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 โ€“ 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. ๐Ÿ˜Ž


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). ย So, I decided to get a copy of Nikon’s newest 50mm 1.8G lens. ย 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. ย 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 theย 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. ย 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. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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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. ๐Ÿ˜Ž 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 โ€“ 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 engravedย 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. ๐Ÿ˜Ž 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! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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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! ๐Ÿ‘ฟ 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. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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. ๐Ÿ™‚


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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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?! ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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). ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย 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. ย 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! ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜Ž


16-35mm f/4 Test Shots

I got up before the sunrise today! ๐Ÿ˜Ž . . . 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!! ๐Ÿ˜‰


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! ๐Ÿ˜Ž Thisย Nikon 16-35mm f/4 AF-S VR G ED IF N Aspherical lens is a stunner! ย 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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”. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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! ๐Ÿ˜€ 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. ย 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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