Nikon Posts

The Unconventional Landscape Lens

24 2.8 AIS LensAs digital photography has become the norm throughout the last decade, the choice lens by most amateur and professional landscape photographers has been some form of an ultra-wide zoom.  Typically something along the lines of a 17-35mm or 17-40mm is most often used.  While these lenses are highly convenient and frequently yield spectacular results, there are several major drawbacks; one being the price.  As an alternative, however, I recently discovered a new gem; the Nikon 24mm 2.8 AIS lens.

I have compiled a list of the major advantages that I’ve discovered from using this lens, listed in order of decreasing importance.

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Advantages

Does not focus past infiniti!
It’s a novel idea right?  As novel as the idea may be, however, most modern AF lenses focus way past infinity.  this is a complete headache when shooting night scenes.  Unsurprisingly, it’s very difficult to find anything bright enough to focus on with a moonless sky.  With this little guy, you simply rotate the focus ring all the way to the right, and you can be sure the stars are in focus.  Much easier than fiddling around with a flashlight attempting to estimate where infinity is.

Price
How many people do you know shooting with an 18-55 kit lens?  Quite a few I imagine.  The great thing about this lens is you can pick it up used for about $100.  That’s about the same price as the kit lens, and around $900 less than a 17-35 2.8.  That means you can take the lens many more places without worrying about selling your car to replace the lens in case of damage.  Not only that, it’s f2.8!

Small and tough
Nowadays, dropping $1000 on a nice wideangle lens will give you a nice results, but the lens itself is still made of plastic.  On the contrary, most manual focus AIS lenses are small, lightweight, and indestructible!  Perfect for the next rock climbing adventure.  The image shown below would definitely have been more difficult had I been lugging a heavy, expensive zoom up the mountain.

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Sharp
For those that are highly concerned about each pixel, the lens is also extremely sharp, even at 2.8.  This makes it doubly perfect for shooting the night sky!

52mm filter thread
Remember back in the day when buying a polarizer for your kit lens was not much worse than buying a box of Cheerios?  Well with the 24 AIS lens, you can spend less money on filters and more money on cereal!

Drawbacks

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Every lens seems to have it’s drawbacks of which the 24 AIS is no exception, but there’s not many.

Corner sharpness
Sharpness appears to drop off in the corners slightly on full frame when shooting wide open at 2.8.  This could affect some landscape images.

Limited focal length
While 24mm on full frame is about the widest you want to go with a polarizer, there’s many times when shooting at around 20mm or even less offers a great effect.  This obviously is not achievable with a fixed 24mm lens.

 

 

 

That’s it.  Although I’m interested in hearing what your thoughts are on the best landscape lenses.  What do you shoot with?

Nikon 50 1.4 G Lens Review

I recently acquired a couple Nikon 50mm f1.4 G lenses, I’ve never used a 1.4 lens before and so I decided to put it through it’s paces and see how it performed.  Since I primarily do nature photography, the examples shown will be of nature subjects.  If you shoot portraits or events, the problems I mention in this review may not be an issue for you.

That said, It’s time to get down to business.  I’m not a fan of the very technical reviews, my main concern is how it performs in the field and how it improves or degrades my final product – the photograph.

 

50 1.4 on Gripped D300s

Construction and build quality

This lens feels very solid and appears to be constructed very well.  I have not tried dropping it, but with all my testing of this lens I never had any major problems with the construction and build quality.  There is however, one minor flaw in this lens.  Right below the filter threads is this small strip of thin metal.  If you are in a hurry when putting your lens cap on, it is very easy to “nick” it with your lens cap.  I put quite a number of major nicks in it while I was using it.  If you ever plan on reselling one of these lenses, I HIGHLY recommend you use a protective filter.

 


Auto focus

Focus seems fairly fast and snappy, however, since this lens is 1.4, it is very easy to make mistakes.  If your focus is just slight bit off, your picture could be ruined.  Also I did encounter some focus accuracy errors, but this is understandable considering it’s small aperture and narrow depth of field.

One nice feature which may or may not be terribly useful, is the depth of field markers used for hyperfocal focusing when shooting landscapes. Since this lens is not a wide lens however, it probably is not overly useful in most cases.

 

Image quality

This is where the pictures come in!  I was quite surprised when I started using this lens, and somewhat disappointed in the image quality.  If you shoot nature, anything below f/2.8 is close to useless.  Sharpness falls off very quickly (especially when focused at closer distances), and color fringing I found to be about the worst I’ve seen so far.

Click on the pictures below to view larger versions.

Full Size - f1.4

f1.4 @ 100%

f1.8 @ 100%

f2.8 @ 100%

f4 @100%

f5.6 @100%

 

As you can see by the examples above, color fringing and sharpness is pretty bad wide open, but once stopped down, improves substantially.

f1.4

Here is the 100% crop of the image above.  (click to enlarge).

f1.4 @ 100%

Sample images

Below are some examples taken with this lens, some wide open, some stopped down. (click image to enlarge).

f1.4

f1.4

 

Summary

Pros:
Good build quality.
Focus distance scale with depth of field markings.
Sharp when stopped down.
Decent bokeh.
Good contrast/color rendition

Cons:
Very bad color fringing wide open.
Soft when wide open.
Focus is sometimes inaccurate.

What’s your experience with this lens?  Tell us about it by leaving a comment below!