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The long winter

I apologize for not posting at all in months now. My only excuse is that it has been a longgggg winter. I am not sure if it was the weather or having two kids in school now, but myself and my whole family seemed to be sick every three weeks since Halloween. Typical pattern would be one person would come down with something and then it would run through the entire family for the next week, a week of everyone feeling like crud and then a week of everyone feeling better, rinse and repeat. Mostly colds, some sinus infections, pink eye and a really nasty stomach bug that happily coincided with an ice storm and a two-day power outage.

Fortunately, we had the chance to get away from most of the misery for a few days in mid February and drive to Florida for a family reunion. Unfortunately THAT coincided with a massive winter storm that blew through the East coast…the ENTIRE East coast. We timed it about as well as we could, hitting only really nasty weather through southern Virginia, hitting North Carolina and South Carolina after the freezing rain had melted from salting and before the really heavy snow hit Virginia and Maryland. Still, the 17 hour drive turned in to a 22 hour marathon.

A few pictures from that nice getaway and hopefully I’ll have more over the next few weeks as the weather warms, and I hope, life returns a bit more to normal.

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/2.8, 1/2500s, ISO200

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Olympus 12mm f/2: f/4.5, 1/1000s, ISO200

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Olympus 12mm f/2: f/2.8, 1/2500s, ISO200

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Olympus 17mm f/2.8: f/3.5, 1/1000s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/2.8: f/4.5, 1/400s, ISO200

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Olympus 45mm f/1.8: f/2.8, 1/4000s, ISO200

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Olympus 45mm f/1.8: f/2.8, 1/2000s, ISO200

A late Renfest post

I know I promised it many moons ago (two I think), but here is my follow-up Renfest post. More coming soon[er or later] from a recent trip to Gettysburg and Thanksgiving. Review of the 12mm f/2 should be up soon (maybe today) and the 60mm f/2.8 in the not too distant future.

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/500s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/1.4, 1/2000s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/1.8, 1/800s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/2, 1/3200s, ISO400

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/250s, ISO400

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.5, 1/640s, ISO800

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO200

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/500s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/1.4, 1/500s, ISO200

Its been longer than I had planned between posts (a common refrain the last year or so). As it turned out my plans to do a post early in the month were waylaid by congressional inaction incompetence idiocy. With the gov’t shutdown I am now out of work until our lords and masters can get off their royal butts and decide to do their jobs. The last couple of weeks have been stressful and even though I’ve had much more time on my hands, I’ve been trying to bury myself in a combination of spending as much time with my family as I possibly can and doing as much free/cheap work around my house (and maybe a slight bit of foxhole religion creeping in now and again).

This past weekend I had a chance to go the Maryland Renaissance Festival with just my wife, leaving the kids at home with my parents who were visiting from out of town. It has been raining for the last several days and it rained for the first couple of hours there.

Out of my usual trend, I’ve decided to narrate this series of pictures.

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Enchanting melody: Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/1.8, 1/200s, ISO400

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When the King smiles, everyone smiles. When the king grimaces… Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/500s, ISO400

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Fairy fire. No, really, it’ll be a fairy. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/160s, ISO400

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Colors of the rainbow. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.5, 1/125s, ISO400

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Pinch it off. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/200s, ISO800

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Puddles in the rain. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/2500s, ISO200

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Signs of fall. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/1000s, ISO200

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Where have all the drunkards gone. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO200

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Royal Ungulate. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO200

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Steaming pile of kiln. Olympus 17mm f/2.8: f/11, 1/10s, ISO200

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Merry Gentleman. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO400

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Skirting the issue. Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/1.4, 1/125s, ISO200

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Cathedral of wood. Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/2, 1/15s, ISO200

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Now that’s a ridge vent[ing fire]. Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/3.2, 1/400s, ISO200

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Help, I’ve married a Reny! Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/1.4, 1/400s, ISO200

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Magic! Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO200

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Bonnie lass. Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/4, 1/125s, ISO200

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Ivy out of control. Olympus 12mm f/2: f/3.2, 1/500s, ISO200

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It emerges! Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/160s, ISO800

And that’s a wrap for now. Hopefully I’ll be back to work soon. Either way, I am going back to the Renaissance festival next weekend with my whole family and family from out of town (as we had two day tickets and the kids are free). I am sure I’ll have at least a few more pictures to blog with after next weekend. In addition, I still haven’t forgotten about doing a review of the stellar Olympus 12mm or the Sigma 60mm. those are coming, maybe during the week this week if I feel up to it.

Starlight, star bright

Friday night was the launch of the LADEE satellite to the Moon. It was momentous because it was the first launch from Wallops Viriginia of a mission beyond Earth orbit and, I think, only the second launch of a payload bearing Ares rocket from Wallops. Almost as important as those, is the fact that Wallops happens to be only a 20 minute drive from my in-laws and less than 3 hours from my house. You can actually see the rocket heading up from my house! Downside, the trees near my house block most of the view, so all I could see was the rocket motor twinkling between branches a few times and then for about 45 seconds between two trees was an unobstructed view. Sadly I had my 12/2 mounted instead of something like my 60/2.8. I got the picture on a 25s exposure, but it isn’t anything to write home about at all. Still very cool and there is a field about 200yds away that probably would provide a much better view. I really need to go see a launch there though. I was born post-Apollo, but I am still a space nut.

I did take the opportunity to snap a few celestial pictures though. The 12/2 is really great for it with the snap focusing ring making it pretty easy to make sure that it is set to infinity. I still have some sky glow where I live (only 20 miles from Baltimore), but the skies are still pretty clear so long as you aren’t looking right by the horizon. I am sandwhiched pretty much inbetween Baltimore and Frederick with Washington DC to the south, so lots of skyglow, but I have probably the clearest skies around without going west another 30+ miles or heading north (but too far and you start running in to York and Harisburg sky glow).

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Olympus 12mm f/2: f/2.8, 25s, ISO200

An ISO800 picture probably would have pulled significantly more stars, but it also would have enhanced the skyglow significantly around here. For where I live, unless you want to shoot straight up, 25s at ISO200 (and f/2.8) is about the best you can do to balance skyglow and star luminance.

Hyperbole aside, the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN is just a sweet, sweet lens. That and I figured it fit with today’s topic. I took a bunch of pictures visiting a replica 16th century Spanish Galleon (El Galeón) while it was in Ocean City, Maryland.

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Olympus 45mm f/1.8: f/4, 1/640s, ISO200

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Olympus 12mm f/2: f/2, 1/800s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/2, 1/2500s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/2.2, 1/200s, ISO200

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Olympus 12mm f/2: f/2, 1/50s, ISO200

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/4, 1/640s, ISO200

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO200

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO200

Next week I’ll get a few pictures from the actual beach up from the Sigma 60mm and then it is probably silence from me until I get up the m.Zuiko 12mm f/2 review, or post Reniassance Festival in October, whichever comes first.

More beach and Sigma 60mm

I got back a couple of days ago from Labor day at the beach. I of course took the new Sigma 60mm (s60mm) along and took a very large number of pictures with it. At my count I came back with about 500 images from the trip, edited down to about 350 and about 2/3rds of the pictures were taken with the s60mm.

This lens is just fantastic! I still have nits, but the image quality is absolutely unimpeachable.

It is sharpest from wide open in the center, the corners hit peak at maybe f/3.5, but really the difference between wide open and f/3.5 or anything short of the diffraction limit is almost unnoticeable.

Only a few pictures today and my full Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN lens review is going to wait a couple of months. I want a lot more sample images and a larger variety. Plus I want to see if any other strong points or weak points appear over the next couple of months. I probably won’t have the time for too much photography the next couple of weeks, but I’ll see what I can fit in. I am renovating part of the unfinished space in my basement in to a guest bedroom and office and I have 2 weeks to get the insulation and electrical/network wiring done before my in-laws come to help drywall the ceiling and relocate the baseboard heater pipes. In there I have two new Ale’s that I need to brew up and a third that is almost ready to be bottled (I started Homebrewing a couple of months ago, because of course I needed yet another hobby). I am attending the Maryland Renaissance Festival a couple of times in mid-October where I hope to have a lot more chance to use the s60mm, a full review of the lens should follow. In the mean time I plan on writing up my m.Zuiko 12mm f/2 review and also some of the other pictures I took from the beach. While there I had the opportunity to visit and tour El Galeón while it was in Ocean City; I took lots of pictures.

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.5, 1/800s, ISO200

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/4, 1/1600s, ISO200

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/4.5, 1/1600s, ISO200

Here is a 100% crop of the above. I love my little girl, but you can even pick out the pores in her skin (even with the perfect skin of youth!) as well as all of the fine hairs if you look closely enough (B&W doesn’t reall help with the contrast to see it, but even still you can pick it out). This is deffinitely a lens that you’d want to soften skin details at least slightly if you are using it as a portrait lens and don’t want the wrath of the woman you are photographing to fall upon you. Click the image for the 100% view.

close_up

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/60s, ISO200

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Panasonic 25mm f/1.4: f/4, 1/160s, ISO200

What would a post be without a PL25 picture? It is still my favorite lens.

Sigma 60mm showed up

Last night I got home to a pleasant surprise, the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN had showed up. I half expected it today, but I won’t complain. Sigma apparently changed the box when they moved to their new category designations of lenses. It is actually a little nicer, not so black and dreary.

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As with Sigma’s other DN lens offerings it comes with a case and hood (not pictured). My one big complaint with Sigma, and Panasonic, is that even though their lens caps are built like a brick waste disposal facility, they are BIG. I always get aftermarket 46mm lens caps and slim rear caps whenever I get a new sigma/Panasonic lens. On the Sigma 60mm the difference between the lens cap front and rear that come with it and slim ones (side pinch instead of center pinch) is about 4-5mm, or about 5-6% of the length of the lens with caps on. Okay, it isn’t MASSIVE, but these are already relatively small lenses and the more space you can save in your bag the better (and the side pinch lens caps work just fine for me. I haven’t lost one yet). Center pinch is a little easier to deal with and a little more secure, but I don’t want the extra space taken up in my already small bag.

Overall the lens is slightly lighter and slimmer than the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, but basically the same length. The barrel is a little less shiny and finger print magnety (yes, I just made that up) than it looked/looks in a lot of pictures. It is still fairly shiny, but still in a modestly dull way. Grip is a little slippery, but even with cotton gloves on it shouldn’t prove to be much of an issue. Manual focusing is smooth and precise. It takes a fair number of turns to go from close focus to infinity. No shooting through the focus scale. Autofocus speed is modest at best. It isn’t super slow, but it is not as fast as most of my other m4/3 lenses (exception the 17/2.8, where it is maybe a hair faster sometimes). Likely this has to do with more physical distance that the IF elements have to move through. In good light though it locks focus pretty fast, but mostly I was shooting inside last night, which meant some focus hunting (but not a lot).

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Image quality is impeccable from the early results. Easily as good as my Olympus 45mm f/1.8. I will say, even with only a few dozens pictures taken, I can say with confidence I really wish it was a 67.5mm f/2 lens. The bit of extra reach would be a better step up from the 45/1.8 and an extra stop of speed would make it that much more useful and easier to stop motion with on a medium long focal length. As is indoors (granted, it is a LONG lens for shooting indoors, which it’ll probably almost never actually get used for), you really have to bump the ISO to 1600 and shoot wide open to stop motion blur or camera shake. I am not used to shooting with a 120mm equivalent lens on my E-M5, so the fact that I am having to bump to 1/30s or faster most of the time to keep from getting motion blur isn’t something I am used to. I shot a number of nice and sharp pictures down around 1/20s, but that seemed to be the limit. Even being careful any slower and at least half of the pictures were unsharp and the other half had at least the tiniest hint of motion blur if you looked at 100% (though they were generally usable for a smaller print). The longer the focal length, the less gain you get out of IBIS sadly, still and all, the E-M5 IBIS seems to be good for at least 2 solid stops of handholding gain with the 60mm and more like 2 1/2 or so if you are being reasonably careful. Most of my people pictures at 1/20s had motion blur, but those people also weren’t holding super still. My outdoor brief landscape photos the few that were around 1/20s were mostly acceptably sharp, but the couple that were at 1/10 and 1/15s weren’t really unless you were going for a small print.

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/15s, ISO800. If you were to look at 100% there is the slightest bit of camera shake evident. Nothing that wouldn’t stop it from being a good 8×10 though, this was one of about half a dozen shots at 1/10-1/15s shutter speed with this being the best and there being 1 other one that was perfectly usable from the group, the other 4 were a little too blurred. Careful technique and a static subject means I could probably push 1/15s shutter speed and get a good result, but keeper rate will probably be below where I’d really want it to be.

The good news is that the lens seems to be very, very sharp, so shooting wide open isn’t a problem at all. No complaints even out at the extreme edges. Flare, the little I could test, also seems very well controlled and no noticable CA. Bokeh generally seems pretty pleasing too. Camera startup doesn’t seem to be noticeably delayed like it was on the old Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN lens I had (it might be a little slower, but it if it, isn’t by much compared to my other m4/3 lenses).

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO200

Early times yet and I haven’t been able to do much good light shooting (a few minutes outside near sunset on a hazy day with the sun blocked by clouds near the horizon), but Sigma seems to have done a solid on this one. It really does make me hope that Sigma will come up with a 90 or 100mm f/2.8 lens in the $299 range with this level of optical quality, compactness, etc. That would pretty much round out the long end of my lens kit some day (I don’t know that I’ll ever really get GAS so bad that I’ll feel the need to buy a longer lens unless there is some particular trip where I know wildlife shooting opportunities will be such that I’ll feel compelled to buy a longer lens).

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/40s, ISO400

I do still wish it was a 67.5mm f/2 lens. Fingers crossed that maybe some day somebody will come out with one that is good and won’t break the bank. Maybe Panasonic? I mean, Olympus came out with the 75mm f/1.8 that is amazing and Sigma came out with a dirt cheap, but very good 60mm f/2.8, maybe Panasonic will split the difference and come out with a 67.5mm f/2 or 2.2 positioned between the Olympus and Sigma offerings in price and speed. Despite my wishes I foresee enjoying the Sigma a lot and I am very happy to have a medium telephoto now in my kit as an option. Depending on future lens offerings down the road GAS and want of a slightly faster and longer lens might push me in to getting the Olympus 75mm f/1.8, possibly as a replacement for the Sigma 60mm, or possibly just to add to my kit (the sigma seems so damned good, and the focal length difference is enough along with the smaller size/weight that it may make sense to have both to choose the best tool for the job). Though if a good 90mm or 100mm f/2.8 or faster lens comes out, that’ll probably get chosen over going with the Olympus 75mm. If there is never an option between 75mm and the upcoming Panasonic 150mm f/2.8, then getting the 75mm would likely make sense for my photography. Though if someone did come out with that moderately fast 67.5mm lens I want…that would pretty much be a no brainer for me (unless quality wasn’t there or price was out of this world). My only worry is that Panasonic, if they do come out with one, is going to want to make it a super fast f/1.4 67.5mm to beat everyone on speed, which with the size/cost penalty that would likely entail means it probably wouldn’t be an option for me (but it might be a dream).

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Sigma 60mm f/2.8: f/3.2, 1/160s, ISO400

I’ll be taking the 60mm to the beach with me this weekend to give it a work out and I also look forward to Renaissance Festival coming up a few weeks to do some portrait work with it.

After I am back from the beach look for an m.Zuiko 12mm f/2 full review page. I am hoping I can crank one out for the Sigma 60mm sometime around mid October or so once I have had a chance to really use the lens for a couple of months.

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