1/27/15

Nikon F - Still purdy... and so can you!

This ad comes to us from a 1966 ad in LIFE magazine. That was a special "photography issue", with a story on human vision, and how the photographic process works (or worked), and a big section in the middle with a load of photos from around the world. So, it made perfect sense for Nikon to buy a full page ad in that issue.

Nikon had nothing to prove, so they went for the soft sell, all confident and "Check us out. We're Nikon, man." And why not? They were, and are, pretty much the top of the heap.

Image pulled from KenRockwell.com
Hey, that lens looks familiar. Why, that's my 1966 Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 stuck on the front of that formerly great, unfortuante, obsolete camera, in its native habitat, as it were. Back in October when we did the "Three Fast Fifties" comparison, I really blew it for the Nikon, by using it on the amazingly shitty Fotodiox fuzzbox "corrective adapter". Yes, we ran an update to that post when I realized that all the mush was coming from the adapter and not the lens itself, but that post only had one little demonstration image to show how the Fotodiox adapter ruined all images that passed through it. The lens never really got a fair shake. So, on this, the day of the Nikon ad, why not let the '66 Nikon show off a little? Poor thing. Its gigantic f/1.4 aperture lets in lots of light, which makes it really nice for low light situations, and the hefty build quality feels mighty nice in your hand. Mine is almost fifty years old and everything still feels like butter.

Why?

Old lenses aren't necessarily worse than new ones. In the last fifty years, we haven't goteen better at grinding glass. We've just gotten better at making electronics. So, a current lens will have auto focus and image stabilization and things like that. But, if you don't mind focusing and aperturing for yourself - or, weirder still, if you LIKE doing those things manually - vintage lenses are a very cheap way to get some very high quality glass in your collection. Plus, an old lens like this one will be made from aluminum and chrome plated brass, while only some modern premium lenses are built this way. Lastly, using manual lenses give you a firmer grounding in the fundamentals of photography, so at the very least they're a worthy exercise.

How?

You can pick up a copy of this Nikon for yourself on Ebay for maybe as low as fifty or sixty dollars if you're quick with the bid button. If you do an Ebay search on "Nikkor 50mm 1.4", you'll cast a wide net that will drag back lots of lenses that aren't the exact model in this ad, or nearly as old. Look for the big, scalloped focus ring and the matte silver trim ring on the end, and you can be confident you have an example from somewhere in The Sixties.

Nikon hasn't changed their "F" lens mount since it was introduced in 1959, so if you have a Nikon DSLR, this lens will fit directly to your camera. Everybody else will need some kind of adapter.

Huh?

You can either get an inexpensive adapter that just converts one lens mount to another, or go the more exciting / expensive route and get an "active" adapter that has corrective optics in it to make sure the image is the right size when it hits your sensor. Here's a brief explanation. For more detail, please see The Rest Of The Internet.

Different camera types can have different size sensors, with "full frame" cameras having a sensor the same size as a frame of 35mm film. Other non-full-frame cameras usually have sensors smaller than that, but some (really nice, really expensive) ones have sensors larger than 35mm film, called "medium format". The cameras with smaller-then-full-frame sensors are called "crop sensors", and there are many different sizes. If you have an Interchangable Lens Camera, you probably know whiat size your sensor is.

Imagine the camera's sensor being like a movie screen in a theater, and the projected movie is the image coming in through the camera's lens. If the lens was meant for a larger sensor (screen), the image will go off the sides of the sensor, and you'll be photographing through just the center of the lens. If the lens was meant for a sensor smaller than yours, your image will be like a circular window in a rectangle of black.

A simple adapter only concerns itself with mounting the foreign lens onto your camera body, and at the proper distance from the sensor. These are about $20. A "speed booster / focal reducer" will not only do that, but will also "refocus" the incoming image so that it falls on the sensor at a size equivalent to the way it worked on the camera it was made for. These range from $100 for a Chinese unit bought on Ebay (with which I've had good luck. I have one that's way better than the Fotodiox), all the way up to roughly $400 for a Metabones Speed Booster, which, I believe, is the company that invented them.

They're called "speed boosters" because, when the full image is matched to the size of your sensor, it's recieving more light. This is like getting an additional f stop of aperture out of the lens. So, if the maximum aperture on the lens is f/1.4, that's really 1.2, or very close to it. At f/5.6, you're probably getting f/4 or something. This means you can use faster shutter speeds, which means you get less motion blur, and better pictures in low light without resorting to using a flash. I hate flash, so this is great news.

Anyway...

And, now, with apologies to the NIkon 50mm 1.4, here are the photos it deserved three months ago. All were taken with an expensive-but-worth-it Metabones Canon FD to Micro Four Thirds Speed Booster and an inexpensive Nikon to Canon FD adpater, to get it on the Metabones. Believe it or not, you can stack adapters and they'll work just fine. Also, these shots were all taken without a tripod, which is one of those things you can do with a lens this fast. Hand held shots in low light aren't too much of a problem. Just hold your breath and keep your elbows against your ribs and you should be fine.

None of these had any post-processing to speak of. A few were cropped for different framing, but that's about it.Click any one for a bigger version.

With the aperture wide open at 1.4, it's still very sharp, as long as you keep Fotodiox's adapter far away from your camera. This would have been a fine opportunity to throw the thing into the river, but it was in a box at home.






This is a larger-than-100% crop of one of those lights in the above photo. I think it's pretty sharp for a night shot at that distance.



Will it bokeh? Sure will. These are some Pointy Tree Day lights in a dark room. Bokeh balls are creamy and round at the center, and orbital almond shapes toward the edges.


This picture was taken using a Polaroid 10x close-up adapter screwed on the end of the Nikon. With that in place, focus distance is about three inches.


Tea complete. Level finish!


Nixie tubes beg for a macro shot, with their many layers of electrodes.


A nixie tube light lying on the face of a spart phone. 10x close-up adapter in place. Nice colors.





The native minmum focusing distance of the Nikon is 7.5 inches. Colors are realistic and not at all muted. It's still a 50mm, so depth of field is very shallow at max aperture. That might be a problem if I didn't like the effect so much. Or, just stop down to F5 and adjust exposure compensation, blah blah blah.

This is the "separation of subject matter from background" that makes people love the 50mm focal length.



1/26/15

Mercury Wagon - Men, men, men, men, men, men, men, men...

Nineteen sixty-six - a time when you could use the word "men" in an ad, and use it as something other than a perjorative. Mercury was "the Man's Car", or so they wanted you to believe. They wanted very hard for you to believe that.

Station wagons were made to be useful, and they were. But, their stigma of squareness led to their demise. It seems now their niche in the market has been filled by the much less sensible and much more infantile SUV, with all the bigness of a wagon, rarely with even half of the functionality. Few SUVs can even fit a sheet of 4x8 plywood in the back, but there must be some.

I think a Suburban can still haul plywood. My dad always insisted on owning a Suburban, which was basically a station wagon scaled vertically 140%. In Photoshop, use CTRL+T on a station wagon and just pull the top center control point updwards.

SUBURBANNED!


Anyway, this Mercury ad is so weiner-centric, you go through Extra Puberty just by reading it. "A man shouldn't have to treat people like baggage." "A man needs man-sized room". "Other man-pampering features..." Wait, what? I don't recall a need for "pampering" being very manly in any decade. Here's a manly sentence for you: A man shouldn't want to be pampered. Pamering is the kryptonite of toughness, in case you didn't know. This ad reads like someone trying very hard to talk like a guy, who has no real idea how to do it.

This wagon is what we call "a boat", and the copy is not ashamed to admit it. Observe:

Nice try, marketing. That's some heavy spin on the simple reality that there's a huge wood sticker on the side of your car that will dry out, crack, and peel in a couple of years. A man shouldn't have rust bubbles under his pretend wood. Hey-oh!

Click for big.



1/23/15

Car Care - Repairing & staring.







1/22/15

RCA Victor TV - Slender!

Hi, spoiled brats! It's time to stare in wonder at the "slender" televisions of 1957.

So slender! Knock nine inches off of the Longport and you have a cabinet only (estimated) eighteen inches deep! What will you do with all that extra space? Put in a sun room? A dance studio?

While we may scoff at the sheer bulk of these old TVs, they were nice and stylish. This gives reason to wonder if there's a market for more stylish flat panel TVs? Yes, current designs want only to disappear completely behind the all-important screen, but could somebody design a 56 inch LCD whose cabinet (what there is of it) looks interesting? Maybe just the stubby legs underneath your TV could look "atomic", or be made of walnut-finished formed plywood. The stand underneath my gigantic future-TV is shiny black plastic. I don't have any other shiny black plastic stuff in my living room, so it's not like the TV stand jives with anything else. All you can say for it is that it wants to be invisible... but it just isn't. Hmm. Maybe there's a niche to be filled? Maybe there's room for aftermarket TV legs of a stylish nature? If one or two manufacturers would standardize the swivel socket underneath their TVs, there could be a healthy third party market of cool looking TV legs.






These are pictures of coffee tables that I found, but you can easily imagine a set of TV legs made in a similar way.


If I were about to spend a thousand dollars or more on a TV, and I had the option to spend maybe a hundred more on a nice set of legs for the thing, I think I'd definitely choose to spend a little extra. Would you?










1/21/15

Good Decorating, Section Number B - Some more bathrooms.

Did you wake up this morning with one of those inexplicable headaches that you feel you don't deserve? Good news, sufferers! Your friend, 1970, has the bathroom solution that's just right for whatever headache you need to justify! Get ready for some happening decorating ideas that will have you singing "welcome baaack" to our own Mister Kotter, The Seventies!













Who's that vague blob in the mirror? Is it you? There's no way to tell, because your eyes are constantly sucked into this delightfully distracting, vibrating white-on-black rattan pattern wallpaper. Your eyes have been bad. Give them a spanking with this out of sight bathroom plan!
Take a trip to the country of Europe every time you excrete something into this bile-toned bathroom, featuring a shower decal that will make you feel like you're naked in the River Seine! And the Jackson Pollack wallpaper is so vibrant, you can almost smell the pigeon droppings. Weewee, madame!








This purple and green themed bathroom is inspired by Marcia Brady's groovy skirts. Be sure to keep those curtains closed - you don't want to share this visual treat with the neighbors, or they'll be beating your door down. Oh! My nose! Oh! My nose!
No matter how much "mari-juana" you smoke, you'll always remember which room your boxers go in, because we've wallpapered this combination bathroom/bedroomroom with them! Easy, right? You may want to have a nap before attempting to figure out the dryer!









Why, hello mister sun! Good morning to you, too! Thanks for the happy greeting! Okay, I'm awake now. Thanks again! No, really! I'm up. Yeah. Thanks, Sun! Heh... please stop it, Mister Sun. I'm fine now. MOOOOOMMMM!!!

1/20/15

The examination table.



Joke #1 - "Okay, Ken, it's your turn to carve the Christmas oaf this year."

Joke #2 - "Now, sir, where is this troublesome 'brain' thing that you keep complaining about?"

Joke #4 - "Now, try to relax. You may feel a slight 'inserting' feeling."

Joke #5 - "All right, now we're ready to... Oh! Wait! Can someone please bring me my massage hammers?"

Joke #6 - "Wait... Is that 'We're all going to the zoo tomorrow'?"

Joke #7 - "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times. Stop putting things in there!"

Joke #8 - "All right, ma'am. Which of your penises seems ot be the problem?"

Joke #9 - "Gentlemen, I will now remove the dish towel. You may want to move upwind."

[Commenter jokes will be added to the post.   -Mgmt.]

1/19/15

Gravy Master - Ssh!

And here we were, not knowing there was even an opening in gravying, and already Gravy Master is apparently the master of gravy. With a name like Gravy Master, you'd better have your gravy house in order. It would be awkward to be named "Gravy Master" and be really good at, say, lawn care.

"You hear a lot about gravies." Boy howdy. Sometimes it seems that's all people want to talk about. One time, I was in a car accident where this guy plowed into my driver's side door in an intersection. The man climbed from his car and ran up to my shattered window. "You're alive! Thank heavens! We have urgent gravy to discuss!" Such is the magnitude of gravy talk in the world.

Please allow this clip art to help you carefully reveal your secrets with the most cartoonish body language possible: the conspiratorial lean-in  and the protective hand, ensuring absolutely no one suspects anything is up. You're welcome.

You can use these ladies to make sure your emails are completely safe. Once people see this easily-pasted-in clip art, they'll carry your secret to the gravy...I mean, to the grave. Such secrets as:

-"Psst! You're going to be fired next month. Pass it on!"

-"Psst! You've got a brain slug sticking out of your ear."

-"Don't drink the milk! It's spoiled!"

-"I should probably wash my hands, after playing with that Possum I found in the retention pond!"

-"My husband's pregnant, and I don't think I'm the mother!"