Jon Martin Photo

Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 180mm f2.8

by on Dec.08, 2011, under Gear

The 180mm Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 2.8 lens isn’t a lens that I use often, but it is a joy to use when I need it. It’s a beast to hand hold and unfortunately my copy doesn’t have a tripod mount, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to use. Now when I say fun, I mean it’s a pain. The lens weighs almost 3 lbs and the focus ring (largest part of the barrel) adjusts the lenses relatively slowly when compared to newer models. If that were all I was interested in though, I would be missing out on what the real qualities of this lens are. At 2.8 the depth of field is super shallow and with the Jena’s 180mm focal length, the field compression and bokeh are outstanding. Like most Zeiss lenses, the contrast and sharpness are well balanced as all good lenses should be. I use the Canon Eg-S Super Precision Matte Focusing Screen to help me tame that shallow depth of field as easily as possible since there’s no focus confirmation (fully manual).

One other quick feature that I think is neat is the aperture stop for stop down metering. Like all manual cameras, you normally focus with the lens set to wide open (say 2.8 in this case) and then stop down the aperture until you have the depth of field you need (lets say f8). You then meter the scene and take the image. Keep the shutter speed set the same and as long as the scene stays relatively the same, focus at 2.8 and stop down to f8 for correct exposures. On a normal lens, you can memorize the click stops or have the camera mounted on a tripod so that you can look at the lens and see what f-stop you’re stopping down to. With the version I have of the 180mm Sonnar, you can actually set a separate stop ring on the front of the lens to the desired closed down aperture setting (f8 as above) and the lens will only stop down to that setting and no further! While this isn’t rocket science or brain surgery or talking to women, it just makes sense to me and I wonder why more lenses don’t have this feature and am guessing the advent of AF is to blame.

Most of the 180mm Carl Zeiss Jena lenses were designed for use on a medium format camera and then adapted to fit onto 35mm bodies straight from Zeiss (think Contax or Exakta). The mount on my version was made for a Pentacon 6 (P6), but came with an EOS conversion mount which I use on my Canon 5dII even though I wouldn’t mind using it on a Pentacon 6 should the opportunity arise. The filter thread size is 77mm so even though the one I purchased didn’t come with a hood, I bought a generic version off bay for under $10. I got lucky in that my lens came with a 77-82mm filter thread adapter and an 82mm lens cap. To mount the 77mm hood, I removed the filter thread adapter and attached the 77mm hood. It just so happened that the hood didn’t come with or list what size lens cap it needed and it turned out to be 82mm. Now isn’t that convenient.

According to the small amount of information I’ve been able to find about my lens, it was made between 1955-58 in East Germany. Many different websites call this version of the Carl Zeiss Jena 180mm (black) an Olympia Sonnar and while I don’t know how true that is, I do know the original 18cm Olympia Sonnars were made for the 1936 Olympic Games (hence Olympia). Those lenses were chrome plated and designed to work with rangefinder cameras via a Flektoskop (similar to what Leica calls their Visoflex systems which I think were introduced around the same time). Whether or not my lens is designed like an original Olympia internally doesn’t really matter to me as it won’t change how it performs now and I’m OK with that.

Now for some really random images. (As a side note, all of these images were taken hand held and the B&W images were taken from a car while riding passenger on a small road trip)

10-1-11 The back stairwell

by on Dec.03, 2011, under Text

When leaving the Greenwood Museum in my last post, I came and left using the back stairwell. The only reason I chose to use the stairs in the first place was that the door was open and light was pouring into it from this one window. With the color palette and light seeming to come together I really couldn’t help but take a picture. If I ever end up back there around the same time of day, I’m taking a picture of someone on those stairs if I have to pull them in off the street!

Where to start. I knew of collodion photography in name only as I had read in many different places that early photographers used this process to produce images. The how, what, and why of it I had no clue and that’s where Owen Riley comes in. I met Owen the same way I’ve met other professional photographers in the upstate…by buying and selling camera gear on Craigslist Greenville of coarse. Once talking with him, I came to find out he actually does collodion photography on a regular basis and that he would be doing a mini workshop at Click646 in Greenwood SC on 10/1/11. I decided I had to see this for myself so I made sure to put it on my “schedule” which basically means I asked my wife and we set up a plan because taking care of a child under 2 needs team work.

The allotted pre-configured day came quickly and at 2:00 (the workshop started at 3:00) with 15 minutes to spare, I grabbed my camera and went out on the first mini adventure I’ve had in a while now. Turns out you can easily burn through 15 minutes when you’re not 100% sure where you’re going and apparently are also blind. I did eventually find a place to park and made my way to the courtyard beside the “how could I miss this huge” Federal Building. Once there (though I was a few minutes late) I listened to Owen explain some background on the history of photography and wet plate printing as well as the different mediums such as tintype and ambrotype. Right after the intro, it was on to the work of making a photograph.

Owen went through the process of capturing a tintype image using a full-plate tailboard camera (using half plates in this instance) which seems slightly surreal to watch. It almost doesn’t seem possible to make an image when you look at just the base materials even though I mildly understand what happens. (Of course, if that’s mind blowing then converting light to ones and zeros is absolutely impossible.) A few more tintype photographs and one ambrotype made in a 4×5 camera later and it was over. Lots of questions were asked by many different people and Owen even helped 3 different 2 person groups of people make an image themselves from start to finish after the workshop. It was a knowledge gathering experience for most of the attendees and I know I absorbed more information than I initially processed while I was there.

I took a few pictures of my own as a way to remember what happened and what went into the processes that I saw. I find photography can take me back to a place and time much better than my ADD mind has ever been able to accomplish on it’s own. If you haven’t done so before and there are people in your area that do workshops with early photographic processes, you owe it to yourself just to see them in action (especially when it’s free like this one was). I know I’ll have to try my hand at it one day and that’s for sure.


Reflection of the courtyard in the window of the Countybank Gallery at The Arts Center

Owen explaining the process of and showing how to pour the collodion over the tin.

Owen composing and checking the focus on the first image using the half-plate camera.

Lots of steps are skipped and the image is being captured. I’ll let the rest do their own talking


As a side note, I also visited the Greenwood Museum as well to see the Click646 Professors Invitational Exhibit and the Scholastic Invitational in the Countybank Gallery at The Arts Center. I must say I really enjoyed viewing the images from our local professors and students in person. It’s not often I get the opportunity/ time to go to any kind of gallery, so it was nice to see these local artist’s work displayed on their actual mediums instead of on my computer screen.

Links from this article

Owen Riley’s Website
Wiki Collodion Photography
Click646 a photographic collective
Greenwood Museum
Countybank Gallery at The Arts Center


by on Dec.01, 2011, under Tips

Evernote Logo

Out of the blue tip for you: If you’ve never used Evernote and you browse the internet daily, you really should check into it.  It’s been out for a few years now and while I jumped on board last year, I haven’t really started taking advantage of it until these past few months.  Evernote is a free “note” making / taking program that you put on all of your personal (not shared) computers and it allows you to sync all of your notes from all of your computers so that you always have them with you.  Now add Mozilla Firefox (my preferred browser) to the mix with Evernote’s Web Clipper add-on installed and you can copy entire webpages with a single click.  If you just want a snippet, simply highlight what you want to save and click the Web Clipper button. A few seconds of magic later and it’s stored in your computer’s copy of Evernote ready to be synced along with a link to the page it was clipped from. I highly recommend this combination.

Before I even start, if you’re not into WordPress or getting your hands keys dirty this will be a pretty pointless post. This is more of a reminder to me about what I did and when I did it kind of a thing. Maybe it will help someone else, I don’t know, but here it is. Skip to the bottom for the highlights if you’re only slightly interested.

For a while now I’ve been wanting to ditch Flickr and turn my site into more of a photoblog than what I’ve been doing with it thus far. I use WordPress to manage my blog and the problem with using it for photoblogging is that you can only post It drove me a little bonkers just thinking about it and to top it off, if I wanted to use lightbox it meant hard coding everything. I’ve been doing that up until this point that and it’s pretty much why I put off doing anything on the site. “But” many WordPress aficionado’s would say “there are plug-ins for posting multiple pictures at one time” and they’d be right. Multiple downloaded plug-ins and crashed sites later, I found out that none of them work with WordPress version 2.7.1 and there in lies the reason for this post.

My first thought was “so I’ll update WP to v3.2.1, no big deal”. Wrong. I click update and nothing happens. Turns out that in order to update, you need MySQL5 on your server. First I had to learn what that was. Then I had to figure out if my host ( offered it and how to update the server. In order to update it, turns out I needed to update my database. Updating a database means creating a new database by backing up my current DB and then transferring it to the new blank DB; in effect making the new old again. This also means changing my WordPress configuration files (not a big deal). Wait, if I’m having to back-up the DB, shouldn’t I also back-up the website it’s self if my main goal is upgrading my WP install? frick.

I have a Mac now (in case you missed the post) and I haven’t found a good ftp program. I had been using 1and1′s ftp access through their site, but downloading my site (and other sites I work on mostly for my wife) isn’t really an option due to how slow and unreliable that connection is. I decided to go ahead and back up the database as I wouldn’t need any special programs. Turns out, in reading the directions for the MySQL5 database upgrade, I found I needed an HTML editor in order to take out a few lines of code. In their directions, they list Notepad++ as a good free option and I had used it on Windows XP before so yeah, it was a no brainer. They don’t make a Mac version. Well, drawing back on my memory from months and months ago when I first created this site (before I knew what CSS was), I remembered Aptana and thank God they have a Mac version. I had used Aptana in the past, but only for a few minutes as I had no idea what I was doing (I thought it was a WYSIWYG editor) and promptly deleted it. While on the 1and1′s MySQL upgrade page, they actually recommend Filezilla (which is free) for FTP access. Downloaded it and it’s awesome. I was able to quickly download the whole site and swap out files almost effortlessly; it’s a great little piece of software.

Now that all the downloads are said and done, I created, updated, and swapped the databases. I then edited my WP wp-config files to reflect the database swap and then checked the site to make sure everything works. Done. So now I’m up and running and my computer has all the necessary programs to keep it that way. Sweet. Now back to those pesky plug-ins. I tried Faster Image Insert first and as it turns out, it’s all I needed to accomplish multiple file uploads and an auto insert. As a word of warning though, uploading your pictures and not inserting them immediately into the html window and saving as a draft results with pictures in the reverse order than when they were uploaded. Turns out you can easily re-order the pictures in any way you want by changing the numbers to the right of the file name and saving the changes. That’s convenient!

With all the updates completed, I decided to update the website’s look a little as well. Nothing major was done, just a change to a black background to better suit images and a little border fun. Let me know what you think and post a comment if this page helped you in any way.


Cliff’s Notes

Photoblog in Wiki in case you have no idea what I’m talking about is who my website host is
WordPress is how I manage my site
Faster Image Insert Plug-in is what I wanted and crashed my site
WP v 2.7.1 updating to v 3.2.1 was my new goal line
MySQL5 Database Software moved the chains and became an even more important goal
1and1′s Database Back-Up for MySQL5 conversion How-To that helped me complete all my new found goals (currently offline for maintenance but there is a copy on the Wayback Machine)
FileZilla Free FTP software for Mac
Aptana Free HTTP (CSS) Editor

DIY 5Dii tilts without ghosts

by on Jul.19, 2011, under Gear

I have put off this post for way too long as I have been fixated on getting a few more images snaphots to make this a good post. I have also been wanting to attach my tilt shift rig to a tripod to do some video with the 5Dii, but could not come up with a solution that doesn’t require trusting $6 worth of wood with my $1800 camera. Therefore, I am actually getting the tilt “L” (soon to be an upside down “T”) machined out of aluminum with the addition a tripod socket. This should fix my feelings about it’s structural integrity and make the whole project look a little more professional. In the mean time, here are a few pictures from my Canon 5Dii with the “original” tilt shift attached just as it had been when I first started the project with the Nikon D700. The lens used is the same lumenized (coated) 101mm f 4.5 Kodak Ekatar. I’m still thinking about bag bellows, a way to attach different lenses easily, and using enlarger lenses that have a wider field of view but can still focus to infinity when tilted. Please feel free to e-mail me directly via the contact page or by commenting on this post; I’m always open to new ideas.

p.s. – I also fixed my lightbox plug-in as it was malfunctioning. All thumbnail images should pop up now.

p.s p.s. – On further review, there were a few new errors since my last post that have all now been corrected now.

Canon Body Cap Drama

by on Mar.23, 2011, under Note To Self

PC-GF30 Reinforced Polymer….this is what Canon makes the body cap for the 5Dii out of. This is something I’ll remember for a while as I got a small scare when I went to cut a hole in it on the lathe. The last body cap I cut on the lathe was a generic ebay Nikon one and I had no trouble. When I tried to cut a hole in the Canon though, it caught on the cutting tool, jammed, then busted the lens mount and went shooting out. To say the least I was a little shocked. I didn’t get hurt nor was I close to getting hurt, but it was a little surprising. After inspecting the body cap, I found the letters PC-GF30 which after a minute on google I learned is a glass reinforced plastic. If I had known this before I started, I would have started a much smaller hole then enlarged but hey, that’s life. After a quick ebay order for 5 generic Canon body caps for $3 I was back in business a week later cutting it out with no problem. This body cap is going to be used back on the Ektar tilt shift for the 5dii that I haven’t had working in a while due to ghosting flares caused by my current set-up which I will post up again shortly

135mm Jupiter 37A f3.5 for Macro

by on Mar.09, 2011, under Gear

After using my cheap Focal 135mm lens for a little macro work as I posted a while ago, I wondered how well that same type of rig would work if I were using a decent 135mm lens and that’s where the Jupiter 37A came into play. With a little research via google and the phrase “cheap sharp 135mm lenses” plus some additional ebay searches I settled on the Jupiter 135mm 3.5 37A lens. I had never used a Jupiter lens so I needed to learn a few things before I purchased anything because that’s just what I like to do. After some digging on Camerapedia, I found that true Jupiter lenses don’t actually say Jupiter in English; only in Russian. If the lens says Jupiter in English, then it was actually made in Japan and is a copy of the Russian version (which happens to be a copy of a Zeiss lens but that’s another story). From what I’ve read, the Russian version has more contrast and is sharper that the Japanese and that’s the reason I went with it.

The lens came with an M42 mount, but my Topcon macro bellows was designed to work with an Exacta mount camera. The cool thing I found out about the Jupiter lens is that it has a removable mount which is the same size inner diameter as many common T-mounts (with the “T” threads removed). After a little ebay sourcing, the Jupiter lens now sports an Exacta mount and you can’t tell that it’s not how it was originally designed. With the mount in place, all I needed to do was put it on the camera and test it out which is what I did for the iMac pics in the last post.

Here’s a few pictures on the Jupiter 135mm 3.5 37A if you’re interested. I can’t recommend it high enough for a lens that only costs about $60.


by on Jan.07, 2011, under Text

Yeah, about me needing a computer in my last post….I’ve got that covered now. I was shocked; my wife surprised the heck out of me with this beauty of a 27″ i-Mac. It wasn’t a Christmas gift though, more of an I’m getting a bonus and wanted something really really nice that I know you want and will surprise you gift. Trust me, I was surprised. I never would have dreamed of getting the 27″ with it’s mind blowing 2560 x 1440 resolution, IPS LED screen, i3 3.2GHz processor, 4gb of ram, built in wi-fi, and 1tb of disk space; it’s a beast. There are faster computers and some that are a little cheaper when configured with a similar IPS monitor, but the i-Mac is a real multimedia feast that’s hard to argue with. Plus the space savings of not having a normal desktop’s tower humming beside you and not having any additional cords other than the one for power are just bonuses. I’m not saying this computer is necessary in any way, but it is a real pleasure to use. I continue to thank my wife every day for getting it for me. A few macro shots taken with a new (to me) macro rig (very similar to the one a few posts back) are below. If you haven’t seen one of these beauties be sure to go to Best Buy or an Apple store to check one out. I have only been using it a few weeks now, but I can already tell it’s going to make a big difference in my editing when compared to our laptop. Really though, how could it not?

Owned by my laptop

by on Dec.06, 2010, under Text

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

I know my HP laptop’s screen is unreliable and that the slightest change in viewing angle results in a shift in contrast and yet, out of laziness, I keep trying to edit photos on it anyway. I had been using an image that I knew was underexposed as my laptop background in the idea that if I’m viewing the screen correctly, the image will look underexposed. While this works, I have to be seated at my desk with my chair at a certain height. etc. etc. etc. It was just dumb and isn’t a good substitute for a decent screen. With my ADD, I kept forgetting that I needed to adjust the angle of the screen or that I needed to be sitting at my desk for it to work properly. I could just use my crt monitor hooked to the vga out and be done with it, but I carry the laptop all over the house as it has taken over the roll of tv and entertainment in our house. That being the case, I think it’s time for a desktop. Let’s hope Santa is in a giving mood this yr.

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