Monday, October 01, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lens wrap-up - why modify when you can cropify?

Clear plastic tub-o-lenses

Lens Rankings:

  1. I love my CCTV lenses - the little black plastic ones you see grouped together in the pic at the top. They always have TV in the name. Made by companies like Fujinon, Elbex, Pentax, Cosmicar and many more in the 90's on up. I consider these probably the best kind of lens to use for what I'm doing - at least of the lenses I've tried. These lenses have given me no trouble at all (aside from the fact that the really wide ones require cropping in post).
  2. Next comes my Nikon SLR lens. I like that one just as much I think.  Beyond that my lenses begin to become a bit problematic.
  3. The 2 (silver plastic on the far right) Carl Zeiss Contax G lenses are nearly as trouble-free as the black ones - and they're excellent quality glass - but focusing is a bit difficult (the only problem with them, and only a small one if you have the good adapters - more info below). 
  4. Then the old hefty machined metal lenses (on the far left) made for 16mm movie cameras are too heavy and have poor optical coatings - causing lens flare and color fringing problems, and since they're old many of them can have problems like tight focusing or oil on the iris blades etc. 

Looking back I can't believe how much time and effort (and money) I've put into acquiring lenses for my G1. Several long posts dedicated to nothing else - lots of money spent on modifications (that really were unnecessary - keep reading). In the beginning I knew basically nothing - every step of the way was a learning experience, and now I've got a good deal of knowledge racked up and it seems like a great time to stop and get down my thoughts and findings before my sieve-like memory betrays me. It might be helpful to someone else wanting to use a Micro Four Thirds camera for stopmotion. So without further ado, my thoughts and findings:

I find I'm not using the metal-barrelled cine camera lenses - the ones made for 16mm movie cameras. I love the look of them - the solid heft of machined and polished steel - the engraved markings. Exotic and beautiful - relics from a time when things were made differently. But they're heavy on the camera, making it more difficult to hang it under the Manfrotto arm and swing it around over the set, plus they don't have the more advanced optical coatings that later lenses do, which reduce or eliminate lens flare and chromatic aberration. They do give a more 70's type look (well, 70's and all decades previous) that I thought I would like, since I love 70's movies with all their flaws. But I find I'm using mostly the TV lenses (which are made for closed-circuit TV and security camera use) like the Fujinon-TV 12.5mm and 25mm and the Elbex-TV 8mm. Another lens I use is the Micro-Nikkor-P 55mm. Followed by the Carl Zeiss Contax G series lenses - 35mm and 45mm - which are excellent, but a bit difficult to focus, even though I now have better adapters that make it much easier and more precise than the older adapters. The adapters I bought originally* (see note below in green) used a tiny knurled thumbwheel for focus. It's location - jammed right up against the body of the camera and too close to the base - meant that I had to try to wedge my thumb in between the bottom of the lens and the tripod platform, or else try to use my thumbnail to turn the wheel, and when I did get the wheel to turn it didn't always engage with the lens' focusing mechanism - a very hit and miss procedure and extremely frustrating (I definitely wouldn't use these adapters for focus pulls).

But the ones I bought from Hong Kong on eBay have a large focus ring all the way around the circumference of the lens base - no slippage and no frustration. Well, slightly frustrating at times just because it's a thin ring and it's still jammed up right against the body of the camera, but that's much better than the older adapters - trust me! Though to be honest if I was going to pull focus on a shot I'd lean toward one of my other lenses that have a focus ring right on the lens barrel itself rather than on the adapter.

* Important note - the Amazon page actually shows the picture of the newer and better adapter and the price is ridiculous at $60.00 - but when you order, what you actually receive is the older adapter with the little frustrating knurled thumbwheel for focus. DO NOT order this item from Amazon - instead order from Holga Camera - it's much less expensive and you'll get the newer/better adapter that uses a full focusing ring. 

Contax G lens to Micro Four Thirds adapters - the good and the bad

Here are 2 YouTube videos I hunted up just to demonstrate how both the older style adapters with the thumbwheels and the newer ones with full focusing rings work. First up - old thumbwheel style (BAAAD Adapter!):

And the newer style (Gooood Adapter!):

Crop Circles

I mentioned above that the modifications I got (to the Fujinon-TV 12.5mm f 1.4) were unnecessary - let me explain why. It's simple - because vignetting and soft focus - the problems the modifications are designed to solve - only affect the outermost edges of the image and can easily just be cropped out, as I demonstrated in the Lightroom demo. If I can crop this drastically:

what you get directly from the camera

.. and after cropping and a little color adjustment - it's still slightly larger than HD! 

.. And still get HD sized images, then there's no need for full lens coverage. I mean it is a nice thing to have - it makes framing your shots simple - what you see is exactly what you get. But cropping isn't difficult at all. This is an issue that only affects the wide lenses - the wider you go the less coverage you get on the m43 sensor. So for those wide lenses, feel free to buy an unmodified Fujinon-TV 12.5mm and 25mm - and just crop away the edges. Same for the Elbex-TV 8.5mm or similar ultrawide lenses, even if they're made for a 1/2" format camera (as opposed to the 1" format, which is approximately the same size as the m43 sensor).

There's also no need to get a zoom lens, as I briefly mentioned in my last lens post. Just as cropping makes expensive lens modifications unnecessary, digital zooming makes a zoom lens unnecessary. It looks exactly the same whether it's done by twisting the barrel of a zoom lens or in software during post processing.

Keep in mind, I'm using my camera strictly for stopmotion animation, so I have certain advantages over anyone using theirs to capture live action video. Namely, I shoot still pictures that are much larger than any video image (they're more than twice the size of 1080p) so I can crop pretty far and still pull HD images with absolutely no loss of quality. I imagine for zooming in live action video you'd want to use an actual zoom lens that gives full coverage because you wouldn't be able to crop much in post without degrading image quality, since you're starting with images only captured at HD resolution. In fact if you're shooting live video you'd also want your wide angle lenses to have full coverage for the same reason - you won't be able to crop without losing resolution. So forgive me for saying it but - nanny nanny boo boo!! This is one area where stop motion animators have a distinct advantage over live action videographers. Hah! Take that!!

In an upcoming post I'll do for my micro 4/3s camera what I did in this one for lenses - I'll look back and sum up the key points - the strengths and weaknesses in using them for stopmotion.

Last minute Addendum:

Oops! 2 more freebies!! - and a little more home-studio lens surgery (total success this time)
2 old Pentax-TV lenses I've had sitting around for years - now back in service again! 

Here are 2 more freebie lenses - these are also ones I was using with my Hitachi analog broadcast camera about 8 years ago (like the Rainbow zoom lens I mentioned a couple of posts back). Had to search a lot harder for these, but they finally turned up, in absolutely new condition because I kept them wrapped in bubble wrap and packed in their boxes. One is a 12mm f1.2, the other a 6mm f1.2. The 6mm - the larger of the two above, required a little surgery before it would fit snugly into a c-mount adapter and focus properly - the base of it was a little too big around to fit into the socket in the adapter. This is often true for the really wide lenses - in fact my Elbex 8mm lens had been machined a bit in order to fit better. I googled for machining c-mount lens and quickly found this article where somebody shows exactly how he did it with a lens that looks very similar to mine. As soon as I saw exactly what he had done - namely just cut a 45º bevel into the outer edge of the lens base and a matching bevel into the inner edge of the adapter - I was able to do the same. Of course, he used a machining lathe, and I used a belt sander and a dremel, but the results are the same - after a good deal of grinding and checking it suddenly fit right into place and focused perfectly! It does give a smallish image circle in a black rectangle, but it's big enough that I can pull an HD image from it.

A couple of pics demonstrating how I did it:
Dremeling a bevel into the adapter

Beveling the edge of the lens base using a belt sander

This is not the actual lens or adapter I used - there's no way I'm taking them apart for pictures because they fit very snugly now (means there won't be any slop - so yay!) and I'm not gonna keep messing with it. I just wanted to show what dremel tip I used and how I held it. When I really did the deed I held the dremel in my right hand and held the adapter down tightly with my left and slowly rotated the ring itself, holding the dremel as still as I could - trying to be a machine. I also held the lens in both hands (note safety gloves from the hardware store - as you can see they've saved me from a few cuts and scrapes). I held the lens in both hands, again holding my hands as immobile as possible, like a machine, and slowly rotated the lens against the sandpaper belt.

The lens you see above is actually the Elbex 8mm, which had been modified like this by someone else, and as you can see they rounded off the base. I went for more of a straight 45º bevel, and the same on the inner edge of the adapter. Oh, and I also had front and rear lens caps on the lens the entire time of course!

Note - just discovered you can make the image circle for a given lens slightly larger by opening up your iris. Apparently the more light  you let in the bigger it gets. Need to be careful though - most lenses don't do well wide open and you need to keep an eye on depth of field - though with the really wide lenses (the ones that do the image circle thing) you naturally have great depth of field to begin with, so it should be manageable.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Using Lightroom and Quicktime pro to process images for stopmotion

Here's my first-ever video tutorial, and the first time you get to hear my voice - a 17 minute demo in which I show how I use Adobe Lightroom to process a folder full of RAW images for use in a stopmotion film. Lightroom has an amazing feature - the Sync button - that allows you to work on one image and then instantly apply the exact same changes to every image in the folder - something you can't do in Photoshop or most other image processing apps.

I messed up a couple of times, but I mostly left those in to demonstrate how to fix it in case you mess up the same way - hey, sometimes you learn more by watching a teacher screw up! Plus you get to laugh at me - who could ask for anything more, right?

At the end I also demonstrate how to use Quicktime Pro 7 to turn the pictures into an Image Sequence and export it as a movie file that you can then use in your video editing software.

Also - the importance of using a white balance card!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Anadromous Life

Byrne Power, The Anadromist - a still from his video for Gravity From Above


It's a good word. I had never heard it before. If you live in Alaska you might have heard it - because it refers to a certain type of fish, or rather a certain type of fish behavior - exemplified by the salmon who swim upriver every year for their spawning run, only to die in droves, but  leave countless fry - small newborn salmon who then make it downriver to live their lives until it's their turn to fight their way up the rapids and waterfalls.


Say it - it rolls off the tongue really well. The emphasis is on the second syllable, sounds a bit like ca-DA-verous. And it basically means going against the current. I learned all this from Byrne Powers' website The Anadromous Life.

That's him in the picture at the top of the page (on the left) in a still from the video I posted 2 entries ago about his documentary Gravity From Above, about European puppetry arts. If you haven't already seen it, you should scroll down a bit and watch - it's well worth it.

Byrne lives what he calls The Anadromous Life - moving against the current trends of modern convenience living and consumerism. Resisting the temptations laid before us by digital devices - temptations that beckon us to do things the accepted way - the easy way - the way that's pre-programmed by corporate drones who decide what their devices should allow the populace to do, and what the limitations on them should be. He doesn't believe in tweeting and blogging - at least insofar as those words imply brief sound-byte style instant contact through the digital ether with countless virtual friends - most of whom you don't know at all and wouldn't actually be friends with if you knew them in real life. He believes in actual face-to-face contact and conversation, something that's becoming lost increasingly as we wall ourselves off to play video games and watch streaming movies and blog-surf for hours on end each day.

At the very tail end of my last entry I made a brief edit announcing that Byrne's Gravity From Above website is now live, but I thought I should also state it here in a post that's officially about him and his project. Click that link or click through from my blogroll on the right (Blogs I Dig) to see how his progress is going. But I also want to point my readers to Byrne's other site The Anadromous Life. It's a Wordpress site, but please don't call it a blog - he doesn't blog there - he writes essays. Essays about unplugging from the internet and living like a human being - about European puppetry arts and puppetfilm (an 8 part series), about Jan Svankmejer (I'll assume most of my readers already know who he is - if not then click through and discover the wonders). When you reach the bottom of a page, click the right arrow to see the next entry.

Something I found fascinating is a 6-part series on American Gothic. Between that one and The Feral Life I discovered a lot of movies to watch, and his thoughts on American Gothic link together seemingly disparate things from Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft through EC comics, Night of the Hunter, The Doors, Tom Waite, George Romero and Bernie Wrightson, with lots of other fascinating stops along the way.

If you're a fan of stopmotion animation in this age of CGI overload, then chances are you also have an interest in living the anadromous life, at least to some extent. So pop on over for a visit - if you're like me then you'll decide to stick around for a while and glean all you can from his fascinating site.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Latest Lens Lore

My posting has been very sporadic lately - it's because I'm in production now on Cosmo's and I don't want to give too much away. I feel like if I show pictures of what the film is going to look like then there won't be any surprises when I finally unveil this bad boy - and we all like surprises, don't we? Well, good ones anyway, and I assure you you're all in for some good surprises when I release this thing. 

So I've been posting about other stuff.


But it's time to bring the bloggosphere up to date on what's been going on in the Darkstudio behind the scenes, the stuff that's shaping the look and feel of this film.

Above is a pic of the Fujinon-TV 12.5mm f1.4 lens 

 Not mine, I grabbed it off the web, but that's exactly what mine looked like before I packed it up and shipped it off to England for modifications. It's hard to find wide angle lenses that give full coverage on the Micro Four Thirds sensor - but as I mentioned a couple of posts ago I found Edward Koehler, who does these mods brilliantly - through his site at ekoe Camera

Looking back, I went about this the wrong way - rather than buying a lens and having to ship it across the atlantic for mods, then back across the pond to me, I should have bought one from his stock and it only would have had to pond-jump once (it cost me $100 just to ship it to him!!). But he was exceedingly cool about it all - even though the lens had been partially modified by someone else (they didn't quite get full coverage out of it) and they had superglued the  lens to the mount - a very dangerous gambit that can easily result in the lens suddenly just falling off and destroying itsef at your feet - he machined a retaining ring from aluminum to restore it to full working strength and eliminate that danger - plus he added a huge 72mm filter ring because he knew I like to keep clear UV filters on my lenses to keep my greasy fingerprints off of them, which gives it a totally different look (see it in the pic below):

Not only does it resemble a Pirate Blunderbuss now with that massive flared snout, but it gets complete coverage - no darkening at the corners, no softness of focus near the edges (as long as I'm not shooting wide open with it). 

Ok, next up is my cool little ultrawide lens - the Elbex-TV 8mm f1.3. Just like the (pre-modified) Fujinon-TV 12.5 I posted above, this lens doesn't give full coverage on a Micro 4/3s sensor (it's even worse):

All you get is a black rectangle with an image circle in the middle. But believe it or not - this isn't really a problem (well, it can make it difficult to frame your shots precisely - but that can be fixed as I'll explain in a moment).

Here's the exact same shot after a minute or two messing with it in Lightroom:

.. And wouldja believe - from that little image circle in the Elbex-TV 8mm I can still pull HD sized images after cropping!! Amazing!! Not only that, but working with the camera's RAW image files, Lightroom is able to do unbelievable things - you can do incredibly subtle adjustments to white balance, highlights, whites, shadows, darks, color saturation and vibrancy etc... essentially you can make em look real good. You can even distort or un-distort to whatever degree you want - shoot with a normal or long lens and make it look like a wide angle or even extreme wide angle with barrel distortion, or shoot with a fisheye and de-fish. I'll be doing a post soon about Lightroom - and let me tell you, now that I have it, I can't understand how I ever got along without it - my shots that I thought looked pretty good before now look like crap compared to what I'm capable of.

I've also been thinking about a zoom lens, for those nifty 70's shots:

In fact with the assortment of lenses I currently have, it's the only thing left that I want (used-to want - read on dear readers.. ). I did a little web research and the options for a decent zoom lens that works on m4/3 are pretty limited - the one that kept coming up is the Rainbow H6x8-II 8-48mm Zoom Lens. I was preparing to try to find one on fleabay and then send it somewhere for the necessary mods, when it suddenly struck me - I HAVE one of these!!! I got it back when I was using my Hitachi analog broadcast camera. In fact after I first got my Lumix G1 I remember trying it with a c-mount adapter and being disappointed because it does the image cirlce in a black rectangle thing (I wasn't aware of just how much you could crop out in those days). 

I found this little video showing how some guy modified his to work: Rainbow H6x8-II Lens Modification for GH2 / Micro Four Thirds Cameras on Vimeo.

Well, I also happen to have the exact same kind of c-mount adapter laying around that he used (oh yeah,  this mod was a total freebie!), so I did a little drilling and dremeling this morning and it worked like a charm: 
At least the physical modification did. I don't understand how to adjust the back focus in order to make it what's called parfocal - so as you zoom you don't lose focus. That has to be precisely adjusted for the exact lens and camera, and apparently it's best done in a camera shop by trained professionals. I was beginning to consider finding a shop to get this done but I went ahead and did a few animated zoom tests (even though it has a very short range where it stays in focus) and realized there's no need to actually have a zoom lens - since there's no perspective shift during a zoom, it looks exactly like a digital zoom that can be done in software. Or I could just move the camera itself toward or away from something, adjusting focus frame by frame as I go, and get a tracking shot that could resemble a 70's style zoom (but look even cooler thanks to the perspective shift). 

Okey dokey then - that brings us up to date on the lens front. Soon I'll do a Lightroom demo, but up next - more news on that European Puppetry documentary.

** Edit **

I just discovered Byrne Power has already created his Gravity From Above blog, where he'll be sharing his progress in making the European Puppetry documentary I blogged about last time. I've added it to my blogroll for easy updates. I want to do a followup on Byrne himself and his other site The Anadromous Life - next time I promise!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Upcoming documentary about European puppetry arts

Byrne Power - Alaskan artist, filmmaker and puppetry enthusiast.

He has firsthand knowledge of the world of European puppet theater and puppetfilm (something I know about only from imported videos and from reading websites). Apparently he's been searching for a documentary that covers this fertile ground but has had no luck, and so he decided to make one himself. He seems to know the Quays and Svankmejer or at least to have connections with them and apparently they're willing to do interviews with him, assuming he manages to scrounge together the money he needs to get this thing off the ground.

Let's make it happen. Please donate what you can. We need this film to be made!

Here's a link to his campaign site: Gravity From Above

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kubrick on the problem of rationalism

"There's a side to the human personality that somehow senses that wherever the cosmic truth may lie, it doesn't lie in A, B, C, D. It lies somewhere in the mysterious, unknowable aspects of human thought and life experience. Man has always responded to it. Religion, mythology, allegories - it's always been one of the most responsive chords in man. With rationalism, modern man has tried to eliminate it, and successfully dealt some pretty jarring blows to religion. In a sense what's happening now with films and popular music is a reaction to the stifling limitations of rationalism."

- Stanley Kubrick interviewed by William Kloman, New York Times

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

That Pro-tog thing that I do

Four Chairs #2

Lol ok, I've stopped arguing with Shelley when she calls me a pro photographer, even though it's far from the truth - I know she's just expressing admiration and enthusiasm, and I appreciate that. I do manage to get a decent shot now and then, but mostly by sheer dumb luck. Trust me, you don't want to see how many pictures I had to take before I got the one above, and I'm not totally happy with it, but I'm getting better.

Since getting the G1, and especially since getting legacy lenses for it, I've been looking into photography technique more and more, and one of the best resources I've stumbled across is Ken Rockwell's site. What he does is pretty much the opposite of the type of controlled-lighting fully manual studio photography we stopmotionistas do - he takes his camera out in the real world and uses fully automatic settings and has to rely on nature to provide him with lighting and decent conditions.

But..  I LOVE his strenuously repeated advice, which is basically that if you want to get good, stop fiddling around with technical crap and take a lot of pictures. The equipment you use is not important, what's important is COMPOSITION - and a few other elements that taken together add up to visual art. 

I've read a lot of his articles now, and he talked me into buying the Kindle version of a book called The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum, which he hails as the best book ever written on the subject. And I'm so glad I did! Being a lifelong student of art, having learned most of what I know by drawing in pencil and then learning to paint and sculpt a bit, I've long had some familiarity with the basic principles of visual art, but my ideas on photography were a bit vague until reading this book. Now they're firming up nicely. 

Anyone who shoots movies should pay attention to cinematography, which is essentially photography in motion with storytelling. I'll never be half the photographer Kubrick already was in his teens when he was shooting award-winning covers for Life magazine, but dammit I'm gonna push as hard as I'm able toward it!! 

If you click on the picture above you can see a few more I shot in my yard this morning at Flickr. Rockwell got me all fired up about shooting "in the field" - and even though it uses very different techniques than stopmo, it's a form of cross-training - that and it's just a lot of fun!! I want to do a lot more, keep exercising my photographic eye and developing my sense of composition. And also - it's nice to get out into the real world now and then!! 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Legacy lenses

I took a break from animating to put together this little video showing my legacy lenses - well, the ones that are currently in my possession anyway. Sorry if I got a little carried away with putting on and taking off every accessory on every lens, including the lens caps! The video slideshow is the fun way to look at my collection, but YouTube has seriously blurred things to the point where you can't make out details at all (unless you click through and switch to 1080p resolution on YouTube) - so I've also uploaded a few pics to Flickr where you can see each lens in far more detail than you'd probably ever care to:

Wollensak Cine Raptar 1" (25 mm) f2.5Wollensak Cine Raptar 1" f2.5Click the images to see them on Flickr

Above and below are my 2 C-mount Cine lenses, made for 16 mm movie cameras. These could date as far back as somewhere in the 30's, and I suspect the little one above just might. I got it from eBay for a song, with an old Revere movie camera attached! The camera doesn't work, I'm using it strictly as a rear lens cap. In the video above you can see, this little sucker breaks down ridiculously far - there's a lens hood that comes off and then there's another piece that also comes off - not sure what that piece would be called. This one looks really crazy on my camera. Unfortunately it also vignettes pretty badly - so bad the photos are inside of black circles. It also doesn't have a focus ring. Not sure this one is worth using - glad I got it for $25! 

Wollensak Cine Raptar 2" (50 mm) f2.5Wollensak Cine Raptar 2" f2.5

This one is much more like it! Another C-mount lens made for 16 mm movie camera use, but this one doesn't vignette at all (a lot of the 25 mm and under ones do on m43 cameras). This is a hefty and beautifully worked hunk of steel. Has a very cinematic look because of the way it renders highlights in out-of-focus areas. In fact all the legacy lenses I've got ahold of are extremely cinematic. The front section is a hood that comes off. 

Fujinon-TV 25 mm f1.4Fujinon-TV 25mm f1.4

This one is a CC TV lens, built for security camera, machine vision or closed-circuit TV use. Vignettes just ever-so-slightly right in the very corners in 16:9 mode, but when I crop to widescreen format that should disappear entirely. It actually looks rather pleasant, and generally can't be seen at all in dark shots (which I've been known to use now and then.. ), but if necessary I can crop it further and still end up with greater than HD resolution. This is the companion lens to my even wider 12.5 mm f1.4, which is currently in England being modified to eliminate the vignetting entirely (as detailed in my last post). These two have the lowest f-stop number at 1.4, meaning the aperture (iris) opens up nice and wide to let in lots of light - what's known as a fast lens. The faster a lens is, the shallower depth of field you can capture with it.

Carl Zeiss Contax-G 45 mm f2CarlZeiss Contax G 45 mm f2 with hood

And finally my two Contax-G lenses above and below. I described them well enough in the last post I don't feel the need to do it again. But I did feel bad for posting a web pic of somebody else's lens in that post, so thought I'd like to post pics of my own.

Carl Zeiss Contax-G 35 mm f2CarlZeiss Contax G 35 mm f2 with hood

Ok, enough.. time to get back to the actual animatin'!! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Well this sucks - I was on a roll, doing shots in Cosmo's every day, and suddenly my computer died. Luckily I had backed up most of my important files, including the shots I had done, but I've had to order a new iMac and get the right software back on it, and now I'm waiting on an adapter to make my Firewire 400 cord fit into the Firewire 800 socket on the new computer so I can plug my camera in (via my trusty old Canopus ADVC-100 analog/digital converter) and get back to work.

Actually a few other things happened that have somewhat changed my approach to this film too. For one, I discovered that I was getting some pretty horrendous flicker. I had done a couple of flicker tests with the G1 and it seemed steady as a rock, but now suddenly it's flickersville! I thought I might have just messed something up in a menu somewhere, and after a while I found that I had actually jogged a switch on top and switched it to auto exposure, but when I switched it back to manual (and made sure I was also on full manual in the menus) I found I was still getting flicker. And then it occurred to me - when I did the flicker tests, I just shot a bunch of pics without moving anything in between shots - but while animating I'm putting my hands in front of it and then withdrawing them in between each frame, and the camera must be re-adjusting the exposure for my pale hands, and then re-adjusting after I pull them out, and it isn't hitting the exact same mark every time. I can only assume this is what's going on, though it's still possible I messed something up in the complex menus and haven't been able to figure out how to fix it.

Well, whatever - I decided to fix it the sure way, by using only manual legacy lenses for animation. If the camera's little pea brain can't communicate with the lens, it can't go messing with my exposure settings!

I already had 2 of these beautiful Carl Zeiss Contax G lenses, widely considered some of the finest lenses ever made, used on Contax's excellent G series rangefinder cameras in the 1990's (I just found an excellent page about the G series cameras and lenses here) . I have the 35 and 45mm Contax G lenses, and I'm also using the same adapter pictured here. The segmented ring right up against the camera body is the focus ring - it's actually part of the adapter itself and a huuuge improvement over the tiny little knurled wheel in the cheap adapters I originally bought that you have to turn by jamming your fingertip in between the bottom of the lens barrel and the tripod head. Now smooth focus pulls are possible with these excellent lenses. Edit - after discovering that page I linked to above about the Contax G cameras and lenses, I now know that it's only the 45mm that's considered in a class above all other DSLR lenses (of the 1990's anyway) and on a level instead with Leica rangefinder lenses, and apparently that's only in terms of sharpness. Bokeh is a little funky because they used a mere 6 blades for the iris - this can result in hexagonal shapes in the highlights of out-of-focus areas, as opposed to the circular highlights seen in rounder iris designs using 9 or more blades. Good to know! I learn more about the subtle intricacies of photography every day.

And yeah, now I know - a 35mm and 45mm lens are so similar there's really no reason to have them both in your kit - hey, when I bought these I was at the beginning of my learning curve concerning interchangeable prime lenses. Now I know better!

One problem associated with the small-format Micro Four Thirds system when using legacy lenses (old lenses made for either 16mm cine cameras or pre-digital stills cameras) is the difficulty of getting ahold of a decent wide angle lens that covers the sensor and doesn't vignette around the edges. Well, I did a bit of research and discovered there's a guy going by the web name ekoehler7 (not sure if he wants his real name spread around) who has solved this problem - he starts with a couple of excellent wide-angle C-mount lenses that already come very close to covering the sensor - a Fujinon-TV 12.5mm and a Fujinon-TV 25mm, and then he modifies them to open up the light pathway and widen the image circle considerably. Other people have done modifications, but not to the extent he does - he disassembles them and really goes to work, using a lathe and hand tooling and really does a number on them, almost entirely eliminating the vignetting and dark corners. There's a page about it on his site: Ekoe Camera (click to see the 12.5mm f1.4 Fujinon lens). Edit - looking at his site, I see he has now solved the problem entirely and can get full coverage with no vignetting! I've asked him to give my lens the full coverage treatment. Awesome news for m4/3 users looking for a good wide angle lens!!

He's doing one for me now. These Fujinons are some excellent little C-mount lenses in their own right - made for TV cameras, or probably actually for 16mm film cameras that were used to shoot TV material, which was quite common, and the cameras and lenses had to be top notch.

Olympus E-P2 + ekoehler7 modified Fujinon-TV 12.5 mm f1.4

Here's the Fujinon 12.5 on a Pentax E-P2, and in fact this very lens was modified by ekoehler7 himself. Click the image to read about the process on Gekopaca's Flickr stream. It was Gekopaca's pics and video that convinced me to go this route.

So - now I've got a 12.5 (soon anyway), a 25, a 35 and a 45... wow, talk about overkill!! I'll probably be selling one of them (can't bear to part with any of them actually!) along with most of the automatic Panasonic lenses I bought in the beginning. Collecting legacy lenses is big now since they make the M4/3 cameras the most adaptable system ever offered, and a lot of fun to boot! Plus anyone who has old C-mount or other types of lenses laying around can just get the right adapters and bring new life to the old lenses. So it's not hard to turn around and sell a lens if it works on a M4/3 camera.

The hiccup is almost past now - as soon as my Firewire adapter comes in I'm ready to lock myself in the studio again and spend these incredibly beautiful spring days laboring in darkness to bring forth life where there was none... though for now it's pretty nice to get some yard work done and enjoy the perfect weather.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

At long last life

Life begins to stir in Cosmo's Tavern. I'm just messing around a bit getting ready to start actual animation on this thing.