Urban Night Lights

Testing some new techniques right now to generate better … or stronger bokeh effects.  Have been looking for some elevated positions in Berlin to do this. These shots have been mainly done with some old Nikkor lenses but I also have the Sigma Art 1.4 series of lenses on my list to do more tests. So far happy with the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 and the 28mm f2 and 85mm f1.4 but clearly need to test the 20mm f1.4 and the 35mm f1.4 Sigma Art here. Especially strong wide angle lenses with a f1.4 stop are needed for this kind of shootings.

 

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400mm at its best – shooting the background-blur-king

The mother of all lenses: the Nikkor AFS 400mm f2.8G VR ED

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This is one of the lenses that most serious sports photogs have in use regularly. Its THE bread&butter lens of the soccer/football/car racing and swimming/athletics sports photographers. This is a really heavy lens (4.62 kg) and even if you come from a 300mm f2.8 lens design, the size and weight upgrade in significant. Also the price of this lens makes it mostly appear in the hands of those that get assignments and sell some shots. An equipment insurance is pretty much a given when you buy yourself into this level of equipment. Dropping an 7-9k investment is kind of horrifying. However when Nikon upgraded this lens in 2015 the old VR version plummeted in price to the 4500-6000€ region on the second hand market. Its never less a heavy investment and the lens better delivers image quality at this price point.

Well it clearly does. Sharpness is crisp @2.8 also into the far edges and even a wee bit better than my trusty Nikkor AF-S 300mm f2.8 MkI and depth of field at f2.8 is minimal to a point where lens AF calibration plays a critical role to achieve perfectly focused images. Background blur and bokeh are just what you expect. The lens clearly puts every background into a creamy fading soup of smooth changing color tones. Bokeh-balls are well defined without being too edgy. If you up micro contrast to the max some minor onioning is visible within the bokeh balls but you have to search it. Bokeh is a bit “better” (less nervous) than using the AFS MkI 300mm  f2.8 and adding a TC14mkII. You can also add the TC14 to the 400mm and you get a nice and very sharp 550mm f4 lens (you will also need a new AF-lens-calibration set for that combination).

smh-gc13-v2-20161216-6114683-3260Fig.: This lens is big, it even dwarfs the 14-24 or the 70-200 – getting used to this size makes you feel liberated when you hold the 70-200 setup.

Autofocus is the fastest I can remember when compared with other lenses and the Nikkor AF-S 300 mm f2.8 designs are already fast focusing (I can only compare to the AFS mkI version – the most recent incarnation focuses possibly as fast as the 400mm AFS VR). There is no color fringing at all @f2.8. Even the far edges seem to have no signs of CA. You will hardly need any CA-control in post processing. Even in out-of-focus areas CA is nearly absent – there is a tiny amount of green/purple tint but its hard to find. VR (its Nikons VRII generation) is very efficient and clearly helps to stabilize some shots. I usually do not test the VR function much. Its a pretty much an overrated feature imo, for some sports its just useless as you will need very short exposures anyway to get the shot. Its however very useful when you do stabilized pans of moving objects.

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Wannsee Pokal 16 im Hagelschauer

Wannsee Pokal 16 in Hagelschauern –

Klasse Saisonstart mit dem Wannsee Pokal (FD, 420er, Finn, 29er) des VSaW/PYC mit über 80 startenden Boote. Außerdem erster ernst zu nehmender Test für die 400mm Optik. Ein großer Teil der recht kernigen Hagelschauerzellen schrammte an der Südgrenze von Berlin entlang, aber eine schob sich perfekt über die Havel und brachte tolle Szenen im Regattafeld. Zeitweise war die Sicht derartig reduziert, dass der Autofocus einen massiven Frontfocus entwickelte. 30 Minuten später klarte es wieder zu dieser sauberen Frühjahrsatmosphäre auf, die so herrlich starken Farb-Kontrast mit brillianten Highlights bringt.

Das 400er ist im Handling eindeutig ein anderes Kaliber als das 300f2.8, allerdings auch vom Gewicht her eine Herausforderung, vor allem zum Ende des Wettfahrttages hin wird man doch etwas schwach um die Schulter herum : – ). Autofokus snaps „in place“, allerdings muss man aufpassen nicht aus versehen die AF-On Tasten unter dem Lens-Raincoat zu drücken, die Linse also möglichst weit vorne – knapp vor der bzw. auf der Gegenlichtblende stützen. Bei f2.8 ist die Tiefenschärfe auf einen Abstand von 30-50m hin minimal.  Man muss sich noch genauer überlegen, wo man den AF-Sensor initial hinlegt, wenn die Renner angeschossen kommen. Die Focus Nachführung (Nikon AF-C/3D) ist völlig smooth und ruckelfrei – unscharfe Shots sind so zumindest von der Nachführung her unmöglich.

Erster Preview auf die WP16 Galerie kommt hier:

Volle Galerie dann in den nächsten Tagen auf www.sailpower.de.

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Nikkor 400mm f2.8 bits

Some more shots from the 400mm lens. Bokeh is clearly where the lens extra shines :) – as expected and wanted but it also delivers sharpness and acuity. I am not so sure right now about the converters – the TCs seem to need more AF-calibration attention. Here some shots from the last weeks trying to get used to all these whistles and options to control the beast :).

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Nikon AFS 400mm f2.8G VR Testing

Update: some nice bokeh shots with this lens (had half an hour yesterday with wonderful sun light to do some tests – its easy to send every for/background into a creamy bokeh fog with a 400mm f2.8 system. However the lens isnt a dedicated macro device – hence it will be important to see how the lens performs in the mid to far range shots and with full reflecting highlights. Especially the resolving power with very distant objects is usually a problem – even with these top-of-the-line tele lenses. My first impressions indicate that the 400mm f2.8 works fabulous with the TC14E II and also very good with the TC20E III but the AFS 300mm f2.8 mk1 wasn’t bad with the TC14E II either. The weak part was the resolving power focusing more distant things with more than 300m distance.

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First tests with the new 400mm lens – the f2.8 AFS VR version – pretty much a dream tele lens and optical performance is just as what you would expect. First lens align tests seem to be spot on. The lens snaps to focus – clearly faster than my old 300mm f2.8 AFS Mk1. Some bokeh tests will follow.

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The lensAlign target with the long ruler installed – approx. 20m distance – this equals 50times focal length. At f2.8 this gives a depth of field of 40cm and the lens is pretty spot-on on the 0-Mark of the ruler. No chromatic aberration  at all … . Damn cool lens – only point to think of right now is the how-to-story of “hand-holding” this lens, its just bigger than anything I used before.

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Some bokeh shots:

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Background Blur with Tele Lenses

Recently found this nice webpage where You can calculate the background blur of your Telelens-Camerasensor combination:

 http://howmuchblur.com

Very handy to get some ideas on how the isolation power of the various lenses behave in comparison. If You look carefully  the 400mm f2.8 and the 600mm f4 seem to create the most blur but its distance and background-distance depended. It also doesn’t tell you anything about the blur QUALITY and/or depth of field in that context.  If you however always choose the same size of your object/subject in your frame (modify the distance to the object with different lenses) and you keep the same aperture – the resulting DOF should be basically the same.

Anyways – the 400mm f2.8 looks really as if it is the blur king in these medium distances!

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The Nikkor AFS 24-70 mm f2.8G – fast all-rounder

Standard zoom range at its best …  – best bokeh: the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8G
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The Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED
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The 24-70 wasnt on my priority purchase list for quite some time. Its focal range was just not too important for my type of regular shootings. But since I started doing circus and artistic performance events  and also occasionally dancing events – I found the 24-70 range to be a „must have” here. The 24-50 mm range is where you need to go quickly when you work directly in front of the stage. In combination with a second body and  85 f1.4 or the 70-200 f2.8 this provides lots of flexibility.
There are various comments in the net about the Nikon 24-70 and to sum the critics up: „no VR” and “edge sharpness is missing on the D800“ are the most common complaints. There is also indication that the front tubus is damaged easily when lens drops without a hood.

The 24-70 isn’t a small lens but it packs a lot of performance into the typical range of the 24-35-50-( not really 85).
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Slomo Footage with Nikons 1 …

Schon eine Weile auf der Agenda, aber immer wieder wg fehlenden schnellen (und bezahlbaren) 4K Kameras auf die Bank gestellt.  Neuer Anlauf mit der Nikon 1. Die macht immerhin 30 oder 60 Bilder/s in 4k. Klaro das geht nur lächerliche 1 oder 0,5 Sekunden lang, aber mit Stabilisierung und Interpolation (Adobe AfterEffects Warp + Twixtor) kann man durchaus 2-4 Sekunden Slomo generieren.  Hier ist nur die Frage wie stabilisiert man das und ist die Auslösung parallel  mit dem DSLR Kit möglich (no way bei der Nikon 1), denn auf den Vollformat HighRes-“Schuß” will man ja nicht verzichten.

Leider hat Nikon das 1er-System derart verstümmelt, dass kaum kreative Dinge gehen: kein Kabelauslöser, kein 10pin, der IR-Auslöser lässt sich nicht zusammen mit dem 60fps-Modus nutzen. 60fps gehen nur im Auto-Alles Modus (Häähh?=>sehr ärgerlich).  Langzeitbelichtungen gehen gar nicht (max 1 Sekunde). Mit dem FT-1 Adapter geht nur ein AF-Feld! Immerhin macht ein Firmware-Update jetzt AF-C mit dem FT-1 und den Vollformat AFS-Linsen möglich. Besonders ärgerlich ist jedoch das Nikon das mit der neuen Nikon 1 V3 nicht erheblich anders gemacht hat – nur das die V3 mit allen Extras 1200Euro kosten wird. GoPro hat gezeigt was mit einfachen Systemen bereits geht. Warum das (bis auf Panasonic vielleicht) kein Hersteller  aufgreift ist schleierhaft.

Bleibt zu testen wie sich die V1 auf dem Wasser macht, mit dem 2,7x Crop Faktor ist zumindest genug Telepower im Rennen. Das 70-200mm f2.8 wird ganz fix eine 190-540mm f2.8 Optik und der Autofokus ist ordentlich fix.

Vielleicht ist aber etwas mehr Arbeit im FitnessStudio nötig demnächst. :)

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The Sharpness & Darkness Queen – the Nikkor AFS 14-24 mm f2.8G

Nikon AFS 14-24 mm f2.8G: This lens is the end of the (endless) search for the perfect wide angle lens. Its as simple as that. Get this one and stop (and forget) all the testing : ).  Since photography went digital a sharp wide angle has been like the mythical unicorn – it just wasnt there anywhere. The 14-24 is the magical solution for all that wanted this full frame edge-sharp wide angle lens. The wide open performance without any degradation in  sharpness etc.

In short:

+ Sharp wide open in the center and in the far corners,

+ sharp at 14 mm,
+ sharp at 20 mm and
+ nearly as sharp at 24 mm though it wee bit softer in the edge than at 20 mm,
+ creates nice sun stars closed down,
+ has (on the D800) only minimal CAs at 14 mm (that can be easily corrected in post),
+ focus is fast and silent,
+ build is absolute top notch (the lens virtually melts with a D3 – there are no mount tolerances),
+ manual focus is super smooth without any glide coupling offsets.

 

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Front element is protuding and exposed to some degree at 14 mm setting.

 

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With the heavy duty Single Digit Nikons the 14-24 just pairs perfectly and weight balance is nice.

 

The lens is heavy but sits in your hand like a tool that asks to be used with precision and knowledge – somehow just stimulating.
The lens has low coma at f2.8 –  so,  for night time photography this is just the dream of “shooting a wideangle without need to close the aperture” coming true because the f2.8 shots at iso1600 wide open are in no way a compromise. So far my experiences with all wide angles were always a mixed bag. The fixed focal lenses with 20 mm and less did not deliver (Nikon 20 mm f2.8 AIS, 18 mm, 14 mm and the Voigtländer 20 mm f3.5 or the Sigma alternatives were not much better). Some praised the new Zeiss ZF 15 mm and the legend – the older Zeiss ZF 21 mm f2.8 but they sell for the same or higher price, no AF and only one focal length, other alternative at least for the night time photogs: Rokinon (also known as Samyang). Rokinons are very affordable priced and are nicely coma corrected. A great start would be the 14 mm Rokinon.
On the plus side for the 14-24: it also works nicely with an IR converted camera. There is no hotspot with this lens.
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If you have to use a wide angel lens wide open, than the 14-24 is the tool that will deliver.  The edges will even improve sligthly if you close the lens down to f4 and f5.6 though hardly in a range that is very much relevant.
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Only “problem” with the lens is its big front glass – you pay for the uncompromised engineering of this construction unaffected by accountancy or management restrictions. This is a product of a 100% performance oriented and engineering dominated design decisions.
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Minor moanings:
– the lens cap is a problem – I just dont like that solution – it just shouldnt be slip on, they could have easily created a locking mechanism that
snuck fits on the sun shade.
– And for some a problem: no easy filter solution – you have to get the big special 1424 designs – expensive and huge glas plates.
– The lens can also show some strange flare  when you directly shoot into the sun. It creates rainbow like reflections that are hard to remove.
So overall the best around for the available light freakes, indoor interior, astro photographers, star trail and polar light /aurora photography or for night time shots of urban scenes, light house shots at night and so on – you get the message. If you only need a coma free lens for astro shots I would suggest the 14 mm Rokinon, but if the lens is to be used also for other applications than the 1424 will deliver. I sold my old Tokina 124 DX lens and will also leave the Nikkor 28 mm f2.0. That feeling of wide open top performance makes me even rethink if I shouldnt sell my Nikkor 20 mm. … mmh the 20 is sooo small its just a very different horse ähem pony maybe.
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Some shots from this year:

 

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Pretty much the perfect lens for fireworks at 24 mm but occasional you will likely grab the 24-70 for these events.

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Full frame 14 mm shot at f22 – sun in the corner with strong flare.

 

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Subset from the full frame shot above – the color halos are nasty, but you can avoid them easily when you change the direction of the lens a wee bit. Therefore here I really just wanted to show how it could look like if you do not take care but it is avoidable.

 

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