The Contraption

Ok, there’s a bit of a story behind this, over the past few years I’ve been a bit of a wide angle addict but recently needed to produce some more ‘correct’ images i.e. buildings with straight vertical lines. So, using my trusty 14-24mm I found myself feeling rather uninspired by the results and thoughts quickly turned towards a desire for a 24mm tilt-shift. At roughly the same time there was also a food photo assignment which got me considering all the benefits in the studio of having an 85mm tilt-shift to hand but these two beauties are not cheap and so the mind wondered about other solutions.

I’ve known of the concept of bolting a dSLR on the back of a 4×5 system for a while but only really considered it in terms of replacing a polaroid, although, not being a large format guy I would just look on with envy at the movements but appreciate the convenience of a digital 35mm system (don’t get me wrong, I love film, just can’t justify losing a day at a time to develop-scan-refine to be at the same point as when I upload digital raw files). There is also a very nice Mamiya RB67 setup that I have that never gets used, so in the mixing pot of the mind the elements came together and ‘The Contraption’ idea was born

After more thought and a healthy amount of googling I found that there were are few out there that had done similar things (Alex Koloskov being a strong point of reference), with plans in my head, some knowledge of engineering and a large dose of ignorance, I was sure it would work 😉

Firstly I needed a monorail camera and managed to get a very nice Sinar P from the usual online auction site, this came with 4 lenses and some other goodies, oh how tempted I was to leave it untouched and just enjoy it as intended. Right, to work, task one was to mount the D800e on the rear assembly; this was done by removing the rear standard and disassembling the mount from the frame (also took the opportunity to replace the front standard with the better condition frame from the rear standard). Using some aluminium square section I drilled and tapped (M4) 4 holes as per the removed frame such that the section could fastened to the rear standard mount, also in the section I drilled an 6.5mm hole so I could pass through a 1/4″ BSW machine bolt (oh, and a 10mm hole on the other side of the section to allow for the head of the bolt), the bolt is then fastened into a Manfrotto 394 Plate Adapter (using a 3/8″ – 1/4″ thread adapter)

Having read somewhere on the internet (so I know it must be true) that large format lenses are really not that great and the large format folk more than make up for this shortcoming with huge details filled negatives, something about the fact that medium format and 35mm are hard fixed boxes so tolerances and calibration are tight but the move-around nature of large format make such things less critical – dunno but I want to use my Mamiya glass anyway 🙂

A Mamiya extension donated it’s mount to the project, the only lens boards that came with the Sinar has holes in them that were too large for the Mamiya mount (apart from a recessed board that might well be used in the future), to resolve this a spare barn door was sacrificed, this was cut down, marked, drilled and tapped (M2.5) to suit the mount and the lens board (which was also drilled to allow it to be bolted to the ex-barn door). As this was all done by hand I didn’t have the means to cleanly machine the large hole, please excuse the rather messy hand file finish

This only leaves the bellows, here I need to be honest and admit that I’ve not done them as yet, the intention is to use some neoprene that I have along with a couple of bits from an old extension tube. What we have here is the current temporary solution that consists of nothing more that a T2 – Nikon adapter and a quantity of gaffer tape

That’s about it, just need to get on with taking some pictures with it!

Colour or Black and White?

Following an attempted murder of my good self whereby I was dragged out of my cozy studio and once loaded up with approx. 30kg of gear made to walk up the hill of doom, ok, in reality we were checking out potential locations for upcoming courses and my good friend John, being the outdoor type, has a better understanding of these things.

Anyway, we ended up at our second location and put the cameras to further use and here’s an image that I got, usually the choice of to process in colour or black and white is clear (and certainly in this case I was using an ND filter that I was aware suffers from colour issues so monochrome was in my mind) but here the image works both ways, so I guess the preference for Colour or Black and White is purely subjective

Click on the images for larger versions:

Nikon D3X vs Fujifilm S5 Pro Dynamic Range (well, highlight recovery test)

As some of you fine folk out there may well be aware, I’ve always been a great fan of my Fuji S5, so much so that I bought a second one (and an S3 just because I’ve always thought they look damn fine). Anyway, after recently adding the most awesome Nikon D3X to my arsenal, a reorganisation of my camera bag was in order, along with facing the prospect of living without the S5 being in there as the D700 takes it’s place as the back-up body.

Having taken the D3X out on Sunday for a bit of a test run, one of the main things that I was interested in was how well it handled highlight recovery, first impressions is that it’s pretty much in the same ballpark as the D700 (and other regular CMOS sensor based cameras). This means only one thing, a (less than) scientific test is required!

The S5 has a 35mm f2 and the D3X has a 50mm f1.4, the sun was setting (not the greatest sunset but there was some clouds and colour in the sky). Both cameras were set to ISO 100, f5.6 at 1/10 second to create a overexposed image

D3X image as shot:


S5 image as shot:


So, not a lot of difference, yes the images were taken at the same time, no the guy doesn’t appear in the S5 shot – in reality there was 5 seconds difference as only when I was taking the shots that I realised I had reset the self-timer on the S5 to just 5 seconds, ok maybe they were not taken at exactly the same time but are we really going to quibble over 5 seconds?

Now to the recovery, I’m not doing anything interesting and not bothered too much about making the image too pretty at this time, I just want to see what’s there in that big lump of white that was the sky.

Using Adobe Camera Raw with exposure set to -4.00, recovery at 100% and fill light at 100% the expedition into the highlights commenced, and the results? – see for yourselves:

D3X (ACR e:-4.00/r:100%/f:100%)


S5 (ACR e:-4.00/r:100%/f:100%)


Interesting but not really unexpected findings, the Fuji S5 (and S3) remains to be the ruler of the kingdom of dynamic range, my only problem now is how to carry three bodies in my bag.