Thursday, July 30, 2009

Olympus E-P1 lens cases

The Olympus E-P1 is the most compact interchangeable lens digital camera currently on the market. See my earlier entries: Consequently, I've been looking for a secure yet highly configurable solution for carrying a few lenses with the camera.

I decided to search secondhand camera shops to find small lens cases for my Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 classic portrait lens and the M.Zuiko 14-42mm collapsible kit zoom.

My sincere thanks to Ivy Hou, photographer and camera otaku, for taking me on the equivalent of a "pub crawl" through selected used camera shops in Tokyo despite the summer heat.

The mission was successful. As you can see below, the Takumar f1.8/55 lens case from Pentax is exactly the right size to hold the kit zoom: it fits so snugly it seems amost purpose-made for the job.

The Nokton has a protruding focus tab so the same degree of fit is not possible, But the slightly slimmer and taller Pentax Takumar f3.5/28 lens case seems to work reasonably well.

Currently, the E-P1 body goes in the Kata DF-408 case shown above in the middle.

I plan to put the body attached to a pancake lens, possibily the pre-advertised Panasonic when it becomes available, in that or a similar rectangular soft case unless something special in a secondhand camera shop turns up.

The idea is to be able to string required lenses and plus other accessories and take only what I need.

My lightweight carbon-fiber/magnesium Gitzo Traveler can also go on the belt comme ça.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shenzhen Panorama

Shenzhen (深圳) is a major new city in mainland China adjacent to Hong Kong (香港) that has seen explosive growth (from negligible to a semi-official 14 million in a few decades) due to its special economic zone status.

[Fisheye view from my room on the 19th floor of the Southern Union (南方联合) hotel.]

Because Shenzhen is flat and doesn't have a natural center, it's perhaps difficult to get an appreciation of the extent and layout of the city unless one goes high up.

(By the way, it's also where the Century South China Table Tennis Club (深圳市世纪南华乒乓球俱乐部) I described in a previous blog entry (here) is located.)

The observation floor of the Diwang Tower (地王大厦) 300m up (slightly higher than the highest floor of the Eiffel Tower) is an ideal place to take photos the day after a typhoon has passed through to clear the air.

[Looking south and west.]

One can be easily forgiven for making the mistake that the paddy fields are in mainland China and the tall buildings are in Hong Kong, but of course, it's quite the reverse here at the border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

The Shenzhen River is the narrow ribbon here that limits Shenzhen's urban sprawl to the south. Before economic development, I would wager the land on either side of the river was quite similar-looking.

Looking directly south towards Hong Kong, if you click on the picture below to magnify, we can make out the residential flats of the village of Sheung Shui (上水) (part of Hong Kong) in the distance beyond the fields.

A detail from the picture above: the border crossing building at Luohu (罗湖) and railway station with Sheung Shui in the background:

To the west, we can see Lizhi Park (荔枝公园) through to the electronics shopping area of Huaqiang Bei (华强北) to the center of Shenzhen. In the distance, you can make out the Pearl River (珠江) and the hills on the other side.

The Century South China Table Tennis Club is at the north end of the Lizhi Park (to the park's near right corner). Detail below:

To the north, Guangzhou ( 广州) is the provincial capital and a larger (and more crowded) city, just 91 miles (147 km) or just under an hour away by (200 km/hr) intercity train.

Looking to the east, Shennan East Rd (深南东路) runs straight and true. Hong Kong people would say Shenzhen is wide and spacious. It's all relative...

The Southern Union (南方联合) hotel - from where the first fisheye picture was taken - is located next to the gold-colored buildings in the middle background.

Now, if you revisit that fisheye picture, you'll see that the hills behind the buildings are actually in Hong Kong.

Next post, I will revisit the skyline of Hong Kong.

The cities of Guangzhou (15.3 million), Hong Kong (7 million) and Shenzhen (14 million), all about an hour or so apart by fast train, form the core of the Pearl River Delta area (珠江三角洲). The Pearl River Delta is one of the engines driving China's recent economic miracle.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Olympus Pen E-P1 part 2: some test shots

I took some random test shots using my new Olympus Pen E-P1 micro-4/3rds camera.

(See previous blog entry here.)

I have four compatible lenses and two adaptors.
  1. Shown mounted on camera: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm (f/3.5-5.6) kit zoom (micro-4/3rds mount).
  2. Back left: Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 manual focus prime lens (Leica M mount).
  3. Back right: Olympus ED Zuiko Digital 8mm (f/3.5) Zuiko fisheye lens (4/3rds mount).
  4. Not shown: Olympus ED Zuiko Digital 9-18mm (f/4-5.6) wide-angle zoom (4/3rds mount).

  5. Voigtlander VM adaptor (Leica M to micro-4/3rds).
  6. Olympus MMF-1 adaptor (4/3rds to micro-4/3rds).

First light with the Nokton (1/100s, f1.4, IS, noise filter: low). Available light, ISO 3200.

Title: Lunch

Checking for noise and detail at the C-clamp area below the Guinness. 100% crop:

Title:焼酎 (Shōchū) [Nokton 35mm/f1.4, 1/100s, ISO 800.]

Soft focus image courtesy of natural means: from condensation on refrigerator in the humidity of summer.

Title:京王線 (Keio Line) [Nokton 35mm/f1.4, hyperfocused 1/30s, ISO 125.]

Taken from a moving train. IS comes in handy. Using Manual mode to explicitly set a slow shutter speed. Normally, one would use a manual aperture lens in Aperture priority mode on the E-P1 (the camera will automatically choose a shutter speed that gives proper exposure).

Title:愛ちゃん (Ai-chan) [Nokton 35mm/f1.4, 1/1000s, f/1.4, ISO 200.]

Outside Tokyo Taiikukan (東京体育館). Notice only subtle blurring of the background despite f1.4 on the 4/3rds sensor and 1/1000s fast shutter speed.

f1.4 on 4/3rds depth-of-field is equivalent to f2.8 (2x) on a full frame sensor. Given that, and subject distance required for framing, perhaps a lens with f1.2 capability or even faster would have been better. But then the it wouldn't be so nice and compact as the 35mm f1.4.

Title: Tokyo back street [14-42mm M.Zuiko kit zoom, 1/125, f/6.3, ISO 200.]

Taken through the window of Ootoya (大戸屋) just behind Yoyogi station (代々木駅). Just a stone's throw but a world away from the severe modernity of the NTT Tower and the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku station (新宿駅).

If one doesn't need shallow depth-of-field from the f1.4, or its low-light capabilities, the slower f3.5-5.6 14-42mm kit zoom is actually much more versatile and less fiddly than the manual focus Voigtlander prime.

Title: Natural lighting

360° spherical panorama: (full resolution, 12MB) (low resolution, 1.6MB)

At Tokyo University. Use Quicktime Player to view either of the full panorama .mov files.

This is my first spherical panorama with the E-P1. Taken with the 8mm fisheye lens attached via the MMF-1 adaptor on a special rig. More details next post.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Olympus Pen E-P1

The Olympus Pen E-P1 represents a new generation of compact, interchangeable lens cameras on the micro 4/3rds lens mount.

Here, I have the equivalent of manual transmission on a car. That is a Voigtlander Nokton Classic (35mm, f1.4) manual focus prime lens mounted using a VM (Leica M mount to micro 4/3rds) adaptor. No information is transmitted via the adaptor to the camera. Metering works in stop-down fashion. Manual focus assist is available on the E-P1 using liveview.

The camera came with a neat Olympus standard zoom that collapses for compactness. Here is my 3 lens kit:

These are three different lenses all with different mounts. Two adaptors are used here.

Shown mounted: my general low light and portrait lens. Voigtlander Nokton Classic (35mm, f1.4) Leica M mount. VM Leica M to micro 4/3rds adaptor (no electrical contacts to transmit lens information, so manual use only).

Back left: general purpose mid-range zoom. Olympus micro 4/3rds 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 collapsible kit zoom. No adaptor needed (full range of functions).

Back right: my spherical panorama lens. Olympus 4/3rds 8mm f3.5 fisheye lens. Shown with Olympus 4/3rds to micro 4/3rds adaptor (information about lens communicated to camera, full range of functions).

Lenses made for micro 4/3rds and Leica M mounts are much smaller and lighter than regular DSLR lenses. For example, the regular 4/3rds format fisheye shown above is huge by comparison. I also have a 9-18mm 4/3rds wide-angle zoom lens (not shown here). And that is similarly large.

As more lenses get released in micro 4/3rds mount, there will be concomitant weight and size saving to be had without loss of image quality. There is a Panasonic 7-14mm wide angle zoom available now. Plus a 45-200mm telephoto zoom. (Double those focal lengths to get the 35mm equivalent values.) And rumor has it a pricey Leica Summilux 30mm f1.4 in micro 4/3rds native mount is coming.

The camera body is much smaller than my year-old Olympus E-520 DSLR yet has superior image quality. It's a breakthrough in terms of technology and versatility for cameras of this size.

[Unfortunately, my E-520 has a busted LCD display. That's my excuse for getting the Pen E-P1.]

In fact, it's not much bigger than my point-and-shoot (P&S) Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5.

It's pictured here with the collapsible Olympus kit zoom (14-42mm, f3.5-5.6) mounted (collapsed).

Given the 2x crop factor over full frame 35mm, it actually has the same maximum wide angle as the Lumix lens (4.7-47mm, f3.3-4.9) but does not reach anywhere near as far in terms of telephoto ability. The Lumix has a tiny image sensor by comparison, which allows for lens miniaturization but has other tradeoffs in terms of image quality.

In short, normalizing focal lengths to 35mm equivalent sizing, the Olympus kit zoom would be equivalent to a 28-84mm zoom, and the Lumix to a whopping 28-280mm zoom.

(According to the specifications, Olympus kit zoom also slightly slower in terms of max aperture than the Lumix lens, though that not a meaningful parameter here given the difference in image sensor size.)

As a hiker, I've been looking for lightweight but versatile equipment for taking landscape and 360° spherical panoramas. In terms of portability, I will carry on a belt the 3 lens kit setup shown previously:

Shown here is a tiny Kata DF 408 case surrounded by a pair of Lowepro lens cases.

One holds the 8mm fisheye. The other holds the Nokton 35mm/f1.4 and Olympus kit zoom. Padded belt not shown.

Going modular is the most versatile solution for me. For example, when hiking I will leave the Nokton behind but carry a lightweight Gitzo carbon/magnesium tripod and panohead.

I've re-organized and expanded the test shots that were here to a separate blog entry...