Cheap Awesome Lens


Early Spring is a great time to be out in the woods, especially on a sunny day – the trees may still be bare, but the forest floor is bursting with life… the under-story plants, shrubs and smaller trees rush through their flowering and leafing cycles quickly, to take advantage of the unrestricted sunlight – in a few weeks, once the trees leaf out, the canopy blocks off most of the light, and the small bushes go into the “quiet survival mode” until Fall when they get their chance in the sun again!

I’ve been out with the Sony Alpha 700 and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6. The choice of lens for woodland photography may seem surprising, but I find that the Tamron is very useful – the extended zoom range (the 70-300mm is equivalent to 105-450mm) on the Sony Alpha provides an useful stand-off distance so one can zoom in on an intresting flower or bud from a distance of at least 5 feet away without having to brave the underbrush and wicked looking brambles – the woods around here are chock full of wild raspberries and dog rose brambles. This also has the advantage of not blocking the light.

Besides, the Tamron 70-300mm is also a 1:3.9 macro, and since can focus down to 5 feet at the extended end of the zoom range, it does a great job. Moreover, I marvel at the fact that the Sony’s built in anti-shake allows me to handhold the 450mm equivalent lens. I would never have been able to do that with my manual Olympus bodies or even the auto focus Minolta 800si.

By the way, I purchased my Tamron lens about 8 years ago, back in June 2000 – I know they still make this lens, but I am not sure how the build quality has changed, or if it is still made made in Japan. I’ve always been very pleased with the Tamron, and even more so now…. with it’s super-zoom length of 450mm f/5.6 and equivalent when mounted on the Sony Alpha 700, it’s a formidable piece of optical engineering, and very cheap at the price. This is a true “cheap awesome lens”.


Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens. I used a Polarizer.



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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.

The Kitstar 200mm is a lens that I acquired very cheaply on Ebay last year – it was an impulse purchase, really, since I knew very little about the lens other than it had a OM mount, and I was intrigued by its unusual maximum aperture. My intention was to compare it with my much smaller and lighter Olympus OM 200 f/4 prime lens, which I absolutely love. I had used this lens on a OM body last spring, and then put it away, meaning to get back to it sometime.

The Kitstar 200mm is a distinctive lens, easy to recognize. It’s all metal and the rubber covering of the focusing rings is reticulated, instead of being checkered as is usual. Kitstar was the in-house brand of Kit’s Camera and they had their lenses made on contract by various manufacturers, so its hard to tell who the original maker is. The lens is solidly built and comes with a built in hood.

I don’t know of any lens makers such as Sigma, Tokina or Tamron who made a f/3.3 200mm prime lens, so who knows? Maybe its a f/3.5 rebadged as f/3.3. Kits Cameras was bought by Ritz Camera, and is part of their family of stores. Since Ritz has it’s own in-house camera brand (Quantaray), the Kitstar lenses are no more.

On the Sony Alpha 700, the 200mm f/3.3 lens becomes equivalent to a 300mm f/3.3 lens – that is really fast for a 300mm, and considering the price I paid for it, about $25 or so, it is a bargain. The weight of the lens makes it tricky to handhold, compared with the Sony 18-200mm (also equivalent to 27-300mm, but much slower, since it only goes to f/6.3 at the 200mm focal length).

Anyway, I could easily mount the lens on the Sony Alpha 700 with the Bower-made Minolta AF to OM adapter and took the lens for a spin. Here are the results. The Alpha 700’s anti-shake capabilites makes hand-holding easier, but it was still a challenge to avoid blurring. The Kitstar 200mm (apparent 300mm lens) has nice bokeh.


Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm

Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm
Kitstar 200mm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 camera body and Kitstar 200mm f/3.3 OM Mount lens- I used a Bower Minolta AF-OM adapter and 72mm Polarizer (67-72mm step-up ring)


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.

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



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.

Here’s some additional history on DO Industries – apparently they go back even further than I thought. The original company was founded by Ernst Gundlach, who used to work for Bausch and Lomb. After parting ways with the B and L in 1878 (unwillingly, it seems), he partnered with Lewis Sexton and opened a Optical goods business.

For a while, Sexton ran the business while Gundlach left to work as an Optician in Hartford Connecticut. Sexton was joined by JC Reich and J. Zellweger. On Sexton’s death in 1884, Gundlach returned to the company he had founded, and reorganized it. After about 11 years, Ernst Gundlach left the company again, and formed a rival company called the Gundlach Photo-Optical Company, which was finally acquired by Wollensak in 1905.

The original Gundlach Optical Company continued to operate in Rochester, first acquiring Milburn Korona cameras and then in 1902 they acquired the Manhattan Optical Company and renamed themselves the Gundlach-Manhattan Optical Company. In 1926, they were renamed as the Gundlach Manufacturing company. In 1928, they were taken over by a John Seebold, and were renamed “Seebold Invisible Camera Company” (no idea what they were making).

After taking a beating during the Great Depression, they moved to Fairport in 1935. They survived until 1954, when they were acquired by Burke and James of Chicago and reorganized as the Dynamic Optics Inc, with Mr. David Goldstein as president. Dynamic Optics ceased operations in 1972 and were reorganized as D.O Industries. The rest of the company’s history can be found on the Navitar website.

References:
A History of the Rochester, NY Camera and Lens Companies
Gundlach is also referenced in the famous Lens Collectors Vade Mecum by Wilkinson and Glanfield.

My original post discussed the use of the D.O Industries 135mm Enlarging lens as an excellent bellows lens for Macrophotography with the Sony Alpha 700



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.

It was unseasonably warm last week, with temperatures in the upper 50’s and even 60’s. Tuesday morning was unusual, with moderately heavy fog all along Rte 27 running North towards Westminster. The mist changes the appearance of the familiar landscape, and the soft morning light makes for some excellent photographic opportunities.

As I drove along Rte 27, the mist slowly lightened until it was completely burnt off by the time I got to work. I stopped at several familiar spots along the way to take these pictures. I had the Sony A700, of course – with the Sigma 28-80mm still on it from last weekend’s hike along the Great Falls towpath.

The Sigma is an unusually light lens, and perfect for hiking. It’s no slouch when it comes to landscape and architectural photography either. On the Sony Alpha, the lens becomes a 42mm-120mm, which gives me enough flexibility for most landscape and architectural applications. Although I’d preferred top have a 35mm for street photography, 42mm is acceptable. Besides, a 42mm lens presents the world with a slightly better perspective than a 50mm, with no distortion at all.

The 2 close-up’s are included to show the macro capabilities of the Sigma 28-80mm.


Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning

Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 aspherical macro lens. Auto ISO, Cloudy white balance.



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 couple of weeks ago, I had posted a series of photographs I made with a Sigma 24mm f/2.8 in a little park in Westminster, at the intersection of Bond Street and Green Street. The Sigma 24mm is an effective 36mm lens on the Sony Alpha 700. I wanted to try a 28mm lens (42mm on A700). I took along my lightweight Sigma 28-80mm (42mm-120mm in 35mm format) and shot from the same locations as with the 24mm, and a few others. It wasn’t as cold as the last time, and I could loiter a little while longer without freezing my poor hands.

When I left the park, I turned onto Green Street and photographed a couple of the historic homes. I ended up close to McDaniel College, so I grabbed a few shots of the school buildings, as well as the corner of Main and Union Street. Here are the pictures with the Sigma lens set up – these were taken on Wednesday morning with the same lens.

The Sigma is truly a versatile lens, and has a macro capability down to 1:2 as well in case you need it. It’s one of those lenses that you tend to ‘fit and forget’ since it seems to feel so natural.

Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster – Sigma 28-80mm
Warfieldsburg Rd

Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Green Street
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Green Street
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – McDaniel College
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – McDaniel College
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – McDaniel College Gateway
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Union St and Main St
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm Kridder’s Rd Church
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Warfieldsburg Road
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Rte 27 Ridge Road
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Rte 27 Ridge Road
Westminster, MD – Sigma 28-80mm – Rte 27 Ridge Road

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 aspherical macro lens. ISO 200, Cloudy white balance. 1/80 at 28mm and 1/160 at 80mm (The Sigma is 42-120mm in the 35mm format equivalent)



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. dhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners.

I headed off to the Great Falls park last Saturday (02/02/08) to hike along the river and photograph the falls. It was beautiful out there… about 50 degrees – perfect hiking weather, although the trails and towpath were still muddy. I was carrying my Sony Alpha 700 and 2 lenses – a Sigma AF 28-80mm and the Tamron 70-300mm. The Tamron was for closeup views of the raging waters. The Sigma is a recent acquisition, and I was trying it out.

It’s still early in February, and we’ve already had a lot of rain in Montgomery county – the average rainfall for February is about 2.85 inches here, and by the 2nd, we already had about 3 inches… which means, every stream in the county is overflowing and that the Potomac is running full already. Normally, we’d have to wait until the Spring thaws.

Since my intent was to photograph the falls, I did not mind lugging along the heavy Tamron, but on my way over there, I was thinking about the most desirable characteristics for a hiking lens – good zoom range, rugged, light, cheap, close up capability etc. At the same time, the optical characteristics of the lens should be good enough that you don’t regret the quality of the pictures when you get back.

The more I thought about it, the Sigma I was carrying seemed to be the perfect fit. After all, it had a zoom range of 28-80mm, which is a 42-120mm on the Sony A700. Besides, it has a plastic body, which makes it lightweight. Great optical quality with multicoated aspherical lenses, very cheap so it would not matter if it was damaged or lost – and it has a 1:2 Macro capability, for those occasional very close-up shots of interesting grass or moss or little critters that I might come across.

I would have liked at least 35mm at the wide-angle, but I’ve found that in the open woodlands and hilly areas of Maryland , even a 50mm is sufficiently wide, since one can always step back a few paces to include more of the scene. The Sigma 28-80mm definitely qualified as a Cheap Awesome Lens. Some may complain about the “cheap” build quality – it’s plasticky – but one can’t fault it optically for the price.

The 1:2 macro capability is only at 80mm f/5.6 (120mm f/5.6 on the Sony Alpha 700) and is is a matter of moving a switch on the lens from Normal to Macro position to lock it. Now, f/5.8 is pretty slow, I was able to get decent images even at 100 ISO. I’m not complaining, since I can always increase the ISO to compensate. However, in Winter, with no overhead tree canopy and bright sunlight, it beats carrying an extra lens for the rare occasion one might want to take a real close up.
Here are some of the pictures at the Falls and along the Towpath. The river is very impressive this week.


The Tamron is a beast on the Sony Alpha 700 – it’s equivalent to 105mm-450mm and fairly fast for such a large focal length f/3.5 at the shorter end, and f/5.6 at the 450mm end. Fast enough to handhold at 100 ISO on a bright day. It’s a macro lens as well, and goes to 1:4 along the entire focal length range, which is pretty impressive. This is another Cheap Awesome Lens.Tamron 70-300mm– Potomac River and Towpath.


Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Potomac River 1/5 sec exposure
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm – Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath – macro
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Great Falls Tavern

Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Gate at Widewater
Great Falls

Sigma 28-80mm – Great Falls Tavern

Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern

Sigma 28-80mm – Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Macro Photos (approx 8-10 inches)

Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro

Tamron 70-300mm


Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls

Tamron – Wildlife

Wildlife
Wildlife
Wildlife

Tamron

Lichens on Rock
Lichens
Wildlife

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-f/5.6 Aspherical Macro 1:2 and Tamron 70-300mm f/3.9-f5.6, ISO 100, Circular Polarizer.



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.

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