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Posts Tagged ‘lens

Lazy Weekend With the 85mm 1.4

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Nikon D700 | Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

Started last weekend right with a trip to the cafe. Whoops, two posts in a row that show pictures of the same exact place! Shows you how often I go out for coffee I guess.

Since I’m shooting a wedding pretty soon, I decided to ask a favor of my cousin Josh, a New York based photographer. He was kind enough to ship some key gear out to me, including his most cherished Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D. That’s love right there.

Normally I take my E-PL2 with me for weekend errand running, but I was eager to give this 85mm a try, so along it came to Blue Bottle.

Ok, first off, I’m not used to this focal length. My mind’s eye tends to see wider, between my favorite 24mm through around 50mm.  When I use my 24mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4, for instance, I can compose at either focal length in my head before I even raise the camera to my eye. I can even “see” 200mm in my head, since that’s my other frequently used focal length. When I first started shooting with the 85, however, I kept expecting it to be wider than it is.  I’d raise it to my eye and always find myself to be too close to my subject, cutting off areas I wanted to have in the frame (the top photo is an example), so I found myself taking a few steps back every time I raised the camera to my eye. Felt goofy and pretty awkward at first, hah.

It’s that guy again with the hat and the book stand! He must come here every day or something….

I can see why many dub this lens the “cream machine.” At f/1.4, wherever you put your focus point comes out sharp as anything, with everything behind it liquefying into some mighty attractive-looking bokeh. If I ever decide to buy this lens for myself, I’ll leave it at f/1.4 every time.

It’s a great lens for portraits…..of your friends making silly faces. Sorry Dez ;)

Taking a walk with Suki, I was again having a weird time with the 85.  I’m used to getting in close with wider glass when shooting her, so again I found myself raising the camera up, oops, taking a few steps back, composing again.

This thing excels out on the street. Color, contrast, sharpness…the last thing you need to worry about with this optic is whether or not it performs well.

This lens is a legend. If you think you want one, go for it! As for me, I’m not sure I need to own one right now, since I can just borrow it (heh heh).  Thank you Josh…sorry in advance if I delay a little in sending it back ;)

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Nikon D700 + Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

Written by Jonathan

April 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VR: The “Street Sweeper”

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Last week I spent a very busy few days in New York, shooting a wedding for a friend and hanging out with friends in Manhattan. Because of the wedding, I had a bag full of gear and lenses, including my new go-to utility zoom for travel and event photography: the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII. I wrote a small post on my first impressions of the lens a little while back, but last week I really got a chance to leisurely shoot with it mounted on my D700 and get a better impression of how it performs in various circumstances. After taking it everywhere with me during the trip, I can say for sure that I love the 24-120. In short, it’s sharp, focuses fast, and has a focal range that keeps you ready for just about anything. While I did use many of my other lenses during the trip, I’ll keep a small sampling of images in this particular post focused on the 24-120 f/4.

At 24mm, you’re pretty wide on an FX camera. Great for shooting cityscapes:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/9, 1/320 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/8, 1/640 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/7.1, 1/200 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/10, 1/250 second ISO200


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/60 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/10, 1/60 second ISO400


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/6.3, 1/160 second ISO200

Images from the 24-120 have great contrast and depth.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/9, 1/320 second ISO200

Added vignetting in the image above. The lens does vignette at 24mm, but it’s easily correctable in post. I tend to add it anyway, so it doesn’t bug me a bit.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/5.6, 1/25 second ISO800


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/160 second ISO800


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/1250 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4.5, 1/100 second ISO800


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/5.6, 1/40 second ISO800

Can you tell I love that 24mm on the wide end? Probably why I keep begging the wife to let me pick up at 24mm f/1.4. In due time…. =)

Of course, it’s also nice to have that range all the way through 120mm in one constant aperture lens:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 55mm f/4, 1/25 second ISO2000

Shooting static subjects at 1/25 or even lower throughout the range is no problem at all with VRII on board.

Taken blocks away from where I used to live in Brooklyn Heights. Wouldn’t you love to live on Love Lane?

Now for a few shots of people taken with the 24-120mm to further demonstrate its versatility as a mid-range zoom:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 40mm f/4, 1/1000 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 85mm f/4, 1/160 second ISO6400

The maximum aperture of f/4 is plenty fast for most instances, especially with the ridiculous ISO capability of the D700.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 120mm f/4, 1/500 second ISO1600

Racking the lens out to 120mm gives you a good focal length for tighter portraits. Took the image above in our hotel room while the wife applied some makeup by the window.

The longer end also helps in catching fun expressions and moments at an event. Here’s an example from the wedding reception last weekend:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 92mm f/4, 1/200 second ISO2000

I already wrote a post on the wedding, so head here if you want to check out a few more, or see some hi res images on my website.


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/40 second ISO2500

My cousin Josh, on the right, is out of focus here, but I wanted to use this shot to show how much environment you can show around your subjects with that 24mm wide end of the lens. Here are a couple more:


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4, 1/500 second ISO6400


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 24mm f/4.5, 1/80 second ISO1600

At f/4 your depth of field is still pretty shallow. Check out this shot my wife took of me in my favorite store ever, the B&H super store. I never go to NY without paying a visit there! Here I am playing with the incredible Nikon D3s (below). Not too randomize this post too much, but you can see that at f/4, the front element of that fat 24-70 is the only thing in the frame that’s in focus. Could be because the 24-70 is so stinking long =D


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 62mm f/4, 1/50 second ISO1600


Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII at 110mm f/4, 1/80 second ISO800

Back out into the street. Again, the focal range is very flexible for dynamic environments like the streets of New York.

Alright, I only posted this image because if you go to New York, you MUST have a burger at Shake Shack. You MUST!!!

That’s all for now. Still rummaging through images I’ve taken with this lens and others, as well as all the wedding photos I took last week. Stay tuned for more!

Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 VRII: First Impression

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A year or so ago I was taking a look at a Canon 5D MkII with a 24-105 f/4L IS lens mounted. Loved the range, the constant aperture, the stabilization. I thought to myself, “why doesn’t Nikon make something like this? If they did, I’d SO buy it….” Well, they finally did.

So I took the plunge. I’m the proud new owner of one of Nikon’s latest lens releases, the Nikkor AFS 24-120mm f/4G VRII. This nano-coated beauty arrived yesterday, and I’m excited to start putting it through its paces. As soon as the lens was announced I was immediately drawn to its appeal. Previous generations of the 24-120mm don’t exactly have the best reputation, but with a new optical design, better build, and constant f/4 aperture throughout its zoom range, I felt safe enough giving Nikon the benefit of the doubt.

Originally the 24-70 f/2.8 was on my hotlist, but  first off, I’m big on image stabilization for hand-held shots at very low shutter speeds, a feature the 24-70 lacks. This lens has a more flexible focal range as well, and is lighter and smaller. Sure, you lose a stop of light gathering with the smaller f/4 aperture, but I rarely shoot wide open anyway. I think this is the general purpose/travel/event lens I’ve been looking for.

It’s only slightly larger than my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC, a much loved lens on my crop sensor body. Focus is much more snappy than my Tamron, and while the 24-120 is not an all-metal build, it feels solid and very well built. Coming from the Tamron, the Nikkor’s zoom ring placement is throwing me off! It’s going to take some getting used to.

Zooming out to 120mm extends the lens barrel, just about doubling the length of the lens.  Not a big deal.

So how does it perform? I’ll know for sure with this lens mounted on an FX body. Yesterday I had my D300s with me at work, so I picked Suki up in the afternoon and took a few shots of her with it last night. This is one of the first images I took with the new Nikkor:


Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 24-120 f/4 VR at 78mm f/5.6, 1/30 second ISO400

Did a quick test that same evening to test the effectiveness of the lens’ image stabilization:


Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 24-120 f/4 VR at 120mm f/4, 1/8 second ISO800

This is hand-held at a full frame equivalent of approximately 180mm, at 1/8 of a second. Guess the VR works! Well, that’s all I got for now. Will be taking this lens on a trip next week and hope to use it extensively for about a week. We’ll see how it does!
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UPDATE: Just shot a wedding over the weekend and used the 24-120 f/4 on a D700 for many of the images. Loved the result! Check out the post here.

Also, see some casual shots I took in NY with it here.

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UPDATE (11/9/10): Just read a killer review on the 24-120 f/4 by Todd Owyoung, an awesome concert photographer. Lots of sample images as well as pictures of the lens itself. He has a lot of great things to say about the lens. Check it out at this link!

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UPDATE (11/14/10): Used the 24-120mm f/4 today for some on-location portraiture. Check out my latest post!

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UPDATE (11/29/10):  Legendary wildlife photographer Moose Peterson loves his new 24-120 VRII, check out what he has to say about the lens at this link.

Lens Images: Nikon D40 + Nikkor AFS 50mm f/1.4G

Nikkor AF 10.5mm 2.8G Fisheye

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The newest addition to my kit is Nikon’s ultra-wide 10.5mm fisheye lens. With a 15mm full frame equivalent focal length on a Nikon DX body and a full 180 degree angle of view, this lens really takes it all in. I’ve had it for a little under a week, and I must say, this is the most fun I’ve had in a long time with a lens. If you’ve been on the fence about picking up a fisheye, just go ahead and get one already!

The top image was taken this past Friday at San Francisco’s AT&T park. The Giants played the Cardinals (and won!). When I found out that our seats were going to be way up in the highest part of the stadium, I was actually pretty happy. From such a high vantage point, you can take a great ultra-wide shot of the entire stadium with the 10.5 fisheye. Here are a few more images I took during this past week with the 10.5. Enjoy!

Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF DX Fisheye Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED

Written by Jonathan

April 25, 2010 at 9:18 pm

f/2.8 + VC

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Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 42mm f/2.8 ISO1400 1/15 Second, Handheld

I love keeping my camera with me at all times, but I can’t always lug my tripod around. That’s why the constant f/2.8 maximum aperture coupled with vibration control in my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC zoom lens makes a killer combination for shooting hand-held in low light.

I took the night shot above on the way home from work a couple nights ago. I stopped to park near this old highschool (that will soon be shut down incidentally), and was drawn by the warm amber light in the archway. I love how the light’s warm glow mixed with the dusky blue sky. Using a variable aperture zoom at this focal length, or even a constant aperture zoom without vibration control would have forced me to use a much higher ISO and would have made this shot very difficult if not impossible to capture without a tripod.

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 19mm f/2.8 ISO220 1/15 Second

This shot is not as sharp as it could be, but considering that I took it from the passenger seat of a car that is just starting to move away from a stop light, I can accept the results. Of course, shooting wide open doesn’t give me the most ideal, razor-sharp results I get from shooting in the Tamron’s f/5.6-f/11 range, but I love the flexibility that the wide aperture gives me in combination with the highly effective VC, a major reason I chose this lens over Nikon’s very expensive 17-55mm f/2.8.

Hipstamatic for Iphone

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Screenshot from Iphone

I just downloaded what I think will be my favorite iPhone camera application yet. Digitally imitating the quirky, unreliable, unpredictable output of film toy cameras, Hipstamatic for iPhone features a slick and creative interface. You select effects by swapping “lenses” or “film” or even “flash gels” on the “camera” to achieve film-like effects.

You can toggle between the front and back of the camera within the interface. The front of the camera let’s you change “lenses” with the swipe of a finger. Each “lens” has its own color, blurring, and vignetting characteristics. You can add more effects by using different “flash gels,” or swap out the “film” to shoot in black and white or to change the look of the borders.

Camera Front

Camera Back

On the back of the virtual camera is a shutter button, a menu where you can review your “prints”, and a small “viewfinder” for composing your shots. You can program the “viewfinder” to be an accurate one, or an unpredictable inaccurate representation of the scene. Here are some wonderfully crummy shots that I took after downloading the app:

Hipstamatic + John S lens + Kodot Verichrome Film, Flash off

Hipstamatic + John S lens + Kodot Verichrome Film, Flash off

Hipstamatic + Helga Viking Lens + Kodot Verichrome Lens, Flash off

Blurry, Over-saturated, and heavily vignetted? Oh yes!!!!

Hipstamatic + John S lens + Pistil film, Flash off

From the Recent Prints screen, you can review what lenses/film/flash setups you used for each shot, and output to Facebook or Email from within the app. At $1.99 for the app plus $0.99 for extra lens/film/flash packs, Hipstamatic has earned its place on the first page of my iPhone homescreen. Ok, time to go get my “shoot, don’t think” on!

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Update: I have a blog in place for my Hipstamatic shots now: http://jonathanhipstamatic.wordpress.com. Check it out!

Written by Jonathan

December 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Portrait of a Friend, and Goodbye Summer Night Shooting

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Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/5.6, ISO900 1/8 Second

Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/5.6, ISO900 1/8 Second

This is Snowflake Bear, and we take him everywhere! He’s even been to Japan and back with us last year (where our friends called him kuma-san, or Mr. Bear). I usually shoot in RAW, but this shot was processed by and imported directly from of the camera. The D300s produces some beautiful JPEGs I think. I took this photo to test out my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8’s VC effectiveness in an indoor, low-light setting. This scene was actually much darker than it looks here, with natural light hitting him softly from the edges of a dark curtain over a window to my right. The VC allowed a super-low 1/8 second shutter speed at a reasonable ISO setting and at the longest (75mm equivalent) focal length for this lens, hand-held. Of course, this wouldn’t have worked if he was moving around though. ;)

In other news, the shot I took below was a quick one I took on the way to go grocery shopping over the weekend. It’s getting harder and harder to take the cityscape shots at dusk that I’ve been enjoying taking over the summer. The sun is setting sooner and sooner as Autumn sets in, and there isn’t much time lately to run out after work and capture the wonderful, deep blue sky color that lasts only 20-30 minutes after the sun sets.

A street light to my left was causing major flare issues for me that ruined my first couple of shots at this spot (using my Tokina 11-16 ultra wide). Since my wife was along, I actually had her stand to the left of the camera to shade the lens. Not only is she blocking light with her body here, but her hand is actually held very close (in fact just barely out of the frame) to the left of the lens to further reduce the glare.

We were only there for a few minutes and the dusky blue sky was gone. I noticed though, during this very quick shooting session, that the shutter speeds I needed to expose the shot the way I wanted seemed too short. After getting home I realized why: I had the camera set to ISO800 from some hand-held test shots I was taking earlier. Doh! Fortunately, ISO800 is very clean on the D300s, but it just goes to show, always double check your settings!

To prevent this from happening later, I’ve set up two custom shooting banks in my D300s, one for the tripod mounted night shots I love taking, where I shoot RAW with D-Lighting off and ISO set to base with Auto ISO off (among other things), and one for hand-held shooting, activating D-Lighting and Auto ISO etc.

Anyways, back to being sad about the seasons changing. I know that soon, as winter comes, I’ll be getting off work with the sun already below or close to being below the horizon, giving me no time for the shots I’ve been taking lately. There is hope, however. I’ve noticed lately that on my drive to work in the morning, the dawn’s blue sky here in San Francisco is simply incredible. I’m gonna have to start waking up earlier!

Wow, this post is full of my rambling. Oh well!