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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Anyone ever hear of D.O. Industries? I had never come across any lenses from them until I suddenly ran into this little beauty on EBay, going really cheap. It seemed to be an enlarger lens, but it had what appeared to be a T-mount type threaded mount. A quick email ( an even quicker response from the seller) confirmed that the diameter of the threaded end was indeed 42mm, so I took a chance on it and picked it up, since I was looking for a 135mm lens that would fit on my Spiratone Bellowscope.

I already have a nice Spiratone 150mm f/4.5 bellows lens, but I’m the curious type, and more than that, the name of the 135mm lens intrigued me. The lens itself is small, and solidly built – probably 4 element (maybe 6). Not sure if it is coated. The body looks old and appears to have seen much use, and the paint has faded, but nice glass. It was probably a workhorse lens on someone’s enlarger for many years. It even came with the retaining ring, which is rare these days.

I did a little bit of research on D.O. Industries, and here’s what I came up. Apparently they were an importer and distributor for Fujinon lenses, and they also sold lenses under their own name (rumor has it that D.O lenses are made by Fuji. The optical quality certainly seems to bear that out).

D.O. Industries was started by a gentleman by name David Goldstein in 1972. The company is still around. They are now called Navitar, and you can read their timeline here. I’m glad they’re still around. They seem to be doing well in the current digital era with new imaging products. Innovate, Evolve or Die, right? The photography marketplace is pretty ruthless, with old-timer companies closing down almost every day.

In case no one’s noticed, practically every 3rd party lens company had names ending with –AR. It seems to have been vogue with photographic companies back in the day. You see products with names such as Vivitar, Albinar, Astranar, Rokunar, Lentar, Kitstar, Macrotar and so on. I’ve often wondered why.

When I tried to fit the lens to a T-mount, I noticed that the thread, while being very close, was just not right. It seemed to be more like 41mm, but the pitch was OK. I got around this by wrapping a piece of light cotton sewing thread on the lens thread, and it works just fine. Curious. As long as it works, I am happy.

The advantage of using a longer focal length lens on the bellows is that it permits a longer “stand-off” distance. A short focal length lens (35mm, 40mm or 50mm) can give greater magnification, but the focusing distance is very short, which means that the light is cut off drastically, and one has to use supplemental lighting. The longer focal length bellows lenses (75mm, 135mm and 150mm) can focus from 18 inches to as far as 3 feet away, which lets a lot of ambient light get to the subject. Besides, there’s room for the tripod legs if the subject is 24 inches or more away.

Since I was trying out this lens indoors, I just used a pedestal lamp with the Sony’s WB setting to Tungsten lamp. I used a Auto ISO setting. The exposure was 1/5 to 1/8 second, and I was able to stop down to f/8 to increase the depth of field. If I were outdoors in natural sunlight, I would have used 100 ISO and a smaller aperture.

The tripod permits the longer exposure without shake. To avoid inadvertent camera shake during release, I used the Sony’s self timer setting (Drive Mode button, and then select self timer 10 seconds). This ensures that there is minimal shake. The Sony doesn’t have mirror lock-up, but it’s superbly damped. The mirror return ‘snap’ doesn’t seem to affect the image in any way.

For subjects, I used some of my wife’s traditional jewelry. Without more ado, here are the pictures

D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700

The Bellows mounts to my Sony Alpha 700 with a standard Minolta AF-T mount adapter, and the whole thing goes on a cheap Velbon tripod. Nothing special. Here’s the setup.

D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700 Setup
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700 Setup
D.O. Industries 135mm f/4.5 on Alpha 700 Setup

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 DSLR, D.O. Industries 135mm Emlarger lens (Fuji??) fitted on a Spiratone Bellowscope. Auto ISO with Tungsten light WB setting. Exposure was 1/5 second and 1/8 second at f/8 from a distance of about 24 inches. I used a Velbon Tripod.



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.