Tag Archives: Olympus XA

When Shooting Spring – 1. Use a tripod. 2. Use a Manual Camera. 3. Consider or Just Use Film

Advanced digital cameras with automatic features are great for action, low light, and video.  They are not that good for shooting spring flowers and other things that bloom in the spring.  For me spring has arrived.  My first California poppy bloomed today and I have early roses coming out.  Half of my yard is fields of blooming Alyssum and other wildflowers.  I record spring happenings like this every year.

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Sony A7iii with 55mm f1.8 lens 

Shots like the above are just far easier with manual cameras.  I had to fiddle with the Sony A7iii to get the focus on the orange poppy and not the background.  My iPhone absolutely refused to get sharp focus.  But my almost 40 year old Olympus with manual focus only was completely simple.  I have negative film in it so I know that the highlights will not get blown easily.  But from past experience I know flowers tend to be about 1 stop over a center weighted meter.  So I just set the Oly -1 stop.  Put it on a little light tripod, took maybe 30 seconds to focus precisely on the flow and took the shot.  Of course the disadvantage of film is you have to wait for it to be developed to see the results.  So I can remember how I shot the photo I keep a photo log in my iPhone notes app.

Then I loaded a roll of Ektachrome into one of my Minolta 600si’s.  Getting that set up was about twice as hard as the Olympus because the Minolta has auto focus and no manual focus aids in the viewfinder.  But no menus to putz with so maybe 10 times easier than my full auto Sony A7iii.

Film.  I have a bunch of film (maybe 25 rolls) left over from last year.  None of it has expired.  I just have not shot much of it lately because I have been too busy playing with my full frame Sony and iPhone.  But now that spring has arrived there are all kinds of beautiful subjects that will be available and I want to use some of my older cameras.  I have heard some disquieting news that Kodak Alaris is selling the film business.  As I mostly use Kodak film I hope there will not be any problems with supply.  Overall I like the look of Kodak film better than any other.  I would have to say Ilford makes excellent black and white.  The last roll I shot was Ilford 50 speed and it was just a great result.  And Fuji has announced they are raising their film price 30% soon.  So I don’t know how to read that.  30% + of their consumer film is not that much, but 30% on Velvia or Provia is a bunch.  That would make Velvia about 20 bucks a roll and that is too much.  The current price of $15 bucks is already too high.  BUT.

BUT continued – if I had just used my film cameras this past year and my old Nikon D5500 and Sony HX80 it would have been far far cheaper than what I spent to get two full frame cameras.  New full frame cameras and especially full frame camera glass that is good is soooooooo expensive it just makes my head swim.  New full frame lenses are being introduced left and right by Sony, Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and a bunch of others.  The latest for my Sony camera is a 135mm f1.8 – I am sure it is a great lens, but it costs $1,900 US dollars!!!! And it weights over 2 lbs (almost a kilo).  Good grief Charlie Brown that is a lots of dough and very big and heavy.  I have an Olympus 135mm f3.5.  These sell for about $40 on eBay and it weighs about 8 oz.  If I wanted I could get an Oly 2.8 for about $75.  Or I could get a Minolta AF 135 2.8 that would work on my A7iii for about $140.

I have bought two Minolta lenses from eBay that are supposed to arrive tomorrow.  1.  100mm f2.8 AF macro.  This lens is rated as about 9.5 on a scale of 1-10.  I paid $220 for it including shipping.  Condition is rated as mint.  2.  Minolta 100-400 f4.5-6.3. I am curious to see how good this lens is.  The reviews I read on it said it was good to excellent.  I paid about $250 including shipping.  Rated Excellent + condition.  I have been thinking about getting this 100-400 for a while now but was trying to decide if I wanted to pony up the $2,500+ for the Sony new one.  Then I tested the Minolta 70-210 f4.5-5.6 that I have against my Sony 24-105 f4 I bought new a couple of months ago.  I thought the Sony would blow it away.  It did not.  I shot some houses on a hill opposite out house that are about 2-3 miles away and the Sony and Minolta are about equivalent.  I paid $32 for the Minolta lens about 2 years ago.  Just before Christmas I paid $1,300 for the Sony.  The Minolta lens is smaller and lighter than the shorter zoom Sony.  The Minolta 100-400 I have coming is much smaller and far lighter than the new Sony 100-400mm.

I bought the 100mm 2.8 macro because spring is here.  I have been using various 50-55mm lenses on my Sony and Minoltas and 50 & 135 on my Olympus bodies.  The Minolta 100 has been rated as a great lens by a number of people including just last week the “Casual Photographer” blog.  Ken Rockwell has raved about how good the lens is.  So I am looking forward to it.  100mm in macro is just easier to use than 50mm macro.  My Zeiss 55mm lens is excellent and I can get pretty close with it and then just crop the image.  Hopefully the 100mm will be better.  A Sony 90mm 2.8 macro is about $1,000.

Even though I keep thinking that I will get away from using any film I keep going back to using some.  I like manual cameras.  I like being able to set them quickly how I want them without having to delve into any deep menus.  For landscape manual focus is fine.  There is the problem of getting a good lab to develop, but that is solved easily by just paying more to a good one.  Enough for now.

 

2018 Purchases – Nikon D750, Apple XS Max, Apple MacBook Pro 15″& Sony A7iii – Reflections

2018 was a big uproarious year in the image and video creation business.  After going a couple of years with buying only new smartphones and a compact digital Sony I got caught up in all the changes and bought not one new full frame camera but two.  And I also went back to the full sized iPhone after saying the smaller one was a perfect size.  I also bought a new MacBook Pro.

Featured image above was taken with a Nikon D3200 in 2014 and edited in iPhoto

Foggy hill in Olympic National Park Velvia 50
Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 and Fuji Velvia 50 Edited in iPhoto

Early in 2018 I started using tripods again after years of mostly hand held.  My flower photos improved doing that.  I was bored after having my Nikon D5500 for 3 years so even though I really liked that camera I started looking for my next larger digital camera.  I wanted to get a Nikon and wanted to get their upcoming mirrorless.  But back in the spring of last year there were only rumors about when the new Nikon would be out and it looked like it might be the spring of 2019 before you could get one.  So when Nikon sent me a low price on the D750, 24-120mm, and grip I bought one.  I also got the Nikon 50mm f1.4 at the same time.  Total for everything including tax and shipping was about $2,500.

old town Sacramento
Taken with Motorola Maxx cell phone and edited with iPhoto

After using the flyweight and very easy to use Nikon D5500 for several years when I got the D750 I did not like it at all.  Too big and heavy.  With the 24-120mm zoom on it the size seemed gargantuan compared to the D5500.  It hurt my 71 year old right hand with a little arthritis.  But I then got a Peak Strap and used the 50mm lens and the 750 started to grow on me.  The controls of the Nikon D750 were easy to learn and very intuitive after having two crop body Nikons.  The Peak strap was a big improvement over the strap that came with the camera.  I only shot stills with the 750.  For video I used my iPhone X.  I also tried using some of the FX lenses on my D5500 DX Nikon body.  The better lenses made the smaller Nikon a lot better.  Images from the 5500 and either FX lens were very nearly the same as using the D750.  On the other hand the 750 focused much quicker and the viewfinder was way better.

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Taken with Motorola Maxx smartphone

The Nikon D750 had buttons for most adjustments that were easy to find and when you needed to use the menu on the back screen it was obvious that Nikon had spent some time designing them to be intuitive.  But what the D750 did not solve was washed out mid day full sun colors.  Looking back on it now it is obvious that I should have stuck with the D750 longer and learned to improve this problem instead of jumping to the Sony system.  I did not find out till later that using live view on the Nikon you could see a histogram before shooting.  But I did use bracketing with the 750 and that worked well.

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Shot with Olympus XA compact film camera

The full frame Nikon came with us on our summer motorhome trip and after a while I just got used to the size of it.  The D5500 was still much lighter and easier to handle, but the D750 was OK.

My film photography in the first 6-7 months of 2018 suffered because I kept experimenting with different film stocks, using expired rolls,  and using labs that were not great.  This has now changed and I went back to using my preferred and unexpired film stocks plus two of the best labs and now my film shots look great.

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Shot with Nikon D3200 and 55-200 kit tele lens.  I have not changed these photos from my 2014 edits.  So when you see unleveled photos such as this one just know I was not as picky four years ago on editing.

We got back from our long summer trip in late August and by this time Nikon had set a date for intro of both their Z6 & 7.  Sony was selling lots of A7iii and A7riii.  After watching about 1,000 (exaggeration) you tube videos I decided in Oct to buy a Nikon Z7 or 6.  I called George’s photo and then went down with the intention of buying a Z camera.  While there I chickened out getting the new Nikon Z7 because it was expensive, new, and getting mixed reviews.  I have a number of Sony-Minolta lenses that will adapt easily to the A7iii, and made the spit second fall back decision to get the Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8 and not the Z7.  Likely if the Z6 would have been available then I might have gone that way.  I figured, “If you don’t like the Sony you can sell it.  The price was not in the same range as the Z7 and the Sony was very very popular so no problem selling it.”  The next day I got the Sony A7iii, LA EA4 Sony adapter, and Zeiss 55mm f1.8.

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Nikon D5500 and 18-55 kit lens.  Edited with iPhoto

Right away after getting the Sony it was obvious that it was difficult to use and confusing.  I had had 4 Sony compact cameras over the years so I knew a little about the Sony menu system.

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Voightlander Prominent from 1953 and 50mm f1.5 Nokton lens, Kodak Ektar film

I did find that the sony adapter worked well with the Minolta A mount glass.  But while several of the Minolta lenses worked brilliantly on the film camera they were made for the Sony A7iii image quality with them was just not as good.  Why, I suspect these lenses were developed for film and the A mount.  They just don’t perform as well as when adapted.  This is stated over and over again by Ken Rockwell in his blog kenrockwell.com which you should read.  I agree with him.

Flowers on hill WA Velvia 50
“Yellow flowers on hill in Olympic National Park”  Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 lens Velvia 50 film hand held.

Just before Christmas I bought the Sony G 24-105mm f4 lens for the A7.  It works great, $1,300.  I bought this as I liked the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and missed it’s abilities.  This Sony is essentially the same but does not cut the corners just a bit at 24mm like the Nikon did.  I only paid $500 for the Nikon and the construction quality seemed just as good.  Plus the D750 was quite well weather sealed and the Sony A7iii does not seem to be.

The switch to Sony from Nikon was painless.  I found willing buyers quickly for all of my Nikon gear.  I sold the D750 and 24-120mm for very little less than I paid.  But of course less the ebay sellers fee.  The D5500 I used for 3 1/2 years and sold it with kit lens for around 60% of what I paid.  The Sony HX80 sold for about 60% of what I paid and I only used it 1 1/2 years.

Voightlander Prominent Ektar 100
Taken with Voightlander Prominent 50mm f1.5 lens and Ektar film

So what did I loose and gain by all of these transactions.

  • I gained eye auto focus.
  • I lost one camera I loved – D5500 and two I liked – Nikon D750 & Sony HX80 and gained one camera that is technically very competent that is growing on me a bit but so far I would have to say I only like it slightly.
  • If I had it to do over again I would go back to what I had.
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Eye auto focus is fine, but this great shot of my daughter was taken by a 65 year old Voightlander with a difficult to use rangefinder focus adjustment that has not been adjusted since 1979.  And to top it off Kodak Ektar is not supposed to be a very good skin color film.

Auto eye focus is not enough to make this worth it.  One of my New Years 2019 resolutions is to get rid of GAS and use what I have now for the rest of the year.  I will make two exceptions 1.  Olympus introduces a full frame camera that follows what I like about the Olympus OM2n of small size, high capability, and everything you need and nuthin you don’t at a price I am willing to pay.  2.  Nikon updates either the Z6 or D750 that fixes the obvious flaws in both bodies.  And I can sell the Sony for enough to pay for one of these two exceptions.  If neither of those two scenarios comes to pass I am going to live with what I have and improve my skills with that gear the complete year.

Expanding on my exceptions 1 and 2.

  1. Olympus – I am completely perplexed as to why Olympus has not followed up on it’s fantastic OM series and introduce a system with a full frame sensor.  The price of sensors has come down and I see no reason not to go with the advantages of a larger sensor for the same reasons I like full frame film cameras.  I like the perspective I get from 35mm.  I will not buy a camera with a small sensor like the micro 4 3rds.
  2. Nikon Z6 or D750.  The Z6 needs to get their auto focus to work as well as the 4+ year old D750 period!  Why do I want to pay a lot of money for a camera today that is not at least as good as their 4 year old comparably priced 750?  And for gods sake add another card slot.  Preferably with SD cards.  750 to 760.  I have never had an issue with a mirror or the F mount.  To make the D760 really desirable the live view focus needs to be as good as regular view.  And a touch screen.  4K video is obvious. I could live without the EVF if the back screen worked as fast as the Sony A7iii.
Manzanita Oregon Coast
Shot with Nikon D3200 and kit 18-55mm

My second new years resolution is not to use expired film and to stick with the films and labs I know and trust.  No cheeping out on bargain film or labs.  And to shoot more film.

Apple XS Max upgrade from iPhone X.  Meh.  The iPhone X was a great great iPhone.  The iPhone XS Max is slightly bigger and better.

MacBook Pro 15″ 2018 6 core 512 gb upgrade from 2013 MacBook Pro 13″ 2 core 256 gb.  Meh.  I have literally used the crap out of my old MacBook.  It still works fine and I am using it to write this blog post.  But I does show some of this heavy use in balkiness to start up sometimes.  It is also much slower to start now than 3-4 years ago.  But it is not slower to start than the new one.

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Taken with Nikon D3200 and 18-55kit lens

Pros of the new MacBook –

  • bigger screen
  • better speakers
  • newer

Cons of the new MacBook

  • $3,000
  • no variety of ports like the old one.  This one really pisses me off.  I delayed for two years getting a new MacBook because of this but finally caved because I need at least one reliable newer computer and wanted an Apple.  Not only did they take away ALL the old style USB ports but the idiots removed the mag safe connector.  They even obsoleted my Apple Thunderbolt screen so I had to buy a dongle for it.  And no SD card slot.  Something I used all the time with my old one.  So now I am switching over to the new style connector.  By the time I switch everything over it will be time for Apple to obsolete that connector too.
  • I really liked my older MacBook Pro.  My favorite Apple product of all time.  The new one I bought because I wanted to stick with Apple and I was worried about the age of my old unit.  I would have rather bought a new old style MacBook with upgraded chips.  Apple has made this device worse not better for me.  The old style keyboard is better.
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Olympus XA compact film camera with Ektar film

Conclusions.  New is many times not better and sometimes worse.  I have purposely used only photos from 2014 to show that with my old gear before I started spending a lot of money my shots turned out fine.  I really liked my old Motorola Maxx smartphone.  It worked well, it had some very slick features, and the battery lasted forever.  I bought my first iPhone the 6S after the Moto and in many ways the Maxx was a better device.  But now you cannot go back to 2014 because Motorola has been sold and they make just so-so phones compared to Apple.  

Back in 2014 I used Apple iPhoto, iMovie, and Aperture.  But then Apple obsoleted iPhoto and Aperture and gave us Photos.  Photos is a better organizer and works with on line better, but the editing functions work poorly with any photo that was not taken with an iPhone.  Or at least poorly compared to Lightroom.  Now I am still stuck sorting back and forth between Apple Photos and Lightroom.  And I also have to remember if I used Lightroom CC Classic or Lightroom CC.  My real photo collection system in 2018 was more of keeping photos on local disks out of any software.  And now I am going to go back and have prints made from my best photos of last year + 2017.

In this blog I have posted very good photos (or at least ones I like) from cameras up to 65 years old, film, digital, DSLR, smartphone, and compact.  All worked just fine.  The key to photography is the photographer and not the gear.  And that is going to be the same in 2019 as it was in 2018.

 

 

Buying And Selling Cameras On Ebay

I have bought and sold a number of cameras on eBay over the last 5-10 years.  Recently I sold two Olympus pocket film cameras I had owned since new.  I had used both of them in the last year and was just ready to try something new.  The one was an Olympus XA, which is a high quality rangefinder pocket camera that comes with a clamshell case.  Mine has worked perfectly for over 30 years and very likely will work for another 30.

My Olympus XA
My Olympus XA – Now being used by it’s new owner.

This camera has been highly rated by many.  It is a solid completely adjustable small rangefinder with a good Olympus lens.  I think most of the reason I sold it is I prefer a 50mm lens to a 35mm as on the XA.  Plus I just consistently got better pictures with my Olympus OM2n.  I was surprised by how much this camera sold for.  It was about half of what I paid for it new.

The second pocket Olympus I sold was an Infinity Stylus.  This was one of the first auto focus clamshell type cameras.  It was also reviewed well over the years.  This did not bring a lot of money, but the person who bought it is getting a very reliable camera that I have shot several thousand pictures with.  Again, most of the reason I sold it is I just like the 50mm view as opposed to the wider view with this camera.

Olympus Infinity Stylus
Olympus Infinity Stylus

The lens in this camera is not the higher end Zuiko found on the XA above.  And therefore the results from this camera were of lower quality than the Olympus XA with similar film.  This camera had worked reliably for about 30 years.

The key to any sale or purchase is knowing what the fair market value of an item is.  I like old cameras and look at them on the internet a fair amount.  So I knew about what each of the above cameras should sell for and listed them appropriately on eBay.  My favorite camera of all time so far is the Olympus OM2n.  I have had one since 1980 and these are great picture taking machines.  Recently I had been thinking I would like to have a second OM2n camera back so I could load people film in one and keep landscape film in the second.  I was not planning on buying right now until I came across a full Olympus OM2n camera setup with one back, 50mm, 28mm, & 135mm Zuiko lenses, plus a motor drive, flash, few filters, and a nice case.  In my opinion it was priced at way lower than fair market value.  And the seller was rated 100% by eBay.

So I put in a bid at their opening price.  I went back the next morning and was still the only bid, but upped my highest pay about 11 bucks over my opening.  So I crossed my fingers and won.  I ended up just 50 cents bellow my max bid.  I think I won because I put in a max bid a dollar over what I figured people would max bid at.

The camera and kit arrived a few days later and the condition is excellent.  The motor drive has a bit of wear/damage on the bottom, but nothing bad.  After checking the meter it is a stop under.  But the motor drive works, and if I don’t want to take the camera apart and adjust the meter I just set it to a stop over.  In my opinion looking at recent sales of similar items I could resell what I bought for twice what I paid.  But I am not planning to sell.

Sample picture of Olympus OM2n
Sample picture of Olympus OM2n – The one I bought looks just like this.

My comments would be these.  1.  Knowing the fair market value of an item is the most important piece of knowledge you need when buying or selling.  2.  Dealing with a reliable seller is very important also.  3.  Buying and selling film cameras on eBay is fun.

I was able to add the second OM2n for less than my two pocket cameras sold for.  The OM2n with the lenses, drive, filters, flash, and case may have sold for $1,500-2,000 new.  I paid $110.50.  When I get some pictures back I will write another post.  My first roll is about half used.  I loaded it with Portra 400.

More Film Vs Digital Photos

We just got back from a two month trip in our motorhome that included an Alaskan cruise.  I got some very good pictures along with some great memories.  This summers trip seemed to revolve around water.  We camped on lakes, oceans, and rivers.  That seemed to make for very good places to stay.

On this trip I used both digital and film cameras.  I took 1.  Nikon DSLR with 3 lenses.  2.  My cell phone camera.  3.  My 1953 Voightlander Prominent 35mm with one lens, a 50mm 1.5.  4.  My Olympus XA compact 35mm film camera.  I used all of them.  Here are some bullets of stand out features of those cameras that I found helpful this summer.  the lighthouse picture

  1.  Vibration reduction on modern digital cameras is very useful when using a long lens.  The above picture is a mid range telephoto and this was an easy shot due to VR.
  2. Quick acting DSLRs are needed when the picture is an action shot and you want to use digital.  When we were in Glacier Bay the glacier calved.  I had a split second to get the action and the Nikon was up to the task.  Auto advance is another important feature in this situation.
  3. Modern film like Ektar 100 is almost impossible to expose incorrectly.  I shot an entire roll of 36 at a wedding with a 60 year old rangefinder camera and mostly guessed on exposure.  All 36 shots came out fine.  Of the 4 rolls of Ektar all of the pictures came out exposed well.
  4. Cell phone cameras are nearly totally useless shooting action.  I tried to get pictures of dogs on the beach in Oregon.  I would push the button and the dogs were way moved on before the shot would take.  By far the Olympus XA was more useful.  The Olympus is a simple camera, but when you push the button the picture is taken right now.
  5. Full frame cameras give you a shallow depth of field.  This is very useful when you want to isolate a subject and have beautiful bokea for background.  I much prefer the size of my Olympus OM2n with full frame than Cannon or Nikon full frame digital.
  6. I far prefer simple manual adjustments of the older cameras.  My Nikon is the 3200 and it is far more difficult to do manual adjustments of f stop and speed than on any of my semi automatic or manual cameras.
This was taken with a telephoto.  Vibration reduction helped me get a good shot of this.
This was taken with a telephoto. Vibration reduction helped me get a good shot of this.
This is an Ektar shot with a 60 year old rangefinder.  People love this picture.  I have had more comments and likes on this than any other picture I have ever taken and posted.  Who says Ektar 100 does not work on flesh tones.
This is an Ektar shot with a 60 year old rangefinder. People love this picture. I have had more comments and likes on this than any other picture I have ever taken and posted. Who says Ektar 100 does not work on flesh tones.
I tried repeatedly to get a dogs on beach picture with my cell phone.  Forget about it.  They had moved on before the picture shot.  This is not a great shot but at least I got all three dogs and froze their action.  This is the Olympus XA with Ektar.
I tried repeatedly to get a dogs on beach picture with my cell phone. Forget about it. They had moved on before the picture shot. This is not a great pictue but at least I got all three dogs and froze their action. This is the Olympus XA with Ektar.

So what is my point.  Just like you need many tools in your garage to fix things around the house, no one photo tool (One camera) does everything “best”.  Mixing film and digital in my case is the best way to go.  I got shots that I loved with both digital and film.  I have to tell you though that I like the film process of taking pictures better.