This weekend I had the chance of going for a daily photo trip with some friends (who also like photography). I took my usual medium format gear (Fuji GSW690iii and Plaubel Makina 67, which provide me 28mm and 40mm focal lengths respectively, which is all I need basically), but also had the time to shoot a few more images with the Nikon D800E.
The two lenses I carried with me for the Nikon was the 14-24 f/2.8 and the 135 f/2 DC. They both perform like charm on the D800.
The image above is part of a shooting project a friend of mine thought and implemented. Shooting a 135mm lens at f/2 aperture even from relative distance still provides a narrow depth of field which isolates your subjects from background. For this shot, I moved the Defocus Control ring of the 135mm lens to R2 position (which makes a very subtle change to the out of focus areas behind the subject, creating a smoother bokeh). The specific location which is just below two small waterfalls provided excellent light due to the dark color of the surrounding area. A fantastic place to make images with good light. The image is post processed in Lightroom 4.1 in order to provide the look I wanted.
This is the location of I was talking about, although the water is not much, the two waterfalls provided an excellent subject for a photo. The 14-24 f/2 .8 was just perfect for the specific shot. I used a tripod since my speed was 1.3 seconds to get a more silky look of the water falling. My tripod was extended high so that I could have the horizontal and vertical levels completely straight in order to avoid any distortion and used the Live View function to frame better (the virtual horizon in the Live screen is a a very helpful feature).
This is one of the classic shots one can do with a 135mm f/2 lens. The very narrow DoF allows for a complete isolation of the subject, and although it’s not a very interesting photo, it’s one of the shots I always try with a lens like this. For my handheld shots with the 135 DC, I always set the minimum shutter speed at 1/200. This is an old lens with no stabilization mechanism, so a high speed is necessary in order to get a sharp image. The auto ISO chose 1250 for this shot, which in a 100% crop shows some noise, but on a 36 megapixels file, you have the choice of reducing its size to about 12 megapixels and by doing this, you get less noise.
For images like this which are not contestants for very large prints I reduce their size to 12mp (the resolution of the D700 which I was used to until now on a DSLR). The files of the D800E are huge (I archive my images in TIFF format so you can imagine how easy to fill hard drives this way) so, since I am not going to print a 60 inches wide print of a mellon there’s really no point of keeping the full resolution file.
I took the above image as a snapshot but when I saw the way this lens recorded the sun, I was really amazed. The flare resistance of the 14-24 is excellent and although I took this images handheld with no rear attention on leveling the camera properly, there’s really no evident distortion. At 14mm for a zoom lens, this is what I call great lens performance. The 14-24 is really the king of wide angle zoom lenses and if only I could place filters on it for landscape work…
I was really thinking of getting the Lee filter holder for the 14-24 (after all I have many Lee filters for my panoramic camera), but since the Lee Big Stopper (a 10 stop ND filter) cannot work on the 14-24 there’s no reason to invest on it. The Nikon 16-35 f/4 which can take filters was a serious thought but I preferred the 14-24 for two reasons: it’s faster and the 2mm more wide focal length really makes a difference.
This is a 30 seconds exposure with the 135mm lens on broad daylight. The 10 stop B+W 110ND filter allowed for this speed and although the 135 will only reach f/16, the base ISO of the D800E is 100 (instead of the base ISO 200 of the D700), which makes it easier to use ND filters (1 stop makes for a 15 seconds difference in exposure on this shot).
Now, for one more time I have noticed the magenta cast in long exposures with the D800E. I managed to correct some of the color in Lightroom, but still the color is not what I saw when I was on location. I am not really good in post processing, and I really I am not interested spending my time in front of a computer, so this might be a real issue for me. I still haven’t tried to learn more about this side effect, the B+W 110ND will shift color in long exposures, but with the D700 the results were to my taste. I have also shot a 30 second exposure of the same scene with the Plaubel Makina 67 (loaded with Kodak Portra 160NC), so I’ll make a comparison when I have the film developed.
As a final comment, the 135mm f/2 DC has become an excellent landscape length for me. Sure, the shots I can get at f/2 for portraits, concept shots etc are great, but it’s really strange how a portraits lens has become one of my favorite lenses for landscape work (especially since I rarely shot anything above 50mm for a long time).
Shooting with a prime lens, really makes you discover subjects that are fit for it. I don’t like zoom lenses, they are large and heavy, they make me lazy in composition. Furthermore, the more I shoot a prime lens, the more I learn how it behaves in every aperture and setting which makes me get better images, both on terms of composition and image quality.
If money were not an issue, my favorite lenses for the D800E would be the following:
Zeiss 21mm f/2.8, Nikon 35mm f/1.4, Nikkor 135mm f/2 DC, Nikkor 200mm f/2.
That would be the perfect setup for my needs, but we a talking large bucks here, I would have to sell pretty much most of my cameras and lenses to get them. Since I don’t like to carry a DSLR with me due to bulk and weight (I only do it when I shoot at relative small distances from my car) this trade of gear would not be good for me.
Now, for those of you who may wonder why a person who is not very fond of DSLRs has access to good DSLR gear, it’s because most of this gear belongs to my wife who really loves them. So, since there’s of course a family budget, I cannot go out and get whatever I want but I have back down in some of my preferences so that we can both shoot with the gear we like.
My medium format cameras would sure get a good price at EBay, but I am not ready to give up on film, even with the presence of the D800E. Film renders subjects with a completely different look than digital (not better necessarily, just different) in which I am used to it and like very much. Maybe in a few years, film will be really difficult to buy and develop, but until then I am willing to continue to make “analog” images !!
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