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Wednesday, 18 November 2009


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Everyone is obsessed with sharpness, and it is important, but there's more to a lens than how sharp it is. I have both the Canon 35mm f2 and the Canon 17-40mm f4L lenses, and when using both outdoors, the 17-40 blows the other out of the water with regard to color rendition. Foliage and grass is so much greener and a blue sky looks almost like I'm using a polarizer. I suspect its a result of the glass and/or coatings?

The 35mm f2 does fine for indoor work under flash or artificial lighting and it is sharp enough, but I want a good, fast 35mm (and 50mm) fast prime lens that is sharp and has good color rendition too. I'm wondering if the Zeiss lenses can give it to me.

I have used the the type of mat cutter you featured. I started with an even more rudimentary system and have since graduated to a semi-professional system. If you produce photographs that you intend to display in print, they certainly look much better in a mat. It doesn't take many pictures to pay for the cost of the cutter with your savings. The learning curve is not very steep although expect some trial and error. Some of the on-line frame and mat board sources offer pamphlets on do-it-yourself mat cutting. I made my last two up-grades in equipment with used items found on craigslist.

Mike, I have a "Logan Compact Mat Cutter" I purchased about 15 years ago (the company was just called "Logan" then). I've used it to cut bevelled mats on both 11x14" and 16x20" sized mat boards and it works perfectly, plus it's very easy to use and extremely rewarding cutting your own mats. The mat cutter you featured in the photograph is a step up from one I have, but the compact mat cutter is great, and less expensive too. It's listed on B&H's site as "LOGAN-GRAPHICS Graphic 32" Compact Mat Cutter With Guide Bevel" ($99.95). I highly recommend it!

throw-away photo essay (super saturated jpgs!) featuring the Canon F2 35mm prime - no shortage of color and contrast from this lens.


Did you see Ken Rockwell's rant about how bad the pictures from a $5000 workshop at Death Valley came out?

It appears to have been taken it down so I cannot link to it. I guess Phase 1 gave him a copy of Capture 1 to make him take it off the website. 8^)

This is what I got from google, the cached site goes to the current page:

"These photos are so bad that maybe they came from point-and-shoots that ... They brought a veil, but forgot the motorcycle (BMW or Ducati for those ... Heck, they even brag that "Many attendees purchased a Phase One system while at the workshop. .... "

I only remembered a few words. 8^)

The Logan matt cutter works just fine. I don't use the stop preferring to line up my pencilled layout by eye ball to the cutting rail. Suggest a scrap piece be placed below the cut piece, keep your blades sharp and clamp the guide to your table, I use a carpenter's spring clamp. Logan also makes a longer rail which I use to cut down large sheets to frame size. Not a production tool but just fine for occasional framing projects.

Re: Logan Simplex mat cutters.

My wife has the big-brother to this version, which she insisted I buy her after a year of cutting my mats using a straight-edge and an X-acto knife. (Smart woman.)
It's solidly made, with a fairly heavy particle-board base and a rail (upon which the blade with its handle rides) that swings down onto the mat. Once you figure out the technique, it's a piece of cake to make either straight or beveled cuts. Prices escalate pretty swiftly if you want a bigger mat size capacity.

The place that mounts my bigger panoramics onto board has the world's coolest mat-cutter, a computer-driven robot device. The operator punches in the dimensions on the computer screen, and the beast cuts the entire mat window in about 3 seconds. It's fun just to watch. Costs thousands, of course.

Logan 650 Framer's Edge is the best mat cutter before going pro...discounted at just over $300 at Dick Blick supplies...it does 4ply and 8 ply mats, and is easy to use, especially with video included. (Don't be fooled by Logan # sequence...650 is top of line, not 750.)

Anyone looking for the Frank book should be sure to buy the expanded version, which includes Frank's contact sheets. That alone is worth the price of the book, let alone the other narrative included in the shorter version.

The clock is quite funny.

Get, from the internet superstar Yugo Nakamura, the block-clock screensaver.

A must.


I have been using a Logan Compact Mat Cutter (Model 301) for 3 years now. It is somewhat smaller and less fancy than the one you have pictured. Cutting a mat with it is not a no-brainer (measuring and marking where you are going to cut is the hard part) but it works just fine for cutting 8x12 holes in 4-ply 16x20 boards. I used it to mat my Ctein print earlier this year.

"the concert was blocked from public view by...a two-meter high metal wall"

a.k.a. The Irony Curtain

I have been using the Logan straight edge and the cutters shown above with great success. It may even be a more cost effective way to go if you don't do that much matting. It requires some lay on the mat board but it's not that bad. I have matted about 100 photos in the last year or so with this setup.

Here's a link to the straight I use.
The cutter I use is the model 4000 with the marker gauge.

Rats, wish I'd thought of that!


Rats, wish I'd thought of that!


I'm still laughing.
Here's my interpretation of Irony.. a condo in NOLA. http://bobdales.zenfolio.com/img/v1/p993409620-4.jpg

The "Carly Simon riff" pulled me in, Mike!

So you're anticipating?

"We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway, yay
And I wonder if I'm really with you now
Or just chasin' after some finer day".

But she sees that:
"Anticipation, anticipation
Is makin' me late
Is keepin' me waitin'

So, she tells herself - and us - to stay in and enjoy the present:

"So...stay right here 'cause these are the good old days"


In defense of Seal,

1. He's a long time http://www.seal.com/blog/>camera and photography nut (see first blog post). And so are we all.

2. http://sealsong.smugmug.com/Portraits/FACE/8126873_ASBh5#529920229_sJT5T-A-LB>He is very photogenic.

3. His http://tgusta.es/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/heidi-klum-1-6-73.jpg>wife is very photogenic. I guess you could say he is motivated to pick up a camera.

Anyone have any personal experience with one of these Zeiss 35mm lenses versus the Canon EF 35mm f2?

I have a love / hate relationship with the Canon lens. Crummy build quality but good results when stopped down. It's also not very good at close focusing distances in my experience. I also don't want to carry around / put out the $1300 for the Canon f1.4 version.

If the Zeiss is better at wider apertures and closer distances, I may just buy one next year.

Having been given the ZE 50mm for my birthday, I can give one reason for their purchase: They feel So. Damn. Good.

If you're used to focusing manually, the focus ring on your lens is your primary tactile interface with the camera. The ZE feels like, I don't know, like a gorgeous piece of hardware, like old-school stereo knobs, like dragging a spoon through honey.

Plus, yeah, it's a gorgeous lens, maybe not any perceptibly sharper than the canon 50 it replaced, but it definitely has a different personality.

As Jeff had suggested, if you can afford it, the Logan 650 is very close to what I used to use in the frame shop. You can probably find some used on ebay as well. The ones where the head is mounted on a bar rather than using a ruler are much better. You can cut each side in one easy quick stroke.

I found one here: http://www.framingsupplies.com/Logan/Logan%20650%20Mat%20Cutter%20The%20Framers%20Edge.htm for $339 which is about 100 less than B&H. I have never bought from them so I don't know how good they are.

I wouldn't suggest anything over 40". Most mat boards are 32x40 inches. If you need larger, you may want to think about having a professional cut it. The weight and size of a 40x60 mat board is tricky and expensive if you mess up.

Also don't cut all the way to the edge. Just leave a tiny bit uncut until you have cut all four side. Then with the old fashion double sided razor blades, Slide it in and finish the cut. Make sure to wipe the oil off the new blades or it will stain the mat. With a little practice, you won't need to use the stops. We would change the blades after 3 or four mats.

M&M Distrubuters is a good place for large quanities. http://www.mmdistributors.com/category-s/140.htm

Glass is very easy to cut, especially with this: http://www.mmdistributors.com/Flectcher-Designer-II-Fluid-Dispensing-Pencil-Styl-p/903.htm
We used to fight over in in the shop.

Maybe I will have to start a framing for photographers blog.

How many other photographers can get Steidl to publish their infrared landscapes taken with Leica M9's and S2's...

Come on, Mike - time to make the call between the Zeiss 35mm f2 and the Pentax DA 35mm 2.8 macro that you waxed so effusively about a little while ago. Characteristics and relative qualities, please, not just a this one or that one.

Hi Mike
I have been using the Logan for about 9 years, it was just called a mat (UK mount) cutter when I bought it and I can heartily recommend it.
My partner, who is highly critical of design technology reckons it is one of the best (read simple) pieces of equipment she has ever used.
It has paid for itself a 1000 plus times over.


Dear doctor,

As I was scrolling through the post, I recognized the Distagon as a Zeiss lens as soon as I saw the upper part. Before I got to the text where you named it.

Is there any cure for this state?

I have a Canon 35mm f/1.4. I've been carrying it around for a few years and its size is not something I've ever thought about as my Irish hands are like a bunch of bananas. It's practically welded to my camera and she's never let me down. That Zeiss sure looks purdy, If I didn't already own the canon I'd be putting a slightly used kidney on eBay.


I would like to buy "Polar Obsession" by Paul Nicklen. In order to help T.O.P when doing so, don´t you have a link to the book at Amazon Uk ?

Thank you.

"don´t you have a link to the book at Amazon Uk?"

I just added it to the post for you....


"time to make the call between the Zeiss 35mm f2 and the Pentax DA 35mm 2.8 macro"

They're very different lenses. The DA is 1.5X longer, and a macro, and the Zeiss is a whole stop faster. Not really proper comps....


Thanks, Mike.

Dear Mike,

I found the video from Ned Bunnell's blog a bit too stressful. Here's a lighter one that you'll adore:
Kevin Miller's Pen-E



"time to make the call between the Zeiss 35mm f2 and the Pentax DA 35mm 2.8 macro"

They're very different lenses. The DA is 1.5X longer, and a macro, and the Zeiss is a whole stop faster. Not really proper comps....


1.5x longer only if you put the Zeiss on a full-frame camera, Mike. Go on, stick both on a K20D, focus no closer than the Zeiss's minimum and no aperture smaller than f4. Pretty please ...

I'd be happy to James but I don't have both lenses here. I used the Zeiss ZF on a film Nikon and shot Tri-X with it, two years ago.

But jeez, for a K20D, get the DA. No contest there.


Too bad Zeiss never made a 35mm f/2 lens for the Contax cameras. I would love an Aria even if my right thumb would wonder why I had no winding work for it to do. Ever since reading your review of the Aria, Mike, I keep thinking about it. Good combination of old time manual but with newer electronics and batteries. Too much camera lust, I guess. Probably a good thing that it's still too expensive for a defunct camera line.

Speaking of the Aria, Mike, what other manual cameras had good focusing snap viewfinders? I love using manual cameras and I want to look around to see what viewfinders I like but I cannot find much information on viewfinders with "snap." I have some older 60s and 70s cameras and their viewfinders seem dark but I don't have any point of comparison. They could probably use a CLA. Thanks.

Celebrity is an amazing thing. It instantly turns a mediocre actor or musician into someone at once possessed of the wisdom to solve all the world's problems (not to mention the eagerness to tell you all about it on late night talk shows) and the capability to produce meaningful art with a camera.

Why Congress wastes their time on the frivolous laws they ponder is difficult to fathom when they could make a real contribution to humanity by prohibiting celebrities from displaying any art form publicly, aside from their own, under their own name.

Think you're a photographer Mr. Celebrity? Put those photographs in a co-op gallery in Podunk Iowa under the name John Jones; then wait to see if the press rushes to see them. Bring lunch and a chair.

Want to make a REAL contribution to photography? Give that Leica to a REAL photographer who needs one but can't afford it. (Can't find one? Look in that co-op gallery in Podunk Iowa.)

Re: Zeiss EF lenses:
I've several of Zeiss M-mount lenses...they're fine performers.

Nevertheless, I've really no interest in EF mount Zeiss lenses. I don't shoot video with my 5DII and the questionable razor-thin gains of using Zeiss lenses on my Canon bodies is simply not worth the pain of mandatory full-time manual focus with a 35mm-sized viewfinder and 55 year old right eye. Certainly not in today's digital photo age.

Nope, not for me.

Re: Sarah Greenough's "Looking In":
Recommended only for the truly hard-core photo historians. This is an enormous book, several times the size and weight of Frank's "The Americans". I had not paid attention to its dimensions when I ordered it last month. I've not worked my way completely through it yet but I can say that while Greenough sets a rich context for Frank's pics and presents interesting material (such as his contact sheets and shot selection notes) this is really for the hard-core Franksters. (BTW, it accompanied this National Gallery exhibit earlier this year.

Did nobody watch the leopard seal movie clip???? Damn, that was amazing!

I have been using this mat cutter for the past few years, since I started mounting my own. I like it; easy to learn, compact, lives in the closet between uses comfortably. The only downside I see is that if you buy 32x40 mat, you have to have something else to turn them into 16x20. I think I have spent the difference between this mat cutter and the 40" model in a surface and guide for cutting and truing mats.


I found the Logan 650 at www.dickblick.com for $339, same as Greg Brophy suggested at framingsupplies.com. BUT, DickBlick offers a $65 coupon code right there on the website, and free shipping for orders >$200. So I ended up paying $293.52 including tax. The coupon offer is good through Nov 26.

And I think it would be fantastic if Greg or any other experienced framer offered advice on mounting / framing for photographers!

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