A Gnome Among the Gumtrees*

I’m always pleasantly surprised by the things I find while pootling along the back roads of Western Australia. Last weekend was a case in point. I was driving along the bucolic Ferguson Valley in the south-west of the state when I came across something that just expressed a sense of spontaneous anarchistic fun. That something was Gnomesville. We’ve all seen garden gnomes haven’t we? You know those kitsch garden ornaments usually made out of plaster and sometimes out of cement that can be found in gardens all over the world. Usually they are seen singly, occasionally in twos or threes. Sometimes you come across a garden that has maybe a couple of dozen and that is regarded as a bit OTT. So imagine a place with thousands of gnomes. That’s right thousands. The exact number is not known, but some reckon the figure could be as high as 5000. They are not in a garden, it’s not some commercial tourist attraction. Gnomesville is found on the verge by a roundabout in a very rural setting.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Welcome to Gnomesville. A small gathering of the inhabitants. Western Australia. Sony A7r with Olympus OM Zuiko 35mm f2 lens. Exposure: 1/60th sec, f8 at ISO 320.

 

The whole thing is absolutely bonkers. So how did it start? Well there is the legend of Gnomesville which is as follows:

“A long, long time ago, a Gnome was travelling on an Australian country road. It was at night and far from anywhere. All around was leafy and green. A pleasant place.

By and by, he came to a fork in the road. He followed the road, which seemed to go around and around.

Now, being a little person, he could not see over the curb. If he did, the story would have ended here.

He walked all night with the feeling he was going nowhere. Roads branched off every so often.
By the morning, he was exhausted. Then it was clear. He had come across a ROUNDABOUT—a circular intersection in the middle of (almost) nowhere.

This was something he had never seen as a country traveller.

But it was a nice place and reminded him of home. There was a bubbling brook and shady trees.
So he stayed a while. And another while. Other Gnomes passed and visited, and many stayed. Word passed around.

Gnomes from far and wide left their gardens and came to visit. But they stayed. This was something new for the mostly solitary Gnomes. There was something irresistible about the place. It was as if the ROUNDABOUT was casting a spell.

But that is another story…

So Gnomesville was born.”

© Gnomesville, Peter Terren.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Peak hour in Gnomesville. Western Australia. Sony A7r with Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS. Exposure: 1/200th sec, f4 at ISO 200.

 

For people who need the real actual true story well Kevin and Vicki Campbell were a local couple who played a large part in the creation of Gnomesville. The local shire had annexed some land from a neighbour to create a T junction at the bottom of a hill. The local residents weren’t too keen as they felt that it would be unsafe. So after a public meeting and some toing and froing it was decided that a roundabout would be built instead. Not long after a gnome appeared in a hollow tree by the roundabout. It was in fact the very spot where Vicki used to leave her bicycle when she caught the school bus as a child. It was the start of a gnome sit in protest. Soon there were twenty gnomes all showing solidarity. And so Gnomesville was born. I prefer the legend. Now people come from quite literally all over the world to leave a gnome. When I was there a young couple with their son had come all the way from Malaysia to leave a gnome. There are Dutch gnomes, gnomes from Japan, even from Finland. Gnomesville is a very cosmopolitan place.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Gnomesville attracts gnomes from all over the world. This is the Japanese contingent. Gnomesville, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Cosina Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar lens. Exposure: 1/60th sec, f8 at ISO 400.

 

So if you are in the vicinity of Bunbury and are kicking your heels wondering what to do take a drive out to the Ferguson Valley and enjoy the sights of Gnomesville. You could even stop off and buy a gnome to leave there.

 

Gnomesville by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Warning – gnomes crossing. Gnomesville, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Olympus OM Zuiko 35mm f2.0 lens. Exposure: 1/160th sec, f2.8 at ISO 200.

 

*apologies to Wally Johnson and Bob Brown for corrupting the title to their all time Aussie favourite song “Home Among The Gum Trees”

If you are not an Aussie and you are left somewhat puzzled by the lyrics then an explanation can be found at http://alldownunder.com/australian-music-songs/home-among-the-gum-trees.htm

Winter In The Wheatbelt

Yenyenning Lake by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Dead trees on a winters misty morning in Yenyenning Lake. Beverley, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens, and Cokin 3 stop graduated neutral density filter and a circular polarizing filter. Exposure: 0.3 sec, F16, ISO 100.

 

Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-f4.5

So far I’ve looked at a couple of primes and now I’m going to turn my attention to a standard zoom, the Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-f4.5.

Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 lens.
Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 lens.

 

 

Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 lens.
As good as the day I bought it which was in 1983.

 

 

Introduced in 1983, which is when I bought my copy. This lens was often rumoured to have been designed and made by Tokina, but this has been refuted online and it would appear that it differs significantly enough that it can be until otherwise proven an Olympus lens.

35105mmf3545
Schematic of the Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-f4.5 showing the lens elements in their various groups.

 

Over its production cycle there were two variants produced. The first version, which is the one I have, with serial numbers below 500,000 weighs in at 460g, is 116mm fully extended (in macro mode) and 86mm retracted, the rubber focusing grip is 42mm wide, and there is and Infra Red (IR) focusing mark above the aperture ring. The rear lens element is flat and flush with the back of the lens.The second version (serial numbers above 500,000) is 470g in weight, 87mm long retracted, and the focus grip is 38mm wide. There is no IR focus mark, but there is a white variable aperture dot between 3.5 and 5.6 on the aperture ring. The rear lens element is recessed and convex. The construction of the lens is that of a one touch zoom design with a built in close focus mechanism which allows a minimum focus distance of 31cm with a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:5. There are sixteen lens elements in twelve groups and the filter thread is 55mm. The variable aperture was a design compromise to keep weight and size down, it provides a reasonably bright f/3.5 at the wide-angle setting but gradually stopped down to a dimmer f/4.5 when reaches the telephoto range. The big disadvantage is the rate at which the aperture varies through the range and this convinced me of the practicality of using TTL flash back in my days of shooting transparency with OM cameras.

 

Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5. 35mm at f8.
Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5. 35mm at f8.

 

Comparison chart of the Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-f4.5 shot at 35mm focal length wide open and then at f8.
Comparison chart of the Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-f4.5 shot at 35mm focal length wide open and then at f8.

 

At the 35mm end the lens is remarkably free of distortion. Wide open the CA is very apparent, but this is easily corrected in post. The centre of the test image not crisply sharp and is also lacking in contrast which adds to the impression of softness. Bumping up the contrast in post improves things greatly. I never questioned the sharpness of this lens when shooting film – hardly surprising when you consider I most shot Fuji Chrome Velvia 50 or Kodachrome 25 or 64 all of which are high contrast films. At f8 the centre sharpness increases nicely but the edges are still soft and lacking contrast.

 

Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5. 105 at f8.
Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5. 105 at f8.

 

olympus-35-105-105-comparison
Comparison chart of the Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-f4.5 shot at 105mm focal length wide open and then at f8.

 

At 105mm the lens exhibits a slight pincushion effect. This is where image magnification increases with distance from the optical axis and parallel lines bow inwards like a pincushion. This is not uncommon in this type of lens at the long end. Wide open at f4.5 the image is soft and lacking in contrast at the centre and the edges are even worse. By f8 the centre of the image has improved a little but the edges have not. CA is present but again is easily dealt with.

Back in the day this was my go to lens – I shot nearly everything on it and I thought it was great. Here are some examples of it from the early 1980’s shot on film and scanned.

 

Beccah and Jane
Beccah and Jane sitting on the back step at Molecomb Cottage, Goodwood, West Sussex. June 1985.

 

Helen Anderson
Helen, Chichester, West Sussex. September 1985.

 

Paradise Video-Music Pub
Paradise Video-Music Pub, Thira, Santorini, Greece.

So lets see how it does on the Sony A7r.

 

Balloons
Balloons in the window. York, Western Australia. Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5.

 

Bully Bridge
Bully Bridge. Frida, the English Bull Terrier, on the Swing Bridge in York, Western Australia. Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5

 

Bridge Over The Avon
The River Avon in York, Western Australia. Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5

 

Overall the lens lacks the contrast present in the other OM lenses. The bokeh is somewhat swirly though not as obvious as that exhibited by the Helios 58mm f/2 lens and is what some might call a little nervous. Wide open this lens is very prone to vignetting and filter users will have to be aware of this. Now zoom lens from this era have a bad rap for poor image quality so I thought that it would be interesting to compare this lens with a modern standard zoom – namely the Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS. Some people might find this an unfair comparison comparing a cheap kit lens with a premium quality zoom lens, but there is over thirty years separating them and lens design has come on a long way in that time especially in regard to zooms.

 

Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS
Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS

 

The most obvious thing that comes to mind when comparing the two lenses is the build quality – compared to the Olympus 35-105 the Sony feels like it came out of a Christmas cracker. It feels very cheap and plasticky and quite honestly it doesn’t feel very durable at all. In fact the word “disposable” comes to mind when handling it and  I don’t think we’ll see many working copies of this lens around in thirty years time.

Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS
Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS

 

Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS. 28mm at f8.
Sony 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS. 28mm at f8.

 

sony-28-70-28-28
Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 28mm comparing the centre and the edges of the frame at f3.5 and f8.

 

sony-28-70-28-70

So having looked at the test shots what can we say? Well wide open at 28mm the centre the lens is sharp and contrasty and amazingly it improves considerably when stopped down to f8. At the edges wide open there is a significant drop off of sharpness and contrast and this only improves slightly when stopping down to f8. Distortion and chromatic aberration are automatically corrected in camera. At 70mm wide open in the centre the lens is a little soft and flat with hardly improvement when stopping down to f8. At the edges it is much the same story. The only real advantage this lens has over the Olympus is the automatic lens profiles that correct CA and distortion and the lens coatings are marginally better all of which can be overcome with a little fiddling around in Lightroom. The Sony sells for around $350 AUD at the moment while the Olympus can be picked up for less than $100 AUD on EBay. What is more worrying is that according to DXO the Sony FE Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS which is priced at around $1500 AUD is not significantly better than its cheaper sibling and coupled with accounts of substantial sample variation just doesn’t seem to have endeared it to Sony Alpha users. All this makes the Olympus OM Zuiko 35-105mm f3.5-4.5 seem like a screaming bargain if you don’t mind having a manual focus lens as your walk about kit.

My reviews of the Olympus OM Zuiko MC 24mm f2.8 and the Olympus OM Zuiko MC 50mm f1.4 can be seen by clicking on the links.

Autumn On The Avon

Eastern Great Egret
An eastern great egret (Ardea alba modesta) waiting patiently in the morning mist on the Avon River. York, Western Australia. Sony A7r with Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens. Exposure: 1/160 sec, f8 at ISO 400.

How the seasons have changed. It was the height of summer when I posted Tales From The River Bank and now we are at the end of autumn. We’ve had a lot of foggy mornings which always makes me think of Captain Mark Phillips the ex-husband of Princess Anne. Rumour has it that Prince Charles nicknamed him Foggy because he was thick and wet. Well the fog has certainly been thick and wet here lately.

 

Autumnal Morning
The autumn mist on the Avon River in York, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM-1 with OLYMPUS M.40-150mm F2.8 lens. Exposure: 1/160 sec, f8 at ISO 1600.