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tony_a

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  1. tony_a

    D800 - what to do next?

    Unfortunately proof is in the eye of the beholder. The problem isn't about convincing yourself. The problem to solve is how to convince Nikon. They can't solve their engineering problem until they solve their larger business culture problem. Nikon is still following in Toyota's path. Toyota was perfectly content with their internal data.
  2. tony_a

    D800 - what to do next?

    I'd like to urge people to bring a more richly quantitative tool into the discussion, specifically Reikan FoCal. My 16-35 f/4 showed a sufficiently even performance across all 51 points in the multipoint test tool (available as a Beta to licensed users of the Pro version), with the left side equally as good as the center. At least that would tend to disprove any idea that all G lenses below 100mm might be universally in trouble. My 28-105 AF-D and 300 f/4 AF-S were both very "level" across all points so I believe the AF module is in the desired mechanical alignment in my D800. The test is affected by anything that degrades the image so it's important to understand that when you interpret the results. If the lens has bad aberrations or if there is shake from mirror slap because of a poor tripod, the scores will drop. For example, in postings at dpreview FoCal is showing equal left and right side weaknesses at the wide end of the 24-70 AF-S which agrees with reports of edge softness in the reviews. With a little effort you can measure focusing defects by themselves by running the single point test on individual selected AF points and seeing if the calculated corrections vary across the field. Even with that cross-sensitivity to aberrations, it does produce repeatable quantitative data that are more informative than anecdotes. I think it can accelerate the process of developing an accurate picture of the AF behaviors. As a bonus it will make your lenses work better without ruining your eyesight from staring at fuzzy tilted rulers. That 28-105 AF-D was never any good below f/8 before I calibrated it. Now with Reikan's calculated correction factor applied, f/5.6 is just as good and I'll probably keep it. 18-35 AF-D: -8 (definitely better now) 28-105 AF-D: -12 (even bigger improvement) 16-35 AF-S: -6 or -5 (slightly better than uncorrected at wide open; with 1 stop down it was already excellent) 300 AF-S: +4 or +5 (same comments as the 16-35)
  3. tony_a

    Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S ED

    My impressions are from direct experience with the lens from just one rental, so take them with as many grains of salt as required. First of all, if you have any interest in the lens at all then by all means rent one! At one agency in the USA the rate is so low I couldn't justify ignoring it. Put a session with this lens onto your Bucket List. The image quality you can get even wide open is simply stunning. I'd give it a 6 on a scale of 5 for the optics if I could. Then again the ability of this lens to ruin images via flare spots is also stunning. I don't know how to interpret the responses where people say it's resistance to this problem is good. With experience you may be able to avoid it but that makes for one more thing to exercise active control over. Even though this lens is phenomenal by itself I still recommend DxO which brings it half a notch higher yet. It would be amazing to use this lens on a D3X. Unfortunately, the size and weight are issues I can't ignore. But this will help explain my priorities: if my D700 was more expensive than a D3 I still would have chosen it. A wide angle lens stays with me all day and that will mean hours of carrying, often over rough terrain. In the meantime I'm using the 18-35 + DxO (it's a must-have for this lens) which comes fairly close to the 14-24 except for the extreme corners. One thing was puzzling to me, maybe this was just a software limitation. I've never been able to successfully stitch panoramas from shots taken at 14mm, either with or without using DxO's distortion correction in advance. This was true with either CS5 or PTGui (evaluation version). On the other hand my 18-35's shots taken at 18mm never fail to stitch perfectly. People react to the bug-eyed 14-24 in a big way which can interfere with the task at hand. Overall I gave this amazing lens a rating of 4 because of both portability as well as all of those "handling and usability" issues. It would never be with me except for specific defined tasks. However I can still recommend it to anyone who is willing to put in the efforts.
  4. Fisheyes may be a uniquely polarized photographic tool. They seem to be either perfectly right for a task or perfectly wrong, with almost no middle ground. That's why I rented one of these when I had a rare chance to attend a Green Bay Packers home game in the iconic Lambeau Field. I wanted to come away with a picture of my wife and I at the game but the stadium itself was absolutely integral to the captured moment. I handed the camera over to fan in the row behind us and the expression on his face after he took his first glance through the viewfinder was almost worth the cost of the rental right there! Fisheye portraits from 3 feet away aren't going to impress at first glance but I am very pleased with the return to normal appearances that DxO's Volume Anamorphosis feature delivers. It's not a full rectilinear conversion so there isn't a huge loss of coverage and people at the edge of the frame are not too strange looking. This hardware/software combination is actually better than what you get at the edge of a typical wide angle, straight out of the camera. The image quality at center frame is beyond reproach and the edges of the view are good enough. The only negative surprise was the massive (it was several percent of the frame, not several pixels) blue ghosting around the stadium lights which I have never encountered before in any lens. Maybe the color correction goes completely sour right at the edge of near UV. I don't know why lens caps for fisheyes had to become nearly non-functional over the decades. They used to come with properly stout screw on domes that were practically nuclear proof. Now they are prone to falling off with subsequent loss. I could do better with a few minute's time on a lathe, working on a PVC pipe cap as starting material. Bottom line: I got the shot I wanted and the lens went back to the rental agency. I'm not investing further in DX so I couldn't justify the expense of owning this lens. I gave this lens 4 stars instead of 5 only because of my own situation regarding DX.
  5. tony_a

    Nikon F2

    My ownership sequence was: 1. Nikkormat FTn, lost due to theft. 2. F2 which I sold but shouldn't have. 3. F as second body, sold quickly due to horrific ergonomics. 4. F3, bought new and still owned, but not in use anymore. Out of those the F2 is still the one I would rate at the top for non-motor drive use. If you need a motor the F3+MD4 was the more functional option but the F3 itself doesn't inspire the same confidence as the F2. The F2 was tougher than my Nikkors and I'm still using many of them. In Death Valley it sometimes became too hot to touch. It also served on several snow camping trips without any troubles at all. The one repair it needed was to replace the corroded "functional resistance element" which is the potentiometer at the heart of the ISO and exposure compensation setting up at the top left corner. That occurred during extended shooting under torrential rains so I knew what I was risking. It's not a Nikonos. The F2 was my workhorse for many, many years and I enjoyed a higher success rate for exposure accuracy with it than any other Nikon body I've owned: AE, Matrix, or otherwise. I think they had the perfect formula on the centerweight pattern which they unfortunately abandoned in the F3. The only complaint I had with it is that the controls for the mirror lock up were too stiff. Other than that the body and controls had the perfect tactile qualities. There's something about that satin chrome plating on the brass that has never been equalled since.
  6. tony_a

    Nikon 105mm f/2.5 AIS

    The negatives are few with this lens. I like to use it anywhere from f/2.8 and on. There is a visible drop in contrast when fully wide at f/2.5 that is caused by blue haloing a few pixels wide. (This characteristic is shared by the manual focus 85mm f/1.8, where I recommend using it starting at f/2.0). At distant focus you will see no chromatic aberration and you are completely free to use any f-stop starting at 2.8 and get excellent results. At close focus you may encounter some longitudinal CA in the bokeh of distant objects, just like you often see with many current products in fact. Choosing between the Ai and Ai-S version goes according to your preference of lens hood. The separate hood that goes with the Ai has better shielding, but in the case of the Ai-S you always have it with you even though it's shorter. I once accidentally dropped one onto sandstone from a height of about 4 feet. There was no damage to the lens even though the filter that was mounted got pulverized.
  7. tony_a

    Nikon 35mm f/2 (AI, AIS)

    Through no fault but my own I never "bonded" to this lens. It has a lot going for it: distortion so low you don't need to bother correcting it, and really very good definition of subject detail. Contrast was very good. My copy had a too-light drag on the focus ring so for me it was to a large extent a handling issue. When I did use it, it delivered. However I always ended up going wider or longer on SLRs in spite of the fact that I really liked this focal length on 35mm compacts. For anyone who wants this FL on SLRs I won't hesitate to recommend it even though I'm using something else.
  8. tony_a

    Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D IF

    When I bought my D700 I was fairly well set for lenses in the form of my old Ai and Ai-S Nikkors from the film days. The 28-105 was my first autofocus lens for this body. I needed to get something that would do "a lot" without forcing a budget revision, while I figured out what "final" AF lenses to get someday in this range. Well, this lens has some real staying power. It's what I leave on the D700 to be ready for nearly anything when there is no immediate task at hand that points to some other specific lens. Probably 30% of my D700 images were captured with this lens even though I have 10 other Nikkors. It won't satisfy for long as a sole lens for FX because you will want options for going wider, longer, faster, and to have better bokeh. That being said you'll have to spend quite a bit more to get a significant advantage in any one of those areas. There's really nothing else from Nikon that's completely superior in a "kit lens" context. This lens is a great stepping stone that will deliver many fine images. It will not be your last FX lens. So what else do I use when I'm not using the 28-105? The most common are the 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 (I really have to go wider than 28mm from time to time), 28mm f/2 (it's amazing starting from f/2.8 ), and 85mm f/1.8 (it's amazing from f/2.0). What lenses am I not using after getting the 28-105? The 24mm f/2.8 (which got replaced by the 18-35) and 55mm f/2.8 micro (replaced by the 28-105). The 105mm f/2.5 has been gathering some dust as well. It was replaced by both the 85mm (almost the same skill set) and the 28-105 (pretty close in image quality at f/8-f/16). Which single lens would I take on a long hike? If it's not the 28-105 it will be the 18-35. The choice will be based on the expected coverage angles I will need based on my knowledge of the terrain. Would I ever sell the 28-105 to help generate funds for an upgrade lens? Not likely. It accomplishes quite a lot at $200, yet that same $200 would not significantly reduce the pain of budgeting for a $1200 replacement.
  9. tony_a

    Nikon 28mm f/2 AI, AIS

    This is one of those rare lenses whose images you feel you can just fall into. It makes a natural pair with the old 85mm f/1.8 Ai. Both are slightly low in contrast when wide open but they are both superior just one click down. When I received mine it had an incorrectly adjusted infinity focus stop which was taken care of at a non-Nikon service house for $40. Now I can trust the focus limit even at f/2. I use it starting at f/2.8 due to some loss of contrast wide open. At f/4 it's amazing, at 5.6-8 it's stunning, easily out-resolving the D90 sensor. However I use it on a D700 to get the full angular coverage. The extreme corners are a little soft on FX at f/5.6 and wider. The center and all borders (minus those farthest bits of corner) always look good. It is extremely resistant to ghosting. I feel that it is a privilege to shoot with this lens.
  10. tony_a

    AF Zoom-Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF-ED (1.9x)

    This is nearly my top favorite lens. "Nearly" because it has to compete against the 28mm f/2 Ai-S and 85mm f/1.8 Ai which set high standards. It's easy to bring along and easy to get wonderful results. It does have limits though, I don't use it wider than f/8. Then again if you want subject isolation you don't think of an 18mm f/3.5 first, or second.... or ever. Within the limits however this lens is a tremendous bargain. I would definitely advise to look at used copies of this lens. I think that the next paragraph may explain why so many get resold: I'll start by saying that I don't particularly like the 18-35's results right out of the camera. I use it on a D700. The direct images are softer than average vs. my other Nikkors. However everything changes when DxO is used for the raw conversions. It's like Nikon designed this lens with post-processing in mind. DxO's correction profile for the D700 makes this lens absolutely come alive. It's been stunning for landscape work where I use it primarily at f/7-ish through f/16. The lens + DxO at those apertures rates about 4.5 on the Review scale although I would still rate it as a 3 at wide open. The absolute extreme corners will often be soft but I noticed that the is more of a problem if distant scenery is what is in those corners. Whenever there is very close scene content at an extreme corner they look good. That makes me suspect that some field curvature may be present. Photoshop CS5 makes perfect panoramic stitches from this lens' images, even handheld if the situation forced it. The proper pivoting point is approximately one inch behind the front edge of the lens. This ideal pivot point shifts only about 6mm throughout the full zoom range so if you do use a nodal slide you don't have to be fanatic about optimizing it. People will want to compare it against the 16-35 which I have done using online posted 16-35 image samples (also processed in DxO): 18-35 "pros": 1/3 the cost if purchased used 2/3 the cost if you also throw in DxO Better image quality (DxO converted) than direct images from the 16-35 The shipping box for my copy of 18-35 was smaller than the 16-35 lens itself! Much less weight You won't leave it at home You don't lose as much coverage when you correct the distortion (18-35 has "moustache", 16-35 is more "barrel") 16-35 "pros": It's better than the 18-35 (comparison of out of camera images) It's better than the 18-35 (comparison of DxO-processed images for both) AF-S VR A very usable f/4 (if and only if you have DxO) I bought the 18-35 when I realized how expensive and huge the 16-35 is. Now that I have it I have NO plans to upgrade any time soon. Post Script: Adobe has a downloadable user-contributed Camera Raw correction module for the 18-35 on the D700. However it does a poor job on distortion correction which to me is a major shortcoming. I've made some of these correction modules myself and I can confirm that it can be quite difficult to do them well on wide angle lenses at short shooting distances. I'm sticking with the SW recommendation I've already mentioned several times here. As a matter of fact that also goes for the 16-35.
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