Wednesday, December 19, 2018

My Digitals

Nikkor 600/5.6 ED-IF AIS


The Long Range Shooter  

Nikkor 600/5.6 ED-IF AIS  600mm f5.6






With the help of digital technology with very good image quality at high ISO allows me now to get back into shooting wild life again. I chanced upon this Nikkor 600mm f5.6 ED-IF AIS used with a good price and decided to give it a try. Anyway, this is the first lens that I use with no German origin. I bought the lens with an original Nikon 122mm filter and the lens looks very impressive with a very big front element group.



lens diagram 600




This is a very old lens, the very early design of the 600mm series from Nikon. At f5.6 the weight at less than 3kg is more manageable by me. There is already the used of special lens elements to reduce chromatic aberation. With internal focusing the length of the lens remains unchange thus very good for practical use, especially if both the lens and the camera body are mounted on tripods. This early design is quite strange with all the len elements in the front of the lens with a integrated filter right at the back, and that makes the lens very front heavy.


After bought the lens of course I went to try some easy subjects. Below is a black swan in Singapore Botanical Garden.


Alpha 7R2, f5.6 1/500, ISO 800, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg.




Actually come to bird photography, other than the skill of the photographer, the knowledge on the birds is also very important. For me I am not so deep into bird photography. But I am lucky enough to bump into bird experts when I bring my 600/5.6 around. Below is a shot of the Brown Hawk Owl at the Singapore Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. I happened to see two groups of photographers all shooting this pair of Brown Hawk Owls. I had to wait for the moment both of their eyes were facing the camera.



 Brown Hawk Owls, Alpha 7R2, f5.6 1/250, ISO 5000, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg.





I used the lens with the Nikon TC14B 1.4x tele-convertor. The results are quite good like the shot below. Fringing is unavoidable for lens of this focal length and technology at that point of time. Stop down from maximum aperture of f5.6 to f8 will improve the fringing effect.



Curlew Sandpiper, Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve Singapore, Alpha 7R2

f5.6/8, 1/1000, with TC14B, ISO 800, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg.




I am also lucky to photographed a rare Straw-Headed Bulbul in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. I did not know it was a rare species until later.



 Straw-Headed Bulbul, Alpha 7R2, f5.6 1/500-1/1000 with TC14B,

ISO 5000, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg.





This lens is also quite fun to photograph flower.



Alpha 7R2, f8 1/125, ISO 640, Berlebach Mulde/Konica erde-3065.



Below is a shot of Grey Heron in Japanese Garden Singapore. For this I tried to use a shutter speed of 1/125 to bring down the ISO.




Grey Heron, f8 1/125, ISO 3200, Berlebach Mulde/Konica erde-3065 ball head.




 nikon tc 650


The two compatible tele-convertors for the 600/5.6:

TC-14B (1.4x) and the strange looking TC-301 (2x).




Contax 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*

The Long Range Tele-Photo


 Contax 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*  300mm f4



tt300iso a7r



red flamigo 650 

Jurong Bird Park Singapore

Alpha 7R, f5.6 1/500 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*, ISO 200

Manfrotto 190B/054Mg, 17 Dec 2015



I do own a few 300mm tele-photos over the years. Started with the Prakticar Carl Zeiss Jena 300/4, followed by the Contax 300/4 Tele-Tessar. Due to the size, weight and the focal length of the lens, this is a lens that most of the time kept in the dry cabinet. I use it when bring kids to zoo, or kids having some kind of school event or stage performances. Come to photographing birds, 300mm is a bit inadequate unless it is in the bird park. Also it is not easy to take sharp photos with this focal length.


In the film days, and a photographer like me with not so good skill, it is not easy to take sharp photos with the 300/4 as high shutter speeds are not always possible other than days with very good sun light. High speed films are grainy and not as visually pleasing as ISO 100 film. Of course there were so many skillful wild life photographers able to take fatastic photos of bird and some of them even taken with Kodakchrome 64! Of course I am not one of them and my successful photographs on bird are so limited.


It is not until the digital edge things change a bit for me. The high ISO performance of digital sensor is very good even at very high ISO like 1600 or 3200. ISO 400 in digital world can be considered perfect and nothing to be picky about. It is with the digital technology I manage to bring my 300/4 back to life with photos that are at least acceptable to me in terms of sharpness. Also one more thing is the printing technology. Recently my usual print shop changes their printing machine. The first few trials do surprise me that the print quality is quite good, and the print resolution seems better than the old technology and I can see some details taken by my 300/4 that I have not seen before. So I start to photograph birds again, begin with easier subjects from the Singapore Jurong Bird Park (above and below pictures).




heron 650


Jurong Bird Park Singapore

Alpha 7R, f5.6 1/250-1/500 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*, ISO 800

Manfrotto 190B/054Mg, 17 Dec 2015




After building up confident with the 300/4 Tele-Tessar, I started to work on my Rolleiflex SL66 HFT 500/5.6 Tele-Tessar bought many years back and a newly acquired Nikkor 600/5.6 IF-ED AIS. You know after using these beasts for a while and back to using 300mm it feels so much more manageable. To make sure I get sharp pictures I will try to use shutter speed of 1/500 and sacrifice the ISO for sharpness. Below the shot I have decided to use 1/250 and to bring down the ISO for better picture quality. The Grey Heron was a very coorporative model and it stayed in that location for quite a while for me to shoot! Other than shutter speed, for the 300/4 Tele-Tessar I would normally try to use at f5.6 to reduce the purple fringing effect which is quite normal for long tele lenses.


grey heron 650


Japanese Garden Singapore, Grey Heron

Alpha 7R2, f5.6 1/250 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*, ISO 250

Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 8 Jan 2017




The below shot was taken at Singapore National Day Parade Rehearsal 2016 under fairly low light at ISO 5000. The print quality at size super 8R was very good and I am quite happy with the results. 

ndp2016 650


National Day Parade Rehearsal 2016

Alpha 7R2, f5.6 1/500 300/4 Tele-Tessar T*, ISO 5000

Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 16 July 2016




Another example of the beauty of high ISO quality on digital media. The White Tiger below was photographed at ISO 10000 due to very bad weather, but the rain stopped for a while for me to take this photo. The equipment was resting on a railing and it was quite stable and as good if not better than a tripod.


white tiger 650


White Tiger, Singapore Zoo

Alpha 7R2, f5.6 1/500 300/4 Tele-Tessar T* ISO 10000

25 Dec 2016




Loxia 21/2.8 Distagon T*

The Compact Superwide


loxia21 a7 650


I remember when I go into M mount Zeiss ZM lenses one of the main reasons is the compactness of the lenses. Unfortunately the wide angles of the ZM series are not suitable for the Alpha 7 series of full frame sensors. Loxia series of lenses finally make it possible to use compact wide angle and super wide angle lenses on mirrorless full frame sensor again.


boardwalk 650

Pulau Ubin Chek Jawa, Alpha 7R, f8 1/250-1/500, ISO 100, 23 May 2016.


mangroves 650

Pulau Ubin Chek Jawa, Alpha 7R, f5.6 1/250-1/500, ISO 100, 23 May 2016.



 Pulau Ubin Chek Jawa, Alpha 7R, f8 1/250-1/500, ISO 100, 23 May 2016.





135/2 Apo Sonnar T*

The Modern Zeiss Sonnar


135/2 Apo Sonnar  135mm f2 T*  ZF.2




135f2 vs 650

Contax 135/2.8 Sonnar, ZF.2 135/2 Apo Sonnar, Contax 135/2 Planar.




horse 650 2

 Alpha 7R, f2.8 1/500, ISO 100, 17 March 2016


One of the issues I face using tele-photo with digital sensor is CA and colour fringing for some of the shooting conditions. Even my favourite Contax 100/2.8 Makro Planar also suffers from the same issues. However, with this Apo Sonnar the CA issues are almost not noticable (actually to date I have not detected any on my photos). 135mm is my favourite long focal length for hand held photography. This Apo Sonnar is also of very high resolution close to the Otus series of lenses. With this lens, together with the Otus 28/1.4 and 55/1.4, one can have a good working range of focal length with Apo design. This lens also has very close focusing distance of 0.8m, much closer than the rest of my 135mm lenses from Prakticar, Rollei and Contax.


apo135 550



buddha 650 

 Alpha 7R, f2.8 1/125-1/250, ISO 1000, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 16 April 2016




fruits changi650 

 Alpha 7R2, f4 1/125, ISO 200, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 14 Jan 2017.





Alpha 7R2, f2.8/4 1/125, ISO 1000, Manfrotto 190XPROB/054Mg, 14 Aug 2016.


Otus 28/1.4 Apo Distagon T*

The Otus Wide Angle



Pulau Ubin, Alpha 7R, f5.6 1/500-1/1000, ISO 100, 23 May 2016 


My journey with Zeiss Otus started after the Sony Alpha 7R. The good feelings with the Otus 55/1.4 is overwhelming. Almost no CA even under extreme shooting condition, very high dynamic range, and very high resolution that is visibily noticeable. No doubt about it Otus range of lenses are the best money can buy. Also all being manufacture in Japan, that made the price more 'affordable' or else if made in Germany the price will easily doubles into that of the Leica range.


My photography journey dated back probably 1980s with my East German Praktica BC1 and a set of 28/2.8, 50/1.8 and 135/2.8 Prakticar lenses which certainly are very good value for money.


bc1set 650

 Pentacon 135/2.8, BC1, Pentacon 50/1.8, Pentacon 28/2.8.



Over the years I bought more and more lenses, and later went into Rolleiflex 35mm system, followed by Contax 35mm CY mount system. For many years I was still in the film community, until Sony launched the more affordable Alpha 7 series of full frame digital camera. While all my lenses other than the Leica M mount range finder wide angle lenses ( that was really a big disappointment) can be used happily on the A7R, the very demanding digital sensor does expose some of the weaknesses of film age lenses on the ditital sensors. But actually in my opinion Zeiss really made very good optics, that even these old optics designed in the film age actually can be used with very good results on modern digital cameras. Of course the newly designed optics by Zeiss that are optimised for digital sensors are even better, with most of them better flatness of field, higher resolution, and better CA control. The Otus range presents the perfect designs that can be used on demanding full frame high resolution digital sensors. The engineering compromises for the Otus are only weight, size and manual focus. The other one of course is the price. And after so many years I am back to the same start point, if I may say, that now my photography system has gone back to the basic:  Alpha 7R Mk II, Otus 28/1.4 Apo Distagon, Otus 55/1.4 Apo Distagon, and ZF.2 135/2 Apo Sonnar.


 a7set 650

Otus 55/1.4, Alpha 7R2, 135/2 Apo Sonnar, Otus 28/1.4. 


Well, with this set up I get the best image quality you possibily can get, very high resolution and almost no CA. The Otus are very sharp and high resolution even at f1.4, the first time I have so high confident taking photos at aperture of f1.4. Of course the sharpness performance also very much enhanced by modern mirrorless camera with the focus magnifier where photographers can now do very accurate focusing at enlarged view finder images. Of course there is this Otus 85/1.4, but luckily I am not a fan of 85mm focal length so I got to save some money. Instead I go back to my fabvourite focal lenth 135mm and thus the Apo Sonnar. Same as the Otus the Apo Sonnar is very sharp and high resolution at the widest aperture f2. And again CA is almost not visible for this tele-photo design. So in terms of optical performance many critics put the 135/2 Apo Sonnar into the league of Otus series, and I myself fully agree that this lens deserves it.



So back to the 28/1.4 Otus Apo Distagon T*, it can be used as of course a standard 28mm wide angle lens, and now you get very good CA control and very high resolution images right to the corners. With f1.4 of course for those who like to play with narrow depth of field this lens opens up new possibilities with very good image quality.



 Pulau Ubin Chek Jawa, Alpha 7R, f4/5.6 1/125, ISO 400, 23 May 2016


Crop of the centre of the above photo.





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