Category Archives: Equipment reviews

Four Ways to 85 mm: Three Nikon Lenses and the Carl Zeiss Planar for the Hasselblad V-Series

Fighting hard against GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), I still have four ways to arrive at 85 mm focal length. I may therefore check out some widespread myths about lenses: 1) Prime lenses are better than zooms. 2) Vintage lenses are ill suited for digital sensors because they are not telecentric, that is, the ray angles at the edges of the sensor exceed the acceptance angle of the microlenses, which results in reduction of color saturation, and color fringes. 3) The 35 mm lenses have a better resolution than medium and large-format lenses, simply because they need to cover only a smaller caputure area and can therefore be made from more expensive glass.

Lenses

From left to right: Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 G ED VR II, Nikon AF-S 85 f/1.8 G, Nikon PC-E 85 f/2.8 Micro, Hasselblad Zeiss CF 80 f/2.8 Planar T* mounted on a Photodiox adapter.

The contestants

  • Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 G ED VR II
  • Nikon AF-S 85 f/1.8 G
  • Nikon PC-E 85 f/2.8 Micro
  • Hasselblad Zeiss CF 80 f/2.8 Planar T* mounted on a Photodiox adapter

I hated the Nikon AFS 70-200 f/2.8 and the Canon equivalent, because having set up my large format camera, I was more than once harassed by photographers carrying these lenses. Considering their form factor it does not need much to imagine what some guys are compensating for.

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Sample Images: Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Apo Distagon

In physics, gravitons are hypothetical elementary particles that mediate the force of gravitation in the framework of quantum field theory. For me, gravitons are real objects that mediate the drag forces into photo stores of larger cities.

During a recent trip to Zurich, Switzerland, I was dragged into the “Fotoschiff “; a fair organized by FotoPro and hosted on a boat afloat the lake. There I learned that one of the FotoPro stores had on stock a Zeiss Otus 55 f/1.4 Apo Distagon for the Nikon F mount. This gave me the opportunity to take a couple of images through the store’s door at the Rennweg. Of course, I exerted the usual shot discipline, which includes tripod mounting, focusing in live view, mirror lock up, three seconds shutter delay, and raw processing in Capture One Pro.

OTUS

Image samples, 100% corner crops. Top: Nikon 24-70 at f/2.8 and f/5.6. Bottom: Zeiss Otus at f/1.4, f/2.8 and f/5.6. Click to enlarge.

The full frames are devoid of any composition and are therefore omitted here. The 100% views, cropped from the upper right corner of the scene, are shown for the apertures 1.4, 2.8 and 5.6. The focal point was on the tiles of the roof, which are a good subject for testing the micro contrast and tonal rendering of lenses. The white balance was fixed to the same value and no additional sharpening was applied in the raw processor.

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PocketWizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5 Flash Transceiver for Nikon

I still remember flashbulbs, flashcubes, and the early, all manual electronic flashes. Using these often resulted in the photographer’s question: did it trigger? And even if, the flashlight often made us look like white ghosts or dark shadows against the wall. At a given film speed and flash guide number (the maximum amount of light that the flash is able to burst off) the estimated flash-to-subject distance and the aperture were the only means of regulating the flash exposure.

PocketWizard

Why am I bringing this up? To name the strong and weak points of the transceiver system, it is fitting that I should briefly explain the techniques and acronyms of the modern system flashes.

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Full Frame DSLR versus Medium Format: Nikon D800E and the Mamiya/Leaf Credo

A number of comprehensive test reports have been published on the Nikon D800E.  The image quality of this camera has triggered shootouts with medium format systems such as the Leica S, Hasselblad H4D, and the Mamiya/Leaf combo.

To me, these evaluations were not really conclusive, as they focus mainly on resolution and often propose pixel peeping on a low-gamut LCD screens.  In discussion forums, these tests have consequently drawn comments that it would be illicit to “compare apples and oranges” and that there are “horses for courses”. Such comments are triggered by the real-world decision-making problems featuring multiple conflicting objectives. The best conceived test is useless if the methodology is not sound and the criteria are not clearly defined. But more importantly any such test will be highly subjective with inherent, strongly weighted objectives.

Mamiya-Nikon

Left: Mamiya 645D. Right: Nikon D800E.

Therefore, I must explain first my shooting style and preferences, workflow, and photographic background. For me, the definition of an outstanding image boils down to a simple question: wouldn’t I mind spending big bucks on printing and framing of an image, displaying it in my home, and looking at it for hours on end? For me, as a scientific engineer, technical perfection is an important aspect. Any of my keeper images qualify for a 60×80 cm (23”) fine art print, holding up 10″ viewing distance. This is what I call supernatural, because the print reveals details that at the location were not visible to the naked eye. I thus spare no effort; when I visualize an image at a remote place, which I might be able to visit only once in a lifetime, I just want to have the best equipment with me. And leaving aside the artistic aspect of photography, if something goes wrong technically, it will be my, and not the equipment’s fault.

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