Category Archives: Street

Fuji XE-1, Lens Turbo and Helios 58/2 on a rainy night in San Francisco

It has been a while since part one of my Lens Turbo/Helios experiment.  I really haven’t been shooting very much for myself lately and, when I do, I admit to preferring my X100.  The ‘standard’ field of view is just not how my eye sees, particularly for street photography.  Even so, I was excited to wander around in the rain last night between the Mission and Powell Street Station with nothing to do but walk and shoot.

It wasn’t raining terribly hard so I didn’t use an umbrella.  Neither did I coddle the camera.  I had it in my hand with the lens pointed down and partially protected by my bag, but it was exposed to the drizzle and it performed just fine.

One thing I’ve noticed with the Helios M44-4 is that the thing ghosts like crazy with any glare on the lens.  Add to that the Lens Turbo’s tendency to flare and, well, you might well get some ghosting and flaring.  I enjoy shooting the XE-1 with manual focus lenses and this one is no different.  It produces very interesting (some would say distracting) ‘swirly’ bokeh, some of which can be seen in the images below.

I wish I could say I loved the 50-60mm focal length, because this one is a great piece of glass, regardless of price.  I just like to shoot wider.  Makes for a fun toy though and performs well in very low light.  Most of these are shot at either 1600 or 3200 with shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/250, handheld.

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San Francisco in the Rain, Fuji X100 and Fuji XE-1

I have spent nights out walking in far more hospitable conditions in which to shoot street photography.  Even so, there’s something uniquely relaxing about walking through the city in the rain intentionally and looking for photographic opportunities among the throngs of people hurrying to get out of the weather.  This is what I brought back.

Checking the time

Checking the time

See Jack Run
See Jack Run

Not in timeNot in time

Golden StarGolden Star

Fuji XE-1, Mitakon Lens Turbo, Pentax A-50/f2

lens turbo xe1
Fujifilm XE-1, Mitakon Lens Turbo and Pentax 50/2 – shot with X100

Oh manual lenses.  I just can’t stop.

When I first read about the new Speed Booster focal length reducer being marketed by Metabones, I was immediately intrigued.  I own several inexpensive manual lenses of various manufacture – no Zeiss or Leica here – and their required adapters for use on my Fujifilm XE-1 and formerly an X Pro 1.

I enjoy manual focus (I started out on film many, many moons ago), the character and different rendering each of the lenses produces.  The issue with using these great old lenses on a 1.5x crop sensor is that the effective focal length gets much too tight much too quickly.  A 28mm lens becomes a 40 mm lens.  A 35mm lens becomes a 50mm.  A 50 becomes a 75.  Too tight.

The Lens Turbo and Speed Booster are focal length reducers.  That is, they employ a mounting plate for the digital camera you own on one end, a lens mount for the lens type you want to mate to the camera on the other and optics in between that translates a full-frame image circle down to a crop sensor sized rectangle.  The conversion is not 1:1 but rather .72.  Combining this with the Fuji’s image crop factor of 1.5, we arrive at:

50mm (lens focal length) x 1.5 (crop sensor factor) = 75mm * ~0.72 (lens turbo) = ~54mm focal length equivalent.

Since $400.00 is wayyyy out of my wheelhouse for a toy (and I don’t own any lenses in Metabones’s presently available lens mounts anyway) I elected to try out the challenger – a Chinese take on (copy of) the Speed Booster in the form of Mitakon’s Lens Turbo.

It took me awhile to pull the trigger between the Pentax K and Minolta mount.  Eventually I went with the former as the tiny 50/2 that I own is really sharp on my XE-1 with a ‘dumb’ tube adapter.  An additional consideration was the small size of the lens + adapter looking proportional on the XE-1.  The same cannot be said about some of my other legacy lenses.  Jonas Rask posted a review of the Minolta mount Lens Turbo with extensive sample images that you can read here.

Prior to the purchase, I spent some time reading what I could online in terms of user experience and reviews.  I found varying accounts of ‘decreased’ to ‘unacceptable’ performance, blue dots and mushy, soft corners.  Despite the negatives, I decided to give it a try.

The photography that I enjoy doesn’t require clinical, ultimate sharpness across the frame or perfect clarity.  That’s good, because the Lens Turbo doesn’t deliver either of those.  What it does deliver is a fun experience using old glass at close to its original focal length on a new camera body.  That to me is worth the price of admission.  Your mileage may vary.

In harsh lighting conditions, the Lens Turbo flares and ghosts.  It softens corners.  It affects image quality negatively, although not to a great extent.  It introduces barrel distortion (correctable by bumping distortion to +12 for this lens).  It sometimes creates weird blue reflections when there is a harsh light source shining at the camera in the frame, day or night.  Depending on the angle of the light source, I see blue flares or not.

Center sharpness is good to great.  Bokeh with the 50 is pleasing to my eye.  Microcontrast is good.  Without a harsh light shining into the lens there is no color cast that I can see.

Eventually I’ll buy the Fuji 35mm/1.4 and be done with it, but that won’t be anytime soon.  In the meantime, this will satisfy my 50mm digital camera want.  With the X100 and its 35mm equivalent lens, I’m all set.

I’ve included some images from a night time street photography walk from Wednesday evening.  All of the following were shot on the XE-1 with Lens Turbo and the Pentax 50mm/f2 shot at 2.8 ISO3200 between 1/60 and 1/250.  My copy of the 50/2 is usually resides on my nearly-30-year-old Pentax K1000, so there’s some sentimentality for that lens.  Sentimentality aside, the glass is SHARP.  I put it up against the Fuji 18-55 at 50mm with a regular rainbowimaging adapter and couldn’t see a difference at the same aperture.  This is a good starting point to evaluate the Lens Turbo – the glass is good.

Back to the topic at hand:  I missed a bunch of shots between my own focusing errors and the narrow depth of field in very low light.  They were close, but not worth sharing.  These were the keepers.  Not to worry, I’ll get that shot that I missed (TWICE!) of the old barber reading his newspaper in his barber shop next time (with my X100, maybe).  🙂

In these photos you’ll see the blue cast in/near the center of some of the shots and of course the reflections I mentioned – the bike shot chief among them.  Image quality is good but not great in these harsh conditions, and best when there are no headlights or other bright lights shining directly into the lens.  I have adjusted exposure and minimally adjusted contrast (8-10) and clarity (never above 15) in the following photos as I shoot RAW.

Part two of this review will cover shooting with the same combination – XE-1, Lens Turbo and Pentax 50/2 – in friendlier, more controlled studio lighting.  For the lead, though, I wanted to do a real-world, out-in-the-world torture test the focal reducer a bit so that readers would see some of the more glaring (pardon the pun) issues that can crop up (ohhh, see what I did there?).

I hope you enjoy the photos.  None of these is intended to illustrate my skill as a street photographer as much as to demonstrate what the Lens Turbo contributes to – or indeed detracts from – the images.  Rest assured I’ll post part two soon.

Click on any image for a full-sized file.

lens turbo
AT&T Park ticket kiosks

lens turbo-2
Across from Momo’s, King Street

 lens turbo-3
Outside Paragon, 2nd and Townsend

lens turbo-4
Chronicle Books

 lens turbo-5
Small Market

lens turbo-6
Second and Bryant or thereabouts.  Note the blue reflection from the oncoming headlights

 lens turbo-8
More specular highlight reflections

lens turbo-9
Each of the tags is legible.

lens turbo-10
Girl, car, Eddie Rickenbackers

lens turbo-12
Fremont Street at Market Muni

Where I’ve been, and where the OM-D went.

Few words, lots of pictures. Life is good.

I grew more and more frustrated with my X Pro 1 and 35mm/1.4 combo as time went on (I’d owned it for a year as of June first). I missed too many moments because I relied on the autofocus system of the camera and decided it was time to try something else. I traded away the X Pro 1 for an OM-D EM5 plus a couple of lenses (the 17 and 25).

That camera is FAST. Autofocus has been described as blazing. Instantaneous. It’s faster than that. 🙂 The camera is also tiny. A flip out, touch-screen LCD. Excellent. In-body, 5 axis image stabilization. Excellent. Why didn’t it make the cut? Well, the image quality sort of left me flat. I would never say that the images looked bad, they just didn’t really appeal to me. I got some great photos with the camera, like the shots below of which I’m particularly fond.

In the end, though, the little camera that does so many things well just didn’t get it done for me. It is an excellent little package, but there were some niggles that wouldn’t go away. I have sold the OM-D and jumped back to Fuji with an XE-1 and the stellar 18-55 zoom. I also kept nearly all of the legacy glass adapters when I moved the X Pro 1, so I have a decent selection of manual focus primes from which to choose, still. The 50/1.4 FD and 35/2.5 FL Canon glass I own have been revived with Fuji’s addition of focus peaking to the camera’s repertoire via firmware. I find the peaking function – when paired with the higher resolution of the XE-1’s Electronic Viewfinder where compared with that of the X Pro 1 – to make using manual glass much simpler and more rewarding.

So au revoir, OM-D, and thank you for the fun time.

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El Músico

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Prepared for any eventuality

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Serving one’s self

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From 2011? 2012?

From 2011?  2012?

If your mom was like my mom, she had a Drawer.

The Drawer contained any number of miscellaneous (junk) items: coins, twist-ties, crumbs of bread, vegetable seed packets, combs (a dozen, maybe), a screwdriver, bobby pins, a curler or two…and your entire childhood captured on undeveloped rolls of film left to languish in obscurity. I wonder what happened to all of that film. My brother and I sure as hell never saw the prints.

I am my mother’s son in this respect.

I shot two rolls of 120 film through my Yashica Mat in late 2011 or early 2012. I procrastinated having them developed (it’s too expensive, you didn’t get anything worthwhile, it’s too expensive, it’s a pain in the ass to send the film out to get developed, it’s too expensive, you’ll get around to it later, etc.) for what has become years until finally, last week, I said ENOUGH and sent the rolls off to thedarkroom.com for processing.

This shot and one or two others from the 12-exposure roll really made me remember what I love about film in general and Ilford XP2 in particular: those inky blacks and lovely skin tones. The depth of field control. The fact that enough time had passed that I had absolutely no idea what was on either of the two rolls that had been hanging out patiently in The Drawer. Jen’s hair was long. That afternoon at Baker Beach with the bottle of Chimay and the sunset and the lights coming up on the Golden Gate Bridge. Surreptitiously setting up my camera on the bar at the Public House during a Monday Night Football game, fine-tuning focus while looking straight down into that gorgeous viewfinder and snapping this shot.

I need to pick up some more XP2. Next time, the film will go out for developing straightaway. Maybe.