Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fast Glass

I've always hated the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D. For me it was always somewhat hazy and lacked contrast and sharpness.

It's not even the best 50mm that Nikon makes. The f/1.4 opens up even more at 3x the price.

Actually this is actually my second 50mm f/1.8D. My first 50mm, I purchased second-hand and after minimal usage, the aperture stopped responding to electrical commands. The physical blades still opened and closed but it just stopped working properly on my digital body.

Today I pulled out the 50mm f/1.8D. My rationale was that I was tired of the lousy bokeh on the 24-70mm f/2.8G. Great lens. Sharp. Great for zooming. But ugly bokeh. Prime lenses do much better in that department so I decided to pull out the nifty fifty and take it for a spin.

In fact, I had recently shot a paid test with the 50mm f/1.8D (because my 24-70mm f/2.4G was in the shop) and I knew that although the "nifty fifty" lacked contrast, the downsides of the lens were very manageable.

In fact, the lack of contrast seems to act as a physical filter to increase the sensor's ability to capture greater dynamic range. The shadows just aren't as dark and the highlights just aren't as bright... hence seemingly capturing more dynamic range. Whether or not this is actually what's going on is arguable, but l believe this lens holds shadows and highlights better.

The lack of an internal focus motor lost me a few frames here and there. Speaking of focus, the lack of contrast probably caused the difficulty focusing in the darker studio settings. I usually don't have problems with the 24-70mm f/2.8G.

Where the "nifty fifty" does best is open apertures. I shot my first set at 1/200th, f/1.8, ISO3200 and aside from the grain and softness (both of which I can tolerate) the images came out wonderfully. I obviously couldn't have done this with the 24-70mm f/2.8G. I was shooting ambient light which happens to be a 4'x6' skylight 18 feet above the ground. So not much light at all. And of course no lens is sharpest wide-open, but sharpness isn't paramount for me anymore.

The focal length forced me to foot-zoom but it also forced me to be more deliberate about my crop and moving in-and-out. This happened when I shot my Hasselblad a lot because I only have fixed focal-length glass. In fact Hasselblad only makes 1 or 2 zoom lenses. So I got more exercise today running back and forth.

The result of shooting the day with the 50mm however makes me reconsider the lens as well as my need for fast glass. But as my shooting has recently been more ambient-dependent, fast-glass has been more useful than ever.

1 comment:

  1. As far as I remember Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 is one the sharpest lenses Nikon has according to tests by Considering $100 price tag it's hard to not to get :)