Friday, 31 May 2013

Converting a Cheap Zoom to Macro aka Lens Hacking

I'd read about a macro conversion for the Canon 35-80 lens. I had the USM version and it had been dropped many times so it wasn't the healthiest thing in the world. Neither I nor my son use it so I decided to give the mod a go.

Basically all you do is remove the front element of the lens. You can also reverse the front element to gain back auto focus but this didn't yield great macro for me - I can use it both ways. When I'm not using it the front element is at least it is a dust cap! See the end of the album for the modification images - the steps are covered at the end of this post and as image captions.

This album shows a series of images of this conversion vs. a dedicated Canon 100mm L series macro. You may be surprised at the results - I was. The 100L wins hands down for ease of use but the conversion has better magnification and with care will be useful. The one caveat is light leakage - some of the images taken by the conversion show some light that is not entering directly through the element.

All of the images in this album are straight out of camera, they have only been resized and watermarked. All images were lit naturally from the left by window light. All images were taken from the minimum distance that the lens could achieve a clear focus.

In all cases the conversion yielded better magnification than the 100L and certainly gives acceptable images.

The images I took of the lens modification process are at the end of the album. I've had this lens for a long time but a quick scan of ebay shows them available from as little as AU$10. Either this version or the non USM will work fine. The best way to hunt them down is buy it on a film camera - by itself the lens nearly always sells for more than when it is mounted on a filmy - go figure!

1. Remove the three screws that hold in the front element
2. Remove the front element
3. Carve off the filter mounting screw thread and hood ring so the front element can be reversed with a hobby knife (take care!) - you'll note that I've found the front element can be dumped - having it in gives you autofocus but less magnification.
4. Push fit the reversed front element.
5. Take pictures!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A Tale of Exploding Wombats or My Dealings With a Possible Fraud

On the 2nd weekend in May 2013 I bought an item on ebay, a lens  It was a good price. But was it too good to be true? This story could have so easily been a horror story where I lost cash but thanks to Ebay and a stupid seller all is good with nothing lost. I have to say kudos to Ebay they reacted very quickly to my fraud report. I have to admit that their killing the items and the seller does it make it very hard to continue communication with the seller if you don't have any other contact than Ebay so if you've sent money you have to recover via PayPal.

I paid shortly after the auction ended via PayPal.

Four days later now Tuesday I've heard nothing from the seller so I decide to contact them via ebay to see what is happening. Sometimes people take a while.

It's been four days since this auction closed. Payment was sent immediately but you have not yet marked the lens shipped or contacted me in any way. Please confirm when the lens will ship and that you will insure it. I asked in the check out order notes that insure it and that I would send the extra. How much will it be for the insurance? Please advise.

Here's the reply
Dear customer:
Thank you for purchasing our products We have received your payment, we need 1-2 working days to prepare the goods, after that we will give you a tracking number at once,  
Your goods have been sent to a single number, RA517922890CN, you can query the following address you can track when the product pass maritime customs in 24 hours If you have any other  problems, contact us please , glad to serve you Best wishes to you and  your whole family !
Ok, so far so good. Looks like the lens is on the way and the seller was on the ball. Checking the tracking number while a little strange web site seems legit
Soon it gets more interesting... was checking on my phone and I discovered that the payment had been refunded within ebay and some time later this arrived from PayPal. I checked by logging into PayPal (not using email links) and my bank seperately and sure enough the money has come back. At this point the transaction is beginning to smell like a road kill wombat on a warm day.
Dear Paul Pavlinovich,
李 爱云 just sent you a full refund of $504.00 AUD for your purchase.
If you have any questions about this refund, please contact 李 爱云.
The refund will go to the card you paid with.
To see all the transaction details, please log in to your PayPal account. It may take a few moments for this transaction to appear in your account.
李 爱云

Then this message comes outside of ebay from liayun926 (note I've XXX'd out his bank details)
The product is detained in your country now,and you can check according to the tracking number back products.i got a phone notice from the post office today that you have to pay the tariff which is US$ 10 for the product in your country, as the price i gave you is new sale price.The post office give two choices to choose from,the first one is that we refund your money in order to express our 
sincerity,the second one is that you need to pay the tariff if you need product airmailed and we will send you the paypal bill.And if you pay out all the fees including the product cost and tariff,you will get your product in 7 days.
Sorry for the inconvenience caused.
Sincere thanks 
Product Name: Lens EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM zoom lens( wide-angle )
IPS led screen ultra-narrow border of
Amount: 504.00
Customs tariff: $ 10
Total: 514.00
②Bank Account No.:    XXXXXXXXXXXX
③First name: Qi 
④last name: Zhang 
⑤Zip: 450008(Postal Code) 
⑦Address: 40 Hua Yuan Road, Zhengzhou 450008, Henan 
Prov., China
On the surface this seems reasonable, there are customs duties and he wants more, but then you think, hang on he's sent the item already. I've got a tracking number. Now he's saying that he will send it to me after I pay the fees. Additionally there is no way that any ordinary postal parcel could possibly get from a post office in China to Australian Customs in less than six hours. I also happen to know how customs works having imported and exported in a previous job to and from various countries. They don't ever contact the shipper to pay, they contact the recipient. Also the wording is wrong for Australia it would be GST and that would have been $50.40 not US$10. Why would AU Customs want US$. Now it's smelling like that wombat has swelled up and is about to explode...

Shortly after I got this
Your goods have been sent to a single number, RA517922719CN, you can query the following address
So we're still on with the tracking number. It's the same one.

I replied within ebay not directly via email
Hi, you've refunded my payment and sent me an email outside of ebay asking for money to be sent to your bank? No chance mate. There is no way your package from China to Australia in only a few hours.

Explain yourself, have you sent the lens or not? You sent me a tracking number which shows the package is still in China.

and got this reply
Hello friend
Your question is very straightforward
According to our information this single number has been sent from China on May 8
Can not reach your hands so far have told you
I hope you can with us
Thank you

hmmmm thats about as explanatory as a bowl full of mud so I replied... and started working out how to get in contact with ebay as this was getting silly - that wombat now has creepy crawlies under the skin and is stretched to breaking point
I will not pay you outside of ebay. You are violating ebay rules. I bought and paid for this item the correct way via PayPal in good faith. The tracking number you sent still shows a parcel on the way. I am very concerned about your behaviour on this sale. Explain what is going on?
- paulp4fsq
and got this
Hello Dear Customer
Our reasons for doing so in order to let you win to reach your hands as soon as possible
It is not in line with the principle of eBay transactions
If this is the case
We promote the use of PayPal transactions
May I ask if you can accept the
Looking forward to your answer

ok so now he's going back to PayPal - at this point I opened a fraud report with ebay for them to investigate thinking if he's legit then when ebay ask me to I'll pay through their escrow and take it from there so I replied again - note that all of my replies are inside ebay using their tools, his are direct emails outside of ebay
I have reported you to ebay. I await their investigation and decision. Until they make a determination I consider this transaction to be on hold as I am very uncomfortable with your behaviour in wanting to be paid outside of ebay and your unrequested refund and the thought that there is still a package on the way. What is in that package if you still have the lens?
- paulp4fsq
This seems fair to me, I've summed up the situation and informed them that I've engaged ebay Customer Support to help resolve the problem and my concerns. I've expressed that the transaction is now on hold pending ebay's determination. A short time later I got a message threatening to report me!
If you insist on non-payment
We'll complaints through formal channels
Please understand that
Thank you
Well I think I've beaten them to it with ebay with my report, so I reply again
Note that I had already paid you within moments of the auction finishing. You refunded that payment today. I've done everything the right way. You are the one who tried to take this out of ebay and lie to me about customs. You have been reported to ebay. Ebay and Paypal will make the decision. Threatening me will not help you. The transaction history, your email to pay directly to your bank and these messages will show the truth.
- paulp4fsq
And shortly after got this reply
I have provided a single number
Original notes and other documents
I will be used in the examination of the complaint
Wait eBay resolution

Yep now he's getting interested again so he will await ebay's resolution. Well this is about it for now. I'll keep you posted. Could this all be a gross misunderstanding not helped by translator software? I really don't think so. If there wasn't the unrequested refund, the lies about sending the parcel and the lies about customs well maybe, but stack those things together with the request to pay directly into an untraceable account - I don't know if you've ever done a SWIFT transfer around the world - they cannot be retrieved. They're final. They also cost about $100 to do and the request is very weird. SWIFT was the only way that didn't involve Western Union to shop money until services such as PayPal made an appearance.

The only questions left open in my mind? What's in the box he's sent me (assuming that tracking number is actually coming my way and not just some random parcel he's sent to a mate in Australia)? How long will it take ebay to sort this one out. How long until the wombat explodes?

At least I've got my money back - that would have happened anyway, but at least this way it's quick. I would have claimed it back through PayPal or through my bank since my credit card includes internet fraud refunds.

Now the waiting game begins. Who knows, maybe the guy is legit. Maybe he's just a tool that tried to make a little extra money on the side and counter the massive PayPal fees that get charged to sellers.

Update 1: Just noticed something else in his messages - he reckons he sent me the tracking number on May 8th - that is nearly four days before the auction!

Update 2: 15/May/2013 AM - Ebay has declared shonky and killed the items and the user.

MC015 Important Message from eBay Loss Prevention Department

Hello paulp4fsq (XXX@XXX.COM),

Thank you for your bid on the following listing:

271201781859 - Lens EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM zoom lens? wide-angle ?

However, eBay has had to remove the listing. All bids or offers have been cancelled. Also, we recommend that you consider carefully whether to complete this transaction.

We hope you understand that due to privacy reasons we're unable to discuss the details of why this listing was ended.

We strongly recommend that you do not go ahead with the purchase however if you have already paid for this item but haven't received it, you need to act quickly to get your money back.

- Contact your bank to stop payment if you paid by cheque or bank deposit.

- Contact your credit card company if you paid by credit card.

- If you paid with PayPal, you may be eligible for up to $20,000 in PayPal Buyer Protection. To file a dispute go to the Resolution Centre in My eBay and click on I haven't received it yet or I received an item that does not match the seller's description.

If you have any questions, please contact us at:



Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Baying At The Moon

You've been out to shoot the moon right? How did it go? Tiny blown out white spot or did you manage something nice and interesting? So many times I see people's moon shots pop up on social media and I cringe a little bit inside. This article will help you to do justice to our Earth's next door neighbor.

Is there some magic trickery to getting a good shot of the moon with your average camera? No, just think about what you are shooting. Really you're not shooting the moon, you're shooting the sun as it is reflected off the moon. The sun is bright - really bright so even though the moon is only reflecting the sun's light back to you it too is really really bright.

There are a few tips that will help you. Try to catch it as it rises or as it sets near the horizon, this is when it appears it's biggest. If you wait until later unless you've got some pretty serious gear you're going to get nothing but that little spot even you expose it really well it's still only a few pixels. Want to know how close the moon was to the horizon in the shot above? Take a look at the next one and you'll see it.

This is one of the Port of Melbourne cranes and I'm standing across the Yarra River from it shooting from Spotswood. There are a couple of things you'll notice about this image, the first is that the crane and other items in the image like the ship are pretty small compared to the moon and they're dark. But wait, don't you need a long exposure to shoot at night? Remember what I said earlier, the moon is really really bright so no you don't. This image and the one above are shot at ISO 100 f/11 1 second on a 200mm lens with a Hoya ND400 (a bit under 9 stops of light reduction). The other thing to remember is that the moon relative to the earth moves really really fast. If you expose for anything more than a short time you're going to get a trail instead of a nice clean shot.

Now that ND black glass I was talking about is the next little hint, it wasn't dark when I shot this, well not completely dark anyway. It was just after dusk. The black glass helped me lose that light from the sky and the ground to isolate the moon. I didn't really care about the crane because I knew I only wanted the moon but I added this one to give some context.

The time of year is important, a couple of times each year and some years better than others (last year was fantastic) we get whats described as a Super Moon where it appears much more massive than you would normally expect

This shot was taken from Kalorama lookout on the side of Mt Dandenong when the moon briefly cleared the clouds for less than four seconds. I was lucky most other people had gone home when the moon first rose and hid among the clouds. I stayed there and froze waiting for this shot and eventually I was rewarded with this beautiful clear sharp shot. It was smaller than I would have liked had I caught it nearer to the horizon but this shot was worth the wait in the cold. This one is a 200mm lens plus a 2x extender giving 400mm and was shot at iso 400 f/20 at 1/30th of a second.

This is what most people who came out to catch the Super Moon that night captured. Pleasant and pretty but not much of a moon.

Another great opportunity does not come around so often is when the moon really is bigger because it is much closer to the Earth. The moon travels on an elipse (a stretched circle) orbit around the Earth and at the closest point called Perigee the moon is enormous. I didn't have great luck on perigee night or the night before or after due to cloud cover but I did capture this interesting obscured moon.

After all the moon by itself is just a big ball, we've all seen it. Capturing it here as it rose over the Warburton Ranges with the mountains below and the cloud cover above made an image that for me at least is striking and emotional.

Sometimes luck can play a part, while out one night at Beaumauris shooting across the marina the moon started to rise above the houses. On the same night there was a bush fire on the peninsula. The moon light filtering through the smoke gave a an interesting red tinge to the light colour.

This is 2.5 seconds at 400mm f/22 iso 100.

Don't just shoot the moon for her sake, Luna also makes an excellent companion in your compositions. This is one of the masts of Poly Woodside taken in the evening with the moon above the clouds shining only her shape through.

On this night I went out to shoot and again cloud cover. Instead I changed my tactic doing along exposure to capture the moon rising. As I was exposing this I watched the light trail extend across the water and really enjoyed the experience. I spent quite a bit of time at this location even after the moon vanished behind the clouds because her light was still around and I manged some interesting long exposures by moon light.

So remember, shoot this and not like the one below. Long exposures just don't work with the moon. Not to mention trees move and lens flare sucks (well, not always but that is another article).

As always I welcome your constructive feedback and criticism of my blog postings. Please feel free to join in with a conversation I love to hear from readers.