Macro Lens Results

Nikon D300, AF-S 60/2.8 G Micro

We spent some time this weekend playing around with the two macro lenses I rented as well as our own AF 105/2.8 D Micro.  What do we think of them all now?

Both my Dear Sweet Wife and I quickly came to the same conclusion:  The too-short working distance and lack of internal focusing of the AF-S 40/2.8 G Micro lens is a complete show stopper.

While shooting a flower bouquet with the focus locked as close as possible with the 40mm its front frequently came into contact with the flowers themselves.  With any macro subject that isn’t perfectly flat you will find working at maximum magnification very difficult.

On top of that, the front element of the 40mm lens moves significantly during focus changes which alters the angle of view.  If you try adjusting focus at all you will go through multiple iterations of compose, focus, re-compose, re-focus, re-compose, re-focus, etc…

In comparison, the AF-S 60/2.8 G Micro lens was a pleasure to use.  It had a good working distance at maximum magnification; it never came too close to our subjects.  And with its internal focusing feature, changing focus had no noticeable effect on the composition.

There was really no competition at all in our mind: if the 60mm lens is within your budget we can’t see a good reason to even consider the 40mm.  (And if a new 60mm isn’t in your budget, I would recommend a used 60mm over a new 40mm too!)

Keep in mind our goal was to consider these for use with our smaller DX format D300.  If you use a full-frame FX body and/or 35mm film we would still prefer our good old 105mm lens (or its current equivalent).

Macro Lens Testing

Nikon F100, Fuji Velvia

My Dear Sweet Wife and I like to shoot macro or close-up photography, for our blogs and otherwise.  She picked up a Nikkor AF 105/2.8 D Micro lens a while back and it has been our workhorse lens for close up shots taken with our film bodies.

However, our D300 and its small DX format sensor and resulting crop factor has increased the working distance of that lens.  Trying to shoot small items on a desk has become an exercise in backing up more than we have room to do in our tiny and crowded house.

We have been considering getting a shorter focal length macro lens with a closer working distance ever since we bought the D300. has a promotion right now (code winter15) which lead me to rent two shorter micro Nikkors for this weekend, just to try them out.

Both are current lenses in Nikon’s lineup, the AF-S 60/2.8 G Micro and AF-S 40/2.8 G Micro.  Judging by specifications, the 60mm lens wins in terms of features: nano coating and ED glass, 2 aspherical elements versus 0, internal focusing, and support for FX and 35mm bodies.

But none of that matters if the 60mm lens working distance is still too far out.  Stay tuned for a few posts comparing all three lenses after I have put them through their paces!

Meanwhile if you have some spare time this weekend (perhaps two hours) be sure to catch Star Wars Uncut, the full crowd-sourced recreation of Episode IV was just released.  Be warned it is only mostly G-rated…

Hello 2012!

Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-105mm AF, Fuji Velvia

My goodbye to 2011 featured a sunset I shot a few years ago at a beach in Garrapata State Park, California.  For this hello to 2012 I reached even further back in my archive of slides to a sunrise at Haleakala National Park, Hawaii.

Here are my photographic resolutions for 2012.  These are not goals to try to achieve and then forget, but rather changes in my day-to-day activities that I hope to make permanent.

Streamline: This may just mean a few simple changes to my workflow, but I spend too much time scanning and processing images these days.  I need to leverage more lab scanning services as well as reconsider the process and tools I use to go from film to final image.

Share: I started building a Flickr presence last year and have flirted with other sites.  But I need to better leverage the various sites, communities, etc. to get my photos out there and even critiqued as well as work with my DSW to update our portfolio.

Engage: I need to be more active in the photo blogosphere and forums, become part of the online photography community.  Especially the film-shooting folks, as we need to stick together and keep our interest alive and well!

Hopefully the resolutions above should help me focus more on the creative and social aspects of photography.

What are your photographic goals or resolutions for 2012?

Goodbye 2011, Thanks for the Good Times

Nikon F100, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Velvia 50

Last year was a great year!  I have many things to be grateful for in my life, most notably my Dear Sweet Wife, our lovely two boys, and the rest of our family and friends.

2011 was a tremendous year of growth and wonderful experiences for us all.

Our older son entered first grade and took on new interests such as tennis, piano, and even film photography (no influence there, ahem).

Our 3-year-old graduated to solo swimming lessons, conquered potty training, and also took some photos with our cameras (with our permission or not!).

And somewhere in between my DSW and I managed to squeeze in some date nights, going out to dinner in restaurants without crayons or seeing movies that weren’t G rated.

Photographically speaking for me 2011 wasn’t a bad year either.   I rediscovered my love of film photography and started playing around with vintage film cameras and new formats such as instant pack film.

This blog was a big step for me, to encourage myself to both keep shooting as well as write about my experiences.  In some ways I feel like I am still just getting started, while in others I feel I have achieved a lot in my first posts.

But enough about last year… it is time to look forward to this new year 2012!  I am excited about what it may have in store for me and my family, and will share my resolutions soon.

Christmas Preparations in Full Swing

Nikon F6, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8, Fuji Velvia 100F

Here is another shot from that first roll I put through my F6.  I liked the creamy tones on this classic car, and at full magnification you can see a lot of detail in the reflections on the bumper… even I am in there if you look closely.

I have been busy with our family’s Christmas preparations the last week or two.  But we have moved from buying gifts to starting to wrap and ship them, so I feel like we have turned the corner.

A few things I have been reading online:

I have been following Amanda Gilligan’s Mocking Bird blog lately and dig her style of photography.  I empathize with her motivations to continue shooting film which she describes in an article on Daniella Marie’s A Lifestyle Blog.

My house is overflowing with Legos and I have wondered if I could put some to use for a photo test pattern.  My DSW pointed me to Cary Norton’s Legotron Mark I 4×5 camera which was a much more ambitious project.

Dan Domme is experimenting with some alternative printing processes (ex. carbon printing via UV light) and has a very brief primer post about how he is going about getting into it all.

And in terms of what I have been up to lately photographically, mostly just pumping a few rolls of Ilford XP2 Super and Kodak Portra 400 though my Rollei B 35.  I do have a new toy (I often do!) to go with it which is a Nikon SB-30 flash.

The SB-30 was released in 2002 and is I believe Nikon’s smallest Speedlight ever.  It has a non-TTL automatic mode where the flash measures the reflected light itself to match your desired exposure level for your current aperture.

It is probably the only flash with that feature that is still (barely) smaller than the Rollei itself.

Back to the Christmas prep work… Can’t wait for the holiday to actually get here!

Giving Thanks

Nikon FA, Nikkor AF 105/2.8 D Micro, Fuji Velvia 100

Because the sunset at Cayucos was just so-so, I only shot half of the roll of Velvia 100.  I wanted to finish it off so I took a number of macro shots of a flower bouquet later that week.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating.  I hope you find yourselves surrounded by family, friends, and good food!

A couple things on my mind or just in my inbox…

Eddie Soloway’s November newsletter talks about the great time he had recently shooting in Kyoto.  He also is planning to add some 2012 workshops to his list over the weekend.

Polaroid has launched a combo digital & instant camera, integrating their ZINK printer into a classic-styled camera.  It looks fascinating, but sadly does not support old-school manipulations.

The British Journal of Photography has an iPad app for quarterly interactive publications, the first of which is free.  Sadly I did not make their top ten list of photo blogs…maybe next year!  (ahem)

If you really are looking for a good way to use lots of 35mm film, check out Lomography’s new hand-crank Lomokino movie camera.  They have some interesting video clips online already.

Cayucos Pier

Nikon FA, Nikkor Ai 200/4, Fuji Velvia 100

This is a shot I took while we were on our summer vacation in Cayucos.

This was the first time in a long time I had the opportunity to plant my camera down on a tripod. We are a very active family these days and pretty much everything I shoot is handheld, so this was a nice break.

The sunset was not spectacular, but there were some nice purple tones just after it fell below the horizon.

Velvia 100 is slightly less saturated than Velvia 50, but the colors still pop off the slide and screen with this shot.  I adjusted black/white levels a bit with curves in Photoshop, but otherwise this scan was as true to the slide as possible.

I had a great time shooting this sunset with my father-in-law.  I don’t recall seeing what he got here, will have to ask him…

We are already thinking of making a reservation in Cayucos for a similar stay next summer.

Down the Slide

Rollei B 35, Ilford XP2 Super

I have now put a few rolls of 35mm film through my latest two new cameras.  My initial impressions shooting with them are 100% positive.

The Nikon F6 is an absolute dream to use.  In theory it is just an evolutionary step up from my F100 (mixed heartily with plenty of DNA from the F5), but it is noticeably nicer to shoot with in almost every single way.

However, I don’t have much film from it developed just yet so impressions on its metering, autofocus, etc. will have to wait.

The Rollei B 35 is an entirely different kind of camera, but has thrilled me just the same.  I have found myself carrying it around with my nearly all the time at night and on the weekends when I am sporting my off-work cargo shorts.

I thoroughly enjoy setting the aperture, shutter speed, and focus distance completely manually.  The Rollei doesn’t even have a rangefinder so I am honing my jedi mind tricks by thinking “Is that four or five feet away from me?” all the time.

The above shot is one of many that I like (most of which are in focus!) that came out of a roll of Ilford XP2 Super film.  This is a 400 speed B&W film which is developed in color print film chemistry, so you can take it into your corner drug store to get it processed.

Stacked Cameras

Nikon D300, AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

Well, I have updated the design of my blog to include a genuine banner.  The above shot is part of it, but those of you following the feed should check the home page out.

Thanks to my DSW for some Photoshop help to tweak the lighting, color, and shadows.  She wanted to be sure the glory of our jalapeño pepper green kitchen wall came through in force.

You may recognize some of the cameras from a number of my previous posts. The complete rundown front to back is:

  1. Rollei B 35 – I carry this almost everywhere these days
  2. Canon IV-S – sadly the shutter is still full of leaks
  3. Petri 7S – also sadly, its film advance is stuck again
  4. Kine Exakta – I haven’t even tried this yet, its shutter controls are a bit daunting
  5. Nikomat FTN – my workhorse SLR for shooting B&W
  6. Nikon FA – The most advanced manual Nikon ever made
  7. Nikon F100 – My main film camera until recently
  8. Nikon F6 – My new king of the hill

How did I order them?  Not by age, nor purely by size.

They are arguably ordered by technical features as you start with the viewfinder Rollei and proceed to add a rangefinder, average metering, single-lens reflex, center-weighted metering, matrix metering, autofocus, and finally color matrix metering.

I might have ordered a few of them differently, but in the end I think this made for the best looking shot.

Comparison of Three 50mm Nikkors

Nikon D300, Nikkor 35 f/2 O.C

I love shooting with a prime 50mm lens, a so-called normal lens on a 35mm film or “full-frame” digital camera.  It has many advantages including a very natural look, not too compressed like a telephoto or warped like a wide angle.

I have an opportunity that I can’t pass up to compare three recent normal Nikkors: I own one, I rented another, and our current house guest my sister-in-law brought a third with her.

There are plenty of places to look up Nikon lens specifications as well as read reviews and comparisons of them, so I am just going to focus here on my impressions of their features and usability.

My AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 was the first lens I bought along with my N80 about ten years ago.  It has served me well and gotten as much use (if not more) than any other Nikkor I own.

It’s strengths are that it is the smallest and lightest of the three and it stops down the most to f/22 (the others stop at f/16).  Its primary weaknesses is its maximum aperture is 2/3 of a stop slower than the others so it is slightly less capable in the low-light and selective focus departments.

My sister-in-law brought along an AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D (on loan from my father-in-law, truth be told).  It has a faster maximum aperture (a plus) and only stops down to f/16 (a minus), but otherwise is almost identical to the f/1.8 aside from being a hair heavier and larger.

The third is an AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G that I rented from for the week.  It is a dramatic redesign from the previous two and differs in many ways, but is not the clear winner I had assumed.

It does have a nicer feel to the focus ring which can be used manually at any time (the others require you to shut off the camera AF first).  It has theoretically better bokeh due to its 9 rounded diaphragm blades (two more than the others).  And it has a solid snap-on hood compared to the old screw in rubber type.

But its negatives weigh in heavily.  The AF-S focusing should be fast but isn’t.  It’s G designation means it has no aperture ring and doesn’t work with manual focus bodies.  Its filter ring is an odd 58mm which is a hassle.  And to add insult to injury it is dramatically larger than the others.

While I thought my rental might be a “try-before-I-buy”, so far I have to say I don’t see a compelling reason to retire my trusty f/1.8 in favor of either of the faster lenses.