Saturday, July 24, 2010

2nd Visit to the Nikon Discovery Center, Times Square

Nikkor AF 85mm f1.4D @ f/1.4

I had a 2nd visit to the Nikon Discovery Center on Wednesday to cure my lens lust syndrome. Yes, I could go to a normal camera shop and try the lenses out, but I couldn't play with it as I liked without wary eyes staring at me and being afraid that I might drop their precious product. Plus, I wanted to try out some lenses that you couldn't really get in the market nowadays.

Here are arguably some of the finest lenses Nikon has ever produced, the 14-24 / 2.8, 16-35/4 VR and the 24-70/2.8. All of these unedited images were captured on a Nikon D3 in jpeg format. Do click the full sized images for a closer inspection.

Nikkor AF 85mm f1.4D @ f/1.4

First one out of the glass cabinet was the revered Nikkor AF 85mm f1.4D. Built like a russian tank with all metal construction, a 77mm diameter filter and weighing 550g, it is a reminder of how good were the build quality of Nikon lenses even in the days of film cameras.

As you can see from an approximate 1:1 crop from the image above, the 85/1.4D is very sharp even when used at maximum aperture. Other than that, purple fringing occurs at high contrast situations (observe the Nikon logo at the top of the image). Its bokeh is supposedly better than its sibling (the 85/1.8D), and the FX sensor helps to make the subject 'pop out' because of the extremely shallow depth of field. This would be a very good portrait lens indeed.

Nikkor AF 85mm f1.4D @ f/1.8

Stopping down the lens a little to f/1.8 optimizes its sharpness slightly. More appears to be in focus too, eg. the recommended sales price of RM 5,988.

The purple fringing has also disappeared, which is a good thing.

Nikkor AF 85mm f1.4D @ f/1.4

Other than purple fringing, another thing that irks me about this lens is its slow autofocus performance (comparable to the Canon 85/1.2L II). Perhaps the large and heavy glass elements used in the construction of the lens limits its autofocus speed. The Nikkor 85 / 1.8D fares better, but not by a large degree. I wouldn't use the f1.4 lens for subjects that move erratically or for shooting fast moving action scenes. It costs approximately 2 times more too (RM 3200 vs RM 1500).

Nikkor AF 85mm f1.4D @ f/1.4

The 85/1.4D isn't a very good macro performer, with a 0.85m minimum focusing distance. This was as close as I could get to photograph these Nikon Coolpix compacts.

A range of 85mm lenses for Nikon cameras. The 85/1.8 and 85/1.4 are the 4th and 5th lenses respectively from the right.

In short, get the 85/1.8D if you're on a on a budget, and would like something small and light to work with, in addition to the faster AF performance. If you favor nicer bokeh, require better build quality and have more cash to spare, the 85/1.4D would do it nicely for you.

Nikon 135mm f/2 DC @ f2

Ken Rockwell stated that the Nikon 135mm f/2 DC lens is the best 135mm lens he's ever used. The DC abbreviation stands for defocus control. Basically, you can control the amount of foreground or background blur by turning the DC ring to F (foreground) or R (background). Like older D series lenses, its build quality is impeccable. It is very sharp from edge to edge when used wide open at f/2.

Nikon 135mm f/2 DC @ f2

Another image to showcase the excellent resolution of this lens when used at f/2. It supposedly performs very well on a 24MP D3X sensor too.

Turning the ring at a certain aperture between f2 and f5.6 creates a corresponding background blur, hence the soft focus effect. There are cheaper methods (eg. Photoshop and soft focus filters), but the level of control given by this lens is spectacular. You can't see the effect through the viewfinder, but only after you preview the pictures. If you don't like the effect, just reshoot.

Like other older design large aperture Nikon lenses, the Nikon 135 f/2 DC suffers from purple fringing when used wide open as shown from this approximate 1:1 image.

Nikon 135mm f/2 DC @ f2

This image shows the soft focus effect that can be achieved for portraiture purposes. Good for those who are conscious about freckles, pimples, wrinkles, etc etc.

The Nikon 24mm PC-E lens is a very fun lens to play with for selective focusing and architectural purposes. This is the lens tilted to the right...

... and to the left. This is quite a complicated lens to use. You would preferably be working with a tripod, and everything is manually done (yep.. no autofocus this time round).

This is a normal scene before the lens is shifted. If you'd like to get a different point of view of the scene above with any wide angle lens, you would have to tilt your camera upwards / downwards, and this will result in converging lines. You can solve this issue in photoshop, but at a risk of slightly degrading your image file.

A tilt shift lens solves this problem. Shift the lens upwards, and you will be able to see more of the scene above while maintaining vertical lines at 90 degrees.

The Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S is currently Nikon's best wide angle prime. It's extremely sharp even when used wide open. I was flabbergasted with its spectacular optical performance. It's build quality is top notch too, though I still think the D series AF lenses are better in that regard.

Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S @ f/1.4
Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S @ f/1.4

The Nikon 24/1.4 and D3s will make a very enjoyable and perfect companion for tripod-less low light shooting. It's sharpness and optical performance is supposedly very similar to Canon's 24/1.4 L II lens, albeit the Canon being cheaper than the Nikon.

Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S @ f/1.4

Out of focus highlights are rendered as near spherical blobs due to the use of rounded aperture blades. Yummy !

Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S @ f/1.4

This lens also has a very admirable close focusing distance. The only gripe I have about it is its exorbitant price and the 'slow' AF performance despite the inclusion of a silent wave motor.

Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S @ f/1.4

That's about it folks. I hope you've enjoyed this 'mini' review, and I will definitely return here to have a look at more Nikon lenses and gear.

Cheers ~

1 Comment:

ori said...

thank you for sharing this info.

what would you buy first ?
upgrading nikon 85 1.8d to the 1.4D or add the 135 DC F2?


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