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What are your favorite Nikon AF lenses?
Old 07-29-2019   #1
stevierose
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What are your favorite Nikon AF lenses?

I've found a Nikon F100 in excellent condition at a very reasonable price and decided to buy it. I was a Canon shooter back in the day, lately have have shot with RF cameras so I don't know Nikon lenses. What are your favorite Nikon AF SLR lenses? If you were starting from scratch now what kit would you put together? I favor prime lenses but would also consider a moderate range zoom that doesn't weigh 5 pounds. Thanks!
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Old 07-29-2019   #2
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If I were after a "classic" kit of Nikkors that are more or less contemporary with your camera body, I would try to stick with "D" lenses though this is not absolutely essential in most cases - it's just that they represent the last iteration of that line of screw driven AF lenses and a few Nikkors did have optical upgrades in the D series (though none of those listed below I think). The D appellation relates mainly to the ability to exchange distance info with the camera for flash metering purposes. The lenses I like, from which you could choose, include (there are plenty of others some of which perhaps I have not tried and there are also other Pro prime and zoom lenses that I own that I could have included but which seem to me to be too big or heavy given you preference for lighter kit - e.g. the Nikkor AF D 80-200 f2.8 is gorgeous but heavy and big - I have one but mostly keep it for local assignments.):

Nikkor AF 50mm f1.4 D
Nikkor AF 35-70mm f2.8 D
Nikkor AF 85mm f1.8 D
Nikkor AF 70-210mm f4-5.6 D

The two primes are obvious starters given your preference for primes. Both are widely regarded as excellent lenses and I can vouch for that.

I have included two relatively light (for Nikkors) zooms which both produce very good images (superb images in the case of the shorter zoom). The 35-70mm is a classic zoom lens of that era and was regarded as being of pro quality and was very widely used for this purpose. This lens is the precursor to the later 24-70mm f2.8 which is FAR bigger and heavier. The 70-210mm zoom is regarded as a Prosumer lens (top of their consumer lens line) not a Pro lens as such, but gives nothing away in build quality or in performance (they are like a brick outhouse in build with the prosumer lenses being identical in this regard but tending to have variable maximum apertures in the zooms). If you elected to buy this specific lens it is one I definitely would opt for the D model as it has upgraded gearing which allows it to focus much more quickly than earlier models. This is a big benefit as older models were somewhat sluggish. Neither are exactly light but are far lighter than later modern Nikkors especially pro ones and when I wish to travel for example and want to take a light (ish) kit with me these would be the two lenses I reach for, together with the fast 50mm for low light work. I shot an entire trip to Hong Kong with pretty much these two lenses and the 50mm and found them all to be excellent. These lenses - especially the zooms can be had for a song these days.

Samples shot with lenses from the HK trip (I did not take the 85mm lens):

Nikkor 50mm f1.8

High Tea at The Peninsula 2012 by Life in Shadows, on Flickr

Nikkor 35-70mm f2.8

Across Victoria Harbour by Life in Shadows, on Flickr

Nikkor 70-201mm f4-5.6

Girls' Day Out - Hong Kong 2012 by Life in Shadows, on Flickr
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Old 07-29-2019   #3
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I have a few Nikon AF lenses that I have used with film and truly loved the results...
1. Most favorite...AF Nikkor 180mm 2.8 ED 1lb. 12oz.

2. Great Lens...AF Nikkor 85mm 1.4 D 1lb. 7oz.

3. Most used lately...AF Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8 ED (2 Rings) 3lbs.


I've used the 85 & 180 with film with fantastic results, I've only used the 80-200 on a digital body...it's very sharp and contrasty...


This is my favorite with the 85mm on the D3x body...






This is the 180mm on a Fuji S3 Pro...





Shot with the 80-200 on the D3x...
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Old 07-29-2019   #4
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I shot Nikon for years, starting with an F4s in 1994 and continuing on to digital. Here are lenses I liked a lot.


85mm f1.8D
Very sharp, nice bokeh, not very expensive.


28mm f2.8D
If you buy an AF-Nikkor 28mm f2.8, makes sure to buy the D version. The original AF-Nikkor 28mm f2.8 used the same 5-element optical design as the old cheap Series-E 28mm, while the D version is a newer, much better, optical design.


35mm f2D
Very sharp and lightweight. Get the D version. The non-D version is optically the same, but was plagued with issues with lubricant fouling the aperture blades. Nikon changed the mechanical design on the D version to fix that problem.


24mm f2.8D
Good 24mm lens.


50mm f1.4
The original and the D version are optically identical and are the same optics as the older Ai and AiS versions. Not very good wide open, but from f2.8 down is very sharp. Horrible bokeh, though.
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Old 07-29-2019   #5
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50/1.4
85/1.8
35/2

. . . well, shoot, that's everyone else's list too.
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Old 07-29-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nikon_sam View Post

3. Most used lately...AF Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8 ED (2 Rings) 3lbs.
I have the one-ring version of that lens. No built-in tripod collar but I have the one made by Kirk for it (Kirk's old design) and it just might be my very best and most-used lens. Its a fantastic heavy tank of a lens and I'll never part with it!
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Old 07-29-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevierose View Post
What are your favorite Nikon AF SLR lenses?
14-24mm f/2.8
28-70mm f/2.8
80-200mm f/2.8


My Big Three by Narsuitus, on Flickr
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Old 07-29-2019   #8
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24mm 2.8 / 35mm f2 / 50mm 1.4 /
portraits? 85mm 1.4
landscapes & all around tele 105 2.5
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Old 07-29-2019   #9
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My favorite Nikon AF prime lenses are the only three I own:
85mm f/1.4 AF-D
50mm f/1.4 AF-D
14mm f/2.8 AF-D
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Old 07-29-2019   #10
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50/1.4 D (The fastest f1.4 lens based on transmission value per DXO. A classic.)
35/2 D (Solid fast 35mm, Another classic)
85/1.8 G (Modern classic portraiture lens)
70-210 4-5.6 D (Good optics fast autofocus, reasonable price)
28-80 3.3-5.6 G (Solid walking around kit lens that's cheap and punches above its weight)

Last week, taken with 50/1.4 D. Who says this lens lags wide open?
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Old 07-29-2019   #11
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Sharp from 2.8 on with very good microcontrast is the 50/1.4 D with good color rendition, and...

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Old 07-29-2019   #12
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That elusive (and controversial) "3D pop" has the 50/1.4 D
Making the 50/1.4 D a "must have". Spend a little more over the 1.8 (I'll be the contrarian here...) It's worth it. Plus, it's a bargain for a 1.4, especially relative to the new lenses. If you were to get one lens, this would be my choice.

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Old 07-29-2019   #13
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Very good microcontrast makes the 50/1.4 D a solid choice for black and white work.
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Old 07-29-2019   #14
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... the 50/1.4 D does double duty as a portrait lens. Who says you need an 85-135? Nonsense.

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Old 07-29-2019   #15
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I'll just say it. A 'Cron ain't got nothing on this $200 lens (or less used for a decent sample) @ 2.8 and above. South of 2.8, I'll give it to the Cron, sure. PS. The bokeh (that nobody cares about) is just fine.
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Old 07-29-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
50/1.4 D (The fastest f1.4 lens based on transmission value per DXO. A classic.)
35/2 D (Solid fast 35mm, Another classic)
85/1.8 G (Modern classic portraiture lens)
70-210 4-5.6 D (Good optics fast autofocus, reasonable price)
28-80 3.3-5.6 G (Solid walking around kit lens that's cheap and punches above its weight)

Last week, taken with 50/1.4 D. Who says this lens lags wide open?



Sorry, Nick, but this picture demonstrates why the 50/1.4 AF-Nikkor isn't that great wide open. The image is soft. The Olympus 50mm f1.4, for example, is tack sharp wide open. Your image also shows the harsh double-line bokeh this lens is notorious for.
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Old 07-29-2019   #17
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Wide open and up close, the older 1.4 nikkor 50s did not perform well for me (not saying the af 1.8 is better) - maybe the G 1.4 and 1.8 are less soft?

The 28 1.4 still commands high prices, even after the introduction of the 1.4E

The 85 1.4 in all variants is amazing
200 f2 if you wanna get crazy
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Old 07-29-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
Sorry, Nick, but this picture demonstrates why the 50/1.4 AF-Nikkor isn't that great wide open. The image is soft. The Olympus 50mm f1.4, for example, is tack sharp wide open. Your image also shows the harsh double-line bokeh this lens is notorious for.
Disagree. Firstly, I maintain that bokeh is overrated. The bokeh in this picture is fine. Only wonks care about it. Nobody really cared about it "then" except for portraiture lenses. This is true of 50's and expecially 35's and wider. It's an "internet thing" that only photoblog geeks concern themselves with. I have hardly ever observed "distracting bokeh" in any lens? And I have never seen bokeh that made me want to go out and blow $1,000's of dollars on a lens for it. It's simply not that important. Hexagonal, circular -- whatever? Nobody cares. (Circular apertures turn the sun into blobs of light instead of cool sun stars in daylight shooting, btw.) If I was after great bokeh? I'd have brought a telephoto lens and shot them as close as possible. Secondly, when HCB said "sharpness is a bourgeois concept" he wasn't kiddin'. The image is "sharp enough". What matters in this pic? The composition (it's okay for a grab shot). The colors -- I like them. The subject. They were kids, they didn't pose or stay still very long. An acceptable image was rendered in an instant hand-held., at a slow shutter speed, in low light at night -- terrible conditions, the worst. Oh -- and my 6', overweight, middle-aged frame was rather hunched over in an awkward position. Ouch. And not condusive to keeping a camera steady.

These are people shots, candids, at night with little kids An acceptable image rendered. A decisive moment. I'm not shooting textures on a tripod with studio lighting. This illustrates why 1.4 over 1.8. Because here you're fighting motion blur and camera shake as much as anything and every photon matters to buy you every 1/nth of shutter speed.

That the lens was able to render an acceptable image, on the spot, under the worst of conditions (with wirey little kids, no less) to the average viewer (not internet lens testers) is a testimony to its capabilities as a photographic tool. Also, you can see fine hair and texures. Like I said, sharp enough. I also say some of the perceived softness has as much to do with shutter speed, camera shake, and motion blur shooting live subjects, handheld, in low light. It's shapness wide-open is what it is -- not "biting" but acceptable.

I am doubling down, yes.
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Old 07-29-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
Disagree. Firstly, I maintain that bokeh is overrated. The bokeh in this picture is fine. Only wonks care about it. Nobody really cared about it "then" except for portraiture lenses. This is true of 50's and expecially 35's and wider. It's an "internet thing" that only photoblog geeks concern themselves with. I have hardly ever observed "distracting bokeh" in any lens? And I have never seen bokeh that made me want to go out and blow $1,000's of dollars on a lens for it. It's simply not that important. Hexagonal, circular -- whatever? Nobody cares. (Circular apertures turn the sun into blobs of light instead of cool sun stars in daylight shooting, btw.) If I was after great bokeh? I'd have brought a telephoto lens and shot them as close as possible. Secondly, when HCB said "sharpness is a bourgeois concept" he wasn't kiddin'. The image is "sharp enough". What matters in this pic? The composition (it's okay for a grab shot). The colors -- I like them. The subject. They were kids, they didn't pose or stay still very long. An acceptable image was rendered in an instant hand-held., at a slow shutter speed, in low light at night -- terrible conditions, the worst. Oh -- and my 6', overweight, middle-aged frame was rather hunched over in an awkward position. Ouch. And not condusive to keeping a camera steady.

These are people shots, candids, at night with little kids An acceptable image rendered. A decisive moment. I'm not shooting textures on a tripod with studio lighting. This illustrates why 1.4 over 1.8. Because here you're fighting motion blur and camera shake as much as anything and every photon matters to buy you every 1/nth of shutter speed.

That the lens was able to render an acceptable image, on the spot, under the worst of conditions (with wirey little kids, no less) to the average viewer (not internet lens testers) is a testimony to its capabilities as a photographic tool. Also, you can see fine hair and texures. Like I said, sharp enough. I also say some of the perceived softness has as much to do with shutter speed, camera shake, and motion blur shooting live subjects, handheld, in low light. It's shapness wide-open is what it is -- not "biting" but acceptable.

I am doubling down, yes.
Bokeh is important to those of us who understand that both the subject and background are important.

As for the rest of what you said, its a nice long list of excuses for failure. I've done a lot of photographs that were no good. I threw them away and learned from the experience.
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Old 07-29-2019   #20
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I'm strictly a manual focus guy but as for AF...the three dragons...because they're metal and scaled... https://www.ephotozine.com/article/t...dragons--29758
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Old 07-29-2019   #21
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1++ for narsuitus' recommendation.

Owned a slew of AF Nikkors but my most used were the 14-24, 24-70 v.1 & 70-300. They covered nearly all my requirements, save portraiture and for that, I used an 85/1.4 D.
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Old 07-29-2019   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
Bokeh is important to those of us who understand that both the subject and background are important.

As for the rest of what you said, its a nice long list of excuses for failure. I've done a lot of photographs that were no good. I threw them away and learned from the experience.
The technical specs for this lens are all over the internet -- to a tedious degree of detail on DXO, which rates it higher than several modern lenses including the Tamron 45/1.8 (tied), the Zeiss Makro Planar, Nikon's own 50/1.4 G, and the Canon 50/1.2 USM (both have a t-stop value of 1.5, so in terms of light that hits the sensor, it's just as fast as the 1.2 Canon, costs a fraction and is rated higher on DxO).

The OP asked what Nikon lenses are your favorite. I listed mine, posted some recent samples, and explained why this old standard Nikkor is probably my favorite of the lot.
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Old 07-29-2019   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
The technical specs for this lens are all over the internet. The OP asked what Nikon lenses are your favorite. I listed mine, posted some recent samples, and explained why this old standard Nikkor is probably mine.
I stand by what I said. Artists, in any medium (not just photography) have to care about both positive and negative space in the composition. (Positive space is the subject, negative space is everything else).

I wasn't saying all of your work sucks, but the photo you posted in this thread is a poor image to extol the virtues of a lens. Its not sharp. Period. Full stop. Mic drop.
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Old 07-29-2019   #24
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Here's a couple no one has mentioned. The 24-120mm 1:3.5-5.6D "Streetsweeper", and the AF Micro Nikkor 60mm 1:2.8D.


The 24-120 is not a push-pull type, and the 60 is almost short enough for a "normal" lens.

(Click on the photo for a larger view)

Comparisons by P F McFarland, on Flickr


You can also use G lenses on the F100 if you happen to come across some bargains.


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Old 07-29-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GarageBoy View Post

The 28 1.4 still commands high prices, even after the introduction of the 1.4E
The old fast 28d is a very special lens...like a Noct is a special lens. If there is one AF nikkor I would like to own it would be the fast 28d. Imagine that lens on a crop camera...stills or video. Good super clean astrophotography wide angle style anyone?
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Old 07-29-2019   #26
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The 20-35 f/2.8 D and the 180 f/2.8 ED. When I was working on the aircraft carrier, the 16mm f/2.8 was great in small compartments.

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Old 07-29-2019   #27
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My favorites are the 24mm f/2.8 D, 50mm f/1.4 D, 85mm f/1.8 D, and the 17-35mm f/2.8 D. I wasn't happy with the performance of the 35mm f/2. I just use the 35/2 AIs.
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Old 07-29-2019   #28
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I know the OP asked about Nikon AF lenses, but don't forget about the Sigma ART lenses. I have the 24, 35 and 50 f1.4 lenses. The 35 is outstanding and the 50 is not far behind. The other prime ART lenses are also outstanding (20, 28, 40, 85, 105--all f1.4 and the 135/1.8). The 28's the weakest of that bunch and the 105 is a monster lens, but the 40 is exquisite -- not my favorite FL, but a very fine lens.
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Old 07-30-2019   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
My favorites are the 24mm f/2.8 D, 50mm f/1.4 D, 85mm f/1.8 D, and the 17-35mm f/2.8 D. I wasn't happy with the performance of the 35mm f/2. I just use the 35/2 AIs.
Just a comment in relation to the 35mm f2. I have both the AF version and an early version MF lens with the scalloped focusing ring. I would not say the AF version is a bad lens but of the two I prefer the performance of the early MF one - it just puts out images with that classic lens feel. I cannot comment on the AIs version as I have not tried it. It may be relevant also to note that most would say the AIS version of the 28mm f2.8 is the pick of Nikkors in that focal length too.
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Old 07-30-2019   #30
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Peter, I felt that my images with the 35/2 AF-D were sharp in the center, but too soft in the outer zones, even stopped down a bit. My 35/2 AIs is better. I tried the 35/2 ZF and liked the images. I may get another one.

The 28/2.8 AIs is very, very good in the close range. At distance it's OK, though not better than other lenses.
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Old 07-30-2019   #31
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Thanks to everyone for responding. I appreciate it. It is impressive how inexpensive some of these excellent lenses are. I'm looking forward to trying some of them.
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Old 07-30-2019   #32
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Sharp from 2.8 on with very good microcontrast is the 50/1.4 D with good color rendition, and...

Whoa! Was the wall really that colour? It seems that it was white and there is a crazy cyan tint to the image.
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Old 07-30-2019   #33
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Whoa! Was the wall really that colour? It seems that it was white and there is a crazy cyan tint to the image.
That is the beauty of pre-flash exposure and auto white balance plus the lights illuminating the background being older flourescent tubes. The flash has a fixed color balance so it is "thinking" only in terms of 18% gray. The camera sensor is matching the AWB of the subject which happens to be wearing a bright red shirt, further confusing the camera. Exposure was made for a warm white balance bias because the camera probably has a bright red shirt in its programming and adjusted accordingly. You can see this background in the other photo posted with the two women as the subject. The tell other than the featureless cyan field is the sickly dark pallor of the skin of the people in the background. Same case of allowing the camera to think instead of the photographer. This was covered in week 5 of Navy photo school and we were using slide film along with handheld color meters. We'd have to compensate for background using a filter over the lens and we would gel the flash. This image would get thrown away immediately and we would have to go out and reshoot until we got it right.
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Old 07-30-2019   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
Disagree. Firstly, I maintain that bokeh is overrated. The bokeh in this picture is fine. Only wonks care about it. Nobody really cared about it "then" except for portraiture lenses. This is true of 50's and expecially 35's and wider. It's an "internet thing" that only photoblog geeks concern themselves with. I have hardly ever observed "distracting bokeh" in any lens? And I have never seen bokeh that made me want to go out and blow $1,000's of dollars on a lens for it. It's simply not that important. Hexagonal, circular -- whatever? Nobody cares. (Circular apertures turn the sun into blobs of light instead of cool sun stars in daylight shooting, btw.) If I was after great bokeh? I'd have brought a telephoto lens and shot them as close as possible. Secondly, when HCB said "sharpness is a bourgeois concept" he wasn't kiddin'. The image is "sharp enough". What matters in this pic? The composition (it's okay for a grab shot). The colors -- I like them. The subject. They were kids, they didn't pose or stay still very long. An acceptable image was rendered in an instant hand-held., at a slow shutter speed, in low light at night -- terrible conditions, the worst. Oh -- and my 6', overweight, middle-aged frame was rather hunched over in an awkward position. Ouch. And not condusive to keeping a camera steady.

These are people shots, candids, at night with little kids An acceptable image rendered. A decisive moment. I'm not shooting textures on a tripod with studio lighting. This illustrates why 1.4 over 1.8. Because here you're fighting motion blur and camera shake as much as anything and every photon matters to buy you every 1/nth of shutter speed.

That the lens was able to render an acceptable image, on the spot, under the worst of conditions (with wirey little kids, no less) to the average viewer (not internet lens testers) is a testimony to its capabilities as a photographic tool. Also, you can see fine hair and texures. Like I said, sharp enough. I also say some of the perceived softness has as much to do with shutter speed, camera shake, and motion blur shooting live subjects, handheld, in low light. It's shapness wide-open is what it is -- not "biting" but acceptable.

I am doubling down, yes.
I agree with the sentiments expressed here for this type of photography. Studio and commercial, etc. may require different qualities.
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