zaterdag 6 juli 2013

review of the Nikkor 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5

The 35-105mm was Nikon’s first variable aperture lens, but compared to the modern lenses it does not lose a lot of light. Rather than closing down to f/5.6 at the maximum zoom range, it closes down to f/4.5. Besides the useful focal range (especially on film / full frame) it is also capable of a reproduction ration of 1:4. So this seems like an interesting lens. And to be honest that’s the reason I bought it, because I was curious and not because I needed it.

Of course this is an older zoom lens, which means that the quality is not comparable to current Nikkor zoom lenses. However the image quality is surprising, the lens is far more usable than I anticipated. If you punish this lens it does show its shortcomings, but if you are aware of them you can make pretty good use of this lens. So one of the things you should not expect this lens is to produce good image quality when you are focused on infinity and you use a wide open aperture. Then the image becomes muddy and it reminds a bit of a smart phone image. However, if you close down one stop and try not to be at the extremes of the focal length you can get a very acceptable image. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it a 6.5 or 7 while the 50mm would get a 10. So if I want an extremely sharp image for a large print I would not use this lens. And I will probably never take it when I go out to make landscape photographs.

However the lens is quite sharp when you focus a bit closer. The normal focus ring allows you to focus up to 1.4 meters, but there is also a macro ring. Depending on your focal range you can get a magnification of 1:4 (35mm) or 1:5.5 (105mm). And the images I got out of that mode are very good. Again, on a scale of 1 to 10 I would give it an 8. And since we discuss close-up photography we might as well discuss bokeh. The bokeh of the lens is alright, it is not really bad but also nothing outstanding. The aperture blades are not curved so you can see the aperture blades back in the bokeh highlights. Normally I don’t find it distracting but with this lens it can be a bit distracting from time to time depending on the actual aperture you use. But if you have less out of focus highlights, shoot at an aperture which suits the bokeh the bokeh is quite nice. The area which is closest to the focus point can be a bit distracting depending on the background, but generally it looks good.

As you can see, the ground which is only just out of focus is a bit busy. But besides that I like the bokeh in this photograph

This lens flares quite easily. If you can find an appropriate lens hood you should use it to avoid unwanted flare. But the flare of this lens is quite beautiful, it shows that this lens contains out of a lot of lens elements. You can control the flare to a certain extend by zooming a bit in or out. Zooming just a bit can change the look of the flare dramatically and I you have the time it is worthwhile to experiment with the best focal range. Of course this lens has other short comings as well. It has quite some distortion I’ve read on other websites. But until now it hasn’t bothered me that much. I have to admit, I do not shoot architecture, but the distortion isn’t too obvious and I generally do not correct for it. Another issue this lens apparently has is vignetting. After all, it’s an old zoom. But I have not noticed it yet. I’m sure there is some, but it hasn’t bothered me yet even though I don’t like it if you can see imperfections in my photographs which were not intended for the viewer to see. (flare on the other hand can be a nice creative tool)

So I’ve discussed the image quality of this lens, but I don’t think that’s the most important I like about this lens. I have sharper lenses. But the thing about this lens is that it gives reasonable image quality while also being very versatile. You can focus reasonably close and the focus is just nice, it’s the classic Nikkor quality. I like the focal range on DX (but that’s because I don’t like shooting with lenses wider than 28 on DX) especially for a general walk-around lens. It has a 52mm filter thread which is shared with a lot of other Nikkor lenses. And the build quality is just great. The main quality of this lens is the handling. Of course I can get better image quality by shooting with a modern zoom or a prime, but there’s just something about this lens that keeps making me use it. Because what’s image quality worth when your photos suck? I really like my primes, and I think that they help me to see better photos. But from time to time you just want a zoom, and then I pick this lens of the shelf. 

zondag 6 januari 2013

Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 (made by Komine) review

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 think this is my favourite telephoto lens, as it gives quite a considerable reach on DX and it’s my fastest lens above 100mm. It is relatively light and small, which also makes it a great portrait lens as people tend to forget that this lens is capable of making a close-up portrait from a distance.

Handling the lens
In combination with my D60 this lens is just right. The weight is equally distributed and the combination is just large enough to stabilise it properly. As with most other 3rd party lenses, this lens uses oil to reduce friction when focussing. Although this generally won’t be a problem, the focus will become stiff when you expose the lens to low temperatures. However, as I said most 3rd party lenses from that time are built in the same way, and we can’t blame Vivitar (or Komine) for this.

Focussing is quite easy with the lens, the DoF is generally sufficient for minor movements between you and your subject when you recompose, and my keeper-rate is high enough. However, try to nail the focus when you make a portrait as the DoF can become quite shallow close-by at f2.8.

The lens has a metal hood which can’t be removed from the lens. Although it looks nice I’m not entirely convinced of the effectiveness of the hood as it doesn’t extend that far from the lens. I would have preferred if the hood could be removed, as it is hard to attach filters with the hood extended, and almost impossible to use the Cokin or Lee filter system, as the hood doesn’t go back far enough to allow the filter holder to slide over the coupling ring.

As this is a telephoto lens, I generally use it to fill the frame with remote objects, so I focus relatively close to infinity. And as I don’t want my shutter to fall below 1/125th I shoot it wide open quite a lot. And I suspect that most people will, except when they make portraits of course. Be aware that most lenses won’t show their best properties when they are focussed at infinity wide open.
The lens needs some sharpening when you shoot it in these conditions, but after post processing, the images look very good. And when you close it down to f/4 it’s already much better.

these photos are taken near infinity, most of them at f/4 or f/2.8 and still show good quality, though not optimal
note: the deer in these photos are taken at a place where the deer are a bit used to humans. Although they are still wild animals, they are a bit more approachable than your average deer

When you focus closer, say you want to make a portrait, this lens can also be used wide open without much sharpening. I generally sharpen the eyes a bit, just to make the pop, but it is not a necessity.

As most older lenses, this lens does show some CA, but this was to be expected for a telephoto lens. And as the CA is very well within the correctable limits it doesn’t worry me at all. The only thing that annoys me from time to time is the colour shift you get in the bokeh. This is especially visible if there is an unsharp part in front and behind my focus, as the colours can change a bit. Luckily this effect doesn’t show every time, and it is not that pronounced.

Bokeh is generally quite good. Especially for portraits the bokeh coming from this lens is nothing short but amazing. However when you get closer to infinity, and the out of focus areas are just a bit out of focus and busy, the bokeh can become a bit distracting. But again, we can’t really blame that on the lens, as a lot more lenses react the same to this condition.

I am very satisfied with the Vivitar 135mm f/2.8 lens, because it gives great quality images, is relatively light and small. This combination makes this one of my favourite telephoto lenses as it is not a burden to take on a full-day trip, while it still delivers good images. However keep in mind that there are different manufacturers who are sold under the Vivitar brand name with different optical qualities. With some post-processing this lens is able to deliver images I am will to print on the full resolution my D60 offers me.
One note however, there are a lot of good 135mm’s out there, so don’t pay too much for this lens as there are probably some good alternatives as well.

If you want to have the full resolution images, sent me an email, but I don’t like to put up full resolution images on the internet.