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My New Camera - Day 8

Fully Manual Lens, Zero Focus

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bike outta focus

Bike Blur   1/40 @ f16  iso100 pattern HH (hand held) FF (full frame)
Out of focus is not always a problem. But it would nice to control it.

Now what lens? My 180mm f/2.8 was grand fun shooting all week. This week I'm using my also elderly 35mm f/1.4 un-automatic focus, previously wide-angle, now "normal" lens (because the "film" size got smaller). Which means I'll have to focus it manually. Every time. Strange behavior in the digital age, but necessary for experimentation.

I keep updating my Next Purchase Lens List on the Day 1 page. I'm shooting a wedding in March, so by then I need a workable lens that I can just keep on the camera throughout the occasion.

I'd thought that if worse came to worse, I could use it for that wedding.

I shot 137 images today. I started to call them photographs, but at least a 125 of those (maybe more) are out of focus. Odd because this lens is much wider angle than the 180 I'd had such good luck with later in the last week. It should render a far deeper depth of field, but I would have had to set it correctly to do that.

Yellow Flower - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Yellow Flower   1/320 @ f/5.6  iso200 pattern HH FF (full frame)
A little selective Sharpen Filtering in Photoshop can save
really bad focusing, which this image had in spades.

Apparently, I didn't do that. It's a big disappointment. And the issue comes down to the fact that automatic focus is far superior to J R focus. A little motor using subject to object distance is vastly better than me turning the lens' focusing collar.

Or something I haven't figured out yet.

But what. The shutter speeds are all fast enough to avoid the smudging effects of slight camera motion. The apertures are closed down enough to keep the whole of whatever is photographed — flower, boat, bike, etc. — in focus with such a wide lens. I don't understand.

Purple Flower - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Purple Flower   1/60 @ f/4  iso100 pattern HH FF
Not quite sharp, but close. Could be the shutter speed.
I was down on my knees and shaking a tad. Maybe. Maybe.

Of course, I haven't used this lens in at least five years. Last time I did — for my little brother's wedding — they all worked just fine. My cameras did not, so I had to borrow his. I hadn't used my film cameras for some time before that and none since. Besides, which, none of them work anymore. So I was just hoping against hope that these aging lenses would work. The 180 was great, although it is the youngest of them all.

Probably the biggest contributor is the focusing screen. Unlike all those Nikon cameras I used to own, back in the 80s and 90s of the last century, this camera's screen is matt. There is no central split-image or micro-prism focusing device to ensure sharp focus. That's left up to Auto Focus lenses, not an aging hippie's failing eyesight.

I would have done much better if I'd clicked the focus ring to always focus on infinity, then at least all those lovely sunset pictures and lake-in-the-background shots would have been almost okay.

Rowers   1/250 @ f8  iso200 pattern HH FF small crop from full-size image

Full Size (100% crop) — the only way you can really tell much about a digital photo
is to show it at full, 100% size. But a full-sized image at that % would be immense.
This one is out of focus. I carefully adjusted the lens till it looked perfect in the viewfinder
and fired. Just as I did for all the other images on this page. They're dysfocused, also.

I could show you lots of images out of focus. Instead, I'll show you the few, the proud, the in-focus that I shot today. Well, that's what I thought till I looked at them all at 100% on the computer monitor (as opposed to that bright, contrasty camera monitor that makes everything look in perfectly decent focus).

Makes me not want to mess with this lens again. I was going to go a whole week of it, but frankly, I had to look for ways to use this lens today. I kept wishing I still had the 180mm 2.8 attached, even though the 35mm is a lot lighter.

I'll try some shots around the house tomorrow, then if i keep getting images this soft, I'll switch to something else. I really don't know what, if anything, I'm doing wrong. It always looks in focus. Maybe I should use the aperture/distance scale to focus it, then keep it parked at fairly small apertures, so everything from x distance to infinity is in focus, which can be set on these old lenses, because they still have distance and f/stop markings on them. It's worth a try.

Feathers - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Feathers   1/250 @ f2.8  iso200 pattern HH FF
Z-shaped portions of a dead bird with only a few
stuck-together feathers left and some bone.
This lens was sharpened 100% in Photoshop;
most images on these pages are sharpened 36%.

My next candidate is the 105 2.5. It's telephoto enough that sharp focus should be easier to find. If that's the problem.

One issue with these manual focus lenses is that their focal length (usually expressed in mm) and their maximum aperture has to be set in a D200 menu, so the camera knows what to do with it. Not a real bother, at all. In fact, the D200 is the first Nikon digicam to be able to use these elderly lenses easily.

Another old, manual lens I'm getting excited about trying is the 55mm (which used to be strictly "normal"), but is now almost the 35mm equivalent of the extremely popular 85mm short telephoto lens. I used to have an 85mm 1.8 that I loved, till it fell out of its shell when I removed a filter off the front of it — and watched its optic/mechanical guts fall end over end down the mountain I was shooting from. I loved that lens.

The chief grace of that 55mm lens is that it focuses down to 1:1 (life size) without using its extension tubes, which get it much closer than that. It's a little "longer" a lens than the 35 I had so much trouble with today, so maybe the focus will be easier to find.

I love getting really really close (either tele reach as with the 180 or down and clean close-up like the 55). That will be interesting.

Horned Pair - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Horny Pair   1/250 @ f8  iso200 pattern HH (hand held) FF (full frame)
This may be the sharpest image I shot today. Nice rendering. The pole
the pair is standing on is in perfectly sharp focus.

[All shots taken with the Nikon 35mm 1.4 manual focus lens.]