So, a while ago I showed you a photo of the second lens I bought for my little E-P2. I was all excited … between the “standard” 17 mm and that 50 mm, I had a nice combo for general shooting and quick portraits. The maximum aperture of f/1.4 on the old 50 also gave me two stops more reach into the shadows. (I am really hoping Olympus creates a 17 mm f/2.0 or f/1.4 soon … then I’d be in pixel heaven, I think.)

Problem was … it just wasn’t that sharp. And tended to flare out quite a bit. And not just because of light sources within its field of view, almost anything bright would cause it to wash.

So I did some more research and found that there were three different iterations of that lens, the first (which I got) had a single lens coating on it. Great for black and white, terrible for shooting in color. And my world, well … it’s in color.

After a few weeks, I sent it back. Found another one elsewhere and ordered that up. Except … it was a first generation one, too. In much better shape, with no flaring problems, but still not what I wanted. (The danger of buying used stuff online – sometimes, the descriptions are vague.)

I found one on eBay, so I bid … and the price went insane, so I lost that. Knowing my big trip was coming up, I took another look at my old friends, KEH.com. They had a couple. I now knew the serial number range I wanted and asked if they could check.

Unfortunately, their warehouse and sales offices aren’t in the same place, so I took a chance … maybe, just maybe, the one at the high end of the scale would be a third generation. If not, I could live with a second generation … but, please God, not another single coated first generation.

It showed up today. I sliced open the box and started unwrapping … no silver outer ring, that meant it wasn’t a first generation … the serial had seven digits, I wanted one above 1.1 million … DAMN.

So close. I missed by 22,000 units … but it was pristine, and it is sharp. This one feels like a solid piece, no play in the aperture ring, focus is like pushing through warm butter.

Maybe I found the right one … a few shots around the house seem good, but all in low light and higher ISOs. Will test more this weekend.

Snow Time

A view out my office window. Not a terribly engaging view, but this was shot over 27 hours. (Details below.)

Details: I put a Canon EOS 1D Mark II N with a EF 16-35 mm f/2.8 L USM lens on a tripod and pointed it out my window. The camera was powered with an AC adapter (so I didn’t have to worry about the battery dying) and tethered to a laptop running Canon’s EOS Utility. I programed it to take one photo every minute and left the camera in aperture priority mode. The only hiccup was the overnight time exposure grew to longer than one minute, so it started skipping minutes. The music is a generic loop created in Garage Band and the editing was done in Final Cut Pro.

Things I learned: I needed to shield the lens better, as it picked up reflections in the window’s glass. A little gaffer’s tape and some black cloth would have solved that. After the first few test frames I removed the screen from the window – with the wide angle view and extensive depth of field, I was seeing the pattern of the screen in the frames.

Casino Chaos

Last set … until I go again, next year.

Las Vegas, the little of it I saw, was just chaotic and depressing – hollow people chain smoking and hitting the play button, over and over. Visually, there was more that I didn’t see until I was gone, I think. The advantage of going somewhere for the first time is you see a lot and, if you’re committed to your visual mission, it’s all fresh and available.

My own disadvantage was wandering downtown with two new friends. Thankfully, they were extremely patient with my random pauses and diversions and never left me behind, though they probably would have seen more if they had. Next year I’ll either wander alone or prep them better. Maybe offer up a night-life-lights shooting lesson or something.

So on to the last two …

Canon PowerShot G10, 15.7 mm, ISO 200, 1/25, f/3.5

Even the Denny’s is fancy there …

Canon PowerShot G10, 6.8 mm, ISO 200, 1/13, f/2.8

Somewhere in those two frames is the photo I want to make next year. I got mentally close to it but didn’t make the image this time. It’s about light and opulence and grandeur and monstrosity and irony. I got some of the light, a little opulence, some grandeur and a touch of monstrosity, but I never got the irony. I need to find the irony.

I guess I’ll insert a little tech talk here … I had only one camera with me (okay, two if you include the cell phone camera) – a Canon PowerShot G10. It’s a great camera and I’ve been very happy shooting with it. It’s light, compact, durable and flexible. It gives me the controls I need to get the images I usually want.

The small sensor allows for very short focal lengths which allows for very low shutter speeds. But that small sensor is an issue for me – with those ultra-short focal lengths, everything has too much depth of field for me and there’s no significant lens compression. (You’ll note almost all of these were kept below an ISO of 200 – above that, the color saturation falls off as the noise goes up. It’s better than most of the other cameras in its class, but it’s no full framer, that’s for sure.)

So here’s my hope for next year … given why I’m going to Las Vegas (a convention), and the limited time I’ll have to get out, I don’t think I’ll haul all the big Canon cannons around. What I’m hoping to acquire is an Olympus E-P2, with the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 lens. (Why not the Oly 17 mm f/2.8 lens? I think I’d like the wider field of view – 17 mm vs. 20 mm – but the extra stop and a half – f/1.7 vs. f/2.8 – is what I’m really after.) To that I’d love to have a long, fast lens – maybe an old Olympus 90 mm f/2.0 Macro with an adapter (but that’s pretty pricey) or their 85 mm f/2.0. If I were to pocket a third lens, it’d probably be a Voigtlander – maybe the 50 mm f/1.5 or the 40 mm f/1.4, both would be great for low light portraits.

Every photographer searches for their right combination of equipment, the gear that disappears in their hand. I had those tools a few times (my Leica M4-P with a 35 mm Summicron saw the world the way I saw it), I’m not there right now.

So, see that grass? It’s greener …

Yellow Box, Blue Sky

When the Flip Ultra camcorder came out a few years ago, I made a comment that it was a good tool with great potential, but it needed one more feature. Flip has pushed out a few more generations of the camera, getting better with each revision, but not really pushing the envelope on what it could become.

A few months ago, Kodak (KODAK!) did what Flip should have done – they added a mic jack to the side of their version. They also added a few other things (removable memory cards, four video resolutions and even the ability to shoot a 5 megapixel still).  It took me a while, but yesterday a loaner showed up from Big Yellow up north so I could figure out if this is the teaching camera I’ve been lusting after for an intro to multimedia class we desperately need.

There’s a lot of testing to be done, but I popped off a few stills on the way to the car. Will this rival a 5D Mark II or a D3s? Uh, no. But it also costs less than 1/15th of the cheaper of those options.

And having been raised on Kodachrome and Tri-X, there’s a certain warmth to opening a Big Yellow box again.

More to come …

Kodak Zi8, 6.3 mm, ISO 50, 1/320, f/2.8

Kodak Zi8, 6.3 mm, ISO 50, 1/320, f/2.8

Kodak Zi8, 6.3 mm, ISO 50, 1/213, f/2.8

Kodak Zi8, 6.3 mm, ISO 50, 1/213, f/2.8