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First Impression: Voigtlander 40mm f2 Ultron SL

Had the chance to test out this lens as my primary lens during an outing yesterday to Hangzhou. It fits nicely on a D2H, and like the look where the camera body is much bigger than the lens that’s mounted on it. The 40mm is about a cm shorter than the popular Nikkor 50mm f1.8 AFD. But feels a lot heavier since its made fully of metal, reminding me of the AIS lenses of yesteryears. The clicks on the aperture ring is tight and assuring. You get half-stops in lower aperture stops (didn’t notice others since I was using >f8 the whole day). Focus ring is nicely dampened, feels just like a good condition AIS lens. If you look into the lens there’s a 9 blade aperture, which I’ve not seen for some time.
The result coming off the lens is quite good, once I sort out the misfocused photos (manual lenses!! Arrghh!), which forms quite a few of my total shots. Usually I will use the focus indicator on the D2H, but sometimes when I need to take it quick, I use the eye, and this is where most of the problem is. The shots are reasonably sharp, doesn’t look as sharp as my 70-180mm micro lens which I brought with me as well. There were some shots that was very nice looking, and others were purely misfocused.

So as a conclusion, I think handling wise, I dont think there is another lens that’s better than it. At least nothing I’ve used yet so far. Image quality wise, it is definitely capable of a good picture. The aspherical glass in the lens keeps distortion to a minimum. What I need to do soon is to perform some test on the performance on all aperture stops to find the optimum stop. Will need to check the bokeh blur effects as well. Heard from some websites that the bokeh is harsh, whatever that means, because of the aspherical lens. I agree its not as smooth as other lenses I’ve seen, but I think its still not too bad. The 9 aperture blade should allow for nice rounded blurs.

Ricoh GRD Nightshot

Shot this tonight at Xintiandi. The original uncropped picture has a lotmore coverage than the one below. Shot at ISO800, B&W mode to maximise
the grain like luminance noise, f2.4 and at the most 1/20s. Focus is
preset at infinity in order to be able to shoot stealthily like a
rangefinder. An optical viewfinder on this thing would be ideal!


Beefing up flash system – part 2

Ok, managed to get a SU800 here in Tokyo, so my flash system is now up to 1 SU800, 2 SB800s and an R1 system. Hmm… plenty of fire power, not just have to get it to work properly. Too bad this week in Tokyo I only have the SU800, so no time to test out everything.

Ricoh GR Digital

Spent this Japanese weekend going to Hakone to look for Mount Fuji. The last trip was raining when we went to Kamakura, so no Mount Fuji. The last weekend, it was foggy the whole day in the mountains so we didn’t see Mount Fuji again!
But what I got this time as a discreet shooter was a Ricoh GR Digital. Heard about this little camera for sometime already, and there’s a niche market here in Japan for that kind of camera. Went over to MAP camera at Shinjuku and saw at least 10 samples for sale in the second hand shop. Got one nice quality one (realised later that the mode selector is a little finicky between A and M mode, but its a small problem). Accessories for this GR is just expensive as hell. There’s an optical viewfinder that goes for 150USD! Does nothing other than letting you shoot without using the LCD viewfinder.

Compared the GR to the new GX100, but eventually went for the GR even if its just 28mm fixed lens without a zoom. The GR just feels better with the twin dial control like on DSLRs. THe GX100 has 2 as well, but the horizontal scroll wheel is more like a rocker dial rather than a full spinning dial. Anyway, beginning to love the GR in B&W mode and high ISO… reminds me of film and a little of Kodak 400TX. Will be testing this little camera to see what its capable of. Great when I dont have the chance to whip out the D2H.

Beefing up flash system

In order to expand my creative options, started to expand my nikon flash system with the purchase of a second SB800 in singapore from a guy through an advertisement on Clubsnap forums.
Then, to complement the macro system I have been building up, i got myself an R1 system when passing through Kuala Lumpur. Was told its the last unit in Nikon Malaysia. Funny thing is that when you look at whats inside the big R1 or R1C1 box, there’s nothing much inside. Most of the space is taken up by a large storage box/bag. The SB-R200 unit themselves look a little less convincingly built than the 800s, but works.

Wish i could say I’ve spent a lot of time with whats available to now, but was down with flu once I got back to Shanghai, so thats a story for a future post.

What to do when diluting chemicals in the wrong concentration?

Was developing my last roll of Kodak 400TX last night when I realised that instead of measuring 300ml I poured 400ml into the beaker. Can’t start all over again because I’ve just finished the small sample bottle of Rodinal that I have. It wouldn’t be practical, a week before moving my things to Shanghai to open a new 500ml bottle of developer.
So what do I do with 475ml of solution instead of the usual 375ml of 1+50 rodinal? I did a quick computation and found that 467ml of water  and 8ml of Rodinal is equal to 1+58, so I figured if I had 16% more water than I should, then the concentration is 16% more dilute, so I developed it 16% longer in time compared to what I was planning to do at 1+50 concentration.

The resulting negative looks a little light, but still has quite a lot of details in it (maybe better even than 1+50 becuase of the diluted developer and longer time! but will have to scan it before I can tell).  Overall, it was a disaster when I poured the solution into the tank, but it came out well! Phew!

Replenishing fixers and new developer.

Ran out of fixer this morning for my black & white development and had to skip half day of work (partly to go to the doctors) to go to this shop in the 9th to pick up the new bottle of Ilford Rapid Fix. Thought that they had some photoflo wetting agent as well but it comes in 1L bottles or larger. Since most people recommended just a few drops, 1L is just too much. Will expire before I run out of solution. Finally got the following:
1L Ilford Rapid Fixer: 8.80€
1L Kodak HC110 Developer: 21.60€

All prices without tax. I dont know what it is but its 19.6% and added right at the end of the invoice. Bought the HC110 to fool around for my Ilford films. Just want to see if the grain can be reduced compared to Rodinal. Overall, I thought that the HC110 is quite expensive. DOn’t remember how much I paid for my last bottle of Rapid Fixer in Singapore but I dont think its expensive at all. Maybe even 30% cheaper. But got 6 rolls of film waiting to be developed and can’t wait for the trip back to Asia.

Canon Ixus800/850IS, Panasonic Lumix FX07 or Fujifilm F30

Well its time to think about replacing my 5 year old Canon Powershot S30 when the wife complains that its too big, too heavy and forms a big part of the bulk in her handbag.
So I got into a research phase and thought that I need at least 6mpixel, not more than 8 becuase I dont want to spend a bulk of my hard disk to store pictures, and seriously, anything more than 4-5mpix is more than enough. So… say 6mpix, dummy proof (since I wont be the only user) and some feature to prevent camera shake… like optical stabilizer or high ISO. And small as well… medium small, not supersmall or superslim that they are difficult to hand hold.

So the shortlist boils down to:
– Canon Ixus 800/850IS
– Panasonic FX07
– Fujifilm F30
Continue reading “Canon Ixus800/850IS, Panasonic Lumix FX07 or Fujifilm F30”

Tips: Getting of water stains when rinsing b&w film

What I’ve seen and tried up till now when I process my own black and white films is either to use one of those off the shelf chemicals to get rid of water marks on films hung out to dry, or even novel ideas like putting a little amount of washing detergent into the final rinse. I’ve done the later quite a bit and noticed that after scanning there’s stain every once in a while. They’re washable but a hassle.
Just today I tried to do something different, but probably what I should have done all these while. I was processing 2 rolls of Ilford FP4+ and just as I was rinsing the film and tank after the fixer stage, I thought about pouring fresh water on the film after I hang it on the hanger. What you want to do is to pour it in a steady stream, without any splashing so that the water just flows from one end at the top to the other end. I was hoping that this prevents or minimises beading and if you dont splah, you dont get pockets of water droplets that just wont flow to the end of the film.

So far so good. The 2 rolls of FP4+ that’s hanging to dry right now looks cleaner than ever before and I dont even have to buy any gimmicky chemical or rubber squeegee to do that!

Nikon’s D80 Digital SLR

Ah well, might as well write something about this new camera that was just released this week. There has been a lot of rumours and if you go around the photography forums, where people seem to be more interested in noise and megapixels and all those technicalities, and then showing off mundane everyday photos that could have been taken with a cheap point and shoot… there has been hits and misses. Anyways, DPReview has a nice preview and its amusing to see that they had a preproduction body before the info embargo was lifted… all these time and they didn’t even leak anything to us underlings!!!
Anyways… what do I think?
Continue reading “Nikon’s D80 Digital SLR”