Ok, now is the time to get yourself that nice thing you want – or to suggest your significant other or your friends to do so.
Here is a small list of what you may want to consider, if you don’t own it already. Continue reading “10 gifts for the film photographer”
A couple weeks ago Kai of DigitalRev, with the help of Bellamy of JapanCameraHunter, did a video on the “5 top film cameras for under $1000”. Interesting, but having grown up shooting film in my opinion they got two major things wrong. Continue reading “Top 5 film cameras (+ 1) under 500$”
First of all: please note that I don’t currently own a full-frame camera (hello Sony? Still waiting for that 50 Mpxl, Nex7 form-factor camera…), so this lens has been tested only on (and specifically bought for) an Aps-c Sony Nex 7.
That said, from the full-resolution images I saw online shot on the A7r it looks still a pretty good glass, just with not-so-exceptional borders.
Second: there are actually two versions of this lens, and old one (the one reviewed here) and a newer model that you can spot instantly because it is bigger and with a front ring to mount filters.
Optically they are exactly the same; the only differences, above the aforementioned possibility to mount filters, are that the new lens is rangefinder coupled (important if you ever want to use it on a Leica) and has natively a Leica-M flange, instead of the Leica screw m39 of the older model (not a big deal, adapters are good and cheap).
The different flange may still be a matter of preferences, though: the new model does not require an adapter for use on modern (post 1950) and digital Leica M cameras. The older model, on the other hand, is more of a jolly that you can use on a modern or digital Leica M with a cheap adapter or directly on an old Leica / Canon etc. screw-mount camera. All depends by the kind of gear you already own or plan to buy one day.
Mechanically this lens is an absolute jewel, almost Leica-quality like, and in my book the archetype based on which all other lenses for mirrorless or rangefinder systems should be designed.
It is unbelievably tiny. You cannot understand simply from looking at the pictures how small it is. I can toss it in a pocket and forget about it, much like my car key.
But at the same time the controls (focus and aperture) are well spaced and easy to grip; wearing heavy sky gloves as well, just with a bit of more trouble. More, the aperture ring clicks positively in each position, almost silky smooth.
However, all this mechanical prowess would mean nothing if the lens should not deliver optically.
The good news is this little one really packs a punch!
Keeping in mind that I’m using it on a Aps-c camera, albeit a really taxing one, it is very sharp up to the extreme borders. Normally with a lens this short (even if on an Aps-c it is really just the equivalent of a 22-24mm) on film you wouldn’t even bother to focus, not even at full aperture. That’s the reason why Voigtlander decided to forfeit a rangefinder coupling with this lens back in the days, to cut costs.
But on digital, and especially on a taxing 24 Megapixels sensor, even at f/8 you can still easily tell when your subject is not perfectly in focus.
Oh, by the way: this minuscule lens is so sharp that at the center it tops the chart at f/5.6, and at f/8 you can already witness quite clearly the effects of diffraction!
If you’re not so sure this is a lens for you, keep in mind that lured by the new model many people is avoiding buying the first one, so you can find one for ridiculously low prices.
If, on the other hand, you plan to use it on a film camera, especially for landscape and b/w films, grab the new one because the filter ring will definitely come in handy.
The only problem with this lens is the extensive magenta / purple coloration at the borders if used on some cameras, like for example the Nex 7. If you shoot in b/w it doesn’t matter, obviously. And if you shoot in color it is easily correctable anyway using the Lightroom Flat Field free plugin (you can get it at the AdobeLabs) or the also free CornerFix. So no big deal in my book, but I’ve lowered the rating half a point just because of that.
Rating: on Aps-c
Scanning color negatives is the Holy Grail of the film lover.
The scanning part, per se, is no different that the one you have to carry with any other film, color or black and white. The tricky part comes when you try to obtain natural, or at the very least, pleasant colors from that piece of films covered in a bright orange mask.
A bit of help may come from some new kind of negative film, like the Rollei Digibase, that does not make use of such orange mask; but you will still have an hard time sorting out how to get an usable picture if you don’t know a few tricks.
I will assume here that you have had your negatives processed by a lab, or that you followed my previous posts on how to develop & scan them at home – that you can find here:
Now you have your film neatly cut in strips and scanned. It’s time for a trip into Photoshop!
Open your freshly scanned image and invert it: CTRL + I on Windows, CMD + I on Mac. It will look something like this:
Don’t panic. Now it is time to use one of the most powerful tools of Photoshop: the curves. They look scary, but are not that difficult to understand, really. Basically at the bottom you have a couple of arrows: these set black and white point. And then you can manipulate the curve, pulling and dragging around, to your heart’s content until the image looks good.
Here is like I do it: first choose one of the colors from the drop down menu on the top part of the curve panel. We well start with red. Drag the left bottom arrow keeping pressed the ALT (Windows) / OPT (Mac) button. You will notice that the image goes away, replaced by a monochromatic version, but that at some point details starts to appear. Those details are actually areas of blocked out shadows or burnt highlights, so we will stop just a fraction before something starts to show up.
Repeat the process, always keeping ALT / OPT pressed, for the right arrow and then for the green and the blue colors.
At this point the image starts to look pretty good, but a fair bet is that the colors are still quite a bit off, with some heavy color cast.
To remove it just switch to the opposite color in the drop down menu (if the color cast is red go for blue and vice-versa) and manipulate the actual curve keeping an eye on the image. Try to not overcomplicate things. Often one control point, like you can see in the blue curve, is enough.
I find that rarely, if ever, I have to recur to more than two points. The second one is mostly just for the sake of cleaning a bit the shadows, that often tend to have some kind of blue cast for “environmental reasons”, because of the light that bathed the scene, or a green cast when you shoot under a tree in spring or summer.
Something like the image at the beginning of this post is what you will get. Quite a difference from the blue mess we started with!
P.s.: you will notice that the leaves in this image tends to go from green-ish to yellow-ish tonalities more or less from the bottom to the top part. This has nothing to do with processing: it matches the scene, or in other words it is exactly like this particular tree was.