Hollywood dreaming

Ah, eBay, my wallet's nemesis. I had the first and only bid on a Zeiss 28mm f/2 ZF.2 that should have sold for much more than I paid, so pleasant surprise, another new lens for the growing kit. I think I need to stop my eBay and craigslist browsing as it's been an expensive month.

Online research says this is a copy of the Contax version, nicknamed "Hollywood" in some circles. It's yet another hefty lens, with all that glass and metal. Focusing is very smooth, with just the right heft (are you listening, 24mm Samyang?). Definitely a pleasure to use. The hood is another story; who still uses flocking in this day and age? Sharpness and contrast are excellent, and the lens produces bokeh that's typical of the Zeiss lenses that I've used: smooth with a hint of nervousness. There isn't much falloff wide open, but there is a bit of chromatic aberration, both purple and green.

I've only managed one outing with the lens (being sick is no fun, especially when there's a car show), but I'm looking forward to using the 28mm more.

I now have four Zeiss lenses (granted, only one made in Germany). The 50mm Ultron is still the most Zeiss of them all in my opinion, having that special something that makes photos taken with it stand out.

The kit keeps growing

I was too late to get this in as a February post. That's life. So, I found a decent copy of the Fuji 14mm f/2.8 on craigslist. The lens came with a Fuji EF-20 flash for a tiny additional amount. I can't say no to a bargain. On a side note, the seller was letting go of his Fuji equipment because he had accepted a job with Nikon in Japan, after applying to both companies. He mentioned that employees get a 50% discount, such a sweet deal.

I haven't had the chance to take the lens out for a shoot (thanks, deluge). This weekend isn't going to be any better, so it will take some time before I can post anything from the 14mm. I do find the AF to be slow; it goes forward-backwards during focus, just like the 27mm f/2.8. Part and parcel of Fuji's early generation of lenses. It's strange though how the AF of the 18-55mm is just like a Nikon AF-S lens, but the rest of my Fuji lenses are the hunting type.

On the eBay front, I have a Samyang 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift on the way (USPS totally missed the delivery date). I enjoy using the Nikon 35mm PC, but it's not wide enough, being an equivalent 38mm on the X-E2 with the LTII. I've been trying to snag a NIkon 28mm PC, but the Samyang came up and I couldn't say no (and got a bit carried away with e-bidding).

So the kit continues to grow. I'm now up to five Fuji lenses. I should sell off the Nikon 1 lenses as I don't see much future use out of the V2, outside of hooking it up to the Sigma 500mm for surfing shots. Some of the FX Nikons should also probably go, since I don't use the D3 that much either. 

Or maybe I should buy another cabinet to store the new stuff...nah, that's the easy way out.

New to the kit

I've been playing with three lenses for the last month or so. One is the Contax 85mm f/1.4 that I picked up before Christmas. It's a lovely piece of glass, hefty (more so with the Zhongyi Lens Turbo II attached), with that nice mechanical feel of old MF lenses. IQ is sweet, much better than what I get from the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G. I'll have to borrow a friend's Nikon 85mm f/1.4D to do a comparison on the Fuji X-E2 one of these days.
The second lens is a Nikon 35mm f/2.8PC that I bought earlier in 2016 but haven't used much. This is the non-AI version, and it flares quite a bit. It doesn't feel as well put-together as the Contax 85mm, but the shift movement is smooth, albeit with a bit of play at the start. The rotation mechanism is very smooth though. I've been using it hand held, but one of these days I'm going to bring a tripod and do perspective correction the right way. In my opinion, 35mm (or 38mm-equivalent with the Lens Turbo II) isn't wide enough with city streets. I have been looking around for a 28mm PC and almost snagged one on Craigslist. It's too bad that Nikon's current PC lenses are over $1k new, otherwise I would consider buying one. I did spot a Canon 24mm for $600 on eBay, but not being able to set the aperture is a pain (no, I will not buy a Canon film body and bring it with me just to set the aperture).
The final lens of the trio is a Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4. This is the newest design of the three, and so far it's been tack sharp with fast AF. It doesn't quite have the character of the Zonlai 25mm f/1.8 though, and doesn't focus nearly as close. It's also much bigger, and the petal hood merely serves to emphasize its size. On the other, hand it doesn't suffer from the focus shift issues that plague the Zonlai. 

Look for more images from these three as I put them through their paces.

Oh, I forgot one more lens that arrived before Christmas: the Fujinon XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS. It's pretty sharp for such a cheap lens, sharper than the Nikon 70-300mm VR. The VR also does a good job of keeping the camera steady. It's at 230mm that things start to fall apart, with autofocus slowing down due to being at f/6.7, massive vignetting despite the small aperture and built-in lens corrections, and the rather long length of the lens coupled with a plastic lens mount. Still, for the price I paid for it used, it's well worth the money.

Double, triple, quadruple check, to be sure

I messed up on my last trip over the Christmas break. I got to my destination, only to discover that:
  1. I forgot the charger for the V2 (sitting in the box of chargers)
  2. I forgot to bring extra batteries for the X-E2 (sitting in the bag that I had used the day before my departure)
  3. I forgot the Nikon TC-14E II (sitting in the backpack that I had previously loaded up with gear, only to change my mind and not totally empty it)

I did bring three batteries to mitigate #1, but that meant I had to sparingly use the V2. I mitigated #2 by constantly charging the one battery that was in the X-E2. I had though of buying more batteries, but one cost $60, and Amazon wouldn't ship to my location. As for #3, well, there's no mitigating a missed TC.

To compound matters, the laptop that I used to transfer files from the cards to my portable HD kept on disconnecting both my cardreader and HD. I didn't double check what was being transferred, so when I got home, over 400 images were missing. It sucks that these were of the Vans surfing event. Argh! To compound the problem, I had formatted the card that I used on that day, and used it for other days. Don't ask why as I had more than enough CF cards to last the trip and then some.

Not a good way to end the year (I'm not counting it as the start of the year as the errors happened in 2016).

Here's to a better year ahead.

Year end musings 2016 edition

As 2016 draws to a close with only four blog posts this year, it's time for the second short review of my state of the photo nation.
  1. My camera systems are now four: Nikon FX, Nikon DX, Nikon CX, and Fuji X. The Fuji gets the most use, DX the least (but it is a recent addition).
  2. I added a D5200 (last year's D5200 has been with my brother for some time now), along with an 18-140mm DX as a general use camera.
  3. The D3 batteries are failing. They've lived a long life, and have served me well.
  4. The V2 hasn't seen much use, mostly because I haven't shot surfing much. There hasn't been much activity on the Nikon side with CX lenses or bodies, so this is the end of CX for me.
  5. The X-E1 is gone, replaced by an X-E2. Same resolution, but with PD AF and a much faster EVF, especially in dim lighting. Still not as clean as the V1/V2's EVF in dim light though. I bought an XT-10 guide, but have yet to read through it. This had lead to several issues in the field. RTFM!
  6. My lens kit has grown. I picked up a bunch of 50-55mm lenses, mostly because they're really cheap. Not sure what do with all of them, but each one has its distinct characteristics, or draw as others like to call it. I'm also the happy owner of a Contax 85mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.7, and a Fuji 23mm f/1.4. 
  7. I've added a Zhongyi Lens Turbo II in a Canon EOS mount. It's been fun using the Nikon 35mm PC with the X-E2, and I'm planning to use this lens more. A 28mm PC would be even more useful.
  8. Film! I'm the happy owner of a free Yashica T4S and a $15 Olympus XA. I didn't think I'd go back to film but shooting B&W with tiny cameras has been fun.
  9. I added three tripods to my kit: a Manfrotto Pixi and two MeFoto tripods (don't know why I need two, but couldn't resist the sale). Let's see if they get any actual use.
  10. I am the happy owner of a Peak Design  Everyday Backpack 20L. Just the right size for a weekend trip with a body and two lenses. 
  11. Speaking of bags, my most used bag is a Tamrac Aria shoulder bag. As with any shoulder bag that I've owned, the buckle on the strap gets in the way of the shoulder pad; still need to figure out a fix. I also have a ThinkTank Urban Disguise that hasn't seen any use as it's a bit big, but the price was just right. 
  12. Craigslist finds that got away: Zeiss Touit 32mm and 12mm for $500, Contax 28mm for $150, Fuji 32mm f/2 for $200, Yashica Electro for $25. Snooze you lose.

Not quite the direction I thought I'd take after the paring down that was 2015. Cabinet space is getting tight. It's like when your pants get tighter and you consider going a size up, until reality sets in and you realize you're getting fat.

What's the plan for 2017?
  1. Nikon 28mm PC so I don't have to step too far back for architectural shots.
  2. There are rumours of a D900, a replacement for the D700. I would consider it if the price is under $2k. 
  3. Pare down. I'm going to review my lenses and may let some go. The D5200 may also go as I don't see using it that much.
The year 2016 has been a dog, with so many early deaths, bad news, and horrible political decisions. Here's to what will hopefully be a better year.