Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Going ultra-wide

Ever since I picked up my 28mm Summicron ASPH, my Voigtlander 28mm Ultrons have been sitting in their boxes. I was keeping them around as "backup," waiting on someone to offer the right price. But what good are lenses sitting in boxes hidden in the closet?

I traded the Ultron f2 a few months ago for a cool vintage Leica 50mm f2 collapsible that's now living on my M3. Then last night I finally traded the Ultron f1.9 for a lens I'd been debating for a while -- an ultra-wide.

Someday I'll own a 21mm Summilux or a WATE, but for now I'll be experimenting with the Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar f4.5.

Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide-Heliar f4.5

This lens is wide. In fact, I think this may be the widest lens ever made for Leica rangefinders.

This lens is so wide that I keep catching my fingers in the shots when I don't keep them flat against the camera.

I snapped a quick test shot in the Starbucks.


You get almost a full 180 degree view of a room.


I'm very excited to use this lens for two things. One is taking photos on the sailboat. Even with the 28mm on a full frame sensor, when you're on a boat, you can't really back up to get more of the action into the photo. This lens should give some dramatic shots from the cockpit that include the mast and sails.

Nothing ahead but sky

We're also heading north again for Christmas, so I'll have a chance to capture the night sky in wide angle glory. Look for a new timelapse coming soon.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Movie review: Man of Steel

Normally I'd never waste my time or yours with my thoughts on a movie, but I'm stuck in Bellevue, Washington until my 6 a.m. flight, and I just saw it, so I've got nothing better to do than regale you with my thoughts on this particular cinematic attempt at capturing the Superman story.

First off, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn't an atrocity of film. However, while it was a very interesting alien movie, it was a terrible Superman movie.

We spend too much time on Krypton. I don't care about CGI animals of Krypton, and we don't need to see baby farms. This isn't Avatar. This isn't the Matrix. Nobody gives a shit. I know the director was trying to give General Zod some sort of sympathetic foot to stand on, so that his character wasn't a one-dimensional warmonger, but he failed. Don't care. Krypton scenes were way too long and pointless.

So then the US government finds an alien ship in a glacier and Lois Lane shows up with her Nikon D3s thanks to the permissiveness of the Canadian government? Seriously, your camera batteries would be dead so fast in that kind of cold. But putting that aside, if Lois Lane is the number one reporter in the world and the ONLY reporter that gets that kind of access, what the HELL was going on when Zod's ship arrived and nobody at the Daily Planet had a clue? She's trying to find toner for the printer, and the entire Daily Planet staff is staring at the TV saying, "What's going on?" and "It's all over the news." HELLO! The Daily Planet IS the news. They would have known about this the second it happened. Lois would have been the first reporter contacted. Why was the Daily Planet even featured in this film because they did zero reporting the entire film and just stood around as helpless foils to Superman.

Continuing on the Daily Planet rant, how the eff does Clark Kent, who has spent all of his 20s working in bars and on fishing boats, walk into the Daily Planet, the top newspaper in the world, and get a job as a stringer? Where's his portfolio of stories? Has he really mastered AP Style? This is complete bullshit and it's insulting to journalists. (At least to non-Gawker journalists.) Clark Kent should have gone to college instead of wandering the arctic. (Note to Gawker journalists, yes there is an extra C in arctic.)

Now let's touch on casting. Could every director on earth please stop trying to re-cast Christopher Reeve? Seriously, Superman is an alien. He doesn't need to be a Christopher Reeve clone. He doesn't even need to be muscular since it's his alien anatomy, not body building, that makes him strong. However, I understand that making him muscular makes him more aesthetically pleasing and heroic in the eyes of the viewer, but I'm saying, take a chance with a new vision.

As for Amy Adams, I love her as the fun, plucky character, but she's not Lois Lane. With all due respect because I like her immensely, she's not attractive enough to be Lois Lane. Do you know why I switched my major from engineering to journalism? Because the journalism girls are HOT! News girls are hot. The most succesful female reporters are hot. It's a sad fact of life that most people would rather speak to a hot female than a pudgy male any day of the week, and female journalists use that to their advantage. It's not fair, but it's a fact of life. Amy Adams is not going to seduce a scoop out of anyone.

Now for the biggest casting atrocity -- Non. Back in 1978 when Zod invaded the first time, Jack O'Halloran did a wonderful job playing the simple-minded yet large enforcer. Guess what? This time Non doesn't even have a face! He's 100 percent CGI. You're telling me you took the time to make that stupid, pointless flying dragon on Krypton, but you didn't have time to develop Zod's crew and at least give each one a face?!!! Travesty.

Now here's the immense plot hole that bugged me this entire movie. Zod, being a power hungry general with the ability to repopulate the earth with Kryptonians using the baby factory, is insistent on terraforming the planet despite the fact that he can be a virtual god on earth. He's already all about genocide, why wouldn't he want to create a supreme race? He has the power to conquer earth with his small band of warriors, and if he just plays it cool with Superman, he could have grown an entire army. Yet despite this, he's deadset on terraforming the place. Does he miss CGI dragons THAT much?!!! And seriously, he's only got the genetic equipment to grow people. If he world builds the planet and it kills all humans and animals, it will be a desolate planet with NO PLANTS OR ANIMALS. It's like, nice job Zod, now you can breathe easier, but you have no super powers and you've killed all manner of sustenance. Brilliant move.

Now let's talk about Christopher Meloni. He's a Colonel. Why is he flying his own planes? Does Zach Snyder not know how the military works?

One last nitpick. Lois knows Superman is Clark Kent by the middle of the movie. When he comes to work at the Daily Planet, she knows who he is. That's just stupid. It ruins everything. Watching Superman hide his identity is half the fun.

The LexCorp tanker truck was some not-so-subtle foreshadowing that Lex Luthor will be the villian in the next installment if this Superman doesn't get fired. Let's hope there's a more engaging plot with less holes next time. I want to see Clark Kent being sneaky. I want to see some journalism. I want to see some non-American cultures represented as our favorite alien unites mankind. Superman shouldn't be good enough, he should be great.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Talking heads

Well, I finally did my first video job using the Sony NEX-6.

   Nex-6 video

I normally put a Rode shotgun mic on a stand near the person being interviewed, but as the NEX-6 does not have a mic input I decided to take a chance on the Sony ECM-XYST1M stereo microphone that fits the NEX-6 smart shoe. Results were pretty good, but as with all camera-mounted mics, the further the camera is away from the person being interviewed, the more ambient noise you pick up.

I was hoping to use my 50mm Summilux for the project, but due to space constraints I used a 28mm Summicron, which has an effective fov of 42mm on the NEX-6. I had a large window on the left side of my subject and a 500w softbox on the right side.

Project settings were 1920x1080p, 24fps, f2.8, 1/50s, ISO100.

NEX-6 Video Still

Lighting was good. Sound was good. Motion was good. My only complaint was that having to use a wide angle lens, when people gesticulated, their hands looked very large. Of course, this is why it's generally suggested to use a 75mm or longer lens for portraits -- it flattens the image. I have three interviews left to shoot, so I'm going to attempt to find a room large enough to use at least the 50mm. I'd love to try my 90mm Elmarit, but on the crop sensor that's just not going to happen indoors.

The good news is that the NEX-6 has proved a very capable and portable video solution.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Coding Leica M lenses

One thing has always bugged me about the digital M series. I use vintage or non-Leica lenses, and one morning I might remember to manually set the camera to a 28mm f2 lens, but then I'd shoot all week, switching lenses multiple times, and the EXIF data of all my shots would say 28mm f2 Summicron. I know, it's not THAT big of a deal, and it doesn't affect the RAW file, but I just wanted the same features and benefits someone with a new, coded 50mm Summilux f1.4 would get. However, being cheap, I did not want to send all my lenses off at $150 a pop to get them professionally coded.

At one point I attempted to download a template from the internet, but even when printed on card stock I could not cut the small holes accurately enough to make it work.

 For $75 I could supposedly code every lens I owned. I decided it was worth a shot. When it arrived I was not disappointed.

match technical M-coder

The plastic template snaps onto the M mount making it very easy to use the included marker to color in the spots that should be coded. The D-Coder gives you the best codes to use for Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses. The only downside is that it doesn't list the codes for all Leica lenses. For my 90mm Elmarit and 135mm Elmarit I had to do some googling to find the codes, but it was not hard to procure them.

I coded all seven of my lenses in about ten minutes at a cost of about $11 per lens. You can't beat that. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finally developed that roll of film

Back in January I popped a roll of Kodak TMAX 400 into the Leica M3 to try it out. I'd had some trouble with TMAX 100 and Ilford Delta 100 being underexposed when shooting indoors and ending up really grainy and losing detail. However, I'd never developed 400 speed film, so I was nervous about how it would react in Caffenol-C.

I don't know why, but I was really slow with finishing this roll. The 24 shots ended up spanning four months, but I finally developed it last night.

The first shot was from a visit to Austin in January.

Austin from the Omni

Then there was a picnic in Herman Park that took place in February.

Picnic in Herman Park

Then there was a trip to Offats Bayou in March.

Offats Bayou, Galveston

Followed by some goofing off around the house.


And finally some sailing in April on our new boat Gimme Shelter.

Mary at the helm

I was very pleased with the TMAX 400 in Caffenol-C. I used the same developing time I use for TMAX 100, but I added almost double the Vitamin C. The extra Vitamin C was just added on a whim after seeing the results some other users posted on the forums, not because of the 400 speed film.


I ended up with much better exposures with only slightly bigger grain than a well-exposed TMAX 100 shot. I'm really happy with them. I also switched to a plastic negative reel, which was so much easier to load than those stainless reels, and for the first time ever I had zero pink spots on my negatives. That made things a double success.

I've got to shoot through two more rolls of TMAX 100 and then a roll of Portra 160 and a roll of Gold 200. Then I think I'm switching to TMAX 400 full time for all my film work.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I found my OUFRO

I know you mut have all been worried and just stewing over where it could have gone to for the past week. It was under the bed behind some clean laundry that had apparently fallen off the end of the bed and then got scooted under the bedskirt. I found the OUFRO along with the M - NEX adapter and the Nikon - NEX adapter. I'm back in the macro business. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to shoot anything all week.

However, we did go sailing on Gimme Shelter, the new boat, last weekend.


It's sooooo large and luxurious compared to the Seahorse. Thankfully, aside from being a challenge to dock, we had no trouble handling her under sail.

Kemah Cruising

Mary and I are very happy with the upgrade. The dogs don't seem to care one way or another.


You can check out the new blog for our sailing adventures at

My entire week has been consumed by the MS 150, which takes place tomorrow and Sunday. It's my third year as team captain, but it's still not easy to get 100 riders and 50 volunteers organized and informed as to what they need to be doing. Plus, I'm riding this year, so I've been spending my evenings trying to get the last bit of training in -- not that it will really matter much. The furthest I've ridden is 25 miles. I have to do 100 Saturday and 83 Sunday. It's going to be two very, very long days.

On the bright side, through my impending misery I've raised $625 for the National MS Society, and our team looks like we'll break $50,000 before the weekend is over.

I've just got to survive the MS 150 and OTC, then it's finally time for a little vacation!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I can't find my OUFRO

It was raining when I got home last night, and there was this one little resilient flower covered in raindrops. I was like, hey, that would be an awesome photo. I ran inside to grab my gear and put a macro adapter on the NEX-6.

One problem. I couldn't find my adapters.

Ok, maybe the hectic schedule of the past few weeks has left my house, car, and camera bags a bit disheveled. It's not easy when you have different shoots every day that require different gear in the bag depending on whether it's photo or video. I also scale things down to fit a smaller bag if I'm going to have to walk a long way.

Usually, I can remember where I stashed everything and what I'm carrying. I distinctly remember the last time I used the M adapter and the OUFRO on the NEX-6. It was the weekend of the boat show when I snapped this flower.

First flower of spring!

I just can't remember what I did with it after that.

I spent well over an hour emptying all my camera bags, which probably needed to be emptied and re-organized anyway. No luck.

Then I started going through drawers where I usually put things I don't want to forget. I finally found all my European power adapters, but as for the OUFRO, no luck.

Then I searched the car ... and the kitchen ... and the bathroom counter. No luck.

It's time to do some major spring cleaning.

Thankfully it's not like these adapters are irreplaceable items, but it's still stressing me out that they're missing. Hopefully I just set them aside somewhere and forgot.

Sadly I'll be missing the April Texas Historical Camera Association meeting and swap meet this Saturday because I'm showing the boat to potential buyers all day, but I am glad to have so many potential buyers wanting to stop by.

Monday, April 08, 2013

When is a project finished?

I purchased my sailboat the summer of 2009. The 1984 Starwind 27 was a sad moldy mess that had been full of water for who knows how long. Four years later after too many thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of sweat, and an untold number of frustrations, I'm calling this project done.


Technically, she's not really done. This year I was going to replace the lifelines, put in a new galley countertop, and do some interior painting.


But I'm starting to realize that perfection isn't a requirement for the completion of all projects. Sometimes it's about meeting functional requirements and the cost-to-benefit ratio is not always high enough for further amenities or aesthetics.


Although she has provided me with innumerable adventures the past few years, the Seahorse is now for sale. With all of her systems working, I'm hoping to find a buyer who loves to sail. She doesn't deserve to be put out to pasture again.


It's now time for the next project -- an O'day 34 named Gimme Shelter, which we moved to our marina Friday evening.

Gimme Shelter motoring to Marina Del Sol

I'll still be blogging about photography and other adventures here, but you can follow the adventures of Gimme Shelter on facebook at or on blogger at

Thursday, March 21, 2013

First sail of the season

What is a story without drama? Without risks and challenges, there is no adventure, just vacation. And really, who wants to spend their weekends relaxing?

Saturday morning the Seahorse finally left its slip at Marina Del Sol for the first time in 2013. Temperature was in the mid-60s and the wind was described as “breezy” in the forecast. According to our friends’ instruments it was a steady 15 knots with gusts up to 30.

We set out into Clear Lake around 10 a.m. and immediately got stuck in the channel right outside the entrance to Marina Del Sol. Throttling up and rocking the boat slowly plowed us through the mud and into the freedom of Clear Lake where we turned east and headed for the boardwalk.


The bouncing swells started at the mouth of the bay and a few waves broke over the bow splashing us in the cockpit, but we pulled up a double reefed main and headed for Redfish Island. We motor-sailed with the main close-hauled and made what is usually a three-hour trip in one hour and fifteen minutes.

We dropped the sail and turned to motor into the wind. That is the moment when the real adventure began.


This was the first time I had crossed into the Houston Ship Channel and left the confines of upper Galveston Bay. It was also the first time I had motored head-on into 30knot winds and pounding waves.

The good – my tough little Kubota Z482 kept running for the next five hours, pushing us south to Galveston. The bad – I couldn’t make more than 4.5 knots and the motor wouldn’t rev over 3,000 rpm.

The stretch from Redfish Island to the Galveston Causeway was a very rough, wet ride. The Seahorse became a bucking bronco and the cockpit was constantly being showered with spray. It was enough to chill you just to the point of shivering, but thankfully not so bad that it was unbearable. However, I had packed four different cameras to document the trip, and it was too wet to pull out anything but the dive camera, but even most of those photos were ruined by water droplets on the lens.

First sail of 2013!

We motored on and on, following our friends in the Escondida who were leading the way, for what seemed like forever. Then, we finally came upon the Texas City Dike and turned west.

I had hoped that being on the north side of Galveston Island would give us some reprieve from the south wind, but it did not. We crossed the Texas City Flats heeled over despite not having any sail up, and we kept drifting to the edge of the channel. Halfway across, the autopilot refused to steer the nose back up anymore, so I had to hand steer. I made the mistake of trying to cut a corner of the channel as we got closer to the bridge. We came to a very abrupt halt as we ran aground for the second time. Thankfully we were broadside to the wind, so with a bit of reverse, it rolled us around 180 degrees and I was then able to pull back into the channel. After another U-turn we were back on track.

Waiting on the bridge

The railroad bridge was down when we reached the causeway, so we puttered in slow circles for 15 minutes while the trains rolled by before we could cross into Offatts Bayou. When we finally crossed, it was so good to see those glass pyramids at Moody Gardens. Our trip clocked in right at six hours as we were dropping the anchor.


Offatts is around 20’ deep, and I had only been carrying 5’ of chain and 100’ of rode. I decided to add another 20’ of chain before the trip to make sure we didn’t drag during the night. That’s when my friend Ray mentioned he had an extra 20’ of chain that he would donate to the cause if we needed it. What he didn’t tell us what that it was the thickest, heaviest chain I’ve ever seen on a pleasure craft. Needless to say, we did NOT drag.

Anchored in Offatts Bayou

I dropped the anchor while Mary was backing up the boat, but we had a pontoon boat full of spring breakers pass right behind us. I don’t know if she got nervous or if it was their wake, but suddenly we had made a U-turn and backed over our own anchor line. The engine came to an abrupt stop.

I knew immediately that I was going for a swim to get the rode off the prop, but I got out a pole and started pushing and lifting the line in hopes it would come loose. No luck.

I went downstairs and put on my swimsuit, bracing myself for the chill of the water. I don’t like cold water. I deployed the swim ladder and gingerly stepped into the water. It was cold, but if all those spring breakers were doing it over on the other side of the island, so could I.

Luckily Offatts Bayou has much more visibility than Kemah, so even without a mask, I could actually see the prop and the anchor line wrapped around it. It only took three dives to get it loose, and everything was good again. Thankfully there was no more adventure that night, but Matt did have to pull apart the carburetor on his dinghy three times in a row to get it running.

Cleaning the dinghy carburetor ... again

The wind finally died, and we got to witness a beautiful sunset before visiting friends on the Tina Marie for drinks, then having dinner aboard the Escondida. Our friend Carla prepared chicken mole and pumpkin pie. I struggle to make sandwiches on a boat, much less pumpkin pie. I have much to learn about cruising.

Moody Gardens at Sunset

Unlike the last summer’s overnight anchoring incident, which included bouncing off the bottom at low tide, a dragging anchor, and no sleep, I crawled into the V-berth and was out like a light. I woke up around 5 a.m., stuck my head up out of the hatch to make sure we were still in the same place, then fell back asleep until 8 a.m.

I filled the ancient Origo stove and boiled water for some instant coffee. It was terrible, so I pulled the percolator out of storage and tried that. Much improved, but still not great.

Tina and Ray invited us all for breakfast aboard the Tina Marie, and thankfully they had real coffee. I think we went through two pots before finally hitching a ride back to the Seahorse and getting ready for the trip home.

I was warned that the bridge operator got upset when people sailed under the bridge, so we kept our sails down until we crossed under, then we shut the motor off and found that excellent moment of silence and symbiosis with the wind and water that comes from sailing.


We had dolphins swim by just as we reached the ship channel, and as we turned north I deployed the spinnaker pole for the downwind run all the way home.


It was my first time to use the spinnaker pole by myself, so setup didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped.

Struggling with the whisker pole

But eventually we got it.

Running downwind wing and wing

Everything was going great until Mary went downstairs to use the head. She called back up to me, “There’s water coming up through the cracks in the floor.” Apparently sometime during the trip we’d lost the bilge pump. I handed her down the manual pump and a bucket.

Pumping the bilge

It was about that time that we also lost the depth gauge. It just started flashing zero. I haven’t started troubleshooting that issue yet.

We didn’t take on much water while sailing, but every 30 minutes or so we’d pump out another bucket just to be safe and stay ahead of it.


When we turned in at Redfish, we were on a broad reach headed towards the Kemah bridge. The GPS on my iPhone was reading 6.5 knots – the Seahorse speed record – before we reefed the main.

Seahorse speed record

That dropped us to 5.5 knots. About 30 minutes later as the wind continued to pick up and some nasty looking clouds moved in, we went ahead and dropped the sails and motored the last stretch. Motoring was causing much more ingress of water, so I probably need to tighten the stuffing box.

We pulled back into Marina Del Sol Sunday evening with stories to tell, and our first real trip under our belt. I also have a list of things to fix this weekend before we attempt this again – but it wouldn’t be a boat without something to repair.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What do you do when it's dark outside?

Saying that work has been busy is an understatement. We launched an entirely new program focused on early career development, and I'm now in the middle of converting our new hire orientation into an engaging animated video. Even with the onset of daylight savings time, I haven't been out with the camera before dark in a couple of weeks.

So what do you do when it's dark and you want to shoot photos? Well, you experiment with lighting, of course.

Last week I did some work on my macro and food photography. Shooting cookies is always enjoyable. I meant to shoot some Girl Scout Cookies as well, but ... they didn't last long enough.

Fat free [Explored 2-26-2013]

With the macro shots, I found I got the best results at f5.6. The macro tubes dramatically reduce the depth of field.

This week I took it up a notch to attempt some of the fancier lighting I've seen on strobist. Last night I attempted this boxing scene in preparation to shoot a friend for his MMA posters.

Eye of the tiger

This scene was shot at f4. It has a backlight to camera left putting the highlight on the bag, supplying most of the light to me, and creating an extreme contrast with the unlit background. A second light is behind me to create a halo effect and outline. (It was probably pointed a little too low.) Then there's another light to camera left in front of the bag to provide fill light. I felt like it was a good first attempt, and I like the backlit contrast for the gritty topic, but I'm not sure what to do about the shadows cast by the arms when punching. Guess it's back to the Internet for more tips and then back to the studio for more trial and error.

We'll finally be on the water again this weekend with an overnight sailing trip to Galveston aboard the Seahorse. Hopefully there will finally be something more interesting to shoot!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The new M is born

The new full-frame CMOS digital Leica M has finally arrived. I mean, MINE hasn't arrived, but Leica has released it to the world. Famous people like Steve Huff and Ming Thein who have spent years building their brands as "Leica guys" are getting them. Supposedly a few uber-rich photography nuts in Singapore were the first to have one in their hands, but they were required to buy sets of lenses with them to the tune of $16,000. Crazy stuff. One guy has already posted an unboxing video, but let's hope he's a better photographer than videographer because his camcorder is out of focus and the M is out of frame most of the time.

I have mixed feeling about the M. Sure, I want it, but lately as I sit in the midst of all my clutter and projects, I keep thinking about "things versus experience."

For many years, I wouldn't spend any money unless it meant the acquisition of something tangible. Unless I was walking away from the transaction with something I could use, touch and feel -- something that would last and create a long term return on investment, I wouldn't spend a dime. That meant no fancy restaurants because food is only for a moment. Why eat some small portion of fancy stuff if I can live on a hotdog? That meant no vacations. Spending the money to travel when the experience is over in a few days, and you're left with nothing did not seem like a good deal to me.

But now as I stare at the eight guitars hanging on my wall that haven't been played in years and the garage full of boat stoves and bike parts that need repair and reassembly, I really wonder if I made the right choices. Life is not about the acquisition of stuff. All that stuff just traps you.

I've slowly been trying to let go of the stuff. So far I've sold two camera lenses and some old car parts that went to a car I haven't owned in over a year. I know, it's not much, but it's a start. I think my large PA system and multiple guitar amplifiers that haven't been touched since my career as a rock star ended abruptly in 2007 must go next.

My goal is to slowly scale down my junk until everything I own can fit on a boat. I'm not sure I actually want to live on a boat, but I definitely do want to be able to use my spare bedroom and my garage again. Do I really need my boxes of Guitar World magazine? Do I really need the T-shirts from every blood drive I've participated in since 1998? Do I really need my floppy disks and cassette tapes? Do I really need drawers full of broken electronics "for spare parts'?

However, a new Leica M would totally fit on a boat -- and it's weather sealed!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's cold and windy

Perhaps I jumped the gun in thinking that spring was here. It’s cold again. My camera sits unused, still holding the same roll of film I loaded in January when I arrived in Austin. It’s not even half exposed.

What to shoot this week?

Unlike digital, you can’t just change the ISO to easily move from shooting indoors to outdoors or from day to night. Nope, you’ve got to pick a film speed, load the roll, then just wait for it.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has begun, and I wish I had gotten some photos of the parade. However, I was participating in the Rodeo Run 5k, which preceded the parade. I decided jogging with a camera around my neck wasn’t the best decision. However, I did snap a photo of Mary’s otter, Gatsby, all dressed up for Go Texan Day. (What, you don’t dress your taxidermy up for holidays ?)

Go Texan Day

Saturday night I made it to the marina just in time to witness an absolutely spectacular sunset. The weather wasn’t too cold, but it was just cold enough to make your nose drip if you stood outside for more than three or four minutes.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight

The gusting winds shut down all outdoor activities at the Rodeo last night, and they haven’t slowed down. The temperature is also set to keep dropping all week with a possible freeze this weekend.

I’m supposed to lead our team’s first MS 150 training ride of the season Saturday morning. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to riding in 30-degree weather.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Battle of the budget wides: 28mm VC Ultron f2 versus 28mm VC Ultron f1.9

If you're a Leica M shooter looking for a budget wide angle lens, the Voigtlander Ultron is a great lens. However, there are now two versions widely available in the used market, the current M-mount Ultron f2 (below left) and the discontinued screw-mount Ultron f1.9 (below right).

28mm Ultron f2 vs 28mm Ultron f1.9

The current Ultron f2 is slightly smaller, just a little lighter and narrower, has a focusing tab and a screw-on hood.

The Ultron f1.9 is screw mount but easily adapts to M mount, which could increase its versatility if you have an older rangefinder. It has a knurled focus ring and a larger press-on hood. (Cosmetically it looks suspiciously like the 1970s Summilux although it is bother taller and wider than its 50mm doppelganger.)

Various forums on the internet have complained about backfocus issues with the Ultron f2, but this lens practically lived on my M8 for more than a year, and I never had any backfocus issues whatsoever.

So is there really a difference between f2 and f1.9? What was improved that caused Voigtlander to discontinue the f1.9?

Test shot Ultron f1.9 at f1.9

f1.9 test Ultron f1.9

Test shot Ultron f2 at f2

f2 test Ultron f2

After this first test shot, I realized this wasn't going to be a very exciting shoot out. When viewed at 100 percent, the f1.9 photo might have slightly less depth of field but at the expense of some sharpness and color smearing along the edges of the letters on the bottles -- especially on the Kraken label.

Test shot Ultron f1.9 at f5.6

f5.6 test Ultron f1.9

Test shot Ultron f2 at f5.6

f5.6 test Ultron f2

At f5.6 the smearing of the word Kraken has disappeared in the Ultron f1.9 photo. However, the Ultron f2 photo is still crisper and the text on the soda can is noticeably sharper.

Test shot Ultron f1.9 at f8

f8 test Ultron f1.9

Test shot Ultron f2 at f8

f8 test Ultron f2

At f8 lens performance seems identical. I could not tell the difference between the two when viewing 100 percent crops.

So what about the out-of-focus areas? How is the bokeh?

Bokeh test Ultron f1.9

bokeh test Ultron f1.9

Bokeh test Ultron f2

bokeh test Ultron f2

Once again, not a very exciting test. The f1.9 has slightly softer circles wide open, but both lenses have perfectly circular bokeh at all apertures -- not that you're going to get much bokeh with a wide-angle lens.

In real world shooting, I don't think you'd see any difference between these two lenses. If I had to pick a winner, I'd go with the newer Ultron f2 for its superior technical sharpness, reduced flare and focus tab. However, with only the subtle differences, if I was in the market now, I think I'd go with whichever is cheaper. Either one is a winner on your M and comes in at a quarter of the price of a Summicron.