zaterdag 1 januari 2011

review nikkor 50mm f/2

Before my first review of a lens, I will explain what I try to do here. I'm not interested in what is the sharpest lens, if it is sharp enough it's sharp enough. I only use it in real situations and will not compare the sharpness at different apertures using a tripod to shoot the same subject over and over again. I just explain my experiences with a couple of lenses.

The 50mm, a lens every photographer should have in their bag. Well at least in the film days, (and maybe the future full frame days) because with the DX format a 50 will become a 75mm.


This length is a bit awkward if you are not used to it. It is a slight telelens, but it doesn't come really close as well.  So you probably won't be using this lens indoors, but i find it a very useful focal length for portraits. You can get fairly close to the model, get some interaction. It also suits my style of street photography, I'm not really a street photographer but i always felt that the action was like 4 meters in front of me and a 35mm (50 on DX) just didn't come close enough. But I also use it for everyday shooting, to shoot my brother's basketball games, concerts.

But now the lens, I own the nikkor-h 50mm f/2 pre ai lens. I bought it for 15 euro's from a guy who thought it was broken because it didn't focus on his camera. I saw no use in telling him that it would have been weird if it did, so I just told him I was trying a bit of DIY repair for a schoolproject. It looks like it's been through a war, but the glass is still good and has no scratches. I don't show a photo of the lens because it does not really matter what the lens looks like, there are different versions: 2 pre-ai's, ai and ai-s but they are all the same. As long as it is a manual focus nikkor 50 we're talking about the same lens.

The lens has 6 aperture blades which aren't round, if you close it down you will get a hexagon shaped bokeh.


Personally it does not really bother me, nowadays the aperture will be round at every aperture, creating a smoother bokeh. But it does not really distract, because if you have round bokeh or hexagon bokeh, the highlights will be shown as little almost round shapes. It only distracts because we aren't used to other shapes than roundish bokeh.

The lens has an aperture range from f/2 to f/16, at f/2 it is already pretty sharp and it peaks from f/5.6 to f/11. At these apertures this lens is extremely sharp, every imperfection on a model's skin would definitely show up. That's why I always use it wide open for portraits, because than it all comes together. When I take a head shot, only the eyes will be really sharp, hiding the imperfections on the model's skin, and if i do a full body shot they will not show up because they are too small.

For everyday situations I tend to use it at f/5.6, just because I like the depth of field it gives me, my subject will be sharp while the background will be unsharp. Especially if i shoot landscapes with it, I prefer rising the ISO than having a too short depth of field.
Landscapes? Yes! landscapes, i like longer focal lengths, I feel uncomfortable when i shoot anything wider than a 24mm at DX. I like to focus on details and like a smaller depth of field than the distortion of ultra wide angles. So i shoot landscapes with my 50mm from time to time.


Like this one, I took this photograph in Utrecht. I forgot the exact aperture but I think think it was taken at f/11 to get a maximum depth of field. What really amazed me when i was processing this photograph was how far you could enlarge it, it is impossible to see it from here, but the bridge has it's name written in the middle. I was wondering what the bridge was called and at 200% i could read it!

For sports:
It is a bit hard to find a good solution between getting close enough and getting a large enough depth of field. Because it is very hard to track focus someone who is playing a game. I rather use zone-focussing, but than you will need quite a large depth of field, a depth of field a longer lense only gives you when you close it down. I find the 50mm just at the edge of being convenient, my hit-miss ratio is a bit too high, but when i pull of a shot it looks great. The player is well isolated and you can clearly see the expression in his face.

Conclusion:
Get this lens, it is a cheap one and a good one. Manufacturers have been making 50mm's for ages and know how to make a good one for a small price. It does not really matter if you buy the f/2 or the f/1.8 version, although the f/1.8 is more common I also noticed that the price is like 10 to 20 euro's higher. This is weird because you only can tell the difference between these apertures by looking at the specs. The difference is 1/3th of a stop, I would not spend 10 euro's extra for this, especially since i bought this lens for 15. Just get the cheapest one and enjoy this lens.

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