Stumble Upon A Glass

Many things I have obtained, in the horrific financially-draining hobby of photography. This is part 1.

Nikon SB-28 flash

Thanks Xian Jin for this belated birthday present! Batteries not included. Battery cover not included, either. (Uh, I hope the battery cover comes before my next birthday.)

Being resourceful, I taped coins to keep batteries in. The flash zapped me once when I touched the coins by accident.

I can use it on my Olympus OM-2000 film SLR safely because it just triggers a mechanical switch to trigger the flash. 😀 Of course, TTL information is not passed to the lens, so I had to use it in full power all the time. That’s when you’d have to know some basic flash math. The SB-28 has a guide number of 36 (zoom head at 35mm, ISO 100).

So I’d set my shutter speed to the flash sync speed (1/125th of a second, marked in red on my OM-2000), focus on the subject, note the focused distance on the lens, and note the film ISO.

Multiply the guide number by the film ISO, then divide it by 100. Divide that number by the focused distance in meters, and viola! You now know what aperture to set.

For example, if the distance was 2 meters, ISO 400, guide number 36:

36 * 400 / 100 / 2 = 72

Your lens probably won’t have F72, so decrease the flash power to say 1/16, so you can use F72/16 = F4.5.

Of course, if you point the flash upwards for bounce flash, you’d have to choose an aperture 1 stop brighter, e.g. F3.2.

Sony A100 at 18mm, 4 second exposure, F18, ISO100. 4 seconds gave me enough time to try to press the recessed rubber test-flash-fire button on the SB-28. I find those recessed soft rubber buttons annoying; they’re hard to access and hard to press. (They also remind me of little pocket LCD games.) Of course, they made it recessed rubber since the SB-28 to provide better water resistance or something. However, if that is the case, why doesn’t the SLR have those annoying rubber buttons too?

Unfortunately, I could not set the flash power; whenever I tried to, the flash would switch itself off.

Sony A100 at 18mm, 4 seconds, F22, ISO100, with the Sony’s pop-up flash, set at -2 flash power. This gives enough flash to fill in the otherwise harsh shadows and nothing else.

I couldn’t position the flash behind me and trigger it easily. 🙁 In retrospect, I should’ve mounted it on my Olympus OM-2000.

An alternative way to trigger the flash – short-circuiting the PC Sync connector. This was an unused USB cable, not connected on the other end (you do not want to zap anything!) The center pin and outermost ring triggers it.

Sony A100 at 18mm, 2 seconds, F3.5, ISO200. I used the flash to illuminate this slow exposure.

Minolta Maxxum AF Zoom 70-210mm F4 “beercan” lens


From left to right: The Minolta 70-210mm F4 lens, Sony A100 (with Minolta 50mm F1.4 pre-RS lens), Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens

This is the legendary, constant-aperture zoom lens of the 80’s. It is solid, heavy metal (just like the good music of the 80’s heh). Made in a time before they invented plastic. Heavy metal, but well-balanced, with a rubber grip and plenty of space after that to hold the lens while you fiddle with the focus. This lens was designed in conjunction with Leica.

0.8 seconds, 210mm, F4, ISO1600. This was shot right after I bought it from a guy who had a Konica Minolta 7D with Tokina 80-200mm F2.8 (thus, the beercan was sitting in his dry cabinet for a while.) I stood with elbows against a railing. What, do you think I carry a tripod around?

Do you carry a tripod around?

The practical merits of CCD-shift stabilization show itself when you travel with only the lightweight plastic lens and a bright prime.

Oh, and it is great and crisp at F4. You’d buy a bright lens to use it at bright apertures anyway.

I think I got a really good copy (they were handmade then) as I find it hard to get chromatic aberration with this. This beercan lens was reputed for bad CA (from the time before they invented multicoating and apochromatic glass?)

It’s built like a tank. Solid, and defends yourself from rabid dogs.

1/60th of a second, 210mm, F4. It has great bokeh, which some have described as creamy, and high contrast.

1/30th of a second, 75mm, F4. Its minimum focusing distance is 1.1 meters. 1.1 meters meant that I had to point at the next table to find something I could focus on! However, back then, that was the shiznit, focusing closer than most other lenses.

A 55mm +4 close up filter would allow it to focus as far as 25cm.

(In other news, I find the new KFC Alaskan burger pretty alright. Nice funky sauce.)

I put my Seagull 50mm F1.8 MC lens on reverse in front of the lens (which is equivalent to a +25 close up) and got the top-left picture at 210mm, F4. Top-right is at 210mm, F32. Bottom-left is at 70mm, F32, while bottom-right is at 70mm, F4.

Macro champions: On the left, the Sony A100 with Minolta 70-210mm F4 lens and Seagull 50mm F1.8 MC lens on reverse (up to 4.2:1 magnification); on the right, the Olympus OM-2000 with Vivitar 2x teleconverter and Olympus Zuiko 70-210 F4.5-5.6 lens and Fujica 50mm F1.4 lens on reverse (up to 8.4:1 magnification).

It has internal zoom (but not internal focus). This means that it’s less obvious when you zoom in to snipe someone! I love the clear space beyond the zoom ring.

1/25th of a second, 210mm. I was elated to manage to get mirrored ghost images with bright highlights at F4! I couldn’t get that with my new-generation Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens. 🙁 The gradient to the left is a severely out-of-focus pillar.

Yes, I love the ghost effect and enjoy trying to coax it out of this lens. I first saw it on the Nikkor 50mm F1.8D (when wide open, regardless of flare hood as the highlight is in the frame).

1/15th of a second, 70mm, F4. Despite being at 70mm, the EXIF data reads 75mm, a rather common bug with the beercan.

Nikon’s 70-210mm F4 was discontinued after 3 years; the Canon 70-200mm F4 L USM is pricey, at RM2500 or so, while the 70-200mm F4 IS L USM is RM4200 or so.

I got the Minolta 70-210mm F4 for RM1000. This is considered expensive since they go for USD150 on eBay (which was the same price when it started selling).

Of course, the Canon 70-200mm F4 L USM has a speedy, quiet ultrasonic motor for focusing. However, I find the Minolta 70-210mm F4 much faster to focus than the 70-300mm F4-5.6 lenses I’ve tested.

At 210mm, the Super Steady Shot lets me use 1/20th of a second with no visible motion blur. That’s close to 4 stops!

7 thoughts on “Stumble Upon A Glass

  1. Albert Ng Post author

    Perhaps I’m impervious to poison, as Asyraf lent me his Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8D VR back when I had only one camera, and after 2 hours in KLCC Park I was left wondering what to shoot. I knew it was the top gun but it made me realize, do I really want to go there?

    Next time I saw him, and he passed it to me and asked, "wanna play with it?" and I passed it to someone else.

    I’ll miss the 18mm end; heck the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 is more tempting. I dare say I could live without a 18-70mm zoomer, and would rather have a wide, a bright, and a tele.

    The beercan is somewhat… thinner looking than other cheap teles because it doesn’t taper down when you zoom.

    I find the 70-200mm range a bit too impersonal for most performances.

    Ah yes, I was forcefully poisoned. 🙂 But I do intend to research on what the most advanced flash of its day can do, and borrow a Sony HVL56AM. I’m convinced that it should not take 15 minutes to set up a wireless flash shot (and no, I’m not referring to the Sony…)

  2. ShaolinTiger Post author

    The 10-20mm is great, was first lens I’s kinda hard to use though and you really have to get inside the scene, that’s the charm of it though I guess. Can do some neat stuff with it, the distortion can be a bit distracting though.

    I’m not so fond of the 70-200/300 range, that’s why I went for a cheaper, lighter lens as I know I won’t get full use of the monster RM6k 70-200mm f/2.8.

    Flash is awesome, check out my favourite place.

  3. ShaolinTiger Post author

    Perhaps you can try and find the Minolta 28-75 f/2.8 aswell…great for lowlight and the right kind of focal length for events and stuff you enjoy doing.

    The beercan is a good lens, love the contrast and the bokeh. It’s a big ass beast though but that’s due to the constant f/4 I guess. It is kinda pricey yah considering ebay is $150-170..

    I just got the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VR II over the weekend.

    Sb-28, great flash too, shame about the missing door heh..I thought you were anti-flash 😉

  4. Albert Ng Post author

    Hello Hannna!

    CiPoi: Shoot wide open, overexpose an already very bright light, and you should get it. Also, using cheap UV filters help.

    I’m wondering now if your SUPER awesome flare is because of a cheap UV filter. 😀


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