Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas Day in Durham

Durham riverside

We decided to go for a walk around Durham this morning to build up an appetite for our Xmas dinner. The weather was relatively kind, with a low winter sun and cold, but no rain. 

Our walk took us to the cathedral grounds - the loos are reliably open - and then through the cathedral itself. I'm not religious, and I have to say that "Away in a Manger" is far from being my favourite carol, but that was what the choir were singing as we entered. It was in fact a wonderful arrangement with beautiful harmonies, quite magical, we had to stop to listen. 

The photo shows the light catching buildings as seen from Elvet bridge, something that I had not noticed in the past and only visible when the trees are bare.

NEX 6 Pentax M 75-150 mm  f4 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Manual Focus 24mm lenses on Sony NEX 6

My wife carried out a long threatened tidying of my study when two old 24mm lenses were unearthed. They are a Tamron Adaptall 2 01B f2.5 and a Sigma f2.8 Super Wide II macro. The Tamron appears to have led a hard life, while the Sigma looks to be pristine. Thinking back, I may have saved the Tamron from the skip at work!

Despite its ropey appearance the Tamron appears to be in good working order with a slinky smooth focus and aperture adjustment. Tamron Adaptalls were well constructed. The Sigma has a slightly sticky aperture ring. It all works, but you feel that it might not continue without some attention.

I did a few tests in the street using a tripod when the Tamron did not shine at all, pretty soft down the edges, while the Sigma appeared to do better than the kit 16-50 Sony zoom. I therefore took the Sigma out for a proper trial today.

The results are a bit mixed. It seems to be prone to CA, although not excessively so, and, more worryingly, it is slightly soft down one side. Otherwise it produces nice clean, colour neutral but contrasty images  that look a deal better than those produced by the kit zoom. I had considered using it in preference to my "Standard" Pentax K 28mm f3.5, but that lens produces images that are  genuinely sharp from corner to corner on the crop sensor, so it will probably retain its place on the camera.

It has to be born in mind that these older lenses may have had a hard life, so, in addition to sample variation, maltreatment over the years may have caused a bit of damage. Tamrons are normally pretty sound, I suspect that mine is not representative of the breed!

Sigma 24mm f2.8 Super Wide II at f8

Click for a bigger image. No problems with sharpness here, but a touch of CA on the right hand edge of the actual pixels crop. To put this into perpective, it's easily removed in LR, and I've seen similar results  from a Canon L zoom. If you can source a good one, without misalignment issues, the Sigma could be a wise buy.

The Malmaison Hotel in Newcastle is located within an old co-operative society warehouse that is a listed building. It was one of the first ferro concrete constructions within the UK, and was built to the designs of a French engineer, who pioneered the technique, between 1900 and 1902.

Sony NEX 6

Friday, 15 November 2013

Durham Lumiere

Durham Lumiere or Festival of Light is in operation over this weekend., with various displays throughout the city. Probably the most impressive is the "Crown of Light" a son et lumière display at the cathedral, but there's plenty else to see.

Building the cathedral

Lindisfarne Gospels

Elephantastic on Elvet Bridge

Sony NEX 6 Sigma 19mm f2.8 and Zuiko 50mm f1.8 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Sony 55-210 Versus Pentax 75-150 and 200

Pentax 75-150 mm M f4 versus Sony 55-210 at f8

Top left

Pentax 200 mm M f4  versus Sony 55-210 

Top left 
Top right

The Pentax lenses are sharper in the corners and don't suffer from a warm colour cast, but the Sony provides a similar level of sharpness in the centre of the frame and is less prone to chromatic aberration.

The file sizes of the JPGs produced by PS from TIFFs resulting from a Lightroom raw conversion are as follows: -

150 mm

Pentax 75-150  13913
Sony 55-210     13179

200 mm

Pentax 200     12721
Sony 55-210  12037

Suggesting that both Pentax lenses are collecting more data.        

Edit - since writing this I have discovered that my Pentax 200 mm f4 lens is not focusing to infinity. Once I get this sorted I'll do another comparison. 16-8-2015

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Pentax K 28mm f3.5 on NEX 6

 I've been intending to carry out a formal test of the Pentax 28mm f3.5 K lens for some while, with the camera on a tripod, and looking at several shots at each aperture etc. Well that hasn't happened, I've been too busy trying to take snaps that will sell.

In the meantime here's a shot taken in Keswick at the weekend. Camera handheld, probably f8 and the image straightened a bit in PS, so not really ideal

Actual pixel crops top left and bottom right.

There is just a smidgen of CA on the top left crop, but it's hardly noticeable, and, given the position of the crops within the frame, pretty sharp; certainly sharp enough for what I need. Not bad for a lens that cost me around £25!

Click for a bigger image, both of these are reduced quality JPGs, but fit for purpose methinks. The crops have default Lightroom sharpening applied in raw conversion, but have not been sharpened in PS.

Sony NEX 6 Pentax K 28mm f3.5

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Autumn Colours Durham


Prebends Bridge

The autumn colours are not quite there as yet, but I suspect that we may lose the leaves before they show at their very best.

NEX 6 Sigma 19mm f2.8 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Fishing Boat Entering Blyth Harbour

Cold but crisp yesterday in Northumberland as a fishing boat motors past the lighthouse at the entry to Blyth harbour.

NEX 6 Sony 55-210 mm

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Newcastle University

Man obligingly wearing red coat matching the colour in the logo.

NEX 6 Samsung D-Xenogon (Pentax) 35mm f2

Friday, 11 October 2013

Pentax K 28mm f3.5 with Sony NEX6

I have been using the Pentax K 28mm f3.5 as my standard lens on the NEX 6 recently and have found it to be superior to the alternatives that I have tried.

First the drawbacks. It is heavier and larger than both the Pentax M and Zuiko f2.8 lenses, while it uses a 52mm filter thread, rather than the standard 49mm of most of my heritage glass. As you might expect, the f3.5 aperture is not quite as bright as the f2.8, but it's quite usable.

I've not done exact comparison shots, but image sharpness/contrast is not a problem, probably similar to the M f2.8 which is pretty good. If we ever see the sun again, I might make a few comparisons.

One of the main advantages of the K lies with its control of CA, it's hardly noticeable on most shots. I don't think that I have had to correct a single image for CA, while this was very much the Achilles heel of both the M and Zuiko lenses.

Another big advantage over the Pentax M is the lack of barrel distortion. I've not measured this scientifically, but I've just not noticed it on shots where it could be a problem. I did photograph a brick wall as a test and I couldn't detect any, so, in practical terms, distortion is not an issue.

Conclusion, the Pentax K f3.5 28mm is the best of the bunch to date!

Update - just taken a look at Ebay and the last Pentax 28mm f3.5 K to sell went for £102 plus postage! I need to look after what has become an appreciating asset......

Further update - As I take more photos using this lens I get to know it better. It's not completely free from chromatic aberration, but it needs a pretty extreme situation for it to be a problem. Much, much better that the f2.8 Pentax M and Zuiko in that respect.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Attempt to rescue sunken yacht in the river Tyne at Friar's Goose - Gateshead

I was told that this yacht had been moored upstream from Friar's Goose marina, when, during an exceptionally low tide, it had taken to the bottom, tipped over, and then filled when the water returned. I was also told that the boat was not insured, and that it had lain there for around three years. 

Here a group of three men were making an attempt to rescue it by pumping out the water at low tide and trying to seal the vessel so that it might float at high water.  Hopefully they will succeed!

NEX6 Zuiko 50mm f1.8

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Focusing and using the the Sony NEX 6 with manual focus lenses

I've had the camera for several months now and taken around 6000 shots, mainly using manual focus lenses by Pentax and Olympus.

At first I tried the focus peaking facility, but found that it was either too in yer face, and blotted out parts of the composition, or it would result in false positives. I therefore changed my modus operandi to the 10 x magnification feature, and would focus with the aperture wide open, stopping down to shoot.

I have noted elsewhere that, if you do this, it is important to point the camera at a neutral tone and open the aperture before clicking for a magnified view. If you don't do this the camera may show a greatly overexposed image that is very difficult to assess. I guess that the camera's exposure system fixes a value based upon the 100% view, and uses that for the magnified image.  Opening the aperture after selecting magnify does not change the meter reading, the image will be overexposed.

More recently I have taken another look at focus peaking and have found that it works well if you set it at its minimum value and focus wide open, stopping down to shoot. This is a bit quicker than using 10x magnification and works for many subjects. With intrinsically low contrast scenes it is better to use the 10 x feature.

Another control that I make a great deal of use of is exposure compensation. If I have the time I will review each shot after taking the photo and then dial in some compensation to get a better exposure. Irritatingly, the camera will assume that you wish to move onto a different viewing mode if you are reviewing images, rather than answer to the  helm and adjust the exposure. In the past I would press the button that is used to toggle between reviewing shots and normal operation, but this button is hard to find with the camera to your eye. In fact a light press on the shutter release does the same thing, switching off the review and returning to normal mode. This may seem a trivial thing, but it has transformed my enjoyment of the camera.

Should this be necessary I hear you ask, is the exposure system so bad that you need to adjust every shot? In practice I find it reasonably reliable, no worse than the Canon DSLRs that I also use, but not perfect, and a small adjustment is often needed to optimise exposure. What about the exposure preview histogram then? Well I do use it on occasion, but it only tells a partial story, and the proof of the pudding is in the image recorded on the card.

What about the lenses that I use?

Well the star performer has to be the Zuiko 50mm f1.8. It's very sharp, does not suffer from CA, and provides neutrally coloured images, noticeably colder than the Sony lenses that I have. Unfortunately, with an equivalent angle of view as an 80mm lens on a FF camera, it's not the most useful of focal lengths.

The Samsung/Pentax 35mm f2 is another very good lens, but this is a rather more expensive optic and you might expect it to do well. Mine cost me £175 a few years ago ( it's a Pentax/Samsung auto focus job).

I have tried three heritage 28mm f2.8 lenses. A pentax M, a Zuiko and a Canon FT. I was least impressed with the Canon, maybe I got a bad copy, I took it back and swapped it for the Zuiko. There isn't much to choose between the Pentax and Zuiko lenses, they are both sharper than the standard Sony Zoom, without being exceptional, while they both suffer from CA. My copy of the Pentax is a little better than  the Zuiko, as that exhibits some softness down one edge - again probably something peculiar to the particular lens that I possess. However the Pentax does suffer from some noticeable barrel distortion, fixable but annoying. I find the Pentax 28mm is my most used lens (42 mm FF equivalent), it is my default choice, near to ideal for many of the shots that I like to take. I shall continue my search for a really good, but economical, 28mm optic!

I also possess Pentax f3.5 M and K 28mm lenses, and I am tempted to give them a run out. The older K design always produced excellent results on my film cameras, and surely the CA can't be any worse than the M f2,8! (Update - see later post, the Pentax 28mm f3.5 K is a very good choice).

The Sigma 19mm is OK to Good, not perfect. I tend to use it as an auto focus lens, and, perhaps as a result, get more unacceptably unsharp shots from it than I do with my older manual focus lenses. I like to know what I am focusing on, and auto focus systems always seem to have a mind of their own. Maybe they know they are in the hands of a Luddite and act accordingly.

The Sony 55-210 lens is a reasonably good performer, particularly considering the price, but it's far from perfect. I have had mine back for adjustment, after finding some shots very badly soft down one edge, and it is now a lot better, but I still get some less than crisp edge details. I also find that it produces very warm images, almost as though there was a warming filter attached. It's a personal thing, but I prefer the colder, more realistic, results from my 50mm Zuiko.

Sony 55-210 warm rendering

Zuiko 50mm F1.8 cold rendering

See Also this

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Leek Show - Winning exhibit

The winning exhibit or prize leeks at the Beamish Museum leek show. A grand old north eastern tradition!

Sony NEX 6 probably Zuiko 28mm f2.8

Monday, 5 August 2013

Sunshine at Roker

Before the rains came this week, we had some fabulous summer sunshine.

It's not often that it's warm enough to swim in the north sea at Sunderland, but this photo of Roker/Seaburn beach shows people choosing to sit in the shade, to get out of the sun!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Rothbury Traditional Music Festival

Rothbury Highland Pipe Band begin the proceedings with a march through the town.

This hat doesn't fit!

Alistair Anderson and Dan Walsh perform together

Dan Walsh

Benny Graham sings Bonny at Morn

Start them young! Members of Keep Calm and Ceilidh On

Sony Nex 6 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland

We try to get to the National Trust property Cragside at least once every year, and the best time to go is normally early June, when the azaleas and rhododendrons are at their best. This year we have had a severe winter and a cold wet spring, so things are a tad out of joint. There were some fabulous flowers to be seen, but nothing like the profusion of bloom of previous years at this time. However there's always something of interest to see at Cragside, our all time favourite NT location.

Click on any photo for an enlarged view.

Sheep with lamb, Tumbleton Lake

Blossom, cherry?


Carved into a fallen tree

Tree sculpture covered with toy trucks

Tulips too!

Sony NEX 6 various lenses.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Dangerous Junction For Cyclists in Washington

The Times newspaper has been running a campaign to identify the most dangerous junctions within the UK from the viewpoint of a cyclist. They provided an interactive map and encouraged cyclists to pin point their most feared locations. One of the junctions featured is this one on the approach to Washington from Felling, the junction of the A194(M) and the A195 or Northumberland Way. The motorway passes beneath the A195 and there is a large roundabout on that road, with slip roads to the motorway and other exits.

Traffic leaving the roundabout and joining the A195 into Washington has a very limited sight line due to the curvature of the road and a dense planting of mature trees. However, immediately after the roundabout is a pedestrian/cyclist crossing.  People crossing at this point cannot see the traffic coming around the bend, and drivers cannot see the crossing until they are upon it.

This photo shows the trees overhanging the cycle track/footpath. Click on to any photo for an enlarged image.

A cyclist waiting to cross, but she cannot see the oncoming traffic, which often travels at a considerable speed.

Another view of the crossing showing the problem of limited visibility.

This is a heavily used crossing, as it falls on the direct cycle route from Washington to Newcastle, which, at a distance of about 9 miles, is within easy cycle commuting range and uses what are otherwise safe paths or minor roads. It is also used by pedestrians as there is a bus stop directly adjacent to this point, and workers can access the local industrial estate from here.

Local cycle campaign groups have approached the cycling officers of both Sunderland and Gateshead councils, and have also involved local councillors, but, to date, nothing has been done to alleviate the problem. It is not clear who has responsibility for the situation, with the local councils claiming that the Highways Authority are the responsible body. 

From a layman's point of view the solution would seem to be some or all of the following measures: -

1) Relocate the crossing point further from the junction
2) Cut back the trees so improving sight lines
3) Install signs warning drivers to slow down as people may be crossing the road
4) Institute a 30 mph speed limit around the roundabout and to just beyond the crossing.

This doesn't seem to be too much to ask, inaction may result in a fatality.

Monday, 15 April 2013

A&C Ilson Crushers at Work, Beamish Museum

I went along to the Beamish Steam Weekend and even encountered a bit of sunshine on the Saturday!

Along with the replica Rocket and Planet locos, umpteen traction engines and vintage motor vehicles, there was the display by A&C Ilson Crushers road repair gang. Great fun, an unexpected treat!

NEX 6 Probably Pentax 28 and 35mm lenses

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Lakes - Alcock Tarn

Whenever there is guaranteed sunshine in the Lake District we try to get over there, and at Easter weekend there was such an opportunity.

 We have often walked along the old coffin road between Grasmere and Rydal Mount, and have passed the footpath sign for Alcock Tarn. On this occasion we went for the 3 mile diversion and climbed up to investigate the tarn. It's a bit of a struggle - the going up - but well worth the effort.

Looking beyond Grasmere towards the Langdale Pikes

Coming down we saw this roe deer on the path, it seemed relatively tame, staying a discreet distance away, but not running for cover.

Sony NEX 6 Sigma 19mm, Pentax 28mm, and Sony 55-210 lenses