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Thread: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

  1. #1

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    Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Greetings from Singapore!

    My name is Stephen and I am a photography nut but am not too smart about it.

    I self-learn by reading photography books but still encounter problems which I hope
    distinguished members from this Forum can guide me with their advices.

    One problem I face is trying to use my "old" Nikkor lenses with my Nikon D700 body.

    I have a 50mm, f/1.2 normal lens and a 80-200, f/4 zoom lens.

    The photos I take with these two manual lenses usually come out not as sharp as my 24-70, f/2.8 lens.

    Is it because of my poor focusing or because the two manual lenses are not compatible to the D700 body?

    Appreciate some comments and advice on this matter including what I should do please.

    Thanking in advance.

    Cheers,
    Stephen

  2. #2
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartacus View Post
    Greetings from Singapore!

    My name is Stephen and I am a photography nut but am not too smart about it.

    I self-learn by reading photography books but still encounter problems which I hope
    distinguished members from this Forum can guide me with their advices.

    One problem I face is trying to use my "old" Nikkor lenses with my Nikon D700 body.

    I have a 50mm, f/1.2 normal lens and a 80-200, f/4 zoom lens.

    The photos I take with these two manual lenses usually come out not as sharp as my 24-70, f/2.8 lens.

    Is it because of my poor focusing or because the two manual lenses are not compatible to the D700 body?

    Appreciate some comments and advice on this matter including what I should do please.

    Thanking in advance.

    Cheers,
    Stephen
    Hi Stephen,

    I have no experience of any of these lenses (or the D700), but from repute;
    the 24-70, f/2.8 is a very good lens
    older (film era) lenses are rarely as good as modern
    manual focusing is much trickier to pull off with a DSLR because the focus screen isn't optimised for it - no split prism aid or annular ring of old.

    If the D700 has Live view, can you use that, magnify the view to aid focusing - if only as a test?

    The D700 may also have a rangefinder feature (might need turning on in a menu) that will light a central dot (between two arrow heads) when the lens is at sharpest focus, my D5000 has this.

    Maybe another member will have some thoughts?

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...

  3. #3

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    The original viewfinder screen doesn't work well for focusing, but it is an easy matter to change it.

    You may get new screens either from Nikon or from third party. KatzEye is a well known brand for focusing screens.

    You might want a microprism or split prism screen for easy focusing with the f/1.2 lens, and there are also other options if you have another preference.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    I haven't read it all, but this thread may be useful.

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    I haven't read it all, but this thread may be useful.
    Hi Dave,
    Hope you will be able to provide some advices on my forum please.

    So far, those advices received are quite disappointing though considering this forum is worldwide.

    ClubSnap Photography Forum which is local provided more than 20 solid advices even from their distinguished Moderators
    with many years of photography experience and knowledge.

    I invite one and all to visit our ClubSnap Photography Forum which is similar to the Cambridgeincolour.com

  6. #6
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Welcome to the forum, Stephen

    If you're 50mm f1.2 isn't working properly then I'll look after it!

    Both lenses are compatible

    Talking about that lens first, it's a bit of a classic. However if you're shooting at f1.2 with the subject pretty close you run the risk of losing focus if you focus first and then recompose. Even if you don't use that method you have to be really careful - a tripod maybe helpful for critical focusing - any slight movement towards or away from the subject and you may lose focus. Or using the other focus points other than the centre point to focus with (using the green circle indicator in the viewfinder, bottom left, as a guide for achieving focus.

    Stopped down to f2 or f2.8 it should be very sharp. As a first manual focus lens, it might take some getting used to though!

    As for the 80-200mm f4 - that should also work nicely but I'm not sure on this lens myself - I've never tried it. I'd say if you're shooting telephoto distances with a D700 you'd be far better served with a modern 70-300mm VR lens with autofocus.

    As for the focus screen - I used a manual focus 35mm lens on my D90 in the past, and swapped out the focus screen for a Katseye alternative. It was useful in that instance. Moving to the D700 and its much brighter viewfinder I'm not having any problems manually focusing with the green dot as a guide. It's spot on every time. Switching to a Katseye or equivalent will darken your viewfinder slightly, and when using slower lenses you view will be darker still. Maybe not a good solution unless you're mainly shooting primes or f2.8s

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Hi Stephen,

    I doubt it is a compatability problem. You do not say if the images lack sharpness throughout or just lack sharpness where you had intended to focus.

    My advice is rather than 'comparing' them with your 24-70 would be to undertake a simple focus test to start with for each lens.

    Find yourself a subject such as a set of railings or brick wall that you can shoot at an angle of approx 45 degrees. Mark a datum (if there's not an easily identified one) and manually focus on this and shoot. If the results on screen show that the datum area is less in focus than areas infront or behind it's your technique. If nothings in sharp focus it's unlikely to be your technique at fault. Suggest you undertake this around f8/f11 the approx sweet spot of most lenses.

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Thanks a million to both dubaiphil and stagecoach. I really appreciate both your advices.

    It's really helpful as I definitely will improve my photographic skills with such advices.

  9. #9
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    From what I heard, the D700 can autofocus your 2 manual lenses. But please correct me if im wrong. And Spartacus, if you really love photography, its alright if your pictures at first are bad or just out of focus. I had that problem when I started at photography. Right now im still learning but im becoming good. Your 80 200 and 50mm is a GREAT lens. Sure it maybe a manual lens but with proper skill, you'll do good. Especially with a D700, you'll do awesome. Just remember, learn, shoot, learn! Grumpydiver here in C&C told me that Henri-Cartier Bresson once said, "your first 10,000 shots are always your worst". So dont worry! Were all here to help. Thats what this forum is about. Helping others to ensure a better picture.

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Hello Fstop Manalo,

    Thank you for the inspirational advice and comments that my 80-200, f/4 and 50mm, f/1.2 lenses are great lenses.

    Actually, I wanted to sell off these two lenses cheaply because of the not too sharp results so I cold-storage both lenses in my dry box all these years.

    Recently, I purchased two new lenses i.e. Nikkor 24-70, f/2.8 and 28-300, f/3.5

    I have made use of the 24-70 lens and the shots come out excellent. My friends think I am a damn good photographer.

    Guess only folks from this Forum know I am a Newbie and am still learning.

    Whereas the other 28-300 lens will have to wait till I go for a holiday vacation.

    Thanks once again for the inspirational advice and comments.

    Its people like you who makes me want to continue striving my photography skills.

    Cheers.

  11. #11
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fstop Manalo View Post
    From what I heard, the D700 can autofocus your 2 manual lenses.
    Er, no. They'll meter, but not autofocus

    A new auto focusing 50mm f1.2G, if it ever comes out, will be prodigiously expensive though. Stephen's lens is a nice little number

  12. #12

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    I have a similar problem with some Canon lenses. The local camera store owner told me that the older "film era" lenses would never be as sharp on a digital camera because of the difference between the 35mm film and the sensor size. Comments?

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Hi Blake,

    Having belonged to another forum for years where some would spend hours debating the relative sharpness of one lens against another I came to the conclusion that the vast majority of these differences were only noticeable when pixel peeping at high magnifications.

    No doubt there are older lenses that are not as technically sharp as modern ones but with the ease of PPing with digital now the chances are that these shortcomings can be corrected enough for the majority of users.

    The camera shop is always going to tell you that the newer lens will technically be better as they want a sale.

  14. #14
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    I'm not sure that Canon has the same level of backwards compatibility as Nikon. Nikkor AI, AI-s and onwards lenses will work on digital bodies with no issues. Some older Nikkor lenses have been slow to be updated. The 50mm f1.2 was first produced in the early 80's and you can still get new copies now. Older manual focus Nikkors are good value and excellent for video on DSLRs, as the focus ring is smoother than on modern autofocus lenses.

    Older Nikkors are generally better built than modern lenses in the line up.

    Of the 3 f1.2 lenses in the Nikkor back catalogue, I've tried 2 that a friend owns. The Noct-Nikkor 58mm f1.2 is ridiculously expensive on the 2nd hand market, is very specialist, and optimised for low light. There are 2 'poor man's' Noct-Nikkors, the 55mm f1.2 and the 50mm f1.2. The 50mm is sharper (and maybe slightly better than the Noct wide open - i tried both) and the 55mm is supposedly better for bokeh.

    Either way, Stephen's got a classic lens on his hands! I'm jealous!

    Here's a link to 82 pages of comments and examples of the 50mm f1.2 Ai and Ais

    http://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/sho...ight=50mm+f1.2

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by blakeshinn View Post
    I have a similar problem with some Canon lenses. The local camera store owner told me that the older "film era" lenses would never be as sharp on a digital camera because of the difference between the 35mm film and the sensor size. Comments?
    Technically this is true and the primary difference is simply that the old films had a bit of depth to them whereas digital sensors are for all intents and purposes perfectly flat surfaces. Thus, the precise location for the edge of the paradigmatic "circle of confusion" defining the sharpness of focus for a lens on a film camera was somewhat mitigated in its exact position by the fact that the physical structure of the film had a bit of depth through which the layers of color dyes or the silver crystals were suspended; and this compensated somewhat for a small degree of softness in the ultimate focus of any lens.

    Digital sensors, as perfectly flat surfaces, contain the 'circle of confusion' precisely upon their surface so any degree of softness in lens focus will be exactly circumscribed at that point. There is no 'play of depth' in which the effects from softness of focus might dissipate somewhat.

    I have read that, because of this, it is more appropriate to double the 'reciprocal rule' linking shutter speed with lens length when using digital cameras; that a 50mm lens in fact requires a shutter speed of ~1/100th of a second to truly render tack sharp images on a digital camera when being hand held.

    So the story the camera store owner told you is true but, it is only half the story; because ANY lens will never be as sharp on a digital camera as it appears to be on a film camera, simply because of the way that lens sharpness is defined. Paradoxically, a digital sensor will produce sharper images than film captures can; and the other part of the equation is that digital lenses are now engineered to finer tolerances than film lenses were designed to achieve.

    But, we are talking about a difference in focal sharpness well contained within the width of a film's emulsion layer; so that's less than a hair's width of difference if ever I've seen one split.

    Dave's advice to Spartacus about giving the D700's "Live View" a try is good - I'd recommend putting the camera and a manual focus lens on a tripod, switching on Live View, and zooming in with the "+" button as far as you can on your test subject; then focus using the magnified live view. The results should prove to you exactly what you can expect from your legacy manual lenses.

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Hello dubaiphil,

    Thanks a million for your comments and also for providing the nikoncafe.com link.

    Never knew such a link existed.

    Once again, appreciate your kindness and willingness to help.

    Cheers.

  17. #17

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Much ado about lenses "for film" vs "for digital". Actually, there are differences, and they are way simpler than that.

    When we used film, there was very little light reflected back toward the lens from the film, and any such light was scattered, so we needed not worry much about light bouncing back and forth between film plane and lens, softening the image. Digital cameras is another matter, as there is a reflective filter in front of the sensor, effectively working as a mirror, and it does not scatter the light it bounces back toward the lens.

    So why would that be a problem?
    - Well, if the rear surface of the lens also is a mirror, there will be a lot of stray light from it toward the sensor, so AR coating is an issue with digital cameras, and it is quite noticeable. Many lenses from older days do not have the best AR coating, and they cannot produce as crisp images as lenses with good AR coating.

    So I haven't touched "sharpness" or resolution yet...

    Sharpness is a compound property, which depends heavily on contrast, and the stray light that old lenses cause to the sensor will decrease apparent sharpness, even though it does not affect resolution.

    Then there is also another issue, which is in fact totally unrelated to the relative depth of film layers. That depth is irrelevant, although the unevenness when film is first rolled, then flattened, often making it bulge in an undulating fashion, may have some relevance to lack of sharpness at very wide apertures. No, it is not the depth, neither the unevenness of the film, but the simple fact that there are different criteria for different sizes of film or sensor. A small sensor requires a lens with higher resolution while a large sensor may render good results with a lens that has less contrast at high resolution. When designing lenses, the MTF curve is allowed to drop at different resolutions, and for a small sensor, more precision is needed. So a 24x36 full frame lens will not need as high resolving power with high contrast as a lens designed for an APS sized sensor. Of course this is irrelevant regarding the D700, which is full frame.

    So you should expect good resolution from a film era lens on the D700, but if the lens does not have good enough AR coating, less "sharpness", in terms of contrast, should be expected, particularly when stopped down. This is because the rear element of a wide aperture lens is a very large mirror. Pixel peeping however will reveal high resolution, although when looking at the entire image, its flaws will be evident.

    You may find out whether the AR coating is good enough with a rather simple test:
    Put a dark object with fine detail on a white surface, and shoot it first wide open, then stopped down. For both shots use the same exposure, with +1.7 compensation if metered average. If you can see a loss of contrast in the dark object with the lens stopped down, compared to wide open, the AR coating is insufficient for digital photography.

    Most lenses before 1970 have insufficient coating. Many lenses from the seventies are good enough, and most lenses from 1980 and onwards have coating that is sufficient. Mostly "multicoated" (T*, BBAR, HMC, MC, EBC etc) are good enough, but there are a few lenses without those designations that are good, and a few with "BBAR" coating that won't be as good. It also depends of the shape of the rear element. With an almost flat or slightly concave rear element, the problem may be worse. There is no way to know but the real life test.

    I have many lenses from older times. My Carl Zeiss T* lenses that I got for my Contax RTS are all excellent, also for 4/3, while the lenses for Olympus Pen F, which are sharper on film at a smaller size, all fail on the digital camera because of insufficient coating.

    Whether the actual resolution or certain correction flaws as colour aberration or coma will be significant or not, depends a lot on subject matter. Sometimes we might even prefer a softer lens than one that is tack sharp. But generally, the AR coating is the major issue for old lenses.

  18. #18

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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Thank you my learned friend Inkanyezi.

    Your explanation on lenses for film and digital says alot about your knowledge.

    I am sure there are many more such distinguished persons like you in our Forum with vast
    knowledge and experience on photography and I do hope that they will stand out and be counted.

    Cheers.

  19. #19
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Inkanyezi View Post
    Much ado about lenses "for film" vs "for digital". Actually, there are differences, and they are way simpler than that.

    When we used film, there was very little light reflected back toward the lens from the film, and any such light was scattered, so we needed not worry much about light bouncing back and forth between film plane and lens, softening the image. Digital cameras is another matter, as there is a reflective filter in front of the sensor, effectively working as a mirror, and it does not scatter the light it bounces back toward the lens.

    So why would that be a problem?
    - Well, if the rear surface of the lens also is a mirror, there will be a lot of stray light from it toward the sensor, so AR coating is an issue with digital cameras, and it is quite noticeable. Many lenses from older days do not have the best AR coating, and they cannot produce as crisp images as lenses with good AR coating.

    So I haven't touched "sharpness" or resolution yet...

    Sharpness is a compound property, which depends heavily on contrast, and the stray light that old lenses cause to the sensor will decrease apparent sharpness, even though it does not affect resolution.

    Then there is also another issue, which is in fact totally unrelated to the relative depth of film layers. That depth is irrelevant, although the unevenness when film is first rolled, then flattened, often making it bulge in an undulating fashion, may have some relevance to lack of sharpness at very wide apertures. No, it is not the depth, neither the unevenness of the film, but the simple fact that there are different criteria for different sizes of film or sensor.
    Inkanyezi is certainly correct about the effect that a lack of anti-reflective coatings on older film camera lenses can have when these lenses are used on digital cameras. Here is an example of what happens when light bounces back annd forth between the back of one of those lenses and a digital sensor:

    Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Note the large white 'fogging' patch near the center of the photo: that's the reflected light he is referring to.

    However, the difference between the depth of a film's emulsion and the flat surface of a digital sensor also makes a difference; but, it is a difference which becomes more pronounced at smaller apertures, where diffraction (softening of the image due to the light bending slightly in passing through a small aperture opening) comes into play. We recently had a discussion which touched upon this matter, in the context of the new Nikon D800. One version has an anti-aliasing filter to slightly blur the image before it reaches the sensor; the other version (D800e) does not: yet the version WITH the anti-aliasing filter has better resolution at smaller apertures. Alex, in the second post within the "Nikon D800E vs. D800: Which is more Diffraction Limited?" thread, explains:


    "I think Nikon is right. The D800E will have a larger diffraction limited aperture when it is calculated based on the pixel level resolution. If based on the desired print resolution then there will probably not be as noticeable a difference.

    "Diffraction causes light passing through a hole to spread out into a cone. This falls onto your sensor pixels. When the cone is larger than a single pixel then the diffraction will cause light to fall on more than one pixel. So for a sensor with no anti-aliasing filter the diffraction limit is specified by the amount of diffraction that causes a point source of light to fall on more than a single pixel.

    "When you put an anti-aliasing filter on a sensor this spreads out light falling on one pixel to the surrounding pixels anyway. So you already have light falling on multiple pixels. So for a sensor with an anti-aliasing filter the diffraction limit is specified by the amount of diffraction that causes a point source of light to noticeably fall on more than the original number of pixels. How to define 'noticeably' is varied.

    "This equates to having a bigger pixel size to define the diffraction limit. So with the filter on you can state that the diffraction limited aperture is smaller (higher f-number).

    "However the exact specifications of the anti-aliasing filter are needed to calculate the effect. Also you need to specify how you will define a noticeable difference. Due to the vagueness of this I believe that diffraction limit calculators do not factor in the anti-alias filter and simply use the raw pixel size.*

    "In reality the smoothing of the filter and the gradual expansion of the airy disk due to diffraction will cause a light smudging at the pixel level. This will increase as you go beyond the diffraction limit. However I believe that your photo will benefit more from the increased depth of field than it will suffer from the pixel level lack of sharpness.

    "When you shoot on film there is no pixel size. In this case the diffraction limit calculation is based on the acceptable circle of confusion, i.e. how much can a point of light be spread out before the human eye can notice it. "

    Similarly, since the image being capture spreads out as it leaves the lens, it continues to spread out slightly when passing through the emulsion layer of a film; and at smaller apertures, this slight increase in the spread of the image means that by definition the diffraction limit for a lens on a film camera is going to be slightly better than it is for the same lens on a digital sensor.

    As Alex points out with the circle of confusion used to define image sharpness on film, the issue is how much the image spreads out on the surface of the film. HOWEVER, since the image is actually recorded BELOW the film's surface and spreads out slightly after passing the surface, the apparent spread of the image at the surface will be mitigated to a small degree by the increased area being rendered within that circle by the photosensitive substrate.

    I know that all of this sounds improbably weird, but in fact the ultimate issue is the quantum indeterminacy of the film substrate's reaction to light. A photosensitive particle in a film emulsion either will or will not react to photos hitting it; and the reaction is an either/or response with no degrees of in between variance. The more photons that hit a photosensitive particle, the greater the chance that the particle will respond and "flip" into an activated state. The slight widening of the image as it passes from the film surface into and through the film statistically increases the probability that photosensitive particles within the surface "circle of confusion" will in fact be activated and rendered visible.

    This same principle applies to the photo-mechanical production of halftone images, where a grid of small holes is placed over photographic paper to create images composed entirely of black dots and white space.

    The holes are all the same size, and they all have the same amount of photosensitive material behind them; but where more light passes through, the probability of the photosensitive material being activated at the edges of the holes increases, and, bigger black dots are formed. Where less light passes through a hole, the quantum probability of the photosensitive material being activated around the edges of the holes decreases, and a smaller black dot is formed (giving the impression of a lighter shade).

    So I guess the answer to the original question is: some lenses designed for film cameras will perform less well on digital sensors than than digital lenses will, but all lenses will tend to perform a little better on film cameras.

  20. #20
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    Re: Photography Newbie in need of advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Morton View Post

    So I guess the answer to the original question is: some lenses designed for film cameras will perform less well on digital sensors than than digital lenses will, but all lenses will tend to perform a little better on film cameras.
    I'm just going to add that, this statement most certainly qualifies for the "Generalization of the Week" award ;-)

    Is it true? Most probably, "in some cases." It would be true to say that "all lenses function better on digital sensors that have micro lenses over their pixel sites." It might be true to say "lenses function better on Foveon sensors than on sensors with Bayer patterns."

    In transitioning from film to digital captures, I was doing some concert photography where I was push processing Ilford HP5 film (400 ASA) to 6400 ASA. About that time, I was given a Nikon point-and-shoot photo file of my daughter and some friends meeting Dr. Jane Goodall, which I interpolated up to poster size for the girls in the photo. I couldn't help but notice that the result was actually much better than I would have been able to manage using a film camera; so, that finally sold me on digital capture. My first digital camera was an Olympus E500; and the highest ISO photos it produced for concert photography were nowhere near the quality I was getting with film.

    My solution was to pick up a Nikon D700 when that was released; and I have to say that I won't be shooting film again!

    However, the edge definition of film grain in perfect focus is so much more distinct than the pixels of a (Bayer pattern) digital capture that it really is hard for me to say which gives a "better" result for available light photography in concert situations. They are two different creatures altogether: black and white film does have its own characteristics which stand out from digital captures, and I often do think that harsh film grain is more visually attractive than sensor noise.

    All of which is simply to say that I am of the opinion that a high quality film lens can in fact hold its own on a digital sensor, in most cases. If I had the 50mm, f/1.2 normal lens and the 80-200, f/4 zoom lens Stephan mentions, I would certainly be using them rather than replacing them with digital versions.

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