*** 2014 ***

2014 was a good one …  thanks to all who supported this site. In fact 2014 was the most successful year so far for sailpower.de.  The concept seems to mature and this opens up new perspectives. Hopefully 2015 will follow that trend with new creativity. Plans so far are promising.

Best wishes to all of  You for 2015!  

Some iterations around multiple exposures from last night in the snow.

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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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Lightroom 4.1 with Axial Color Aberration Correction

The new Lightroom 4-1 Version is out. It supports axial(longitudinal) color aberration correction. The purple/green fringes usually appear with all f1.4 lenses at strong contrast slightly behind and in front of the plane of focus. In the past only CaptureNX/ViewNX was able to correct this effect. Now it is included in Lightroom finally. For me this is the most important post processing gap that has been closed now.  With high speed lenses you are constantly struggling with these CAs and there are only some very expensive lens designs that do not exhibit these types of CAs. Being able to remove these fringes within Lightroom makes the post processing workflow of large amounts of images much easier and faster.

Lightroom uses 4 sliders to do the job. The two “Amount” sliders control the strength of the purple and green removal, while the two “Hue” sliders control the range of hues (the min-max values) that are used for the correction. Usually you do not want other hues than those involved to be corrected  – so these sliders are important to reduce the correction down to you CAs and should be kept together as close as possible.

Adobe explains in more detail how this works in the Lightroom Journal.

Even with this very much against the light captured scene with very difficult illumination conditions (Kaiserpokal sailing regatta from 2011) it is easy to see how the bokeh ball fringing within the sun glint/reflections is reduced. This shot was done with a high speed Nikkor 300 mm f.2.8 lens @f2.8 and depth of field is very much limited here. Color fringing is very nicely removed:

The full subset with purple and green fringing before correction (click into image for a higher resolution version):

Subset after purple/green CA correction applied (default hue range, amount set to 15/20):

Lens Power for the Flower

The Nikon AF-S VR Micro Nikkor 105 mm f2.8G ED

Since a while I was monitoring the macro lens market for a good new lens for macro flower work . So far the Micro Nikkor 60 mm AF-D f2.8 wasnt that bad at all for most of what I did. It was a compact sharp lens in the mm-range of the old famous Nikon 55 mm f.2.8 AIS Macro. There was however one area where the 60 mm was definitly not getting it right: bokeh (or I should say out of focus area rendering). The 60 mm was also a bit on the short side mm-wise. You tend to get too close to objects/subjects with this lens. The new Micro Nikkor beasts are much much better in that Bokeh-domain and the AF-S Micro Nikkor 105 mm f2.8G ED VR is the more useful of the two “N” Micro Nikkors (the other is the 60 mm AFS f2.8G). “More useful” because for most of the things you will likely need more shooting distance. I am also waiting for the update of the 200 mm Version. This one would be the one to go for if you are very much into insects and other shy subjects.

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The 105VR is a big lens – compared to the old AIS 105mm f2.8 design (in the middle). This lens is huge but imo it sits nicely in your hand and focusing the large rubber ring with this diameter is very smooth and gives lots of control for drawing the out of focus areas.

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The 105VR compared to the old AIS 105mm f2.8 design mounted on a D2x.

The 105VR (lets keep it short) uses every technique abbreviation available to Nikon: VR (Vibration Reduction), N (Nano Coating), AFS (Ring type ultra sonic focusing with manual override – and this lens is a real “Lord of the Rings” and doesnt use a micro motor), it comes with rubber sealings, metal body construction and nine rounded blades that form a perfect circle when the aperture is closed. AFS isnt very useful in the near range and usually I leave it off but mine has a constant back focusing. The build quality is excellent with a robust metal body and the pro heavy duty build approach of other lenses in this range. The lens hood is made of plastic but also seems to be very robust and durable. The lens was originally made in Japan (Toshagi lens plant) but is now manufactured in China. I had both versions in my hands and I couldn find a significant difference – although I have to say that I kept the “made in Japan” version (stupid habit but I prefer Nikon stuff “Made in Japan”).

So whats so special with this lens? – its how the background is blurred!  Its all about the out of focus highlights and thats where the lens shines. It gives butter-smooth out of focus color transitions with remarkably soft character. The only other macro competition imo is the Zeiss 100 mm f2 ZF2-mount version and the Voigtländer APO Lanthar 125 mm f2.5 . The Voigtländer is not available anymore and used market prices are at about 250-350% of the original price of the lens. The reason for this hefty price tag is that the Voigtländer 125 is the only macro lens in that range that is nearly lens aberration free. Its THE perfect corrected lens and for those into shooting jewelry and related objects this can be a very important aspect. The Zeiss is probably a bit sharper compared with the Nikkor but the Zeiss comes without AF-S and this can be important for other (non-macro) applications of the lens (its irrelevant for macro work though). The Zeiss also shows some CA and for the price imo you do not get what you pay for. Others might think different here. If you like the Zeiss rendering the website of Digilloyd http://zeissguide.com/ is a good read for you.

Its a bit different with the Voigtländer but this lens is just not available on the market anymore. Most of the happy owners do not sell their 125. Of the other third party lenses the Tamron 180 mm should be mentioned but its not exactly in the mm-range of the 105. Also Sigma does some nice lenses for macro work but with the Sigmas sample variation you should always order 5 lenses and keep the best one :). So I usually stay away from Sigma.

Figure: The 105VR creates nearly perfectly rounded OOF highlights due to its rounded aperture blades (see figure below), whereas the old AIS 105mm f2.8 design (above) gives the usual shapes here.

Drawbacks of the Nikkor 105VR:

1. it doesnt work with your ancient bellows (namely PB-4 – PB-6) as its a G-Type of lens! If you want to go beyond 1:1 sizes this lens could be combined with a TC (tele converter) – not too much of a good idea.

2. it changes the focal length with focusing – this can be a problem if you are framing very tight – the framing changes if your focus point shifts. Its kind of annoying. AND this is a NoGo if you do focus stacking with lots of frames!

There is a lot of information online about the Nikkor. To list a few of the important reviews: here is what should be on your list if you want more information about the lens:

– Thom Hogans Review of the 105VR

Nikon Glass Review of the 105VR

Simpho Review of the 105VR

– Björn Roersletts mini_review of the 105VR

– the Photozone APS-C test report of the 105VR

and if you ever wondered how this lens is build  you might want to check this site:

http://www.nikon-fotografie.de/vbulletin/nf-f-service-ecke/148643-af-s-105-2-8-vr-micro-nach-sturz-af-defekt.html

A large gallery of flower shots with the 105VR is avail. here:

http://soeren.zenfolio.com/105vr

Regatten in der Sommerpause

Tja, in der Hochsommerpause gibt es ja doch so einige Regatten, die sich recht gut etabliert haben. Der Georg-Hoffmann Erinnerungspreis des SCAhoi-Berlin gehört wohl zu diesen Regatten. Andere Veranstaltungen sind diesen Sommer bereits wegen zu geringer Teilnehmerzahlen ausgefallen (so die Korsare zum Posthorn und die Edelholz Regatta des VSaW).

Im letzten Jahr war der Hoffmann-Preis ja eine Schwachwindveranstaltung, es wird wohl auch dieses kommende Wochenende zum 37. G-H-Preis wenig Wind geben, obwohl der Sonntag vielversprechend aussieht. Ggf. ja wieder Zeit für ein paar Bokeh Experimente: hier über Layer verschiedene Zerstreuungskreise der gleichen Aufnahme kombiniert (aus 2010):

smh_ghoffmann-2010Galerie: Georg-Hoffmann Preis 2010 // Berlin

Bokeh with an old 50 mm Carl Zeiss Tessar

Looking for very cheap lenses is kind of a sport and if you look for these lenses in the second hand market of old M42 lenses then its usually easy to find something that works very well for a specific purpose.

When looking for old lenses I am usually into testing lenses for their bokeh characteristics. Its much easier to look into bokeh than it is to test a lens for sharpness or resolution. Bokeh is very subjective and therefore very difficult to parameterize.

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Last week  I found a lens for 15€ from the former east German ZEISS plant “Carl Zeiss Jena” – a 50 mm Tessar f2.8 with M42 mount. These lenses were manufactured for the old Pentacon SLR  cameras and you can find them in second hand camera stores in Germany for below 20€ depending on condition etc (same with the old Meyer-Görlitz lenses).

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The lens has 12 aperture blades and creates a very special smooth background rendering. But as usual its a “feature” if you like the circles of confusion as part of the imaging concept:

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Zeiss Jena 50 mm f2.8 Tessar (M42) & PK13

The 700€ AFS VR 105 mm f2.8 renders the out of focus highlights in less appealing form, but usually bokeh with ring type of features (as in the CZJ 50 mm example from above) is often regarded as “bad” bokeh. However – for me the example from above looks just more special. Below the version from the Nikkor 105 VR:

105 AFS VR Nikkor
Nikkor AF-S 105 mm VR f2.8G Micro

Btw:  this Zeiss lens setup doesnt focus to infinite – its only usable for macro shots.