Making a Pinhole

Pinhole
Pinhole body cap mounted on X-T1.

If you like your photos nice and sharp and don’t like blur or softness then this might possibly not be the blog post for you. You have been warned.

With World Pinhole Photography Day approaching and seeing as how my previous post was all about feeling like I was stuck in a rut, I thought it might be an idea to make a pinhole to use with my Fuji bodies. It would be fun to do the make and having a pinhole to shoot with would offer some extra creative possibilities. I’d never made one before so it would be a fun learning experience too.

As I predominantly shoot using Fuji X Series cameras these days I decided to make the pinhole to fit my Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.

A pinhole is just that – a small hole through which the light enters the camera. There’s no means to adjust the focus and the aperture is determined simply by how large or small you make the pinhole. It’s very primitive stuff but there’s often a great satisfaction to using simple methods.

I decided I would make my pinhole using a spare body cap. I didn’t want to mess up an original Fuji supplied cap so I bought a cheap third party one from Amazon. It came as a set of body cap and rear lens cap for £3.99 including delivery.

Body cap.
Fuji X Mount body cap.

I was expecting to have to wait a few more days for delivery but the caps arrived way sooner than expected on Saturday morning (today as I write) meaning I had the free time to get on with this little project.

The first thing I did was to drink some beer!

beer
Beer!

This is usually a good idea anyway of course but I needed some metal that would be easy to work. The aluminium of a drinks can would be ideal. I will grudgingly admit that you can scrape by with using a soft drink can but the best results will always be obtained from a beer can… 😉

Having drank my beer and rinsed out the can I used a can opener to take off the top end and then a pair of scissors were employed to snip out a panel from the can. Looking at the interior space of my specially acquired body cap I thought a roughly 2cm square of the metal would do the trick.

The next thing I needed to do was to find the centre of the body cap as I would need to drill a hole through it. I marked out three chords over the circle and then drawing lines at 90 degrees from the middle of each I marked the centre of the body cap. You may want to look up a proper explanation of this method of finding the centre of a circle if you want to have a go at this yourself. I don’t think I did a very good job of it.

Marking the centre
Marking the centre, ready tp drill a hole.


I used a 6mm drill bit and it was handy to have one with a point on it like this as I could use that to poke a small centre point hole before I actually drilled the main hole. Once the hole was made I used some 600 grit “wet and dry” paper to smooth the edges of the hole leaving something looking like this :-

hole drilled
6mm hole drilled through the body cap.

The next task was to make the actual pinhole through the square of aluminium taken from the beer can. I held a needle using a pair of pliers and pushed down through the metal. I had read that it’s best not to poke a hole right the way through but just push down enough to make a dimple and then sand the dimple down to form the actual hole. I guess I pushed down too hard and made an actual hole. Oh well, nothing about pinholes is really an exact science so I decided to go with it. I then used the 600 grit wet and dry paper again to sand down both sides of the aluminium. Once I was satisfied it was all smooth I washed it under the tap and then used some rubbing alcohol to make sure that everything was really clean.

pinhole
Pinhole made, sanded and cleaned.

Next I used some gaffer tape to secure the aluminium within the body cap, ensuring that the pinhole was positioned at the centre of the larger hole in the body cap. The end result is shown below :-

Pinhole ready
Pinhole taped into place.

I might want to paint that little bit of uncovered aluminium with some black paint to stop light bouncing around too much but this will do for now. Pinholes are all about serendipity so a bit of bouncing light doesn’t bother me too much. The pinhole is shown mounted on my X-T1 at the top of this post.

Having spent maybe 45 minutes to an hour making the pinhole this afternoon I wanted to pop out and try shooting with it. I took my tripod as the pinhole creates really quite a small aperture and I was sure that the end results would be blurry enough without adding camera shake to the equation. I was right on that score. The photos I took were quite a bit softer than I expected. I think maybe I need to try to make a smaller hole. Buy hey, this is all part of the fun and if I want to put a different pinhole into the body cap then it won’t be too difficult as it’s only taped into place.

I decided to go with the flow and edited this photo in Analog Efex to add some “distressing” – dust, dirt and a wet-plate look. When I feel like having another go I’ll see if I can make a smaller pinhole.

Wistow Church.
Wistow Church, Leicestershire shot using my pinhole.

 

Edit : Evening of Sunday 19th March.

I just had to try creating another pinhole. With the body cap already prepared it took much less time. All I had to do was cut some more aluminium, make the hole, sand it down, clean it and stick it in place. I took a quick test shot of the kitchen table using the new hole and it appears to be sharper. I won’t really be able to tell properly until I get out and shoot somewhere with it.

Auto ISO

Auto ISO settings
Auto ISO settings on the X-Pro2.

Dear Fujifilm,

The usefulness of having an “Auto ISO” setting became very clear to me during one of my visits to Rome several years ago now. I was shooting only with my X100 because I wanted to liberate myself from lugging loads of camera equipment around a hot (by my native British standards) city in July.

I loved the way that I could be outside in the bright sunshine of a piazza one moment and then step into the darkened interior of one of The Eternal City’s many beautiful churches and the X100 would automatically up the ISO as needed. Head back outside again and the ISO was automatically reduced appropriately. Wonderful. Thank you. I could carry on shooting without missing a beat in radically different lighting scenarios.

What really helped this to work so well was that the X100 had a prime 35mm equivalent lens. I could set the minimum shutter speed the camera would permit before it increased the ISO for me to something that fitted the old formula for shooting to reduce the chance of camera shake – ie 1 / <focal length>, so maybe with the X100 1/40.

Applying this to shooting with my X-Pro2 is a bit more… painful. Why? Because I have a bunch of different lenses all with different focal lengths. 18mm, 35mm, 90mm, 55-200mm. If I’m using the 18mm lens I might set the auto ISO to 1/30, switch to the 90mm and now it needs to be maybe 1/125 or 1/160. Pop on the 55-200mm and… well, you get the picture. Ok, on the X-Pro2 you give me 3 different Auto ISO settings I can select, which is great – but that only allows for three different lenses assuming I wanted to use all three settings in this way.

Fujifilm, when I pop a Fujinon lens onto my X-Pro2 surely the camera knows which lens it has attached? I know it does because the optical viewfinder does all kinds of clever things to adjust the framing lines according to my focal length.

So… How about giving us the option to have an Auto ISO setting of “FL” – which would set the minimum shutter speed to something fitting the old rule of thumb 1 / <focal length>? You have the communication between camera body and lens to be able to work this out for me, so how about it?

And on the zoom lenses you could set that 1 / <focal length> minimum shutter speed intelligently as I zoom in and out, yes?

I’m going to overlook that the lens might have OIS which would change the formula considerably. Yes, your image stabilisation really is very good but for the purposes of this suggestion I’m willing to ignore it.

Sure, keep all the fixed shutter speeds there too, I might want to use one of those if I have a stabilised lens attached or I have some other requirement.

Would this really be too difficult to implement?

And how about your other interchangeable lens cameras?

I’m thinking this is such an obvious thing that surely people must have asked for it before so I’m guessing it actually must be too difficult to implement?

By the way, loving your cameras! The last time I shot with a Canon body was well over a year ago now.

 

Kind Regards,

Chris

Welford Road

Welford Road Cemetery
Using my Helios 44M. 1/10000 at f2.

I had a brief window of opportunity to get out with a camera on Saturday afternoon. Not having a huge amount of time before I needed to be back again I headed a couple of miles north of home to Leicester’s Welford Road Cemetery. This oasis of tranquillity is somewhere I find myself strolling around on a fairly regular basis. It was opened in 1849, is still in use and is (according to the leaflet produced by Leicester City Council) the third oldest municipal cemetery in the country.

I have been taking photos of some of the monuments here for quite a few years now. My favourite by a long way is the angel shown at the top of this post which stands over the grave of one Sarah Ann Palmer Cox (died 1912 aged 52) and her husband John Thomas Cox (died 1920 aged 77). She is sadly now missing her right index finger which was in place when I first started taking her photo but I still find her to be serene, sombre and a wonderful work of art.

I decided that I hadn’t been making much use of my Helios 44M lens so I shot with that for a while. I need to make sure I take it out with me more often, I do love the swirly quality of the bokeh using this lens. I’ve recently switched from using the “focus peak” function of my X-Pro2 to the “digital split image” method for assisting with manual focus. I think the digital split image is more like the focussing systems I grew up using and whether because of this or for some other reason I seem to be finding it’s the more accurate method for me.

I also wanted to try taking some long exposures. I had my Cokin Nuances 10 stop ND filter with me and set up my tripod for a couple of shots. It soon became clear that there wasn’t enough movement in the clouds to make anything particularly interesting but hey, if you don’t try…

Handy mobile app tip : Lee Filters, Stopper Exposure Guide available for free (at time of writing) for Android and IOS.

Welford Road Cemetery
A 30 second exposure at f11.

At the other end of the spectrum I was also making use of the electronic shutter of the X-Pro2 at times. I was shooting wide open with f2 lenses in bright light and the lowest native ISO setting of the X-Pro2 is 200. The physical shutter fires at up to 1/8000 but there were times I was shooting at 1/10000 or so. I was shooting in aperture priority so I was a little surprised the first time the electronic shutter activated. Totally silent shutter release. I’m more often shooting in very dark locations so I forgot all about having configured this feature.

I know that some people think I’m excessively morbid and can’t understand why I would want to wander around a cemetery with my camera. I’m not morbid, I find that there is an abundance of art on display in an old cemetery like this and history is all around.

(More photos I’ve taken at Welford Road Cemetery over the years can be found in this Flickr album).

Another making use of my Helios 44M.
Welford Road Cemetery
Using the 55-200mm to reach up to this rather eerie face on an obelisk.
Welford Road Cemetery
Shot using the Fujinon 90mm f2.

Pi Bar 27th January 2017

The Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion performing at Pi Bar, Leicester. 27th January 2017 (Fujinon 90mm, 1/250 at f2, ISO 8000).

Friday evening found me heading out through the cold and wet of an English winter evening to the snug comfort of Pi Bar on Leicester’s Narborough Road. It had been a while since I’d last shot a gig and it was time once again to crank up the ISO, select my fastest lenses and see what developed on-stage.

Christopher Moody and the Underground Kings
Christopher Moody and the Underground Kings at Pi Bar, Leicester. 27th January 2017 (Fujinon 55-200mm, 1/60 at f4.8, ISO 6400).

I started shooting with the Fujinon 55-200mm which has the advantage of giving me image stabilisation in addition to a good long reach. However, image stablisation is only half the battle when the light is low, you also have movement of the subject to consider and musicians have a tendency not to have their feet nailed to the floor (excepting Steve Rothery). After a little while I decided it would be better to break out the 90mm f2, trading the OIS and longer reach for some extra stops of light.

Bellatones
Bellatones performing at Pi Bar, Leicester. 27th January 2017 (Fujinon 90mm 1/250 at f2, ISO 8000).

I did mention cranking up the ISO didn’t I? At many venues I’m often shooting around ISO 3200. Here at Pi Bar I started off at 6400 and soon decided that I needed to up it to ISO 8000. Dark? Hell yes, it was dark. So many of these small venues really could do with better lighting but I guess they’re not really too interested in making life easier and more interesting for photographers. A few well used spots make such a difference, giving me the kind of high contrast look I enjoy and making subject isolation easier.

ISO 8000 is maybe a notch higher than I would generally like to go and it does show in the graininess of these pictures. Having said that I do find the grain produced by my X-Pro2 to be more pleasing and reminiscent of film grain than that produced by my EOS  6D (or other previous Canon bodies). Usually I would much rather have a grainy photo than a blurry photo (unless the blur is intentional). Yet again I was very impressed at the low light performance of my X-Pro2’s APS-C sized sensor. If Fuji can make a sensor perform like this at APS-C then what is the new Fujifilm GFX 50S medium format camera going to be capable of? (Sadly I won’t be getting the chance to shoot with one of those unless I win the lottery).

Bellatones
Bellatones performing at Pi Bar, Leicester. 27th January 2017. (Fujinon 90mm, 1/250 at f2, ISO 8000).

I have to say that in these murky conditions the 90mm f2 did seem to provide a superior auto-focus experience than the 55-200. This is probably only to be expected as the 90mm is the more recent lens by a good couple of years and it’s also a prime. What I lost in reach I gained in consistent results.

During the evening I enjoyed music from three different bands : Christopher Moody and the Underground Kings, Bellatones and finally The Whiskey Rebellion – all of them excellent. More photos from the evening can be found in this album on Flickr. I’ll be keeping an eye on future events at Pi Bar as it’s not far from home and I find it a welcoming, relaxing venue – even if the lights could do with turning up a bit on the stage.

Keeping It Local

Alley next to Sainsbury’s, Wigston Magna, Leicestershire. Fujifilm X100T. The Sainsbury’s store is to the right of this shot and occupies the land which was the site of Bell Street School.

I was born and have always lived in the same house in the suburban sprawl which lies between the “village” of Wigston Magna and the city boundary of Leicester. Despite having quite a rich history Wigston is perhaps not the most photogenic of places. Sadly many of its more interesting and attractive buildings were lost to the town planners of the 1960s and 1970s. However at the heart of Wigston are still some of the lanes which people of the village have used since medieval days.

I don’t often venture out with my camera so close to home (something I will talk more about at the end of this post) but today I decided to walk the old lanes and alleys of Wigston Magna with my Fujifilm X100T. At this time of year the sun never really gets very far above the horizon here so I had some extreme lighting to contend with but I think it was worth an hour or so of my Saturday and it was good to get out in the sun at all.

Plaque set in the pathway at the centre of the medieval lanes of Wigston, the junction of Chapel Lane and Long Lane. Fujifilm X100T.

 

People still frequently use the lanes. Here two shoppers on their way home along the northern section of Long Lane. Fujifilm X100T – with characteristic lens flare 🙂
Chapel Lane leading down from Long Street by the side of the United Reformed Church to meet Long Lane down near the allotments. I need to get back here on the next foggy night we get. Fujifilm X100T.
Un-named stretch of alley between Blunt’s Lane and Moat Street. I’m tempted to christen it Chapel Lane South until I can discover otherwise. Fujifilm X100T.

 

It is often the case, with photography as with other disciplines, that we overlook the places closest to us. They seem less interesting, less exotic than far-flung locations. In my case my home town of Wigston is rather unlovely and yet there are still photographic opportunities if I go out and find them. But it’s not just a case of overlooking what is closest to me. As I found today and on previous occasions when I have shot so close to home I seem to feel more self-conscious and conspicuous when I’m within a short stroll of home. I don’t think it’s because I feel I might meet somebody I know, that would actually be quite a nice thing to happen. It’s not that everyone knows everybody else in a town of this size either, Wigston has a population of over 30,000 so I’m as much of a stranger to most of them as I would be anywhere else. Maybe in my case it’s because the place where I live just isn’t really all that photogenic so I feel that people will be questioning my motives for walking around the place taking photographs. As I write I do feel that this latter reason maybe hits the nail on the head. If I was in some picturesque corner of The Cotswolds then people wouldn’t even stop to wonder what I might be pointing my lens at. As it was I took my rather unobtrusive Fujifilm X100T along for this walk and that was all but I still felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. I’d be interested to hear what others think about this.

 

Iridient X-Transformer

1:1 crops : default Lightroom import on the left, same file processed with Iridient X-Transformer to the right. Click to see full size (X-Pro2, Fujinon 10-24mm f4 – yes, I know – not a “portrait lens”!)

I use Adobe Lightroom as my raw processing software of choice and I have done so since it was first released. Back then I was a Canon shooter but for the last several years I’ve been shooting more and more Fuji to the point where as I write I’ve not shot using my Canon gear for over a year.

As a Fuji shooter I have been aware of the raw processing software “Iridient Developer” for quite some time. I have often been astonished by the apparent difference in the rendering of Fuji raw files between Adobe Lightroom and Iridient Developer. Iridient seemed to create cleaner, clearer, sharper renderings of the same image. This seemed all the more remarkable as Iridient Digital is a “small” company, indeed to the best of my knowledge a “one-man band”.

Impressed as I was by the results I was seeing being obtained using Iridient Developer it was sadly not for me. The software was only available for Mac OS and I switched back from Mac OS to Windows several years ago now. As a keen amateur photographer (ie – not somebody who makes a lot of money out of photography) I was not going to switch back to using Macs again just to be able to run Iridient Developer, no matter how much better it might make my results.

Last year I read rumors that Iridient were working on “something for Windows”. This was exciting news for me as I found it galling that despite much improvement over the last couple of years Lightroom still didn’t seem to render Fuji raw files as well as Iridient did.

I had been checking the Iridient Digital web site for any further news of a Windows release for several months and then just as it seemed like nothing was ever going to happen I seem to have missed the notification by about a week.

Iridient X-Transformer isn’t a full-blown raw processing package. What it does is de-mosaic the Fuji raw file and store it as a dng (Digital Negative) file. Once X-Transformer has produced the dng file you are free to import it into any raw processor you like which supports the dng format – for example Adobe Lightroom.

Over the last year or so I had been thinking that Lightroom had caught up a lot and maybe there wouldn’t be a whole lot of difference between X-Transformer results and a native Lightroom import.

I was wrong!

The comparison I posted at the head of this post shows very clearly just how much of a difference there is (click on the image to see the full size version). This is a photo I took of my daughter during a visit to Bolsover Castle on December 27th 2016. It just happened to be one of my favourite portraits of her for quite a while so it was foremost in my mind and I thought that the catch-lights in her eyes along with her eyelashes and eyebrows would give X-Transformer a good test. Lots of fine detail in the shot.

The original Lightroom import to the left looks almost like there’s something over the top of the image which makes it less distinct, although at the time I took it I was pleased enough with the photo. The eyebrows and lashes almost seem to smear together, the catch-light just isn’t crisp.

Looking at the X-Transformer processed version to the right is like putting on a pair of spectacles.

And when I say “processed” both of these images are before I’ve done any actual edits on them. The only processing has been importing into Lightroom and in the case of the X-Transformer version being converted to a dng and then importing into Lightroom. Everything is set to “default” for both versions.

The results appear to be so clear, so crisp and so sharp that I think I might need to tone down my homemade Lightroom preset for sharpening X-Trans files.

The image shown in the comparison was produced with X-Transormer before I paid to register it – an event which happened very shortly after I carried out the comparison! It cost me around £32 to purchase the software and this seems like very good value for money to reveal the true brilliant performance of all of my Fuji X-Mount lenses (and my X100T).

I intend to add X-Transformer into my Lightroom workflow by pre-processing all of my Fuji shot photos though it before importing the batch to Lightroom. X-Transformer can also be used from within Lightroom as an “external editor” (once configured according to the instructions included in the help file) – right click a photo in Lightroom and send it to X-Transformer.

It seems that X-Transformer is very aptly named. It really does transform your X-Trans photos if you’re used to the results Adobe Lightroom produces.

 

Edit : A bit of an oversight maybe not to show the whole of the image I used for the comparison in this post. This is after processing in Lightroom but not shown at full size.

My daughter Michelle at Bolsover Castle. Fujifilm X-Pro2, Fujinon 10-24mm f4.

 

York With The X100T

Back in October I spent a couple of nights in the city of York armed only with my Fuji X100T. I really enjoyed the lack of lots of kit. Having only one camera with a fixed prime lens meant far less time faffing over which lens to use and more time spent enjoying my holiday and my photography.

I particularly wanted to walk the tour of the alleyways of York and I’ve documented the walk using Adobe Spark.

Adobe Spark Page

A Quick Play With Fuji’s Arcos Film Simulation

acros-example-3
Acros with red filter, no film grain – reduced in size for blog posting. Click to see larger (but not full size)

During my trip to Stamford with my X-Pro2 last weekend I shot in raw and processed everything through Adobe Lightroom, as I normally do. However, one of the strengths of Fuji’s X System cameras is their in camera jpg production. So why don’t I shoot jpg more? I’m sure there are several reasons. One is that I want to make sure that I retain the raw data from the sensor which provides me with everything I need to process the image in whatever way I want. Another is that maybe I’ve got too used to fiddling around with raw files? I now seem to see this as an essential part of the production of “A Photograph”. I have been shooting raw for about 11 years now, maybe I’ve got a bit stuck in a rut?

Every now and again I’ll go through a stage of shooting raw + jpg but I invariably end up messing around with the raw version and not touching the jpg. Maybe it’s time I revisited jpgs straight out of the camera? The X-Pro2 offers dual memory card slots so I can shoot raw to one and jpg to the other.

I’ve also had a long term quest for obtaining really nice contrasty black and white photos straight out of the camera. I’d got to a point where I was happy enough with the black and white settings I was using on my X100T. But now Fuji have also given us the Acros film simulation to enjoy on the X-Pro2.

So yes, maybe now is a good time to start shooting raw + jpg again.

Another very handy feature of the X System cameras is the ability to copy a previously shot raw image file from your computer back to a memory card, pop said memory card into the camera and then use the camera’s built in raw converter to create a jpg. This is what I’ve been playing with a little this evening.

I took some photos of a monument in a church in Stamford which felt might benefit from the Acros film emulation. I copied the file back to the camera and fiddled with the raw conversion settings. I was particularly interested to see how the “film grain” effect looked so I processed the photo twice with the same settings but added some “weak” film grain to the second version.

It’s interesting to see how much of a difference there is in file size when you add film grain. There’s more “detail” in the image so the jpg can’t compress so well. Straight out of the camera the version without grain was 6.36MB, the version with grain was 15.1MB.

A scaled down copy of the version without grain heads up this post. I would have uploaded the full sized versions but WordPress kept reporting an upload error. I suspect the files were larger than some limit set somewhere in the system.

However I’ve also produced a couple of 100% crops from the original jpgs, just to show the film grain effect and these can be seen below. I’m quite impressed with the film like grain structure and I’m looking forward to having more of a play with the Acros simulation. It certainly produces the kind of high contrast black and white that I enjoy so much.

And do you know what else I discovered? I really do actually prefer the jpg straight out of the camera to the one produced by me sat tinkering in Lightroom for… however long it took. I think there might be a lesson in there somewhere.

crop1
100% crop of Fuji’s Acros film simulation – no added grain.
crop2
100% crop of Fuji’s Acros film simulation – added “weak” grain.