Light is Everything!

Lenses

Nikon 24mm 1.8G

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So I just got the Nikon 24mm 1.8G lens. My overall Nikon kit was lacking a fast aperture wide angle option. So now the Nikon bag is full. I’m rounding out my 85mm & 50mm 1.8G collection with the 24mm. This compliments my 16-35mm f/4 & 70-200 f/4 with fast primes. I’m really pleased with the lens so far, though I haven’t sufficiently put the lens through it’s paces yet – it’s coming soon.

Here’s a couple of sample photos from it, focusing on bokeh & centre sharpness. This lens is phenomenal wide open. The bokeh is as good as it gets for a wide angle (which aren’t known for being cream-cheese soft).

I’ll focus on this 100% crop. This was shot wide open at ISO 800 with window light. The detail of the eye lashes is unreal! The lens stacks up really well on the D800. Shooting on anything less will be even better, as the D800 sensor is pretty tough on glass.

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So there you go. More review to come on this one in the near future, but suffice it to say, the lens is fantastic sharp, and very light and manageable. 😎


Window and a 50

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Normally, I would never use a 50mm lens for portrait work as shown here in this post. Why not? Because the 85mm is better. Way better. Always. People shots, like these ones, look better in telephoto. That is an undeniable, scientific fact. Take it to the bank. Ever since I got my 85 (Nikon’s new 1.8G version which is optically as good as the billion dollar 1.4 bigger brother version), my 50mm seldom saw the light of day. But I decided that I missed the 50mm focal length. It was my favourite for many years when I was shooting DX format (making it nearly an 85).  So, I decided to get a copy of Nikon’s newest 50mm 1.8G lens.  WOW. For the money, this lens is utterly fantastic!

I bought it because I want to shoot it at 1.8. I had heard about how great it was wide open and I had to see for myself. So, yep. It totally lives up to the hype. It’s awesome. It’s colours are punchy and saturated. It’s bokeh is great. It’s SHARP wide open and only gets better as you stop down. There is very little chromatic aberration. Sure, it’s a quick fix in Lightroom (like vignetting), but it’s great to know that the lens you are using is made well enough to handle it.  The lens is also light. It’s compact. It’s inexpensive. What’s not to love?! This lens is Nikon’s gift to the photography world, for amateur and pro alike. Seldom do you ever run into a product that is of such good quality at an affordable price. #DEAL!

After cajoling the children to come and sit in a chair by a window (patio door, in point of fact), here’s the results. I shot the images mainly at 1.8, one at 5.6 to see the stopped-down performance and 2.2 which is where I would normally shoot a 1.8 lens. I like to stop down a little bit to gain extra performance and sharpness. But with this lens, you don’t have to. You can actually shoot it wide open and the results are superb.

Here is a 100% crop wide open. Aside from a quadrillion dollar Zeiss Otus, it doesn’t get much better than this in the 50mm range! Nikon currently doesn’t make a “Professional” Gold-Ring Nikkor at 50mm. They did come out with the 58mm 1.4G at a whopping $1700 (?!) but I’m not convinced the results are all that different to warrant the extra expense. In fact, it has several optical issues that, while they may give it character, it’s still not performing as clean as this 50 1.8G.  Bang for your buck wise, Nikon’s current generation of 1.8G prime lenses are just awesome and worth every penny. I’ve greatly owning them and using them constantly. For the price points, the lenses are so good, it hardly warrants spending the extra thousand dollars to get the gold rings. Unless you care about showing off gold rings. Gold paint at the dollar store is like, a dollar. 😎

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Nikon Df with old Manual Lenses

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My Nikon lens kit is a pretty basic, do anything kit. I don’t have any of Nikon’s Holy Trinity f/2.8 zooms because they are extremely heavy and expensive. Instead, I picked up the newer, sharper, cheaper, lighter & slower f/4 zooms. 16-35 & 70-200. I don’t have the 24-120 as to my eye, there is nothing interesting happening in those focal lengths. Same goes for the do-it-all, ever versatile, ready for anything 24-70. I’ll never buy it. Too close to uncle Bob’s kit lens focal lengths. Nothing cool optically is happening there. Wide and telephoto is where it is at.

That being said, I’m primarily a prime shooter. I just like them better. A little sharper glass. Lighter in the hand. Easier to transport. Etc, etc, etc #PrimePraise. So for my prime kit, I have a Nikkor 50mm 1.4G & 1.8D, 85mm 1.8G & 105mm 2.8G Macro (And the Fuji X100s at 35mm equivalent f/2). I didn’t have a fast wide angle lens though. I thought about picking up Nikon’s new 20mm 1.8G. It looks awesome. Nassim just got his review done, check it out here. It’s affordable and awesome, a true winner. But I am honestly tired of spending money on photography gear. And, even more so, I didn’t want the 1.8 form factor. The new G lenses are larger and bulkier. Optically better, but just also bigger. I didn’t want that.

I wanted to pretend I had a Leica. 😎 I love the smaller form factor of the rangefinder systems, another reason I love the Fuji so much. But I also have my trusty Nikon Df with all of its awesome old school film inspired manual controls. So I started to think about picking up an old school lens to match. Nikon made some really killer glass back in the day. No AF. No weather sealing. No Magical Nano Crystals. Just glass & metal. So I looked at a couple of fast(er) primes and I settled on the old 28mm Nikkor f/2.8 AI-S. The old lenses in this form factor take the small 52mm filers. They are light and pocketable, much like Fuji’s X-series lenses, but fit full frame sensors.

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It’s a sweet gem of a lens. It’s eagle talon sharp, even wide open. Very little lens distortion. Hardly any Chromatic Aberration (unlike much of Nikon’s new G stuff). It as hard stops on each end of the focus which is great for locking the lens into infinity focus for landscapes and astro photography. It’s all sweet, smooth manual focus baby – which is a rather sucky experience on Nikon. They do give you the green-dot-O’-focus but it’s not as good as using focus peaking on the mirrorless cameras. However, the focus and distance marks are still engraved on the old lenses which is awesome, especially for a technique known as zone focusing.

I’d never heard of this before but stumbled across it while looking into the Street Photography Genre. Suffice it to say, in a world without modern Auto Focus, how would photogs get sharp shots in the fast paced, ever changing world of the street? They would stop down and preset the focus on their lenses. This would essentially give the photographer a “zone of focus” – an area in the photo that would have an acceptable level of sharpness. Say f/8 at 5 feet away. This gives you roughly 6 feet of in focus area to work with, 1.7 feet in front of the subject, 4.2 feet behind. You just had to get good at manually guessing how far your subject was from you when you made your shot. If they were in that 5 foot range, you’d nab the shot. It’s actually quicker than auto focus because you just pointed the camera and clicked the shutter button. That’s how they did it.

I wanted to try it out. But I don’t really live near any streets. LOL. 😎 I’ll try it for real when we go to the city. But it does work pretty good, especially with the Df’s low light capability. I can crank the ISO and still have clean images for the small f/8 & f/11 apertures.

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Just compose and boom!

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It’s a pretty cool technique. And you can do it on the cheap. I picked up the 28mm off eBay for like $250! I was leery of buying glass unseen off eBay and vowed never to do so. But I took a chance and it worked out great. The lens shipped from Japan and was in BETTER condition than what the seller had indicated. It’s essentially brand spankin’ new. Gotta love that!

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Optically it’s really sharp, even wide open. I was blown away by the quality. Even on the D800, this puppy holds up. I thought that sensor would eat it for breakfast but it does a great job.

20141111-28mm-014And it’s got a nice creamy bokehliciousness to it as well. Wide(r) angles aren’t really known for the bokeh. But this is pleasing enough for me! 😎

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#Camping2014

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It’s been quite busy as of late! We’ve been campin’ up a storm all over Saskatchewan and most recently Manitoba. Child’s Lake has a really terrific campground, as well as tons of other cool stuff. It’s been my in-law’s campground of choice for years. This year we had great weather but the bugs were heinous verging on horrendous. Lots of water = lots of mosquitos. Our poor children looked like walking mosquito bites, despite slathering them down with all manor of DEET bearing spray known to mankind! 👿 But we always have a good time. Weather was good. There was only one rogue black bear in the campground to worry about so that’s not bad either. 😎

My favourite shot from the trip was the banner image from this post. I was really wanting a nice sunset image of Child’s Lake. But the sunset was quasi-lackluster. And boats galore were chopping up the lake for some last minute water skiing and tubing. So I had to with them out until it was almost too late. Plus I was getting eaten alive by the winged vampires – despite the army of dragonflies eating them by the metric truck load above my head. I had the Nikon Df on a tripod and made the 13 second exposure with the 24mm AFS f/1.4 lens. That lens is a cracker jack piece of glass! When I’m travelling I only ever bring a prime kit (24, 50, 85), or just my FujiFilm X100s if I want to be truly ultralight. I opted for the Df because I knew I wanted to make this image that required a bit wider of a lens than the X100s has. The super long exposure turned the water into a polished mirror. As the seconds ticked by the haunting call of loons filled the lake. One notch off of paradise I’d reckon. 🙂


Nikon 70-200 f/4

20130730-70-200f4Prod-001OK, I did it. I pulled the trigger on a 70-200. After reviewing them all at The Camera Store, and heavily leaning towards the Tamron, in the end, I went with Nikon’s new f/4. Why? Well, to be honest, weight. When I put this lens on the camera, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to snap my wrists in half after an hour of use. Even with my Black Rapid strap, the 70-200 f/2.8 is beastly heavy. I thought that this lens will do double duty for event/portraits and landscape. If I ever go on trip somewhere and want to haul my DSLR kit with me (instead of my travellin’ buddy the Fuji X100s) then the f/4 is a far nicer choice to carry around at roughly half the weight. 😀

So I tested my copy of the lens for focus accuracy and it’s bang on which is nice (for once) and I decided to put it to the test taking some ambient light candids of our neighbourhood population of feral children. You can tell that they are wild because their parents don’t care enough about them to bathe them. 😉 And also a few wildlife shots. Mainly with this test, I was looking for bohek performance (but check out the 100% crop [2.4MB] on the cow to see the resolving power at f/4 on the D800!).

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How do the out of focus parts of the image look? After all, it’s not a 2.8. Take a look at the images and see for yourself. To my eye, there’s no great difference, especially as you get towards 200mm in the big time telephoto. And, lets face it, if you want the ultimate in bokeh, grab your 85 f/1.8 or 1.4. That lens is going to obliterate the 2.8 even. Plus, for the cost difference of this f/4, you can also buy the 85mm f/1.8 and have the best of both worlds! What’s not to love?! 😎

So here’s the test shots. Color correction & water mark are the only edits. Let me know what you think. I’ll be doing a YouTube video on this lens too in the near future.

 


Three 70-200s

I’m on a quick holiday to Calgary & Cochrane Alberta, primarily for my cousin’s wedding this weekend, but also for a bit of family fun too. Fortunately, family fun for me equals going to The Camera Store and playing with telephoto zooms. I’ve been debating getting a 70-200 lens for quite some time. I love my primes and primarily shoot them, but for events like weddings, they’re just not versatile enough for fast paced situations. So, Dave at the Camera Store was nice enough to setup three lenses for me on a D800. The Nikon 70-200 f/4, the 70-200 f/2.8 and of special interest, the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC. I was curious to see how these lenses performed against each other in typical wedding-esque crappy lighting (the Camera Store was kind enough to provide that scenario for me). 😉  The most interest to me was in the Tamron after I read how DxO Mark rated it.

So, I provide for your viewing pleasure three sample images that have been downsized to 1024px – mainly to see how the bokeh looks. I shot all the photos at 200mm, wide open, auto WB, and ISO 1600-3200. It simulated real life event photography in low light perfectly. And, I also included 3 100% crop images so you can see the detail that the lenses offer. It should also be noted that I shot them all hand held between 1/60 – 1/125 – truly testing the VR/VC performance of these lenses.  They all performed amazingly well and I was very impressed by all three. I knew the Nikon f/2.8 was stellar, but I was blown away to discover the others did just as good! 😀

So, first up, the Tamron:

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Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC, 1/80 f/2.8 ISO 1600 @200mm

Next, the 70-200 f/2.8 Nikon

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Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 1/125 f/2.8 ISO 3200 @200mm

And, here’s the f/4

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Nikon 70-200 f/4 1/60 f/4 ISO 3200

So, they all look good. Nice bokeh. The difference between f/2.8 and f/4 isn’t all that big, but it is a whole stop of light. It’s all very smooth and pleasing.

OK, here’s the crops so you can check out the details. No noise removal of any kind on these shots:

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Tamron

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Nikon f/2.8

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Nikon f/4

So there’s the stuff. I’m totally impressed by all three, they performed wonderfully and are very sharp. The f/4 is smaller and lighter than the other 2, renders sweet bokeh and performs awesomely with the new VR. But you lose that extra stop of light for that light, travel friendly form factor. It is the cheapest of the three at $1279.99. The 2.8 version is $2129.99, a whopping $850 bones more. And then, there’s the gem of the bunch, the Tamron. It’s around $1600 so it falls in between Nikon’s offerings. The image quality is just as good as can be seen above – if not better on DxO Marks testing. If the f/4 won’t do it for you and you need the extra 2.8 stop, then I’d go with the Tamron over the Nikon flagship. The images are just superb either way, might as well save the cash, unless you need the Nikon street cred. The f/4 is awesome too, and so much lighter, which I why I would almost pick it, especially since the ISO performance of today’s cameras are so good. They’re always a bit of trade off, depending on one’s needs. After this test, I’m heavily leaning towards the Tamron. 😎


16-35mm f/4 Test Shots

I got up before the sunrise today! 😎 . . . only to get skunked by clouds and gloomy light. hehehehe…. always the way it goes. But I was able to make a couple of frames with the new lens. All the shots came out of the camera tack sharp from corner to corner at f/8. But they’re comparable wide open at f/4 too. The other thing is that the VR engine in the lens is quiet. Most of the time they warble and ping like a mouse was inside the lens doing a tap dance. But this thing is different. Sorry about the morbidity of the dead fox carcass in the road. But that’s life in the prairies in winter. Eat or be eaten!! 😉


I’ve got G.A.S.

Gear Acquisition Syndrome! Yeppers, got my new lens today. Came in a couple days from The Camera Store in Calgary and, no pay-pay to ship-ship! 😎 This Nikon 16-35mm f/4 AF-S VR G ED IF N Aspherical lens is a stunner!  All the reviews I read about it said it is sharp and they ain’t kiddin’! It’s spooky sharp. It’s spooky sharp wide open at f/4. Not many lenses are this good at their base aperture but this one is. I did some lens tests and the AF is bang on. I nabbed some quick hand held no VR shots of the kids and they peeled out of camera TACK-Smurfing-SHARP. And, the colours are rendered beautifully. I took this one of Ethan and it is straight out of camera. No editing at all, watermark aside. The camera is set to neutral too so the picture control is zeroed out. This lens is fantastic. I can’t wait to go nab some landscape shots with it. 😀

I also picked up a ThinkTank Retrospective 20 bag too. It’s a sweet bag, built to last forever (like everything ThinkTank makes) and its the perfect bag for events or light trips where I don’t want to bring all o’ my kit. I can get at least 3 lenses into it and 2 flashes, as well as a whole host of other goodies. It’s the cat’s pyjamas.

So, my lens collection is almost complete, nearly all gold rings. I’m fully prepared to go full frame now as all my lenses are FX compatible going from 16mm all the way to 300mm! Pretty much ready for anything. That’s a nice milestone to reach. Full reviews (probably video) to follow on the lens for sure. Tons of great vids on the ThinkTank bag on YouTube. Check it out!

Gold Ring Baby! Ya!

 


It’s a Murder!

Last night after another magical slow cooked dinner we decided to have a fire. After we got the s’more pit going, I looked up and noticed a gaggle pride flock band murder of crows. I know why they call them a murder.They make so much obscene noise you want to murder them all! It was a toss up between the camera and a gun on this “shoot”. 😉 My theory is that there was something dead nearby because they and two hawks kept swooping in and out of the trees behind our house. Anyways, it was golden light and everything was rich in colour. Love it! Can’t beat it ever! I grabbed the 70-300 and nabbed a few shots before the light slinked away behind the horizon. It’s gyp that the sunsets aren’t lasting as long as they did even a few weeks ago. All of these shots (except the fire pit) are with the 70-300. You can see how longer glass gives you added compression and photo num nums. The power/telephone poles show this in the pics of the family. Even at f/5.6 0r f/8, they look compressed and bokehlicious. 8) And the shots of the lone yellow clover blossoms have sweet sweet bokeh at 300mm. That’s the added benefits of compression in images. If you’ve ever wondered why the vast majority of portrait photographers use that magical 70-200 lens, this is why.


50mm Nikkor f/1.4G Portraits

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!! This lens is fantastic. Incredible sharpness from f/2 up and awesome performance even at f/1.4. In my opinion it’s the ultimate portrait lens on a DX camera body. I bought it from B&H photo in the USA because it was $140 cheaper than in Canada. But recently the prices of all glass in the US just increased (even Sigma stuff). Now, it’s actually cheaper in Canada from Aden Camera than it is from B&H. Crazy. I’m really glad I pulled the trigger on this f/1.4 when I did! 😀 It’s a sweet upgrade to my already really-good 50mm f/1.8 I have. The bokeh is far more creamy & buttery with the 1.4 than the 1.8.  It always seems like a small step, that little hop of one stop, but it is like lightyears in lens quality.

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She’s a Keeper!

Finally got my new 50mm f/1.4G lens. It was on back order but I got word that it arrived at Donna’s Den yesterday. So, I loaded up the kids and went down to the Den to pick it up. And, to top it all off, I had NO border hassle, either going or coming back. Because I already paid tax on the lens, they didn’t make me go through the hassle of filling out 18 thousand metric tonnes of paper work to get my $25 bucks back. 🙂

Being gun shy from the last lens that was defective, I brought this one home and immediately did my pop-can sharpness test again. f/5.6 is the sharpest usable aperture for this lens, so I dialled it in and viola! It’s sharp!

Tack Sharp!

And, just to be safe, I did my Auto Focus test again too. But when I did it, it seemed like this new lens was front focusing (whereas the other lens was back-focused into the next county)! CURSES!!! I thought, surely this can’t be?! What are the odds?! All those Canon people aren’t crazy after all! 😉 . . . But, silly me, I forgot to de-activate the AF Fine Tune settings from the last time I was trying to calibrate the defective lens. Once I turned that compensation off, the Auto Focus was bang on even at f/1.4! 🙂

And, to top it all off, I did a crazy self portrait with ridiculous settings. Why not? The new lens is a keeper! 😀 Soooo stoked!

ISO 3200 f/1.4 1/30 50mm


When you Buy a New Lens

I got an email from B&H that my 50mm f/1.4 has been back ordered. Swell. Who knows how long it will take to arrive now. Bummer. 😦 But, it’s grounds for a blog post. 🙂

What should you do when you buy a new lens?

First, take a look at it. Make sure that the mount on the back is OK, make sure the body of the lens isn’t cracked or damaged. Then inspect the front glass element for nicks or scratches. Take a flashlight/desk lamp and shine it through the lens while opening the aperture at the back to look for dirt or other big crap that might be inside the lens. Little dust isn’t such a big deal but huge chunks of stuff should be grounds for a return and exchange right away.

Most return policies on defective equipment are only at most 2 weeks from the company you bought it from so you want to do all these checks immediately so you can return any defective items to the seller rather than have to ship them off to Nikon or Canon.  B&H was really good to me in that I got the lens on a Saturday, did my checks, found it to be defective and got a return (RMA) form Sunday.

After you have done the initial physical checks, it’s time to do actual lens focus/sharpness tests. I have already posted some links to YouTube vids that explain this process. [But here they are again for fun: Part 1; Part 2] The tests should be done immediately as defects will be very apparent. Do the can test to check for sharpness and then do the ruler test to check to see if the autofocus is on or not. There are lens tolerances that can be adjusted for on higher end camera bodies through the AF Fine Tune settings that can actually pull the auto focus back into alignment with where it should be. But, as in my case, if the focus is way out, then the lens is crap and it must go back from whence it came.

Don’t be a naïve sucker face. Do your lens tests and make sure you are getting the quality that you are paying for. The manufacturing process is pretty darned awesome, but the world is a sinful place and errors do creep in. Now if they could only come up with solution for speeding up back orders… 😉

Another useful link!

And one more!


Canon Conundrum

When eyeing up lenses across the two major competitors (Nikon & Canon) one notices something rather odd. A conundrum of sorts, really. It makes sense to me to have lens focal lengths stop and start in complimentary places. For example, the holy trinity of Nikon’s f/2.8 glass line up go from 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 meaning that you have the entire range of focal lengths from super wide to long telephoto all at the magical f/2.8 aperture. Makes sense.

14-24

24-70

70-200

What doesn’t make sense is Canon’s line up. There you have 16-35 and then 24-70 & 70-200 all L series at f/2.8. There’s a mismatch in the focal lengths from the Canon ultra wide zoom to the standard zoom. Does it really matter? No, not really. Am I nitpicking the competition? Maybe. 😉 But the more curious thing is that Nikon ALSO makes a 16-35 (f/4) & a 17-35 (f/2.8). [FYI: Both Canon & Nikon have no VR/IS on these lenses].

Canon 16-35

Nikon 17-35

I got to thinkin’ – why do that? Why make 2 lenses that seemingly double up the focal lengths?? That also was a conundrum. I found a Flickr forum discussing the issue and the general consensus was that the 14-24 was a “fun” lens while the 17-35 was a “useful” lens.

14-24 "Fun" Image

17-35 "Useful" Image

Meaning, that because the 14-24 has an aspherical front element, you can “bend” your photos to have some really cool artistic lens distortion, even using it as a super wide portrait lens at concerts or what have you. The advantage of the 17-35 is that because it isn’t aspherical, you can use neutral density filters on it, making it perhaps more suitable for landscapes or photo journalism. The point was made that if you were photographing a large crowd of protestors with tear gas and rocks and debris flying everywhere, a lens filter would better protect your lens. You can’t outfit the 14-24 with lens filters because it is aspherical. So, the 17-35 has the advantage of adding armour in combat situations. 🙂

Get Your Armour

But back to Canon being bizarre with their focal length mismatch in the lens line up, well, that’s just weird. 😉 Go Nikon.


5 Year Plan

Beginners to photography always ask what lenses should I buy (after they ask what camera should I buy). 😉 It is good to have a plan in place so that you don’t spend money on junk glass that you will want to sell later on to buy better stuff. I came across the whole 5 year plan concept on one of Jared Polin’s YouTube blogs and I thought the idea was superb. Have a plan in place that allows you to save your money and upgrade to the very best of lenses and camera bodies over time. Quality is everything! And we pay dearly for it! But it is worth it. 🙂

The plan I present here is for the beginner who has gotten into photography and really likes it & wants to take it to the next level – either hobby or business wise. As such, it starts out with the entry level camera body and kit lens.  Then, it encourages buying professional level glass as the next step. Why? Because if you waste your money on junk glass now (because you can afford it), then as you get better and want to upgrade, you’ll have a bunch of junk glass nobody wants. But if you purchase higher end glass, you’ll be fine and dandy as sour candy for your entire photographic career. Camera bodies come and go but lenses last forever (well, a LOT longer than camera bodies!) 😉 As for camera bodies, you want to jump from the entry level body to the top of the pro-sumer line, then to the top of the professional line. It’s not advisable to simply buy the next update of the entry level camera body you already have. They don’t change that much from update to update.

This proposed plan may take you shorter or longer to accomplish and that’s OK. It’s totally up to how aggressively you want to pursue photography and how much cash you have on hand to bank roll it.

Check out this plan for both Canon & Nikon lenses & bodies and let me know what you think. Lists of accessories are also included. The over arching goal is get good glass in your hands that covers the focal range from super wide to long telephoto. But it really depends on what kinds of photography you want to do. For example, if you really want to do Macro photography, that lens will be further ahead on your list than say a 300mm f/2.8 wildlife lens 🙂

5 Year Plan.pdf


Oh, my aching back-focus!

CRAP! 😦 My 50mm f/1.4G just arrived from B&H and I have to ship it back.  As soon as I opened it I started doing some focus testing with it and realized it was back focusing. Essentially, when you put your focus point on the subject, the focus point wasn’t in focus. The stuff a couple inches from your focus point was in focus. Which is completely unacceptable to me. I called B&H and they sent me a RMA thing but I have to go to Bowbells to ship it. Bummer!!!

Anyways, its fodder for a blog post. 😉

My D300s gives adjustment for fine tuning lenses in the menu system which is really nice. You can correct the focus somewhat and compensate for a lens that isn’t quite bang on. Then it saves the information and any time you attach that lens, the camera uses the information to correct the focus which is super handy. But testing for focus problems can be a bit of a bummer. Fortunately there is YouTube to the rescue. Consult these helpful vids if you expect you are experiencing back focusing or front focusing.

Back Focusing Sample Shots:

So there you go. Hopefully it won’t take 4 years to get a replacement and when it comes there will be no issues. Curses! Oh well. It builds character. 😉

Shot at f/4 - focus is completely off. The whole face should be sharp at f/4


Nikon Lens Review!

One of the gaping holes on the Internet was a comparison of the 70-200 f/2.8 VR lens and the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR lens.  Fortunately, I was able to borrow the f/2.8 glass and compare it with my 70-300. And, I made a YouTube video of it to share the goodness. Both lenses are great, but they are definitely for different tasks. If I was a wedding  or concert photographer in low lighting conditions, I’d want the f/2.8. But it is one heavy piece of glass and in my opinion isn’t as desirable as a walk-around street lens. Enter the 70-300. It’s waaay slower than the 70-200 (autofocus and aperture) but it’s lighter and more balanced on DX camera bodies. But alas, it sucks in low light, and the auto focus hunts around like a blind hyena. Anyways, here’s the video. 🙂


Bokeh & Compression

Recently on an episode of Fro Knows Photo, I watched the Fro & Greg edit a RAW file of some girl posed in a sitting position on a concrete ledge with a forest type background. At the end of the show, they were critiquing the shot such that it had been taken with a 50mm f/1.8 Canon. The general gist of what was said was that the bokeh on the 50mm 1.8 was not as pleasing as it could have been had the portrait been taken with a 70-200mm f/2.8.

Now, I happen to love 50mm primes. They are almost the perfect portrait lens on crop censor cameras, producing a sweet 75mm on my D300s.  In fact, my new 50mm f/1.4 G lens should be arriving any day now. So while I wait, I decided to borrow a 70-200 f/2.8 lens from Jocelyn, setup my own miniature wedding photo shoot for John & Marsha and do a “which has better bokeh” test. 😉

There are two main things going on that we need to be aware of: Bokeh & Compression. Bokeh is the Japanese word for “stuff that is out of focus in a photo.” Compression is described as an effect produced by a long lens (longer than 35mm) that smooshes and flattens backgrounds. It gives the effect of even more buttery bokeh. There are some people who contest this as a myth though.

For simplicity’s sake, longer telephoto lenses *should* produce more pleasing bokeh because it is “compressed” in addition to being out of focus. This is where Greg was coming from on the Fro episode.  So, let’s check the results of my mini-field test and you can make up your own conclusions.

The situation was that John and Marsha surrounded by background and foreground elements (pineapple, spiderplant, gerbs and a happy face flower resting on two toddler chairs and a brick wall). This simulates a wedding couple in a park area with some trees & shrubs and thick forest behind them. The lenses used were Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 105mm f/2.8 VR macro, and a 50mm f/1.8.  All the lenses were mounted on a D300s on a tripod using mirror lock up and a cable release with VR off. Light levels and ISO remained constant.  Distance was slightly changed to try and maintain similar perspective.

Here is a gallery of the results:

What do you think? Which lens has the most pleasing Bokeh? Which lens produces the most pleasing portrait? 🙂

 

 


Nice Glass!

Ever since we bought the all new AppleTV, we’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos. Naturally, I searched photography and found zillions of videos and channels dedicated to it. I have posted the links to some of the better known photography channels on the sidebar of my blog.

One of the channels that I find totally hilarious (in a dry British/Chinese kind of way), is DigitalRevCom. They do all kinds of crazy videos and more serious camera/lens reviews. It’s a lot of fun! One of their videos that I watched last night had to do with a comparison of camera bodies and lenses. What’s better? A pro camera body with crappy glass or a cheap camera body with awesome glass?!  I’d highly recommend you watch the video to find out!

Or, I’ll just tell you the right answer. 😉 It’s always glass. ALWAYS. Lenses are always a better investment because you have them for years whereas bodies change all the time. Most people get sucked into the “bigger mega pixel count” = better game. It’s simply not the case. In fact, one theory I heard recently is that the more megapixels you have the more chance there is for blurry images because the slightest of movement can be captured by the higher/finer megapixels. It could make for crisper shots in good light, but in poor light, it might actually make the shot worse – or at the very least, require the *need* for faster glass. Anyways, it’s an interesting idea. And, the video is great. Check em’ out!!


Covetousness!

The greatest challenge I have in photography is covetousness. I’m talking about photography equipment here – drooling over newer, faster, crisper glass from Nikkor. 🙂 We all know that the paintbrush didn’t make Picasso, but I’m sure it didn’t really hurt things either!

50mm f/1.4G

One of my all time favourite lenses is my nifty-fifty.  AF 50mm f1.8. I have used that lens to take literally thousands of shots across three camera bodies (D40, D80 and now my D300s). I love it! It’s fast. It’s sharp. It’s crisp. It’s cheap! That is, it’s inexpensive.  However, my covetous eye has spied the newer 50mm f1.4G – it’s designed for FX bodies, which someday I hopefully will have. But a 50mm on a DX body gives you a nearly perfect portraiture lens at 75mm. And f1.4 is pure awesome. So, I now I am having crazy thoughts that I should have it. Ah, but life is full of small children for us at the moment who need food, clothes and diapers and other miscellany.

Life has a way of getting in the way of Photography budgets! 😉

If I could assemble an “essentials” list of Nikkors, this is what I would have in my bag:

AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G – ideal portrait lens on a DX body

AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED – HAVE IT! YAY! 😀 Super fun Macro & telephoto portrait lens

AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8 ED VR II – perfect for wildlife, especially with a teleconverter

AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f2.8G ED – Incredible wide angle lens for landscapes

AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II – Awesome for portraits and even wildlife with a teleconverter

Estimated cost: just shy of $9000.00 CDN . . . It never hurts to dream! 😉


Finding the Sweet Spot!

A while ago my dad bought some lenses off another photographer. On the lenses was a small piece of tape that had various f stop numbers written on them. I wondered about what it all meant. Dad graciously enlightened me. The f stops written on the tape were the apertures that the particular lens was sharpest at. Essentially, they were where the lens was at its best performance for sharpness and optimal image quality.

This can be referred to as “lens tuning” or “lens diagnostics” – whatever you want to call it, its the process of finding out where your lens shoots the sharpest images at. I went digging around the internet and came across some really great videos on how to sharpness test your lens. The people who provided the videos also provided a comprehensive list of Nikkor and Zeiss lens sharpness. When I tried their techniques in the video I came up with the same results they did and they were startling!

Part 1

Part 2

If you want to try this, watch the videos and follow them exactly.

I tried three of my lenses in these diagnostics: my “nifty-fifty” 50mm AF f1.8, my 105mm AF-S VR Macro and my 16-85mm AF-S VR zoom lens. The primes were quicker to test because you just sail through the f stops shooting at various apertures. But with the zoom lens, you have to do it at various focal lengths which took a little longer.

Anyways, we will look at the findings of my favorite lens for portraits, my trusty 50mm. In the past, I’ve almost always shot it at f1.8. Why? Because it can shoot f1.8!! It can open up super wide in junk light, making shots possible you might not have otherwise got. But, after doing this sharpness test today, I’m rethinking some things. According to the sharpness chart, the optimal apertures for this lens are:

DX: F/4.0, F/5.6, and F/8.0 (For FX & Film:F/4.0, F/5.6, F/8.0, F/11.0, & F/16.0)

When I compare my test images at f1.8 and 7.1 the difference in sharpness is truly incredible. The 7.1 image is far sharper.

50mm test image

Click to See Larger

Also, for the 105mm Macro at f2.8 and f8, the difference is wild. It confirms the chart which says DX (normal use/non 1:1 close up): F/4.0, F/5.6, and F/8.0 are sharpest.

105mm test image

Click to See Larger

And finally, for my 16-85 zoom, the chart’s findings were: DX: 24mm-50mm at F/8.0.

Best part of the focal range

 

Which tells you that the sweet spot of this zoom is f8 in that range. I included a test shot of the 16-85 at 85mm f8 vs f32 for comparison. It’s striking!

16-85 test image

Click to see larger

What all this nerdy stuff tells us is two fold. 1) It can confirm for you that the lens you have is accurate and not a dud. If in your comparisons, you see soft images where they should be sharp, you may have a bum lens. 2) It confirms in your own mind where your particular lens should be shot to be at it’s very best (sharpest). Of course lighting conditions, situations and artistic intent play into this, but it’s safe to say if you know where your lens shoots sharpest, you’re more likely to get consistently sharp images if you know the sweet spots.