Adding a lens adapter to a point and shoot camera - Canon G9

From time to time I have enjoyed playing around with filters on point and shoot cameras. Typically this can only be done on the higher end models, such as the Canon G series and Panasonic LX series. Also, some of the all-in-one superzooms, such as the Panasonic FZ8 also allow for the use of filters. To get the job done, a special tube attachment called a lens adapter is usually required, and the camera must have threads at the base of the lens unit, designed to accommodate such an attachment.

With dSLR lenses, it is pretty simple to add a filter to a lens. That is because interchangeable lenses nearly always have threads on the outer end. For example, a typical kit zoom lens might take a 58mm diameter filter. Filters of similar size can then be screwed into the lens threads. If you only have, say, 62mm diameter filters, these too can fit, by adding a "step up" ring (sized at "58-to-62"). These thin metal rings can be purchased from all the online vendors or from ebay, often for under $5, and are placed between the lens and the filter.  In this case, one side of the ring has 58mm threads to screw into the end of the lens, and the other side is tapped to receive the 62mm threads of the filter.

Reverse-mount rings can also be used. These allow a photographer to reverse a second lens and attach it to the end of the camera lens, in nose-to-nose fashion.  Sometimes two lenses are better than one! For example, using the same 58mm diameter dSLR kit lens mentioned above I can reverse mount an old 50mm f1.4 Nikon lens that has 52mm threads by using a "58-52" reverse mount ring. With a reverse mount ring, both sides have threads. The resulting setup can result in extraordinary macro capabilities.

This all works easily on dSLRs; but compact cameras present problems. Usually the lens retracts inside the body and a protective cover automatically slips over the lens. Using a filter would interfere with this action. And most of the time the lens has no filter threads.

To solve these problems, some of the higher end compact cameras are designed to use a special tube attachment, called a lens adapter. These are designed to be as small as possible but large enough so the zoom lens can operate within the area provided by the tube. The filter or supplemental lens is then threaded onto the end of the tube where it remains stationary while the zoom moves in and out.

In addition to using filters, supplemental lenses are available, which when added can provide one of the following: wider angle of view, a more zoomed in field of view, or better macro capability. For me, the most common use of the lens adapter is for a Canon 500D closeup lens. Though it looks like a filter, it is in fact an acromatic lens about the thickness of two filters and made with two pieces of high quality glass fused together and designed to minimize distortion. The Canon 500D lens can be used on any camera, and it comes in several diameters.

The 500D closeup lens is designed to provide focus at 20 inches (i.e. 500mm distance). Once your subject is in focus, you can frame the image by zooming in or out; however, the focusing distance will remain at 20".

Below are examples using a Canon G9 camera with a Lensmate 58mm adapter:

G9 with lens extended after powering up, without lens adapter

G9 with lens adapter attached. This one is made by lensmateonline.com. It is a high quality aluminum fitting.

G9 with lens adapter and D500 Canon closeup lens. No step up ring was required because both fittings are 58mm.

This gives you an idea of the closeup capability, with lens fully zoomed at 210mm focal length. Working distance was measured at a comfortable-to-work-at 20 inches. At this distance and zoom length, you can focus on a subject as small as 3.5". This is perfect for butterflies, dragonflies and flowers.

Amazingly, I found if the G9 is switched to macro mode with the D500, it will focus at any distance between 10" and 20", making this a very versatile set up. I always use autofocus. At 10" you can capture a 2" wide subject, which is nearly equivalent to a 1:1 macro.

G9 and Nikon 50mm standard lens can be reverse mounted for macros.  I am holding a reverse-mount ring, threaded with 58mm and 52mm diameter threads.

G9 with Nikon 50mm lens reverse mounted.

With this reverse mounted setup, I can fill the frame with a subject that is 3/8" wide! But note that depth of field is minimal. I focused on the center of the image, right on the "dot" that the "2" starts with. Everything closer and further away is blurred due to the shallow depth of field.  This in unavoidable at such magnification.


Club print "salon" entries for December

I was pleased with how these two images came out.  The color entry was an after-thought.  I was reviewing my images from a 2009 trip to Colorado, and found myself attracted to this picture of autumn aspen trees. After making a vertical crop from the original horizontal image I decided it would make a nice print.  I liked the simple composition and of course the colors.  There is a bit of drama in the sky and just a patch of blue, all of which helped make a fairly even exposure. What I find interesting is that when, a few minutes ago, I went to my Web site to see my 50 favorites from this trip, this image wasn't even included!  This is why I think it is smart not to initially discard too many images. (I am going to add this image to the 50 favorites right after I finish this post!)

The black and white was taken on the same day as the color image.  This was along a gravel road to Crested Butte, Colorado.  I take all my images in color and do the conversion to black and white in photoshop.  It is difficult to know which images will look good in black and white.  I usually experiment with a dozen or so images before I find one that looks reasonable in black and white.  Here I only wish that the solid blue sky was behind the aspens on the right to provide greater contrast against the light bark of the aspens.  Nevetheless, the whispy clouds add to the image in my opinion.... I just wish the clouds were on the left instead.


Club digital "salon" entries for December

These are my digital entries for my photo club's December digital salon. 

The elk was an early morning shot in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The lighting isn't particularly great, but I did get this bull to look up from his munching.  It was past sunrise when I took the picture, but because this meadow was in a valley surrounded by mountains, the sun had not yet risen high enough to flood the valley with light.

The seagull shot is along the coast of Maine.  It's not the most noble of birds, but I like the exposure here and the piercing yellow eye staring at me.  The salt covered chains bring a little of the environment into the image.

The butterfly was taken in a nearby butterfly house. I don't really like the deep shadows under the wings, but I do like the angle I had of the butterfly resting symmetrically on the single green leaf.


A few fall pictures

I have looked though my fall images and find I really didn't do a lot this year.  The first two were taken while fishing in mid-October.  The other four were taken along the road while traveling to and from work or to visit family or friends. 


My Bald Eagle and Adobe Lightroom 3.0

I wish I could say I traveled to an exotic location, hiked over difficult terrain and scaled a steep cliff to obtain this shot. But actually it was taken at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. This was one of two eagles that I doubt could fly because they were in an open area with a low perimeter fence. In fact, being without a tripod, I rested my right elbow on the top of one of the fence posts while taking the picture.

Below are shots before and after processing the RAW file on my computer.  I use primarily Adobe Lightroom 3.0 for cataloging and processing my photos. As you can tell I was very close, as the original image is shown without cropping. I shot with a zoom set at a 550mm effective field of view (275mm on a 2x crop Olympus body is equivalent to 550mm field of view on a 35mm camera). I used the built-in flash which created a little catch light in the eagle's eye, which I like. (The catch light is perhaps only slightly visible on these small-size images.)

The first step in post processing for me is cropping. Then, in Lightroom I added 1/3 stop of exposure to brighten things up a bit, as I felt overall the shot was a bit underexposed. I then pushed the recovery slider to 30 because the feathers on the back of the head were slightly overexposed. The recovery slider helped to bring back some detail in these back-of-the-head feathers.

The fill-light slider was used to brighten up the face which was underexposed due the fact that the eagle was backlit. Had I been closer, the fill-in flash might have accomplished the same thing, and probably a bit better.

Final touches include adding clarity with a slider that I almost always use at 25 to 50. This adds contrast (and an appearance of sharpness) to the midtones. I also used the vibrance slider to add some saturation to undersaturated colors. This helped bring some of the yellow out in the beak and eye. The difference between the saturation slider and the vibrance slider is that moving the saturation slider effects all colors at once. Moving the vibrance slider effects only the less saturated colors. Though there is a difference, it is worth playing with both, but usually I don't touch the saturation slider.

This image took more post-processing than I am used to doing. But I am very happy with the final result.


Fall aspens from Colorado

I recently went through my "out west" images from last year, taken during a September/October trip through Colorado and a piece of Utah.  These images were taken along the long dirt road between route 133 and the old mining/ski town of Crested Butte (Colorado Route 12).

It is thought that along this route is the largest grove of aspens in the world.  I recall hearing something like 30 miles in diameter. As I understand it aspens are all interconnected underground. 

Here are three images of aspens, taken between 2:30 and 3:30 pm on September 29, 2009.  The one with the single fur tree growing within the aspen grove has a different color cast in it due to the fact that we were under the canope of the dense foliage.


Flora and Fauna group of galleries added

I have just added a Flora and Fauna group to my "all galleries" page, and have included two galleries within the group: Dragonflies and Butterflies. 

A couple of my favorites are below at the maximum blog size of 650 pixels wide and/or long.  The images will be somewhat larger in the galleries.

The dragonfly was taken with an Olympus E520 dSLR and 40-150mm Olympus zoom lens equipped with a Canon 500D closeup lens screwed into the filter threads.

The butterfly was taken with an Olympus E520 dSLR and 70-300mm zoom lens with a built-in macro feature.


Panasonic LX5: The 24mm wide angle on my first day out

My first day out with this fine little camera was in September, when my wife and I made a day trip to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.  I even gritted my teeth and left my dSLR at home.

I have kept 40 images and they are here.  (Some are nice and all are worth having in my collection, but I doubt I will print any of them.)

In an earlier post I listed the features on the LX5 that impressed me for a small camera, compared with my even smaller Canon S90.  But in actual use I think the feature that I most enjoyed is the 24mm wide angle (it zooms from 24mm to 90mm).

I have never used anything wider than 28mm until Mystic. Now I don't think I can ever go anywhere again without a 24mm wide angle!  My guess is that I might even enjoy something wider (and am seriously considering the 18-36mm (equivalent field of view on a 35mm camera) zoom for my Olympus dSLR).

One reason I think 24mm will be so indespensible for me in the future is that I noticed that a full 25% of my images from this trip were taken at that focal length.  Perhaps this was because of the novelty; but I will bet that the percentage will remain high.

Like most compact digital cameras the 10 megapixel advertized sensor assumes use in a 4:3 aspect ratio (four units of measure wide for every 3 units of measure tall).  I mention this here because the examples below were all with the 4:3 aspect ratio adjustment.  But Panasonic has a unique multi-aspect ratio sensor that I will comment upon in an upcoming post.

Below are my first takes at 24mm using 4:3 aspect ratio. These are all out-of-camera jpegs. Some folks on web forums have commented that the images they have seen on the Internet generally show softness in the corners. Perhaps I have a good copy or maybe I am easily pleased, but I don't notice any corner softness unless I zoom in on my computer monitor to 300%.  And perhaps I only notice it at this magnification because of the suggestion that there might be softness.  At any rate, at normal viewing distance, no problems.

 Gallery of 40 images: http://www.peterfraileyphoto.com/mysticseaport2010


Quite a difference a year does make

It has been a disappointing year for fall colors.  The weather has been very strange, and recent rains and wind haven't helped.

Here in the Boston area we have had (I think I heard this from one of our local meterologists) the third driest summer in recorded history.  And I have also heard that nationwide we have experienced the warmest year-to-date in recorded history.  I am sure this has had an effect on our fall colors.

Below are two images taken 364 days apart.  I was very pleased a year ago (Oct 23, 2010) with the image below which I titled "Shade Maples".  I was buying a few things at the farm stand on the other side of the street when the sun broke through storm clouds to give some great lighting on the maple trees.

The second image was taken from the vantage point of the parking lot at the same farm stand.  I took the shot this afternoon, Oct. 22, 2010 just so I could compare it with last year's image.  But it wasn't until I got home and checked the information on my computer that I realized the pictures were taken almost exactly a year apart.


Sometimes you get surprised

I was going through some summer pictures I took at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, and I was surprised to see this frog picture, which I had entirely forgotten about.  I do now recall that he was sitting in a small cement pond looking at me among a selection of waterlilies.

As it turns out, to my surprise, this is the only image I have decided to keep from the set I took that day! Amazing that I would spend a couple of hours shooting flowers and come away only with a frog shot.
I remember thinking about adding a polarizer at the time, but took the lazy way out.  With a polarizer it is very likely that it would appear that the frog was sitting on a floating lily pad.  But now that I look at the picture I think it is better this way, as the submerged lily pad is part of the story.  What better way to rest while staying cool and wet! 

Since I am told one shouldn't get too cute when naming a nature photograph, I think I will merely call this one "Frog Sitting On Submerged Lilypad".


Just bought the Panasonic LX5. Some thoughts versus my Canon S90.

I just took delivery of the new Panasonic LX5, which just this past week began shipping. This was a real splurge for me as with a list price of $500 it costs more than the Olympus E-520 dSLR I bought last year including two kit lenses. But the price of the LX5 is the same as two other highend point-and-shoots: the Canon G12 and the Nikon P7000.

The LX5 is also an extravagence because I already own the Canon S90, which has many similarities, including the ability to shoot RAW; P,A,S and M modes; ISOs available in 1/3EV intervals; and 3 image bracketing. I have greatly enjoyed the S90 (4,500 images since I bought it in December, 2009) in spite of its ergonomic issues (very smooth surface).

But I have lusted after the LX series ever since I read reviews of the LX2, and with the announcement this summer of the LX5 it seemed its feature-set showed major improvements over the prior models, LX2 and LX3. I just couldn't control myself when I learned in July that Amazon was taking "pre-orders".

Your mileage may vary, but this is my list of the more awesome LX5 features not available on the S90.
  • Wide angle at 24mm effective field of view. I have never had anything wider than 28mm (S90 is 28-105 and with my Olympus dSLR I have the 28-42 kit lens and 28-54 high quality zoom), and I want to see what capabilities and photo opportunities something wider will give.
  • Maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 second compared with the S90 at 1/1600. To my way of thinking this makes the LX5 a bit more of a serious camera, as a couple of times I  have topped off at 1/1600th on the S90. Remember, on these compact cameras, the smallest aperature is usually F8.
  • Minimum shutter of 60sec. compared with 30 sec. on the S90
  • Stronger flash
  • Flash that pops up further away from the center of the lens (nearly 2" away instead of 1.5"). I'm not sure, but I think this will reduce red-eye.
  • Hot shoe for optional EVF. This is big for me. I haven't bought it yet as I am hoping a new one comes out soon with greater resolution than the current EVF-1.
  • 2.5 frames per second will be a lot more helpful when bracketing for HDR, compared with the S90s more anemic .9 fps. This will reduce the chance of subject movement and hand movement between images.
  • Lens adapter can be purchased which will allow me to use the filters I bought for my FZ8. These include closeup lenses (Canon 250D and 500D) and a polarizer.
  • Rubberized grip. The S90 is very slippery. I bet I can hold the LX5 steadier.
  • When the zoom lever is moved, a scale appears on the screen that shows you exactly where you are with respect to focal length, with grid marks for 24, 28, 35, 50, 90. With the S90 you never know what focal length you used. It doesn't even show up in the display when in review mode. The workaround on the S90 is to program the front dial ring to show focal lengths of 28, 35, 50, 85 and 105 as you turn the ring. But if you use the zoom lever you get no readings.
  • Better video capabilities. I don't know much about this. Video has not been important to me.

A couple of other thing occurred to me as I did my first fiddling with the LX5:

  • Because I use AutoISO almost all the time, I disliked the fact that the S90 only shows "autoISO" on the LCD, even when you have half-pressed the shutter button to lock in exposure. You then need to review the recorded image to find out the chosen ISO. With the LX5, the ISO chosen by the camera is displayed on the LCD when the shutter is half pressed.
  • AutoISO can be used when shooting in Manual model. I use this feature on my Olympus dSLR when photographing, for example, butterflies. I set at F11 and 1/400th second to freeze action and get good depth of field. The camera then adjusts ISO to get a good exposure. I am not sure how helpful this will be on a compact camera, but I am glad it is an included feature.
  • In P mode you can set a minimum shutter speed. At family gatherings and cookouts, I can see setting this at 1/100th or 1/125th to freeze slow action. Of course, if there is plenty of light it will move to a higher speed. But if light drops and speed hits the lower limit, ISO will be bumped up. I don't know, maybe this is a gimmick, but I am looking forward to trying it out.
  • This puppy has two four custom settings. Very cool. The S90 isn't too bad, as it has one custom mode.
  • The LX5 has a pre-focus feature that is new to me.  It is called Q-focus and is a choice within the menu system, as is the traditional continuous focus (C-focus).  In Q-focus mode focus begins as soon as the camera senses that it has steadied.  Even without this feature turned on, my sense is that the LX5 focuses faster than the S90.

On the other hand.... While the LX5 "fits" into my pocket (sort of), the S90 "slips" into my pocket (easily).  The S90 is noticeably sleeker with a lens that collapses nearly flush with the body and I love its self-closing lens cover.  Less convenient, the LX5 lens protrudes even when the camera is turned off, and I am sure I will find the lens cover annoying and I am sure I will loose one or two.  The S90 weighs a convenient 6.9 ounces.  This is actually quite a bit less than the LX5's 9.6 ounces.  If you carry your camera in a pants pocket you will notice the difference in weight.  For me, the S90 has a convenience factor that makes it easy to take everywhere.

As far as features lacking on the LX5, the S90 has focus bracketing, which I have had some fun with. In software I have combined three images to increase depth of field. It would be nice if the LX5 had this as well, but other than Canon I don't know of any makers that include this feature. Also, the front dial on the S90 is real cool. I have it set to give me traditional focal lengths of 28, 25, 50, 85 and 105. On the other hand I have set up the LX5 to use the "step zoom" feature which does the same thing by using the zoom lever that surrounds the shutter button.

Time will tell which camera I will prefer.  If the LX5 were the size of the S90, I would sell the S90 immediately.  And if the S90 had a 24mm wide angle, I would never have bought the LX5.  There's definitely a place for the S90 in my pocket.  I don't know yet where the LX5 will fit into my routine.


A morning photographing butterflies

Earlier this month I spent the morning photographing butterflies at the Butterfly Place in Westford.  I am partial to the wings-up pose, even though the underside of the wing is often dull in color compared with the top of the wing.  Below are three wings-up images.  I have posted about 10 butterfly images from my outing, showing various angles, on my photography Web site here:



The best camera is the one you have with you

I am not saying these pictures of the new covered bridge in Pepperell, MA are good or bad.  But I like them because I took them in a situation where most people (even avid photographers) would not have had a camera with them.  I had just parked my car and was walking down to the river to do some flyfishing when I decided to document the new bridge to send to my fishing buddies.

My old Pentax 33WR has been my constant companion while flyfishing, ever since I bought this first-generation water-resistant digital point-and-shoot in the spring of 2004.  This 3.2 megapixel camera probably couldn't be sold for more than $50, but it treads where other cameras wouldn't dare.  It fits nicely into my flyfishing vest and is waterproof enough to have survived at least two complete dunkings.  The last time was two years ago when I slipped off a rock and landed on my back in about 4 feet of water.  I went back to the car to get into dry clothes and realized it had fallen out during the spill.  By the time I retrieved it it had been submerged for about 30 minutes.

One of the things I like about it's feature-set is that there is no option but to shoot in Auto mode.  If it had P,A,S and M modes I probably would spend too much time tinkering.  What a relief it is to merely point the camera and press the shutter. There's even an optical viewfinder should the light be too bright to see the little (and crummy by today's standards) LCD.

For megapixels, 3.2 mp are plenty.  I have made some very nice prints from this camera as large as 9" x 12".  And for a computer monitor or Web use, 3 mp is more then plenty. For example, the maximum size that can be displayed on my 24" monitor is about 2 mp.  And the images below are shown at about 400x650 pixels, which is about 250,000 pixels which is .25mp (that's 1/4 of 1 megapixel!).  And since each pixel is about 2x as large as each of the 10mp on my high-end Canon S90 point and shoot with its slightly larger sensor, the Pentax files do quite well in post processing.  I presume this is because bigger pixels collect more light and therefore more information.

Note the underside of the bridge in the final images.  I was shocked at how easy it was to open the shadows under the bridge (I used Viveza 2.0 software) without adding noticeable noise.  I included the "before" shot as well.

After the underside shadows were opened up with Viveza 2.0 software.  (I also punched up the colors a bit in lightroom.)

Before post-processing


An ergonomic workaround for the Canon S90

The Canon S90 is a wonderful compact camera.  I take it everywhere and use it when a dSLR is inconvenient or intimidating.  In particular, for images that have strangers in it (and for what is called "street photography") I find the S90 to be unintimidating to others and less likely to draw attention to me. (tip: for real stealth, turn off all sounds).

But the S90 has the same problem that many compact cameras have.  It is sometimes hard to hold.  The S90 is particularly problematic because there are not ribbed or "nubbied" rubber areas to place your fingers.  Even with the aftermarket grip I glued onto the hand-side of the body, I did drop the camera once.  It is very slippery.

Yes, I can use the included strap, but I find straps annoying.  I have pulled pocket cams out of my pocket before, with the strap entangled with my keys. Or, if the strap is hanging out of your pocket it can catch on door knobs and the like, pulling the camera out of your pocket.  It isn't a lot of work, but I really dislike wrapping the stock strap around the camera before slipping it into a pocket. With the contraption shown here, I have solved all these problems.

It is made with a length of old fishing fly-line and a button.  I just slip the button between my fingers and I can operate the camera and adjust buttons and operate the spin dial with my thumb without fear of dropping.  A video would be cool, but the last picture is a result of spinning the camera 180 degrees along its axis with the thumb and fingers of my right hand... importantly, without fear of dropping it!