This summer’s adventure brought us to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We almost went back to Banff National Park for the third year in a row, but wildlife and landscape photos from 500px and flickr, as well as conversations with fellow travelers, convinced us that it might be worthwhile to explore the beautiful state of Wyoming. We were also aware that some of Hollywood’s western classic films, such as “Shane” and “Spencer’s Mountain,” had been filmed in the area. By April, we decided to make plans for our August adventure.
At a time when the digital photography world was buzzing with new gear announcements, I managed to fall in love with some of Nikon’s very old and cheap lenses, the E Series lenses. My experience with these lenses taught me a great lesson: it is really not about the gear. It is rather about being creative with what gear we already have, despite how limited and incapable we might think of it. This was a great inspiration to me, especially with my nagging habit of lusting after the latest and greatest gear announcements. The fact that I’m writing this article goes to show that I still struggle with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), but for a change, this is a case about some of the cheapest lenses available.
Having been testing lenses extensively for the past few years, I have seen all kinds of optical defects on even the most expensive / exotic lenses that cost thousands of dollars. One of the most common issues I have seen so far is lens de-centering, where a single optical element or a group of elements are not properly aligned with others, resulting in uneven performance across the frame. Some lenses have very slight de-centering, which only software like Imatest can reveal, while others have very noticeable de-centering (particularly lower-end zoom lenses), where a portion of the frame would always appear less sharp in images. Then there are other optical issues that also impact the overall contrast and sharpness of lens. And testing lenses with all kinds of optical issues can often be a challenging task.
Grimsby Ontario is on the raptor migration route and every year the town holds an indoor “RaptorFest” event at the local hockey arena during which various presentations of live birds, and educational initiatives are conducted. A fast, mid-range telephoto like the Nikkor 200mm f/2G VR would be the perfect lens to photograph birds during this indoor event. Like most people, I don’t have the $6,000 or so it would take to own the 200mm Nikkor…but I thought I might have a reasonable solution in my camera bag.
This article is written in response to “The Question of 18-300mm Lenses” article written by Romanas Naryškin. I used to like my 18-300mm zoom – I called it my Guilty Pleasure Lens (GPL). It was hands-down the most fun lens I ever shot with. When I wanted to just go out on an adventure outside and had no idea what I’d run into, instead of grabbing my FX body, my 16-35mm zoom, 50mm prime, 105mm macro, 80-400mm zoom and of course a manservant to carry all that gear, I’d grab GPL and my D7000 and blast on down the trail. Sure GPL wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but neither am I. In our shared ignorance we’d shoot grand vistas or cool nature abstracts or maybe even crawl through the dirt for a close-up or two. What a fool I was thinking I’d found a partner that liked to do all the things I liked to do.
Today, Nikon has announced a new DX zoom lens for beginner photographers. Covering a vast focal length range of 18-300mm, it’s not the first Nikkor with such parameters – the similar 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens has already been announced a while ago, not to mention all the third-party competition from Tamron and Sigma. However, the new lens is designed not to just deliver a very wide zoom range, but deliver it in a smaller, lighter package. To put it into perspective, the new lens weighs a whopping 280g less than the bigger version. Quite an achievement and will surely be tempting for those few who need such a lens, but it came at a bit of a price both literally and figuratively. And that raises a question – who is actually going to need such a lens?
I have been playing with the new Nikon NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED FX lens for a week now and have taken it out a few times when the weather got a little better (it has been snowy and extremely windy during the past week here in Colorado). So far the lens seems like another winner. It is small, lightweight and is capable of rendering images with beautiful colors and high contrast. While I have not performed any lab tests, judging from the images I have captured so far, it seems to be very sharp optically, from the center to the corners at infinity:
I got a lot of feedback and questions from my last two posts and it seems like there is some interest in my articles, so I am yet again inspired to give this writing thing another shot. I just want to re-iterate that what I suggest or talk about here is what I do and what works for me – you will have to find your own way to your photography success.
You are going to like this. Each time Nikon did a rebates program for its lenses, one had to buy a DSLR body first to take advantage of the savings. It has really been a while, but not this time. The savings range from a welcome $20 for the AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens all the way to frankly impressive $400 for the likes of AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR. More than that, there are a total of 15 lenses that are part of the rebates program. The offer expires on the 1st of March.
I had the opportunity at the end of 2013 to re-visit New Zealand for three week self-drive holiday and take a wide range of photos. Since New Zealand is on the ‘bucket list’ of many photographers, I thought I would share some thoughts on which areas of the country provide some of the best photographic opportunities. All of these suggestions are based on personal experience, having spent about 6 weeks driving thousands of kilometers throughout the country on a couple of different trips.