Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 Fish Eye for MFT

Samyang 7.5 00

When I first bought my DSLR one of the lenses I thought of buying was a fish-eye lens. At the time a fish-eye lens from Nikon was prohibitively expensive and I gave up the idea of buying one altogether. Lately I’ve been concentrating more on my Micro Four Thirds setup and that’s when I found this Samyang lens. I contacted AAB World to see if they carried this brand and they turned out to be the dealers for Samyang as well. They were quick to loan me a test lens and I’ve been playing around with it the last couple of weeks. This post will focus on the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 and then I’ll add some photos taken with it over the week.

Samyang 7.5 01

Whats in the box:
The lens comes snugly packed in a plastic shell which keeps it from getting damaged during transit. There’s a leather (or leather-like) lens bag included in the box. There’s no separate lens hood since there’s a protective hood built on the barrel itself.

Samyang 7.5 02

The lens:

Its a fully manual lens, meaning there are no CPU contacts on the lens that communicate with your camera body and infact your camera will not even recognize that there’s a lens attached. On the Lumix you have to select the ‘Shoot w/o lens’ option in the menu before you start shooting.

It has an aperture ring marked from f/3.5 to f/22 and it turns easily with a solid click in each position. The focus ring is well damped and does not move from its position once you’ve set it to the desired distance. The lens can focus from .19 meters to infinity but I wish it had a marking for 1 meter as well. Overall the lens is very solid and feels like its worth twice its actual price.

The lens has a focal length of 7.5mm and in Full Frame or traditional 35mm format that would roughly translate to 15mm, which is really pretty wide. The lens is sold re-branded as Rokinon, Bower and Vivitar in some markets but essentially its all the same lens. They come in two colors; Black and Silver and in mounts for MFT, E Mount, Fuji Mount etc.

Its available at AAB Studio for KD 94.950 which is reasonable comparable to online prices and plus you get a local warranty too.

Shooting:
This is where everything you know about composition goes out the window. Due to the characteristic distortion on this lens the image will wildly vary depending on which axis you point your lens at. Using the conventional ‘Rule of Thirds’ concept may not always yield good results but that’s up to you to decide. I found that I preferred symmetry in some pictures while in others I didn’t. Using this lens is a lot of fun and a great learning experience. You can see the effect of tilting the camera in this short video that I took here;

Tips:
. This lens is ultra wide and has an angle of view of 180 degrees so make sure you’re not holding the lens barrel or your fingers will wind up in the frame. If you hold the camera too close to your body even your feet will be visible in the frame.

. If you’re shooting at higher apertures like f/11 or f/16 focus is not an issue and you can leave it at Infinity but if you’re shooting closer objects at f/3.5 then it would be wise to use the magnified focus window on your screen (if your camera has that function) so that your subject is in sharp focus.

. Since its a manual lens you’ll have to keep in mind a few parameters like the Aperture setting on your lens, the ISO and Shutter speed on your camera body. Luckily I was able to use the exposure meter on my GX1 and managed to properly expose the majority of the shots in the way that I wanted.

There’s almost no limit to what you can shoot if you’re creative with a fish-eye as you can see from this [link] and here are a sample of the photos I’ve taken with this amazing little lens.

Fisheye Bridge

Fifth RingTraffic

Banking Complex

Warp Speed

Salmiya Tunnel

Prestige Avenues

Avenues Dome

Samyang 7.5 03

Final Thoughts: 
This is a high quality lens that’s both affordable and easy to use. Its compact dimensions doesn’t take up much space in your bag and you’ll always have it handy. I loved the lens so much that I’m actually going to buy the lens used in this review. Contact AAB World to see if they have this lens in your camera mount specifications.

Inside the Grand Mosque

Grand Mosque_02

During the National Day holidays a friend of mine arranged a trip for us to visit the Grand Mosque in Kuwait City. This was my second visit to the mosque and this time around I had a fish-eye lens in my bag to capture the enormous prayer hall inside.

Hajji Khalil Habash at the Grand Mosque

The guided tours are conducted by the group; “Western Perception of Islam” and our guide was a very knowledgeable gentleman by the name of Khalil Habash. You can see many videos on Youtube of the tour taken by tourists and here’s [a recent one].

The tour of the Grand Mosque is something that everyone living in Kuwait should take at least once. The rulers have spared no expense in creating this awe-inspiring and beautiful place of worship and it shows when you walk around the hall. Our guide, Mr. Habash, explained in great detail about the structure itself and its significance to both Kuwait and the Muslim world. We were a group of around 20 tourists from different countries and so the medium of communication was English.

Grand Mosque_10

This post contains photos taken with my D60 and also the GX1. On my first visit there I wasn’t able to capture the magnitude of the interior with my kit lens so on the second try I used a fisheye lens on my GX1 and that gave me satisfactory results.

Continue reading “Inside the Grand Mosque”

DIY Wall Hangings

My wife and I were decorating our new apartment this month and we wanted a large picture as a focus point on the living room wall. I wasn’t too keen on getting one of those generic photos from IKEA or Banta so we decided to use one of my own photos.

I had two options, either get a framed canvas print or get it printed on foam-core and then make the frame myself. I’m always on the lookout for DIY projects so the latter sounded more interesting to me. I found this neat tutorial online on how to make one of these large sized pictures and mount it on a wooden frame. If you’re interested in doing something similar I’ve listed the steps on how to go about it;

1. Choose an original file. You can use a photograph you’ve taken yourself or any other source but its important that you use the original file in maximum resolution and at least 300 dpi, this will reduce the amount of pixelation in the final print. I was blowing up a picture (taken on my 5 year old Nikon D60) to 90×60 cms and and I was happy to see that there wasn’t much degradation in quality.

2. Once you’ve got the file for printing you can select between Canvas prints or Foam-core backed prints. I was already getting some prints from Artech so I preferred to let them do all the print work since I’ve dealt with them before.

frame 01

3. According to the tutorial in the link you can use wood strips to give the foam-core extra strength and rigidity. I didn’t want my frame to protrude too much from the wall so I went with a thinner wooden frame. I bought all the supplies from ACE Hardware; wood rafters/strips, sandpaper and caulk.

frame 02

4. Measure, cut and sand the wood frame to the size of your foam-core. I know a V-joint looks prettier than a simple butt-joint but it would not be visible anyway so I chose the latter method. Apply a layer of caulk to the strips and press them into place on the frame. They should set in about 30 minutes. Once the frame had bonded with the foam, I applied double-sided tape to 8 points on the frame and fixed it to the wall. I didn’t use nails or screws since the entire thing is very lightweight and I didn’t want to mess up the wall with more holes than necessary.

Including materials, this picture cost me less than 8 KD so this I guess this is a fun and cheap way to decorate your home with your very own artwork.

home

Street Photography with the GX1

Shooter in the hallway

Shooting discretely with a DSLR is not something that can be done easily and that’s what I’m loving about the mirror-less system cameras. They’re great for Street Photography. On a recent visit to the Liberation Tower I was just shooting images of people on the tour and it felt great to capture random moments without drawing attention to myself. Here’s some of the better ones from the bunch.

Looking at Kuwait

Instagrammer

Composition

Communication

 

Tour of Liberation Tower

Lib tour 6

This weekend my wife and I went on a guided tour of Kuwait’s Liberation Tower. The trip was organized by Aware Center and we were lucky to get seats for the tour although we weren’t so lucky with the weather. As we approached Kuwait City it was clear that the haze was not going to clear up during our time there.

Lib tour 4

The guide took us to the third level where there’s a bridge that leads to the elevators that access the main tower. The tour would only go as high as 150 meters as there’s sensitive defense communication systems on the top levels and entry is restricted.

This is going to be a long post so click on through for more..

Continue reading “Tour of Liberation Tower”

Looking Back And Looking Ahead

Red Arrows in Kuwait

Its been a long year and quite eventful on the personal and work front but sadly the blog has taken a big hit. With so many blog posts in the draft phase and hundreds of photographs still  unprocessed I’m not sure how or when I’ll get around to it.

I’ve been thinking about making my blog more about my interests in photography, cooking and building model kits. Another idea I’ve had floating around is to start another page just for my photography alone and keep all the other stuff on this page.

Anyway, hope I get more time to update stuff on this page in the coming year. Happy New Year everyone and have a great time in 2014!

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM

Sigma lens review

I recently got in touch with AAB World to get the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM (that’s a mouthful) for a review on the blog and they were glad to provide one. When Sigma announced this new lens there was a lot of buzz in the photography world as this was the fastest zoom lens for APSC sensor cameras ever! This new lens belongs to their ‘Art’ series and is really a high quality lens.

The lens is available for both Nikon and Canon mounts and they’re sold by AAB World, who are the local dealers for Sigma. The price is KWD 229.950 and comes with warranty and it’s not much more than buying from the US.

Now this post isn’t really about the technical aspects of the lens as there are better reviews like this one and an entertaining video review from Mr. Kai but rather what you can use this for in every day life. So I’ll focus on things like ‘What can you do with it?’ and ‘Why should you buy this lens?’. This is going to be a long post so click on through for the rest…

Continue reading “Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM”

‘High’ Above Kuwait

I was cleaning up some of my camera’s SD cards when I came across some photos I’d taken a few months back. I was on a night flight bound to Kuwait and I was probably a little high either from the stopover in Dubai or the in-flight drinks so maybe that’s why I forgot I took them.

Anyhoo… the following were some of the good ones in the bunch and my favorite is the first one here, I wanted to get a clear shot of the moon but with three layers of glass separating me from the air the ghost moons were unavoidable.

Above Kuwait 01

Above Kuwait 02

Above Kuwait 03

Above Kuwait 04

Above Kuwait 05

Above Kuwait 06

Above Kuwait 07

Above Kuwait 08

View on my [Flickr stream]

Export Certificate from Indian Customs Department

Lumix passport

A few years ago I had posted about getting an export certificate for your camera gear to make things easier at the customs counter at the airport. On my vacation trip this time I realized that it was time to renew my certificate and I got another one issued from the customs counter at Cochin Airport.

A lot of friends who’ve got camera gear have asked me in the past and also this time for more information about the Export Certificate. Thanks to the friendly staff at the customs counter I’ve gathered some information here which should be useful to NRIs visiting India.

Indian Customs Department Travelers Guide.
You can download and print a handy Traveler’s Guide published by the Indian Customs Department. [link]

1. Who can apply for an export certificate?

Any NRI can apply for an export certificate for the number of items in his possession that is intended for personal use. Refer to document for more details.

2. Are there any charges for getting this certificate?
No, the certificate is free of charge and the customs officer in charge of the respective airport will issue the certificate after inspecting your items and recording the serial number/specific details of the items.

What are the items that require an export certificate?
The certificate covers personal items such as gold, jewelry, photography, videography and expensive electronic equipment. Refer to document for more details.

What is the advantage of having a certificate? 
Since the certificate is issued by the customs department this is valid for all points of entry in India and each time you travel you need not spend time at the red channel explaining why you’re carrying all this gear. For example, this is some of the stuff I had in my Lowepro 250 this time. Since I had my previous certificate I just needed to show them that what I was carrying was listed in the document.

Gear box

Cheap Macro Fun with Reverse Rings and Extension Tubes

Sometime ago I had bought a lens reverse ring to convert my normal lens to shoot macro and I had posted my results in a previous post. Later on I also bought an extension tube to allow my lens to get closer to the subject. Both these solutions allow the shooter to get close to small objects and shoot macro but they’re hard to match the results you would get from shooting with a dedicated macro lens, like the famous Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro. I don’t shoot a lot of macro so spending around 900 US Dollars on it didn’t seem like a good idea.

The two accessories shown in the picture are linked below;

Fotodiox Reverse Ring [Amazon]
Fotodiox Extension Tube [Amazon]
What is Macro Photography? [Wiki]

So why would you buy a macro solution that doesn’t give the best results? Well I’ve had these things in my possession for a while now and the more I use them I more I find it interesting. I’ve listed some points based on my experience that may help you get some good shots.

1. They’re the cheapest way to shoot macro. Both the reverse ring and extension tubes combined cost me less than 20 KD whereas a proper macro like the Nikkor 105mm would be in the area of 300 KD.

2. Now this might be a drawback for some people but I like a good challenge. When you’re using a reverse ring or extension tube there’s no contact between the CPU contacts on the lens and camera body. That means you’re essentially shooting in full manual mode and you also have to figure out the optimum exposure to get the shot. Initially it was frustrating but when you get used to the camera you’ll automatically know how much you need to tweak the lens aperture, ISO and shutter speed to expose the frame.

3. When shooting macro the Depth of Field or DOF is extremely shallow and you’ll need a really small aperture to get a fly or ant in focus. Or you can just get enough DOF to focus on the head or eyes. The sharpness also suffers if you shoot at f/5.6 or lower.

4. Now this is a continuation of the previous point but it has to do with Lighting. When you stop down the lens to f/11 or higher the amount of light hitting your sensor decreases drastically and so
you’ll either have to shoot in broad daylight or get an off camera flash or ring lights. The insects shot here were all in daylight so I didn’t have to use a flash.

5. Moving subjects can be a real bitch to shoot if you’re shooting with a clumsy extension tube or reversed lens. All the shots on this page were shot hand-held and in order for me to avoid a blurry picture I had to resort to high ISOs. If you’re shooting an inanimate object or a dead insect it would be best to use a mini tripod like the one in the picture.

6. Changing lenses for changing scenarios is not really a bother but if you’re using one of these babies it involves some screwing and unscrewing to attach the tubes and rings to your existing lens. Using a dedicated macro lens is just a matter of twist on and go.

Conclusion: If you’re the type of person who’s OK with fiddling around with manual exposure and focus or if you just want to have some fun with your SLR then don’t think twice and just get both these accessories. Here’s some samples with the reverse ring and the tube. I’ve also mentioned the lens used for the photos. You can also click on the pictures below to see them in higher resolution.

Samples from the Fotodiox Reverse Ring and 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 combination

Peeking...

Leader

Samples from the Fotodiox Extension Tubes and 50mm f/1.8D combination

Fly Face

Fly rubbing feet