Monday, April 21, 2014

Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC VS Olympus 40-150/4-5.6R

Zoom comparison today!
These are roughly equivalent field of views, given that the Olympus is a little bit tighter at the widest end with 40mm being roughly an 80mm FOV to start.

I picked these lenses because I think that when people decide to buy lenses like these, they are looking more at the equivalence in field of view, not the actual focal lengths.  Yes, there are going to be differences in depth of field and compression, but they are very similar in reach and how you will be able to compose with them.

While these might not be award winning images, they are more than enough to give you the idea of the sharpness and real world usage of these lenses.

The kit used:

Olympus OM-D E-M5
Olympus 40-150/4-5.6R bought used at $100

Nikon Df
Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC bought new $350

I went out to my local park and walked around and just started shooting.  Exposure wise, the Nikon and Olympus were pretty much dead on for every shot.

In the wider focal lengths, the IQ from the 2 lenses were pretty close, with only a slight end going to the Nikon/Tamron combination.

Where there is a larger disparity is when you get to the 300mm FOV.  The Olympus really started losing some clarity and sharpness once we got out beyond the 100mm focal length setting on the lens.  That is when we are pixel peeping at 100%.  How this equates into real world is a different matter as you'll see from some head to head examples.

Nikon Df/Tamron Image

Olympus OMD EM5/Oly Lens Combo
 I almost never show images without putting my post processing stamp on them.  Once that is done, the gap between the 2 kits are narrowed.

I will say this, though....possibly in defense of the Olympus optic...I think the lightness of the kit is a bit of a detriment for shooting these longer lenses.  Without the weight for resistance, I think that I am having some issues adjusting to shooting this lens hand held out beyond the 100mm focal length.  Even with the IBIS, I am going to need more time to get used to shooting this lens at the long end.  I'm also wondering if the added weight of the HDL-6 Olympus grip might help add just that little bit of extra weight to give it a better feedback.

The Tamron was not without its issues either, at least in reference to my usage of it.  There were some test shots that the shutter speed was 1/1250 at 300mm at I forgot to turn the VC off.  There was some visible blurring of the fine details because the VC got confused.  For those unfamiliar, if you leave the VC on and put the camera on a tripod, the VC can actually introduce blurring because it compensates for camera movement when there is none.  I believe this same phenomenon occurred here.

So, just know that I am not claiming this test to be is definitely more real world usage.

On the IBIS/VC note - they both worked very well and when needed, kicked in and worked great.

Olympus on the left, Nikon/Tamron on the right.

At the end of the day, and for the price, the 40-150 optic is very good.  It is also noticeably smaller than the Tamron/Nikon equivalent lenses in the range.  Using the same Maxpedition "Mongo" shoulder bag, I can fit the Nikon Df with the Nikon 24-85 zoom attached and the Tamron 70-300mm and that pretty much takes up the main compartment.  With the Olympus kit, I can fit the EM5, and all 4 of the Olympus lenses(17/1.8,45/1.8, 12-50,40-150) I own in the bag and still have room left over.  So, take that for what you will...all of you who are looking for a smaller kit.

Nikon on the left/Olympus on the right

When you look at a lot of the head to head shots, after the post processing is complete - only but the most picky of pixel peepers are going to be able to know/tell which lens/camera was used for these shots.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sensor Cleaning - I don't know why I resisted!!

For those who own interchangeable lens digital cameras, the time eventually comes when you notice too many "dust bunnies" or other various specs of dust, lint or "string" on your images at smaller apertures than can be fixed by a clone or healing tool in Photoshop.

I, like many, used to fear cleaning my own sensor.  I'd paid to have others do it.  Who wants to bungle up their thousand dollar camera just trying to clean it.  Let the professionals do it, right?

Well, that all changed for me when I noticed that my Nikon D300 was showing signs of needing a sensor cleaning.  The camera was running fine otherwise, not ready for a CLA(clean, lube, adjust) that is is done from time to time.  Watching some videos on KelbyOne a few weeks ago, I ran across RC Conception doing a segment on the Visible Dust and Copper Hill Images sensor cleaning kits.  He compared the 2 kits, but the video was about the proper way of cleaning the mirror chamber as well as the sensor itself.

After watching and pondering, doing some more research on both systems - reading reviews from others on each as well as reading information on the 2 companies websites, I settled on getting a Copper Hill Images system.

You can buy individual pieces of the system or there are a series of kits on the website.  They have an all inclusive kit, which I passed on because there were some pieces that I just did not think I needed.  Instead, I got 2 smaller kits, a wet clean kit and a dry clean kit.

Whenever buying a cleaning solution, keep in mind the sensor size you are working with.  Some items are size specific.  The D300 requires a 14mm size swab set, so I got those first.  The Copper Hill Images site has a page that will let you know what sizes you'll need based on the camera you have.

Before beginning to clean your camera sensor, make sure to read the included instructions and go to the Copper Hill Images website and review the information there as well.  There are a lot of important points that you'll want to know before starting.

The wet kit came with a bottle of Eclipse, which is the cleaning solution.  a 14mm swab, a package of full size pec-pads as well as a package of pre-cut pads and stickers to fasten the swab.  The pads are special made material to prevent sensor damage from scratching.  If you have never cleaned your sensor yourself or ever before, the wet cleaning is a good place to start.

The dry kit includes a specially made bristle brush, a Giottos Rocket Blower, and some vellum paper.  The rocket blower can be used to blow dust directly off the sensor as well as charge the bristle brush.  Charging the brush will help draw dust and debris to the bristles.  The vellum paper is also used to charge the brush bristles.

What I did to clean the D300.

First, I wanted to know just how bad the sensor dust was.   I pointed the camera to a clean wall, put on my 50mm f/1.8D lens, set the aperture to f/22.  The image revealed the extent of the dust on the sensor.

Before getting to the sensor, we need to clean the mirror and exposed chamber.  I removed the lens and used the rocket blower to get the lint and dust from the mirror.  I held the camera with the opening pointing down, so that the dust that is moved by the blower would fall down and out of the camera.  I replaced the lens to not allow any dust in the air to get back onto the mirror.

Now it is time to move to the sensor.  In the D300, there is a menu option to lock up the mirror for cleaning.  I followed the instructions for locking up the mirror, then removed the lens.  Now, looking into the camera, you can see the sensor.  I placed the lens back onto the camera until I got the wet swab ready.

Follow the instructions in the kit for attaching a pad to the swab.  The swab, when bought new comes with a pad already attached to the swab.

The Eclipse solution comes out of the bottle very fast and you do not need to squeeze the bottle at all.  I put one drop of solution on one side of the swab, and one drop on the other side.  Wait 20-30 seconds to allow the solution to wick into the pad and distribute evenly.

Now, is the moment of truth.  Be careful to not touch anything but the sensor with the swab.  The side walls of the sensor housing may have lubricants/oils on it and you don't want that on your sensor.  It is difficult to clean off.
In one motion, swipe the sensor from one side to the other, then drop down and swipe back.(A more detailed set of instructions with pictures come with your kit.  It will make more sense to you.)

Remember to only use one side for one swipe.  Don't reswipe with the same side of the swab.  If you do, it will deposit the dirt you just removed to a different place on the sensor.

If you have some stubborn spots, you may need to repeat this swabbing process - but always remember to use a clean swab every time.  NEVER REUSE A DIRTY SWAB.

A wet cleaning was all I needed to do to get 90% of the dust off the sensor.  I took another test shot, and I saw just a few small bits at the bottom left of the image.  I locked up the mirror again and used the rocket blower.  I finally got a clean image from the sensor.  All dust and debris GONE!!

The dry kit is used in a similar way, except, no cleaning fluid is required.  You simply apply a static charge to the bristle brush using the rocket blower and/or the vellum paper, then swipe the sensor with the same motion s you would the swab.  The brush is specifically sized as to be the exact size of the sensor, so swiping in one direction covers the whole area.

Cleaning your sensors should not be intimidating, and after doing it once, I cannot believe I have not done it myself sooner.  I'll be sure to get the appropriate kit for my full frame cameras as well.  So long as you don't muscle the process and follow the instructions, you should have no problems at all.  Plus, with just 2 cleanings, the cleaning systems will pay for themselves when you compare the price of a "professional" cleaning.  Plus, there is no risk of shipping the camera somewhere or losing time with the gear as this literally takes minutes to complete.