This blog is devoted to the application of optical fibers in photography. I have several homemade (DIY) flash adapters channeling the light from the flash close to the lens. The technique can be used mainly for macro photography, but I will show examples for wide angle close focus techniques as well. The recent version is called fiberstrobe V3, hence the name of the blog is "fiberstrobe".

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Life and passing

Around Easter we celebrate the resurrection. The believers remember to the resurrection of Jesus while non-believers celebrate the spring and the revival of the nature from the winter sleep.
This post is however about the passing away. Nothing dramatic, I just took photos of the hyacinths I gave to my daughter and wife for the international women's day. The flowers completely parched now but their forms and structure gave me interesting photo themes. 

I used the nex-5 and the 30mm macro lens on tripod. A rim light (powered by manual yongnuo) gave the special light source. First the old pictures followed by the photos of the dead flower:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sony VCL-ECU1 ultra wide converter, a hands-on rolling review

This lens was hiding in one of the boxes under the Christmas tree and I was really curious how it performs but it took a while to have a general impression (mainly due to bad boring weather and work). I unfortunately left this converter home when I traveled to a recent trip to Thailand.

This converter was designed for the SEL16F28 lens and it has a 0.75x factor so it makes the wide angle 16mm lens ultra-wide (around 12mm, equivalent to 18mm on full frame cameras). It's specifically designed for this pancake lens, so it doesn't deteriorate its optically quality much. Some cynic would say that it's hard to further spoil it. Although most of the SEL16F28 reviews were very negative, I was satisfied with this cheap lens. It served me as a small pocket lens and I also managed to take some fantastic shoots when it was paired with the vcl-ecf1 converter. Stop down to f/8 and it's quite good. If you already have to 16mm lens I recommend to buy both adapters. They sell now around 100 euro, which is a steal for a 12mm f/2.8 lens or a good f/2.8 fisheye lens (assuming that you have the 16mm lens). I haven't done a thorough test yet but my initial impression is that it has very good build quality with a nice silver metal alloy and it snaps well to the pancake lens. It's heavier then the 16mm lens (127g vs 65g), but the two together is still light enough and balances well on my small nex-5. It arrived in an elegant nice zip-closed etui.
The fisheye converter is on the left, while the ultra wide converter is on the right

The two converters have more or less the same size

You can't add standard filters to it but it has a built-in hood. To give an opinion about the optical quality I need more time with it. Adding the converter has no effect on the light transmission according to my test. In M mode it doesn't influence the exposure, probably due to the fact that the lens combo collects light from a larger area. What is clear that the purple fringing of the 16mm lens won't go away by adding this converter (same with the fisheye converter). Overall the image quality is quite OK but don't expect super sharp result.

Below you can see few photos taken with this later combination (with nex-5 camera):

The effect is not that dramatic as with the fisheye lens but it gives a bit more space, so you can show more about the environment when you want to take macro photos. The good news is that you don't have to stop down that much to have sharp results and even you still have infinity. With the fisheye converter you can forget sharp far away subjects, so you can't use that combination as standard lens, while the sel30M35+vcl-ecf1 combo is a nice 22.5mm lens (not a good one though). I think that despite the limitation, I will use my 30mm macro more with the combination with the fisheye adapter.

Update: Additional test as sightseeing/museum lens (with nex-5):

I visited recently Meissen, a German city that is world famous for its china (first European hard-paste porcelain) and in addition it has a beautiful old city center. I was with my family, so photo opportunities were limited, but I still found a bit of time to briefly test this lens combo from a tourist's perspective. Actually I liked it a lot and it is more useful than the fisheye lens in most of the situations. We visited the porcelain manufacture's exhibition and museum where the lens helped to cover large interiors and I could take nice photos of the exhibited arts. The distortion is minor with this adapter and it was not disturbing at all. Most of the photos I took could not be possible with the kit lens (not wide and not fast enough). Corners are not completely sharp, especially when the lens is not stopped down in the not well lit Museum, but most of the pictures came out very nice. However, if you are an architecture photographer on a paid job, the quality will not satisfy you, but 99% of the tourists will be more than happy with the results. Below you can see some examples for Museum/indoor photography:

 Some geometric distortion can be seen in this, but it's not that disturbing

 You can cover bigger subjects from a close distance with a very small camera as seen in the reflection. I've selected this picture only to demonstrate this.

 The centre is quite sharp
 The edges are not that good

In the city it proved to be a very useful walk around lens. The wide angle allowed me to take photos of most of the buildings including the dom. I've tested the sweep panorama mode with this and I cannot fault the lens (but my hand and technique).

Example for purple fringing

In many situation, of course the ultra-wide perspective doesn't fit to the subject, so taking the kit zoom lens or a longer lens is recommended.

Photo was taken with the SEL1855 kit zoom

Overall I highly recommend the VCL-ECU1 ultra wide converter as sightseeing/street/museum photography lens. Meanwhile sony came out with an updated black version (VCL-ECU2) but no words about an updated optical formula, so I think it's the same inside.

  • Cheap
  • Good optical quality
  • Fast (f2.8)
  • Real wide angle
  • Improved close focus abilities
  • Can take photos you can't do with your kit lens

  • Contrast and sharpness in the corners (edges) are not so good
  • No star effect (when stopped down and shooting towards the sun)
  • Flare and purple fringing is frequent
Alternatives: Samyang 12mm f/2 or Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS E. I don't have these lenses but you can read about them in this excellent review of David Kilpatrick here.
Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon 12mm f/2.8 T* is another option for much more money.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mushrooming with sigma fisheye

I was really busy recently with many things, so I had no time for the the blog, not even to take photos. However, today was a sunny day and I went to the woods to hunt some mushrooms lit with warm afternoon lights. I took my sigma 15mm 1:2.8 EX fisheyelens on the nex-5 with me. The twin-flash adapter with soft box served as additional light source.
The sony fisheye adapter on the 16mm lens is quite okeish but far from perfect. Optically the sigma is far better lens, but it's designed for full-frame cameras, so it's not that wide on the aps-c nex-5.
Maybe I will write in a later post more about this lens. Now I just post few photos. I hope it will convince you that this lens still rocks:

Next time, I will write more about this sigma lens.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Put the SEL30M35 lens into perspective

I have posted some photos taken with the sony SEL30M35 macro and VCL-ECF1 fisheye conversion lens combo on dpreview forum. I proposed a game not telling anything about the lens (even removed the EXIF information) but let the people to guess. To my surprise it turned out to be very controversial. Lot’s of poster hated it, while others found the thread very interesting. I would quote only from the haters:

“obviously is a lens that can focus very closely,  often called a macro lens. There are hundreds or thousands of these out there. Who would care to guess,”

“Just name the lens and get it over with, this is boring. Nothing special about the photos either, this could be taken with anything...”

“There are thousands of "usual" lenses that work on a NEX-5 and you want us to guess an unusual set-up based on low-resolution images... there's a much better chance of guessing your birthday -- and I've been doing some lens forensics work.”

“pretty pointless thread, but I'll bite anyway ...”

“thanks for the most annoying post on this forum in a long time. sadly, there doesn't seem to be a mechanism to block future posts from you and your silliness.”

Cool, isn't it?? 
I think I’ve upset many self-proclaimed experts, but they are wrong. They have not much clue about wide angle close-up and macro photography and they have no idea about the role of perspective in general in photography.
I made a quite thorough test to achieve similar result with other lenses, what I got with the 30mm macro + fisheye converter combination. Without real success. This proved me that this lens combo is rather unique and really worth to consider in photography.
I tried many lenses and lens combinations, which was suggested during the thread and I added some potential contenders. I took all photos of the test on a tripod with self timer set to 2sec at two apertures, F3.5 and F18. I manually focused to a lego figure (45mm) positioning the head at 1/3 of the photo almost filling it. I tried to fill the picture with this subject in all case, even if the close focusing was not possible, so it was not a real macro but more a close-up set-up. I placed another figure behind but close to the main subject and many other things as environment to test the bokeh and the perspective. I used the following lenses and lens combinations:
sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro
sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 2dp
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 4 dp
sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter
sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) on adapter
sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) + soligor 1.7X teleconverter on adapter
sigma 50mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)
minolta 100mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)
In case of adapted not native E compatible lens, precise set of aperture was not possible, but I tried to set it almost to opened and closed position to reach around F3.5 and F18). Below you can see the results (The upper one is with opened blende, while the second is always stopped down and has bigger depth of field:
sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro

sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 2dp

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + 4 dp

sony SEL16F28 16mm pancake lens + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter

sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) on adapter

sigma 15mm Fisheye lens (for full-frame) + soligor 1.7X teleconverter on adapter

sigma 50mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)

minolta 100mm F2.8 macro (on adapter)

Some conclusions: The 30mm macro lens is wide enough, I like it in many situations but it doesn't show much about the environment. Adding the fisheye adapter changes the character and makes it a perfect close-focus wide angle tool. During the test I recognized some optical errors and it is getting really good from F11 but F16-F18 are also a recommended values. The far away subjucts will never be really sharp, so it can't be used as a replacement for a 15mm wide angle lens, it's only good for close subjects. (From now on I compare the rest to this combo)
To my surprise, the 16mm lens was very close but not as wide. However, it lacks the close focus capability. Even stopped down the head is not sharp. Adding close focus adapters (+ 2dp or + 4 dp) don't help either. They don't have big effect on wide angle lenses.
The fisheye adapter was designed for this lens (16mm) and the effect is really cool. However it's much wider and distorted and sharp focusing was not possible. Even at F18 the face is not really sharp. Adding a teleconverter was not a good idea and the close focusing ability was further ruined. I also tried the 50mm and 100mm macro lenses. The results are nice if your aim is to have a soft background, but look at the character of the background. My major conclusion is that choosing a macro lens is not just about how close we can get to our subject (short for flowers, long for dragonflies) but the perspective plays also a very important role. Putting a small subject into the foreground while showing also details from the background (if it's nice) can be very dramatic.
The sony SEL30M35 30 mm macro + VCL-ECF1 fisheye adapter combination is just perfect for this purpose.