Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tools of the Trade - Telephoto and Zoom lens Edition Part I

If you know me or my work at all, you'll know that I love film cameras off all kinds... all day long. However, I do shoot with my DSLR on a semi-regular basis.

I don't want to focus too much on brands as no brand is doing anything for me in turn to have their name mentioned. Due to the context of what I am about to write, it does however; make more sense for me to be brand specific.

My first DSLR was a used Nikon D200 that my old roommate and I split the costs on to even be able to afford the transition from analog to digital. We had the kit lens it came with and we eventually sprung for the Nikkor 10.5mm DX Fisheye. Due to the DSLR being a Nikon, I also replaced my Minolta X-700 with a Nikon FM2, so that FM2 lenses would be interchangeable with the D200. This included a Nikkor 24mm F2.8 manual focus lens. We were all set to shoot skateboarding, portraits and live music.

Eventually I upgraded from the DX format to the Nikon FX format with the purchase of a Nikon D4 with the 24-85mm Nikor ED VR kit lens. I knew at that very moment, that it would be a long time before the purchase of a new lens. I said NEW lens... Obviously the first order of business was to replace the 10.5mm DX Fisheye with a proper 16mm F2.8 version that I found on ebay. This particular fisheye was made sometime between 1981 and 1998. So there I was with a camera I spent way too much money on, a kit lens, a 24mm manual focus F2.8 and the 16mm fisheye. Every once in a while, a shoot called for a telephoto or zoom lens and I found myself borrowing from friends. It was that or break out the Minolta X-700 with the 70-210mm and a roll of film.

Fast forward a number of years and the need to a longer focal length came around more and more often. Soccer, water polo, kids tubing at the lake, the growing interest in shooting birds etc...

Lucky for me, my wife found me a back up Nikon FM2 for a birthday gift that just happened to come with a Nikkor ED 300mm F4.5 telephoto lens.

Manual focus? Yes. Made some time between 1981 and 1999? Yes. Considering it's condition, I am guessing closer to 1981.

Is it a great lens to pair up with a Nikon D4? Probably not, but when I want a sharp image from a distance... this is my go to lens.

So manual focus and sharpness (the best available to us anyway) are covered. However, sometimes there's a need for auto focus. My wife solved this issue as well, buy spotting a used Nikon AF Nikkor 70-300mm 1:4-5.6 zoom lens in the bargain bin at our local photo store.

I believe this 70-300mm G lens came out sometime in the pre-DSLR era. It's light (mostly due to how much plastic it's made out of), works best around F8 to ensure sharpness and high shutter speeds required (1/800sec and higher) to prevent motion blur from hand-held camera shake.

Having noted all of that, one just can't help feel that the lenses that have been available to us aren't helping the Nikon D4 live up to its potential. A wise person once said "the tool doesn't make the man, the man makes the tool". Ok, maybe not some super wise man, but the guy at the local auto body shop made some reference to a welding machine or a paint gun or something along those lines.

Sure... the best machine doesn't matter if the user doesn't know what to do with it, but he never compared the images that can be captured with a contemporary Canon Rebel paired with a 250mm lens vs. a professional heavyweight contender like the Nikon D4 paired up with a lens made in 1981.

To be continued...

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