Saturday, 6 October 2012

Nikkor 35mm f1.8G is the keeper

My last few posts have been about lens selection for my D90 - and it is amazing to me how tied up in knots I still manage to get myself over lens selection after all these years.

I thought I would shoot only primes on the D90 - but I've come to realise with DX that this is somewhat unrealistic. Before coming to this realisation, however, I managed to buy a 24mm, 35mm and 50mm! This really only gives me a 35-70mm equivalent reach with all three lenses. Surely the 35mm could do the work of all three - couldn't it?

Back in the film days, I never would have thought of buying a 35-70mm lens - it was considered a 'lazy man's 50mm', since the 50 could pretty much cover this range if you 'zoomed' with your feet. Since the 35mm f1.8G is 'roughly' equivalent to the standard 50 of the film days, I set about to see if it really could replace the other two - and just how much 'feet zooming' would be involved.

Very unscientifically, I went outside, marked a line on the grass, and took a photo with my 35mm.

Nikkor 35mm f1.8G @ f8

This was my field of view (fov) with the 35mm lens - and represents my 'landscape' shot. It equates to a 'standard' 50mm fov when shooting with a cropped sensor DX body like the D90.

I then took a photo at the same spot with my 24mm lens.

Nikkor 24mm f2.8 @ f8. Shot at exactly the same spot as the 35mm
It is certainly wider - about a 35mm fov in traditional terms.

Then I used the 50mm as well...

Nikkor 50mm f1.8 @ f8. Shot at exactly the same spot as the 35mm
So we are certainly getting closer - and with the three images have the same images we would get by zooming in and out with a 35-70mm lens on a DX (or film) body on the same spot.

Now, how much zooming with my feet do i have to do to replicate the 24mm and 50mm shots with the 35mm lens?

I stepped back 5 of my paces (I'm 5"10', so probably went back roughly 5 meters) and took this shot with the 35mm...

Nikkor 35mm back 5 large paces
Compare it with the shot taken with the 24mm and the fov is pretty close. The 24mm is giving a little more exaggerated foreground perspective, but the images are very similar.

OK. So then, back from my starting position, I moved forward two large paces (about 2 meters) and took this shot...

Nikkor 35mm forward 2 large paces
I'm a little off on the framing, and maybe could have taken half a step more forward, but basically I'm there or there abouts with only 2 steps forward.

So to all intents and purposes, taking two steps forward, or 5 steps backwards, is all the 'zooming' I need to do with the 35mm to cover the fov of a 35-70mm lens, and get rid of the 24mm and 50mm primes from my bag in one fowl swoop.

And it turns out it's even easier for portraiture.

35mm @f2.8 - 3 meters away
Here's a quick shot of my son Joshua taken with the 35mm about 3 large paces away. He's 11yrs old, and fills the frame easily.

50mm @f2.8 - 3 meters away
Same spot, this time with the 50mm attached (acting like a 75mm on the D90).

Step forward so I am only 2 meters away, and took another shot with the 35mm...

Nikkor 35mm @f2.8 - 2 meters away
So only one step forward with the 35mm gets me into 50mm territory when shooting portraits.

Nikkor 50mm @ f2.8 - 2 meters away
Switching back to the 50mm and taking a shot obviously gets me even closer still. Now we're talking 'classic' head and shoulders (although Josh is only 11 and not fully grown yet :-).

Move 1 step closer with the 35mm - so there's only about 1 meter between you and your subject (probably as close as you want to get to without invading someone's personal space - unless you know then really well), and you match the 50mm for head and shoulders portraiture...

Nikkor 35mm @ f2.8 - 1 meter away
As I said at the beginning, this isn't particularly scientific. But it was clear enough to convince me that 'zooming with the feet' with a 35mm could effectively cover all three lenses within the 35-70mm range - comfortably enough so that I am now selling both the 50mm and the 24mm primes.

Yes, there will be times when it's not possible to back up 5 meters, or maybe even go forward 2 meters - but then there's always cropping of the standard 35mm image if you really are desperate.

And besides, the 35mm f1.8G is just a drop dead gorgeous lens to use! I really love the look of Nikon's newer 'G' lenses, so I'm happier to part with the other two for now. I'll test the 'bokeh' another time - this seems to be the down-side of the 35mm 'G', but I wan't to test this out for myself. Will post my thoughts when I do.

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