My New Camera - Day 11
Fun with lenses — manual everything including exposure, then a really really really wide one
By now you've figured out this is a macro lens. It gets up really close. It may be my oldest lens. Looking at the rear element — the last piece of glass before the diaphragm (f/stopper), you can see it's pitted and spotted with stuff only time put there, and nothing's gonna get off.
Still, the images are close, in pretty sharp focus. It was easy to focus, and it shows a different side of the world than any of other lenses. Up close and personal, or thing-inal.
The seed scene with screen has been a focus test these last 11 days or so, and this gave the sharpest rendition, yet. Focused right on the seeds.
If you've been reading these pages, you're to be congratulated. I'm amazed anyone would wade through all this. I'm writing it, of course, for me, so I can figure out this camera. Something about me and life is that, when I write it down (or up here on the net), I begin to understand my part in it. So thanks. For sharing the experience, uh, both of you.
The really amazing thing about this lens, which may have been the most fun of all my lensifying lately, because of its simplicity and close-up looks, is that the exposure metering on the camera is utterly useless. Nothing seems to help.
It's an old fashioned manual lens. Manual in more ways than any of the others. Sharp as a tack, and yeah close, but to get the right exposure with it, I just have to shoot away. Look at each shot, adjust something, then try again, till it's close.
With Photoshop, close is generally good enough. I lightened the nickel a couple stops. But everything else you see here is how it came out of the camera, but darned few (only the blue ball, I think) was the first shot I shot of whatever it is.
It's fun like a Diana camera is fun. Diana made a really cheap plastic camera with just two shutter speeds, short and long. Many artists and photographers make art with them, usually black & white art. Their results are often blurred at the edges and generally soft, but the lens is utterly simple. And real, old fashioned fun.
Fun like a pinhole camera is fun. More work than all automatic everything, to be sure, but amazing that one can get anything at all, and hell, why not try, kind of fun.
shots above taken with the Nikon 55mm 3.5 manual focusand manual exposure lens.]
[All shots below taken with the Nikon 20mm 4 manual focus, auto exposure lens.]
I was thinking that was the last of my old Nikon lenses to try on the new D200. Then I remembered the 20mm f/4. And it, too, was fun.
This 20mm fun involves its very wide angle. When I was shooting film, my 35mm lens was my normal, so I had a comparative wide expectation, but the 20, which rendered a 90-degree angle of view on 35mm film (which was still pretty amazing when I bought it), still equals a 28 (actually 30) mm film equivalence. It looks and feels wide. It makes little spaces seem big, much bigger.
If ya tilt it, it distorts lines making parallel ones diverge. But if you're careful (I'm usually careful) and keep the back of the camera (the film plane) parallel with the face of the object or the line of the row of objects (like below), it keeps rectilinearity rectilinear (the upper shelf really does sag). Like the shot above, which is comforting to me, because it's something I see often, but rarely give more than a few seconds' notice.
Real wide-angle lenses tend to be easier to hand-hold and get acceptably sharp results, because essentially they render reality a little smaller than it is (whereas telephotos act like magnifiers, making it more difficult to hand-hold, because they magnify each slight sway, each vibration). This shot was hand-held (as nearly all of these have been since that first all-tripod day), risking a 1/100 hand hold (I usually like to keep it at least 1/160 to 1/200, but I really wanted the depth of field here, and the risk paid off.
The sharpness amazed and amazes me. I've been shooting these letters for years, and this is far and away the best shot of it, ever. Of course, the gray sky helps. The letters being so all fired white usually means they get overexposed. Here under cloudy dull skies, they're rendered perfectly.
You can see the third dimension. The dilapidating green tarp on the extended fence serves as an almost neutral background, and the dirty old ground nearly disappears into dark brown. And those big old letters just pop!
I'm beginning to really like this lens. A thousand years ago, when I first bought it, probably when I was working for The Dimes Terrible, I'd use it only rarely. But when I needed it, it was perfect. And it's such a dinky little lens, it hardly mattered that I carried it with me wherever I went.
It's only 2 inches long and 2.5 in diameter. After that 6.5-inch by 3.25-inch diameter 180mm tele, it's miniscule, tiny. Reminds me of the first time I held my new D200 in my hand. So very comfortable and hand-filling without being a pain.
Pain as the 180 is to carry, I love using it, only partially for its auto focus, although that's a real boon. I actually think in telephoto, and I've been dreaming of something longer than the 200mm (in 35mm equivalency) long end of my Sony's zoom.
The 180 is wonderful for pelicans at Sunset Bay. It's great for shooting across the lake and for compressing objects and space between me and whatever I'm shooting a long way off.
Then to fall for — and find plenty of use for — this 20mm lens, was a complete surprise. Of course, when I was a working photojournalist, it was important to carry as many lenses as necessary. One for each span from very wide angle (this one) to 135mm or 200mm tele. Maybe longer.
But I always settled for a short span. Now I want much longer for birds and because I can usually find things a long way off that I want to shoot from where I'm standing. Like the sliver of a shot above (the rest of the frame is boring. This is the subject. It's just too small for the lens I'm using. Although the subject is fascinating.) when I had only the 35mm lens but was thinking long telephoto thoughts for a long telephoto shot that I
For the second time in several months, I saw a small boat tip over and the sailor go under, a couple days ago (Day 9 of this learning curve). He was nearly immediately rescued and righted after some difficulty, and he rowed off into the sunset. I shot it with whatever I was shooting that day, but it just wasn't a lens as long as I wanted.
It was dawning on me as I shot that photo that I was a telephoto kind of a guy. So imagine my surprise, after not warming to the 35mm lens nearly as much as I expected to, to having a merry time with the 55, only to fall hard for this 20. Pretty amazing to my way of thinking earlier today. By next week it may be Situation Normal. SOP (standard operating procedure).
It helps but does not completely explain my affection for it that it has the old-fashioned focus scale on the lens where it shows the depth of field in front and back of whatever the lens is focused on in a variety of apertures. Which means instead of having to focus using the soft, built-in focusing screen, I can rely instead on the DOF shown on the lens, and get away with mild murder on a lens like this with its amazing wide depth of field.
Even wide open at f/4, everything from infinity down to about 6 feet distance from the camera will be renedered in acceptable focus/sharpness. At f/32 (the 20's smallest f/stop, which probably would degrade the image because it's such a small hole for light [remember all those cones?] to go through), everything from 1 foot to infinity will be sharp. Nearly eliminating the need to focus.
Except I still like to focus the lens and see the little green light brighten.
My Bathroom rendered with flash
Another first was today. Flash. Remember me ranting on about how I don't like to use flash? I'd read the flash page in the D200 manual, but thought I needed more study, so I could get it to lighten the flash so it didn't overpower me shooting Yo in that same window above (with the sunlight lighting him up around the edges but turning his ornery little face nearly dark).
But today, to shoot my Greg Metz & Son sculpture of an airplane that hangs in my dining room. I just reached up, clicked the flash into place, pushed the button with a lightning bolt on it (not sure why, but the manual said to, so I did) and just shot it. And it was nearly perfect.
I'm used to shooting, changing something, shooting again, remembering something I should have changed in the first place, change it and shooting again with my Sony's flash. Rarely do I get it right the first time, except on those exceptional good guess moments. But my very first flash shot with my new Nikon was nearly perfect.
The bathroom shot is my third flash shot. All I did was compose, point and shoot. The starry sky shower curtain, which was way too close to the flash going off, is rendered perfectly. The far wall is just a tad dark, but like everything else in the smallish room, well within acceptable parameters. Well within.
There's still that contrasty old flash shadow to contend with, as in Sweet Pea's half-mast eyes above, but with clarity that sharp, who cares? More and more, I'm loving my new camera. The flash is amazing. I still won't use it often, but when I have to, it'll be there. Nice.
The glass is not perfect focus, but it's awfully close. Close enough. I dislike that there's no way to view the view through the viewfinder except with my face right in the back of the camera (and that was very difficult shooting from this low coffee table tonight), but I eventually slunk down far enough to just see the target and fire away.
There's a nearly $200 Nikon contraption that attaches to the viewfinder at a right angle (the D200 is not yet listed as one of the cameras it fits or I might already have ordered the thing). That'd be a little like looking down into an old 2.25 x 2.25-inch (so-called 120 size film) double lens reflex camera.
Before there were single lens reflex cameras there were twin-lens reflex cameras. Made by Rollei and later Yashica and others. The deal was you (I) looked down through the top lens to see pretty much what the bottom lens was looking at. The main problem with those was parallax — the difference between what the two lenses actually saw, usually manifested when the shot was close up, and the two lenses were aimed at the subject from differing angles or something was in the way, between camera and subject.
See Wikipedia's story and pictures on Twin Lens Reflexes.
That's why Single Lens Reflex cameras are a big deal after years of cameras with only one lens, usually built-in, that do not allow lens interchanges. It still seems strange to me that the big selling point for Single Lens Reflex cameras, like my D200, is that they accept additional lenses for additional purposes. Why not instead call them interchangeable lens reflex
They're called Single lens reflexes, because they are not double-lens reflexes.