PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Sometimes it’s better to practice than write

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I haven’t written anything here in a long time.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, but that I’ve been unusually satisfied just doing other things, shooting, among other things.

For most of the intervening time, I have simply been putting mileage on my M9 and the same kit of M lenses I’ve held onto for the last 3 years. Once I found this kit, or this kit found me, I had no desire to keep testing and reviewing more so the reporting ground to a halt.  Needs change though, and there may be more to write about again.

Look at me, I’m care-free!

In a way, writing was a great way to get rid of the unsatisfactory baggage accumulated along the way. Have I been baggage free, then? No. I’ve failed to report just how unsatisfactory the D800 has been for me.

The D800 is the most amazing camera that I just don’t want to use, and I’m still its owner only because of fear that I might need it. Its sensor is so awesomely good that it has rebuffed several cases of egregious pilot error, who needs to expose properly when you can fix 3-stop errors (either way) in post? The downside is that it’s a heavy, fat and ugly beast with only the lenses to match (including ZFs, in my present opinion).

The last lens I mentioned on this site, only with a hint, was the new Sigma 2.8/180mm OS Macro which exemplifies what I've come to dislike with the DSLR. In short it's a beast, I think it’s the biggest lens I’ve handled yet. I found it to be sharp, stopped down, but with the same dull micro-contrast I’ve come to associate with Sigma lenses (fairly or unfairly, OK, don't flame me) so I just didn’t care to finish writing the review.

Look at the 100MP right next to it!

Writing can do more than vent frustrations with a lens or camera, though, it can also be a way to infect others with particular enthusiasm for the same.

There is some of that to go around lately: I’ve jumped on the m4/3 bandwagon and am loving it! How could I not, after Olympus executed precisely what I asked for in this post from 2010 and then provided a terrific answer to this other post from 2011?  Right, I could not avoid it.

Adopting this third system has taught me a lot:

  1. That auto-focus is not completely hopeless, in fact it can be wonderfully implemented and actually deliver the goods for once.  Contrast AF is the right way to do AF, especially with clever eye-priority algorithms, and it isn't slow at all.
  2. That I am in fact happy to give up the OVF for the unique benefits that EVFs provide.  Being able to visualize dynamic range limits directly while framing is a great way to do ETTR.
  3. That adapted lenses from other systems are good (fun, even!) for idle experiments but next to useless in practice.  It was a romantic notion to which I held for a long time, in absence of experience, and which I discarded almost immediately after trying it.  I occasionally find a use for it, but it's rare.

Some of these combinations are laughable.

In the short time since this picture was taken I’ve already added 3 more lenses, at least; I’m addicted to the gratification of excellent and inexpensive m.Zuiko glass now. Just earlier today I compared the new 1.8/25mm Zuiko and the 2/50mm Planar through aperture series, and couldn’t find much to fault in the Zuiko except: tad lower contrast, some field curvature.

I think I am finally getting to see the flaws in m4/3 but it’s taken months of continuous use, far longer than it took for me to fall out completely with the D800.

I’ll probably be writing about the m.Zuiko lenses eventually.


Filed under: m4/3, Nikon, Personal 4 Comments

One Tiny Little Rumor

I doubt that there will be much excitement on the Internet over this rumor, but NikonRumor mentions a new Nikon patent for a 135mm f/1.8 VR lens.  Some ruminations after the jump...

Filed under: Lenses, Nikon Continue reading

Nikkor 300mm f/4G AF-S IF-ED Review

As a class, 300mm f/4 lenses are the standard for the rational photographer in need of moderate reach. This Nikkor is a superb example of the class, but like the other Nikkor (non-exotic) telephotos it is relatively obsolete today. In short, a lens of this focal length needs to have stabilization.


Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D AF IF-ED Review

The recent surge of activity surrounding prime lenses has yet to reach the classic primes with focal lengths above 100mm.  Only the exotic “Super” telephoto lenses have been updated in recent years, and at a frequency that hardly seems reasonable. Meanwhile, moderate telephoto primes from all equipment manufacturers grow old and dusty on store shelves as the years pass. The 180mm Nikkor lens is an example of this decades-old trend.


Data for the new aspherical 50mm Nikkor

Photozone has tested the new Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G.  See the data here.

This lens is just about perfect but focus shift is a more than hoped for.  Still at this price it represents a shocking value.  Kudos Nikon!

I look forward to torturing it.  :^)

- Olivier


Summicron Examples at f/5.6

A friend of mine asked out of honest curiosity what the difference was between different pieces of high-end equipment. He asked from the point of view of a photography outsider.  More precisely, his real question is what does equipement worth $11K do that equipement worth $3.5K doesn't do?


The most-noteworthy new fifty

What is that I see? An asphere!

An aspherical fifty lens at the entry-level is a simple but important step for photography. This seemingly trivial modification to the design in this day and age is going to place this lens in a performance domain not normally associated with this kind of product. That is likely to go unnoticed by the target audience for the lens but that makes me excited about this lens which otherwise would be a complete yawner.

This is _excellent_ performance.

There are only three other such lenses in existence today that we can compare this lens against: the Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH, the Canon EOS 50mm f/1.2L and the Sigma EX 50mm f/1.4. While the Summilux is probably the best lens in the world, the other two offer underwhelming value in my opinion (now I'm sure I'll get some flaming comments). This new lens is slower than either of these, true, but is likely going to perform much better.

Where Nikon held back on performance is with the coatings – this lens looks to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors and avoids premium coatings that would permit it to compete with the all-spherical f/1.4G. That is something I am going to take a deeper look at when a copy of this lens makes it to my house. At the likely price point (say, half of the f/1.4G) I may just have to buy one as a toy.

Filed under: Lenses, Nikon 1 Comment

Another Lens Worth Following

The Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G AF-S saga is just starting now, with the first shipping units.

You can see samples appearing here over time.  There's at least one family photo with the 24mm, 35mm and 85mm side by side.  That is a very desirable trio -- far more desirable in my book than the three zooms.

Filed under: Nikon, Photography 18 Comments

Nikon D700 Re-Review

The D700 strikes a balance of practicality and quality that is rare in any kind of product.  Although it’s no longer the latest model on the shelf, it delivers useful images under more adverse conditions than almost all other cameras on the market still today.  It remains a large and heavy camera however, and in my opinion that interferes with the journalistic style it is otherwise ideally suited for.


Take Note

EDITED on 9/15/2010.  AGAIN on 9/16/2010.  See below.

I have only one thing of real value I need to say about the D7000: it has an AI meter.

Exhibit 1:

Why is this relevant?  This feature was not included on a D80/D90 level camera before.  This was reserved for the D200/D300 level and above.  It has been a discrete but key differentiator: only very serious amateurs care to use AI lenses (such as ZF.1) and will pay top dollar to get cameras with it, so Nikon historically reserved it for premium cameras.

I hypothesize that this camera is the D400, basically.   The D7000 is the smaller, lighter-weight, less expensive D400.

All of the other features make sense now in this context : the 100% viewfinder, the metal body, the shutter mode dial, etc...

== EDIT1 ==

Exhibit 2.

I need to add: it has Mirror-up.

This totally is the successor to the D300.

== EDIT2 ==

I note on the Dpreview preview that the menus have both AF fine-tuning, and non-CPU lens data.  The latter is rather essential to the use of the AI meter but you never know, it could have been left out.

Filed under: Nikon, Photography 6 Comments