Nikon FE and friends

Nikon FE, circa 1979

My materialization powers have not deserted me – I have made my magic work again. Keen readers will recall that I found a Nikon FM with a pristine 50mm f1.4 a couple of weeks ago for $5. I have been using my incredible powers of summoning to make some tasty Nikkor glass appear in my favourite shop since then. A couple of times I have failed (and made some gorgeous Canon AE-1 and FD glass appears instead), but today, a Nikon FE body, a Nikkor 50mm f2 prime, a Nikon Speedlight SB-18 and a Tamron Adaptall II 200mm f3.5 fitted with a Nikon AI mount adapter appeared for me, again for $5 each. Yes – twenty bucks for an operational FE and some lovely glass, with a working 1983 vintage Speedlight, complete with its original case and instructions thrown in.

The FE is the sister of the beautiful Nikon FM. Introduced in 1978 and running in production until 1983, it had automatic exposure capability via aperture priority, and “full disclosure” view finder very similar in function to that of the preceding Nikkormat EL camera. The 50mm f2 Nikkor it was fitted with is an Ai lens, and precisely the same as the 50mm I had delivered with my Nikon FM 34 or so years ago. It was also introduced in 1977, (along with the slightly earlier FM body) and was superseded by the f1.8 variant after a year, making it somewhat short-lived. I have not seen an f2 in the flesh since I got rid of my old FM kit in about 1990 or so. It is a 6 element double Gauss or Planar type lens, and very, very sharp.

The FM/FE bodies served Nikon well, lasting from 1977 through to 2006 with minor progressive modifications along their 30 year evolutionary lifespan. I am very glad to have got back in touch with my Nikon side from so long ago – I have missed them. This is an image from 1978 of a long-dead friend of mine, shot on an FM with the 50mm f2 as my new camera wears:

I know little about the Speedlight other than it is absolutely unmarked, has its JCII sticker intact and also has the original vinyl case. Oh, and it works too.
The Tamron 200mm f3.5 Adaptall II lens is beautiful. Complete with original caps, it wears the Adaptall system Nikon interchangable lens mount. An interesting parallel with this lens is that I had an earlier Tamron 200mm f4 in 1976 for my old Nikon F. This find means that I now suddenly have access to another half-dozen primes (24/28/200/500mm) and zooms (of all sorts) of Tamron Adaptall lenses for my small Nikon collection too, in itself this is another great find just on its own.
There is just one thing that I yearn to know – why do people throw these treasures out? WHY?
The joy of frugal camera acquisition is a truly great thing.



This image has no other purpose being in my blog than as a test for the Flickr sharing facility that was released yesterday.
Plus maybe its not a bad picture. I won a local Flickr award with it a year or so ago. So far it has had 1531 views, 31 comments and 49 favourites.
Perhaps you could help me get to the magic 50?

Adventures at 3200 ASA

My astute readers will know that I have been looking for P&S nirvana in my journal over the past 6 months or so. Instead of dwelling on that issue in the blog, today I want to discuss my main tool, the mighty Canon 5D, but with a twist – what it can do at 3200 ASA, and what a spot of image tweaking can do. And not a camera picture in sight today either …

Here is a very dramatic image shot last night at twilight, immediately after a torrential rain storm:

I know I’m probably not objective, but I find this image breathtaking, because in my minds’ eye, this is how I remember the scene. Drama, color, light. It was shot at 3200 ASA, hand-held for 1/8 sec @ f4, and a tad underexposed. This is what 3200 ASA and a decent lens coupled with image stabilisation can do for you when you have forgotten your tripod. The insipid original, shown straight from the RAW file, looks pretty damn ordinary:

Just another dull, lifeless image. Well, that’s what I saw when I looked at the shots in Adobe Bridge. But how to bring it to life, to re-create the tension in nature that I had seen? Well, here’s what I did. Remove what noise I could fine to get a basis to start from – remember it was underexposed at 3200 ASA, and so had a few issues. Then, Topaz Adjust was run over it, to intensify colours and detail. Noise removal again, then a bit of adjustment to the curves, and voila. Oh, I also used the CS5 lens correction adjustment that is in ACR to fix the geometry and vignetting from the Canon 24-105 mm f4 L that occurs at full aperture use. And the picture jumps off the page…

Even as a mono it is strong:

In fact it was having processed it as a monochrome that inspired me to revisit it again as a hyper-real colour shot from a movie.

The moral – get out when the light is right. Look at your images, and think about how you can best represent what you saw. And revisit them a day later, to see if you can see something different. Oh, and clean your sensor. I did, using 2 tongue depressors, a few bits of lens tissue and some optical cleaner. Don’t pay $100+ for a shop to take 3 weeks to do it badly, do it yourself. Perhaps the next blog topic?

For the anoraks who may be wondering – the vertical white stick in the centre of the frame isn’t dirt, it’s the top of the 40 tonne stainless steel gargantuan flagpole at Parliament House a couple of kilometres away.

Street photography so vibrant you can almost smell it

Shot as a grab whilst buying dinner. I always feel odd doing shots like this, I guess I am self-conscious poking a camera at people I don’t know in small places. I suppose the best way to get over this is to keep shooting.

Pizza in mono:

or the same image, pizza in colour:

Same image, same RAW file, different processing. Which image is more relevant for the scene?  I love the strength of the colours, but I also love the raw power of the B&W image.

Colour processing – get the white balance sorted, and then Topaz Adjust. Mono processing then done on top of the Topaz colour image. Shot on an Olympus E-P2 digital Pen, with the kit lens. I think as a P&S camera, it is just awesome. No-one noticed except the guy on the left, who asked for a look at it.

Dead centre

This is what the insides of a small but extremely important data centre looks like after it has been decomissioned. From its formerly orderly mechanical glory, with a row of expensive racks lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder like stormtroopers waiting for their orders, this room has degenerated into a, ah, well, a mess in just a year.  Boxes of crap everywhere, old desktop computers being wiped, a data cable snake from underfloor that has mysteriously migrated onto the top of a rack, waiting for a victim to consume….

Believe it or not, until about a year ago when I pulled the plug on it, this room would have been the busiest data centre in Australia last night, earning its keep for one of the heaviest day’s loads in the calendar.

I like the silence, the stillness portrayed in this photo, not a soul about but looking like a computer room in a modern day Flying Dutchman, where frenzied activity has just stopped and no-one is around to tell the tale of what catastrophe happenned.

Processing story – P&S camera, 28mm lens cropped and adjusted to straighten up the tilted lines resulting from squinting at the screen (always happens!), Lucis to crisp things up, Photoshop Smart Sharpen, converted to B&W by adjusting channels, and given a cool tone to make it look industrial.

Olympus E-P2 as a night / street camera

In my never-ending quest for the perfect P&S camera that will give me at least some control over depth of field choices, I have deliberately put down my trusty 5D for serious work for a short while, and in its place dusted off my Olympus E-P2 (digital Pen) with a half-hearted promise to myself to have it with me as often as I can (rather than a hollow claim of “all of the time”).

Here are some early results from it as a night shooter:


The first is (obviously) a B&W conversion, done outside the camera from a RAW file. The second is (equally obviously) a bit of a fraud – the comet and stars have been added to give it a bit of oomph. Irrespective of the truth of this image, I like it.

The more serious mono image requires a bit of processing info to explain its look – this was a bit more complex than normal – firstly get the exposure and white balance right in ACR. A dark vignette then drops the unattractive edges away. Conversion to mono, with the look of a titanium-toned image, filtered with green to kill off some of the brightness of the overpowering neons.

As for the rendering from the little Pen, it seems to be excellent. These images were shot on auto-pilot at 400 ISO, using the body’s inbuilt image stabilization as (of course) I had no tripod with me when I was returning the rented DVDs back to the shop just around the corner from this magnificent homage to the neon sign’s possibilities. Oh, and the lens for both was the bog standard kit zoom, a seemingly good bit of glass even if it a bit slow for my tastes. I took advantage of a wobbly signpost to rest the camera on, a couple of snaps – no movement as there is no mirror – and here we are.

As for street use, for unobtrusively sneaking in a few candid camera shots, it’s equally brilliant:

How’s this – an image from inside an art gallery, that was so quiet an SLR would have had the curator down on me in no time. Again, shot with the kit lens, opened to its maximum aperture, and set to 400 ISO, and processed to mono outside the camera from RAW. I love it. It’s small – my ruler says it’s just 122mm wide – that’s only about 4 & 3/4 inches. You can use any old Leica/Canon/whatever M39 screw mount lenses as well as any Leica M glass you may have lying around on it. Some call it the poor man’s M8 – I reckon it’s better – what do you think?