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
Ferret Dreams Rescue and Adoption

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Beware of the "new" Minolta cameras !

Some time ago, a company named JMM Lee Properties LCC bought the rights on the Minolta name and founded a new company named Minolta Digital.

They sell a wide range of low quality cameras under the Minolta brand, but these cameras have absolutely nothing to do with the former and legendary Minolta from before. It's an insult to everyone that knows the

The cameras they sell are cheap, very low-quality chinese cameras that are literally a bad joke, almost like a scam.

Minolta Digital is not Konica-Minolta and neither the old Minolta.

Check by yourself and be advised.


 


Monday, June 17, 2024

Why I hate Apple Photos

 The Apple Photos is a very basic photo management program that comes with Apple devices since 2014, intended intitally to run on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad.

It's simple, fast and indeed good in organizing images captured with a mobile telephone. Today (2024) it has some basic image edition/correction features that maybe can cover 90% of basic users needs on this matter.

The main problem is that Apple pushed it down the throat of Mac users, after the dreaded decision to kill the fantastic Aperture, a full featured, professional level DAM and editor. Aperture was not perfect but it was close to this.

Some things I really HATE on Photos:


1 - Data Loss

It basically forces you to use iCloud and this can be extremely dangerous, and I'm not talking about privacy or security issues, but about unintentional data loss.

The default modus operandi of iCloud is set to send your photos to the iCloud drive AND synchronize them between your Apple devices.

This feature looks cool for the vast majority of users, but this easyness comes with a very dark side under the rug.

You must know that when you delete an image, let's say, from your Mac's Photos, this same image will also be deleted from all devices.

The only way to prevent this is disabling the Photos synchronization to iCloud.

It's wise to keep a backup copy of your Photos library in a safe place just to have a way to revert any data loss.


2 - Bad Keywords and Terrible Search engine

Photos has a very basic keywords tagging. It works but it's far from ideal and it's use is clumsy. The search engine is not remotely close to what Aperture offered, for example, you can't search based on metadata unless you use a primitive and tedious workaround of using smart albums, for example to create one named "Photos taken with Camera XXX"... 


In short, Photos is FAR from a serious DAM and it can be dangerous to your photo archive if you don't take the proper measures.

Aperture (RIP) was centered of efficiency and data security, Photos is more like a tin toy that can cut your finger...






Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Capture One's raising greediness. No more C1 Express.

 To make things clear, I'm a C1 user since a reasonably time and started with the dedicated Fuji version, then tried Express and later upgraded to the "perpetual" Pro Version.

Capture one is a very good software for some operations but not even close to be te best raw converter neither the best DAM. But I like to use it in some situations, like when I need remote camera tethering (this was the main reason why I decided for it).

It works reasonably well with layers and it's a Swiss-Army knife. 

But the last news from mid December 2023 raised a red flag to me and many other people on several forums.

Thom Hogan wrote a brilliant note about this. Please read it following this link.

C1 annouced the end-of-life of the free Express version. Nothing wrong with this, I saw this many times before but never like what they are planning to do. Please read carefully their statements.


Express is coming to an end

We're constantly working to improve our tools for you. And, to give you the best creative and collaborative experience, we need to focus on our main products. This means that starting January 30, 2024, Express will no longer be available.


You won’t be able to download and access Express from our website after January 30. If you already own an Express license key, you’ll no longer be able to activate this.


We’ll end all support for Express after January 30.

 
Your images and edits will still be available until January 30.


If you want to know more, just hit the button below.

Again, read carefully. But there is more.


"You won’t be able to download and access Express from our website after the above-mentioned date. If you already own an Express license key, you’ll no longer be able to activate this. We’ll also end all support for Express. Your RAW files and edits will still be available until the above-mentioned date – after this time you’ll no longer have access."

"You’ll be able to use Express in full until it’s discontinued (see above). This means you can work as normal, and still have access to your RAW files and edits. We recommend that you transfer your files before we close Express completely, which can be done in a number of ways (see below)."


What the f**k ? 

Nothing wrong with a product's end-of-life, but why on earth to kill existing installations and prevent not only to use it but access your work (images, adjustments) ?

This is the most stupid, spiteful, greedy movement I've ever seen from a software maker: To blackmail the product base, students and hobbysts (read people that form opinion about products) to start paying to continue doing what they were doing. Blackmail is what is happening here. 

A decent company would simply not update it anymore and let who installed it continue using.

And to complete the mess, Capure One's CEO said that they are not interested in the non-professional market (translation: fuck the hobbists, amateurs and who don't have money)

I bet the guys at Adobe had a very loud laugh after reading the C1 news.

I'm sure that C1 has the legal back to do this, but again this is extremely stupid to do.


My two cents:

Stick with C1 if you really need to or if you have a real advantage on doing this.

If you want a decent raw converter + editor, I would go for DxO + Affinity or RawPower + Affinity and just forget about C1. They are a better combo, not subscription-based and far less expensive.

Even the Adobe suite subscription is a far better value. 



 

Legacy Lenses 12 - Minolta MD 135 F2, maybe the best 135 ever made.




This lens is a true monster. Large, heavy (725g) and built to last.

It dates from 1981 and it's very rare, maybe one of the rarest Minolta MD lenses. The optical formula is 6e/5g and it takes 72mm filters. It also has a built-in, retractable, metal lens hood.

Its performance is truly flawless, even wide open from corner to corner with incredible resolution at the center. Very low coma and astigmatism at F2.0 and a controllable CA.

I tested it with the Sony A7-II and A7-III. In my opinion, no modern lens  can match it for the same cost.

This is a fantastic lens for astrophotography. Too bad I can't use it with my Pentax KP... But still fantastic with the Sony A7 !

The only thing I want to suggest is to triple check for the 4th and 5th elements that are cemented together as a group. Be sure that this group has no fogging. If the lens has any signs of fog/haze on this particular group, avoid it.


Pros:

- Top notch optics

- Built to last

- Easy to service

- Bokeh master


Cons:

- Heavy

- Rare

- Expensive


Check here for more info.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Olympus 35RC

This is a very nice and compact 35mm film camera.

Just six months following the release of the Olympus 35EC, the Olympus 35RC was unveiled in the autumn of 1970. In contrast to the electronic program shutter featured in the EC, the RC adopted an shutter-priority auto-exposure system with a mechanical shutter that allowed for optional manual operation. This gave photographers complete control over exposure settings for more creative freedom. 

It has two operating modes, shutter priority and full manual.


Olympus 35 RC



I got mine for $35 and it just needed a viewfinder and lens cleaning. The meter and mechanical parts were perfect. I also ordered a custom-made light seal kit from Aki-Asahi. Their light seals are very well made and affordable.

The camera has a top shutter speed selector on the top plate and it's possible to choose from 1/15s to 1/500 plus B. It's a fairly limited range but it's amazing how you can do if combined with a razor-sharp five-element E.Zuiko 42mm F2.8 objective and a good 400 ISO film. 

The lens is EXTREMELY sharp from F5.6 to F8 and still a very good performer at F3.5 with some corner softness at maximum aperture of F2.8.

It's important to note that this compact camera was specifically crafted for handheld photography, and even the most skilled hands couldn't guarantee optimal results at speeds slower than 1/15 sec.

A notable addition was the red band on the left side of the aperture scale, signaling insufficient light for auto-exposure operation. When the indicator needle entered this band, the shutter would automatically lock. This feature proved useful for creative photography. In auto mode, photographers could gently press the release button, check the aperture reading, and then switch to manual aperture setting based on the previous exposure reading, ensuring both creative freedom and necessary information for precise exposure settings.

Focusing is done manually by a nice coincidence image rangefinder. The viewfinder featured an Olympus special bright frame finder, displaying shutter speeds at the top and an aperture scale at the bottom. Both scales included movable indicator needles for easy confirmation of settings.

The shutter priority mode needs a battery to work. The original one is a PX-625 1.35V mercury battery, now banned, but you can use a Zinc-air Wien battery and it works very well. Another option is to adapt a silver oxide battery (1.55 V) and have the light meter recalibrated by a technician, or just compensate the difference selecting a higher ISO. I do not recommend 1.5V alkaline batteries as the voltage drops during its lifetime. The difference from 1.35 to 1.5 V can result in a +2 stops exposure error. 

Finally, I ended with a very nice voltage converter adapter. Worth every cent.

The manual mode is meter blind. You will need an external light meter or an exposure table to properly expose the film. It's possible to use the manual mode without the battery.

Also very interesting is the "Flashmatic" system used on several Olympus cameras from this era. It's a very clever approach. The idea is to set the camera with the flash guide number (luminous power) and the camera will automatically set the aperture based on the film ISO and focusing distance. Works like a charm and it's not fooled by the background. It can sync at any speed.

The CdS light meter sensor is positioned inside the filter thread, allowing automatic compensation for the filter factor.

It's a very precise meter and capable of good exposures even with positive film, but remember it's center-weighted, so you must compensate manually for strong backlight or the classic bride on the snow and black cat in a coal mine situations. The shutter release also acts as an exposure lock when pressed halfway.

And last but not least, the filter size is 43.5 mm, and not very easy to find. Like many other people, I decided to use a 43.5 to 46 mm step-up ring.

There is much more information about the 35RC  on the following websites :

Andrew Yue website
Camera Quest
    
Compared to other Olympus cameras with rangefinder from the same era:

This RC is much better than the classic Olympus Trip 35 and, in my opinion, a better choice than the Olympus 35 DC. The later one has a more luminous lens, but it's totally autoexposure within almost the same exposure parameters with the shutter speed range from 1/15s to 1/500s and a 40/1.7 lens. The manual mode of the RC is a good add-on.

The best one of the series is the RD. Think about an RC with a huge 40mm F1.7 lens and a mechanical shutter capable to go down to 1/2s. This little camera is a killer. It's also smaller than the Canon Canonet QL17 and QL19. But the RD is a rare camera and usually expensive.

Compared to the XA, the RC is much cheaper, has a better viewfinder and rangefinder and less prone to electronic malfunctions. I think the RC lens is sharper than the XA's one.

The 35SP has superior specifications in almost every aspect, but it's a much larger and heavier camera and the light meter sensor is placed outside the lens filter thread and you need to remember to compensate if you're using filters. One drawback of the SP is that it works on full-automatic, metered mode or full-manual unmetered mode. I still prefer the RC or the RD.


Friday, December 15, 2023

Konica Autoreflex TC, T3 and T4


 Konica cameras are always good and a very good compromise between cost and quality and the optics are famous for being outstanding.

As usual, I'll not dig into historical and technical details and keep focused on my user experience with the Konica Autoreflex TC, T3 and T4.

For more information please check:  Matt's Classic Camera and Buhla

Konica is famous for some really outstanding quality lenses and just this may justify to have a Konica SLR. Of course you can also use the lenses on any digital mirrorless camera. 

The simplest Autoreflex, the TC

This is the entry-level model, but still a very decent camera that you can find for just a few dollars on the second hand market, flea markets or garage sales.

The main difference between the TC and the other models is the fact it has no shutter speeds below 1/8s.


Konica Autoreflex TC

It has a basic TTL light meter mechanically linked to the aperture control mechanism. There is a mechanical latch that identify the galvanometer needle position, locks it and therefore controls the aperture. Pretty simple, exactly the way that some rangefinder cameras like the Konica Auto S2 and the Olympus Trip 35 do. It has auto exposure lock, but no exposure compensation adjustments neither the possibility of double exposures.

The shutter is all-mechanic and the battery is needed just for the light meter itself.

But this camera has some very odd quirks. The light meter works only on certain ranges of speed and ISO settings.

From the TC manual:

Exposure Meter Range of Konica TC:

ASA 25 - 200 -1/8 sec. to 1/1000

ASA 250 - 400 - 1/5 sec. to 1/1000

ASA 500 - 800 - 1/30 sec. to 1/1000

ASA 1000 - 1600 - 1/60 to 1/1000

The meter will simply disengage outside the above mentioned ranges. For example, you will have NO METERING if you set ISO 500 and 1/15s.

Besides this weirdness, it's a cool camera. It's lightweight, reliable, with a decent viewfinder.

Like all Konicas, you will need specific Konica mount lenses to use with it.

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to find, light, reliable

Cons: Takes TWO 1.35V PX13 Mercury battery, light-meter eccentricities, some people will complain about the missing slow speeds. 

The T3 and T4

Konica Autoreflex T3

The T3 is a much more sophisticated camera. First, it's an all-metal body, very well made and heavy like a brick. The viewfinder is pretty decent and the focusing screens are user changeable.

The shutter is a mechanic Copal Square, with vertical-travel curtain a has the more familiar 1s-1/1000s + B speeds. The T3 and T4 allow multiple-exposures.

The light meter don't have the limitations like the one from the TC and couples with all iso and shutter combinations.

The T4 is a T3 upgrade without any important additional feature. Both cameras are quite similar besides the T4 weight, much lighter than the T3 and it's also smaller.

Konica Autoreflex T4

Conclusion:

The TC,T3 and T4 are nice cameras with reliable mechanics. The exposure control system is basic but if in working condition will work as expected for center-weighted light measurements. Be sure to check if it's working before buying one.

The PX13 mercury battery is definitely something to worry. One option is to use alkalines and have the meter calibrated by a professional. Second option is to use Zinc-Air batteries and the third is to use two expensive silver-oxyde battery adapters with voltage regulation. It's up to you to decide.

So, why bother about Konica SLRs ? Because Konica made some extremely good lenses and they are affordable. And you can always use them on digital cameras if you want.

Bottom note: The T3 and T4 have a fairy complex internal mechanism and they can be a real pain to service. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Travelling With Film Cameras Today

Updated on December 15th, 2023

I have no illusions that taking photos with film in plain 2023 is not for the faints of hearth and it's more for stubborn people like me.

Although we can still buy fresh film in 2023, it's near impossible to buy new film cameras, even more, good ones. And the cost and variety of films aren't exactly pleasent news.

But there are plenty of camera bargains in the second-hand market, or even on some forgotten drawer, or somewhere else.

The problem that bugs me is how reliable these old cameras are today. If you are like me that has a fixed idea of always try to shoot with film for fun, it's better to triple-check your equipment before going in a trip with untested cameras and come back frustrated because they had a working problem.

First rule:

Always test/check old cameras from time to time. It's a common problem to have sticky shutters with long time unused cameras. Exercise the shutter from time to time, they need a little workout every 6 months minimum. If they are sticky, send it to a technician for CLA. Check also for the light-seals.

I have a friend that travelled to the Atacama desert and the Bolivian Altiplano with a venerable Minolta SRT101 and had issues caused by low temperature and old lubricants. The camera mirror stuck in 50% of the times. Not a catastrophe but indeed very annoying and frustrating.

The cameras I usually carry are:

For Medium Format:

Rolleiflex (Tessar F3.5) or Yashica-Mat

They are extremely reliable, light and with a very good optical quality, but some people may think they're clumsy. This is somewhat true, TLRs can be quirky.

Zeiss Ikonta, Agfa Isolette, Voigtlander Perkeo folders

Very compact and they can deliver very high quality images if properly used. They are a bit awkward to set up (open and prepare) but they are usually very inexpensive.

Mamiya 645 if you're brave and strong

The M645 is a workhorse, extremely reliable and has interchangeable lenses. But it's a heavy camera.

For 35mm SLRs there are plenty of options, but besides some very few exceptions I would tell you to stay away of electronic cameras and stick with the ones with mechanical shutters that works independently of batteries.

My picks are the Olympus OM-1, the Nikkormat FT2, The Pentax MX, Minolta SRT series and the Cosina OEMs like the Ricoh KR5.

They are reliable, not too heavy neither expensive and there are plenty of stunning optics tu use with them. Some will argue why not the Nikon FM2... Well I hate this camera. Its shutter is very unreliable, specially the 1st version with a hexagonal pattern. It WILL jam at some point. It always does.

If we are talking about compacts, my personal picks are the Olympus 35RC, PEN-S and PEN-D because they are compact, inexpensive, have impressive optics and are all-mechanic.

Second rule:

Always have a second camera as a backup. I'm not kidding. Even a small, compact camera can save you from frustration and anger.

Imagine that you spent a good money on film and had your camera dead. 

I would suggest you something like an Olympus 35RC, Trip 35 or whatever you think it will be good. There are plenty of good compacts for just a few bucks. Do not overlook those old brands, like Konica, Yashica, Petri, Agfa, Kodak, Chinon, etc. because some of them are simply outstanding. 

Be careful with electronic cameras. Triple-check them before using.

About films:

If you have access to a fully analog lab to develop prints, please use the best possible film you can find. If your goal is to scan the film, then you may not need the "best film ever", since many image look parameters can be adjusted using a photo editor.

Fresh film is becoming a luxury article and the brands and types now are a fraction of what were in the past.

Depending on where you live, it can be nearly impossible to find a lab to develop E6 process films (diapositives).

And if everything fails you can develop black and white films by yourself. It's simple and inexpensive, but needs patience and practice.






Rolleiflex SL35

Updated on July 4th, 2023

Rolleiflex SL35

This is, in my opinion, the best 35mm camera made by Rollei and launched in 1970. It's an all-mechanic camera body with a decent and reliable horizontal travel cloth shutter with speeds from 1s to 1/1000s.

The small-sized, all-metal camera body feels very solid in the hands but not too heavy. It's more compact than a Canon FTb or a Nikkormat, but larger than a Pentax MX. Feels good in hands and that's what matter.

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, then use a cable.

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, designed by Mamiya or a QFT Rollei 50mm F1.8 Planar.

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

About the mechanics, it's a very well-built and projected piece of hardware. It's simple, efficient and very easy to service with no surprises.

The light metering mode is center weighted by two CDs cells and good for normal light use. Not quite in the league of Fujica's or Olympus' SPD system, but more than adequate in good hands.

There is a very strange design feature, the depth preview and light metering button just near the film advance lever, a very awkward position and easy to be confused with the shutter release button. 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. I use one LR44 alkaline and a brass battery adapter.

The light meter/DOF preview switch activates the light meter circuit. It's very easy to confuse the LM/DOF button with the shutter button.

The first bad impression I had about the "electronics" was exaggerated. The light meter uses that awful 1.35v mercury battery, but you can use  alkalines without any problem because the meter circuit is actually a Wheatstone bridge and independent of the battery voltage. Clever. I like to use the SR44 or any other silver-oxyde ones that fits, but you can aso use standard alkalines like the A76/LR44.

Please do not confuse the Rolleiflex SL35 with the SL35M. The later model has horrible and unreliable mechanics, especially the film transport gears and it's probably the worst camera from Rollei by a large margin. Some people like it but honestly I don't.

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 and will not make a hole in your pocket. Some lenses like the 25mm Distagon (Color-Skoparex) aren't cheap, but never exaggerated in price. I love the 85mm Sonnar.

If you don't want to expend too much money on QBM lenses, there is an amateur range of lenses by Rollei, the Rolleinars. Not good as the Zeiss-derived lenses but good enough for casual use.

There are two other possibilities for third-party lenses: Tamron's Adaptall-2 series lenses and Rollei's own M42 screw mount to QBM adapter, but it's a hard to fin item.

Look elsewhere if you don't have plans to play with QBM mount lenses. =)

Pros:

- Very well built
- Reliable
- Good viewfinder and focusing screen
- Compact, about the size of the Pentax MX

Cons:

- QBM lenses are not very easy to find
- Pristine models can cost a good money

Since my focus is on practical and user experience and not historical or too technical, for more information please see The Rolleiflex SL35 Blog or the excellent Mike Eckman's website.

Since I mentioned the Pentax MX, I think they are very similar but in the end personal preferences may prevail. The Pentax viewfinder is larger and better and the camera has an exposure compensation dial around the rewind crank. The light meter of the MX has 5 leds and the SL35 has a match needle system. But the MX has no depth-of-field preview lever/button. In the end, the MX is a more modern camera and the K-mount lenses are much easier to find than QBMs. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Underated Marvel - The Cosina CT1 Super and OEM versions (Ricoh KR5, XR8, Olympus OM2000, Nikon FM10, etc.)

The Cosina C1 is the precursor of a very large family of cameras that was sold millions of units under a very wide range of brands and models.

I'll be talking specifically about the Cosina CT1 Super , aka Ricoh XR8 (KR5 Super II) because I still have one of these humble but marvelous cameras.

It's an inexpensive, basic, all-mechanical camera with a pretty decent viewfinder (type varies according to the "brand and model") and the original model has a k-mount bayonet (aka Pentax K).

The shutter is a vertical travel Seiko with speeds from 1s to 1/2000s plus Bulb setting for long exposures. The flash sync speed is 1/125s, typical for this kind of shutter.

It also has a very good, basic light-meter with three leds on the viewfinder left side, two red ones for over and over exposure indication and a green one for correct. It uses two widely available LR44 or equivalent batteries, just to power up the light meter.

Why is this camera so good in my opinion ? Simple. It's basic, but extremely reliable and very inexpensive. This Cosina CT1 Super chassis is so good that it was chosen by:

- Ricoh (KR8, KR5 Super II, etc.)
- Porst
- Vivitar (V2000, V3000, etc)
- Nikon (FM10)
- Olympus (OM2000)
- Voigtlander (Bessaflex TM, Bessa-R, Bessa-T, Bessa-L)
- Chinon CM7
- Petri GX1
- MIranda MS1

And many others.

Plastic cover ? Yes. But who cares ? Mine is about 30 years old and alive and kicking. In the meanwhile, my Nikon FM2 went to CLA at least 4 times to fix shutter issues.

Barebones ? Too basic ? The Nikon FM has the same specs and nobody complains. Okay, made of metal... Prove me that this makes it last more. OK, the FM has interchangeable focusing screens and a better viewfinder and that's it. Sorry for being so frank.

Cosina-Voigtlander Bessaflex TM

The CV Bessaflex TM was a beautiful camera and the last made camera with a M42 thread mount. The only differences compared to the CT1 were the exquisite focusing screen and cover. This one is fitted with the fantastic EBC-Fujinon 50mm F1.4.

Cosina Voigtlander Bessa-R

The CV Bessa-R was built over the same basic chassis, but without the mirror and pentaprism assemblies. Instead, a direct view viewfinder with a rangefinder. It was equipped with a Leica M39 thread mount, and a modified light meter.

Ricoh XR-8 (KR5 Super II)


Ricoh XR-8 (KR5 Super II)

The Ricoh XR-8 is the Asian market designation for the KR-5 Super II. It's the same camera. Another incarnation of the so under rated Cosina CT-1 Super. This little camera is a true joy to use.

To conclude, this is a very well designed plastic-fantastic, inexpensive, all-mechanical camera that does everything right and it deserves a place in the Hall of Fame of the 35mm film cameras of all time.

Think it's something like the VW Beetle or the Citroën 2CV of the cameras !







Monday, March 13, 2023

Voigtländer VSL3-E (or Rolleiflex SL35E)

This is one of my all-time favorites. It's the first serious attempt for Rollei/Voigtlander to make a professional grade SLR.

The Voigtländer version is, in my opinion, more elegant than the Rollei, but this is a matter of taste.

The camera is beautifully made and has some very nice features. Starting with the electronically controlled horizontal travel cloth shutter that can work in manual or in aperture-priority modes.

The viewfinder is very clear and bright. Not gigantic, but very confortable to use and has a diagonal split-image and a microprism collar for proper focusing. On. the left side there is a vertical shutter speed scale with the associated leds.

The Voigtlander VSL3-E


They were made in Singapore from 1977 to 1981 and 51.500 units were built.

The first batches had unreliable electronics, but the units with the updated circuit are probably still working today. My VLS3-E is from the latest batches and works very well.

Like all the VSL series (and Rolleiflex 35 series) it uses the QBM mount, to be exact QBM III (with aperture coupler from the lens to the mount).

Like all cameras with electronically controlled shutter, the VSL3-E will not work without batteries. It uses an easy to find 4LR44 6V alkaline or the PX28, both are easy to find.

There is an interesting feature in this camera, the shutter speed dial is stepless from 16s to 1/1000s

Voigtlander VSL3-E top view

This camera is a very competent shooter and a delight to use.

I would suggest you to buy a Rollei HFT Planar 50mm F1.4 for it because it's widely available and less expensive than the Voigtlander Ultron. 

More information on Woflgang Bongsdt's website (in German) and on Rolleiflex SL35 Blog.


 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Why still use a 4.7 MP Foveon camera in 2020 ?

Updated on March, 12th 2023

This is an update of the original 2018 post. Test images at 4.7 MP available for download at the end of this post.

"Low Resolution" Sigma Foveon Cameras

From time to time someone asks me why sometimes I still use a 4.7 MP camera today. People usually believe that the more resolution, the better the images are and this is not so simple.

Depending on the use we don't need a high-resolution image. What you need is a proper pixel density to have a good viewing experience. What's this?

For example, if you like to make printed photos, let's say, in postcard size (6x4 inches or 10x15 cm) you don't need a many megapixels image to have a perfect looking print.

This is because the average human eye is virtually unable to see any difference in a printed (or projected) image at more than 300 dpi at a distance of 20 cm. This means that if you print the same image at the same size in 300 and 1000 dpi you simply won't be able to note any difference between them.

Let's do some simple calculations:

For a postcard size print, printed at 300 dpi we need (6 x 300) x (4 x 300) pixels = 1800 x 1200 pixels = 2160000 pixels = less than 2.2 megapixels.

For a larger A4 size (roughly 8.3 x 11.7 inches) we need 8.5 megapixels (8 will do fine)

Larger resolutions are good if you need to crop the image or if you're a pixel peeper and want to have some fun looking it at 1:1 size. For larger prints at 300 dpi, obviously, you will need a higher resolution.

For poster size prints, you usually look at it from a distance and the print resolution can be lowered due to the human vision nature. You can use an online calculator to check what print resolution you need, based on the print size and viewing distance.

Another interesting use for old, low-resolution still cameras, is to make time-lapse images for making videos or to take multiple shots for stitched panorama images.

To display a photo fullscreen on a DCI-4K UHD TV (4096x2160 pixels) we need 8 megapixels to fill all the screen pixels but depending on the viewing distance 4 or 5 megapixels would do fine, since you may not want to stare at the screen from 30cm...

In other words, you may not need the resolution you think.

Those old Sigma cameras, from the pre-Merrill age like the SD14/15 and DP1/2 are more than enough if you don't need really large prints. Images from them can be easily interpolated by a 1.5 factor without any visible quality loss.

An interesting point of the Foveon images is the absence of color alias. It's possible to upscale the 4.7 MP image without any perceivable quality loss to 150% (linear) and with acceptable quality at 200%. The Sigma Photo Pro raw converter is very good for upsizing.


The output resolution of those 4.7 MP cameras (DP1/2 and SD14/15) is 2652 x 1768 pixels.

Upsizing it to 150% leads to a 3978 x 2652 = 10.5 MP, more than enough for an A4 or Letter size print.

Just take a look at this image:



Sigma DP2 sample, from Sigma website
(C) Gris
and this other one:


Sigma DP2 sample, from Sigma website
(C) Gris

Go on... Use SPP to upsize them to 150% and print with a good paper, ink and printer and see by yourself.

Considering the fact that any of those Sigma cameras with 4.7 MP (x3) are very cheap now, it may worth a try.

The last example was done using a Jurassic Sigma SD10, the second dSLR from Sigma and it's just 3.3 MP.


Sigma SD10 image example

The image was first converted from X3F to TIFF using Sigma's own program SPP version 6 and then processed again on Affinity Photo for some color correction and tone curve adjustment. Honestly, it's a very high-quality image, but small. Still impressive today and easily up sizable to 4K to be displayed on a UHD TV or monitor.


Flower (Sigma SD15)

Now some upscaling tests:

100% size SD15 Sigma Photo Pro
Click to Enlarge

200% upscaled, Sigma SD15
Click to Enlarge



You can download some images for tests.








Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Legacy Lenses 16 - Voigtlander Color-Skoparex 25mm F2.8

 Another interesting lens from Voigtlander. This is actually a Zeiss 25mm F2.8 Distagon rebranded for Voigtlander. It was also sold as Rollei-HFT Distagon 25mm F2.8.







It's a very well-made lens, with a pretty decent coating but better to avoid strong frontal light, useful for film and works well on digital, just have in mind that it needs to be stopped down to at least F5.6 to have decent corners. The center is sharp from 2.8 and very sharp at 5.6 and 8.0

Optical formula: 8e/7g
Weight: 310g
Angle of view: about 82 degrees
Filter size: 49mm


Legacy Lenses 15 - Voigtlander Color-Skoparex 21mm F4

 

This is an interesting lens. It was made by Mamiya and also sold in M42 mount.

It's a rectilinear ultra-wideangle lens, not a fish-eye. Not the best in class but it's at least affordable. I costed a fraction of the mainstream Miltoltas, Canons and Nikons.

Voigtlander Color-Skoparex 21mm F4

 

Voigtlander Color-Skoparex 21mm F4

It has a very beautiful coating but it's not enough to prevent flaring. Always use a light hood and avoid pointing to strong light sources.

The image quality is adequate for film and usable on digital. Remember that this is very subjective. For my taste, it performs acceptably at F8 on my Sony A7-III. At F4, the corners are soft.

If we are talking about UWA lenses for full-frame sensor cameras, this one is a bargain, but not the easiest lens to find.

This lens is identical to the Rolleinar MC 21mm F4

Technical data:

Angle of view: 91,7 degrees
Optical formula: 9e/8g
Filters: 58mm
Weight: 250g



Icarex 35 and 35CS

 Update March 7th 2023

Icarex 35CS

This is a quite neat camera from the mid-'60s made by Zeiss Ikon, but the project was originally from Voigländer. Some people say that this camera is not so reliable, but mine is working perfectly except for the light meter (built-in on the CS prism).

It's a bulky and heavy all-mechanical camera with a very good viewfinder. Not exceptionally large, but very, very clear and it has a 45 degree split image focusing aid and a plain matte area.

The body finish is supperb !

The shutter speeds are from 1/2s to 1/1000s and it's very smooth and reliable compared to the Contarex and Contax rangefinder cameras from Zeiss, much more simple and less prone to jams. 

The Icarex was sold with finder options: A plain waist-level (like the ones found on TLRs), a simple prism and the dreaded CS prism-meter

The last one has a so-so CdS light meter very prone to problems. The exposure setting is very awkward. First you need to set the speed on the top dial of the prism assembly and set the same speed on the shutter speed selector. Then you need to step down the lens by pressing the DoF/iris button near the lens mount and adjust the aperture until the light meter needle stays at the center. Not very practical. To make things even stranger the meter needle is at the TOP of the viewfinder area, along with the aperture number. At its top, we can see an exposure guide calculator. It uses a dreaded PX13 (625) mercury battery. Do yourself a favor, forget about it and use a handheld meter.

I prefer it with the simple prism (no meter).


Icarex 35

Note that the Icarex 35 and the 35CS are the same camera. The difference is the detachable prism model.

Icarex 35 with the standard prism

At this time I have four lenses:

- Skoparex 35mm F3.4 (6-elements, 5-groups)
- Tessar 50mm F2.8 (4-elements, 3-groups)
- Dynarex 90mm F3.4 (5-elements, 3-groups)
- Super-Dynarex 135mm F4 (4-elements, 3-groups)


I have an ad at Mercadolivre.com for this lens

I have an ad at Mercadolivre.com for this lens




All are single-coated and designed by Voigtländer (besides the Tessar). They take a very odd filter, Icarex B50 (different from Hasselblad's B50 !). They are quite sharp when stopped down, but flares like crazy. A light hood is a must.

To be honest the greatest complication for this camera in the present time are the lenses. They are not that rare but they are odd. The lens mount remembers a cross between a Canon FD (lock) and an M42 screw mount (pin) ! 

There is an M42 Icarex 35 TM that have a normal 42mm screw mount.

The lenses are more than adequate for film photography but they are tricky for digital cameras due to the poor coating on the rear faces of the lens elements, remember that the camera sensor is a highly polished device and reflects quite a lot of light. This can cause strange reflexions between the lens elements resulting at least in strange effects if you point the lens to strong light sources. Better avoid and use with more favorable light conditions. 

All the four above-mentioned lenses have this problem.



Icarex camera lens mount

Icarex lens mount

The good:

- Not expensive
- Well-made
- Small but excellent viewfinder
- Reliable mechanics
- Good, but few lenses available

The bad:

- Light-meter wiring on the camera body not very reliable
- Light-meter prism-finder very clumsy
- Limited set of lenses for the Icarex mount, but plenty of them for the M42 version.
- Very stupid filter bayonet mount, with a misleading designation.
- Hard to find lens caps and filters