Tag Archives: 85mm

Q&A: Thoughts about Bodies and Lenses

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  Since I have not been shooting anything for months,  a buddy of mine who still shoots sports has offered to trade D800 (used to be mine) and Nikon 105 2.8 and $3,000 for my D3, 24-70, and 70-200 VR II.  Value seems close but these lenses of mine are like new.  I probably would use D800 more, but wanted to get your thoughts if you have time.

A:  Not sure about the dollars – that’s your deal – but I think the D800 is a more flexible camera for someone not needing scary FPS.  You’ve had / used a D800, so you’ll know how it fits your shooting style.  Honestly most of what I shoot these days is with my D700, which is the same sensor as the D3.  I have gotten along very well, though, with the “enthusiast” bodies versus the pro bodies because I’ve never needed more than the 6 or 7 FPS they can give me (D700 / D300) and I can pull the battery pack off and have a more reasonable size / weight.

I do love the fact that I can I can easily switch the D800 to DX mode and have a 15+MP 1.5x crop factor body for birding, and still be able to see the view around the cropped frame in the viewfinder.  Sometimes I wish it were more than 4FPS, though, when shooting birds.

The video capabilities are good on the D800, though I have only shot maybe two clips since I’ve had it, and only then so I wouldn’t feel bad about never using a major feature.

I only have two issues with the D800.  One is the 4FPS I mentioned earlier.  The other is that for 95% of what I shoot these days, 36MP is way too much.  I’ve tried shooting it at the lowest JPG setting, but at that point I might as well use the D700, since it’s faster and a little better in low light noise-wise.  That’s why I usually end up shooting the D700 for most family stuff.  I constantly fight with the amount of space all of my pictures take, and also how slow Aperture is when messing with 36MP RAW = 42MB files, especially when I might do a 3 or 5 frame exposure bracket for HDR and then may use a plug-in or Photoshop, which will end up taking up around 220MB per frame as a TIFF file.  A single shot can end up 1.5GB.  That’s completely out of hand.

If I had time to actually shoot fun stuff like landscapes / travel / etc., then I would use the D800 every time regardless of the file size. It’s just too awesome to have that kind of file size / quality / flexibility.  But most of what I shoot these days is perfectly fine in a 12MP JPG.  You may be in the same situation.

My bigger thought about your decision would be about the lenses.  Since lenses are much more enduring than bodies, and more important for the overall image, I’d pay much more attention there.  If I were to list the most important really good lenses someone should have for Nikon full frame, the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 II would definitely be on the list.  If I already had those, then I wouldn’t get rid of them.  And unless you’re a macro shooter or shoot stills or portraits of people with very good skin, the 105/2.8 isn’t that useful a lens, regardless of how good a lens it is.

If I were me, I would hang onto the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 II, regardless of what I did with other lenses and the bodies.

Currently my list of best mainstream lenses for the ultimate kit is:  14-24/2.8, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8 II.  I add the 16-35/4 since you can use filters with it.  If you’re into primes, then you add the 24/1.4, 35/1.4, 50/1.4, and 85/1.4 AFS lenses.  And I add the 300/2.8VR with the TC-14EII and TC-20EIII for birding.  The only question is for the 35/1.4, since the Sigma lens (amazingly) is purported to be even better.

So, I have worked toward getting all of those lenses, and once I’ve added them to the kit, I’ll keep them.  Regardless of the body I have at the time.

I know this is far more than you were looking for, but it was a chance to jot down my thoughts about body and lens choices.

Let me know what you decide to do!

Posted in Conversation Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Q&A: Nikon Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 AF

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  With new little baby running around, I wanted to snag a great low light (super fast) prime lens to grab some fun portraits etc..  Anyone have any feelings about the Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF?

A:  I like the 85/1.8.  I don’t use it too much anymore since I have a couple of 2.8 zooms that cover the portrait range for day-to-day candids.  But whenever I know I am going to shoot some intentional portraits it is nearly always my go-to lens.  I used it on my DX cameras and loved it, and now use it on the D700 with the same great results.

Though the design is obviously pretty old, it is still tack sharp on the D700.  It’s nice and small, so it’s easy to carry and shoot.  And it’s cheap!  I got mine for $250 many years ago (used) and you can get a great example for $250-325 today.  The lens has a definite look to it, and I like the bokeh just fine, though I know that is very subjective.  Focus speed is typical for a non-AFS lens.  For portraits that’s completely adequate.  (BTW, you didn’t mention what body you have, but be aware that since it is not AFS, it will not AF with some of the newer low-end bodies that lack the focus screw like the D40 and D3x00.)

Yes, the new 85/1.4 is on my wish list, but not because I’m dissatisfied with the 85/1.8.  It’s just one of my character flaws…

I think the 85/1.8 is a very good lens, so I’d recommend it highly as a great value.  Unless you would be satisfied with a 50, I don’t think you’ll find another fast portrait lens for anywhere close to the price.  And the best part is that if you pick one up used you will nearly certainly get your money back out of it if you decide you don’t like it.

Posted in Conversation Also tagged |

Q&A: Fast Primes vs. Flash

(This post is from an email conversation with two friends. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  How can I cause flash pictures to not look so much like they were taken with a flash?

A:  Up until I got the D70 I never used a zoom lens. I tried to get a series of lenses that roughly doubled the focal length from lens to lens.  My normal kit was a 20/2.8, 35/2, and 85/1.8 (like a 14, 24, and 55 on DX). When I needed telephoto, I carried the 180/2.8 and 300/4. With that kit, I generally had a lens that was close to right and moved around or cropped. But I was carrying a lot of lenses and had to change lenses all the time. (That doesn’t even include carrying multiple bodies so I could shoot color and b&w.)

Back then zooms had visibly inferior image quality. And they were slow. I really got used to having sharp, fast glass.

But I’ve gotten lazy. These days, I hardly ever shoot with primes except the 300/2.8. It’s great to just carry one lens, the 18-200, and have the right focal length for nearly anything. In my mind, the one big negative about the 18-200 is that it is f/4.8 or slower for most of its range. And it’s not because that makes me use slower shutter speeds, but just because it affects the look of the shots. When I’m shooting with a fast lens, like the 50/1.8 or 85/1.8, I’ll usually be shooting at f/2 or f/2.8 and very seldom smaller than f/5.6. The 18-200 starts at f/4.8 at 50mm and to be honest I shoot it at f/8 when I can to maximize the sharpness. If it were just about brightness, I would just get a new D300 or D3 and jack up the ISO a couple of stops to make up for the slower lens.

I just like the look of a sharp lens shot around f/2 or f/2.8 with great out of focus blurs in the background. You can’t get that from a slow zoom. But you can get it from lenses like the 14-24/2.8, 17-35/2.8, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8, and 200-400/4.

What I’ve seen from my 70-200 so far makes me think I will never use my 180/2.8 lens again, even though that’s one of the great Nikon lenses of all time (http://www.naturfotograf.com/index2.html).

So I think my opinion has changed now that there are some truly excellent quality, reasonably fast (f/2.8) lenses available. I don’t see any special virtue in primes, so if a zoom is as sharp, fast enough (and sharp wide open), attainable, and luggable, then I think it’s an easy decision to go with the zoom.

Well, maybe there is some virtue in primes:  they are less expensive; they are smaller and lighter; they force you to think more about composition and shooting distance.

My perfect kit would definitely include the 14-24/2.8 and 70-200/2.8. Possibly the 24-70/2.8, but I’m not real thrilled about the limited range on that one. And then a very fast prime or two in there, like maybe the 50/1.4 or the 85/1.4. But I would also keep the 18-200 for the times I don’t want to lug all that other stuff around.

And relating this all back to the original question, a fast lens gives you all sorts of flexibility when it comes to flash photography. As Jim mentioned, there are two things you can do to extend the range of your flash:  open up to a wider aperture and / or increase the ISO. But in normal settings like you are shooting at church, both of those options can also reduce the need for flash or at least how apparent the flash is.

Whenever I use flash, my goal is to make it look like I didn’t use a flash. There are two main ways to get there:  diffusion / bounce, and balancing with available light. Both techniques will reduce or eliminate the tell–tale shadows. Sometimes due to distance or, more often high or colored ceilings, I can’t bounce or diffuse the flash effectively (I haven’t figured out Jim’s 45 degree method yet), so then I will do what I can to raise my ISO and shoot wider apertures so that I can get my exposure to within one or at most two stops of what I would use w/o flash. Then the flash will help stop the action and keep the color balance, but the shadows won’t be horrible and there won’t be the possibility of the people in front being blown out while those in the back are too dark. The shot at the top is an example.

BTW, your camera meter tells you how close the ambient light is to your flash exposure. With the flash turned on and exposure set, look at the “analog” exposure indicator and see how much to the right (-) the exposure shows. I try to keep that to between one and two stops.

Posted in Conversation Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |