Seeing round corners - or eyes in the back of your head
Have you ever sat in a Toyota Fortuner fitted with the trick special rear
vision mirror mounted on the front passenger mudguard to assist the driver
in parking? The mirror is around 200 mm back from the front of the vehicle,
and yet it lets you see the very front of the car. Fascinating optical
However, I only recently came across a
camera lens which has a 220 degree field of vision. Remembering back to
geometry, 180 degrees is the field of vision you have from one side of your
head to the other. You cannot look behind you at the same time. But this
lens does, just like the Fortuner mirror, this lens was built by Nikon in
1970. Forty years ago this optical technology was already being used.
It is known as the Fisheye-Nikkor 6 mm
f2.8 lens, first shown in 1970 at the Photokina trade show in
Cologne, and held the distinction of not only offering an angle of view of
220 degrees, but also being known at the time as the world’s most “extreme
wide-angle” lens, and which it still is, forty years later! The lens
officially went into production in 1972 and uses multi glass elements in
nine groups with a total weight of more than 5 kg. This extremely
wide-angle lens from Nikkor is also extremely rare and I only became aware
of it when it was offered by Grays of Westminster in the UK for £100,000 GBP
(approximately $161,400 USD, or 5 million THB) for those of you with the
The specifications of this lens
Focal length/Aperture: 6 mm f2.8
Lens construction:12 elements in 9
Picture angle: 220 degrees
Aperture scale: f2.8-f22
on both standard and aperture-direct readout scales
Exposure measurement: Via full aperture
method; meter coupling ridge provided for AI cameras and meter coupling shoe
for non-AI cameras
Distance scale: Graduated in meters and
feet from 0.25m (0.9 ft.) to infinity (00)
Weight : 5,200 gm
Dimensions: 236 mm diameter x 171 mm
long (overall); 160 mm extension from lens flange
Filters: Built-in: skylight (L1BC),
medium yellow (Y 48), deep yellow (Y52); orange (056), and red (R60)
Front lens cap: Slip-on
Those with an interest in photographic
history will remember that this extreme wide lens was introduced around the
same time as the longest reach Nikkor lens - the 2,000 mm f11 Reflex
Nikkor. Now that is a monster, and Nikkor then possesses not only the
widest angle, but also the longest reach in 35 mm photography.
Its specifications are:
Focal length/Aperture: 2000 mm f11;
Lens construction: 5 elements in 5 groups
Picture angle: 1°10'; Diaphragm: None;
Aperture scale: None
Exposure measurement: Via stop-down
Distance scale: Graduated in meters and
feet from 18m (60ft.) to infinity (00)
Dimension: 262 mm x 598 mm
Filters: 4 types Built-in: ultraviolet
(L37C), medium yellow (Y48), orange (056), and red (R60)
However, neither of these lenses are
ones you will see the local pro-shooter pulling out of his bag. The
practicality is not there, even though both lenses deliver what you would
expect from such ‘ultimate’ optics. Both are very heavy lenses and their
use could be described as cumbersome. Finally, since it is not an entirely
day to day usage optic lens, they are only made available through special
order. This ultimate fish-eye+ lens is more of a status symbol than a
viable commercial application lens for photography. More of a Rolls-Royce,
when a Toyota Fortuner will do!
But 5 million baht will get you a nice
house, a Mercedes-Benz or four Fortuners. It is impossible to justify the
purchase of a lens such as this, though the technology that produced it can
be looked upon in awe.
But once again, for those who wish to
achieve certain optical objectives and if price is not an important issue,
it does fulfill many objectives such as situations where you need a high
performance wide angle lens with extreme wide coverage to use for low
available light photography, or fulfilling scientific and researchers
aspirations, this lens is indeed a dream lens for them. Or even looking
behind yourself to see where you have been!
Today’s column is brought to you by the numbers 15 and 16
In photography you will find that on your SLR will be a shutter speed called
“15”. This represents 1/15th of a second, and for many
photographers you would think that 1/15th is something akin to a
long time exposure. It is not, and even without optical image stabilization
electrotrickery, offered on many DSLR’s, this shutter speed can actually be
hand held, as long as some basics steps are adhered to.
There seems to be an idea in the
photographic world that anything slower than 1/60th of a second cannot be
hand-held, and you must use a tripod. This is tripe - unless you have some
medical condition resulting in uncontrolled shaking spasms, but I think is a
carry-over from Box Brownie days.
The reason to use 1/15th is to expand
the light range in which you can take shots without flash, such as sunsets
for example, or to bring out the background, even when using flash. You
know the shots taken at a function where you get someone looking like a
startled rabbit in blackness, where if you had used a 1/15th shutter speed
you would have got a nice mellow background to soften the picture.
Of course there are a few tricks to
hand-holding at the slower shutter speeds. The first is to steady yourself
and that can be done easily by leaning against a wall or a pole (preferably
not a chrome one attached to a go-go dancer). The second is to hold the
camera firmly in both hands, take a breath in and hold it and then gently
depress the shutter button. I have even shot at ½ a second by holding the
camera firmly pressed down on the back of a chair. Take a few as some will
have obvious camera shake, but you will get at least one good one.
Still on the number 15. There is a
theoretical f stop which could be called f 15. F stops after all are only a
way of measuring the diameter of the aperture inside the lens, to bring it
to its simplest terms. As you go through the usual f stops of f 8 to
f 11 to f 16, you are actually cutting the light down by one
half each time. The f stop scale is also an inverse ration, as the
bigger the number, the smaller the diameter. There is a good mathematical
reason for this, but just believe me.
If you really want to get technical,
for example, f/16 means that the aperture diameter is equal to the
focal length of the lens divided by sixteen; that is, if the camera has an
80 mm lens, all the light that reaches the film passes through a virtual
disk known as the ‘entrance pupil’ that is 5 mm (80 mm/16) in diameter. The
location of this virtual disk inside the lens depends on the optical
design. It may simply be the opening of the aperture stop, or may be a
magnified image of the aperture stop, formed by elements within the lens.
The f stop scale is a sliding
one, allowing for fractional differences in the light allowed through to the
film (or the digital sensors). Most old cameras had an aperture scale
graduated in full stops but the aperture was continuously variable allowing
the photographer to select any intermediate aperture, and thus it would be
possible to shoot at f 15.
The continuously variable aperture
cameras slowly disappeared, with ‘click-stopped’ aperture became a common
feature in the 1960s; the aperture scale was usually marked in full stops,
but many lenses had a click between two marks, allowing a gradation of one
half of a stop.
On modern cameras, especially when
aperture is set on the camera body, f-number is often divided more
finely than steps of one stop or half a stop. Steps of one-third stop (1/3
EV) are the most common, since this matches the ISO system of film speeds.
Enough technical details! Understand the numbers 15 and 16 and how they
affect your final image, and you will expand your photographic abilities.
Camera fun at night
No, I am not suggesting you smuggle your camera into Nekkid a-go-go; the
bouncers in these places tend to frown on such antics. What I am suggesting
this week is that you experiment with the time exposure facility on your
Yes, this is a time where the trusty
compact will not do the job for you, and let’s face it, you bought an SLR
because of its capabilities to take different photos, and for you to have
fun experimenting with taking ‘real’ photographs and not just ‘record’
shots. A ‘record’ shot is one of wet people at Songkran for example,
‘recording’ what happens, with no real input from the photographer.
Let’s get down to it. How many times
have you used the “time exposure” facility on your camera? So when was the
last time you tried using a time exposure? Probably “never”! That is the
usual response to that question.
The reason for this is simple. It all
sounds too complicated, you need to have a tripod, don’t know how to work it
out, the list goes on. It is a shame that people feel this way, because you
can get some spectacular shots with time exposure and it really isn’t all
that difficult these days. Let me show you how!
Let’s address the “too technical”
first. A camera is purely a device that lets a certain amount of light fall
onto electronic sensors for a predetermined amount of time. This is the old
“f8 at 1/60th” sort of routine (also known as the
photojournalists creed - f8 and Be There!). The number of the “f”
stop (the aperture) tells you how large the hole is that lets the light in,
and the 1/60th denotes how long the hole was left open. Is that
really technical? No!
What do you need for Time Exposure
photography? Well, a camera is a good start, but it has to be one with “T”
or “B” settings. The “T” setting stands for Time Exposure - one “click”
opens the shutter, the second “click” closes it. “B” originally stood for
“bulb” and the way that works is by holding the shutter release down keeps
the shutter open until you take your finger off, which closes it. Why two
settings? Simple, use “B” for time exposures up to a minute and “T” for
longer ones (mainly because your finger will go numb holding the button down
for 20 minutes!).
What ISO speed rating should you use?
I am sure your DSLR has 400 ASA which is fine (but you can use anything, I
generally just use the standard 100 ASA I use for everything). Now you may
have read about “reciprocity failure” with long time exposures. Give up
reading! It’s photo industry techo-talk and won’t stop you getting good
pictures, it just could change the colors a bit, but with digital cameras
this is not a worry either, most digitals compensate by themselves.
The final piece of equipment you need
is a tripod, but even that is not 100 percent necessary. But it is easier
The important point to grasp, is that
all Time Exposure photography is “hit and miss”. There’s no real way anyone
can tell you exactly “f8 and 24 seconds”. There’s too many
variables, but all you have to do is to take the same scene or picture with
several different exposure times - one of them will be right. Believe me!
Here’s the rough guides. In all of
these the aperture (f stop) is set on f8. Now to take a
street scene at night, try 2 seconds, 4 seconds and 8 seconds. For the
interior of a room, lit with ordinary light bulbs, try 5 seconds, 10 seconds
and 20 seconds. To take a picture, just before dawn try 5, 10 and 20
seconds. Now, for a completely dark, night landscape (or seascape) try 30
seconds, 1 minute and 2 minutes. And for a different sunset, try one second
and half a second.
Make a note of the order your time
exposures were shot in, and note the “best” result. Sure, sometimes colors
will be strangely different - but if you wanted a “normal” shot you’d have
taken it in daylight, wouldn’t you?
Weird photographers - Edweard Muybridge
Muybridge’s bison on the hoof.
Photography can certainly bring out some of the real
characters in this world. I was reminded of this the other day when Mr.
Google had several shots in sequence of a horse galloping by. This was the
work of one very weird photographer, Edweard Muybridge who was one of the
‘characters’ in the history of photography. However, while decidedly
eccentric he did further scientific knowledge and in fact made the first
cinema projector, so should be remembered fondly.
Muybridge was actually born
plain Edward Muggeridge in the UK in 1830 but emigrated to America in the
early 1850’s and changed his name (as did a lot of other people emigrating
in those days - and even these days to places like Chiang Mai). Edward’s
reasons for emigration were not stated.
In the 1860’s he
took up photography and gained some fame as a topographical photographer and
even published a book, “Scenery of the Yosemite Valley” in 1867, so Ansel
Adams was not the only one to see the possibilities in the majestic
However, it was the
photography of motion that attracted Edweard. In 1872 he finally managed to
successfully photograph a horse in motion showing that at certain times all
four hooves are off the ground simultaneously, this fact being one of much
controversy and wagers. Unfortunately, immediately after proving his point,
he was tried for murdering his wife’s lover - but
was acquitted. He was then sued for divorce by the distraught lady and
finally widowed. All this kept Edweard away from his photography of motion
for four years.
photography, with the millionaire railroad builder, Leland Stanford as his
sponsor, Edweard developed a unique system in 1878 which was in reality 12
cameras mounted side by side and operated by trip wires. By the following
year he had expanded this to 24 cameras and could thus take very short time
interval photographs of horses, dogs, pigeons and goats in motion. This in
turn led to photographing moving humans, despite enormous problems in
getting people to walk past his battery of 24 cameras in the nude! However,
by 1881 he published these in a book.
His next objective
was to show these as motion and he invented the “Zoopraxiscope” which
projected sequences of these photographs mounted on a glass disc to give the
impression of true motion. This was in fact the worlds first cinema
projector and preceded Thomas Edison’s “Kinetoscope” by some twelve years.
In 1882 Edweard went
to Europe, hopeful of raising sponsorship to continue his photographic study
of movement, but returned to America with empty pockets. He was then lucky
enough to get backing from the University of Pennsylvania. They kept him
alive while he photographed 2000 models, male and female, clothed and nude,
as well as wild animals. When he ran out of models, he even used himself,
taking his serial shots of himself walking up and down ramps. 20,000
photographs of almost 800 different subjects were published in a book called
“Animal Locomotion” in 1887.
Once again, he was
to run out of money for his grandiose schemes and tried selling the “Animal
Locomotion” book at $100 a book. Needless to say it was not an overnight
This led our Edweard
to new heights. He built a hall to demonstrate the Zoopraxiscope, called
the Zoopraxographical Hall in the 1893 Chicago World’s Colombian
Exhibition. This was the world’s first movie theatre and predated the
Lumiere brothers “Cinematographe” presentations by three years.
inventiveness, the world did not beat a path to his studio and Edweard
decided he had enough of this photography lark, returning to the UK, where
he bequeathed all his photographic equipment to the local library. At the
turn of the century he reprinted his original books, earning enough to eke
out his last four years of life.
Of course, what
Edweard did not realize was that almost 100 years later the scientific
community would find that he had left them the most complete records of
animal motion ever produced and in fact in 1979 his books were republished.
It’s a (ed)weird world we live in!