Ever since acquiring the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 back in the spring, I immediately wanted to get a “proper” tripod and head. The need for stable and reliable shooting was unobtainable in the small plastic Wally-World tripods; locking position accurately and eliminating camera shake for long exposures just didn’t work. So…after a lot of looking around for various tripod reviews, I decided on a fantastic combo, the Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod Legs and Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head. Both arrived in the mail today!
With camera and lens mounted, the whole set-up is over 13 pounds (enough weight to have great inertia for reducing camera shake), and the maximum height without extending the center column is right about eye level for me with camera mounted–a comfortably high 6’2″.
I may do a full review of this combo sometime, we’ll see. I’m just looking forward to never worrying about heavy camera shake again. At 450mm FoV, simply standing near a non-stabilized tripod (my old one) can induce severe motion jitter. No more. :)
IMPORTANT EDIT: I will not be doing a review of this tripod and geared head. There seem to be some quality control issues Manfrotto does not acknowledge.
For my second entry in an ever-continuing series on what my mind sees in a photograph, rather than what the camera captures, I visualized something special in this “useless” out-of-focus and flat photograph of a stalk of grain:
The near-uniform background and lack of clarity made it perfect to turn into a watercolor painting. At least, to give it that effect after multiple edits:
A short post today, I know, and it has been a while since my last one. Rest assured, I have only been busy, but have many photos to share with you all (and am still working on the 300mm review). The above photographs were taken with a new (old) lens, the Nikon 105mm Micro-Nikkor f/2.8 AI-s.
It’s a killer optic. More to come from that later. :)
Thanks for dropping by guys and gals.
…and all I got was this lousy photo.
35mm, ISO 400, f/4, 25 seconds
At least it made some interesting colors!
Well…that is the short story anyway.
Longer story: I have always wanted to try to capture lightning in a photo, and a surprise (very severe) thunderstorm popped on the radar last night. I took my camera, tripod, remote, and rushed out the door to a nearby field (not a barren one though). I was expecting one of those slow-moving normal summer storms that produce a few good cloud-to-ground strikes. Those would typically give me about a 2 minute lead-time to run inside before the rain hit, such as being able to hear/see the rain in the distance.
This was not that storm.
About 2 minutes after this photograph was taken, which was lit up only by multiple cloud-to-cloud strikes, the skies completely opened up. I ran to a nearby awning and buckled-down for the long haul. Any attempts to get more photos were dashed when the rain was consistently blown sideways into the awning as well as strikes occurring solely within the clouds . Winds gusted at around 70 mph, and there were about two cloud-to-cloud strikes every second, for a good twenty minutes straight.
Thunder boomed, skies flashed, and an almost-wet camera later, I now know to pick my storms a little more carefully, and to have a better failsafe than a 6 foot wide awning. :)
Learning every day. Maybe I’ll get another chance before summer’s end. Have a great one guys.
THE BIG ONE
And this is with the hood retracted…
Well, I’ve finally gotten around to taking an in-depth look at my favorite lens, the monstrous Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED. This optic is not one to mess around with. Weighing in at over five and a half pounds, this 10+ inch chunk of metal and glass is NOT a walk-around lens (unless you are an odd body-building photographer). Just as how macro lenses are built to do particularly well up-close and wide-angle lenses do their best with landscapes, the 300mm f/2.8 is a special-purpose lens. If you have just now started following this site, I spent much of this past spring doing sports photography primarily with this 450mm field-of-view super telephoto . The fast (and useable) maximum aperture keeps ISOs down and shutter speeds high, freezing the action with less digital noise. And yes, sports photography with manual-focus equipment is even easier nowadays with great focus-assisting technologies. Other applications of this lens on APS-C could be tight head-shots and even a bit of close-up birding (good luck sneaking up on them). On m4/3, this lens would have a 600mm super telephoto field-of-view, great for birding and other wildlife.
There are 8 lenses total in the “consumer” lineup of Nikon’s Series-E’s. You can take this post as a bit of a guide for help choosing which lens may be right for your photography. Lenses are arranged from wide-angle to telephoto. Links to the full reviews are located in the headings. Also, below two pictures are in a much bigger size than they are displayed here. Click on them to see more detail. First up, the 5 primes in the series:
Left to right: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 100mm, 135mm
Completing my exploration of the prime lenses in Nikon’s “consumer-rated” Series-E’s, the 28mm E fills the last focal length hole: wide angle. When used on a film or full-frame camera, this lens behaves similar to how an 18mm lens would on APS-C, or a 14mm on m4/3. Unfortunately, due to the crop factors of smaller sensors, this lens instead performs like a short normal (42mm FoV on APS-C) or a long normal (56mm on m4/3). This presents a bit of a challenge in use, as on the NEX-7, the 28mm E isn’t wide enough to normally “get everything in”, nor is it long enough to have any reach. However, the 35mm-50mm general FoV is rather useful for a “walk-around” perspective such as in street photography, so there are still applications for an odd-man-out like this.
There is GREAT news for those still wanting to get wide-angle performance out of this lens: when used with the NEX-7’s built in “sweep panorama” feature (or when shots are manually stitched), a noticeably wider view is obtained, both in vertical and horizontal orientation. More on that at the end. Is the 28mm E a lens I can recommend? Let’s find out!
Well, first off, apologies for being two days late. To make a long story short, I have had some crazy work hours the past 5 days. Each day essentially went eat–>work–>eat–>sleep–>repeat, with no free time in-between. I’ll make up for the wait with some great photographs at the end. :)
Regardless, I’m back now, and ready to continue my exploration of the Series-E lenses. What you see above is the final prime in the “consumer-rated” series Nikon made accompanying their much more expensive AI-s counterparts. With a semi-wide (more like a short normal) field of view and not-so-fast maximum aperture on APS-C cameras, the 28mm E doesn’t seem to be a lens to write home about. Its close focus is about the same as the 35mm E, but with the wider angle, this lens doesn’t make as good as a “poor-man’s macro”. Unfortunately it also isn’t a very cheap lens either, most copies on eBay go for $100/€82 or more (though, the AI-s version usually sells for at least $250/€204).
What the 28mm E does do, is take pictures with a wider field of view than I’m used to. My previous widest lens was the aforementioned 35mm E, but this new personal record-holder gives photographs a completely different perspective. As some may know, shallow depth of field photography is something I love, but with this lens, getting that shallowness is only possible at, or near, close-focus. As such, framing is crucial. Any objects in normal distances better be appealing, I can’t blur them out even wide open!
Keeping this short and sweet, because it seems everyone now has the capability to do fireworks pictures (especially around this holiday!).
So…short version: all shot last night with NEX-7 and Nikon 28mm f/2.8 E at ISO 100 as close as the police would allow me, with apertures ranging from f/5.6-11, and exposure time ranging from .8-3.2 seconds (tripod and remote release used). Some are captioned, some aren’t. Will have first impressions of this last prime in the Series-E line-up from Nikon sometime this weekend. Now…PICTURES!
P.S. I uploaded the following 12 at a slightly higher resolution than normal to try to share better detail of the streams. :)
Starting Salute, look how small the people are in the bottom right
It shouldn’t come to surprise anyone when I say I love the 100mm focal length on APS-C cameras. What should be an awkward length too long for “typical” portraits (usual range is 85-135 on 35mm camera), but too short for a long telephoto (those start around 180-200mm)–becomes an “up close and personal” portrait lens useful in separating subjects from a crowd, or emphasizing certain features of people. With a stop-and-a-third slower maximum aperture than my 105mm f/1.8 AI-s, the degree of separation on the 100mm f/2.8 E is somewhat less, and the “pop” starts to fade away (shallow depth of field is an aspect of photography I love to employ). Also, in low light and at max aperture, it can be a bummer to still have to either slow the shutter speeds (risking motion blur) to stay at low ISOs, or to raise the ISOs (resulting in more noise) to keep the shutter speed high. When shooting conditions go south, compromises have to be made. So be it.
Regardless, the 100mm f/2.8 E has to have redeeming qualities, right? You bet. I do like this lens very much, for reasons detailed below–so much so, I’m not particularly sure which lens (the 105mm or 100mm E) I enjoy the best overall. There’ll be a section discussing that near the end, but let’s get onto the meat-and-potatoes!