Thursday, February 27, 2014

Heavy Metal for Bokeh!

New glass, well, old glass, new however to my collection of lenses, arrived today.
For not too much, I was able to obtain a COSINON 55mm F=1.4 lens, made by Cosina. Just for the sake of completeness, this lens has got an M42 mount.

Two different plans for this lens: 1) digital photography with the EOS M or the EOS 350D, 2) astro photography with the "bellow cam" webcam adaptation.

Concerning the first plan, of course this will be all manual. Remember the M (manual mode) and metering for exposure?

- With the EOS 350D, this works like charm. The front selector next to the shutter release sets the shutter speed, aperture, old skool, at the lens' aperture ring. Focusing with the 350D is a bit tricky. It seems that the light paths to the sensor and through the viewfinder are not matched in the entry level DSLR, hence, the focus on the sensor is a bit closer than the one in the viewfinder. The very shallow depth of field makes it therefore difficult to get sharp images right away.

- As to the EOS M, in manual mode, the selector wheel at the back can be set to shutter speed. Since there is no mirror involved in the M, focusing is really easy. Due to the shallow depth of field, you can literally see the focus rolling over the sensor.

Of course, both cameras employ aperture priority, just in case you are tired of metering.

With both cameras, the center of the old lens shows beautiful circular bokeh. Moving towards the edges, of course, this get a bit distorted...

The second plan, the bellow-cam, my bellow-cam. This is a QuickCam QC4000pro, modified for long exposures, see earlier posts on this blog. The macro photography bellow is actually designed for M42 lenses, hence the F=1.4 lens could be a very good light collector.

Of course, the also in plan B for using the lens together with the EOS M for wide-field astro photography.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Light and Bokeh!

I got lucky lately. The action site ebay made me winner on a Cosinon F=1.4 f=55mm M42 lens. There are some options to use that lens:
  • on any of my old M42 film SLR bodies
  • with the bellow-cam astro-webcam
  • on the Rebel XT in manual mode
  • with the EOS M (in manual mode)
You can imagine that I can't wait to receive the lens ;-)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Magic Lantern EOS M Shutter Bug continued

Studying the ML forum gave me the hint of trying different cards for solving the shutter bug issue by means other than torturing the camera.
It seems, the memory card used causes all the problems.
In my case, ML was installed on one of my "legacy" cards, an EMTEC class4 4GB, i.e. not the fastest card on the planet.
Different versions of ML did not solve the problem... hence the decision to try a different card.

The victim was a SanDisk Ultra (class10) 16GB card. Right away, Magic Lantern is booting fine, the Shutter Bug disappeared!

However, the camera develops temperatures, which do not seem natural, and so does the battery!
That's no good!

Not being sure what the camera is actually going through, I decided to not run anything hacky on it for the time being.

Summing up, the shutter bug seems to be related to the memory card used for ML. However, with ML running fine, stuff get hot, indicating that the hardware is not really enjoying the ride...

Up to now, I have not observed anything similar when using CHDK.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Old Glass on the EOS M

Here is another reason for me having obtained the Canon EOS M.

From my early days in photography, I still own some old lenses, mainly M42. Of course they are all manual focus, old skool! Some of those lenses made amazing photographs. It would be a shame to just let them rot in a corner.

Of course, the most obvious choice would be to buy Canon's EF-M to EF-S adapter, making available to the EOS M all Canon AF lenses. And with some additional adapter(s), lenses with all sorts of different mounts. However, Canon's adapter is rather expensive, especially when considering fully manual lenses only (no electrical connections required).

There are some makers/vendors of after market adapters, in particular from China, which offer purely mechanical adapters of decent quality. The price for those are really low, so I gave it a try and ordered  "EF-M to EF-S" and "EF-S to M42" adapters. (to find them: google, ebay, youtube, etc.)

First impression on the rings from China. Machining is very precise and the quality appears solid. Mounting the "EF-M to EF-S" ring of the EOS M shows a feature I am not so happy about, nevertheless can live with. The EOS M's locking mechanism goes "click", but there is no mating means in the adapter ring, hence, the ring can be turned further, with just a little force. Maybe hole for the locking pin is too small.

The "M42 to EF-S" ring clicks in place just fine, no issues here.

For the fun of it, I mounted a 35mm f/2.8 lens, which could be a very good lens for street-photography.

Here come the critical bit connecting the old to the new world:
  • Set your lens to manual, so that the iris acts according to your settings ignoring the SLR-command pin.
  • In your EOS M, set the Custom Function item 7 "Release Shutter w/o Lens" to "Enable", so that the camera ignores the fact that it can't sense a (high tech) lens.
  • Put your EOS M in either "Av" or "M" mode.
  • You may want to choose MF (manual focus), although I am not sure if that makes any difference.

In "Av", life is nearly as easy as with a stock lens. Choose your aperture at the lens' aperture ring, focus and shoot. The shutter (and ISO w/ ISO on auto) will be determined by the camera. Of course, if you are old skool (like me), you will set your ISO yourself... At least to my time, there was not "auto film", the only option I had was taking a body with a certain spool inserted to choose an ISO sensitivity, usually either 50 or 400... As I said, old skool!

In "M", life is what it used to be, 30 years ago.
  • Select the ISO suitable for the situation, please do not use auto-ISO!
  • Decide on a shutter speed according to the task.
  • Adjust the aperture while taking meter readings by half-pressing the shutter button.

And here you have it, this is why I think the Canon EOS M is one of the best mirrorless cameras to buy at the moment:
  • It has a poor reputation for slow AF speeds...  who cares when manually focusing old lenses?! For that reason, the price for this camera is pretty low presently!
  • After market adapters are cheaply available.
  • The EOS M is customizable by the Magic Lantern software (*).  

All in all, now that all my parts are in, I hope to be able to do what this camera was intended to in my house: Astro-Photography. First attempts using the 22mm prime lens, see earlier post, were promising.
Manually focusing the EF-M STM lenses proved difficult.
However, now that pure mechanical focusing is possible, using legacy lenses, there is light at the end of the tunnel, literally. In particular since I envisage to use the adapter ring to mount the camera to my T2 equipped telescopes.

(*) For astro-photography, ML promises to replace a setup of a dedicated computer wired up to the imaging camera, i.e. by taking timed bulb exposures.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Going Wireless

Urgh?! Correct blog? Wireless, should that not be on "draaggolf"?
Well, no, not this time, although the stuff I am about to write about is actually operating in the 13cm band (2.4GHz that is).

First of all, I am not a great strobist yet. I believe in constant improvement by continuous challenges. Hence, flash-photography is one of my next fields to experiment in.
Actually, I did a bit of experimenting, very little, using one on-camera flash and one off-camera flash in servo mode. This experience was interesting enough to get me buying RF-triggers.

The model I went for finally were the Wansen WS-603 transceivers. Some decent review on the interweb and a very decent price pulled me over. For about €20.- a pair of transceivers landed in my mailbox today.
Considering the price, I might actually order a second pair. Having 3 speedlites (yep, that's how Canon call those things... and I am using Canon), this would make my set complete to illuminate with key-, fill- and hair-light. Yes, I know, for portraits indoors, I would be fine with 1 radio trigger and servo triggered flashguns, but what the hack, just €20.- for the pair of transceivers!

Why do I actually underline the transceiver aspect of the devices? Well, easy, with a transceiver, the camera gets feedback from the flashgun, as it was sitting on the camera. This helps for modern features such as ETTL (Exposure Through The Lens) or remotely adjusting the power setting of the flash in manual mode.

Interested yourself? Check out ebay!

First Light

... that's what it is called, when a telescope see the first ancient photons, i.e. astronomical photons.
First light, that's what it was for my EOS M tonite.
To keep things simple, I just put the camera on a regular tripod and took some shots of the night sky. No guiding, no nothing, just some shots. My experience told me to not expose beyond 10s, so that start will not create serious trails.
Just for the fun of it, I took some shots of the 7 sisters cluster, using the EF-M 22mm prime @ f/2. The shutter was at 10s and ISO from 100 to 800 (manual focus!).

Mind you, I am living in an extremely light polluted place! The moon provided some unwanted light and there was no filter involved in the shot...

After some GIMPing, this is what the picture was resulting in...
M45 (Pleiades / Seven Sisters) and Hyades open stellar clusters

I wonder what the Canon EOS M can do when hooked up to a real telescope.

I had to replace the uploaded photo with a linked image, since blogger keeps "improving" images, also by removing "hot pixels", in this case, most of the stars...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

ML Glitch EOS M (aka "Shutter-Bug")

After having played successfully with Magic Lantern on the EOS M yesterday, I waited for some streaks of good weather to go outside shooting today.
What lens to take? Well, I thought being more versatile, mounting the 18-55mm zoom would be a good idea. Take the bag? Leave the bag? At the end I took the bag with me, with all accessories.
That was a good one, I can tell you!

Found myself a nice motif for the first shot, framed it and pushed the shutter release... and... nothing happened! Ergh?! Pushed playback, yes, that was the last shot of yesterday... hmmm! Let's turn the camera off and on again... ohhh... it would not turn off! Consequently, I removed the battery and repeated the exercise, actually to the very same result... What is going on?!

Still I wanted that shot. Suspecting that ML could have to do something with the problem, I changed the memory card (luckily I decided to carry the bag w/ all accessories!)... and... boooom, the shutter went, and I got my shot.

Strange, I thought, changing back to the ML card, this time with the 22mm prime. All was fine, could do some regular shot and use the extra ML features.

Ah well, just a mishap, back to the zoom lens... NO! Is it image stabilization that prevents taking images? Switched that off... Did the camera take any pictures? NO!
I ran out of ideas and after some additional testing I concluded, Magic Lantern does not like the stock zoom lens of the EOS M. This might be more a problem to ML than it is to me... People who bought the EOS M with the stock zoom (typical option in The Netherlands) might be disappointed by Magic Lantern. And they may have a point to be!

Why am I not feeling as bad about it myself?
Well, as much as I would have liked everything to work, I did buy the EOS M for one particular reason: astro-photography.
Pretty decent low light performance of the camera, combined with the possibility to write scripts to control it, those were the reasons for me. As a secondary aspect, I considered the EOS M as a companion when shooting with the Rebel XT. Concerning everyday P&S-stuff, the Lumix LX7 remains my favorite!

Let's return to the topic! Depending on what you're doing in astro-photography, you might want to have either a very fast lens, or the greatest magnification possible (which usually goes along with a rather slow aperture).
I am the proud owner of a "comet catcher". In my case this is a 6 inch f/5 Fraunhofer refractor (150mm opening, 750mm focal length), which is considered a very fast telescope. As a side remark, I also posses a 6 inch f/8 refractor.
Very obviously, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 does not really have the edge in astro-photography. So, what can a 22mm f/2 lens do for us?!
Well, it can collect light very easily, in particular with a long exposure intervalometer, as provided by magic lantern.

In a later post I will go into details of techniques in astro-photography. For now, I would like to conclude that I am disappointed that the stock zoom lens in combination with Magic Lantern causes the EOS M to not trigger.

Actually, it seems that the effect is known as "shutter-bug" and there are 2 workarounds available, see:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Yet Another Bag

Of course, with the new camera, an additional bag is needed. One that is small enough, yet big enough for the camera. Originally, I had the Lowepro Even Messenger 100 in mind. However, it was not on stock in my store. The Event Messenger 150 was clearly by far to big...

Finally, I decided to gamble and bought the StreamLine 100, which gave the impression of being somewhat on the smaller side, maybe even too small. As you see on Lowe's web-page, the bag is divided into 2 compartments by a Velcro attached separator. This separator has got 2 little pockets itself, one for memory cards and one which houses a microfiber cloth.

Very much to my surprise, the EOS M fits nicely in the bag, with either of the lenses, 22mm prime or 18-55mm zoom, fitted. The lose lens and the 90EX speedlite will find enough space to fit into the second compartment.

Stowing the camera with the 22mm prime is really simple, just through it in!

With the zoom lens fitted, thing get a bit more difficult. The best way for me is putting the camera into the bag with the display facing downwardly.

Very unfortunately, there is no elegant way storing a spare battery other than the zip-locked outside pockets.

Obvious downside of the the StreamLine 100: there is not protection against rain.

It Arrived!

Well, this will be a post potentially dividing my reading audience, in particular since again, I will be writing about stuff outside the box, criticize critics and may even give a commercial recommendation, which I am not payed for...

One of the most controversial  cameras in 2013 was the Canon EOS M. That's for sure. Although enthusiasts have waited for a CSC (Compact System Camera) or mirrorless camera (as other may call those) from Canon for a while, the final arrival of the Canon EOS M was not such a great success, all in all... or was it?!

Personally, I claimed to have never understood the mirror-less movement myself. Wanna point 'n shoot? Buy one! Wish for a changeable lens camera, get an SLR, or DSLR for good measures. I admit, I was an SLR guy for many year, when film was still known and widely available. When times changed, I got myself a DSLR, in the form of a Canon Rebel XT (EOS 350D)... and in landed in a closet for reasons worth another post. Finally, I got it out the closet again, was happy with its results, finally, but hated the weight/dimensions (despite the fact that this was/is one of the smallest DSLRs out there).

Something smaller had to enter my life! Point 'n Shoots play a major role, as you might know, in particular the cheap one from Canon, since an "aftermarket tool" made RAW available. Since the brand Canon seems to appear a lot in this post, I wish to point out that I love my Panasonic Lumix LX7, and are just not prepared yet to spend such an amount of money which would allow me to get a Leica. Pentax is cool too, and so are Nicon and Sony... and Lomo!

Right, that being out of the way, let me focus on what I wanted to write in the first place. My Canon IXUS 140 P&S serves me well recording in RAW when using the CHDK. However, the glass / optics of a P&S is of course limited (by physics). There is just so much one can expect from those tiny zoom lenses.
Also, the sensors in P&S-cameras are not the largest on the market.
So, for 2 particular reasons, I looked into the option of buying the only available Canon CSC, the EOS M:
  1. removable lens (using the camera for astro-photography)
  2. ability to program the camera by scripts (as known from CHDK)
As to point 1: this very obviously matches many brands of CSC.
Concerning point 2: the only scripting packaged, other than CHDK, I am aware of is ML (Magic Lantern), which again, is based on Canon's DIG!C processors.
There we go... a CSC from Canon... one solution only: EOS M.

Here comes the involuntary commercial part of the post. In the Netherlands, the best price for the EOS M w/ the 18-55mm kit lens is about €360. Not bad, seen that my beloved Lumix LX7 (Leica lens!!!) set me back the exact same amount of money. However, a company in Hong Kong, magenta a silver color in the logo, known from allowing a funny guy putting out crazy videos on youtube (digitalrev that is), offers the very same camera with an additional 22mm EF-M lens and the 90EX mini-speedlite for just over €435.- including free shipping. Here in the Netherlands the very same 22mm EF-M lens is sold for an amount of €200-300, depending on the source. The local price of the 90EX speedlite ranges about €100. Do the maths, the supplier in Hong Kong even offers express shipping!
Referring to the title of the post, I ordered 02.02.2014 @ 22:00 (CET). The stuff was delivered 06.02.2014 @ 13:30 (CET)... which impressed me quite a bit!

Now back to substance. The Canon EOS M received a lot of criticism for slow and confused focus action. Under some circumstances, i.e. experiments I did, I can confirm this observation. However, my observations told that the EOS M (both stock lenses in the test) has difficulties focusing on a white eagle flying through a snow storm on a skiing piste or a black cat climbing a heap of coals in night-time. Yep, that went all wrong!
Probably there are faster cameras out there. However, coming from an EOS 350D (Rebel XT), the delay introduced by the EOS M was not too bad at all.
For low contrast situations, the EOS M (firmware 2.0.2) offer a "AF+MF" option, which switches to manual focus when the camera thought that auto-focus was done. Fair enough, I would say.... in the case AF failed, you can manually focus anyway. Good enough for me.

Now to the more creative (hacking) part of matters. The EOS M is supported by the "Magic Lantern" firmware addition. Actually, the ML software can be installed in a really simple manner (google is your friend!). It took me seconds to have my EOS M booting into ML. In other words, scripts can rule the camera now, scripts that are written in C.

And now, to the poodle's kernel, why did I actually spent this amount of money on a camera as "lame" and crippled. First of all, crippled or not, the EOS M will be the cheapest ever camera to run Magic Lantern (same set-up as the EOS 650D). And secondly missing out on an APS-C camera with 2 lenses for that price?! (not even mentioning the mini-speedlite). All together, this was a no-brainer!

Now that I have the camera (and lenses), I must say, that I have difficulties to follow the critics of this particular device. Ignoring the benefits ML provides, my EOS M is not so slow that I would drop any remark. AF works OK, maybe some cameras are better... but there is nothing to complain about!
Concerning the lenses: Image quality is fine. The 22mm prime produces real nice bokeh! No adverse features were spotted using the 18-55mm so far.

Viewfinder? Yes, I do miss a viewfinder! There might be a solution however. The 22mm lens is equivalent to a 35mm lens for full-frame camera (35mm film) lens. 35mm happens to be the focal length on "single use" 35mm film cameras. Sorry about the 35-confusion... it was not my idea ;-)
Oh yes, viewfinders of singles use cameras... they reflect the field of view of a 35mm lens.
My future solution to that problem will be to dismantle an AGFA LeBox and make the optical viewfinder mountable on a flash-shoe, such that it can be mounted on an EOS M (or an LX7, for good measures).

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Add Texture to Your Photos

Here is another little trick to make you photos more interesting. How to add texture to certain parts of a photograph, using the GIMP. This short tutorial is not supposed to demonstrate any particular interesting picture, although one might think the result is kinda artsy.

Well, lets see what we got. A slightly overdone HDR shot of a beach, with some strange coloring going on in the sky. The sky indicates that during post-processing, the program ran out of color space.
Have a look:
Beach HDR, out of color space!
This shot is hard to fix. Re-doing the post-processing seems the only option. But, what if you don't have the RAW-files?

Let's try to get some artistic element to the rescue... adding texture!
This will be the texture to add, a photograph of a wall:
Pretty boring white wall...
So, I decided to take a photo of a brick wall which has been painted white, great.

Lets quickly compare the 2 images. The image of the beach in relatively dark in the lower left corner, while the image of the wall is brightest in the same region. Or, in other words, the upper right of the brick wall's image is darker than the lower left. In a way, those images are complementary.
Actually, I am not making use of this, but this will be explained later.

In the GIMP, I opened the image of the beach, as you would do normally anyways. Than, I used "Open as Layers..." to load the image of the wall.
Now, the only thing you will be able to see is the image of the wall, since this is now the first layer. By default options this layer is in mode "Normal" with an opacity of 100%.

Click on the layer that represents the wall. This should cause a white frame around the layer's icon. Now select the mode to the option "Multiply".
The intermediate result will look like this:
Like projecting a slide on a white wall...
If you are after an effect like projecting a slide on a wall, this is what you may want to do!
Note that the left and right lower corners of the image have a similar brightness; this is due to the opposing gradients of the original frames.

Let's give a further "creative" touch and change the effect of the wall.
With a layer mask, on the wall, one can add a gradient, which will fade out (or in) the contribution of the textured frame.
In this example, I use a black gradient from below. Having the following effect on the texture frame:
wall w/ gradient

After having applied the gradient to the texture frame, the left-right difference on the lower third is gone, and so is the nice compensating effect...

This results in a slightly different final image:
final result

Mind you, this is not supposed to be fine art. This technique of adding texture, as you might see, is clearly able to distract from the deficiencies, i.e. lack of color space, of the original photo.