Lens Test: Tale of two pancakes

Pancake lenses. Not many people use it nowadays, preferring the do-all zoom lenses. Going back to the old days when photographers would carry one prime lens per camera, and still be able to take amazing photographers, there is nothing a prime cannot do in the hands of someone with the right photographic vision. In short, nothing wrong with a pancake lens. In fact I love pancakes because it keeps the camera side profile smaller, making it possible to squeeze a pro-body with built in grip into a small bag. And most of the time you can zoom with your feet anyway.
Profile Comparison. ULTRON on the right, AIS on the left.

A pancake lens is the name given to low profile lenses, normally around the 50mm focal length range. Up for this test are the two that I own. First up is a Nikkor 50mm f1.8 AIS. Now there are many versions of this lens, and the 0.60m minimum focal length version is the one I have, which is noticeably shorter than the other models. The other lens I have been using quite a bit is a Voigtlander 40mm f2 SL ULTRON. Yes a mouthful, I’ll just call it AIS and ULTRON for the short version hereforth. They’re both manual lenses. And they only meter on Nikon’s semi pro bodies like the D300/D700 and up.

This is not meant to be a full on test, so I will not bother to perform an exhaustive test on it. On the question of bokeh, I have noticed that the ULTRON has this harsh donut shaped bokeh, perhaps because of the Aspherical element in the lens. But I’m not a bokeh freak so it is not an issue for me.

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Pictures from Sichuan/Guangxi Trip

Coming back from those two provinces, I ended up with 12 rolls of film, 1200 pictures from the DSLR and 1500 pictures from the point and shoot. As you can imagine it takes a long long long time to sort and categorize them and delete the junk shots. I have spent a week developing the rolls of film, and I can only go thru 200 pictures a night maximum for the DSLR as they are all shot in RAW NEF format and needs some kind of adjustments in Lightroom. 
So bear with me for a moment. I will put up the pictures on the postings and will announce on Twitter or Jaiku once I get them ready. Post processing sucks. But there are some nice pictures there!!!

This will also mark the start of me putting watermarks with copyright logo on the pictures, even though they are all small. Read about how pictures are reused without permission and just wanted to be sure I’m protected as much as possible.

Planning to label the posts with the following:
– *Incomplete* means I have not started on it yet
– *Partial* means that I have loaded pictures from some but not all my cameras yet. Soon to have more pictures coming up.

Travels: Sichuan Province Part 2, Mount Siguniang, China

View of the tallest of 4 Siguniangs from Rilong's Changping Gou village
The plan for this trip is a week long trip, including a 3 day trek up to see Siguniang Shan and a day in one other valley in the area around the town of Rilong. Then on the way back to Chengdu, it’s a night over at Danba to see the old villages on the mountain side. Expecting to spend 6 days for this leg, and the backpack is full to the brim, including a full camelbak filled with day long supply of Nongfu spring water, which seems to be on sale everywhere in this country.

Siguniang shan is surrounded by 3 valleys. The most accessible one is Shuangqiao gou where there is a tourist bus herding tourists, the next would be Changping gou where most treks up the mountain start but Changping gou also has its own trek path on the valley floor that requires a bus ride to get to, and Haizi gou, where you will have to trek its slopes to reach base camp for those who are planning to go up Siguniang shan.

9 November 2008, Chengdu to Rilong: The first bus from Chengdu to Xiaojing leaves at 6:25 am. From there, I will have to take a taxi to Rilong. From what I have heard, the direct bus to Rilong does not run anymore from Chadianzi Station here in Chengdu because the route passes by Wenchuan which was the place worst hit by this year’s large earthquake in this region. So longer trip. On the map, Xiaojing looks not further than 300 km but today’s bus trip is expected to take 8 hours. Gasp!

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Travels: Sichuan Province Part 1, Chengdu, China *Partial*

Its been a long time waiting and before I could even prepare for it, I got off MU5407 here in Chengdu (airport code: CTU) on a one week and a half trip. Total I will spend outside Shanghai will be 2 weeks and this includes Guilin which will be the subject of another post once I get to it. Flight was bearable, food was Crap as usual, and again full of oversized babies and their grandparents. Inflight meal consists of a paper box filled with an assortment of buns, crackers, pickles and strange mix of edible stuff. Thank god for ipods.
Chengdu Airport Bus queue

8 November 2008, Shanghai to Chengdu: From the airport, bus 303 seems to go to Chengdu city. Was reading about bus 300 but I did not see it. Bus trip cost 12 RMB and comes with insurance, although it seems lost in my mind how we will claim our own insurance should something untowardly happens along the way. As with any bus in china, this bus even comes with its own tour guide. In my half baked putong hua, sounds like its 30 minutes away. Good. Nap time.

Spent the afternoon walking around Chengdu and there is a nice street where everything is old and has a market. Naturally my leica came out to play there. Chengdu definitely looks more refined than other cities in China, other than Shanghai and Beijing of course. Its quite obvious this is not a poor place.

Transporting items by bicycle is common in the backstreets of Chengdu

Everywhere you go in Chengdu there are hotpot restaurant. I’m tempted to try them but I travelled alone so it will be wasteful to gobble down a whole load of soup with floating chilies. But I promised myself I need to try it or I have never been to Sichuan.

Waiting for the bus, China style...

Language: I swear I don’t have too much of an issue with the local Sichuanese dialect, at least I understand it as much as I do putonghua, which is not too bad, but people I meet here sometimes tell me its difficult to understand locals. The dialect sounds like a bastardized version of putonghua in a song singing way.

Continue reading “Travels: Sichuan Province Part 1, Chengdu, China *Partial*”