4.30.2010

Half frame mania. Starring the 150.

This is the rig.  The EPL1 with the Pen (film) 150mm f4.  I got a call from my friend, Keith, asking me to meet for lunch and knowing that he's into the new Olympus Pen cameras I looked through one of the drawers in my equipment cabinet and pulled out a lens to share with him.  I'm not sure the exact year I got my hands on this beauty.....probably in the mid-1980's....but the glass is incredibly clean and the lens looks like it's never been on a camera.  After lunch we headed out to a local museum to play around with out respective cameras.  He brought a very serious Nikon D3x with one of the Nikon Shift lenses and I played the eccentric outsider, bringing the above rig and popping a 38mm f1.8 Pen (film) lens in my pocket.


One of the amazing things about the whole micro four thirds revolution, as presented by Panasonic and Olympus, is the very short distance from the lens mount flange to the sensor in the camera bodies.  This allows people to make adapters for just about any lens from any maker whose lens was designed for a deeper distance between flange and film or flange and silicon.  There are currently adapters that will allow you to use Nikon, Canon, Contax G, Contax N, Leica M, Leica R, Olympus e series and OM series and Pentax K mount lensesFotodiox Lens Mount Adapter, Olympus PEN F Lens to Micro 4/3 Four Thirds System Camera Mount Adapter, Olympus PEN E-P1, PEN E-P2, PEN E-PL1, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, GH1, G1, G2, without restriction on the the EP series and the G series cameras.  I originally bought into the new Pen system just so I could use my old Pen film lenses.
So here's my Pen to Pen adapter ring.  It's a whopping $60, which I think is pretty fair given the limited market and the machining required.  When I ordered the adapter ring I didn't have high hopes for the lens performance and I admit I proceeded out of nostalgia more than common sense.  I figured that the normal focal lengths would be pretty good but I though even those would struggle given all the advances that have occurred in lens coatings, CNC machining, optical resins and other cool, technical stuff.  I thought the longer lenses would especially show their age given the advances in ED glass and other tech.  I'll admit that I brought the 150mm along to lunch to tweak my friend given our usual repartee about the sheer poundage of gear he sometimes schlepps around.  After all, the 150mm Pen lens is the equivalent of a 300mm Nikon at 1/5th the size and weight.
A size comparison.  The 38mm Pen versus the Nikkor 50mm 1.2 with its e system conversion adapter.

After a great lunch we headed off to shoot for an hour or so and to compare notes about the new 24mm Nikon TS lens, mounted on a D3x and playing with live view.  Keith is more diligent than I so he took the lead and set up some interesting test shots.  I stumbled around and played with the EPL and the Pen 150.  When I started chimping my shots on the back screen I changed my mind about the older lenses.  

This is an interesting lens.  It's a 50mm to 90mm f3.5 (constant aperture) zoom.  Stop it down to 5.6 and it's really very good.  (above).
We love to talk about pocketable cameras but this is a seriously pocketable 20mm f3.5.  You could actually (but uncomfortably) have a three lens system of old Pen lenses that could fit in the pocket of a pair of relaxed fit Dockers.  If you were willing to wear the Dockers.....
This was the first shot of the day.  I'm stuck in lunch rush traffic on Bee Caves Road.  I shoot some cars through my windshield with the 150 f4.  I wonder why that always freaks out the other drivers.......


So, here's Keith with the power rig:  D3x, Hoodman Loupe, 24mm TSe,  and a pretty cool cap.  He's the kind of photographer I admire because he's out testing his gear and getting comfortable with it BEFORE heading out to a job or off on the trip of a lifetime.  He gets that it takes time and practice to make the hands and brain work together to make great shots.  This is shot with the 150mm at about 15 feet, wide open.  We're in open shade.  I won't show you Keith's shots, that's bad marketing for me....
So while Keith is mastering the Scheimpflug law and the intricacies of lenses that can change their focal plane and move their nodal centers all around I was wandering around shooting things with bright colors.  All of these shots are done with the 150mm lens, handheld, using the A setting on the EPL.  I kept a close eye on the max shutter speed and now I officially want the next camera to go all the way to 1/8000th of a second!
I think you'll agree that the performance is pretty straight forward.  No huge flares, no softness and no weird color casts.  Considering how small and light this puppy is I can see including it in my standard, fine art travel package......
For those for whom the desire for Bokeh is all consuming I present the repeating background, out of focus objects at our widest aperture.  I burned sage as I was shooting this and contemplated sacrificing a small animal in order that the Ephors could divine the len's mystic Bokeh potential but I was short of goats and time.  I'll leave the interpretation of the optic's Bokeh to the more adept........  I like the light bulb.  It's shiny.
Of course,  all the rational critics on DPReview and other sites are absolutely correct:  It is impossible to throw the background of any photograph out of focus unless you are using a "full frame" camera!  I'll keep trying.  
I'm not sure why but there's one website where they review cameras and lenses and they always shoot pictures of gritty rocks to prove or disprove the attributes of their gear under test.  I guess little gritty stuff shows off sharpness or lack thereof.  All I know is that this is what I got, handheld, with the 150mm at its closest focusing distance.
As we left the museum, Keith pointed out these little flowers to me.  I thought I'd shoot em and see if I could drum up any Chromatic Abberation.  Any purple halos.  Any red or green outlines.  Nope.  Just flowers.  Hmmmmm.  Maybe this 40 year old lens is better than most of the consumer type zooms people are racing around with.  The downside of this lens?  It doesn't autofocus......

A request:  If you've read my fourth book:  Photographic Lighting Equipment, would you be kind enough to write a glowing, intriguing review over on Amazon.com?  Of course, if you didn't think it was a very good book you are probably far too busy with other stuff to write a review......

Thanks.  Kirk

Photographic Lighting Equipment: A Comprehensive Guide for Digital PhotographersPhotographic Lighting Equipment: A Comprehensive Guide for Digital Photographers