Tag Archives: Zeiss Touit

Amtrak’s Vermonter passes West Northfield.


In late April, Mike Gardner and I made visit to the old graveyard at West Northfield, Massachusetts (south of the junction at East Northfield on the old Boston & Maine), to photograph Amtrak 56 (the Vermonter) on its way to St Albans, Vermont.

Light cloud softened the afternoon sun, which was slightly back-lit at this location for a northward train. To make the most of the old stones and put the entire train in the picture, I opted for my 12mm Zeiss Touit lens.

I made minor adjustments to the RAW file in Lightroom to present better contrast in the JPG image presented here.

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Pan Am EDPO out of the sun—Lessons in Lightening Shadows.

There used to be a philosophy discouraging photographers from shooting into the sun.

Some types of older equipment (without decent flare control systems) tended not to produce appealing photos when looking toward the sun, while many films didn’t have adequate dynamic range for capturing the contrast range from direct sun to inky shadows.

I’ve found that by using a very wide lens, with a tiny aperture setting, I can get some interesting and satisfactory results by looking directly into midday sun.

Years ago, I’d accomplished this with my Leica and a 21mm Super Angulon on black & white negative film (Kodak Panatomic-X ISO 32 was a good choice).

In more recent times, I use my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit, set at its smallest aperture (f22), which leads to the starburst effect as result of diffraction from the very small polygon opening.

I work in RAW, and then digitally manipulate the files in post processing using Lightroom. Specifically, I uniformly lighten the shadow areas to partially compensate for the extremely contrasty setting.

It helps to partially block the sun, as in this image near Forge Village in Westford, Massachusetts.

Pan Am Railways EDPO (East Deerfield to Portland) works the old Stonybrook Line at Forge Village. Exposed with a my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Tuoit; 1/30thof a second at f22, ISO 200.

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Sunburst on the Boston & Maine.

Alternatively, I could call this Tracking the Light post, ‘28N at Millers Falls.’

Whichever you like.

So what do you do in a situation where a train is coming directly out of the midday sun?

You could

1) give up.

2) go for a sandwich.

3) take up plane spotting.

4) all of the above.

Or you can try something different.

The other day at Millers Falls, Massachusetts I exposed these views looking timetable west on the old Boston & Maine. Train 28N is an eastward autorack destined for Ayer, Massachusetts.

Using a super wide-angle 12mm Zeiss Touit, I set the aperture to the smallest setting (f22), which produces a sunburst effect. To make the most of this effect, I positioned an autumn branch between the camera and the sun.

12mm Zeiss Touit, ISO 800, f22 at 1/125th of a second.

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Limerick Junction by Night.

Using my FujiFilm X-T1 fitted with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon, I exposed this evening view at Limerick Junction.

At right is the down train from Dublin Heuston destined for Cork Kent Station, on the left is the shuttle train to/from Limerick .

FujiFilm X-T1 with Zeiss 12mm Touit Distagon set at f3.2, 1/15th of a second, handheld, ISO 3200.

I imported the camera-RAW file into Lightroom, and made nominal adjustments to the contrast while lightening shadow areas. Significantly, I cooled the colour temperature to compensate for the harsh effects of sodium and fluorescent lights to make for a more natural appearing colour balance.

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Battenkill Railroad RS-3; Winter Sky and a Bold Technique.

In yesterday’s post (Unexpected Surprise: Stumbling on to one of the Rarest Railway Operations) I wrote of how we found the Battenkill local freight at Eaglebridge, New York.

It was sunny at Eaglebridge, but ominous clouds were rolling in from the west.

On one level the clouds benefitted our photography, since we’d be fighting the sun on a northward chase.

I opted for something different. The sky was a textured tapestry of clouds and light. The technique I’m about to describe isn’t really bold, nature and architectural photographers use it all the time.

I fitted my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit (previously described) and a moveable Lee graduated neutral density filter (with a 2/3s of a stop range).

This arrangement allows me to better balance the exposure differential between the bright sky at the top of the frame and the inky dark shadows toward the bottom of the image. The Lee system allows me to rotate the filter and adjust it up and down.

You can make similar adjustments in post processing using a digital applied graduated filter, however by using the filter on-camera I’m allowing the camera sensor to capture greater amounts of data, thus expanding the dynamic range of the image.

Specifically, I can adjust the filter to expose for the sky to the point where highlight and shadow detail are adequately captured which allows me to lighten the shadow areas at the bottom of the photo.

In some situations, the image will not require any post processing. However I found it was still necessary to make some post processing adjustments to make the image appear better to the eye. I fine-tuned my exposure and contrast using Lightroom.

All four images in the sequence below were made using my FujiFilm X-T1 with a Zeiss 12mm Touit Lens. (However, the introduction photo at the top of the post was made with a 18-135 lens, unfiltered.)

Here's my scene unfiltered. I'm at a grade crossing south of Cambridge, New York. The clatter of Battenkill's RS-3 with 244 diesel can be heard in the distance. I've exposed for the foreground, which has the undesirable effect of losing most of the texture in the sky.
Here’s my scene unfiltered. I’m at a grade crossing south of Cambridge, New York. The clatter of Battenkill’s RS-3 with 244 diesel can be heard in the distance. I’ve exposed for the foreground, which has the undesirable effect of losing most of the texture in the sky.

With this image, I've attached the Lee graduated neutral density filter. This darkens the sky and features a tapered graduation which should appear virtually seamless. The result is that I can better hold detail in the sky and in the foreground.
With this image, I’ve attached the Lee graduated neutral density filter. This darkens the sky and features a tapered graduation which should appear virtually seamless. The result is that I can better hold detail in the sky and in the foreground.

Now the Battenkill has arrived. I've intentionally made my exposure a bit on the darkside, knowing I can locally lighten shadow areas in post processing. Again, by using the filter, I've been able to allow the sensor to capture a greater dynamic range. (a larger span of dark to light).
Now the Battenkill has arrived. This is the un-modified RAW file (except for scaling necessary for internet presentation).  I’ve intentionally made my exposure a bit on the darkside, knowing I can locally lighten shadow areas in post processing. Again, by using the filter, I’ve been able to allow the sensor to capture a greater dynamic range. (a larger span of dark to light). When I exposed this image I gauged exposure using the in-camera histogram to maximize the amount of data captured by the sensor and to minimize loss of detail in shadows and highlights.

Using Lightroom, I made some nominal post-processing adjustments to contrast and exposure, specifically focusing on the shadows and midtown areas of the locomotive. My intent was to better balance the image as it appears to the eye.
Using Lightroom, I made some nominal post-processing adjustments to contrast and exposure, specifically focusing on the shadows and midtone areas of the locomotive. My intent was to better balance the image as it appears to the eye. Obviously, depending on personal taste, it is possible to make a variety of adjustments to the final image. Here I tried to faithfully recreate a dramatic scene. Personally, the wavy rows of harvested corn make for some of the most interesting texture. Yet the primary subject remains the Alco RS-3 diesel.

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Cresco Station viewed with a Zeiss Lens

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to test a 32mm Zeiss Touit lens on my Fuji X-T1. This is a fast and sharp lens.

These images were made at dusk at the restored former Lackawanna Railroad station at Cresco, Pennsylvania on the climb to Pocono Summit.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
D-L PT97 works west at Cresco, PA. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.
Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera fitted with a 32mm Zeiss Touit Lens.

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Battle of the Lenses! Zeiss versus Fujinon; with an MBTA PCC as Test Subject.

Now, is this a fair comparison? Pat Yough lent me his Carl Zeiss Touit f1.8 32mm lens to test on my Fuji X-T1. So I made two similar photographs at the same spot of successive MBTA PCCs at Cedar Grove (first stop west of Ashmont).

A more conventional comparison would have taken a more scientific approach by perhaps mounting the camera on a tripod and photographing a static subject with constant light.

And that would be a good test, its true. But that’s not what I was going to do.

Lens in hand (or more precisely, attached to my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera), I wanted to see what the lens could do as a working tool. How does it handle? How quickly does it focus? What is the color like? Does it seem sharp?

I was comparing it against my ‘catch all’ Fujinon Super EBC XF 18-135mm zoom. At the moment this is the only lens I have for my Fuji X-T1 and I’ve been using it for just about all the photos I’ve made with the camera.

First I used my Fujinon lens of PCC 3262; then 8-minutes later the Zeiss of PCC 3260.

Exposed using my Fujifilm XT-1 with the Fujinon 18-135mm zoom lens set at 25mm. Exposure f5.6 at 1/500th of a second.
Exposed using my Fujifilm XT-1 with the Fujinon 18-135mm zoom lens set at 25mm. Exposure f5.6 at 1/500th of a second. ISO 800.

This is the view with the same camera, but using testing Pat Yough's Carl Zeiss Touit 32mm lens (with Fuji X-mount). Exposure f3.5 at 1/500th of a second.
This is the view with the same camera, but using testing Pat Yough’s Carl Zeiss Touit 32mm lens (with Fuji X-mount). Exposure f3.5 at 1/500th of a second. ISO 250 (Notice that was was able to use a much lower ISO with the Zeiss lens, which in theory allows for better image quality, although at this small size, it would impossible to tell.)

While the 18-135mm is a great lens, it has two drawbacks. It’s bulky and relatively slow (f3.5 –f5.6 depending on the focal length). The Zeiss lens by contrast is lightweight and very fast.

But the really important point of this exercise is the end photos. Which is better overall?

The Fujinon image was made with a slightly wider focal length. Well that’s the advantage of a zoom-lens, right, the ability to adjust the focal length on the spot.

However, one of the unspoken advantages of a prime lens (a fixed focal length lens, such as this Zeiss 32mm) is that it forces the photographer to work within the limits of the given angle of view. Sometimes this makes the photographer (me) work a little harder when composing the photograph.

I found the Zeiss to be fast-focusing, very sharp and it provides excellent clean color. On the downside, the field of view is slightly narrower than I like.

Using the Zeiss 32mm on the Fuji camera reminds me a lot of my old 50mm Leica Summicron (which owing to my use of it with a traditional 35mm-film Leica M, provided nearly the same field of view as does the Zeiss on my X-T1.). The 50mm Summicron always seemed a bit too narrow, but the results I got from the lens have really stood the test of time.

What do you think?

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