Friday, 28 September 2012

Nikkor prime trio

My search for a 'wide' angle prime is over (for the time being). No, I didn't buy the 20mm f2.8 - too rich for my blood (bank account) at the moment.

Nikkor 24mm f2.8 'wide' angle
I've 'settled' instead for the Nikkor 24mm f2.8 prime - which really only gives me a 36mm equivalent focal length in traditional terms. Not great, but the start of wide angles at least.

So this now gives me a trio of prime lenses, with a range equivalent to the old 'standard' zoom range of around 35-70mm. Not great, but better than nothing I suppose?

The 24mm equates to a 36mm f2.8, the 35mm is a 52mm f1.8, and the 50mm turns into a 75mm f1.8.

I will post a shot showing the three different focal lengths for the same scene once the 24mm has arrived. And then I'll decide whether or not I can actually achieve the same results by just stepping forwards or backwards with the 35mm f1.8G, and can sell the other two? :-) Maybe I'd be better suited by just having two primes -  a 35mm f1.8G and a 85mm f1.8D?

It's all a learning curve.

Monday, 24 September 2012

DX wide angle candidates

In my last post I bemoaned the fact that Nikon (or anyone else for that matter), don't offer a wide angle prime for DX shooters.

Further research has proven that this isn't quite true - although it may as well be - depending on your wallet size, and definition of 'wide'.

Nikon's rare 18mm f2.8D
From 1994 to 2006, Nikon produced an 18mm f2.8D prime lens to cater largely to the photojournalism market. Unfortunately, Nikon only sold 7000 over the 12 years it was in production, mainly due to its incredible price! It was the first lens to include an aspherical element in its construction and this didn't come cheap (well over $2k for a prime lens I do believe).

As an 18mm f2.8 lens, it would be a prime (excuse the pun) candidate for a wide angle for a DX shooter - but its rarity and price all but disqualify it from being a serious contender. Pity, because the focal length is prefect. Anybody from Nikon want to resurrect this lens for the digital age?

But all hope is not lost, depending on how much you want to stretch your definition of 'wide'. Because Nikon also make a 20mm f2.8, and with the 1.5x conversion factor, you get a reasonably respectable 30mm lens.

Nikon 20mm f2.8. A real wide angle option?
Built almost as solidly, and certainly as good optically, the Nikkor 20mm f2.8 seems to be the only real option we Nikon shooters have for an 'affordable' DX wide angle prime. Sigma also make a 20mm, but theirs is a f1.8 which is twice the size and twice the weight of this Nikkor - and it's a Sigma :-)

I'd rather stick with Nikon - so this 20mm f2.8 is really it. There's one going on Trademe at the moment for $500NZ, but I don't have the money, so it is apt to pass me by. And even then, I have to ask myself, "Is 30mm really wide enough?"

My answer, if I'm honest, is beggars can't be choosers. And while I'd rather it was 28mm (I've always felt the most comfortable at this focal length for wide angle shooting), 30mm will do. Now all I have to do is be able to afford to buy it :-)

18-105mm f4/5.6G ED VR.

In the meantime, I will have to make do with the wide angle coverage I get from my 18-105mm VR lens. Yes, I've decided to keep this lens over my beloved 18-70mm f3.5/4.5 - even though it has a plastic lens mount!

I'm very impressed with the fit and finish of this lens, not to mention the image quality and extended reach I get with it. And I suppose I've been charmed somewhat by the VR.

So it's out with the old and in with the new. At least until I can afford that 20mm :-)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Nikkor primes for a DX Shooter

My D90 arrived yesterday and so I took it out for a quick spin after work. Love it! What an amazingly responsive, compact yet solid DSLR. I put on the 18-105mm VR kit lens, and despite my phobia against plastic mount lenses, I was also pleasantly surprised at how well this lens felt and performed. Very good 'walk around' combo.

Nikon D90 with 18-105mm VR kit lens. B&W conversion in Photoshop

With any new body, I start thinking lenses. And whatever I choose, it's always a compromise between features, image quality and price. I'm always looking for the best 'bang' for my buck. I want the best image quality I can get, for the least amount of dollars.

I'd love a Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8G, 24-70mm f2.8G, 70-200mm f2.8 VR, 500mm f4 etc, but my kids wouldn't eat, my wife would kill me, we'd loose our house... you get the idea.

So I start looking around at the hidden (or not so hidden) 'gems' in a manufacturers line-up, to see if I can build a decent (cheap) kit from there. The only lens I'm keeping from my recent kit, the Nikkor 18-70mm f3.5/4.5 is, I believe, one such 'gem' of a lens - with a fairly handy walk-around focal length too. This will form the 'basis' of my new lens kit. But what to add next?

Nikon's 'Nifty' 50!
Actually, that's a pretty easy question to answer - it has to be the 'nifty fifty'. And this time, it was even easier to answer, because a 50mm f1.8D came with the Nikon D90 I bought. Sweet.

With the 1.5x 'crop factor' of a DX body like the D90, a 50mm lens becomes a 75mm f1.8 - a pretty decent portrait lens. The 50mm f1.8D is my 'go to' lens when I'm with the bride as she is getting ready. I can get in nice and close, but still maintain a reasonable working distance, and get beautifully smooth out-of-focus backgrounds at f1.8. All-in-all, a classic 'must have' low-light portrait prime for a DX system, which also happens to be Nikon's cheapest lens. Can't go wrong really.

The more I considered lens choices for the D90, the more I found myself toying with the idea of a 'prime' lens kit. I'm seriously thinking of stopping weddings - and find the idea rather freeing in terms of lens choice. I would never have had the nerve to take an all prime lens kit on a wedding with me, worrying too much that I might not have the 'right' lens and miss an important series of shots. But if I'm now only shooting for myself, a lot of that fear goes away. And if I am just shooting for myself, I want to keep the weight down as much as possible. So a couple of small, light primes makes a lot of sense to me.

Nikon's 'new' 35mm 1.8'G' prime
Enter the Nikkor 35mm f1.8G lens -  a Nikon DX prime lens that gives us back the 'standard' field of view. Attach this to a D90 and you get a 52mm f1.8 - close enough to the 'normal' 50mm lens of old.

Because it's a newer model AF-S (Silent focusing) lens, it's not as cheap as the 50mm f1.8D, but at $300NZ is still a reasonably cheap buy. But it is a DX lens, so you want to be sure that you are sticking with the DX system (I am), since it won't work on an FX (full frame) body.

A mint condition 35mm appeared on Trademe a few days after I won the D90, and I snapped it up. This will give the start of a prime lens kit, with a 35mm and 50mm - with the 17-80mm zoom lens thrown in as my back-up/wedding zoom.

I'm not much of a 'telephoto' shooter - don't really shoot sports, nature, birds etc, or anything that requires a lot of pulling power. Although having said that, when I do shoot the odd sporting event, I really enjoy it. But it's hard to justify owning a big expensive telephoto for a once-a-year sports shoot.  If I'm serious about sticking with primes, then the telephoto end won't be a problem. Nikon have that covered in spades... and I can see an 85mm, 135mm or 180mm in my future at some point. But not at the moment.

When I go out to shoot for myself, I concentrate mainly on landscapes, so it's in the wide angle area that I really need to be looking for my next lens. But if I want that lens to be a prime, then Houston, we have a problem. Nikon (or any other company to be fair) don't make a DX wide angle prime - something like a 17mm f2.8G - and maybe they never will? They do make a 20mm prime (for $1k) but with the crop factor this only really gets us to 35mm - not 'really' wide enough. Something like a 16mm (non-fisheye) or 17mm would be ideal, as this would give us DX shooters a truly wide angle 24mm lens - hopefully with a reasonable price tag to go with it. Is that asking too much?

With a 16mm DX lens (or there abouts), a 35mm and a 50mm (and maybe an 85mm thrown in for good measure), I'd have all my shooting situations covered, with super fast sharp primes - for around half the price of a 17-55mm f2.8G.

So how about it Nikon? When are we going to see a truly wide-angle prime lens for the DX faithful? What's wrong with a 17mm f2.8G?

I for one am going to start lobbying Nikon for just such a lens. It would be a sure fire winner - wouldn't it? How many Nikon DX shooters are there in the world? 1 million, two million, ten million? There's got to be a market for this lens, doesn't there? Or is it just me?

If it's not just me, then I suggest you start lobbying Nikon too. Let's all ask for a wide angle lens for the DX format - something like an AF-S 17mm f/2.8G so that we can finally go wide with a DX prime lens. And oh yeah, at about the same price as the 35G please. Thanks

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Should I stay or should I go.

Having used my D200 over the last wedding season, I'd have to say that we didn't exactly 'bond' together. Why? I don't know. Can't explain it at all really. We should have gotten along swimmingly (as they say), since it's very similar to the D300 - and I loved the D300. But the D200 and I ... - not so much.

Maybe it was too much of a change after the disappointment of drowning my Canon 5D? Maybe it just wasn't quite up to the standard of the D300? Or maybe it was just one of those seasons? There were good weddings, but there were no really 'great' weddings (except maybe one). And that's my fault as much as anyone else's, but there it is. The D200 and me just didn't hit it off.

So what to do? Well, I haven't shot a wedding in a few months, the new season isn't starting for a few months, and so it's that time of year again. The time of year when I review my gear, and decide what stays and what goes.

And not surprisingly, the D200 is going.

But then again, so is a lot of the gear that I bought, not that long ago. Tokina 12-24mm f2.8 - gone. Nikkor 60mm Micro - gone. Nikkor 70-300mm ED - gone. Rokinon 85mm f1.4 - gone. Yonguo 565EX flash - gone (and good ridance!).

Blimey! What exactly am I keeping? Well, not much by the looks of that. I'm keeping the Nikkor 18-70mm f3.5/4.5 lens and SB600 flashgun. And that's it. So yes, I'm sticking with Nikon.

Although sticking with Nikon wasn't an easy decision, and I was only swayed in the end by a too-good-to-miss kind of a deal on Trademe.

I've been considering finishing up the wedding photography, and have found this decision (although not yet made completely) actually quite freeing. It made me stop and ask myself, "If i wasn't having to turn up to shoot such and such a client, to take such and such a shot, then what kind of gear would I be happy to shoot with?" With this question in mind, I seriously began to look at some of the Sony cameras. And in as much as they 'sound' like whiz bang amazing bodies (10fps for crying out loud), I just couldn't quite get over the electronic viewfinder in the newer SLT series of bodies. So it's a 'no' to the Sony's.

So then I thought I might go full frame again and soot all primes. Oh how very art-school trendy of me. But I didn't want to go 'back' to a Canon 5D (too many painful, wet memories), and can't really afford a 5D MkII or MkIII - so full frame was also out. I've never really had a problem with cropped sensor cameras anyway. I flaunted with the Canon 40D and 50D for a while - and almost bought a 40D, but the shutter counts were pretty high on most of them.

I downloaded all of the brochures, read all of the reviews, and finally decided that if I got top dollar for my other gear, and really stretched my budget, I could get a new Nikon D7000 and I'd be sorted. in many ways it's a bit more camera than I actually need, but I'm future-proofing myself, right? This camera will see me through for the next five or six years :-)

And then I saw it. At a price I couldn't really refuse. A Nikon D90 - the venerable D90. On Trademe, hardly used (only 1000 shots on the clock), with a 50mm f1.8 amd 18-105mm VR, for a LOT less than a D7000 was going to cost me - body only! I couldn't help myself. And I know I've made the right decision (read my last post).

In terms of digital camera's, the D90 is practically Methuselah-like! It was first released in 2008 and was the first DSL to have video capabilities. But trust me, I did NOT buy the D90 for its video!

When I looked at the spec sheets, between it and the D7000, I decided that the D7000 didn't bring anything else to the table that was worth spending the extra $$$ on. 12MP is more than enough for me - don't need 16. Likewise, 4.5fps is fine as well - don't need 6. Autofocus isn't an issue either - I always default to the central focus point 99% of the time no matter what camera I'm using. And on it goes. Feature after feature, I decided that the D90 was more than enough camera for me - no matter what I was wanting to do with it.

So I'm sticking with Nikon, I'm waiting patiently (not) for the arrival of my 'new' D90, and I'm looking forward to actually spending a lot of time with this camera. I think it might be finally time for me to settle down with one system for a while. Will wonders never cease!?