Saturday, November 26, 2011

PESO 2011 #49 - Etude

AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2D

A co-worker of mine recently bought this very special lens to go along with his Nikon D90. Few days ago I had an opportunity to play with it a little.

Obviously, being a rather old lens, a lot can be found about it on the net. So I will put here only my personal impressions.

Everything just works. AF is quiet, quick and precise. The defocus control ring is conveniently placed and is very to operate. Although somewhat on the heavy side (it is after all a fast f/2.0 optic), it is only ever so slightly front heavy on D90. The viewfinder view is bright, although judging exact degree of defocus is not always so easy. But chimping is easy these days, isn't it?

Image quality
This is where it truly shines. In fact, the whole idea of defocus control, where the degree of defocus is decoupled from the aperture (unlike, e.g. Pentax soft lenses, where the softness is simply set by the aperture) is just brilliant. The three dimensional effect due to play of in focus to out of focus transition can be very pronounced too.

Highly recommended in all respects. It can be used both as fast medium tele lens and as a very special portrait optic and for great many other purposes.

If I shot Nikon I would definitely get one of those defocus control lenses because I quite like the soft focus effect.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Pentax SMC DA* 16-50/2.8 follow up

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Pentax SMC DA* 16-50/2.8. Having shot with it about 800 images, I think it may be time for a follow up post.

Handling and build
It's just about perfect. The focus ring does not rotate when AF is working which makes it most convenient. In fact it's my first lens that I can hold any way I want without risking to intervene with gear operation. Zoom ring is smooth and tight.

Image quality
That's where real fun begins. This lens flares more than other Pentax lenses I used. Well, may be FA 28-105/4-5.6 (nee Tamron) flares really badly, but this one does catch flare every now and then.

Also the purple fringing can be a bit of a problem. LightRoom solves almost all of it via lens profile mechanism, but although I don't usually fret about purple fringing sometimes it is hard not to notice.

There is certain degree of sharpness fall off towards the corners of the frame for wider zoom settings. Since I am yet to print a proper enlargement from my shots with this lens, this statement and others in this section have to be taken with a sensible grain of salt.

So, I think that if this lens was submitted to a laboratory testing it would fair not too well. Also I think that if one would take into account its relatively high price (the likes of Sigma 17-50/2.8 or Tamron 17-50/2.8 are significantly cheaper), one would not be so unreasonable to say that the value for the money of this lens is not very high.

The good thing though that when it hits it, it shines. And it hits it like 99% of the time. Sharp wide open, excellent color rendering, smooth tonal gradation, very smooth OOF rendering. Add to that silent SDM AF system and weather resistant construction and you get a clear winner.

I don't think SDM has any real advantages over screw driven AF except being silent and allowing for full time manual override. These two are very significant advantages and silent AF can be most useful for shooting in the crowd or during events. It is sufficiently precise although it did miss few times but it might have been my mistake as well as technology limitation in play here. The AF speed is comparable and although some say that SDM is faster, I don't think it is that much faster so as to be a game changer. It well may be that when I return to any of my older lenses, I will change my mind, for I've been shooting with this lens exclusively since I got it.

There's very little one may dislike about this lens. Although being the flagship of the brand (along with its sister lens DA* 50-135/2.8 that I don't own) it is not perfect and it has its flaws. Yet, it's a wonderful tool that already has served me very well on quite a few occasions.

P.S. Several most recent PESOs were shot with this lens, so have a look at what it can do, don't take my word for it.

PESO 2011 #48 - Into the sun

PESO 2011 #47 - Untitled

PESO 2011 #46 - Communicating