Jun 27 2016

Pentax ME-F

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Firstly yes this is expired film once again and it shows but that’s not what this post is about I wanted to try out the Pentax ME-F a camera that has a special place in camera history because of what the F stands for, Focus.  Inside the ME-F is a ‘focus assist’ module that provides a viewfinder confirmation when focus is achieved as well as an optional audible beep.  The single central focus point actually works just fine but it could only truly autofocus when used with the motor driven battery carrying Pentax AF35-70 lens one which I do not have.

The Pentax ME-F was the first SLR to provide autofocus although it was very limited due mainly to there only being the one autofocus lens for it.  However with manual focus lenses it provides focus confirmation with  arrow indicators to assist with which way to turn the lens to get to that point of focus.
FocusIndicator

By todays standards its terribly lacking but as a first foray into autofocus it set a milestone but the market was not willing to pay for it at that price as seen by this advertisement only two years later.

MEf_sale
“At $500 it was overpriced – at $179.95 its incredible!”

It worked I can give it that but it seems to be a battery hog. It requires four S76 or equivalent batteries and I only made it through one roll of film with mine.
When you turn the metering on you need to set it to one of two settings depending on the ‘speed’ of the lens your using. For lenses of f2.8 or faster you use one setting and for slower lenses there is another. It’s hard to imagine a limitation like that on a camera today but that was just how it was.

This camera is interesting of course because of it’s early autofocus system but the plain ME or a Super Program are much better choices today primarily because of the battery requirements.


Jun 24 2016

Polaroid Spectra P-11

Jan2016_Polaroid_SpectraThis leaves me with 10 frames of Polaroid Spectra remaining although the quality has started to deteriorate.  This one is of an abandoned house  out in a rural area behind Mission BC.  Driving around I started to noticed that there were a lot of ‘Bavarian’ looking older houses tucked away here.  I’m not sure what the connection is other than houses on a mountain side.

 

 


Jun 17 2016

Fuji DL mini Zoom

FujiDLMIniZoom-2681Just some more nonsense with expired film and the Fuji DL mini zoom a questionable combination.  The main problem with expired film is its loss of sensitivity and when you put it into a camera with DX coding there is no effective way to compensate for the changes to the film.  When possible I tend to expose expired film 1 to 2 stops more but in this case it wasn’t possible and this is the result.  Underexposed grainy film with little detail recorded in the shadows.  Results not indicative of what this camera can do.  A better result can be seen here Fuji DL Super Mini Zoom


Jun 10 2016

Panasonic ZS100 user experience

PanasonicTS100-3730

I had a 24 hour opportunity to try the new Panasonic ZS100 (also known as the TZ100 ). The time was brief but enough to form some opinions.  The camera also had pre-release firmware but I didn’t encounter any issues that could be attributed to that.

The Lens

What makes the zs100 unique at this moment is its combination of its 10 X zoom lens and 1 inch sensor in a small pocketable package. The lens sensor combination provides fields of view equivalent to 25-250mm on 35mm film. That’s an amazing range for the compact size and required a design incorporating 5 aspheric elements among it’s total of 12 in 10 groups.
PanasonicTS100-3736

PanasonicTS100-3737
The focal length of the lens is actually 9.1mm to 91mm and to cover this extensive range there needs to be some compromise and it comes in the form of its maximum aperture or light gathering ability. Starting at the wide end we have an aperture of f2.8 which quickly drops as we zoom in, at the 50mm equivalent we have lost about one stop (f4.1)and by 135mm equivalent we have lost yet another (f5.7) it then tops out at f5.9 from 157-250mm equivalent focal lengths. This light gathering/zoom range trade off again is what sets the zs100 apart. For instance the Sony RX100 IV which this camera will invariably be compared to has a sensor lens combination that provides a 24-70mm equivalent f1.8-2.8 which is about 1 1/4 stops faster than the zs100 throughout that range. That leaves the zs100 all by itself from 70-250mm so saying that f5.9 is slow is a mute point the competition doesn’t come near to touching it. You are not going to be able to achieve extremely thin depth of field with this camera to produce images dominated by selective focus but it is possible to blur the background nicely under certain situations.  The lens of the zs100 is slightly soft and it suffers from chromatic distortion particularly in the corners, which can be handled by the cameras jpeg engine or better yet in software as seen bellow in this 200% crop.
Fringe
It is necessary when considering these caveats that it is the first digital camera to offer this type of range and sensor in such a small form.

Ergonomics and menus
I like the design of the zs100 it seems reminiscent of a small fixed lens rangefinder although not as much as the Fuji X30PanasonicTS100-3741
The buttons are well placed around the back for easy thumb access. PanasonicTS100-3732
Though not an uncommon feature I really like the horizontally placed rear dial on the top plate, this is so superior in use to vertically arranged dials on the rear of the camera it deserves special mention.
.Control_Dials
There is a small ridge along the front of the camera that provides a little extra grip while holding the camera with one hand but it could have been a little more aggressive or have used a less slippery material but if we are comparing it to the Sony RX100IV again it is superior but the Fuji X30 is better yet.
Three of the function buttons are within easy thumb reach and can be configured among a multitude of choices. By default fn1,fn2 provide access to the unique 4k photo modes and I configured fn3 for ISO operation. This set up had the front dial around the lens effecting aperture the rear dial shutter speed and fn3 ISO in combination with the rear dial.  And with exposure compensation one button press away at the four way controller, this is a very photographer centric arrangement. Despite my short time with the camera it made it possible to take pictures un encumbered by the need to delve into the menus. That’s a good thing because from the outside looking in I found the menus to be somewhat disjointed and poorly grouped. Sometimes items that seemed important to me were buried pages deep. An example would be that under the REC menus total of 8 pages ISO is found on page 2 with additional related settings on page 6. So the menus aside once the camera is set up as you like it it provides a great photography experience.

Screen and Viewfinder

PanasonicTS100-9232

The rear screen is a fixed touch screen. With the touch activated you can use it to help point the camera towards the place you want to  focus on which is a fantastic feature. You can go further down the cell phone like interface and activate the shutter through touch but I didn’t like that or zooming using the rear screen, neither felt right ergonomically. There are other things you can do with the touch screen such as pull focus and pan and zoom but I didn’t have time to try them. You can also have a little touch sub menu along the right side of the screen but I managed to make inadvertent changes including launching the wifi several times so ended up turning it off.Viewfinder-9238
The viewfinder surprised me, on paper it sounds extremely small, it’s described as being 0.2inch which is really meaningless because what matters is what it looks like after passing through any optics before reaching your eye and in that way it provides 100% view at 0.46x magnification certainly good enough for intermittent use and when it’s extremely bright out which renders the screen effectively into a mirror. If you haven’t experienced this while using a fixed rear screen to compose an image then you either are sun deprived or love giant floppy hats. And if the viewfinder doesn’t cut it for you there is also the remote app which can be run from a smart phone or tablet.  The app worked very well with my Android LG G4 phone providing easy pairing and plenty of control.

Screenshot_2016-04-10-16-30-46

ISO Performance and Sensor

Sensor performance has been steadily improving over the years within any given sensor size but an increase in the sensor area also will have an impact on the ultimate low light performance of a camera. With that in mind the zS100 has brought what are referred to as 1″ sensors to this category of ‘travel zoom’ cameras. Most point and shoots with extensive zooms including other Panasonics have relied on using small sensors typically 1/2.3″ size with an area of about 28mm square but this sensor ups that by just over 4 times. That’s not the whole story of course as there is the number of pixels and the underlying technology to factor in but an increase in size like this generally results in an increase in ISO performance though not necessarily by the factor of 4. Keeping things in perspective the sensor is still relatively small when compared to a frame of 35mm film or even an APSc sensor. That preamble out of the way how does the ZS100 perform at various ISO’s?

I found that there was a noticeable amount of digital noise at even 200 ISO.  Now this is while looking at a 100% and it itself isn’t that objectionable however the jpeg engine seems to be a little over aggressive in removing it, to my taste giving a slight watercolour effect.

ZS100_200ISOjpeg

The trend continues to progress with increasing noise, as seen from this 400 ISO 100% crop.
ZS100_400ISOdetail
It should be kept in mind though that the image has a resolution of 5472×3648 so there is ample opportunity to reduce any noise or downsample prior to printing. I think by shooting in RAW and with a minor amount of noise reduction you could still print at 11×14 without much evidence of the use of the higher ISO up to around ISO 800

By the time you are at 1600 ISO though there is quite a bit of noise and if you are recording jpegs the cameras efforts to mitigate it are not pretty.
ZS100_1600ISOdetail
While I haven’t printed these files it would be reasonable to say that a further reduction in print size is required at 1600 ISO and that shooting RAW and processing with software would be a better option.

ZS100_1600ISONoise

Video

If the ZS100 with its 10X zoom is a jack of all trades the one thing that it is a master of is video. I shot both in HD and in 4K and reviewed them on a 55inch Samsung 4K T.V. and the quality was fantastic.  The video was clear and well stabilized even at full zoom.  One thing that is a bit of a negative is that for 4K video the entire sensor is not read out which means that only a central portion of it is used for 4K recording. The offshoot of this is that it results in a field of view equivalent to about 37mm at the wide end rather than 25mm.  You can capture still images while recording under most video settings but the images are small 2Mpixel images even if your recording 4K.

P1030021

Still image captured during video recoding

Final thoughts

This short look isn’t enough time to explore all the features of the ZS100 for instance I found the 4K still image recording to work well for capturing action using the 30 frames per second and the post focus worked well for hand held macro.  In the camera you can extract a specific frame and save it separately or you can save the entire sequence as a movie.  There are an abundance of other creative control features like: double exposure, panorama shot, 5cm macro distance, time lapse, and stop motion. If there were one knock I would have to say that in the effort to provide the 10 times optical zoom to cover the 1″ sensor they had to compromise and it seems to be in the form of ultimate sharpness and chromatic aberrations when used at the widest apertures. Stopping the lens down helps but in lower light forces the use of higher ISO settings to achieve shutter speeds for hand holding and there is a noticeable increase in noise as you do it. The Panasonic ZS100 balances all these variables well to create a fantastic all around camera that excels particularly with video centric features.


Jun 2 2016

Chinon 35F-MA

Chinon35F-MA-2682

While the Chinon 35F-MA may not be the only camera to use an infrared beam for focusing it is likely the most prominent of implementations.   On either side of the viewfinder sit a giant IR transmitter or receiver.  When the shutter is half pressed the camera sends out a narrow beam of infrared light that bounces off anything in its immediate path to be recorded by the receiver.  Using the delay of the pulse the camera determines which way the lens  focus needs to move to match.  Once the pulses and the focus setting match the IR no longer transmits.  In the bottom of the viewfinder is a needle that points to icons that represent the rough distance that the autofocus system has determined.  If no pulse returns to the receiver it will set the focus to infinity so if you point the camera at something that causes the beam to not return such as glass or a black hole it will default to infinity. Fortunately you can see that this is happening with the needle indicator and perhaps use the method of focusing on an object a similar distance away with a half press of the shutter and then recompose.  The focusing has a particular sound like an assembly line robot but is quite fast and accurate and because it is active it works in complete darkness which would make this camera fun to use with flash in the dark…SURPRISE!   Once again I feel like a broken record but I have used expired Kodak Max 400 its not as if I’m going to throw film away.

I love that the camera uses two ubiquitous AA batteries. Interestingly the camera also has a 3V power input port although I haven’t seen the need to try and find a way to use it, I think the idea was that you could use an external power pack for faster flash recycling or to shove it somewhere warm in cold weather.


May 27 2016

Pentax Auto 110

PentaxAuto110-2643

The Pentax Auto 110 is very cute but it’s also a functioning camera.  Given its equally cute film size it does a surprisingly good job, but that’s not what it’s all about it’s just fun.  What kind of camera is it specifically?  It is an SLR with interchangeable lenses that uses 110 size film.  That makes it entirely unique in the camera world (The Minolta 110 Zoom SLR has a fixed lens).  With the smaller film if you talk about the lens focal length its easiest to equate it to the more familiar 35mm film focal lengths.  It’s a straight forward 2x multiplier so the 24mm is equivalent to 48mm and the 50mm is like a 100mm.  Because it is an SLR the image you see in the viewfinder is through the lens and there is no issue with parallax.  You manually focus as well through the viewfinder using a split image focus screen an experience much like any other SLR it’s just so much smaller.  The aperture resides in the body and the lenses have no mechanical linkage so  it was necessary for all the lenses to have the same maximum aperture of f2.8.  Little touches like this are what made it possible for the engineers to miniaturize an SLR’s functions.  Exposure is completely automatic but given the varied situations I shot this roll of film in it works pretty well.  Did I mention its fun to use?

Here is a representation of the program line or aperture and shutter speed the camera will select in combination.
ExposureChartAs of 2016 it would seem the most viable option for 110 film is Lomography Tiger color negative film.


May 20 2016

Pentax 24EW and the burned forest

Pentax24EW-2663

Sometimes what you need is a little extra width and when it comes to film point and shoot cameras there is nothing like the Pentax 24EW.  The Ricoh Gr21 has a wider focal length but does not zoom the Ricoh R1 goes to 24mm but only in its panoramic mode (It can be forcibly made to cover the full frame but at a visible cost in image quality).  There is the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim but it falls more into the toy camera category. So when it comes time to shoot wide angle with a little versatility this is the camera. Some of the features I’ve gone over previously but are worth mentioning again are: exposure compensation of +-3EV in half stops, spot AF, Macro shooting at 0.3m in wide and 0.5m at telephoto.
The 24-105mm lens is built using 7 elements in 5 groups with apertures of f4.9-12.8 and for that reason it really needs quite a bit of light or fast film to be its most useful.

PentaxEspio24W_Kodak400_2015_009

It’s easily seen even in these small versions of the images that there is a lot of distortion in the corners with the 24EW but at least you are able to record them.  In the center of the image it performs as well as most film point and shoot zoom cameras good but never great. I used Kodak 400 film a speed of film that I would recommend as there is no real advantage to using slower film for finer grain this lens just isn’t up to it.


May 12 2016

Pentax Q 06 Telephoto

_K3_4134
Its difficult to talk about a lens for the Q series of cameras without also talking about the cameras.  Even though the lenses are interchangeable, more than any other camera system the two are intrinsically linked.  What I mean is that you really can’t talk about one without the other.  So while the 06 telephoto is equivalent to a 70-210mm lens on a 35mm format camera it really isn’t the same thing.
_K3_4141
The sensor on the Q7 is tiny and that has drawbacks and advantages.  The drawbacks are around noise and a very large depth of field.  Using the 06 addresses those issues somewhat by being relatively fast at f2.8 across its entire zoom range and also with the longer focal lengths it is possible to isolate a subject against the background. The small sensor also allows for the lens to be built incredibly small, in fact it only weighs 90g

IMGP1728 45mm f2.8

The lens renders the out of focus areas in a nice smooth way leaving the point of interest to stand out effectively.   The ability to focus closely is limited though at 100 cm throughout the zoom range which places limits on how large you can reproduce an item, it is no macro lens.  Also on the detrimental side of things the small sensor of the Q is prone to purple fringing and moire, the former can be mitigated in editing but high contrast areas can be challenging and can require a little editing or profiling.  Also there is a tiny amount of chromatic aberration that also requires addressing to achieve the best results. This despite the fact that the lens is built with 14 elements in 10 groups. IMGP1406 45mm f3.2

Of course you don’t always want a shallow depth of field and for that the Q and its lenses excel.  Also stopping down can improve the image quite a bit particularly for distant details.

details

So once you consider the limitations and  if you work within the abilities of the combination you can get pretty good results and when you also consider just how small it all is the 06 zoom is a great little lens worth having for anyone with a Pentax Q series camera.

Pentax-1973
29.7mm f4

The Pentax Q 06 Telephoto does provide excellent sharpness across the entire frame as seen above, you can click trough to a full resolution version of this file.

One final note this lens as well as the 01 prime and 02 zoom all have a 40.5mm filter size so can share filters and also lens caps. You can just grab any one from your bag as your changing lenses.


May 5 2016

Yashica 44 with 35mm film

_K3_2637

There is something very satisfying about seeing a scene projected onto the ground glass of a twin lens reflex camera and the great thing about the Yashica 44 is its so small it easy to pack around. I’ve written previously on how to convert one to use 35mm film Yashica 44 35mm conversion. One tip though use film that lays flat on its own like this Agfa Vista I used this time around, do not use expired Kodak consumer film, Ektar would be fine but anything with a tendency to curl will drive you to distraction when it comes time to scan it. There is also a satisfaction derived from shooting through the sprocket holes and over the films edges with its unique look.


Apr 28 2016

Canon A-1 with Ferrania Solaris

CanonA1-2633

This post is more about the film than the camera (Other Posts about the A-1 can be seen here).  I came into possession of two rolls of Ferrania Solaris via a thrift store.  I don’t know the age of it but it has to be outdated simply for the fact that Ferrania isn’t currently making film and haven’t for a while.  They are at this time making an effort to restart production in a new smaller plant  Film Ferrania.  I didn’t hold out that much hope for this film with its unknown provenance but unlike so many of my odd film experiences this exceeded my expectations it has a graininess to it similar to but more subtle than Adox color implosion while keeping the colours more realistic.
Grain
It ended up being quite contrasty but still retained details in the darks unlike many other outdated films I’ve encountered. I shot this roll on a drab dark day so maybe I will wait for a nice bright spring day to shoot the second roll. I wish Ferrania much success with getting their plant up and running whether they ever produce Solaris again or not.