Can a ‘permanently fixed’ Voigtlander lens-hood be removed?

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It’s a while since I’ve done a post – too long in fact, but the last six months have taken a lot of focus and energy as I’ve established a new business. And although I’ve managed to get out in the wilds with the camera a bit of late, this post delves more into a question of equipment, and the modification of equipment in particular – it goes like this:

In shifting from my previous Olympus M43 system to a Sony full-frame system (A7R), I was concerned to keep my gear costs to a reasonable level. My Olympus kit included two very nice wide angle prime lenses, the last of which is just going out the door. The catch with the Sony system is not so much the availability of such lenses, but their cost – an equivalent Zeiss wide-angle to my previous Olympus wide-angle sells for around 2.5x the cost!

After looking at a variety of wide-angle options I decided to check out the Voigtlander Ultron 21mm F/1.8, a lens reported to have good performance and that sells for around half the price of its Zeiss equivalent. This cost saving then opened up the possibility of also buying the newly released Voigtlander 15mm Heliar III – a super wide angle optimized specifically to work well on mirrorless cameras such as the Sony. Two wide primes for the cost of a single Zeiss Distagon looked very attractive, except for one snag – both of the Voigtlanders come with permanently built in lens-hoods that prevent the use of a filter holder and neutral density and/or graduated filters.

Voigtlander Ultron 21mm F/1.8

Voigtlander Ultron 21mm F/1.8

After casting about on-line, I eventually found a cryptic description by one home handyman who had manually removed the lens hood on his Ultron, though he gave only the barest details of how he achieved it. However, after trying the two lenses in the shop, I decided to go ahead with an order for both, with the possibility that I might try and remove the hoods in due course. Both lenses duly arrived, and both performed very well on the A7R – some magenta tinging around the corners with the Ultron 21, but that was easily corrected in Lightroom – now that I’ve traded up to an A7RII, that problem has gone completely, and both lenses are a delight to use. However, the hoods remained an issue…

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Walking the Dusky…

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We’re just recently back from doing one of New Zealand’s more challenging multi-day walks, the Dusky Track which runs between the northern end of Lake Hauroko and the West Arm of Lake Manapouri. It’s a relatively undeveloped route, notorious for its sandflies, mud, and rivers that rise rapidly after each of the intense rain storms that regularly sweep in from the Tasman Sea. We knew that it was going to push us to our limits, but the opportunity to do it with friends was too hard to resist, and on a soggy morning in late March we stood in the rain and watched the Namu depart back down Lake Hauroko after dropping us at the Lake Hauroko Hut.

Lake Laffy at dusk


A selection of photos from the stunning landscapes encountered on this trip can be found here.

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Christchurch in recovery…

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Twice in the last six months I’ve had occasion to revisit Christchurch, a city that was badly torn apart by the major earthquakes that started in September 2010.  Because of work commitments, I initially visited a great deal in the two years immediately following the major earthquakes. And sadly the smoothing out of buckled streets, the clearing away of endless mounds of rubble, and the repair and/or reconstruction of damaged buildings seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time. But on these last two visits, it seems that the rebuilding of the city is at last turning a corner – lots still to do, but much has been accomplished, and some of that redoubtable old Canterbury style is once again clearly in evidence. Continue reading

The Travers Sabine circuit – Part two

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A day trip to Blue Lake

In an earlier post, I described the first two days of a six-day trip that we did in the Nelson Lakes National Park – the Travers Sabine circuit. An outbreak of wet weather had reduced options for photography with the spectacular high peaks of the Travers Range mostly obscured by low cloud. However, after two fairly hard days making our way over the Travers Saddle to the West Sabine Hut, we had an easier day planned with a day trip up to Blue Lake, a spectacular glacial lake in a high basin in the west branch of the Sabine River. After rain through much of the night, we woke to heavy cloud hanging in the valley, but set out in the hope that conditions might improve.

A gallery of selected photos from this part of the trip can be found here – a description of the first part of this trip can be found here with earlier photos here.

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The Travers-Sabine circuit – Part One

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The week before Christmas is one of my favourite times to head into the hills – missing the peak frenzy of the commercial madness that breaks out at this time of year, and getting in ahead of the crowded back-country huts post-Christmas when many folk head off into the back-country for some recovery. This year we decided to head to Nelson Lakes National Park and do the Travers-Sabine circuit – a six-day walk I last did 40-something years ago at the tender age of 17. This would be a revisit of the same route, travelling from Saint Arnaud on the shores of Lake Rotoiti up the Travers River to the Upper Travers Hut, crossing over the Travers Saddle into the upper Sabine where we would stay two nights at the West Sabine Hut, before travelling downstream to the Sabine Hut on the shores of Lake Rotoroa. The next part of the route would be the hardest – a 1300 m climb up over Mount Cedric into Angelus Basin where we planned to tent for the night; the final day would take us along Robert Ridge and back to Saint Arnaud. My two sons were also keen to join us on the trip – their first time on a multi-day trip of such length. Continue reading

Field testing the Sony A7R…

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Although I’ve now had my Sony A7R for nearly two months, this last weekend provided one of the best opportunities that I’ve had to to give it an extended try out in field conditions. We stayed the weekend at Bowentown, a small township on the Bay of Plenty coast, just south of Waihi Beach, spending several hours walking along the coast in front of the camp-ground, and then north of Waihi Beach along the track to Orokawa and Homunga Bays. The weather was scratchy, with strong winds, grey overcast and some rain, but it was great to be out with an opportunity to see what this camera could do.

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An exhibition and a new camera…!!!

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The last six months have been a bit of a write off on the blog front, but hopefully that’s about to change – four days ago on October 1st I started a new adventure, leaving my position as a scientist with NZ’s Department of Conservation and finishing up a 42 year stint in various government-funded science roles. Quite a world of opportunity lies ahead. As I write this its my first Sunday night since I was eighteen on which there has been no requirement to front up at work in the morning – and that feels quite liberating!

I’ve also been making some quiet changes on the camera front. Back in August I assembled an exhibition of prints for the main foyer at the Department of Conservation’s main office in Wellington. It has a fantastic display space that I had eyed up for some time, and with my departure approaching fast, and encouraged both by family and a couple of fellow photographers at DOC, I took the plunge. Continue reading

Walking the beach at Port William

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On a recent trip south, Di and I joined up with friends to walk the three day Rakiura Track on Stewart Island at the bottom of New Zealand. This is a roughly triangular route that leaves and returns from Oban, with overnight stops at Port William on the north coast and at North Arm in Paterson Inlet. Despite it being mid-summer, the weather in Bluff where we stayed the night before catching the ferry to Oban was positively polar – only 8 degrees with the wind gusting well over 60 km/hr, and passing bands of heavy showers. Our ferry ride the next day was everything that one might expect in such weather, with the tide running counter to wind and throwing up steep and unpredictable seas. But off we set, trusting our lives to stout southern boatmen, who seemed little perturbed at the prospect of what was to them probably just another day on the Strait.

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The sea lions of Surat Bay

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New Zealand’s Hooker’s sea lion is one of of the rarest members of the sea lion family. Prior to the human settlement of New Zealand they occurred right around the coast, but by the time Europeans came, hunting by Maori had largely confined them to our sub-Antarctic islands. Fortunately, they’ve made a come back recently, and are now showing up in increasing numbers around the Southland coast. On a recent holiday to the Catlins we came across a young male snoozing on the beach, and this led to our own little encounter with these amazing animals. Continue reading

Up the Cobb Valley (part two)…

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In a previous post, I described the first part of a trip we made up to Fenella Hut in the Kahurangi National Park – a trip complete with a February snowfall. Here’s the long promised, second part of that trip – a two-day walk out along the Lockett Range, an unmarked route from Fenella out to the Cobb Dam via Lake Sylvester that provides an alternative to going back down the main valley track. Continue reading