1/30/15

F.T.D. - Herbophile.

Annual Men Have to Do Some Stuff And Women Too, I guess, Yeah Right day is coming up, and maybe you're a man and maybe you need a reminder not to screw it up. AMHDSWTYR is a day where the guys have to spend  a bunch of money and make a bunch of arrangements to avoid getting the stinkeye for six weeks. There is no way you will be remebered for giving her a great AMHDSWTYR day, but your name will be written in the Scrolls of Remembering in letters of fire if you get it wrong. You can only screw it up or get a pass, and the question is "What's that gonna take?" Screw it up and none of the special surprises you've given her on ordinary days will matter at all. The memory bucket for your good deeds has holes in the bottom, but the one where your mistakes are stored is like tupperware: everything is always fresh. If you screw up AMHDSWTYR day, you're worse than fifty Hitlers with leaky diapers.

You'd better play it safe and just write her an opera about your boundless and expanding love for her eyebrows, but you'd better even more get some flowers too. Enter F.T.D.

This lady loves loves luuuuvs flowers. She might even be dating the flowers. It's hard to tell if the flowers are into it, because they may have just gotten out of a bad relationship with a pair of scissors. But, at least the flowers got her some flowers. Like The Bard said, "If music be the stuff of life, shut up and just get the damn flowers."

These days, you can send flowers over the internet of course, if you must. But, try to get flowers from a local shop and pick them up yourself if you have any choice at all. If you get flowers online, whatever you think you're going to spend on the arrangement will be roughly doubled once you get near the virtual front door, after they've added on all the fees and service charges. So, yeah, try to pick them up at a local shop yourself, and get more flowers for the same money. You're supposed to be throwing money at your significant other, not the flower broker. Top tip right there.

Also, if you live in Chicago, take her to Shaw's Crab House. If that's too expensive, it's perfect. She'll love that you overextended yourself financially in such an unsustainable way. It shows that you're foolish and self-destructive, which is romantic, as long as you do it for her.


1/29/15

The drink threat.

 Joke #1 - "All right. If you're really my mother, prove it. Drink this anti-mother-impostor syrum."

Joke #2 - "Drink the Yoo-Hoo or your precious candle gets it."

Joke #3 - By the early 2000s, Pepsico was finding it harder and harder to find test subjects for new varieties of Mountain Dew.

Joke #4 - "Wait a minute! You're not Sarah Jessica Parker at all. You're barely even Dee Snider. Hands up, and put down that congac!"

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







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 beautiful, 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?