PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux

2Dec/080

How was Thanksgiving?

Oh yes, you knew it was coming… my Thanksgiving photo report! :^)

Part 1: Practical Mini-Review of the 2/100 Makro-Planar T*

Thanksgiving was my second decent-sized family gathering with the 100mm Planar. The difficulty level of the Planar is substantial, comparable to a 50mm f/1 wide open. The first time around my skills were found lacking by the über-lens and I seldom reached for it as a result.

Two months later, my ability is still marginal at f/2 but I improved to about 40% success rate at f/2.8, and >60% at f/4. I shot it at f/4 almost the whole time, with weak bounced flash. I’m looking forward to that split-prism screen in my future, but I don’t think it’s as urgently needed anymore.

Strong backlighting is a breeze for the über-lens (example: below left). The all-spherical design produces very pleasing bokeh – I’ve yet to see better – with transitions in and out of focus that appear smoother to me. It’s not a flawless lens but it’s a good attempt at one.

At the same time, two trends began. First, I started experimenting with live view to shoot unusual angles (subtle example: above right). The on-screen magnification option helps a lot with manual focus, but hurts (cripples?) your ability to compose. That’s Heisenberg’s Principle of Live View: you can focus or compose your subject, but not both. I’d really like a TV-style “picture in picture” option to see a thumbnail of the whole frame while magnified.

The second trend, the flip side of improvement with the Planar, is that my connection with the 35mm Distagon is more hesitant. I feel it should be my “everything-lens” as it was before on DX-format, but its native perspective is a bit awkward for portraits on FX-format (below left). Detail shots love the perspective though (below right).

My quest for the perfect Fifty is going to resume, I’m afraid, and in the lead is Sigma’s Fifty. Over time I think I will apply the 35mm perspective mostly for “people in context” images (below).

Part 2 : The Conceptual Part

The other thing that’s on my mind now, is factoring noise into the composition. For an expected grain size in post-processed noisy data, can you compose such that the fine structures on your subject will still emerge clearly? i.e. for humans, can you still make out eyelashes and hair? To work this way you need to be very familiar with your workflow, the camera and the software.

The bottom line is really simple, I expect… if you can frame tighter, come closer, the signal improves and so does the signal-to-noise ratio. So take a step forward with every stop of ISO and you’ll barely notice the noise.

Here are two crops to illustrate the basic idea…

eye1

ISO 200. Super-duper.

eye2

ISO 2000, two steps back. Barely acceptable, should step in closer.

I hope to experiment with this much more and write a more thorough report on the interactions between composition and noise.


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