Thursday, March 27, 2014

Possibilities of HDR

Ah, here he goes again... high dynamic range... hated by so many. And yes, I agree, HDR images can look really horrible!
Besides creating the final image, HDR techniques can be interesting tools to get to an image one was aiming for when shooting.

Let's start with a normal single frame photo of the scene. This is the middle frame, i.e. the normal exposure image, of my HDR shot:
Single shot @ -2/3 Ev
Just in case, here is a link to the photo.
It was a nice sunny day, contrasts running up pretty good! In such a situation, there is just so much one can do in post processing... saturation in both, the whites and the blacks. A picture essentially unusable. This shot is already 2/3 of a stop under-exposed, but still, the whites blow out. Of course, all the detail inside the depot is lost.

When using HDR as an intermediate tool, you will try to only compress the dynamic range and leave the rest essentially alone. The result will be a very very bad looking picture, but this is a good thing!
Have a look at the result of a 3 frames HDR (not cropped, just scaled down):
3 frames HDR
Of course, blogger will "improve" this image, so please have a click on the link below.

No, this was not a mistake, this was made that dull on purpose. Looks pretty odd to, like if there was fog. Fog would create very soft light, but the light is not soft at all, in fact, it is pretty hard, as you see from the sharpness of the shadows.
However, all of a sudden, in the lights, a tree is visible behind the building. At the same time the trusses inside the depot make an appearance too.

My picture shows the old tram depot of The Hague with ... old trams! Ideal to shoot an "old" photo.
Here, HDR can give me all the details, in inside the depot and outside it in bright sunlight.

Of course, conversion to black and white is the first step in the process.
The second step is to drop the highlights and raise the shadows, both to personal likings of course.
As a third step, the whites are driven up, just 'til the first regions saturate, the same with the blacks, of course downwards this time.
The second and third step is why HDR was used in the first place.

Optionally, noise reduction and sharpening could now be additional steps in such a workflow.

The result is a clinically clean black and white image. By far to crisp to be "old". To make a picture old, we need to add grain, as in the good old chemical photography times.
But, grain is not all, old lenses, I mean really old lenses, showed some distinct vignetting, which has to be added for the effect.
Actually, before vignetting, I cropped the photo a bit, as to fill the frame. I like the tracks, but not so much the bike stand. The bits of sky are not really adding much either.

The final image is that:
Old tram depot The Hague
And again, you may want to click this link, just in case blogger improved my image again.

A little bit of self-critique: I might have been a little heavy handed on the vignetting and the sepia color may be a little off. However, all in all, the image came out as envisaged.

Technical info:
  • Olympus PEN E-PM2
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm II @ f/9 f=42mm
  • ISO 200
  • middel image: t=1s/200
  • shot in RAW
  • HDR: -3/0/+3 @ -2/3Ev

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The BCL Arrived!

Having the wallet already open, further desires resulted in ordering more fun stuff for EVIL MFT (MFT=micro four thirds) cameras.

To match my LoFi-photo needs, I could not resist to order
The BCL (Body Cap Lens) was delivered today. Of course, first thing to do was put it on the camera!
The quality provided by the 15mm 1:8.0 is fair, even better than fair. Some call it the worst lens ever... I kinda disagree, respectfully.
First of all, you have to watch bang for bug.
Additionally, you need to understand what this lens is good for, in order to appreciate its existence.
This lens is essentially fixed focus. OK, one can tweak the focus from narrow to infinity a bit, however, the lens also is designed as a f/8.0, thereby resembling an "F eight an be there" lens!
This means, the is no time to wait for auto-focus at all! If, as a street-photographer, you want to be sure to have your frame sharp, just put the lever somewhere between close and infinity, and you will be fine.
Of course such a simple lens has got its shortcomings. There is some severe vignetting going on.
Have a look at a photo I shot with the BCL-1580:
Olympus BCL-1850 / Olympus E-PM2
Here comes the nice thing about this lens. It can be used as a very quick shooting street lens on cameras recording in RAW. Who cares about vignetting? In RAW, we can so easily get rid of it by applying lens corrections.

A very quick fix with RawTherapee can correct a lot... with some more care, one may get much further:
treated in RawTherapee as to remove vignetting

Actually, I am so excited about the Body Cap Lens 15mm that I ordered a Body Cap Lens 9mm fish-eye at the local photo-gear dealer.

The PINWIDE will certainly take a little longer to arrive at my place. I am really curious about using a pin-hole with a modern high-res image sensor. I can't wait to test the "live bulb" mode with said pin-hole!

I hope to receive the ordered stuff over the next 2 weeks (±).
Of course I will obtain an M42-adapter, for using my legacy glass with the MFT-system.

A new era started, the era of me using EVIL IBIS cameras!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

New System: the EVIL IBIS

No, this is not about the quality of a budget hotel chain! This is about EVIL IBIS cameras!
EVIL = Electronic View-finder Interchangeable Lens
IBIS = I Body Image Stabilization
In other words, cameras able to stabilize images by legacy glass, despite lacking a mirror equipped with an eyepiece.

CSC, i.e. Compact System Cameras, put me off for quite a while. Why would you want to buy a camera having the worst of both worlds, the price of a decent SLR set and the cumbersome composing of a picture using a small close-by screen unfit for bright light?!
For a long time, it did not make any sense to me, why people would actually like those CSCs. Cameras like the Canon G15 (which I really love using) have the resort of an optical view-finder, helping out in certain situations. Furthermore, looking at a small screen, which requires a close distance, puts a lot of strain to the eyes. Using a cheap point'n shoot for a while causes me problems with my eyes. (this may just be me...)
As I wrote above, the hype about CSCs does not make any sense to me.

However, there is an exception to this! The solution of which will follow downstream the text... I promise!

There is a P&S camera, which I love a lot and therefore frequently use, the Panasonic Lumix LX7. The camera sports a brilliant lens (f/1.4 by Leica!) and some very outstanding electronic features, e.g. AE-bracketing@11fps. However, there is no view-finder coming with the camera, causing the problem stated above.

Have I mentioned Leica above?! Leica and Panasonic together make photographic equipment onder the brand Lumix. Panasonic and Olympus are in close collaboration with Epson. Epson is making EVFs (Electronic View Finders) for both, Olympus and Panasonic. Some of said EVFs actually fit on Leica digital cameras. Knowing all that, I made a mistake (or was it)!

I bought an Olympus VF-2 via ebay (the VF-2 is discontinued!) since it was mentioned to be compatible with the Leica cameras, and also since it was discussed as the superior EVF for Olympus PEN cameras (cf. youtube for both those statements).
The VF-2 came, all the way from Japan.... and did not fit onto my Lumix LX7... (bugger!)

I am not religious in any way, I think. Also, I do not believe in karma... But maybe there is some to the last mentioned... be it fate...

What to do with the best EVF Olympus created, not fitting any camera? Sell it? No, not really! In the future (and this I experienced a lot) things one really wants, may be harder to get!

Hence, I decided to go back to my original digital-photography roots and bought an Olympus camera! The E-PM2 (an EVIL IBIS!), w/ 2 lenses and an external flash. Of course there is a story behind selecting the PEN Mini 2, and not the E-PL5, but this wont be discussed here.

There may even be a point in time were I will discard any other system, following the example of David Thorpe.
My EVIL IBIS is an Olympus E-PM2, which, without the EVF (VF-2), I would have never considered in the first place. Karma made me buying a discontinued thing, which wont fit my gear, so that I could find out, how cool cameras w/o a flipping mirror are (not putting any strain on my eyes when operating it!).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Expensive Day

Oh, this was an expensive day, today!

I ordered
  • a Holga lens for my Canons
  • a Lensbaby Spark (for my Canons)
  • Rogue flash bender and filters
What is this stuff all good for, you may ask. Well, the Holga lens, very obviously, will enable me to shoot in a "Lomography-like" style, using the Rebel XT or the EOS M. I very much look forward to doing street photography with the EOS M and some artsy stuff with the EOS 350D (Rebel XT).

The Lensbaby Spark is a fully tactile (manually pushing and pulling) controlled tilt lens, allowing for the focusing place to be all over the place (read sensor). This will be really cool and creative! I figure, but this is to be seen, that this is more for the Rebel XT, rather than the EOS M.

Finally, I always wanted to own a snoot and gels for my speedlights. The store offering the artsy stuff above also offered the Rogue stuff... en passant were added to the list.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Getting Closer

Here it is, the first ever real shot through a telescope using the Canon EOS M. As mentioned before, the main reason for obtaining the EOS M was to dangled it behind a telescope!

If you have seen my web-page, I am mainly interested in wide field astrophotography, using long-exposure modified webcams and wide open fast scopes.
Tonight, I felt more of doing something quick and simple, the moon is showing a nice age, hence, the order of the day, a long lens with a short shutter time.

Canon EOS M @ Sky-Watcher MC90 (1250mm)

Of course, there if so much light that the settings could be really tuned towards low noise.
To establish focus, I actually used Magic Lantern's focus peak, despite my concerns about the health of the camera.

Parameters of this shot:
  • ISO 100
  • s/13
  • WB = daylight
  • RAW format
  • D=90mm
  • f=1250mm
  • f/13.9 (obviously)

 This shot was taken on a tripod but w/o any remote shutter release.

Post-processing in GIMP using a bit of noise reduction, a hint of sharpening and desaturation by luminosity. Finally, the image was scaled. No cropping though!

Just for your entertainment, this is what the colored pic looks alike:
Color as seen by the sensor
More to come!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How to Focus with an Old Manual Lens

Using ML (Magic Lantern), there is a really nice option to focus using a manual lens with the EOS M.
With "Focus Peak" enabled, the camera will show where focus is achieved. Really cool, cool as a feature that is...

This option comes with a price. At least my EOS M warms up quite a bit when running ML. Actually, the heat created within the camera made me worried about using ML in this configuration.
However, there is always something to be learned.

The "Focus Peak" option of ML works best with the aperture fully open (I wonder why ;-).
Of course, with the aperture fully opened, the focus plane is rather obvious, even on a small screen on the back of a camera.
What can we learn from this?
To achieve reasonable focus/DoF, open you lens as wide as possible, adjust the focus and finally stop down the lens to the desired DoF.
Using old lenses, of course, you can look up the DoF on the lens housing itself!

Still, the focus peak of ML is a really cool tool... I wished it would keep the camera cool too!

Love It!

Finally, I believe, I got the hang of the EOS M. Once you understood it, this camera is amazing! Potentially the most difficult camera to learn, that I owned so far.
The kit, the one I bought, contained both, the 18-55mm zoom lens and the 22mm prime lens. Yep, by now there is a wide angle zoom available... tempting! The lenses I got work perfectly for the purpose (think before you mount!).

Here are 2 pictures taken with the 18-55mm zoom.

Canon EOS M, 18-55 kit lens

Canon EOS M, 18-55 kit lens

Yes, the focus is a little sluggish, but there are workarounds for that (more later).

The real might of the EOS M is deployed when used with old glass! Yes, you are reading well, old glass! No auto-focus means no auto-focus lag either.
I personally equipped my camera with an epic COSINON 55/1.4mm M42 lens. Really nice shallow depth of field! The lens collects light in buckets!
Of course, focus is manual (and not easy!) and also aperture is manual.

Here is a handheld low light shot (of course blogger will ruin my Ev-1 exposure settings, hence, those I will post via dropbox):
(Canon EOS M COSINON 1.4/55 @ f/8, s/25, ISO1600)
You may notice the nice rays coming of bright lights. This effect is even nice (more prominent) when stopping the lens down to f/16, as you might imagine.

And for good measures, this is a really low light shot (handheld!). Did some gimping on it...
(Canon EOS M COSINON 1.4/55 @ f/1.4 - something in manual I can't recall)
Next step, mount the camera w/ this lens on a driven mount and take long exposures @ low ISO.

And of course, Bokeh!
This is not the greatest shot in the world... it showing my keyboard (and how filthy it is).

shot at f/1.4 - note the shallow depth of field
See the upper right corner? Whenever you google for this Cosina lens, this is the shape you will see in the pictures taken by this lens.

Interested in how this duo actually looks like?

Canon EOS M w/ Cosina COSINON 1.4/55
Pretty much like a real camera missing a viewfinder ;-)

One thing is for sure, a manual lens on a mirror-less camera is not for the impatient. Also, you need to know your lighting and the effect of the aperture. To get the most out of this combination you want to shoot in manual mode, although aperture priority still is an option.

I have yet to try Magic Lantern with the focus loupe.