Sunday, November 21, 2010

Collolary: 135mm Ai-S (Modified)MFD

Because the whole optics moves to focus, and everything is managed by those helicoids with such an easy fine tune mechanism, just a Scotch tape, one can modify the minimum focus distance stop, without losing the ability to focus to infinity.

Because my interest in regards to this lens is in portraits, I've modified it, and now is capable of focusing at around 1m, much closer than you can get for example with the 70-200 II.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Fix a Stiff Focus Ring on a Nikon 135mm Ai-S f/2

I bought an optically and cosmetically 135mm Ai-S f/2 with very stiff focus. On this lens the focus ring moves the whole heavy optics backwards (∞) and forward (MFD), so it will never be a light as other manual lenses. My copy was declared unusable by the seller, as it was really stuck. Usually this is because the grease has dried, calling for a disassembly of the focussing helicoids, cleaning, re-lubricating and reassembling, which I did as follows:

- First, focus to ∞, mark the position of the lens, I used small post-it labels.
- Remove rubber band (A). Surprisingly, just a Scotch tape holds the focus scale ring. Remove tape.
- Now, turn from ∞ to MFD, and beyond. After you pass MFD go slowly, and mark where the outer focus helicoid looses. The lens just splits in two pieces, the optical groups as a whole on one side (B), the rear bayonet and levers on the other (C).
- Remove the focus scale ring (D), and keep on turning the focus ring still attached to the rear part, slowly, until it detaches (E). Also take care and note the decoupling point.
- Now you have the lens as shown on the picture. My lens was completely dry on the small outer focus thread ring, in any case I've cleaned and re-lubed both.

- Reversing the process is a little tricky, but nothing special, mount everything with the rings on their noted points. I used a small light to see the inner position of the aperture levers inside the lens, and played with small movements until everything was in place. Then, turning the lens towards ∞ assembles the whole thing. New Scotch tape, rubber band back, and you are done. Because the focus ring is on place with this Scotch tape, it allows for easy fine tuning of the ∞ position, in case you need to fix it a little.

Now the lens focus ring goes smooth, and ready to take pictures,

Friday, October 22, 2010

The world in his hands

Another portrait of a successful executive,

Gridded beauty dish to camera right lighting the face, softbox to camera left to light the globe. Gridded Quadra at camera left to separate the background. The grey canvas background and the feather light make wonders to the painting look of the picture.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I encountered a couple of pirates fighting for the chest,

I run away, and thanks to the Skyport range, I could take this last shoot,

I never used flashes at this long distance, but frankly, the radio trigger seems to be quite reliable.


I love this simple formula of underexposing the overall picture and highlight the face. Great for subjects with character, like this one, full of character and attitude,

Taken with the Leica 100mm 2.8 macro, CP, and Elinchrom Quadra. By the way, I have to explore more the Leica 100mm for some portraits, as it seems a very good option, full of contrast and details.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Surf, redefined

The gang has decided to redefine surf.

All you need is a new sophisticated board,

 And some dunes to surf,

All taken with the CZ 35mm, f8 1/250, Elinchrom Quadra with 50mm reflector, and Circular Polarizer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The entrepreneur

Did a classic portrait of a successful entrepreneur.

60" Photek Softlighter as fill to camera left, feather gridded beauty dish to light his face as key light.

Monday, July 19, 2010


If I were the shark, I wouldn't get too close to my kids. They are just waiting for it.

Taken with the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8, circular polarizer, and the Quadra with the 50mm reflector. Camera really close to water.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fashion/beauty session

Did a training fashion/beauty session last Sat with Cameron, a fantastic Washington DC based photographer. Quite interesting lighting schemes and lessons to learn. The models were quite professional and the results also seem to be so.

Feather your light, that's the trick.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The singer and the writer

I did a portrait of a singer, Lolita, and her biographer, Javier Menéndez. Softbox to camera left, hand-painted grey background, and lots of fun with the subjects.

This will go on the back cover of their new book, soon to be published.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer time

Summer is coming, time for heavy sun and difficult light situations. Not every picture asks for a flash, though ...

Manual exposure and focus, 50mm.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


This winter has been quite rainy, and flowers abound.Quite a pity they wont last too long.

200mm f/2.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Just one shot to portrait a soccer star

Just one shot, I have to score!

Twenty minutes setting the lights, and you only have one chance to shoot, so it better be good.
I've always had the opinion that family photography is much more difficult and demanding than other types.

Fashion? Celebrities? They want/need to be in the picture, and they want to look good.
Kids? They just want to play, and their patience, well, they do not have that.

In any case, we were lucky. Two stripboxes at the sides, the gridded beauty dish lighting the face.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stormy weather

I love cloudy skies, if anything because they are not frequent in Madrid, not the least because they help to reduce the ambient light to manageable levels.

This picture of the best rider in the world with his fellow pony was taken in the afternoon, and the sky was really covered. Again, a gridded beauty dish, I love the focused and controlled beam of soft light that it produces.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More on converting the Leica 90mm to AIs

This is the 90mm without the bayonet, 

See the bayonet conversion here,

Digging into the F-mount specs, all we need is to hold and release the diaphragm, while indicating the aperture. Two options for the latter, either we chip the lens as indicated by Bjørn Rørslett, or we develop some ugly external meter coupling. We leave this for later.

The real improvement for us to forget about stop-down metering is to manage the diaphragm. To hold and release it, two problems are to keep us busy. First, the rotation sense is opposite to Nikon's (not the either way, it's them who turn to the opposite side), and second, the radius of the Leica diaphragm control mechanism is bigger than the one in the Nikon mechanism.

There is some space between the rear lens group and the bayonet, and it seems to be more space inside, I have not disassembled the lens further. Before that, I´de like to explore possible mechanic alternatives. If we can solve the control with a simple mechanism, it seems straightforward to design an epoxy resin piece to hold it, the cpu contacts block, and to fill the empty space to avoid internal dust.

Probably simple levers with some spring to make it fly will do. Ideas?

Follow the discussion here.

Leica 90 f/2 example

I took this picture yesterday with the 90mm.

To help in using a wide aperture, I used a polariser filter, which worked for f/2.8 with the flash at minimum setting. One gridded beauty dish to the left of the camera. Then I had to play with the shutter speed to find the proper balance of the ambient light with the flash, and ended up using 1/50, and a bit of luck.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Quest for the Perfect Portrait Lens

I'm seeking a perfect prime in the 85-105mm range. I want it for portraits (FF), both outdoors and studio.

I have ruled out the 105 and 135 DC primes, I do not like that complication. Some alternatives that I have explored:
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4, very nice on DX, but does not focus close enough in FF, and sharpness and purple fringing/CA wide open leaves lots of room for improvement.
  • Carl Zeiss ZF 85mm f/1.4. Much better that the Nikon, but neither focuses close enough.
  • Carl Zeiss ZF 100mm f/2. What a nice lens this is. Lovely in so many aspects. Two problems though. CA wide open is easily observable, and focusing is quite a challenge for medium distances. As a macro lens, it is optimized for close focus, and the focus scale has a lot of range for short distances. The focus throw needs however micro adjustments for medium-long focus distances, and it is not always easy to nail it.
  • Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AIs. I´m waiting for one to test, I´m expecting similarities with the Nikon 85mm, AF aside.
  • Leica R APO 90 f/2, converted to F-Mount using the bayonet. Sharpness can't be better wide open, colours and contrast are fantastic, and it really focuses very close (0.7m). The perfect lens? Yep, if it wasn't that the conversion turns it into a dumb lens. No diaphragm control means that you have to really close it and focus and meter stopped down. Nice for wide apertures, but useless for studio and where you may need f/8 or smaller, depending on the ambient light.
As of today, I´m using the CZ ZF 85mm for studio, where I need/want f/9 or f/11, and the Leica 90mm for outdoors wide open, or stopped down to f/4. It would be so nice if the Leica 90 could be fully converted to AI-s ...

Saturday, February 13, 2010