Posts Tagged ‘nikon’

Lots of watching, few whales.

Lots of watching, few whales.

On Saturday I went whale watching out of Santa Barbara. Aside from some whale-ducks and whale-pelicans there were no whales.

Before heading out I had to decide what lens to bring with me, I did not feel that I would have a chance to change lenses on the boat and I was right (it was about 40 feet). In the end I just brought my 55-200mm f/3.8 VR Nikkor lens. For only a few situations did I want a faster autofocus and wide angle, namely while dolphins were swimming under and around the boat. Also video would have been pretty neat but is completely beyond my camera. Even though it was a full overcast day (due to fires) it was bright enough and none of my photos were blurred.

I had no problem holding the camera in one hand and the rail in the other after getting over the initial seasickness. Once I had the camera in one hand I pretty much kept it at either 200mm or 55mm with rarely any in between, unless photographing someone on the boat.

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Diesel not so thrilled with his new hat.

Diesel not so thrilled with his new hat.

For Christmas I received a Nikon SB-400 flash for my camera, which is good because it is what I asked for. I wanted the flash unit because I never use the flash on my camera, I always utilize ambient light. With the seperate flash I will be inclined to actually use it as it will not directly drain the batteries of my camera.

Of course I now need to learn how to use a flash. The operation of the unit is fairly simple: place on camera, lock, turn on and tilt. I have not delved into the usage of the flash my camera, I have just used it on the default P setting (regulated the shutter speed to 1/60″).

I used it today at my grandmothers to take photos of our dog Diesel (seen above). I couldn’t use ambient light as I do not have a lens fast enough for the light of the room, I also needed to catch him in motion as he attempted to thrust his festive hats off of his head. 

I found that the angle of bounce for the flash is fairly easy to ascertain given the room and the subject. I did not use much of the direct on flash but opted for either 30 or 45 degrees. Straight up was not too useful so far but I bet that it will be useful. Except for the part where the closer to straight up the flash goes the more you blind yourself with the flash, always fun.

One thing I want to investigate with the flash if if I can trigger it manually either on the camera itself or separately. I want to try out high speed photography where you have something in a dark room, use a long shutter and use the flash to capture the motion. The SB-400 might not do this as it is just a basic flash unit.

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A nice narrow depth of field.

A nice narrow depth of field.

Today, while attempting to study for the GRE, my new 50mm prime lens arrived. Of course knowing this I did what any good student would do, I tossed my study book aside and opened the package.

I bought the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 prime lens off of Amazon through Adorama. I also bought a retractable rubber lens hood since it was the only hood, that I know of, that will work with this lens. I tested it out around the house and backyard to practice with the narrow depth of field and manual focus. Mainly I took pictures of the family dog Diesel and a tree with lots of bees in it. The main disadvantage, at least while I start, is the lack of an autofocus motor in my D60, so I have to manually focus with the lens. I feel that eventually I will become better at it and I hope this will help my photography career as I progress.

So why did I buy it if I knew that it lacked autofocus? Well it was mainly the price of roughly $120 that convinced me, that and every Nikon forum seemed adamant on every owning this lens. Peer pressure did it. Nikon will probably release a new version of the lens at Photokina (the major photo trade show) later this month, but if it has its own autofocus motor and maybe image stabilization then the price will likely shoot out of my range.

Aside from autofocus I also lack any way to preview the depth of field. My camera lacks a depth of field preview button, which I did not know existed until a month after owning my camera, so I have to guess on what it will be or take a sample shot or two. Knowing this I saw on the photos of the lens that there is an aperture ring. I thought that this would act like a focus ring and enable me to manually change the aperture, thus letting me preview the depth of field. Nope. The camera only takes photos if the aperture ring is locked into one position so it can control aperture all by itself. Well it was a faint hope to begin with.

Before buying I read online that the lens is difficult to put in on the D40-D60 range. I thought that this might have been a user error or a faulty lens. No it is hard to put it in. Not physically, it does not have much resistance to twist it in or our, it is just the metal mount makes a terrible scratching sound/feeling when being put into position. It also does not slip easily into the lens mount and lacks a white dot like my other Nikon lenses.

It is sounding like a great lens isn’t it?

Well now for the good parts of the lens. First off the focus ring is really nice. It could be my lack of exposure with various lenses but it turns really easily and feels good doing it. This is a nice since I will be using it all the time. The narrow depth of field at f/1.8 is hard to control without the aforementioned depth of field preview button but after an hour or so practicing I am slowing getting the hang of it. Since it is also a fixed focal length moving back and forth to adjust what was in the frame seemed odd at first (since I grew up in a world of zoom lenses) but after about five minutes it became natural.

I also felt that I could get closer to objects then with my other lenses. The minimum focus distance is 45 centimeters (I know as it is printed on the focus ring) but feels closer. It might feel closer as a result of the lens being physically smaller, the fixed focal length or the narrow depth of field. The f/1.8 also let me shoot in poorer lighting without requiring a tripod. But it does not have image stabilization which I did notice at around half second exposure. 

Along with the lens I also bought a rubber retractable lens hood. It works well as a hood and I suppose it adds a bit of extra protection around the lens. The one disadvantage of the hood is that when it is retracted it partially blocks the manual focus ring, a very important ring. The advantages are of course all of the normal advantages of lens hoods.

The lens should also have better clarity, rendition and performance. I am new to this so I will defer this part to all of the other people who have comparison charts and batteries of tests. I will assess this aspect by just posting photos I take with this lens and saying (if I remember) when they are taken with the lens.

So far I like the lens and I am glad I bought it, I mean a fast prime lens for only $120? Compared to the price of other lenses and camera it seems like a reasonable purchase.

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