50mm


Mid-April is the time for flowering dogwoods and vast expanses of wild mustard growing in the fields all over Carroll County… later in the year, these fields will be planted with Soya beans or Corn, but for now, they are just a golden mass of flowers, gently swaying in the slightest breeze. The dogwoods are something to look forward to, as they appear just as the Cherry Blossoms and Magnolias are fading, and they are much more durable blossoms. April is also the time of heavy rainfall here in Maryland, and delicate blossoms like the cherry don’t hold up well. Here are some of the pictures I took in Gaithersburg, and along Rte 27 north of Mount Airy, on the road to Westminster, MD. Mostly flowering dogwoods and fields of mustard blossoms – and a few redbuds.


Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Redbud
Redbud
Redbud
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Pin Oak flower
Birch flower

Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Redbud
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Thistle
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard
Dogwood and Mustard

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Zoom lens. I used a Polarizer. Close-up of Pink dogwood photographed with a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 lens with Tiffen 812 warming filter



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

These were taken on Bachman’s Valley Road – the old Meyer Farmhouse. The owners are in the process of restoring the buildings as much as possible, but it’s going to take a long time. The Farm is over a 100 years old, and all the barns and outbuildings are in fairly good condition, but the exterior could use some preservative and paint. I took these pictures on the way back from Union Mills. The light was tricky, overcast, but with patches of sun shining through.


Meyer’s Farm

Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7



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olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

A few days ago, I had my Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 lens mounted on the Alpha for some family pictures. (The lens is a 75mm equivalent on the A700, and thus serves as a very fast medium telephoto lens ideal for framing ‘head and shoulders’ shots, especially effective indoors for Available Light photography. I’ll be posting some of the “candid” portraits in another post soon). Anyway, I was out in Carroll County, and driving up on Rte 97 north when I came upon the Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill.

I’ve documented my use of the Minolta 50mm f1/7 as a landscape lens on my 35mm AF Minolta Dynax 800si elsewhere on this blog since I’ve had great fun with the Minolta 50mm lens in Colorado and other locations. Now that the Minolta is an effective 75mm, its still great for landscape and building photography, especially for capturing architectural detail – it’s a challenge if there isn’t much room, though.

I would recommend a 28mm or 35mm lens on the Sony Alpha for close-up architectural work. For old farmhouses and general scenery where you can step back far enough, the 50mm (75mm) is a fine choice, especially in low light conditions.

These photographs were taken at Union Mills Homestead, just off MD Rte 97 in Carroll County. Union Mills dates back to the 1790’s and has many stories to tell… being on the way to Gettysburg, it saw its share of Union and Confederate activity. You can read all about Union Mills Homestead here. I got to the site late in the afternoon – it was clearing up after a storm, and the post rain sunlight coming through the clearing clouds was bright and clean. Everything had a just-washed clean look.


Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Across the Road from Union Mills
Across the Road from Union Mills
Union Mills Homestead

Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead

Photographed with the Sony Alpha 700 and Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 lens, ISO 200, Skylight filter under a sunny/cloudy/post-rain situation



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

I finally got around to visiting the GW Masonic temple in Alexandria – it’s a shame that I haven’t been able to get over there, since I work close by – but DC traffic is hard to deal with on any given day. I visited on Martin Luther King Day – since it’s a Holiday, there was very light traffic. However, it was COLD!

It was about 28 F at about 4 pm on Jan 21 – the wind chill must have been much lower, but I was inspired by the previous night’s game between the Giants and the Packers playing in -3F, -24 wind chill. If they can play in such severe weather, I should be able to get out and take a few photographs, right? After all, it would only take about 15 minutes. Brrrr.

This monument has been getting a lot of interest from the tourist crowd since it featured prominently in Nicholas’ Cages thriller “National Treasure” – since then, people have been adding it their itinerary when visiting DC, even though it’s a few miles away. On the bright side, they get to visit old town Alexandria and the cool shops on King Street.

I was using the Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 lens on the Sony A700 with the Bower Minolta AF-OM adapter – The lens is an apparent 52mm-105mm lens on the Sony Alpha, and it’s great for general photography and portraits. It’s also a good lens for Architecture as well – but only if you are able to stand back a reasonable distance.

For street architectural photography, I’d still recommend a 35mm lens ( in the case of the A700, it would have to be a 24mm lens to get the apparent 36mm equivalent). In this case, I lucked out since the temple has a lot of open space around it, even beyond the parking lot. It’s easy enough to get far enough back to get a decent full length shot.

At 4pm however, the front of the Masonic Temple is in shade. The rear and side were nicely illuminated. It’s advisable to go there in the morning hours to get a well illuminated front elevation shot.

GW Masonic Temple, Alexandria, VA

GW Masonic Temple, VA
GW Masonic Temple, VA
GW Masonic Temple, VA
GW Masonic Temple, VA
GW Masonic Temple, VA
GW Masonic Temple, VA
GW Masonic Temple, VA
GW Masonic Temple, VA

GW Masonic Temple, Alexandria, VA
GW Masonic Temple, Alexandria, VA

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 DSLR and Zuiko 35-70mm f/4 lens with a Bower Minolta AF-OM lens Adapter. ISO 200, 1/125 at f/5.6



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

A few weeks ago, I found this vintage Hansa 50mm f3.5 on eBay at a very reasonable price. It was new in the box, and the seller told me that it was an enlarger lens and that I’d have to find some kind of step-up adapter to get it to fit on M42 Pentax thread mount. That was puzzling, but a little bit of research told me that it was probably a M39 mount enlarging lens. This means I would have to find a ring that would step it up to the M42. (The M42 is a 42×1 pitch thread while a T-mount has a 42×0.75 pitch fine thread.)

After a little searching, I found this little aluminum adapter ring from a seller in the Ukraine, so I took a chance. Once I got it, I fitted it on the Hansa lens, and voila, it was just right size to mount on a M42 mount. I figured that it should also fit on a regular T-mount lens, since the pitch is so close. It works, but it wont thread in all the way because of the pitch difference, so don’t force it. As long as it grips a thread or two, it’ll be fine. Besides, the Hansa is so small and light, it does not matter.

Hansa 50mm f/3.5 lens
M39-M42 Adapter Ring

A note regarding macrophotography on the cheap – as an amateur, I cannot spend large amounts of money on specialized equipment, so I am always on the lookout for “cheap awesome lenses” and other accessories. One such example is Spiratone macro equipment. Spiratone sold 2 types of bellows – the single rail rack and pinion bellowscope with T-mount fittings and the double rail Macrobel with camera mount specific fittings.

Spiratone also marketed a tiny 35mm Macrotar lens, a 75mm Flat Field Macro lens (for copying, possibly) and a 150mm Macrotel lens, all with a T-mount, and designed to be used with their bellows and copy systems. They appear with some regularity on eBay, and if one is really interested in real close up macrophotography, it’s possible to put together a macro kit cheaply. It’s possible, with a little bit of luck. I can attest to this.

Patience is key here, and one has to be willing to wait for the right price. My goal was to acquire a full set of bellows macro equipment – bellows, bellows lenses and adapters for less than $200. I was never able to ascertain if Spiratone also sold a 50mm bellows macro, so when I found the Hansa 50mm f/3.5, I was very happy. Check out the Macro section for pictures of the equipment.

I mounted the Hansa to a Spiratone Bellowscope and with a Minolta AF -T mount adapter on the other end, I mounted the Sony Alpha 700. The Bellowscope gives an extension of about 160mm and is pretty light.


Here’s what the Macro set-up looked like –

bellows setup for Macro
bellows setup for macro
bellows setup for macro
Spiratone 75mm f/3.5 Flat Field Macro

These are pictures I took with the Sony Alpha 700 and the Hansa 50mm f/3.5. Regarding the macro enlargement – the Sony Alpha 700 has a APS-C size sensor (23.5mm x 15.6mm) so at full extension, I think I was able to get approximately a 4:1 magnification. That’s pretty respectable.

Scale Image 1
Scale Image 2
Sony A700 and Hansa 50mm f/3.5
Sony A700 and Hansa 50mm f/3.5
Sony A700 and Hansa 50mm f/3.5
Sony A700 and Hansa 50mm f/3.5
Sony A700 and Hansa 50mm f/3.5
Sony A700 and Hansa 50mm f/3.5

I’ve also included a couple of pictures with the Spiratone Flatfield 75mm f/3.5 fitted on the Bellowscope. Again, the magnification is around 4:1 at full extension. Second picture is about 2:1 magnification. I’ll post some pictures soon with the 35mm Macrotar and 150mm Macrotel bellows lenses.

Sony A700 and 75mm Flat field Macro
Sony A700 and 75mm Flat field Macro
Sony A700 and 75mm Flat field Macro
Sony A700 and 75mm Flat field Macro
Sony A700 and 75mm Flat field Macro
Sony A700 and 75mm Flat field Macro

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 DSLR, Hansa 50mm f/3.5 and Spiratone Flatfield 75m f/3.5 on Spiratone Bellowscope.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

Early January isn’t the best time for macro-photography – the usual subjects, flowers, insects, ferns, lichens, mosses are mostly absent and there isn’t much greenery anywhere. There’s usually a lot of bright winter sunshine in Maryland around this time, even if there isn’t much snow. It’s cold, and that adds to the challenge. Bright colors are conspicuous by their absence… one has to be imaginative, and look for interesting patterns, textures etc that might be good macro subjects.

Indoor macro-photography is another matter altogether, there’s a wealth of interesting subject matter around the house to photograph – coins, food, grains, spices, toys, gadgets, fabrics, clothing details, you name it…. However, indoor macrophotography has another problem – that of lighting. It’s hard to get enough lighting for hand-held macro photographs, unless a Flash unit is utilized. For the most part, shooting near a sunny window takes care of the lighting issue. Here are some pictures that I took of everyday objects – shoe brush bristles, fruit, a crossword puzzle, brooms etc.


Shoe brush bristles
Crossword Puzzle
Orange
Orange
Broom
Broom

A note about camera care – Using any camera outdoors when it is cold requires a bit of care, but digital cameras need some extra precautions… handling the little buttons is a little more difficult since numb fingers lose their dexterity. Make sure you have the camera strap securely around the neck to ensure against dropping the camera. If that’s not convenient, wrap the strap around the wrist a couple of times.

Keep the camera dry, and warm as possible. Keep it close to the body, covered with a jacket when you’re not shooting. Batteries don’t like cold conditions, and who knows what the cold does to the electronic innards? Most cameras have an “operating” temperature range specified, but I always take that with a grain of salt. Better to exercise extra care than to be sorry. Moreover, when going back inside from very cold conditions, make sure you put the camera and lens inside a large zip-lock bag so that moisture does not condense on the camera. Keep it in the bag until it reaches room temperature – at least ½ hour, if not more.

The Sony Alpha 700 has environmental sealing, but it’s not weather-proof. The seals can only prevent accidental entry of dust, sand and moisture, but I don’t think ANY camera is designed for prolonged use in adverse conditions (maybe they make special cameras to MIL specifications for the armed forces, but I haven’t come across any yet).

Enough digression – Anyway, here I was, out in the backyard, looking for interesting things to photograph… it was late afternoon, and the winter sun was already low in the sky – the light was yellowish-white and the shadows were getting longer by the minute. Here are some of the objects I found around the yard… leaves, bark, mulch, some green shoots on potted plants etc.


Tender leaves
Jasmine tendril
Blue Atlas Pine
Cedar Pine
Decayed mulch
Lichen on Dogwood
Electric Meter
Electric Meter
Leaf at Sunset
Leaf, in shade

I used the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro lens… it’s one of my favorites, I love it as much as I love my Panagor 90mm f/2.8 (that’s another superb 1:1 macro lens by Kino Precision. I can mount it on the Sony Alpha 700 with the Bower Minolta AF-Olympus OM adapter).

The Sigma 50mm is a true macro lens, and it goes up to a 1:1 magnification. The Sony A700’s crop factor of 1.5x gives the Sigma an apparent 75mm focal length, allowing it to be used from further away. This additional stand-off distance can be an advantage when it’s not possible to get too close to the subject for whatever reason… especially if they are skittish bugs…

Which brings us to this little fellow – this tree shield (stink) bug somehow made its way into the house and was wandering around. My daughter Sunayana found it and convinced her cousin Vasudev to capture it for her. We took a few pictures of the critter before letting it loose outside in the late afternoon when it was a little warmer.

I looked him up on the ‘What’s that Bug?’ site and on the Bug Guide. It’s a Stink Bug, belonging to the order Hemiptera, family Pentatomidae, and genus Euschistus. Pretty complicated name for a little bug. It’s common to see stink bugs during the summer months when there is plenty of greenery around to feed on, but what was it doing running around in mid-winter? I used the Sigma 50mm for this as well. Here are the pictures of him on the kitchen counter, and later on the deck railing. I took the last picture as he was scuttling away to find a corner.


Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug
Shield Bug

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 dSLR and a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to using lenses designed for 35mm cameras on the current crop of Digital SLRS. Many photographers have sizeable investments in 35mm lenses for their film cameras, and for the most part their lens investments drive them towards a particular digital camera body, whether it’s Nikon, Canon, Minolta (Sony), Pentax or Olympus.

Luckily, all the manufacturers retained their old AF mounts, except for Olympus, which uses the newly designed Four-Thirds mount. Sony retained the Minolta ‘A’ autofocus bayonet mount for the Alpha series cameras, allowing all the fine 35mm lenses out there since 1986 to be used. The same goes for Nikon and others.

However, due to cost constraints at the present time, most digital SLRs use a sensor that is smaller than the 35mm format size of 36mm x 24mm. This smaller format is 22.7mm x 15.1mm, and is known as the APS-C format. Sony and Nikon (and others) use a sensor size that is approximately the APS-C format size. As can be seen, the APS-C size provides a much smaller image area, 342.77 square millimeters versus 864 square millimeters for the standard 35mm format.

When a 35mm lens is used on the current crop of digital cameras, the smaller sensor size means that the 35mm lens will now have a narrower angle of view (also called FOV or field of view) than when used on a 35mm film camera body. This is due to the fact that the 35mm lens creates an image on the film (or sensor plane) that is is sufficiently large enough to cover the 36x24mm frame it is designed for.

When used in a Digital SLR that has a smaller sensor (and thus image size), the image formed by the 35mm lens is still the exact same size as before, but the smaller sensor can only use a portion of it. In effect, this constitutes an “in-camera” crop. This cropping is determined by the ratio of the sensor size to the 35mm format size, distance of the image plane from the front of the lens etc.

In most of the cameras using APS-C size sensors, the ‘cropping’ is equivalent to using a lens that has a narrower angle of view (telephoto effect). This Crop Factor (also known as Focal Length Multiplier) is around 1.5x (Sony Alpha) 1.6x (Nikon). In some cameras, Canon uses a sensor size that is slightly larger, which gives a 1.3x factor (this is the APS-H format). The Four-Thirds system used by Olympus and Lumix (Panasonic) has a 2x factor.

The focal length does not really change, of course. The smaller sensor’s ability to register only a portion of the total image causes an APPARENT increase in focal length due to the cropping. This has the effect of using a lens with a narrower angle of view, the same as using a telephoto lens. (Luckily, the sweet center portion has the sharpest part of the image).

The image edges which may not be sharp, or have aberrations are cropped in-camera. For the user, it’s easier to remember by multiplying the focal length of the lens they are using with the factor for that particular body, and that gives us the APPARENT focal length.

A lot of the confusion can be eliminated by using the term APPARENT rather than EQUIVALENT. for example, on my Sony Alpha 700 (which has a 1.5x multiplier for 35mm lenses), it would be more accurate to say that my Minolta 50mm lens has an APPARENT focal length of 75mm, rather than saying my Minolta 50mm is EQUIVALENT to 75mm.

This apparent increase in focal length does not affect the aperture, so the APPARENT focal length of 75mm is still at a fast f/1.7. This will serve as an excellent portrait lens, since it can frame head and shoulders perfectly, but you’ll find yourself having to move back when you want to include more of the scene.

For most wildlife photographers, birdwatchers and even landscape photographers, the apparent increase in focal length can be a unexpected blessing – they get more ‘bang’ for the buck from their existing lenses. When coupled with the higher ISO capabilities of DSLR cameras and in-camera image stabilization that will let them handhold the camera in situations that would have required them to lug along a heavy tripod.

If you’re using a MACRO lens, such as, for example my Sigma 50mm f/2.8 (a very sharp lens with a true 1:1 macro capability) the apparent increase in focal length permits the macro subject to be fill the frame without moving in as close. Since the stand-off distance is greater, more light can reach the subject. The increased distance also helps when photographing skittish subjects that are likely to fly or hop away if approached too closely.

When the subject is framed in the Sony Digital SLR, it is seen that the Depth of Field is greater for the same magnification when compared to using the lens on a 35mm film camera like my Minolta Dynax 800si. This is a great advantage for macro-photography where depth of field and subject lighting are always problematic.

The whole situation is different when it comes to wide angle lenses. This is where most photographers are ready to burst into tears. The 1.5x or 1.6x multiplier effect holds good on the wide angles too, and this means that a normal wide angle like 24mm lens which would give a 74 degree field of view on a 35mm format camera will now only provide a FOV of 62 degrees or so, approximately that of a 35mm lens. In the same way, an ultra-wide 16mm becomes an apparent 24mm a 28mm is an apparent 42mm and a 35mm lens behaves like a 52.5mm normal lens.

Given the fact that most wide angle lenses are EXPENSIVE, no photographer would like to see his investment reduced to a moderate wide-angle or a normal lens. However, such is life. You win some, you lose some. To get a true wide angle on the Sony Alpha 700, I would have to invest in a 18mm to get 27mm (luckily, that’s included in the zoom range of my Sony 18-200mm lens that I bought with the camera). Since the 18-70mm is bundled as a kit lens, most owners will have at least a 27mm wide angle, albeit a slow one).

To get the 24mm, we’d have to invest in the very expensive Sony 16-105mm Zeiss coated zoom lens (apparent focal length 24- 157.5mm). Buying a faster wide-angle prime lens would be prohibitively expensive for any amateur, and even professionals would hesitate.

My advice? If you really need to shoot wide angle, just use your film camera. You can still buy a fine Sigma 24mm f/2.8 AF at a reasonable price. The Sigma 24mm is a good deal, since it had a matte black Zen finish that tended to flake off, giving the lens a “very used” appearance and usually marked down. This is just cosmetic, and does not affect the lens performance in any way.

The same Sigma lens was re-badged and sold by Ritz as their house-brand Quantaray lens, but with a different, more durable finish – but it’s still the same lens. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of either lens – this is a very high quality lens. Besides, you can always use the Sigma on the digital SLR as an apparent 35mm f/2.8 prime lens in place of a ‘Normal’ lens. You’d pay hundreds more to get a similar “designed for digital” Nikon, Sony or Canon lens.

Of course, all this talk about crop factors and multiplication factors will become moot when Full Frame digital SLRs become common. Canon already has one, and Nikon and Sony will follow shortly. In fact, I would not be surprised if the Sony Alpha 900 was not released in a few more months. When that happens, lenses will behave as they were designed and there will be no more confusion.

As for me, I rather like the fact that my Tamron 70-300mm now behaves like a 105mm-450mm super-zoom. With the Image stabilization turned on, I can actually hold that baby steady enough to use hand-held.



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This work by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko.

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