I’d noticed a speck of dust on my camera’s sensor while out recently, so I decided to take the lens off and give it a quick clean with the classic Giottos Rocket Blower (Amazon UK, Amazon US). While doing so, I found myself wondering how simple a lens could get – there didn’t seem to be any reason I couldn’t put a pinhole in front of the sensor, with no lens attached, and take a photo. Yes, it would look rubbish at best, but it should work.
I stabbed a rough hole in a handy empty crisp packet, and held it over the front of the camera. There was an image. It was rubbish, but it did work.
In an attempt to get a slightly better result, I made a smaller and neater hole in a brown envelope, and stepped outside. Here’s the view I often use here for test shots:
And here’s a shot of the house across from our door:
A shot of the steps leading down to the ground from our flat is reasonably recognisable, including our neighbour’s yellow van:
So, the results are all a bit rubbish, and do show why cameras actually need lenses. The fact that it works at all, though, is a reminder of how simple this stuff can be – we’re just putting light on a surface, and the surface can be a digital sensor, just as it used to be film.
The view from our steps with a 35mm lens:
The white building in the middle distance is a school, on the other side of the canal from us. The closest white part has a window and a decorative pattern on it, and a diagonal roof sloping down to the right.
The next photo is that part only, taken with a strange lens combination:
It’s an old Hanimex 200mm f/4.5 lens, picked up nice and cheap on eBay, with two 2x converters between it and the adaptor that connects it to my Sony NEX. That makes it a total of 800mm. I used my Tamrac Zipshot tripod, which was really pushing the limits of such a flimsy portable tripod. The image was shaking about all over the place in the wind, but I tried a couple of shots, and they came out ok. Not good, but kind of impressive considering what they were taken with.
Here’s the ‘lens’ on the camera:
And this is what it looks like on the Zipshot tripod:
I wouldn’t call it a practical combination for day-to-day use, and the quality isn’t good, but it’s fun to play with, which is important too.
I sent most of my old Nikon gear to Wex for part exchange recently, and spent the proceeds on new toys for my Sony NEX-6. They arrived yesterday. I haven’t had much chance to play so far, but here are some very brief first impressions…
- Sony SEL35f18 (Amazon UK, Amazon US) lens – a compact 35mm f/1.8 lens for the NEX. Makes for a nice light package, though a bit bigger than the kit ‘powerzoom’ lens. Nice wide aperture, and seems to be perfectly usable at f/1.8. In a quick test, it does get better at f/2, and better again at f/2.8. f/1.8 is still quite sharp, though, which is more than I can say for the vintage lenses I’ve picked up cheap on eBay.
- LowePro Passport Sling (Amazon UK, Amazon US) bag. Very good bag, bought for Sam, and she seems to like it. Well thought out, and practical for carrying things other than just a camera.
- Microfibre cloths (Amazon UK, Amazon US) – I love microfibre cloths. Is that terribly sad? I don’t care if it is. I also got us each a ‘spudz’ – little microfibre cloths that stuff into a neoprene pouch they’re stitched to. Handy.
- Spare Sony battery for the NEX. I do kind of resent the price for the real Sony one, but paid it anyway. These kinds of battery can go badly wrong if the safety mechanisms aren’t good, so I’d rather pay the extra to get one I know will have been made well.
- Two more LowePro Dashpoint 20 (Amazon UK, Amazon US) pouches. Really useful size for lenses, and two or three fit quite neatly in my Maxpedition (Amazon UK, Amazon US) bag along with my MacBook Air. They also attach easily to a belt, or pop neatly into a coat pocket, too, making for a nice flexible way of carrying a variable number of spare lenses. When going to work, I like to have my 55-210 zoom with me, but rarely use it. If I’m walking by the canal, I may want a Lensbaby, or I might want the old Takumar 50mm f/1.4, or I may want to take the standard Sony zoom, or the Chinon 135mm f/2.8. Dashpoints can take any combination, and go in bag, belt or pockets.
A couple of shots of our cat, Sweeney. Taken with the Asahi Takumar 50mm f/1.4 lens – good for low-light photos, and does a great job of blurring out the background.
Reed maces in the Grand Western Canal, near our home. These were both taken with a Chinon 135mm f/2.8 lens I picked up on eBay months ago, for less than £15 including postage. This is the first time I’ve really tried it out, other than a quick test.
The results have been really good, though it didn’t feel as much fun to shoot with at the time as my current favourite 50mm Takumar. I might enjoy it more now I know how good the results can be.
The focus ring turns the opposite way to the Takumar, which is tricky to get used to. Looks like it might be worth the effort, though, and it was definitely a bargain.