Saturday, March 13, 2021

Most fun camera lens

Fujifilm X-E3 with the Pergear 10mm pancake fisheye lens

I wasn't expecting much from the Pergear 10mm fisheye lens. After all, at US$79 this was hardly the most expensive lens I had ever brought. Looking at the specs, the Pergear might seem to be everything a lens shouldn't be. It's not a very wide fisheye (only 150 degree field of view), it's a fixed aperture at a paltry f8, and it's a manual focus, via a dinky little lever on the bottom of the lens. But, despite these less than inspiring features, once I started shooting with the Pergear, I quickly fell in love.
Put the horizon low or high and the fisheye effect appears.

Firstly, it's fun, as fisheye lenses tend to be, but more useful fun than my 8mm Samyang. At 8mm, the Samyang is an 'in-your-face' fisheye that can become a bit overbearing after a while. The 10mm of the Pergear still gives a good fisheye effect if used deliberately as a fisheye, but is mild enough to disguise or even remove completely in post - so the lens can also be used as a very wide rectilinear lens (just don't shoot any architecture with it!). It's wide enough to be fun when used for street photography too - hanging at your side on the end of an arm it's hard to miss a shot as people pass you on the street - its an unusual perspective that can create some eye-catching shots.
Thigh-level shooting

The fixed f8 aperture isn't going to create any bokeh. But f8 is less of an issue than I first thought. ISO is your friend here - set it to the conditions, let the camera choose the shutter speed and all you have to worry about is composition and timing. I even took it out after sundown on an overcast evening, shooting handheld at ISOs up to 12,800 and speeds down to 1/4 sec. Anything slower than that would need a tripod (no image stabilisation here), but I was still impressed with the results.
After sundown, ISO 3200, 1/28 sec.

The focus is brilliant - in use, you just leave the lens set on infinity. At that setting, everything is in focus from infinity to less than one metre. Unlike other lenses, infinity on the Pergear doesn't mean it's focused AT infinity; it actually seems to be focused at some lesser hyperfocal distance that includes infinity. As soon as you move the lever off the infinity mark, distant objects become out of focus. Swing the lever across to 0.3 meters and you can get pretty close to things, but don't expect anything further out than 1 meter to be in focus.
As sharp as - from the nearest post to the horizon (no focus stacking here!)

Here are a few other things to expect with this lens:
Distortion: quite a bit (it's a fisheye!)
Sharpness: very good from the centre out to the corners
Chromatic aberration: little to none (I've not found any yet)
Flare: almost none, though the sun in, or just out, of the frame produces some nice rainbow light rays.
Two sets of rays and some rainbow effects, with the sun just out of frame.

For the money, a great little lens that will probably be much more useful than you might think and much more fun than it's round, black, face suggests.
So much fun, I expected it to wink.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Seeing through the negative

Salvation Army, Christchurch City Corps.

The church was only two or three years old; it replaced one lost in the 2011 earthquakes. Last week we were attending the funeral of my Mother-in-law - Jeane Prattley. The picture above doesn't do it justice, but the cross at the front of the auditorium dominates the space as soon as one enters. 

Only it doesn't. There is no cross. What appears as a cross is simply an absence of wall, filled with glass to keep out the elements. When you look at the cross, you see mostly sky; dull and grey or, as on the day of the funeral, blue with fluffy white clouds passing by. The cross is an illusion; one that even the partially-sighted can't fail to notice.

Later, as six of us carried Jeane's casket to the hearse, we each became acutely conscious of her absence. Jeane was no longer with us. And yet it seems to me that, in embracing the fact of Jeane's absence, she comes more clearly into focus. Like that cross, there is now a Jeane shaped hole in the fabric of life; it is by looking at that absence that we can, perhaps, still perceive the presence.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Out of sight; out of mind

As a visual sort of person, I identify strongly with this old adage. If I can't see it, it probably doesn't exist. Papers belong in stacks on the desk or shelf - somewhere I can see them but definitely not in a filing cabinet. Clothes only belong in draws while waiting for the next season and my cameras lay in wait in various nooks and crannies around the house. 

So it was, with a growing awareness that I needed to be a more tidy Kiwi, that I was on the lookout for a glass-fronted cabinet for my camera gear. And behold, in the fullness of time, one came my way, unbidden, and I started to place my cameras therein.

If you had asked, prior to the cabinet, how many cameras I possessed, I would probably have said, "three or four" (I had recently been through the trauma of selling one, so I knew the numbers were down). But, as I placed the twelfth camera in the cabinet, I began to see the problem: I'm a collector/addict (depending on who you ask). Six of these cameras are film cameras - one of which I brought only last year; all bar one have been used in the last twelve months, two still have film loaded.

Now that I can see them all, I am more mindful of my camera obsession: in sight; in mind (perhaps I should keep them in boxes after all?)

Friday, February 12, 2021

Fords in Oxford (NZ)

Today, there was a Ford rally that came through Oxford. I do wish the rellies would phone when they are coming over; it was just by chance that I happened to be out for a walk and spotted them. I caught some of them but, by no means all. Judging by the number of toots I got, they seem to have recognised me ...

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Farewell, 2020

While a good part of the world still wrestles with COVID-19, New Zealand paid its price early with lockdowns, job losses and compulsory working from home. Now, we are able to live lives of relative normality, albeit without international tourists and the money they brought. Despite our country being one of only a few COVID-19 success stories, there are still plenty of New Zealanders ready to hate on 2020 and classify it as the 'worst of years'. 

Admittedly, if you were in love with the old, 2019 normal then 2020 will not have been good. But, that old normal is gone - and it's not coming back. What we are doing now is creating some new sort of normal - a 2021 that isn't a carbon-copy of 2019. 2020 delivered us the opportunity to reinvent aspects of our lives both individually and as a society. 

That is not to minimise the personal tragedies that 2020 brought, including sickness, loss of loved ones, loss of employment and general hardship - all of those things were real and painful enough. Life delivers a constant diet of crap breaks - even the British Queen had her "annas horribilis" a few years ago. It's part of the human condition; no one is immune. 

What was unique about 2020 (in my experience) was that we all got to go through the crap at the same time. In New Zealand, that got most of us onto the same page, singing from the same song sheet (as it were). As a society, we all got to do daily life differently and we found that we could - without our world coming to an end.

There was a 1960's West End show called  "Stop the World - I want to Get Off" - perhaps our 2020 felt like that. But, wrapped up in that show, was a song "Once in a lifetime":
"Just once in a lifetime
There's one special moment 
One wonderful moment
When fate takes your hand
And this is the moment
My once in a lifetime
When I can explore
A new and exciting land"
2021 and going forward, is our 'new and exciting land'. The year 2020 and a pandemic have delivered our once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine our future; both individually and as a society. 

The first day of 2021 - still clouds, but the sun is breaking through

Perhaps we don't see it; perhaps the silver lining to this cloud is still invisible to us. But one thing that seventy-odd years of living has taught me is that looking back, I would not wish away any of my life's personal disasters (and there have been a few). Each one has lead to a new tomorrow. Each one is a part of who I have become. Each one has been indispensable to my 'today'. 

So, 'worst year ever' or was 2020  your 'once in a lifetime' opportunity? I think we each get to choose which one we are going to fly with. I know which one I am choosing.