Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 Macro

The Girl is often my model, being the girl I have handy and being good-looking.

After months of hunting and waiting on the-bay, I finally bought a Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 macro lens — the Tokina build. This lens is called the “Bokina” for obvious reasons. Something spectacular happened in the optical design that resulted in very smooth out of focus backgrounds. Hence derives its nickname.

I bought mine in Nikon mount, which means it will work on all of my Nikons, be it a film or digital camera. I am going to enjoy working with this lens. It is a classic by numerous standards.

40mm Machine Gun

40mm

I stopped in Rigby, Idaho on my way east. That would be a few weeks ago, now. The Girl needed an outing and I don’t really like to stay in a motel room all the time, so we got out and wandered over to the city park. While we were there, I noticed this old gun. My guess is that it was once mounted on a warship, perhaps from WWII or the Korean War. In any event, it now resides in a city park — a reminder of our veterans and the machines they used to do the job.

After a little research, I found this article on the Bofors 40mm Gun. If you have an interest in such things, be sure to look through the archive of images. I love historical images and there are some great captures in this archive.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of crew members operating this gun. I know that the crew hand fed the magazines using stripper clips of cartridges. That must have been crazy, with all the racket going on, not just of this weapon, but all the others adding to the noise and confusion.

There’s a nice video here: FPS Russia [YouTube]. The video is a fun watch.

I had so much fun with the gun, that I made a second image. I’m still amazed by this machine… no, I’m in awe of it, especially after watching the video.

40mm Side View

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 Reprise

After the unsatisfactory experience of test shooting the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 manual focus telephoto lens in Nikon mount, I decided that the reputation of the lens was not illuminated (heh) with the particular sample I used. I happen to have a second sample in my stable, but in Olympus OM mount. That’s OK, because I have an Olympus adapter for my Sony NEX-5N handy.

So, I mounted the lens on the tripod and waited for the birds to appear one morning. Of course, with the lens mounted and ready, there were no birds for several days. I finally gave up and shot the empty tree. The first image is the lens shot wide open, f/5.6. (Excuse the beschwitz in the upper right of the images — there was a bit of dust on the sensor.) Although not tack sharp, it’s definitely useable at the aperture.

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 at f/5.6

The second image is at f/8. It’s much better than wide open. I would not call this tack sharp (again), but it’s quite useable.

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 at f/8

Although I shot all of the apertures down to f/22, I think one more at f/11 will suffice. Again, it’s a bit sharper than f/8 (not a lot) and completely useable.

Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 at f/11

So, my sample of the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 in Nikon mount is going to the shop for a check-up. I think it’s a little sick. The Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 is capable of producing solid images and is a bargain at its price point.

My friend Jimmy told me he produced good images from the lens and was surprised by its poor performance. I’d like a 400mm telephoto in my Nikon kit because I like to shoot wildlife and sometimes the 500mm and 800mm lenses are just a bit too much.

Vivitar Series 1 800mm f/11 Cat

I don’t have a lot of use for an 800mm lens. But, now and again, it’s a useful tool to have when shooting wildlife, especially from long distances. It’s a catadioptric lens, meaning it’s a mirror lens. It’s an unusual piece in that the glass is one solid part. It was unusual and expensive when it was made, so not very many were sold. It’s also a decent piece of glass and can get the job done.

On my crop-sensor Nikon D300, it’s the equivalent of a 1,200mm lens. That’s a lot of reach. I have a Nikon 1.4x extender that I can use (and lose a stop), but there’s not much out there that needs to be shot that can’t be reached with an 1,800mm lens.

I made some minor adjustments to the image, mostly exposure and contrast, and added a bit of sharpening as a final step. Enjoy.

Little Buck

Vivitar 400/5.6 Testing

After comments from my friend Griff, I decided to mount the Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 telephoto on a tripod and shoot a few frames with my Nikon D300. The D300 is a crop-sensor dSLR with an APS-C sensor size and a crop factor of about 1.5. So, the 400/5.6 is equivalent to a 600/5.6 on a full-frame camera. I shot the lens wide open, f/5.6 , stopped down one stops, f/8, and stopped down three stops, f/16. The first frame (follows) is at f/5.6 (wide open). It is not very sharp.

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test III

The next frame is the test shot at f/8. It’s better.

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test II

The final frame is the test shot at f/16. It’s reasonably sharp.

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test I

So, here’s my take-home lesson. The Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 telephoto lens is unacceptably soft wide open. It’s better at f/8 and good at f/16. That means if I need a large aperture because the light is failing, this is not the tool to use. If it’s reasonably bright (where Sunny-16 is good), then the lens is useable at f/16 (maybe f/11) and can produce decent images. But, don’t let your friends shoot one of these wide open. It’s irresponsible photography and will frustrate everyone.

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test Shot

Vivitar 400/5.6 Test Shot

I have a Vivitar 400mm f/5.6 in my stable. The 400mm is not a focal length I use a lot, but it has its place for long shots, particularly of wildlife of both four- and two-footed varieties. The shot was handheld (braced against the door) from my back door. The birds were in a tree about 80–100 feet away. They are sharp enough, but not the kind of razor-sharp image I’d like.

I’ll have to put this lens on a tripod and reshoot. I don’t know if it’s inherent in the design, the focal length, or is a reflection of poor camera technique.

Tokina 28–85/f4 Zoom

Tokina 28-85-4 Test IMy friend Jimmy loaned me a Tokina 28–85/f4 zoom lens in Nikon mount a couple of weeks ago. The lens isn’t particularly fast, but it’s the right focal length for both my D300 and my Nikon film cameras. It’s a chunk of glass and the build quality is excellent. Focus is smooth but not too light. The zoom action is internal (it’s a two-touch zoom) and has no creep. It’s a good match for the dSLR although it’s a bit of a chunk on the Sony NEX-5N, but then what isn’t a chunk on that itty-bitty body?

The lens has been out and about with me several times on the D300. On the crop-sensor camera, it’s in the range from normal to medium telephoto. It’s a little slow to isolate a subject well, but the optics are quite good. I shot the image on morning walkies a few days ago (with the Girl) at 85mm and about f8. It’s sharp enough, especially for a zoom. Color rendition looks neutral to me.

When I grabbed the lens for a closer look, Jimmy said “That’s the last I’ll see of that lens.” He’s probably right.

BioLite Camp Stove

I’m in the market for a small camp stove. I was originally thinking about a charcoal grill that I could use while solo car-camping. However, this is an interesting device and they manufacture a larger device that can be used at home.

I can see the larger device as an event stove should I lose power for more than a few hours. However, until they elect to sell them here in the US, I’ll have to do with the campstove and not the home stove. It will eliminate the need to get the big grill going if I only want to grill a hamburger or two and a couple of hot dogs for me. The big Weber grill uses a lot of charcoal and it’s too much for just one man. I need something smaller.

I’ll think on it a bit more, then make a decision. It’s sure a neat device, though.

Nexus 7

A few days ago, for whatever reason, I took the notion to look at a Nexus 7 (2013). I love my iPad, but it’s big and I find it not very comfortable to hold for long periods of time. It’s a great netbook replacement, especially with an add-on Bluetooth keyboard. But I find it a bit much to use as a handheld device.

I thought about the iPad mini as an alternative, but it doesn’t yet have the Retina display and I’m not going back. So, when I read the announcement for the new Nexus 7, I thought “Why not? I haven’t tried an Android device and I might as well learn something about the iOS alternative.”

I didn’t think Best Buy (my favorite big-box store) would ever get a 32GB unit in. I’m not that enthralled with an Asus unit either (Asus has a bit of a bad reputation). But, BB finally took delivery of a 32GB unit and I have a 45-day return period. So, I took a new Nexus 7 home to play with.

My initial impression is pretty good. The build quality (at least external build quality) seems fine. The device has a nice heft without feeling bulky. It’s a bit wide, but definitely holdable in one hand. It’s wide screen is eminently viewable and the resolution is wonderful.

I don’t see any color issues with the screen, but then I haven’t really compared it to anything else. It’s plenty good enough for a tablet.

The device is very quick. Applications load quickly. I’m not a gamer, so that’s irrelevant to me. But I suspect it will be be a fine gaming platform if that is your, um, game.

I did find one issue to date. The GPSr was not working in my device. A quick search of the interwebs revealed this is a common problem. On a whim, I elected to power down the device and retart it from cold.

After I did that, the GPSr worked right away and I got a satellite lock with any issue.

Android is an interesting operating system. It’s far more configurable than iOS (which is one reason my iOS devices are all jailbroken). The application store had all the tools I’m used to using (WordPress interface, Dropbox, Evernote, and a few others).

This is interesting and I’m enjoying working with the new device. I’ll know more after a week or so. I might have to do a more complete review then.