Maryland Renaissance Festival 9-2-13

We visited Revel Grove again today, this time with our friend Lynn in tow. Since Lynn is not going to be heading out the Festival as often as we are this year, we did pack in a lot of activity -- I think we caught six or seven performances this day! Our feet are tired, and our muscles sore, but a splendid time was had by all. We also ran into one of our favorite former baristas from our favorite local coffee shop.

We also paid another visit to R.E. Piland Goldsmiths, a fine jeweler who has had a shop at the Festival for as long as I can remember, with an eye to finally get our permanent wedding bands. I think we've just about made up our minds which ones we want. All I'll say for now is that the rings are from their Silver Celtic Wedding Bands collection. There will be pictures once we get the new rings sometime in the next few weeks. We will be looking into getting Donna's diamond reset as well.

Due to other commitments, we won't be back at the Festival until the weekend of September 21.

On a "photo-geek" note, I took all the pictures yesterday and today with the old Maxxum 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 lens. I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with the Minolta (and Sigma) lenses when I use the SLR through the rest of the Festival run. As old as the Maxxum lenses are, they're sharper and faster than the more convenient Tamron 18-270mm all-in-one lens. Furthermore, I really prefer the way these old lenses render colors -- I spend far less time "fixing" in post processing, and can concentrate more on "creating" instead.

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Minolta Maxxum 70-210mm f/4 First Shots Test

As I mentioned yesterday, my Minolta Maxxum AF 70-210mm f/4 arrived while I was away, and I finally got a moment this afternoon to make a few test shots. As with my previous tests, the subjects are mediocre and the lighting bad. Perfect for testing lenses...

We have a really confused Azalea bush in our front yard -- it's still making flowers! Anyway, this is literally the first shot with the new lens. Not too bad, I suppose. I did have to do some work, however, to get here.

For the techies: ISO 200, 1/160, F4, 210mm. Distance from subject is about 10 feet.

There's a slight back-focus exhibited on this shot, but that could be simply that I "missed" a little bit when focusing. It was also a little bit breezy when I took this picture. There was also a little bit of purple fringing, which I was able to remove in Lightroom. I also performed "the usual" tweaks on the raw conversion. The final result is very likable.

Another truly inspired pair of images, this time of the shed in our back yard.

For the techies: ISO200, 1/250, F4, 210mm. Distance from subject is about 75 feet.

The focus point is supposed to be right on the corner of the roof, and it looks pretty darned close. I did pretty much the same treatment, though I didn't notice so much fringing on this one. Crappy picture, but a good test subject, and I'd say the result is quite acceptable.

Finally, another relatively close shot.

Techies: ISO 200, 1/320, F4, 210mm. Distance to subject is about 10 feet.

This one suffered from some green fringing, but no purple. In this case, focus was spot on. What's sharp is exactly what I focused on. Again, the usual raw conversion, but nothing else.

So far, I'd say that the results with this lens are very nearly as good as what I was getting with my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS lens after I spent $265 to get it overhauled (on top of the $1900 the lens cost new). And for this, I paid $200. Hmmm... I think I've got a winner!

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Minolta Maxxum AF 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5

My second old lens, Minolta Maxxum AF 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5, arrived on schedule today from KEH Camera. There were two versions of the 28-85, and I ordered the original version, which was introduced back in 1985.

While it arrived too late to really make any decent images, I did at least pop the lens on the camera and pop off a few shots. None of them are particularly inspired or particularly good. The image at left is pretty much right out of the camera, with the exception of a little cropping.

As with the 50mm f/1.7, the color and the subjective feel of the image are exactly what I had hoped for: deep, punchy colors with nice, smooth bokeh. If you look closely, you'll see that this image isn't completely sharp, except in a very few spots. In this image, I'm shooting at the maximum focal length of the lens (85mm), wide open (f/4.5), and as close to the subject as I could be and still get anything in focus (about 32 inches).

Getting down to the lens itself. My copy is, as mentioned above, from the initial group of 11 Maxxum lenses introduced in 1985. It is built like a small tank, with a completely metal lens barrel and mount. The zoom action is silky smooth, as is the manual focus. KEH rated the lens condition as "Excellent," and in all of the important aspects, that's absolutely true. The glass is perfect, and I can't even see any of the usual dust inside the lens. And, the aperture blades are clean and move freely. The only "not-so-excellent" bit is cosmetic -- some discoloration on the rubber zoom ring. I think if I had rated the lens, I might have given it an "Excellent -".

I'm really looking forward to having some time to play with it over the weekend. Hopefully, I'll have some "real" pictures to post then.

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The Allure of Old Glass

Last week, I wrote a short post called The Beauty of the Old, in which I shared my first experience with a 25-year-old Maxxum 50mm f/1.7 lens. Yesterday in a post on one of the many online forums, a user posted the comment, "I just don't get why people are willing to pay so much money for the big old Minolta prime lenses." This, of course, is a small part of her post, but this one sentence was the gist of it. She went on to comment that old things break and it's hard to get parts, etc. A lively discussion has ensued, focused (no pun intended) more on the mechanics of things and the currently available A-mount offerings. Her question is valid. Often times, the old Maxxum primes sell for nearly as much as their newer counterparts. In the course of the discussion, little has been said about why people actually want these things. Here's my perspective:

Konica Minolta Dynax/Maxxum 7D

I remember when then Maxxum 5D and 7D were introduced. Minolta did a series of advertisements featuring "interviews" with prominent Japanese professional photographers who were Minolta shooters. Of course, the ads each featured stunning photographs taken with the Maxxum 7D and a Minolta lens.

In each of the ads, the photographers moved quickly beyond the technical aspects of the digital cameras and spoke about being able to leverage their existing Minolta lenses. They spoke at length about the aesthetic advantage they felt that Minolta optics gave them in their photography.

Minolta optics have an interesting history which certainly helped to shape the subjective quality of their lenses. When Minolta was developing their first SLR (and again with their first autofocus SLR), they entered an agreement with Leica for assistance. The result was a combination of German precision design and consistency with Japanese aesthetics. The lenses were very carefully ground and polished and the coatings were developed to create lenses with a color balance that was consistent across the entire line. This philosophy continued up to the point when Minolta no longer made their own glass lens elements. Many of the Japan-made Maxxum primes reflect this early philosophy.

As I related in my earlier post, there is a certain "look" to these lenses. Those of you who have been following my posts over the years (predating this version of will know that I, perhaps romantically, prefer a more "analog" look and that I feel that a lot of today's cameras and lenses are almost too perfect; and that I also have a preference to do as much in-camera as possible.

Recently, I've had a bit of a shift in perspective about what I'll do in post-processing (see my recent comments on Snapseed, for instance). But there are certain things that can't be done in post. I think that certain aspects of the basic "look and feel" of a photograph begin with the lens.

So, that's why I'll be willing to spend money on those old lenses. I'd love to see your thoughts on the subject. You can post them in the space below the related articles?

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The Beauty of the Old

One of the reasons I made the switch to Sony cameras was the amazing imaging qualities of the cameras and the functionality of the new single-lens-translucent (SLT) technology. I've talked about that before. Another important reason was the ability to use older Minolta Maxxum lenses. Images made with Minolta lenses have a certain "look," much like older Olympus lenses from the OM-1 days. So, in addition new high quality "new tech" lenses, I decided early on that there were a few Minolta lenses that would have to be a part of my kit, and the first one I wanted to get was the second-generation of the 50mm f/1.7 (the second generation is almost identical to the mystical original "crossed X" version, but is rumored to be slightly sharper). Last week, I found a great price on one on line, and quickly snapped (no pun intended) it up.

Literally, this is one of the first pictures I took using the lens. There were specific things I was looking to examine in this "test shot": color, depth of field control, bokeh, and sharpness.

Obviously, at f/1.7, depth-of-field is extremely shallow. And, wide open, the bokeh is beautiful! Nice, perfectly round spectral highlights and soft, flowing colors. And what lovely color. Amazing and beautiful results from a lens that's nearly 25 years old.

For those who long to pixel-peep... Actually, I saw this crop when I zoomed into the image in Lightroom to take a closer look, and really liked the composition. It also affords a nice look at the detail that the lens can capture.

I'm definitely planning to add at least a couple more of these classic lenses to my bag, specifically, the AF 20mm f/2.8 and the AF 135mm f/2.8. An original AF 24-70mm f/2.8, if I can find one that I can afford, would also make a great addition to my kit. More than likely, I'll pickup the 28-85 f/3.5-4.5 instead, as well as a 70-210mm f/4.

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