zondag 25 maart 2012

Nikkor 28mm f/3.5 (pre-ai)

Why would you buy an manual focus lens within the range of your kit lens in the first place, and why on earth would you want to have one with an aperture that your kit lens is able to give you as well? First of all, I like primes, I like the way you always get the same kind of perspective. When you have a zoom, the perspective changes with every time you use another focal length. Primes give you a better idea how things will look like before you look through the viewfinder because the way they render what they see does not change. This makes you work faster, or at least when you’re used to using primes.

But for me the most important reason to have this lens is that it has hyper focal markings on its body. I like to use this lens for landscapes, and the hyperfocus markings are very useful. The reason I find the ability to use hyperfocus distances so important is that by closing your lens too far down diffraction occurs. Diffraction causes your lens to be less sharp than at the middle apertures, and because of that it is useful to use hyperfocus distances.

Handling the lens
The focus is very light on this lens, you need little pressure to turn the ring. But it is not so light you “overshoot”, you can focus this lens very precise. Besides the perfect focus mechanism this lens is fairly wide, even on DX sensors, this means your DoF is larger than with telephoto lenses. Because of that you maintain focus much longer, making it even easier to focus this lens.

Another reason I love this lens for my landscape shots is that the front element does not turn when you focus. It only extends a bit, but that doesn’t matter. This allows you to mount filters on this lens without the focus affecting it. Imagine using a polarizer on a lens which front element turns when you focus, almost impossible to use. With this lens it is much easier to use a polarizer, or a graduated neutral density filter.

Besides that there is little to mention about the lens, it is quite small and light. It makes the ideal travel companion on a DX camera. This lens decreases the size of your DSLR significantly compared to a zoom lens, because this lens is so short it takes up less space.

The results are just amazing. This lens isn’t very fast, nor is it very wide. Nikon didn’t need  to make compromises to build this lens, resulting in a very good lens. Pointed at the sun it is hard to get a flare, and sharpness is already very good wide open. There is little CA. It is sad, but there’s just nothing more to say about the results, except that it is just a very good lens.

As I said, this is a very good lens. You will get great results from this lens, even wide open. In that perspective it is sad that its focal length falls within the reach of the kit lens. This lens isn’t significantly faster than your average 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. However I am convinced that this lens was able to maintain its value, especially because of the hyper focus markings. These are really huge to me, and I prefer this lens over my kit lens because of that, and because its front element does not rotate during focusing.

Because this lens isn’t exceptionally fast or wide this lens can be found for little money, which is another great quality.

(I don't like to put up full resolution files, if you're interested in this lens you can leave a comment / sent an email for larger files)

donderdag 15 maart 2012

lenses with defects are ok

I once wrote a blog entry about whether photography is art or not. The reason I wrote that, and why I keep up my blog, is to find out what I really think about it. when I write it down I tend to think it more through. One of the things I mentioned in the article was that digital photography becomes too perfect. Almost cold and robotic instead of an organic process. I wrote that light leaks and lens imperfections shaped the character of old photographs. Recently I have been reviewing a few lenses on my blog, (mostly to help other buyers of old glass since there is relatively little written about it on the internet) and I have been complaining about the performances of some of these old lenses. For example in my review of the vivitar 200mm f/3.5 I do not sincerely recommend (even though it still is a great lens) it because it shows quite some CA wide open, and the sharpness is a small OK. 

However I took that lens out today, and because it was overcast and it is a longer lens I had to use it wide open. Then I took this photo, and when I saw it on the computer it struck me that I have been contradicting myself. I once said that it shaped the character of a photograph when it showed defects, and in my reviews I was complaining about their “character”. And to be honest I even exaggerated the softness of the lens. I shot this photo in raw, and did not add any sharpening, reduced the contrast, and applied a Gaussian blur at the edges. So what I am basically trying to say is that there are a lot of good lenses, but some are more appropriate for different kinds of photography. When you want to best (or clinical perfect) look, go for the latest lenses, but sometimes the defects of lenses can give a wonderful mood to your photographs. 

zondag 4 maart 2012

vivitar 200mm f/3.5

Vivitar was a lens re-seller, and the serial numbers are an indicator who actually manufactured the lens. There is some difference in optical quality and exterior per manufacturer. You can check who made your lens on this list
The serial number on my lens starts with 28 which means it’s made by Komine.

I am not sure if I am really positive about this lens. In test shots it shows what it can do, but in the field (which is way more important) it is a lens which takes getting used to before you get good results. It is pretty difficult to get the right focus, and if you missed just a bit you will notice it. I guess I will be more positive about it in the future, but for now I really need to pay attention to my focus, more than on any other lens (except for macro photos)

Handling the lens
The lens feels solid, it is quite heavy but not front heavy. You can stabilize it quite easily and does not feel unbalanced on my D60. The focus ring is quite smooth, not as smooth as my Nikkor lenses, this one uses oil. This is a major disadvantage during cold days because the oil becomes stiff and the lens is harder to focus. However most of the off-brand lenses use oil in their focus mechanisms so I won’t nag about it anymore. The thing is, focus is really critical with this lens. When I first got it and tested it I was a bit carless about my focussing. At first I thought I bought a dog because images were soft. This lens does not tolerate focus errors at all, and the right focus is a bit hard to achieve. It takes a smaller twist on the focus ring than I used to to defocus the lens. This is could be because the focus ring is not precise enough, but I think it’s mostly because it is a longer lens with a faster aperture than I normally use. The lens has a built in hood. It is relatively short and I am not sure how effective it really is. But it probably is better than nothing and it seems like a nice feature. (especially during the rain to keep your front element dry)

Wide open this lens is extremely prone to CA. In high contrast situations you’re able to see it without looking closely. During processing you will find CA everywhere. However it falls within the limits of what’s correctable in my post processing program ( I use Capture NX 2, but I’m sure any other program will be able to cope with it as well)
The sharpness wide open is a small OK. It does not shine wide open. At f/3.5 details start to blur, perhaps also caused by the CA.

without correction

With correction

At f/5.6 the quality starts to increase rapidly. Sharpness increases to great, but CA is still visible, but a lot less. You won’t be able to see it at normal magnifications, only when you zoom in for small precise adjustments (hey not pixel peeping right?) I would be confident to use this lens for a large print for a paid job at f/5.6.



Bokeh is all right, with busy backgrounds it can be distracting, especially branches. The only solution is to open up your lens, or come closer. But a lot of lenses won’t be able to handle it very well. If the background is a bit smoother the bokeh will be all right.

I bought this lens mostly because I wanted something faster than my 70-210 f/4-5.6 for my walk around wildlife photographs. And this lens does the job all right, it is a good lens but nothing special. It is not as sharp wide open as my 70-210, but this one has a faster aperture. I end up using this lens as a regular 200mm f/5.6 lens with some emergency extra F-stops. The reason I do so is because focus is really critical and I just need the DoF to get sharp images. Especially for wild life because the focus ring has more friction than my Nikkor lenses (but as much friction as my other 3rd party lenses) which makes it a bit less precise. And because the real sharpness of the lens is just better at f/5.6 So in conclusion I do recommend this lens, but don’t pay too much for it. The lens is OK, but nothing more. 

If you want full resolution images, just sent me an email, and I will send them to you. I just don't like to put up full resolution images