be able to download it again. My advice is to make a backup copy of the application itself and keep it in a safe place. 

So, if you have a Mac, take a look on it while you still can.

Update: There are reports about being possible to run Aperture on Sierra. Since Sierra isn't in my update plans, ate least for the near future, I'll not test it for now.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Submini 2 - Canon 100ED 20

Canon 100ED 20

This is the best 110 film camera by a large margin in my opinion. It's the only camera of this kind that passed through my hands and caused me a really good impression. It's way better than the widely acclaimed Pentax Auto 110 and the Minolta 110 Mark II. The reason ? The film flattening system of the 110ED works very well, much better than any other. The only other 110 camera that gets closer is the Minox 110 (Balda) but it's not a very reliable camera, despite the excellent optics.

The lens is very sharp. It's a multicoated 5 element 26mm f2 design coupled to a decent rangefinder. Maybe the best lens ever fitted to a 110 camera. In my opinion it's sharper than the famous Pentax 24mm F2.8 of the Pentax Auto 110. Specially if you take in account that the Auto 110 is automatic program exposure only and the 110ED is an aperture priority camera. You set the aperture and it calculates the exposure time according to the available light. The exposure goes from 8 seconds (yes, eight) to 1/1000s.

There's a slider for aperture setting with four positions. A "window" means F2, a cloud for F4, a sun for F8 and a mysterious dot for F16. 

Canon 110ED 20 Controls

There's a mechanical shutter backup that can be used in case of a drained battery or even a total electronic failure. In this case, the shutter will be set to 1/125s and you will need to control the exposure manually by choosing the proper aperture. The only fail I could find on this camera was the fact if you need to use the mechanical shutter, you'll need to remover the battery cover, and to do this, you need to open the film chamber.

It uses a 4LR44 alkaline battery, easy to find and cheap. There's also a standard mechanical cable release socket near the shutter button.

An interesting date imprinting system was built in this camera. All you need is to set up the date numbers with the wheels.

Canon 100ED 20 date controls
How good is this camera ? If used with good, low grain film, it's just amazing, considering the negative size. It's a very high resolution lens with excellent corner to corner sharpness.

Canon 100ED 20 image example
But nothing is perfect. It's extremely complex inside and it's a top challenge to have the viewfinder cleaned. Only try to do this if you have top notch technical skills. Be warned.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

PictureWindow Pro 7 production ended

Today I received this message from Jonathan Sacks, president of Digital Light and Color and I would like to share it with you.

All Good Things Come to an End
We first released Picture Window and Picture Window Pro roughly 23 years ago in 1993, and it has steadily evolved from that time to the present, transitioning from 16- to 32- to 64-bits and from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 to Windows 10. During that time, we have enjoyed the support of a dedicated group of users who have helped us improve the product at each stage.

But nothing goes on forever and the time has come for us to shut the program down. Consequently we will no longer be selling Picture Window Pro or issuing any new releases. We will keep our current web site in place until roughly April 2017, including the message board and download areas, but have already removed the ordering page. For those who wish to download the latest version, Kiril and I have prepared a minor update that fixes a few outstanding bugs and removes all copy protection so a serial number will no longer be needed to activate the program. This final version is already available on the web site for download.

I am working on a total rewrite of Picture Window with a more modern interface that may or may not ever see the light of day. The DL-C.COM domain name is reserved for at least three more years, and we expect to transition to a new and simpler web site next year so Picture Window Pro can remain available for download as freeware.

If you want to be informed of any further developments, please stay on the mailing list. Otherwise please click on the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email and you will be removed from the list.

I want to personally thank everyone who has used Picture Window and our other products in the past -- especially those who have helped improve the program over the years by reporting bugs or making feature suggestions. I hope to remain in touch with as many of you as possible going forward.

Jonathan Sachs
President, Digital Light & Color 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Submini 1 - Voigtlander Vitoret 110 EL

This is weird. Writing about 110 film in plain 2016 is really a strange feeling.

110 film was a miniature just 16mm wide and sold in the form of a plastic cartridge that you simply drop it inside the film chamber of your camera.

AGFA Agfacolor 200 film in 110 format cartridge

The frame is tiny. It's exactly the size of a micro four thirds sensor. For film, it's tiny.

The concept of the instamatic film was interesting. The idea was to make film loading absolutely fool proof. It's impossible to load it wrongly. If you accidentally open the film chamber you'll loose just 2 frames instead of the whole roll.

But nothing is perfect. The small frame size is a challenge for both optics and film grain, and it was very difficult to keep the film flatness due the cartridge design.

The vast majority of the 110 film cameras were junk, with single meniscus 1 element optics with fixed aperture and just one speed. Some better ones had 2 or 3 element lenses with fixed focus and maybe two or three aperture settings usually set by choosing the correct "weather"symbol. Some even better ones had electronic flash.

But there are some really cool exceptions to this rule. One of them is the Voigtlander Vitoret 110 ED. It's very elegant, well made and small (120 x 35 x 25 mm).

Voigtlander Vitoret 110 EL and flash

Voigtlander Vitoret 110 EL and 110 film cartridge

The camera itself is almost fool proof. All you need is to load the film, load the shutter and shoot. Ok, you may need to choose between the "weather symbols". For me it's the best fixed focus 110 camera.

110 film cartridges may have or not a notch that specifies the film speed. A long notch is for a "low ASA" film (from 80 to 200) and a short one denotes a "high ASA" film (400). The camera senses between the low and high ASA types and the weather symbols can change, depending on the film type. It's strange but works.

For low ASA: Sun = F11 / Clouds = F5.6
For high ASA: Clouds = F11 / Window = F5.6 

The electronic shutter will then choose the proper speed, from 4 seconds to 1/300s.

The lens is a fixed focus, multicoated 24mm F5.6 Lanthar (3 element) and believe me, it's very sharp.

There's also a flash hot shoe and an electronic flash powered by AAA batteries.