Saturday, November 28, 2009

2009 - The Year of the Zhu-zhu

As sick as it may be, spending my Thanksgiving evening among the hundreds of locals searching for their deal-of-the-century has become something of a tradition. It actually started years back when I was not home, but on vacation in Wisconsin with family friends. Heather, the girl nearest my age and I were most likely complaining about the lack of things to do now that Thanksgiving had gone when someone sarcastically threw out Black Friday shopping as one idea. I didn't even know what that meant. Next thing I knew, I was freezing cold, standing outside a store I had never heard of, not looking to buy anything, but amongst hundreds of others who knew precisely where they were going when those doors cracked. I was astounded. Now, every year my friends and I get together, pick a spot and go solely for the purposes of observation.

I suppose for me, the experience is two-fold. On one side, I find myself appalled (though not surprised) at the frantic, mindless, and just outright inconsiderate behavior of humans towards others. The most obvious example of this being the man who was trampled to death last year at a Wal-Mart. Outrageous is probably an appropriate adjective here. I am constantly amazed at the power of intangible forces such as greed and peer-pressure. For others however, despite the seemingly overwhelming stench of capitalism, this day provides a unique opportunity to grow closer. Standing, sitting, even camping in line, many families and friends I spoke with appeared to be in great spirits, enjoying the conversation and even laughing themselves at the absurdity of the situation.

Without continuing into a full dissertation diagramming the details of Black Friday and its social implications, let's just say you should go at least once, if not just to witness first hand the kind of behavior only an extremely well-off, disillusioned populous can parade.

Of course, I brought my camera. And ISO performance has come a LONG way. All images are on the D700 at 3200 ISO. Awesome. The opening image is a stitch obviously, and a poor one at that. I threw it together realizing the couple shots I took with the spiratone 18mm were wide, but still not enough to fully describe the line and having not planned on making a panoramic, I had to pull the 3 shots together despite having been taken from three different vantage points. It but you get the idea. This was the midnight opening at Toy'R'Us. Below I have made a diagram of the Line Dynamics.

The GREEN ARROW represents the true entry line, the die-hards. Though honest and law abiding, they still demonstrate a disregard for common sense as they stand hours and sometimes days on the sidewalk to get the first crack at a hard to find $10 toy for their kids. Last year I spoke with a family who camped out in front of Best Buy (Also known as Worst Buy) beginning Wednesday morning, ate turkey dinner on the sidewalk, and made it in to get their $200 laptop or whatever it was. The BLUE CIRCLE represents the bystander zone and acts as a screen for snipers, as denoted by the BLUE-TO-RED ARROWS. While many like myself come to just watch the mayhem others have given up on being first in line and resign themselves to getting in when the end of the line makes it through the doors. Either way, most in this area were laughing and in good spirits. Perhaps the distance from entry is symbolic of their true distance from the situation? Whatever their motives, the BLUE ZONE provides the perfect screen for many latecomers to sneak into the chaotic mass of people shoving their way through the doors once the line begins to move. I'd say the success rate was about 50% on the night. I positioned myself just to the right of the door (and not without being shouted at before I pointed to the camera indicating I was no threat to their electronic hampster toys). Some snipers would sneak their way right through with only as many as one or two people yelling to no avail that they be sent to the back of the line. Others were not as fortunate. Such was the case for this man:

Oh yes! The police were someone in line no less.

Well in the end, no deaths, not even an arrest. They just asked the man not to enter the store and go home. Then the police even commented aloud on the senseless behavior and continued on their way.

We did go IN as well but after seeing images such as those found on the People of Wal-Mart Blog like this one below, we didn't see anything particularly shocking:

The Walmart Crib (Black Friday Edition)

I wish I had seen that haha! No my images are relegated to elderly people standing beneath towers of toys attempting to move through the store to no avail. Perhaps Ill catch a gem such as the above next year! To those who were out participating: sit and think about your behavior! And being that somehow this post went down unbeknownst to me, and its now mid february, take a moment to reflect. Are you even still using whatever it was you stood in line so patiently for? Is your child a better person? haha

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kiron 105mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro Lens - Kino's Prize

November 2010

Since the initial post of this write-up, I have owned a few copies of the Vivitar Series 1 105mm, a Lester A. Dine 105mm, and this Kiron. Of the bunch, I have sold all except for this Kiron. You can read some about performance HERE in my 8-Lens Macro Shoot-Out. I have found the Dine and Kiron iterations to be the better performers than the Vivitar 105mm f/2.5. I have not however had the opportunity to test the Vivitar 100mm f/2.8, Rikenon 105mm f/2.8, Rolleinar 105mm f/2.8, or other optically identical iterations which you can read about HERE.

My current recommendation is, if you find yourself enamoured with this lens, curiosity piqued, buy one. You will not regret it. Buying a cosmetically and optically excellent copy will afford you the best bang for your buck since it is these that often fetch the higher prices in the used market (unless of course you pay through the nose in the beginning...).

Original Review

Behold the progenitor of the famous 105mm f/2.8 macro lenses, capable of 1:1 without use of extention tubes: The Kino-made Kiron 105mm f/2.8 1:1. You may also recognize this lens as the Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5 1:1 or the Lester Dine 105mm f/2.8 1:1. All are optically the same lens.

This lens has gained what is often referred to as a "cult-status" in terms of its great performance in relation to its cost. I was fortunate enough to find one with the original box. However, I would note, as of the current time I am writing this, it seems due to increasing number of photographic forums and perpetuation of that very information, this cost-to-performance ratio is being somewhat undone. That is, as more and more photographers tout this lens' wonderful performance, prices on the used market continue to increase. I saw a sample of the Kiron version of this lens go off for over $450 on eBay just the other day. You can buy many of the more current autofocus macro lenses for that which will perform better as they contain better coatings and are optimized for the digital sensor.

That said, others, like myself, are more interested in the lens as both a piece of photographic history and its "optical personality" if you will. Like the Vivitar 105mm, although sharp, this lens suffers prominent color fringing wide open. Performance does improve as the lens is stopped down, but again, for the money, my Tokina 100mm has autofocus, goes to 1:1 without need for extension tubes, and in most respects is a much easier lens to work with. The Tokina does actually suffer some color fringing itself but not as severe as the Kiron 105mm, and again, costs less than the Nikon AF Micro-Nikkors. In all honesty, I probably spent more on this lens than it is worth optically, but my appreciation for this lens goes far beyond it's optics. Consequently I find it of much higher value. And even so, the condition of this particular sample can hardly be outdone.


Focal length: 105mm
Filter thread: 52mm
Max. Aperture: f/2.8
Min. Aperture: f/32
Angular field of view (diagonal): 23.3°
Elements/groups: 6/6
Min. focusing distance: 1.14' (0.35 m)
Dimensions: 3.5" (90mm)
Dimensions w/ extender: 5.4" (138mm)
Weight: 22.75 oz. ( 650 g)


Like the Vivitar 105mm, this gorgeous instrument appears as if it was carefully and precisely carved from a single piece of metal stock. The barrel moves with the same fluid ease and enables the user ample room to exact his or her focus. Though it may sound superfluous, I was initally much more enthralled with the slightly "beefier" Vivitar version of this lens (Note the considerably smaller built-in lens hood lip on the Kiron as opposed to the Vivitar. The grip of the Kiron runs a shorter length of the barrel than the Vivitar and is slimmer as well.). Now however, after picking one up and using it, I find the Kiron to be equally as well-crafted and substantial. I even find myself appreciating the coatings a little more just because of the increased number of hues as opposed to that of the Vivitar. Unfortunately, I sold the Vivitar to pick this lens up and thus cannot put them head-to-head just yet. All in good time, I have my eye out for a Nikon mount Vivitar S1 105mm.


Like the Vivitar 90mm, I have found a .pdf on this lens but am unsure as to its original source. Nevertheless, it is a manufacturer manual and it is available for download below.

Kiron 105mm f/2.8 1:1 PDF

Kiron 105mm Iterations - Be aware this lens comes in many shapes and brandings. Here I have attempted to outline those of which I am aware.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rainy Day Special

I don't have a whole lot to say today since I will probably be on my way out to shoot some more droplets and so forth. We are having one of our wettest seasons in years. Literally, it will rain for a week solid, and sometimes longer. The sun setting at 4:30pm doesn't make getting out to shoot any easier. Regardless, I have been itching to get outside so bring on the trash bags and rubber bands! I had my entire macro rig, the vivitar 90mm f/2.5, 1:1 converter, D700 w/ battery grip, SB-600, and a large homemade softbox in the trash bag with only the lenshood peeping out. Not only that, I went out before my shower, in athletic shorts, a hoodie, oversized DJ headphones, and long socks and shoes. Even I thought I looked ridiculous. Here are a few of my shots, uncropped. I simply love that lens.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tokina Macro Extender and Vivitar Series 1 105mm FOR SALE!

**Vivitar 105mm SOLD**
Tokina Extender is combined with the Vivitar Series 1 90mm BOKINA in a NEW AUCTION

Feel free to click the images for a closer look. These are the unaltered shots save for some curves and saturation of each lens. The Vivitar is in excellent condition with some minor cosmetics, optically excellent+! The tokina suffers some sort of blemishing on the anodized coating but optically is sound.

I have just listed a couple items on eBay that I have used here on this blog. Not only will the sale hopefully finance the remainder of my Vivitar Series 1 90mm "Bokina", but I also just got the opportunity to pick up a Kiron 105mm f/2.5 with the box! That said, some things must go! As much as I would love to keep every piece of equipment I buy (unless it is no good) I simply cannot! In the end I will break even (That's in case my girlfriend is reading this...). I'll have to write up something on women (non-photographers) and camera equipment, it's an interesting thing!

Take a look and feel free to shoot me any questions you might have!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Insect/Arachnid Relocation Program (IARP)

Being as this is far from the first instance this has happened, I have decided to create a "program". I simply love human's reaction to particular instances when even one of the innumerable other residents of our "spaces" make his or herself known. Instances such as a deer eating "our" gardens, a tiny jumping spider crawling up our kitchen walls, ladybugs dive-bombing our screen doors, and so forth. I proudly adhere to the old maxim, "They were here first!" So rather than squish them, shoo them, or in most cases hastily ward them off, I like to observe what they are doing. Are they building something? Going somewhere in particular (towards warmth, light, food, etc)? Or, are they just simply hangin' out!? As a photographer, I take it a step further and tend to want to document the little guys, if for nothing more than just to see them through the lens, with more detail.

This morning, I did just that. Today is my day off. Being out of school and now working a full time job which I do not personally have to "take home with me" I have found increasing contentment mentally. Last night, a visitor was discovered, or perhaps even a resident. Either way, he was deemed unwelcome by my parents. My dad put him in a jar and gave him to me. (Allow me to assume, since I have a limited knowledge of arachnids, this is a male spider)

The program works quite simply. The individual is selected for relocation. He/She is photographically documented. The individual is then carefully introduced into a new, larger, more "natural" environment (A.K.A. the yard).

Above is the inaugural candidate for the program. Being as specific spider identification is hard to find based on the sheer number of species discovered (not to mention UNdiscovered). From other images I have found, I believe it is a type of crab-spider Thomisidae family of the Araneae order (wikipedia's crab spider). I will update as I discover more information.

All images were made using the Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5.

Since this blog is all about information I realized a quick image of how I made this shot might be a fine conclusion to this post. I got home tonight from being out and about and my dad asked me what I was doing with the leaves downstairs. I am not sure what you may have thought when first looking at these images or even if you considered it at all. I always find myself asking the question of how the shot was made when I see an image. Consequently, I thought I would include it. This was not made outside, as hopefully it appears it was, but in my "mini-studio". I recently moved out of my apartment and in with the rents in hopes that should I take a job outside the city I currently reside in, I can easily move without having been locked into an apartment contract. Well, I have been searching for several months now and continue to do so but have to get a job for the time being. That said, my ability to set up shoots is limited and thus I try to make everything as low maintenance and manageable as I can. Enter the mini-studio haha.

Ok, so it's a light tent...big woop. It is a few square frames made from PVC, some with white shower curtain stretched over them, and all with velcro wraps at the corners so that I can just stick 'em together as I see fit. With the addition of some foamcore and plexi, I have all I need. Strobist: White Lightning 1200 monolight (was given to me by a very gracious photographer looking for a good home for his equipment), Nikon SB-600 and SB-800 (which I picked up for a steal at $100 on craigslist!). The SB-600 was the most expensive thing!

Is it odd that I have the majority of my money invested in my glass and a skeleton crew when it comes to studio gear? I think not! We all have our priorities. Yesterday I was in a local camera store browsing when I asked to see a Kiron 80-200mm zoom (asking $30). It was in very nice condition and it honestly just peaked my interest. The associate asked what I would be using it on and I said a D700. He furrowed his brow at me, hesitantly mocking, "You're going to use that on a D700?" To which I replied, "Sure, why not!" This may however all simply be a result of the poor, condescending service I often encounter when I shop the local camera shops. That is an entirely different post all its own. For now, I will stick to the positives!

I hope to put up some DIY photo gear projects soon since that's another one of my personal favorites!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Helicon Focus with the Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5

The above image was made from a series of 15 images stacked with Helicon Focus. In this case, considering the size of the subject, I could have just grabbed a long telephoto to compress the DoF...but that's not the point.

I hope to write more in depth on this later but I will need to at least pick up a year license to the program (a mere $30, unlimited is $200). I recently download HeliconFocus but my 30 day trial is running out and I have just been too busy. If you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, Helicon Focus is a photostacking program which, just as you would expect, creates images with an extended depth of field from stacked, inherently shallow DoF macro shots. The possibilities are for all intents and purposes, are limitless, providing you have a computer to handle this monstrosity your defiant imagination has just created in order to prove me wrong. Theoretically, you can do it with a series of images from any focal length I suppose, but it is most commonly used for macro work (as well as MICROwork, that is images taken through microscope) since at such high magnification, your DoF becomes so shallow. ANYwho...being the junkie that I am, my first, most accessible subject was none other than....(drumroll) Vivitar Series 1 90mm, muwaha! Ok, so perhaps not all that exciting. Sorry! I'm workin' on it!

I actually did one of these type shots (manually of course) in PS for the Vivitar Series 1 105mm f/2.5. It sucked. This program does everything it took me hours to do, in 1-2 minutes. And it's good. I can't wait to put some bug shots through it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Looking Up

This post really isn't about anything technical. The image above was made with the Spiratone 18mm discussed here, but that's about as far as I'll go with that. No, tonight I am simply... feeling. No more thinking. The cogs have eased into suspension. I have recently begun a new job and it has been increasingly demanding, both mentally and physically. It is not the professional level, right out of college, "show us your resume" type job I always thought I would be entering upon graduation but in this economic situation, it is something. And to be quite honest, despite its perhaps mundane nature, I find it a unique opportunity to gain experience, work hard, and serve what appears to be a very positive, customer-oriented company (and transitively, serve customers!).

In spite of my fatigue, I feel anticipation. I have energy and a desire to keep getting up, stay late, and build something. Yes, I will ride this as long as I can for now. It feels right.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Vivitar Macro Trio

I'm looking to do a comparison with the three Vivitar macro lenses. Granted I have my predictions based on previous comparisons and experience with the lenses, but hey, comparisons are fun! Coming Soon!

Vivitar Series 1 90mm 1:1 Macro Extender Comparison

I was curious whether or not there was a difference between the Vivitar and Tokina 1:1 Macro extenders for the Vivitar Series 1 90mm. So...

The Acquisitions

In anticipation of getting the famed Vivitar 90mm "Bokina", I came across (and quickly bought) a Tokina branded 1:1 extender originally made for the Tokina 90mm AT-X version of this lens. These lenses achieve only a 1:2 reproduction ratio on their own and were consequently designed with a paired 3-element extender for 1:2-1:1 reproduction. Finding these extenders sold alone is rare, and even more scarce in Nikon AI mount.

The article posted here claims the extender is a 3-element optic designed to minimize aberrations within the "difficult" 1:2-1.1 ratio. "A concept borrowed from astronomical optics".

As often seems to be the case, shortly after discovering this vivitar 90mm/tokina macro extender combo, a vivitar 90mm with macro extender appeared on the "in-transit" section of KEH's website. Well of course, I had to request a notification when it became available. KEH often has items, such as this listed at a book value. For a lens with more of a "cult" following this typically means prices well below those paid on auction sites. $150 in Bargain condition. Another policy of KEH is severely underrating lenses. My guess for this would be it is a result of a good number of returns due to very meticulous natured photographers scrutinizing every facet of their equipment and considering the slightest cosmetic defect less than EX condition. Placing anything that is essentially not "mint" in the "bargain" section frees KEH from a lot of misery! ANYWAY, I received the lens and other than minor dust inside the glass, which does not affect the image quality and is expected of a lens 30+ years old, it is in immaculate condition.

Above is the lens I received, "Bargain condition" indeed!

The Vivitar branded macro extender with built-in rotating tripod mount.

Now owning both macro extenders, I began analyzing the various physical differences and wondered whether there was any optical performance difference. While the Vivitar lens and extender were produced in the 70's (still by Tokina), the Tokina AT-X version wasn't manufactured until the 80's. Although the optical formula did not change, it does appear some differences in coatings did occur.

Physical Appearance

Right off the bat, the two extenders can easily be differentiated by Vivitar's prominent built-in rotating tripod mount. Also, the Vivitar version has a glossy, reflective black sheen matching that of the Vivitar 90mm lens. The Tokina on the other hand, has more of a brushed, flat black finish with a rubber grip. In terms of build quality, the Vivitar feels like a rock, solid and heavy. The Tokina feels tinny, clanks, and is considerably lighter. I really love the tripod mount since this lens can get rather long as it gets cranked out there. Also, the ease of rotating the camera from this mount is unmatched. Overall, the Vivitar just feels more engineered. Optically we can easily see the hue difference in the two coatings, as the Tokina takes on a vivid red cast while the Vivitar maintains a more subtle gold.

The Test

I went for a walk at my new favorite park and ended up down by the recently flooded creek. I found a perfect littly clam shell half buried in the sand. I set up a tripod and used the timer function to take an image at each aperture. I used the same 90mm lens with both extenders.

The Results

**I have updated my thoughts on this test since its initial release**

OK, so in the end, the results are not extremely ground-breaking but still enough to fulfill my curiosity! The extenders produced virtually identical images at each aperture. However, for the pixel peeper, there may appear to be a couple differences. It appears as if (at least in these wide-open samples), the Vivitar produces a slight bit more color fringing than the Tokina branded extender but it a hair sharper. Now initially, I just noticed the color fringing and labeled that as the only key difference. However, after discussing this with my girlfriend, she pointed out she though the Vivitar looked sharper. Looking closer, as well as at other aperture samples, she's right. The Vivitar branded extender does produce slightly sharper images (at least between the two extenders I have, more on this later) Below is a side-by-side of the extenders shot at f/2.5 and an extreme close-up demonstrating the color fringing evident. Also, it is fairly easy to see based on the texture of the shell and in the grains of sand, the difference in sharpness. In analyzing the plane of focus, both shots appear to be in very close proximity if not just about exact. The camera did not move and I did everything in my power to merely switch out the converter. The lens remained cranked all the way out to 1:1. Take a look and see what you think!

Again, this is only fodder for pixel peepers, but hey, it's something I wanted to know! Understand also, these results are based on tests from a single sample of each extender. Not every sample produces the exact same results and the extremely minor difference in the two extenders may merely be a result of leniency in factory standards (even between months of production). That is, not all Tokina extenders or Vivitar extenders may behave this way. It would take some testing on a random group of samples over the course of production from each to really by exact. So if you have one, send it to me, haha!

Wrap Up

So perhaps this test is a little extreme. With either the Tokina or Vivitar, I don't believe you will notice much difference in almost all cases. I find the build quality, addition of the rotating tripod collar, and the added sharpness (by a hair) to outweigh the extremely minor difference in image quality between the two extenders. Honestly, the solid feel of the Vivitar alone is enough to sell me on it. Given the choice, while being sharper, though it appears to produce more color fringing (barely), I would choose the Vivitar branded extender.