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Rokinon 85mm f/1.4

This is the Samyang 85mm f/1.4. Throughout the years, Samyang lenses have been branded with various names among which are Rokinon and Bower. They are made by Samyang Optics from South Korea. The company have built affordable off-brand lenses since the 1970s. Samyang is one of the rare off-brand lens manufacturers that has consistently maintained above average build quality and performance. There are quite a few notable Samyang lenses that have performed well above expectations, not just in terms of for-the-price but in absolute terms of quality.

Rokinon 85mm f/1.4

This is the Nikon F-mount AE model that enables electronic communication with Nikon cameras. It’s a manual focus lens but has focus confirmation chip that triggers the in-focus indicator in the viewfinder. This model is supposed to trigger an audible in-focus beep as well, but for some reason it never worked. I decided not to make fuss over it. The viewfinder indicator light seemed enough for me. The build quality is quite nice as well. The focus and aperture ring are well dampened and operate with sense of dignity. Fit and finish is satisfyingly solid with absolutely no rattles or unintended movement. Only complaint is the lens cap that is total crap. But that’s nitpicking. Because it is a lot of glass for the money.

This lens works nicely on the micro four thirds camera as a sort of long-ish telephoto. Since the M4/3 system has 2.0x crop sensor, 85mm becomes 170mm. The LCD zoom focus assist really becomes helpful when trying to focus at aperture of 1.4. My Lumix GF2 becomes quite front heavy with this lens attached and is actually somewhat awkward to operate. But it doesn’t matter because it’s actually as much fun as it is weird.

Rokinon 85mm f/1.4

f/1.4, 1/125s, iso 1600
Rokinon 85mm f/1.4

Built like a tank. Shoots like a machine gun – Canon EOS 1D

The Canon EOS 1D is the latest addition to my humble photo gear collection. 1D Mark II, that is. Sorry to disappoint but hell, I have no plans to spend $7k or so on the EOS 1DX. Having said that, the second iteration of the EOS 1D series from 8 or so years ago is still one hell of a camera. I was lucky in that I was able to find a mint example at a very reasonable price.

The EOS 1D series cameras are typically used by serious professionals such as sports shooters, fashion photographers or journalists who are in the field day in and day out. Therefore, it is relatively difficult to find a used example that is free of battle scars. And most have racked up high shutter count during its lifetime. Luckily though, mine seems to have come from a photo hobbyist who hardly ever took the camera out. The shutter count is only 4300 (according to Adobe Bridge EXIF data). And the camera feels and looks to support that number in every way. The camera has no signs of use whatsoever. There are no marks or tripod scars underneath. The shutter release feels fresh and springy. It is absolutely mint.

Now, I do admit that I don’t own an EF lens that’s worthy of this machine. But I can have plenty fun adapting my Nikkors and even with the Canon EF 40mm 2.8. But honestly, I don’t think I’ll take the EOS 1D out much. It’s fun to tinker with but I just can’t justify carrying all that bulk and weight when my Nikon D90 or Canon 20D will do just fine for type of photography that I enjoy. However, I now have come to understand what makes a pro-level camera a pro-level. When you hold the 1D it feels dignifying and menacing at the same time. It is heavy (twice the weight of my Canon 20D), but it doesn’t bother you because it feels good in your hands. All of the frequently needed controls are never more than one button away. And it really sounds like a machine gun in burst mode. After holding the EOS 1D even for a few minutes, going back to your typical DSLR makes you feel like your are holding a kid’s toy, seriously.

After playing with the 1D for few days, not only have I developed a deep respect for such class of machines but more importantly, I have realized that professional cameras are not for me. Yes, duh. These cameras are purpose built, highly customizable tools of the trade that help pay the bills. I’ll probably tinker with it for a short while. I must say the sound of the 8.5 fps shutter is addicting.

Canon EOS 1D MK II
Canon EOS 1D MK II
Canon EOS 1D MK II
Canon EOS 1D MK II
Canon EOS 1D MK II
Canon EOS 1D MK II

DIY Ghetto Microscope

These are the remains of my old point-and-shoot Canon A80 from years ago. The part creative and part goofiness in me just couldn’t let these go to waste. I had to do something with them. I recently read about people attaching Holga lenses to their DSLRs to have some good ‘ol Holga fun. It got me wondering what would happen if I mount a compact zoom lens on APS-C sensor cameras. I just had to find out.

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

This is the result of some fiddling around with Nikon body cap, a glue gun, and left over pieces of the Canon compact. Now that this little lens officially became a Nikon f-mount I can mount it on my Nikon or my Canon Xti with the EOS-Nikon adapter. It even zooms in and out. How sweet is that?

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

Here is the result.
It’s not looking terribly handsome. And one has to wonder why anyone would want to do such a thing.
SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

Here are the shots made with the silly frankenstein lens. The good news is that I can focus really close. I mean really close like 3/8 of an inch! It can almost serve as a cheap microscope. However, as you can see they aren’t terribly good looking. Also, at that focus distance you don’t get enough light between the subject and the front of the lens. So you’d need a tripod because you’ll be shooting really slow. Yes, the lens is crappy but fun. The same way go-carts are fun even if you drive a Bentley.
SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

The screw head on these are 2mm in diameter.
SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

SLR with Point and Shoot Lens!

Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN for Micro Four Thirds (M43)

The Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN is a budget-conscious auto-focus prime for the Micro Four Thirds camera system. Sigma lenses are generally known to be a hit or miss; therefore I wasn’t instantly drawn to it when they recently introduced line of lenses for the M4/3 system. But the reviews for this particular model were fairly positive. So I figured $150 or so was worth the risk.

My initial reaction was very positive. The build quality and fit is fairly decent. However, the Sigma 19mm 2.8 is quite bulky for a mirrorless prime. My Samsung NX 20mm 2.8 is less than half the size of the Sigma.

I read that this lens could take up to 3 or 4 seconds to index on some Micro Four Thirds cameras. But I didn’t experience any long indexing issue on my Lumix GF2. The lens and the camera was ready to use instantly upon powering up. The auto focus is surprisingly quick, produces pleasing bokeh, and the picture quality is actually quite good. The minimum focus distance is short (0.2m) which can be useful.

Normally, not much is expected from a lens at this price range. So you’d be pleasantly surprised once you discover how well this cheap Sigma performs. I’d say it’s well worth the price; it comfortably outperformed all of my expectations. Looks like this Sigma is a hit.

Lumix GF2 + Sigma 19mm 2.8 EX DN

Lumix GF2 + Sigma 19mm 2.8 EX DN

Some test shots taken with Sigma 19mm f/2.8
Lumix GF2 + Sigma 19mm 2.8 EX DN
f/2.8, 1/15s, iso-800

Lumix GF2 + Sigma 19mm 2.8 EX DN
f/2.8, 1/15s, iso-800

Lumix GF2 + Sigma 19mm 2.8 EX DN
f/3.5, 1/8s, iso-400

Little Camera with a Big Heart – Samsung NX100

I’ve had this camera for few years now; it has become my take-along-anywhere camera. It can go where my Nikon D90 or Canon 20D can’t. It’s light, compact, and discreet.
The NX100 has APS-C 1.5 crop factor sensor which is the same size as my Nikon D90 and slightly larger than the Canon. So far, the little Samsung doesn’t disappoint. Great images, intuitive menu layout and easy access to controls make this camera an absolute joy. Only major flaw is the high ISO performance isn’t that great despite its large sensor size. Also, there is no built in flash so in a low-light emergency situation, most likely you’d just lose the shot or end up with a really crappy photo.

The 20-50mm f/3.5 is decent. Seems to perform better than most of the 18-55mm that comes with entry dslrs.
Samsung NX 100
Samsung NX 100

The NX 20mm f/2.8 pancake lens is absolutely sweet.
Samsung NX 100
Samsung NX 100
Samsung NX 100

Samsung NX100 with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 D
Samsung NX 100

Samsung NX100 with Nikkor 18-105mm DX G
Samsung NX 100

Samsung NX100 with Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 S
Samsung NX 100
Samsung NX 100

Samsung NX100 with Tokina 100-200mm
Samsung NX 100
Samsung NX 100

Samsung NX100 with Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8 SP
Samsung NX 100
Samsung NX 100
Samsung NX 100

Nikon F-mount adapter. Works with Nikon AI, AIS, D and G series lenses. Allows me to use all of my Nikon mount lens collection.
Samsung NX 100 Nikon F-mount adapter

Konica AR Mount & Nikon F Mount

Here is the detailed look at both mounts; the Nikon F and the Konica AR. Bayonets on these are almost identical. Both have three tabs on the flange which are positioned almost exactly like the other. As a result, the AR-mount lens fits comfortably inside the Nikon F-mount. Once the flange sits nicely inside the camera mount, you need to turn the Konica AR lens in the opposite direction of how you’d normally mount a F-mount lens because of the way stoppers are situated.

The center top of the AR lens even ends up roughly in the center which is nice. You’re not going to hear the final ‘click’ as you mount. You somehow need to know instinctively when to stop turning. I stop as soon as I feel a hint of resistance. That’s when the top of the lens sits roughly in the center and the fit is firm enough to operate the lens and the camera. You DO NOT want to force rotate it more than you need to. You don’t want to find out what happens then.
Konica AR-mount on Nkion F-mount

Konica AR-mount on Nkion F-mount

And here it is on the Nikon D90. Of course, everything is manual and there is no focus to infinity. Also, unfortunately for the D90, there is no metering. But just look at that fit! And the Konica Hexanon is one darn good lens. Takes beautiful pictures and super crisp.
Konica AR-mount on Nkion F-mount

Example shot with Konica Hexanon 50mm monuted on Nikon D90
Konica AR-mount on Nkion F-mount

Another AR+F mount example: Vivitar MC 28mm Konica AR mount

*Please note: if you are attempting this fit, do it at your own risk. This particular combination has caused no damage to my Nikon but I’m not making any guarantees.

Samsung NX200

Samsung has made quite an impression with the NX100 Mirrorless System Camera last year. The competition in the Mirrorless Camera market is fierce. To combat the likes of Sony NEX-7, Samsung just introduced the NX200. The spec looks very promising.

Sensor: APS-C CMOS (15.7 x 23.5mm)
Resolution: 20.3MP (there’s a slight concern for noise at this level for sensor of this size)
ISO: 100-12800
Max. Shutter Speed: 1/4000
Continuous Shooting: 7 fps

Although Samsung claims autofocus speed of 0.1 second – which is quite fast even for dedicated DSLR – I doubt the NX200 will reliably perform at that speed in real world situations. But I don’t care. I want one.
The NX200 is quite possibly the most desirable Mirrorless System Camera on the market right now.

UPDATE (Sept. 21, 2011): Nikon introduces mirrorless!

Samsung NX200

Samsung NX200

Samsung NX200

Samsung NX200

Samsung NX200

Samsung NX200

Samsung NX200

Samsung NX200

Canon EOS with Nikon F-mount Adapter

Currently, my Canon Rebel Xti works in manual focus mode only.

Since the Canon EF lenses do not have aperture rings, it will be pointless trying to use those in manual mode. Instead, I bought a cheap Canon EF-to-Nikon F-Mount adapter. Now I can mount some old Nikon lenses that do have proper aperture rings.
Here is the cool thing. The Canon will meter with the old Nikon AI lenses. Same with the old Canon FD lenses and everything else (with adapters), the Canon will meter without any electronic or mechanical contact with the lens.

Canon EOS with F-mount Tokina

At this point I’d like to point out the great irony that no Nikon fan will want to talk about during the heated Canon vs. Nikon debate:
Nikon and its fans boast and pride themselves for having the ultimate lens compatibility with the F-mount and most will claim that any Nikon lens ever made since 1959 is compatible with modern Nikon cameras. This is simply not true.

- Most Nikon F-mount lenses produced before late 1970s must be modified to mount on modern Nikon cameras.

- Any non-G Series auto focus lenses will not auto focus on many of the mainstream modern Nikon DSLRs unless the camera has a built-in focus screw (D90 and up).

- And most importantly, with the exception of few high end models, modern Nikon DSLRs do not meter with the old manual lenses. The Canon does!

Canon EOS to Nikon F-mount adapter

Canon EOS to Nikon F-mount adapter
Canon EOS to Nikon F-Mount Adapter

Canon EOS with Nikkor 50mm AF 1.8D
Canon EOS with Nikkor 50mm 1.8D

Canon EOS with Ricoh Rikenon
Canon EOS with Ricoh Rikenon 50mm F/2
(Ricoh was converted to F-mount bayonet previously)

Canon EOS with Tokina F-mount
Canon EOS with AI F-Mount Tokina 100-300

Canon EOS with F-mount Tamron
Canon EOS with F-Mount Tamron 17-35mm F/2.8

Canon EOS with Nikkor-S 50mm 1.4

Canon EOS with Nikkor-S 50mm 1.4
Canon EOS with Nikkor-S 50mmF/1.4
(The non-AI F-mount lenses do not have to be converted to AI when using the EOS-Nikon adapter. Just need to remove the aperture indexing fork.)

Canon Xti Repair – Part 2

Canon Xti repair part 1
The ribbon connector attached to this part (the lens communication pin assembly) is really all I needed to fix the lens communication and bring the auto-focus back. But unfortunately, I discovered the hard way that this piece isn’t simply replaceable by itself.

Canon Xti in parts

I got my hands on the Xti donor number one. The donor had damages beyond any hopes of repair but all I needed is a ribbon connector so I started taking it apart. However, as you can see in the picture, the ribbon connector is routed into the mirror assembly. This meant I’d have to dismantle the entire shutter mechanism attached to the mirror box. There were myriads of tiny gears, levers, and springs that I knew was impossible to put back once taken apart. My Xti is at least half functioning – it works fine with manual lenses. And I don’t want it to be fully broken. Therefore the risk was just too high only to get the auto focus back.

Canon Xti in parts

Canon Xti in parts

So my choices are either live without the auto focus or get another donor and awap out the entire mirror box and shutter assembly. So I chose the latter.
Canon Xti repair part 3

Canon EOS Error 01 (Err01) – The worst case scenario

Canon’s explanation of the Err01 is “Communications between the camera and the lens is faulty. Clean the lens contact.” Well, life can’t be that simple can it?
I’m sure there are cases where the lens contacts are indeed dirty enough to interfere with communication between the camera and the lens. There are lots of cleaning tips online including the ‘pencil eraser’ method. If that worked for you consider yourself lucky.

Here is the dreaded Err01 message:
Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

No amount of cleaning, resetting and swearing was going to make the error go away on this Rebel XTi. I’ve also verified that it wasn’t the lens, dirty contacts, or the firmware. So I decided to take a deeper look (literally) to see what is really wrong.
Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

It turns out that the internal connector pin that connects the lens contact pin assembly to the circuit board has burnt out! Yes, burnt. The connector was covered with green fungus-like powder and some gooey substance was underneath it. And there were black burn marks on the flexible strip.
Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

Holy crap! how could have this happened? My two guesses are:
A. There were excessive moisture/humidity build up along the contacts while the lens was being removed with the camera powered on. (very unlikely, but a theory nevertheless)

B. The lens motor overloaded the camera. Perhaps, this poor XTi was trying to auto-focus a huge lens for prolonged period of time and/or there were constantly higher than normal resistance from the lens barrel from your hand being in the way, etc… (very likely, especially when using non-ultrasonic lnses).

Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

I carefully cleaned the connector with alcohol. But as you can see, few of the connectors are burnt out and has disappeared from the strip. It’s obviously not going to work as is. But I’ve put the camera back together just to see if it behaves any different. Yep, just as expected – didn’t work. The camera throws same error as before.

Now, I either have to look for a donor Rebel XTi that has the pin connectors intact or the part itself. With some luck and careful soldering, I should be able to bring this poor EOS XTi back to life. Fingers crossed and eyes open on eBay! Although, I should probably contact Canon first to see if they can help me locate the part.
Canon EOS XTi - Error 01

Konica AR Mount Lens on Nikon F-Mount

Interestingly, Konica AR mount bayonet is almost identical to the Nikon F-mount. You just have to remember to turn clockwise to lock (F-mount is turned counter-clockwise).
This Vivitar Konica AR mount wide-angle that I picked up from eBay next to nothing fits surprisingly well on the Nikon D90. Nikon’s long flange focal length – typically an undesirable feature for SLR enthusiasts – has turned this 28mm wide-angle into an effective macro. The result is surprisingly satisfying. It captures amazing close-ups. The lens is sharp and easy to focus. Of course, there is no focus-to-infinity due to the aforementioned flange focal length.

Konica AR Mount Vivitar 28mm

Konica AR Mount on Nikon D90

Konica AR Mount on Nikon D90

Couple test shots:
Vivitar Konica AR on Nikon D90

Vivitar Konica AR on Nikon D90

*Please note: if you are attempting this fit, do it at your own risk. This particular combination has caused no damage to my Nikon but I’m not making any guarantees.