review: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens

At the same time that I photographed Anelisa for the review of the Nikon 28mm f/1.8 AF-S lens, I had the brand-new Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens (vendor) on my other camera body. For every place that I photographed Anelisa with the 28mm f/1.8 lens, I also shot similar images with the 85mm f/1.8 lens. In a way, these two lenses complement each other, if you like working with a dual prime lens setup. A nice wide-angle view with the one lens, while the 85mm is a sweet portrait lens.

Wanting to show off the shallow depth-of-field, I shot at f/1.8 or f/2.0 throughout this photo session.

I have to remark that in terms of the bokeh alone, this new f/1.8G lens is a superb upgrade to the previous f/1.8D version. The D series lens had harsh bokeh. The G series lens has smoother bokeh. In fact, doing various test shots in my garden the next day, I couldn’t distinguish between the bokeh of the Nikon AF-S Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (vendor) and the new f/1.8G lens. Couple that with autofocus that is faster than the f/1.8D and that this new lens is very sharp wide open, the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens  (vendor) is an excellent choice for the more budget-minded photographer.

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review: Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G lens

To test out the Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G (vendor), I met up with Anelisa in Brooklyn to try my hand at some environmental portraiture. With such a wide field-of-view, you inevitably have to include the background.

I wanted to show the effect of the shallow depth-of-field of this lens, so I shot at f/1.8 or f/2.0 throughout. When you use a fast (i.e., wide aperture) wide-angle lens, and have sufficient distance between your subject and the background, that shallow depth of field can be used to great effect. It can be tricky though, since wide-angle lenses tend to show a lot of depth-of-field unless we’re specific in how we use them.

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Nikon D4 / Nikon D800 time-lapse photography – review

The highly anticipated Nikon D4 (vendor) and Nikon D800 (vendor) are loaded with features, and both cameras offer exceptional image quality. Hidden in the list of camera specs, is an item which is of specialized interest – Time-Lapse Photography. So if a photographer doesn’t have a specific interest in this, they are most likely just going to gloss over this – but this is quite a powerful feature.

With Time-Lapse photography, as with video, it just looks much more interesting if the camera moves as well. With movies too, the cinematography and how the camera moves, make all the difference. Last year some time, I stumbled on the Time-Lapse photography by MindRelic. The movement of the camera as the city scenes unfolded, blew my mind. This was done via a motorized dolly – specifically, the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly. So of course, with no prior interest in Time-Lapse photography, I immediately bought a Stage Zero dolly. It all just looked that cool.

But then the winter approached and it was just too cold to venture outside at night to try out Time-Lapse photography. So the dolly lay dormant, still boxed, in my office. Until my Nikon D4 cameras arrived a few days ago!

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lens review: Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

The 50mm lens in general is an interesting optic. Not necessarily for what it does, but how it seems to have fallen out and back in favor over the years. For example, in the 1970’s pretty much all 35mm film cameras shipped with a 50mm lens. Zooms weren’t something that just came with the camera as a kit lens. It was the 50mm lens that was the “kit lens”.  So the first thing the serious amateur would do, is dump the 50mm lens and get a zoom lens to get some variety in their photographs.

Then over the years, more compact and slower aperture zooms became the norm. Even more so during the digital era.

Now, as more of the newer photographers are realizing that a 50mm lens is an inexpensive way of getting super-shallow depth-of-field, the 50mm lens is seeing something of a resurgence in popularity.  That super-shallow DoF is a look that your f5.6 kit zoom lenses just can’t give you.

With that, a 50mm lens deserves a place in your camera bag. It takes up little space, and is (usually) inexpensive. (Well, until you step up to something like the Canon 50mm f1.2L … but that’s another story.)

Nikon released the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G (Amazon) as an update to the popular Nikon 50mm f1.8D (Amazon), and as a more affordable option than the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (Amazon) … so let’s look at how it performs.

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Auto FP setting for Nikon D300s & D700 – high speed flash sync

The Nikon D300s and Nikon D700 have a custom setting to enable high-speed flash sync – custom fucntion e1. However, you have the option of setting it to either 1/250 Auto FP, or 1/320 Auto FP. I’ve often been asked which is the preferable setting … and you know, I never quite knew either.

So it was time then to systematically check this out and see what actually happens at either setting – 1/250 Auto FP and 1/320 Auto FP – for both the Nikon D300s and  D700 …

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Melissa & Dennis – their wedding day from Neil van Niekerk on Vimeo.

review of the Nikon D3100 video capability

Nikon recently released two very interesting D-SLRs – the Nikon D3100 (B&H) and the Nikon D7000 (B&H). Improving on several of the entry-level Nikon D-SLRs, they also offer HD video capability (1080p at 24 fps), and even does so with full-time auto-focus capability.

So when B&H sent me a Nikon D3100 for review, I thought what better test than to start in the deep end, and use it during a wedding to shoot HD video. The intention was to use the HD video from the D3100 along with the still photographs from my usual set of Nikon D3 bodies … and compile this as a stills & video Fusion clip, shown at the top here. I shot the stills, and Jessica, my assistant with an attitude, shot & edited the D3100 video clips. A first attempt at stills/video Fusion for us.

So how did the Nikon D3100 fare? Quite impressively actually …

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Auto-focus (AF) settings for Nikon cameras

The current line-up of top Nikon D-SLRs offer a range of AF settings.  The combination’s in settings seem daunting at first.  But with other settings on my D3 bodies, I keep it fairly simple.  Instead of flip-flopping between numerous settings, I keep it simple by generally using the AF settings in just two ways.  This depends on what whether my subject is static or moving …

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review: Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

October 22, 2010

review: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4 G

So after a slight delay, my copy of the brand-new Nikon 85mm f1.4G (vendor) actually did arrive. I was itching to try it out on a photo session, and yesterday afternoon had Jessica model for me. During the short photo session, I used the new 85mm f1.4G and the classic 85mm f1.4D side-by-side. As you can see in the photo above, (Just like the older version of this lens), the new lens’ extremely shallow depth of field and superb bokeh, give backgrounds that just melt away.

My first impression already is that lens is even better than I anticipated …

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review: Nikon 24mm f/1.4G

August 16, 2010

review: Nikon 24mm f/1.4 G AF-S

For a long time the only wide-angle auto-focus prime lens that Nikon had available, was the remarkable 28mm f1.4D … which caused the lens to reach astronomical prices eventually on the used market when it was discontinued.  I sold my copy of the 28mm f1.4 a few years ago – a move I still regret – but I couldn’t pull the trigger on a $4000.00 wide-angle prime lens when Nikon’s wide-angle zooms were so incredible.  The Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H), for example, set a new standard for how good a wide-angle zoom can be, surpassing pretty much ever other lens, including primes. But still there was a gap in Nikon’s line-up with a fast aperture wide-angle prime lens.  Until now … enter the Nikon 24mm f1.4 G (B&H) which I was happily able to use at a wedding this past weekend.

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Nikon flash system – TTL vs TTL BL

Nikon’s TTL flash system is generally accepted as being quite exceptional.  The camera and speedlight working together according to various algorithms to control the flash exposure.  The TTL flash exposure will depend on various factors – the tonality of the subject and scene; the brightness of the scene;  and how the camera interprets the sections of the metering pattern.  The other factors quite possibly also includes data from the lens.

How these factors inter-relate, we can only guess at.  We can make educated guesses; and many photographers have taken time and effort to do test shoots to see how the cameras and speedlights work.  To make things even more interesting, Nikon offers two modes of TTL flash metering:  TTL and TTL BL.

The way I understand this to work, is that with TTL BL flash metering, the camera takes the ambient light into account when calculating the flash exposure.  With TTL flash metering, the flash metering would appear to be de-coupled from the ambient metering.

Similarly, with Canon, you have Average / Evaluative flash metering for TTL flash.  (This is set on the camera body via the custom functions.)  Again, the way I understand this to work (and I’ll gladly be corrected or fine-tuned on this), is that with Evaluative TTL flash metering, the camera takes the ambient light into account. And with Average TTL flash metering, the camera is less biased by the available light..

So which TTL flash exposure mode to use?  TTL or TLL BL?
In the end, I work in a fairly simplistic way …

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