If you like what you found here :

If you like this blog and if it was useful to you, I would like a small retribution in form of a charity donation for one of these animal shelters. They're awesome people and really need help. Thank you !

Lakeroad Ferret Farm Shelter
West Michigan Ferret Connection
Ottawa Ferret Rescue
Ferret Dreams Rescue and Adoption

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Raw Photo Development on Low Buget, what are the options ?

From time to time people always ask what would be a low cost but yet effective suite for raw development of photos.

This is a quirk question because it will greatly depend on what are your plans. To te the vast majority of people, RAW development makes no sense, but the goal here is to show some useful options.

Meaningful questions:

1 - How many different raw formats do you need to deal with?

2 - Is your camera fitted with a conventional sensor (Bayer) or more exotic ones, like X-Trans and Foveon?

3 - What's your budget limit?

One approach is to stick with the camera maker's programs. All makers have them and they are usually good and have plenty of adjustments. Sometimes they are not the fastest but they are all free.

List of free ones:

Canon: Digital Photo Professional
Nikon: Nikon Capture NX-D
Sony: I would use Capture One Express for Sony
Pentax: OEM version of Silkypix
Olympus: Olympus Workspace
Sigma: Sigma Photo Pro
Fuji: Like Sony, I would use Capture One Express for Fuji or the OEM Silkypix
Panasonic: OEM version of Silkypix

You may like to try RawTherapee for all cameras but it's rather overwhelming.

If you have a Mac, you may also like Raw Power. Easy to use, powerful yet simple and affordable. It can be used as an external helper application by Photos.

Note that I am NOT writing about photo editors!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Raw Power 3.x Released

If you have a Mac and need a simple, fast and less complicated raw file converter, give a try to Gentlemen Coders Raw Power.

The V3 has lots of new controls and tools.

Runs on Mac OSX Mojave and up.

For El Capitan, Sierra and High Sierra, unfortunately, the last compatible version is 2.X 

Raw Power can be downloaded from Apple Application Store

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Olympus Stylus (Mju)

This little camera is, in my opinion, the best single-lens autofocus camera ever made by Olympus, even better in some ways than the successor, the Stylus Epic (mju-II)

Olympus Stylus (Mju)
All Rights Reserved
It inherited the clamshell design from the XA series and its lens is similar to the one from the XA2. The lens is a very sharp 3-element 35mm F3.5 assisted by a precision multi-beam 100 steps autofocus. It was an engineering challenge to make such a compact and advanced camera. The designer was nothing else than the legend Yoshihisa Maitani.

The camera can accept dx-coded films from ISO 50 to 3200. The exposure is full automatic with shutter speeds from 1/15s to 1/500s. Unfortunately, it lacks speeds below 1/15s (The Mju-II can go lower)

The built-in electronic flash can be operated in four modes, full-auto, fill-in, red-eye reduction and off.

I found mine for about $15 in perfect working order, hard to beat.

The Mju-II has better specs, like a 4-element 35mm F2.8 lens and speeds low as 4 seconds, but nowadays it's a rather expensive camera compared to the mju-I, but its lens isn't that sharp at maximum aperture.

Pros: Sharp lens, compact, inexpensive
Cons: No longer than 1/15s shutter speeds :( 

We can make a parallel with the Olympus XA and XA2. The XA is better specced in all ways but by no means makes the XA2 a lesser option. They are different, especially in price and some minor features. Used in daylight I dare you to distinguish photos made with both. The same happens with the Mju and Mju-II.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Kodak S500AF, bizarre point and shoot

Kodak S-Series S500AF

Kodak always had a reputation for making strange looking cameras, and the S500AF is maybe the best example.

The camera is large, more than twice, maybe three times the size of the Olympus Mju. It's one of the noisiest cameras I had in hands and has several weirdnesses:

- Absolutely no overrides. Ok, I can live with this, but this camera doesn't allow you to disengage the flash. It will ALWAYS fire, no matter how high the light is !

- The "program" curve is strange. No slow speeds, just ONE, I have no official value, but it's something like 1/125s to 1/250s, with variable aperture, based on the film sensibility and ambient light.  

The camera internals looks extremely complicated for a P&S camera, with lots of integrated circuits soldered on a flexible printed circuit. Too many components to my taste, for a so-so performance.

The good thing is the lens. The Ektanar 35mm F3.5 is a fine performer and very sharp. The infrared autofocus system has just one central point but it's precise enough for this class of camera.

When you load an unused film, the camera will pre wind all the frames to the camera spool, and every time a picture is shot, the camera will wind the exposed frame into the film cartridge, like the old Canon EOS Rebels. The LCD screen at the top shows how many frames are still available.

Works with two AA alkaline batteries.

It's a rather rare camera, made by Kodak Brasileira in the lates 1980s

There are other models belonging to the S-Series. The simplest one is the S100, with manual ISO/Apertures (3, actually), fixed focus and switchable flash. I don't have any technical specs of any of the S-Series, it's almost a void about these cameras on the Internet.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Luminar 4 , don't buy before testing

Skylum just released Luminar 4 on November 18, 2019 as a PAID upgrade from Luminar 2018 or as a stand-alone program.

Since I was a previous user since version 3, I decided to give it a try and ordered the "early bird" upgrade. Well, I must admit that it was a huge mistake.

I confess I was influenced by the good reviews on the media, but later I realized that all the websites that rated L4 so high were profiting from Skylum. Take a read here and think. Is this just a coincidence? 

V4.1 still has some severe flaws that weren't corrected or even addressed yet. If you have Luminar 3 my advice is to NOT pay for the upgrade unless you test it to bones before.

L4 was promised and advertised as a Lightroom killer. What a bad joke.

It has some cool features like he Accent Ai, Sky Enhancer Dehaze,  Color Balance, Advanced Contrast but it's severely crippled.

The main issues are:

  • Slow like hell
  • It's NOT possible to remove an image from the catalog in a simple way. 
  • The file navigator does NOT show the images file names under theirs. thumbnails, you need to see the file information panel.
  • The claimed DAM is simply too primitive to be called "DAM".
  • The program eats memory like crazy.
  • Bugs, bugs, bugs... (at least for V4.0.0)
The DAM features are so badly designed and severely crippled without the possibility to remove selected images from the catalog. If you try to do it, Luminar will move the images to its own trash can and if you decide to empty it, your images will be deleted from disk!

There are awkward workarounds to do this, like flag unwanted the images as rejected, create a new "rejected" folder, move the images to there, and then removing the folder from the catalog. Are you kidding me Skylum?

The sky replacement tool is, well... Ok if you really like to ALTER the reality of a scene. For me, it's kind of meh. Please forgive me if you like this feature.

The details and landscape enhancers are nice features for beginners. Not bad, but they don't qualify for a paid upgrade in my opinion. 

Skylum posture is ambiguous about what will happen to Luminar 2018 and the roadmap for V4 isn't clear just very vague and unconvincing statements. 

My recommendation is to NOT buy or upgrade it unless you test it (well) before and be satisfied with the present features or keep using Luminar 2018.

Do NOT rely on Slylum's promises waiting for something they said they're working on and they will release "when ready". This may take YEARS. I don't like the idea of paying in advance for something I can't be sure if I will receive it.

The fact they did that "Early Bird" version 4 campaign based on an unstable and unfinished product was a pitty.

I ended up returning it and got a refund.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Film Ferrania: Alive and Kicking ! Sort of...



After 5 years, they weren't able to make the E6 film yet, and I have my doubts if they will really make it. They made a small batch of the P30 Black and White negative film and that's all.

There is a mixed bag of reactions from the backers, some said the Ferrania guys tried to do something way beyond their capabilities, other ones said that they will never fulfill what they promised. As one of the backers, I really hope they could make it. Let's wait a bit more and see.

My personal opinion is that they at least could give the backers an equivalent reward in the form of a P30 package instead of the promised E6.

Original post below:

Film is Alive. And Kicking. 

Who remembers Ferrania ? Well, they’re resurrecting from ashes in a very impressive and well-thought attitude.

(This blog is not associated with Ferrania by any means)


Ferrania was founded in 1923 as a photographic and cinema film maker and also made some simple cameras aimed to the amateur market. The headquarters still is in Liguria region on northern Italy. In 1964 the giant American company 3M acquired Ferrania and then started to make film under other brands, but in 2012 3M shot down the Ferrania factory due to market difficulties.

In 2013 some Ferrania ex-employees started something that some would classify as crazy: to make film again, in an adequate scale for the present film market. To do this they need to salvage and acquire some large pieces of equipment and adapt them to an adequate scale. And to raise the needed money, $250,000 they started a project on Kickstart under the motto “Alive and kicking”.

“FILM Ferrania is restarting production for analog film in both still photo and motion picture formats.”

To do this they need basically three pieces from the old factory building:

Trixie: The Large Scale Triacetate Base Production Machinery, to make the plastic base.
Walter: High Volume Chemical Synthesis Lab, to make the chemical products.
Big Boy: The Industrial Film Coater

The project raised more than pledged, $322,240 backed up by 5582 people. And I hope that what they said “100 more years of analog film” comes true !

This news are very important because nowadays most of the big players already left or are leaving the game.

Agfa was the first one to leave in 2004 when its photo division AgfaPhoto went down. Agfa was founded in 1873 and had more than 100 years ! They are still working, but on medical and special materials for industry and scientific applications, but no more Agfa Ultra 50, Optima 100 or Portrait 160.  No more RSX , Vista or CT-Precisa ...

The next big punch was when Kodak closed it’s photographic film division. No more Ektachrome, Kodachrome, Tri-X and other excellent films. They are history now.

Fuji has ceased making some legendary films, like the Provia 400X and they’re making a fraction of what they offered a few years ago. And they’re not sure for how long they will keep making film.

So, basically Fuji is the only maker of color film today.

Some other brave makers are producing black and white film, like Ilford, Shangai, Foma and Adox. (Thank God!). Efke and Orwo are gone, but the situation for B&W film is better compared with color films. And Svema was never an option in western countries.

The interesting part is that Ferrania decided to start the production with ScotchChrome, a positive (E6) film suitable for still and movie. I was never a fan of the old 3M films, but since they have experience with it and said it will be an enhanced version, I’m curious.

The choice for an E6 film was wise. This will not push the remaining B&W film makers and also not destabilize the market.

E6 film is much more interesting than C41 films especially if you scan. It’s a real pain to get the proper colors from a color negative film, unless you profile it (or have the ready one). You can scan and then print in a digital lab without much pain.

Not to count the fact it’s ready for super-8 and 16mm  movie. I would even risk a bet about the next step: a C41 film, since Fuji is the only player making color films today.

What will come next ? Old forgotten, orphan formats like 620, 127 and 110 ?  Submini formats like Minox and 16mm (Minolta) ? I sincerely hope YES ! Can you imagine how many submini cameras are idle waiting for film ? But please Ferrania, just let the APS film resting in peace.

I would love to have a good E6 film in 110 and Minolta 16mm again.

Another nice and welcomed would be about an E6 developing kit for home and small scale use for an affordable price.  In some countries, E6 labs are almost extinct. I know people that would kill for it ...

And finally, THANKS Ferrania !

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Running Aperture on OSX Catalina

If you're using a new Mac or upgraded to Catalina and want to use Aperture, Tyshawn Cormier wrote a program that allows using it.

Check here

Alternate source here

Monday, January 20, 2020

Legacy Lenses 9 - SMC Pentax M 40mm F2.8 Pancake

Want a small and light lens for your Pentax ? The 40mm F2.8 Pancake may be what you want.

It's a very thin lens, something like 1/3 of the already small 50mm F2.0.

The optical formula is 5 elements in 4 groups.

Pentax 50mm vs 40mm pancake

Pentax MX and the 40mm pancake

The lens is very sharp when stopped down and acceptable wide open. Not the sharpest lens from Pentax if you plan to use on digital, but perfectly adequate for film.

Not the best lens but it's outrageously small and light (110 g), making it a good option when you need to keep thins at a minimum weight.

The new Pentax DA 40mm for digital has nothing to do with this lens, besides the size and look.

Legacy Lenses 8 - Carl Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4 (Contarex)

The Carl Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4 in Contarex mount is a true classic. It's wonderfully made and optically excellent. One of the best ultra-wide-angle lenses ever made.

CZ Distagon 14mm F4 (Contarex mount)

The main highlight of this lens is the ultra-low distortion, and that it covers a full 35mm (24x36mm) sensor size.

It shows some light fall-off wide open but it vanishes at F8. The resolution is excellent even when used on my 24MP Sony A7-II, especially at mid apertures when even the corners are very sharp. Contrast is moderate.

This lens can take filters and light hoods. The original ones are bayonet style, but it can handle thread in ones.

There are some little caveats with this lens:

  • There's no aperture control on the lens. The control is on the camera. If you plan to use it on digital cameras, be sure to order an adapter with can handle the lens iris, NOT those ones with a secondary iris on the adapter itself.
  • Be careful with flare. Although coated, this lens suffers from severe flare when receiving oblique light. Use a proper lens hood.
It's not a cheap lens. In good condition, it can cost easily $800 on eBay. Check for haze and fungus. 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Legacy Lenses 7 - Pentax Super Takumar 85mm F1.9

This is an interesting lens. Its strengths are to have a very wide aperture and yet to be compact. It weighs 350g.

It's a 6 elements by 5 groups construction with a reasonable lens coating, but not on par with the later SMC coating. Don't forget to use a lens hood.

Asahi Pentax Super Takumar 85mm F1.9
(do not copy without permission)
This is a very well constructed lens, all-metal, no plastic. It takes 58mm filters and the model shown above has an M42 thread mount and automatic diaphragm, with a manual/automatic switch.

The lens is pretty sharp at the center at medium apertures and has some softness wide-open, but the bokeh quality is very good, making it a very versatile lens for portraiture at large apertures. The diaphragm has 6 blades, so take care with out of focus highlights when using small apertures, unless you like hexagons =). At smaller apertures, it's very sharp.

It was made between 1971 and 1972. Not a very expensive lens.

Not my favorite 85mm but it's a nice lens to be used with Canon EOS bodies and all mirrorless systems.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Legacy Lenses 6 - SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.4 and 50mm F2

Pentax made literally dozens of 50mm lenses, in M42 screw mount, K, KA and KAF mounts. I will not comment about all of them now, just the F1.4 and the F2.0 versions of the SMC 50mm in K mount.

The K mount was the first "bayonet" type mount from Pentax and it has an automatic diaphragm that allows the camera to make a correct light metering wide-open and then closing momentarily the iris to the correct size during the exposure. It has the same function of the M42 lenses with "Auto" setting (those ones with a metallic pin near the mounting thread).

The KA mount was introduced along with the Pentax cameras with Program auto-exposure mode. It has a lock that fixes the aperture to a minimum and an electric contact to tell the camera it's set to Program mode. The only digital cameras capable of fully use KA mount lenses are the Pentax DSLRs.

When using a K-M mount on a Pentax DSLR, the camera will work on manual mode and aperture priority, but not program or shutter priority (For this you need a K-A type)

They can also be used on the Canon EOS range and all mirrorless system with the proper adapter of course, but, again, just in manual and Av Mode.

Back to the lenses...

Both 1.4 and 2.0 versions are although inexpensive, very good lenses, with excellent multi-layer coating and extremely easy to find on the 2nd hand market.

SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.4
Do not copy without permission !

The F1.4 is very sharp from edge to edge from F3.5 and above and pretty decent even at F2.8, but has soft corners at F1.4 as expected.

SMC Pentax-M 50mm F2.0
Do not copy without permission ! 

The F2.0 version is sharp as the F1.4 at the same apertures, and it's lighter and less expensive.

You need to pay attention when buying one. Triple check the rear lens group, they are very prone to fogging due to the degradation of the optical cement used to glue one of the rear pair of elements. If they aren't absolutely clear, avoid it.

Otherwise, it's one of the best '50s bang-for-the-money you can find.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Legacy Lenses 5 - Leica Elmarit R 28mm F2.8

My story about this lens started when I bought a Canon 5D camera and then had some issues with the Canon EF 28mm F2.8 USM at large apertures. My objective at that time was to have a decent wide-angle lens for handheld, low-light situations and frankly, neither the Canon lens or the 5D were stellar for that.

After some search, I found an Elmarit-R 35mm F2.8 in Vienna, in pristine condition and for a good price. I ordered a Leica-R to Canon EF adapter and a custom made manual focus screen from the now-defunct Haoda Screens. The end of the story was that I started to use practically just Leica-R lenses on my EOS 5D.

Leica Elmarit-R 28mm F2.8
(do not copy without written permission)
This lens is one of the best 28mm I've ever used. It's sharp wide-open and extremely sharp stopped down between F4 and F11. Like all Leica-R lenses, its build quality is superb, smooth and solid. A perfect example of German engineering.

The beautiful coating provides excellent flare protection, hard to see in a 28mm lens even today.

I also used this lens with my old Sigma SD15 Foveon X3 camera. The combination of Leica glass and the Foveon sensor is able to produce stunning images. To use it on the SD15 I converted the camera's SA lens mount to the Leica-R standard by installing a custom-made SigmaCumLaude mount.

This lens works as a standard lens on a camera with an APS-C size sensor, which's very convenient.

After this, this lens was also used on both or my Pentax cameras (K5-II and K3-II), but this time, changing the lens mount for a Pentax-K Leitax mount.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Legacy Lenses 4 - Leica Leitz Summicron-R 50mm F2

The Summicron 50 is a very successful design from Leica and it's around since 1953, appearing first in Leica 39mm thread mount (39mm LTM). There are so many versions of this lens that it's beyond the purpose of this post to discuss them. The important thing is that this lens is available in LTM, M and R mount. LTM and M are for Leica rangefinder lenses and the R version for SLR.

The original Summicron LTM/M from 1953 was a 7-elements/6-groups design then changed to a 6/4 formula and again to an 8/5 formula for the aspherical version. There is also an APO (apochromatic) version, but I'll stick with the R version I had.

Leica Summicron R 50mm F2
Like ALL Leica lenses, the construction and the optical standard are top-notch. This lens is extremely sharp from edge to edge even at F 2.8, with excellent contrast and very high resolution.

I used it firstly with my Leica R6 and then as a mid-telephoto lens on a Sigma SD15 camera (APS sized sensor). The combination of the Foveon sensor and the "Cron 50" was a killer. My SD15 was converted from the Sigma SA mount to the Leica R mount by installing a custom-made mount from Sigmacumlaude.com.

I also used it for a while with the Pentax K5-II, by changing the lens R mount for a Pentax K mount from Leitax.

I sold this lens some years ago. Today I wonder how would it perform with my Sony A7-II...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Legacy Lenses 3 - Fujinon EBC 50mm F1.4 (M42)

The Fujinon EBC 50mm F1.4 (M42) is, in my opinion, the best 50mm ever made in M42 screw mount. It's incredibly sharp and the EBC multi-layer coating makes it very resistant to flare and keeps a high contrast on the entire aperture range, except at F1.4 as expected. From F4 to F11 it's outstanding !

The wonderful EBC Fujinon 50mm F1.4
Do not copy without permission

Fuji has a reputation for making one of the finest lenses ever. To be honest I don't remember to see a single lens from them that wasn't excellent for the price they asked for it. They're masters.

The optical formula is 7-elements / 6-groups, and it weighs 270g (all metal!).

There are so many 50mm lenses on M42 mount, like the Takumar and some near 50mm like the Yashinon-DX and the Helios-44 range, some are really good but the Fujinon EBC 50mm F1.4 is stellar and my personal pick for a 50mm in M42 mount.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Legacy Lenses 2 - Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 Macro (Adaptall)

The second lens in this series is the superb but somewhat underrated Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 Macro. It's a beautifully made lens, tack sharp and relatively compact for a 90mm macro. It's an 8-element, 6-group design.

Besides its optical quality, the mounting system worth mentioning. It's the now-defunct Tamron Adaptall mount. It can be changed by the user in 30 seconds. I have mounts for M42 screw mount, Rollei QBM, Pentax KA, Canon FD, Nikon F and Olympus OM.

Tamron SP 90mm F2.5 Macro (model 52BB)
Manual Focus - Adaptall-2 mount
There are two models, the early 52B and the late 52BB . The 52B has a close-up accessory lens that allows making 1:1 macro. The 52BB is a 1:2 macro.

Not a Leica APO Macro Elmarit 100mm, but not too far. It's on par with the Canon EF 100mm Macro on optical quality for a fraction of the cost. It's a perfect general purpose mid-telephoto lens.

It's a bargain and worth every cent !

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Legacy Lenses 1 - Leica Vario Elmar R 35-70 F4 Macro

This standard zoom lens from Leica turned itself into a legend. It's incredibly sharp and oozes craftsmanship. The 35-70mm is a very versatile 2x zoom that covers from mid-wide-angle to mid-telephoto.

The lens construction quality is absurdly high, with no jigs, controls smooth as silk and a fantastic black finish. 

But how is it in terms of optical quality? In one word, superb. On par with the best primes from Leica at the same apertures. Extremely high resolution, excellent contrast and a joy to use.

Leica Vario Elmarit R 35-70 F4
(do not copy without written permission)
It's a 7 group, 8 elements (with one aspherical element design), made by Kyocera for Leica. Yes, the lens glass was made in Japan. Kyocera is an advanced optics, electronics and ceramics manufacturer that owns the Yashica brand.

You can check the original Leica literature about this fantastic lens here.

Leica Vario Elmar R 35-70 F4
(do not copy without written permission)

There are other similar lenses from Leica but they don't match this beast performance. The other ones are the 28-70 F3.5-4.5 and the 35-70 F3.5-4.5, they are ok, but not close to the above-mentioned one. To be honest I don't know another zoom as good as this one, from any maker.

The only inconvenience is the weird filter size of 60mm (E60).

I first used this lens with a Leica R6, then with my old Canon EOS 5D and finally with my Pentax K3-II after swapping the original R-mount to a custom made Leitax Pentax K mount (see below), but I had to install a manual focusing screen with micro prism and split-image on both cameras.

Leica R lens on a Pentax body
Thanks to Leitax Mount =)

(do not copy without written permission)

This lens is not cheap. Expect to pay near $1000 used, in mint condition. I eventually sold it for charity.

It makes a killer combination with the Sony A7 full-frame bodies.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Using Legacy Manual Lenses on Digital Cameras

Having started with photography in the late '70s, I had hundreds of lenses, with all sorts of experiences with them, from the very bitter lemons to extremely good ones.

Then, after 2005 I started to test and use them with digital cameras of different sensor sizes (Micro Four Thirds, APS-C and 24x36mm "Full Frame")

In my case, the cameras I want to use with manual lenses are the Sony A7 (A-Mount), Panasonic GX85 (Micro-Four-Thirds), Pentax K3-II, Fuji X-T1 (Fuji-X), Sigma SD15, SD1, and Canon EOS 5D.

There are several lens mount types, from very obscure and rare to extremely popular. The first thing you have to do is to check if there is a lens adapter to fit the chosen lens to your camera. This has to do mainly with three things: 

  1. The lens to sensor (or film) distance, aka registration distance
  2. The camera mount size
  3. The camera and lens mount types.

But compared to the digital camera bodies mounts, the manual lens mounts universe is many times bigger. There are so many lens mount types that it's difficult to name all here.

I'll comment just the ones I use or used. The numbers inside brackets are the flange to sensor distance.

Pentax K [45.46 mm]
M42 "Screw Mount" [45.46 mm]
Nikon F [46.5 mm]
Olympus OM [46 mm] 
M39 "L39 Leica Screw Mount" [45.2 mm]
Minolta MD [43.5 mm]
Leica R [47 mm]
Rollei QBM [44.5 mm]
Canon FD [42 mm]
Canon EF [44 mm]

To mount a lens and keep the ability to focus at the infinity, the adapted lens must have a longer flange to sensor (film) distance than the camera's mount.

For example, a Minolta MD lens will not focus at the infinity if mounted on a Canon EOS camera (EF mount), unless the adapter has a focal extender optical group, but such adapters will ruin the image quality.

The cameras will work just in Manual and Aperture Priority modes unless specifically said.

Case 1 - Canon EOS 5D (44mm LTS distance)

I would go for Leica-R, Pentax-K, M42, Olympus OM, and Nikon F. It's up to you.
The Canon EF mount has a subtype, the EF-S. They share the same mount but the EF refers to a full-frame sensor and the EF-S to an APS-C sized one.

Case 2 - Pentax K3-II (45.46 LTS distance)

This is a no-brain choice. Stick with Pentax K (manual or automatic diaphragm) or M42.
KA lenses will work in all modes.
KM lenses will work in Aperture Priority and Manual.
Leica-R lenses can be mounted if you use a Leitax custom lens mount. It makes a phenomenal combination.

My Pentax K3-II with the superb Leica Vario-Elmar 35-70 F4 Macro
The lens has a custom Leitax mount

Case 3 - Micro Four Thirds bodies (Panasonic and Olympus)

Almost everything will work, due to the very short LTS distance of the native mount of 19.25 mm
Be advised of the 2x crop factor.
The sensor is about the same size as a 16mm film photographic frame. This opens the possibility to use some very interesting C-Mount (17.52 mm LTS) high-quality movie lenses. The C-Mount to M4/3 adapter is a special case because it allows the lens to be mounted below the camera mount distance.

Angenieux 75mm F2.5 in C-Mount
(I'm not 100% sure if this image was from my cousin's lens, if you disagree please let me know)

Case 4 - Fuji X

The Fuji X LTS distance is even shorter than the Micro 4/3, with 17.7 mm, but the crop factor is more generous, about 1.5x.

Case 5 - Sony E mount (Alpha 7, Alpha 9, Nex)

The LTS distance is very short, 18 mm. The short distance and a reasonably large mount diameter allow the use of practically all mounts. 

Like the Canon EF mount, the E mount has two possible sensor sizes, APS-C and full-frame. 

Case 6 - The Nikon Nightmare

Nikon has a very long LTS distance and a not very generous mount size. This makes the use of manual lenses from other mounts almost impossible.

To complicate things even more, the Nikon system has severe limitations depending on the camera and lens model, even the lenses being of the same Nikon F mount. More about this in this post.

It's possible to use Leica-R lenses on a Nikon body using a Leitax custom lens mount, but I would not recommend it. The light metering will not work.

Now some thoughts...

1) Not always a lens that works perfectly with a 35mm film will perform equally well in digital, especially with high-density sensors.

2) Experimentation is the key.

3) Some "mystical" legacy lenses aren't even close to their fame when used in digital. This is even more evident with ultra-clear lenses. I found the much desired Nikkor 55mm F1.2 really bad wide-open, and the same observation is valid to the Olympus, Canon and Minolta counterparts.

4) Some very neglected "underdogs" proved to be optically much better than their modern "kit" equivalents. An unexpected example was the horrible Sony E-mount FE 28-70mm OSS that is part of the Sony A7-II kit, compared to a $25 old Minolta MD Rokkor 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 Macro. This cheap lens gives a run on the $400 Sony in all apertures and focal lengths. The Canon FD 50mm F1.4 SSC is another choking example.

5) Things don't need to be expensive to be good.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Using Canon EF Lenses on Sony A7-II with the Commlite CM-EF-NEX and the Sigma MC-11 Adapters

The main reason for me to buy the Sony A7-II was the possibility to use some perfectly good and sharp Canon EF lenses I already have by using an EF to Sony -E electronic adapter.

There are many brands and models of adapters, from Sigma, Commlite, etc. I choose the simplest one, the Commlite CM-EF-NEX to evaluate the possibility first.

Commlite CM-EF-NEX
front view

Commlite CM-EF-NEX
back view

The adapter is all-metal made and very sturdy. It has a removable tripod mount.

The lenses I tested:

Canon EF 40mm F2.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM
Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8 L
Canon EF 24-105mm F4 L

All four lenses above worked very well with the adapter on the Sony A7-II with a fast and precise focus.

Canon EF 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 STM

This lens was very unreliable with this adapter. Strange things happened like long minimum focus distance at the wide-angle setting and erratic autofocus at all focal distances. 
The problems are more common at the wide-angle setting. My lens can't lock the focus at 24mm, but works well from 35mm and up.
This lens is listed as compatible on Commlite's website.

Canon EF 50mm F2.5 Compact Macro
Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DC Macro

Both lenses worked but with slow focus and lots of hunting.

Canon EF 17-40 F4 L
Canon EF 24-85 F3.5-4.5 USM

Both lenses worked ok. Not fast but very usable.
Lots of hunting on the A7R but ok on the A7-II

I also tested the 17-40 L and the 40 STM on the A7R (first version). They worked but very slow.

The Sigma MC-11 worked perfectly with the Canon EF 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 STM and the Sony A7-II, so it's obvious that the problem with the Commlite CM-EF-NEX is due to some kind of firmware limitation. The MC-11 is much more expensive but it's also much better.

The choice will depend on what lenses you have.

Good Bye Fuji, Welcome Sony

For some months I hesitated to post this, but now I'm comfortable to do this.
I was (and still at some point) a big enthusiast of the Fuji X-Trans cameras and I had many of them, six to be exact (two 2/3" compacts and four APS-C mirrorlesses). They are extremely well built with always excellent optics, no matter if aimed to the amateur or to the professional. Fuji has a long tradition of making one of the finest glass on this planet and they really rule at this point.

I also had a quite reasonable set of lenses and I didn't find a less than excellent one, even the "low grade" XC lineup has very sharp lenses (more on this later).

Fuji also has my deep respect for continuing to update their cameras firmware on a regular basis, with more features and bug corrections.

I'll not discuss the fuji equipment quality because it's nothing to discuss. It's great! Even the compacts with 2/3" sized sensors have very high image quality, mostly because of the extremely good lenses.

To be honest it's hard to beat Fuji's lenses if we're talking about price/performance ratio. 

But some things always bored me, especially the X-Trans raw files post-processing. Don't get me wrong, I more than know how to do and I have years of experience with this. The fact is that the programs that deliver the best results in terms of sharpness and colors are, in one word, slow to death on my computers. I'm talking about Silkypix Pro 8 and 9 and Iridient Developer.  And yes, I know about Luminar and Capture One. Luminar is just OK with X-Trans and C1 does a decent job but by no way on Earth I would pay what they ask for it and their subscription-based model is against my principles. I can live with the Express version but working just in catalog mode is very annoying to me, but it's free.

Raw Therapee is a very powerful option, but I don't like the idea of having several different raw processing programs. It's the perfect recipe to lose the focus on what matters, and oh boy, I know what I'm talking about, I have paid licenses of half a dozen programs plus the free ones.

But the software was not the point on my decision. At least not the main.

The second and really important aspect was about some really cool full-frame, manual and autofocus lenses I have. Being APS-C sized camera, I was not able to harness the full potential of those full-frame lenses with the Fujis, especially for some excellent ultra-wide lenses I have from Minolta (manual MD mount), Zeiss and Pentax.

So my quest for a decent and not outrageously expensive full-frame sensor camera begun. I considered the usual Canon, maybe a 6D Mk2, but some years ago I had a 5D and boy, it's heavy... The fact that MD mount lenses have a too short flange distance to be used with the EOS system made me think about the Sony A7-II.

But why the A7-II and not the A7R-II or even the A7-II S? Simple: the cost. I got an A7-II plus lens, pouch and a 32 GB SD card kit from B&H for a VERY attractive price and the A7-II has everything I need: Lightweight, full-frame, in-body IBIS, decent focus peaking system, AND able to use short-distance registration distance lenses. Bingo!

To be honest, the 24MP sensor of the A7-II is more than enough to my personal type of use, files are smaller and the post-processing is faster. I have absolutely no need for higher resolutions. Even 16MP would be great. I'm not on the professional market, my needs are mainly for travel.

But to pay for it I had to sell most of my Fuji gear but I decided to keep the X-T1 body and three lenses:

XF 27mm pancake: Why? Compact, cheap, light and sharp. It's hard to beat it for the price. I had both the XF23 F2 WR and the XF35 F2 WR and I decided to sell them even those two lenses being better in IQ than the XF27mm. Portability was more important and 27mm is just between 23mm and 35mm focal length.

XC 16-50 "kit" zoom: Why? It's VERY light and although all plastic, it has a very good optical quality. This lens is THE definition of plastic fantastic! I decided to sell my XF 18-55 F2.8-3.5 R and keep the XC 16-50. The IQ from both lenses are almost the same, if not equal, and the extra 2mm on the wide side makes me happier than the slightly wider aperture.

XC 50-230 "kit" long zoom: For the same reasons. This lens is no slouch.

The X-T1 (still today in 2020) along with those three lenses is still a very decent travel kit if you don't want to invest a lot of money.

But the 24-70 FE lens that came with the Sony A7-II kit was a lemon. The borders are, in one word, horrible, period. It's probably the worst kit lens I had in hands, even worse than the Canon EF-S 18-55 !

Now I'm using some very good Canon EF lenses on the A7-II with a Commlite EF-NEX adapter, along with some stunning old glass I have like the MD Rokkor 17mm F4 rectilinear ultra-wide angle.

Even better, I can post-process the Sony raw files happily in almost any program with perfect results with a fraction of the headache.

There are some REALLY awesome old manual focus lenses that certainly worth a try on the A7-II. I'll talk about this later. 


Finally, I was able to buy the Sigma MC-11 EF-Nex adapter. It's working perfectly with my Canon EF lenses. Precise, sharp and fast focus.

Tested with Canon EF 50mm F1.8 STM, EF 40mm F2.8 STM, EF 24-85mm USM and EF 24-105mm STM.

Here is my lens list for the A7-II:

- Sigma MC-11 EF to Sony adapter
- Canon EF 40mm f2.8 STM
- Canon EF 24-105mm STM
- Canon EF 24-85mm USM
- Minolta MD Rokkor 17mm F4 (with MD to Sony adapter)
- Minolta MD Rokkor 135mm F2.8
- Pentax SMC 50mm F4 Macro
- Tamron SP 90mm F2.8 Macro (Adaptall-2)

Rolleiflex SL35

Rolleiflex SL35

This is, in my opinion, the best 35mm camera made by Rollei. Not great, but decent. It's an all-mechanic camera body with a decent and reliable horizontal travel cloth shutter with speeds from 1s to 1/1000s.

The mid-sized, all-metal camera body feels very solid in hands but not too heavy. It's more compact than a Canon FTb or a Nikkormat, but larger than a Pentax MX.

It has no flash hot shoe (or even a shoe). If you plan to use a flash unit on it, you may need a flash bracketing mount or an accessory flash shoe that fits around the eyepiece frame.

This camera uses QBM mount lenses and it's compatible with 1-pin, 2-pin, and 3-pin units. It usually came with a very sharp 55mm f1.4 Rolleinar. According to some sources, it's a Mamiya design.

The viewfinder is large and clear, with a micro prism focusing aid at the center, and a match-needle lightmeter on the right side.

The SL35 has a depth preview and light metering button just near the film advance lever. When you press it, the iris closes to the proper aperture and the light meter is powered. This means that this camera has no automatic aperture reading for the light meter. By the way, it uses a PX625 battery for it. By the way, the light meter is unreliable (like all from Rollei). The shutter speed information is read by measuring the resistance value of a potentiometer linked to the speed knob and prone to problems. The light meter/DOF preview switch activates the light meter and it's also a source of problems.

Please do not confuse the Rolleiflex SL35 with the SL35M. The later model has horrible and unreliable mechanics, especially the film transport gears.

It's a cool camera if you plan to play with QBM lenses. There are some excellent, very sharp lenses for a good price on the second-hand market, like the Distagon 2.8/35, the Planar 1.8/50 and the Tele Tessar 4/135. They form an excellent starter kit.

Look elsewhere if you don't plan to use QBM lenses.