Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Maxxum Lenses’ Category

Early Spring is a great time to be out in the woods, especially on a sunny day – the trees may still be bare, but the forest floor is bursting with life… the under-story plants, shrubs and smaller trees rush through their flowering and leafing cycles quickly, to take advantage of the unrestricted sunlight – in a few weeks, once the trees leaf out, the canopy blocks off most of the light, and the small bushes go into the “quiet survival mode” until Fall when they get their chance in the sun again!

I’ve been out with the Sony Alpha 700 and the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6. The choice of lens for woodland photography may seem surprising, but I find that the Tamron is very useful – the extended zoom range (the 70-300mm is equivalent to 105-450mm) on the Sony Alpha provides an useful stand-off distance so one can zoom in on an intresting flower or bud from a distance of at least 5 feet away without having to brave the underbrush and wicked looking brambles – the woods around here are chock full of wild raspberries and dog rose brambles. This also has the advantage of not blocking the light.

Besides, the Tamron 70-300mm is also a 1:3.9 macro, and since can focus down to 5 feet at the extended end of the zoom range, it does a great job. Moreover, I marvel at the fact that the Sony’s built in anti-shake allows me to handhold the 450mm equivalent lens. I would never have been able to do that with my manual Olympus bodies or even the auto focus Minolta 800si.

By the way, I purchased my Tamron lens about 8 years ago, back in June 2000 – I know they still make this lens, but I am not sure how the build quality has changed, or if it is still made made in Japan. I’ve always been very pleased with the Tamron, and even more so now…. with it’s super-zoom length of 450mm f/5.6 and equivalent when mounted on the Sony Alpha 700, it’s a formidable piece of optical engineering, and very cheap at the price. This is a true “cheap awesome lens”.


Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm
Tamron AF 70-300mm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens. I used a Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
Alphamagic by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2007-2008 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting alphamagic, have a great day!

Read Full Post »

These were taken on Bachman’s Valley Road – the old Meyer Farmhouse. The owners are in the process of restoring the buildings as much as possible, but it’s going to take a long time. The Farm is over a 100 years old, and all the barns and outbuildings are in fairly good condition, but the exterior could use some preservative and paint. I took these pictures on the way back from Union Mills. The light was tricky, overcast, but with patches of sun shining through.


Meyer’s Farm

Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm
Meyer’s Farm

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7



Creative Commons License
Alphamagic by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2007-2008 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting alphamagic, have a great day!

Read Full Post »

A few days ago, I had my Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 lens mounted on the Alpha for some family pictures. (The lens is a 75mm equivalent on the A700, and thus serves as a very fast medium telephoto lens ideal for framing ‘head and shoulders’ shots, especially effective indoors for Available Light photography. I’ll be posting some of the “candid” portraits in another post soon). Anyway, I was out in Carroll County, and driving up on Rte 97 north when I came upon the Union Mills Homestead and Grist Mill.

I’ve documented my use of the Minolta 50mm f1/7 as a landscape lens on my 35mm AF Minolta Dynax 800si on my OlympusZuiko blog since I’ve had great fun with the Minolta 50mm lens in Colorado and other locations. Now that the Minolta is an effective 75mm, its still great for landscape and building photography, especially for capturing architectural detail – it’s a challenge if there isn’t much room, though.

I would recommend a 28mm or 35mm lens on the Sony Alpha for close-up architectural work. For old farmhouses and general scenery where you can step back far enough, the 50mm (75mm) is a fine choice, especially in low light conditions.

These photographs were taken at Union Mills Homestead, just off MD Rte 97 in Carroll County. Union Mills dates back to the 1790’s and has many stories to tell… being on the way to Gettysburg, it saw its share of Union and Confederate activity. You can read all about Union Mills Homestead here. I got to the site late in the afternoon – it was clearing up after a storm, and the post rain sunlight coming through the clearing clouds was bright and clean. Everything had a just-washed clean look.


Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Across the road from Union Mills
Across the road from Union Mills
Union Mills Homestead

Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead
Union Mills Homestead

Photographed with the Sony Alpha 700 and Minolta AF 50mm f/1.7 lens, ISO 200, Skylight filter under a sunny/cloudy/post-rain situation



Creative Commons License
Alphamagic by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2007-2008 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting alphamagic, have a great day!

Read Full Post »

It was unseasonably warm last week, with temperatures in the upper 50’s and even 60’s. Tuesday morning was unusual, with moderately heavy fog all along Rte 27 running North towards Westminster. The mist changes the appearance of the familiar landscape, and the soft morning light makes for some excellent photographic opportunities.

As I drove along Rte 27, the mist slowly lightened until it was completely burnt off by the time I got to work. I stopped at several familiar spots along the way to take these pictures. I had the Sony A700, of course – with the Sigma 28-80mm still on it from last weekend’s hike along the Great Falls towpath.

The Sigma is an unusually light lens, and perfect for hiking. It’s no slouch when it comes to landscape and architectural photography either. On the Sony Alpha, the lens becomes a 42mm-120mm, which gives me enough flexibility for most landscape and architectural applications. Although I’d preferred top have a 35mm for street photography, 42mm is acceptable. Besides, a 42mm lens presents the world with a slightly better perspective than a 50mm, with no distortion at all.

The 2 close-up’s are included to show the macro capabilities of the Sigma 28-80mm.


Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning

Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning
Misty Morning

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 aspherical macro lens. Auto ISO, Cloudy white balance.

Read Full Post »

I headed off to the Great Falls park last Saturday (02/02/08) to hike along the river and photograph the falls. It was beautiful out there… about 50 degrees – perfect hiking weather, although the trails and towpath were still muddy. I was carrying my Sony Alpha 700 and 2 lenses – a Sigma AF 28-80mm and the Tamron 70-300mm. The Tamron was for closeup views of the raging waters. The Sigma is a recent acquisition, and I was trying it out.

It’s still early in February, and we’ve already had a lot of rain in Montgomery county – the average rainfall for February is about 2.85 inches here, and by the 2nd, we already had about 3 inches…. Which means, every stream in the county is overflowing and that the Potomac is running full already. Normally, we’d have to wait until the Spring thaws.

Since my intent was to photograph the falls, I did not mind lugging along the heavy Tamron, but on my way over there, I was thinking about the most desirable characteristics for a hiking lens – good zoom range, rugged, light, cheap, close up capability etc. At the same time, the optical characteristics of the lens should be good enough that you don’t regret the quality of the pictures when you get back.

The more I thought about it, the Sigma I was carrying seemed to be the perfect fit. After all, it had a zoom range of 28-80mm, which is a 42-120mm on the Sony A700. Besides, it has a plastic body, which makes it lightweight. Great optical quality with multicoated aspherical lenses, very cheap so it would not matter if it was damaged or lost – and it has a 1:2 Macro capability, for those occasional very close-up shots of interesting grass or moss or little critters that I might come across.

I would have liked at least 35mm at the wide-angle, but I’ve found that in the open woodlands and hilly areas of Maryland , even a 50mm is sufficiently wide, since one can always step back a few paces to include more of the scene. The Sigma 28-80mm definitely qualified as a Cheap Awesome Lens. Some may complain about the “cheap” build quality – it’s plasticky – but one can’t fault it optically for the price.

The 1:2 macro capability is only at 80mm f/5.6 (120mm f/5.6 on the Sony Alpha 700) and is is a matter of moving a switch on the lens from Normal to Macro position to lock it. Now, f/5.8 is pretty slow, I was able to get decent images even at 100 ISO. I’m not complaining, since I can always increase the ISO to compensate. However, in Winter, with no overhead tree canopy and bright sunlight, it beats carrying an extra lens for the rare occasion one might want to take a real close up.
Here are some of the pictures at the Falls and along the Towpath. The river is very impressive this week.


The Tamron is a beast on the Sony Alpha 700 – it’s equivalent to 105mm-450mm and fairly fast for such a large focal length f/3.5 at the shorter end, and f/5.6 at the 450mm end. Fast enough to handhold at 100 ISO on a bright day. It’s a macro lens as well, and goes to 1:4 along the entire focal length range, which is pretty impressive. This is another Cheap Awesome Lens.Tamron 70-300mm– Potomac River and Towpath
Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Potomac River 1/5 sec exposure
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm – Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath – macro
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Great Falls Tavern

Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Gate at Widewater
Great Falls

Sigma 28-80mm – Great Falls Tavern

Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern

Sigma 28-80mm – Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Macro Photos (approx 8-10 inches)

Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro

Tamron 70-300mm


Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls

Tamron – Wildlife

Wildlife
Wildlife
Wildlife

Tamron

Lichens on Rock
Lichens
Wildlife

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-f/5.6 Aspherical Macro 1:2 and Tamron 70-300mm f/3.9-f5.6, ISO 100, Circular Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
Alphamagic by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2007-2008 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting alphamagic, have a great day!

Read Full Post »

I was up in Westminster again a couple of days ago, and on the way back, I drove out towards New Windsor. I took the old winding Wakefield road to the Strawbridge Shrine – it’s been a while since I stopped there, there have been some changes – first, they finally erected a second life size granite statue – of Elizabeth Strawbridge, the good pastor’s wife and companion.

I wish they had placed the statues lower – more eye-level, so to speak. The pedestals somehow seem too much. These were simple farming folk who were called to spread the word of God. Robert Strawbridge was never ordained, and thus faced a lot of criticism and censure for daring to preach. When called upon to defend himself and his actions, he is said to have replied “No right but that of the Divine. The Need creates the Grant”. The good Bishop Francis Asbury of Baltimore wasn’t having any of that, though. Apparently, he gave him a really tough time.

In spite of all that, Robert Strawbridge’s ministry thrived, and grew. That whole part of Carroll County – New Windsor to Sam’s Creek is called ‘Strawbridge Country’. It’s bounded by Rte 27 to the East, Rte 140 to the North, Rte 407 to the South and Rte 31 to the West. The area is very rural and picturesque. Archaeological opinion is that the site may not be authentic, and that Strawbridge may never have lived there.

Be that as it may… it does not matter in the least. There is a sense of peace and serenity at the Strawbridge shrine that whether or not the good man actually lived and preached in that spot, you understand the spirit that drove him. It’s a shame that he never made it into the Heroes of Methodism book (published in the mid-1800’s) along with other primitive preachers like Bishop Asbury and others. Guess you had to be an ordained minister, or a Bishop. The irony of it all is that the museum at the Shrine is named after Francis Asbury, the very man who tried to put poor Robert and Elizabeth out of business. Correction: David Bearr wrote to let me know that the Visitor center is actually named after a Asbury Smith, a minister who helped develop the site. I apologize for the error.

It was almost sunset when I got there, and very cold. The light was fading fast, and I just managed to get some photographs. Unlike my previous visits, where I was using film, this time I had the Sony Alpha 700, so I could switch ISO’s quickly to accommodate the fading light.

I switched between a couple of lenses as well. Most of the pictures were made with the Minolta 35-105mm (52-157.5mm eq. 35mm format) and the rest with the Sigma 24mm wide angle (36 mm eq).

I even had a chance to chat with the site curator for a few minutes. Rev. Laura Apostol lives right next door and offers guided tours from April onwards.


Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine

Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine
Robert Strawbridge Shrine

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Minolta AF 35-105mm and Sigma AF Super-wide II 24mm f/2.8 lens. I’ve posted some additional photos here.
Here’s my previous post on the Strawbridge Shrine.



Creative Commons License
Alphamagic by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2007-2008 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting alphamagic, have a great day!

Read Full Post »

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to using lenses designed for 35mm cameras on the current crop of Digital SLRS. Many photographers have sizeable investments in 35mm lenses for their film cameras, and for the most part their lens investments drive them towards a particular digital camera body, whether it’s Nikon, Canon, Minolta (Sony), Pentax or Olympus.

Luckily, all the manufacturers retained their old AF mounts, except for Olympus, which uses the newly designed Four-Thirds mount. Sony retained the Minolta ‘A’ autofocus bayonet mount for the Alpha series cameras, allowing all the fine 35mm lenses out there since 1986 to be used. The same goes for Nikon and others.

However, due to cost constraints at the present time, most digital SLRs use a sensor that is smaller than the 35mm format size of 36mm x 24mm. This smaller format is 22.7mm x 15.1mm, and is known as the APS-C format. Sony and Nikon (and others) use a sensor size that is approximately the APS-C format size. As can be seen, the APS-C size provides a much smaller image area, 342.77 square millimeters versus 864 square millimeters for the standard 35mm format.

When a 35mm lens is used on the current crop of digital cameras, the smaller sensor size means that the 35mm lens will now have a narrower angle of view (also called FOV or field of view) than when used on a 35mm film camera body. This is due to the fact that the 35mm lens creates an image on the film (or sensor plane) that is is sufficiently large enough to cover the 36x24mm frame it is designed for.

When used in a Digital SLR that has a smaller sensor (and thus image size), the image formed by the 35mm lens is still the exact same size as before, but the smaller sensor can only use a portion of it. In effect, this constitutes an “in-camera” crop. This cropping is determined by the ratio of the sensor size to the 35mm format size, distance of the image plane from the front of the lens etc.

In most of the cameras using APS-C size sensors, the ‘cropping’ is equivalent to using a lens that has a narrower angle of view (telephoto effect). This Crop Factor (also known as Focal Length Multiplier) is around 1.5x (Sony Alpha) 1.6x (Nikon). In some cameras, Canon uses a sensor size that is slightly larger, which gives a 1.3x factor (this is the APS-H format). The Four-Thirds system used by Olympus and Lumix (Panasonic) has a 2x factor.

The focal length does not really change, of course. The smaller sensor’s ability to register only a portion of the total image causes an APPARENT increase in focal length due to the cropping. This has the effect of using a lens with a narrower angle of view, the same as using a telephoto lens. (Luckily, the sweet center portion has the sharpest part of the image).

The image edges which may not be sharp, or have aberrations are cropped in-camera. For the user, it’s easier to remember by multiplying the focal length of the lens they are using with the factor for that particular body, and that gives us the APPARENT focal length.

A lot of the confusion can be eliminated by using the term APPARENT rather than EQUIVALENT. for example, on my Sony Alpha 700 (which has a 1.5x multiplier for 35mm lenses), it would be more accurate to say that my Minolta 50mm lens has an APPARENT focal length of 75mm, rather than saying my Minolta 50mm is EQUIVALENT to 75mm.

This apparent increase in focal length does not affect the aperture, so the APPARENT focal length of 75mm is still at a fast f/1.7. This will serve as an excellent portrait lens, since it can frame head and shoulders perfectly, but you’ll find yourself having to move back when you want to include more of the scene.

For most wildlife photographers, birdwatchers and even landscape photographers, the apparent increase in focal length can be a unexpected blessing – they get more ‘bang’ for the buck from their existing lenses. When coupled with the higher ISO capabilities of DSLR cameras and in-camera image stabilization that will let them handhold the camera in situations that would have required them to lug along a heavy tripod.

If you’re using a MACRO lens, such as, for example my Sigma 50mm f/2.8 (a very sharp lens with a true 1:1 macro capability) the apparent increase in focal length permits the macro subject to be fill the frame without moving in as close. Since the stand-off distance is greater, more light can reach the subject. The increased distance also helps when photographing skittish subjects that are likely to fly or hop away if approached too closely.

When the subject is framed in the Sony Digital SLR, it is seen that the Depth of Field is greater for the same magnification when compared to using the lens on a 35mm film camera like my Minolta Dynax 800si. This is a great advantage for macro-photography where depth of field and subject lighting are always problematic.

The whole situation is different when it comes to wide angle lenses. This is where most photographers are ready to burst into tears. The 1.5x or 1.6x multiplier effect holds good on the wide angles too, and this means that a normal wide angle like 24mm lens which would give a 74 degree field of view on a 35mm format camera will now only provide a FOV of 62 degrees or so, approximately that of a 35mm lens. In the same way, an ultra-wide 16mm becomes an apparent 24mm a 28mm is an apparent 42mm and a 35mm lens behaves like a 52.5mm normal lens.

Given the fact that most wide angle lenses are EXPENSIVE, no photographer would like to see his investment reduced to a moderate wide-angle or a normal lens. However, such is life. You win some, you lose some. To get a true wide angle on the Sony Alpha 700, I would have to invest in a 18mm to get 27mm (luckily, that’s included in the zoom range of my Sony 18-200mm lens that I bought with the camera). Since the 18-70mm is bundled as a kit lens, most owners will have at least a 27mm wide angle, albeit a slow one).

To get the 24mm, we’d have to invest in the very expensive Sony 16-105mm Zeiss coated zoom lens (apparent focal length 24- 157.5mm). Buying a faster wide-angle prime lens would be prohibitively expensive for any amateur, and even professionals would hesitate.

My advice? If you really need to shoot wide angle, just use your film camera. You can still buy a fine Sigma 24mm f/2.8 AF at a reasonable price. The Sigma 24mm is a good deal, since it had a matte black Zen finish that tended to flake off, giving the lens a “very used” appearance and usually marked down. This is just cosmetic, and does not affect the lens performance in any way.

The same Sigma lens was re-badged and sold by Ritz as their house-brand Quantaray lens, but with a different, more durable finish – but it’s still the same lens. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of either lens – this is a very high quality lens. Besides, you can always use the Sigma on the digital SLR as an apparent 35mm f/2.8 prime lens in place of a ‘Normal’ lens. You’d pay hundreds more to get a similar “designed for digital” Nikon, Sony or Canon lens.

Of course, all this talk about crop factors and multiplication factors will become moot when Full Frame digital SLRs become common. Canon already has one, and Nikon and Sony will follow shortly. In fact, I would not be surprised if the Sony Alpha 900 was not released in a few more months. When that happens, lenses will behave as they were designed and there will be no more confusion.

As for me, I rather like the fact that my Tamron 70-300mm now behaves like a 105mm-450mm super-zoom. With the Image stabilization turned on, I can actually hold that baby steady enough to use hand-held.



Creative Commons License
Alphamagic by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

text and images © 2007-2008 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting alphamagic, have a great day!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »