Snapshot Voyager is about my own personal photography journey. I am always looking to try something new, inquisitive as to how it works, and to the end results I might achieve.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Rangefinders vs SLRs vs EVILs

Though I have used SLRs for a long time, rangefinders are still somewhat new to me.  The first one I bought was a Fujifilm GS645S Medium Format, which was a great camera, but I soon found that the way in which you use them is quite different.

When you look through an SLR prism, nothing is in focus until you adjust the lens so that the point you want is in focus.  You can pick any point in the picture you want to be in focus when you manual focus.  If you auto focus, you would select the focus point where you want to be in focus; OR point the middle focus point to the desired object, hold the trigger half way, recompose if necessary, then shoot.  What you see is not completely what you get, unless you have the aperture wide open.  An SLR always opens the lens up to maximum aperture for maximum viewfinder brightness, and then you use the Depth of Field button to check out what it looks like if you’re stopping down; or guess, if you don’t have that function.  Interestingly though, when using DOF preview it makes the whole viewing experience darker and can be  very dark (depending on the aperture), making it hard to see what the shot will look like.

Cornwall Boats - Nikon D90 with Nikon 18-200mm

With a rangefinder, when you look through the viewfinder, everything is in focus.   You pick the point you want to be in focus, manually focus until the rangefinder patches align, recompose,  then shoot.  There is no way to check what sort of depth of field there is.  You have to imagine it what it will be like.  For narrow depth of field photography, this takes quite a bit to get your head around.

Street Art - Leica IIc with Leica 50mm f2 Summitar
With the new Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lens (EVIL) cameras, like the Sony NEX or Panasonic GH1, what you see is ALWAYS what you get.  Stopping down the aperture automatically increases depth of field on the screen AND the screen / sensor automatically adjusts brightness to the proper level – very cool!  When you change metering types (ie from matrix to spot) the camera shows you the results straight away; while with the other cameras you would have to rely on the meter read out to see the job is being done.  When you focus too, changes on the screen are seen as you do it. 
This is all very cool, but a couple of problems exist – 1) Big screen = big power draw, the batteries drain fast.  2) There’s nothing like seeing an actual ‘live’ scene than one being rendered by a screen, which feels ‘digitized’.   The new NEX-7 view finder is meant to be amazing, and will fix both these issues.

Fall Leaves - Sony NEX-3 with Leica 90mm f4 Elmar

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Freelensing tilt-shift attachment

The other day, just after my recent freelensing experiments, I found some bendable black tube designed for routing things around corners in my basement work shop.  I realised that this would make the perfect freelensing attachment on the NEX.  One lens that was floating around and wasn’t ever of much use was a Fujinon 50mm f2.2 lens for a Fujica 35mm SLR camera.  This lens is very sharp and I surmised that this would work great with the tube to create a handheld tilt-shift lens.

Fortunately the lens jammed in the tube snugly, so it wasn’t long until I was able to capture some shots.  In both the orchid and the soft toys shots, the focus plane is going from the bottom left to the top right corner.  It ended up working well, but would be improved if I could mechanically attach it to the NEX, and improve the fit of the lens and tube to ensure no light came in.

I already have a Lensbaby (in Nikon mount), which my wife gave me for Christmas a few years back, but I have never been happy with it.  Even when perfectly in focus, the sharpness is poor.  I believe that to make best use of such a lens, one part of the picture must be sharp.  Soft results don’t make a good shot.
This new attachment with the Fujinon lens actually delivered much sharper results than the Lensbaby, and I still got the tilt-shift effects I was looking for.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

An anonymous face of the past

I have no idea who this is.  I picked up this old photo at the Antiques Market and decided it was worth a picture.  Indeed why was this picture here?  I wondered who she was, whether she was still alive, does she still have family or relatives?    If so, why don’t they have the photo?  Was it a friend of long ago from some whose estate sale recently took place?  So many questions and absolutely no answers.

This shot isn't particularly sharp.  It's quite hard to handhold the subject in front of you and and shoot with a fast prime wide open, even if it is AF.  Fortunately the right eye is relatively sharp, which helps draws the viewer's eye to this part of the photo.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Fall – Couples in Love

Ah, young love.  We were there once too.  Here’s two couples enjoying each other’s company.   Actually both shots benefited from auspicious timing.  In the first one, the girl just managed to flick her hair at the right moment; while in the second one, I managed to just sneak in the shot between lots of people crossing the bridge, and you can actually just see the next lot beginning to come through.

Both were shot with the NEX and Leica 90mm Elmar, and are cropped a little from the original.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Reversed Freelensing some African Violets

After trying freelensing with the Schneider enlarging lens on the NEX (see previous post), I then reversed the lens and shot these African Violets.  The results were also good, though I think a wider angle lens would have been better (though not many enlarging lenses are wider than 50mm)

About a week ago I posted this story about how I reversed my Voigtlander 35mm Nokton on the NEX, with great results.  At the time I didn’t realise it was called Reversed Freelensing!

A word of caution – be very careful with reversed freelensing as it is very easy to scratch the front element of your lens. Using a front filter when doing this is a good idea.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Freelensing with a Schneider Enlarging Lens on NEX

I have had an old German Schneider-Krauznach  Enlarging lens floating around for a while.  This one is the 50mm f4 Comparon and is fitted to a cardboard lens board.  I have read quite a bit on the blog “Lens Bubbles” about using enlarging lenses on DSLR and EVIL cameras, and decided to give it a go, freelensing it on the NEX.  My previous freelensing results on the D700 were less than satisfactory, though a NEX probably had more room to experiment with due to the short base length (sensor to flange length).

The first thing I found was that the base length for this lens to be in focus was greater than the base length for both the NEX and M mount cameras (ie NEX + NEX to Leica M lens adapter) - see shot in the previous post.  Using some Nikon K extension tube adapters I experimented and found that I could get different focal lengths by adding or taking away the adapters.  For close up photos I used adapters K1 to K5 all stacked in a row.  This allowed a focal distance of approximately 30cm (refer to Photo 1).  

Photo 1 - NEX-3 with Schneider 50mm Comparon enlarging lens - 30cm focal distance

I then took away the K5 ring (approx 20mm long) and this increased the focal length to approximately 1 metre (refer to Photo 2).  

Photo 2 - NEX-3 with Schneider 50mm Comparon enlarging lens - 1m focal distance

As it was starting to get dark I had to shoot with the lens wide open at f4.  The shutter speed was only 1/20th second using ISO 1600.  This made my early hand held experiments very shaky, added by the fact that both the lens AND extension tubes were hand held and not stable.  So I all I got were out of focus "bokeh" shots! (See photo 3)  By stabilising everything on our deck rail allowed me to concentrate on focus to achieve crisp shots.

Photo 3 - NEX-3 with Schneider 50mm Comparon enlarging lens - "bokeh" shot

A more serious comment on the bokeh is worth making.  At 30cm the bokeh is smooth, as you would expect; however at 1 metre is has a lot of circular outlining and looks lumpy.

This first freelensing experiment with the Schneider was definitely worth while, though next time I want to get a focusing adapter to make the whole experience a lot more painless.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


I use the technique often, but I never had heard the term freelensing until recently.  Freelensing is where you hold a lens up to a camera and snap away, without ever mounting it securely to the camera (ie by way of the mount or an adapter).

By holding the lens freehand in front of the camera there are many techniques that can be replicated, such as tilt, shift and macro.   It’s worth it to Google ‘freelensing’ to see different shots that can be achieved.  Flickr’s ‘Freelensing’ group is especially worth a visit too.

Holding the lens in front of the camera with a gap in between greatly reduces contrast, but creates rather bizarre effects in the process.  Here’s one shot where I held a Schneider enlarging lens about 1 inch away from the camera, as I wanted to guess the distance required for focal points.  The image is quite unusual, especially when you look at what is and isn’t in focus, and it creates a very dreamy and old fashioned feel to the photo.

Sony NEX-3 & Schneider-Krauznach  50mm f4 Comparon enlarging lens

You can also add extension tubes to create a macro effect, and that is exactly what I did here when shooting orchids on one of my very first posts on this blog with a D700 and Carl Zeiss 50mm f2.8 M42.  Different amounts of Nikon extension tubes create varying macro effects.

My next challenge is to test the Schneider enlarging lens on the NEX to see what it really is capable of.