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.