Tag Archives: Nikon Df

Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-s

I decided I wanted to try some classic manual focus lenses on my Nikon Df.  The decision was lead partially because I have been trying to improve my street photography and therefore, decided that zone focusing was for me.  Unfortunately, all of the latest AFS lenses have rather poor markings for distance, and just generally unfriendly ergonomics for manual focusing like really loose focusing collars.

So I went to my local camera store and picked up some old Nikkors for a song.  One of the ones I got was the 50mm f/1.4 Ai made in around 1977 – and I liked it!  But it was clear that it had seen better days with some damage and looseness.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 on a Nikon Df
Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-s mounted to my Nikon Df

So I decided to bite the bullet and get brand new Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-s which works perfectly on my Nikon Dƒ and most mid to high end Nikon cameras.  Part of it was the features, but also wanting to own a piece of history and enjoy the classic way of shooting.  It’s also really tiny for such a very fast lens, and I’m enjoying slimming down my bag for every day usage.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-s
Big, bright glass. Look at it!

Wide open at f/1.2

One of the first questions that many ask is if it’s hard to manual focus at f/1.2.  Yes, it’s taking practice, but there is something about the Df that seems to make it easier.  In any case, the depth of field is minuscule and only a small shift front or back can put you far out of focus.  Thank goodness that all modern Nikons have a focus confirmation dot to help.

But how’s the performance!?

Bokeh Nikon 50mm f/1.2
Wide Open. Sharpness and Bokeh

Well, at f/1.2, it’s on the interesting side of horrible – not quite Lensbaby horrible, but definitely not sharp all over, and even quite hazy and dreamy in the middle.

There is also a lot of vignetting, but I was able to make a lens profile for this.  Unfortunately, there is no Lightroom profile for this lens, but it works seamlessly (and accurately) with the one I made.  Feel free to download it here and you’ll find the installation location here.  Don’t forget to restart Lightroom.

Swirly Bokeh
Swirly Bokeh

The bokeh is a little swirly and pleasing with a hint of nervous rings.  Early testing shows that the bokeh is best at f/2.8.

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Wide Open at f/1.2
Wide Open

Sharpness wide open is usable in the middle, with a lot of smearing towards the edges.  A light haze covers everything, but it’s not bad, just different.

Already at f/2, it’s getting quite sharp.  Again, from initial usage, it may be that already at f/2, it’s the sharpest 50mm prime I have.  I tested it against the 50mm f/1.8G, which is nearly legendary for its sharpness and I think the old one wins it.

50mm f/1.2 Ai-s at f/2
50mm f/1.2 Ai-s at f/2

See this crop from the above, and it only gets sharper from there!

Pixel peeping the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-s
Crop at f/2

High contrast and backlit situations are the worst.  I had to process this image very carefully to get an old-school look at f/1.2. Look in the corners and you’ll see the smearing I’m talking about.  Still, I quite like the effect, but I’ll have to use it wisely, or else stop it down.

Backlit at f/1.2. Processed with VSCO film simulation Fuji Fortia SP
Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 at f/2
f/2 in a mountain village

So my first impressions are that it’s a beautiful, high-quality piece of kit, no questions asked.  The well-damped focusing ring is something out of another era.  In fact, it’s a 30 year old design that just has a certain old-world class about it.  It feels like it was made by a very patient craftsman by hand.

Focusing at f/1.2 is not as hard as I thought, but it takes some getting used to.

Sharpness is exceptional at f/2.  If you go lower than that, have a certain look in mind, and don’t expect perfection.

I’m enjoying this lens thoroughly and I can’t wait to go out tomorrow and shoot some more.  Nostalgia and fun-factor are certainly top on the list of qualifications for this classic, and very sharp at f/2 and up.

Thanks for reading and feel free to click through all of the images in this post, including the following additional samples, to see much larger sizes.

At f/4 it’s clinically, bitingly sharp.

Rare “Honey Moon” Setting over Switzerland on Friday the 13th

I got a rare shot of the “Honey Moon” setting over Switzerland on Friday the 13th.

It’s not technically perfect, as I was handholding a 300mm lens with 2x teleconverter.  There is also some atmospheric distortion.

The soon-rising sun helped colour the sky and the low clouds added atmosphere.

According to the Washington Post:

A full moon falling on Friday the 13th – in any month – is a rare event. It last occurred about 14 years ago on October 13, 2000.  The next full moon on a Friday the 13th? Not until August 13, 2049.

National Geographic explains the effect best:

The amber colors are due to the scattering of longer wavelengths of light by dust and pollution in our atmosphere. “It is a similar phenomenon as seen at sunset, when sunlight is scattered towards the red end of the spectrum, making the sun’s disk appear orange-red to the naked-eye,” says astronomer Raminder Singh Samra

Due to the parabolic shape of the moon’s orbit, it is also exceptionally close this time.

Two minutes later, it was gone.

Honey Moon setting

I’m the luckiest fellow in the world. Not only was I able to capture the setting “honey moon” but also the rising moon in the evening with great colour and clouds.

Rising in the Evening of Friday the 13th

More Nikon Df Images

I’ve had nearly two weeks of daily shooting on the Nikon Df to capture some images that, I hope, are worthy of your consideration.

Just remember what I always say:

  • If the images are crap, it’s the camera
  • If the images are good, it’s the photographer, not the equipment
Sunrise over the Alps and Fog (Click through any image for a larger view)
Colors in the Fog
Sunset over the Mountains Obscured by Fog
Landscape after the Fog Rolls In
Enjoying a Morning Break

Compact zoom for the Nikon Df?

One of the advantages of the Nikon Df is that it’s the smallest full frame camera with a proper mirror.

Therefore, everyone seems to think that the Nikon Df is only made for primes. I like primes too, but some occasions work better with a zoom.  Plus, I don’t own any wide angle primes because – and at f8, what lens isn’t sharp?

I’m not a grizzled Nikon veteran like some early adopters of the Df, so I’m not blessed with an extensive collection of vintage glass.  So I looked through my collection and came across the Nikkor 24-85 f3.5-4.5G.  Even though it’s just a kit lens with some recent bodies, I like even better than the 24-120 f4G.

It’s a very nice size on the Df, not too heavy, not too big – very nicely balanced.  Frankly, I enjoyed it on the Df even more than on my D800.

It’s sharp, focuses reasonably close, doesn’t “creep” or extend when hanging front-element-down in the sling.

My my most used lenses on the Dƒ:

Nikon Df Zoom-2From left to right:

  • Kit 50mm f1.8 SE
  • Nikon 85 mm f1.8G
  • Nikon 24-85 f3.4-4.5G
  • Sigma 35mm f1.4 “Art”

Here are some shots that I took while hiking this weekend.

Note: The EXIF reads D4 because I used Exifchanger (Mac app store) so that Lightroom would recognise them.  As always, you can click through to pixel peep if you’re so inclined.

So if you don’t have any compact and light classic zooms, and you’re looking for something modern that won’t cost the world and is nice to use on the Df, try it out!

I’m always on the search for the best standard zoom for all of my cameras, so if you have any recommendations, put them in the comments!


Nikon Df with the Sigma 35mm f1.4

Those of you who know me know that I’m a huge fan of the Sigma 35mm f1.4 “Art”.  See my long-term review here.

Of course now that I’ve taken possession of the new Nikon Dƒ, I knew that I had to try it out.

The weight wasn’t too front heavy, but it’s about the limit of what I would call comfortable on the Dƒ who’s grip isn’t very deep.  You’re going to want to have your left hand around the lens most of the time or your fingers on your right hand will get fatigued.

The size isn’t too bad actually, though the lens hood is coming off.

So how do the images look?  Of course if it’s great on the D800, this is going to be astonishing. Amazing.  Love at first pixel-peep.

Shot with the Nikon Df
Straight out of camera, unedited.  Click to pixel-peep.

The Sigma focuses positively and fast, and more accurately than on my D800. But, you know.

Overall, I’m very excited about this combo.

Update: The sigma won’t autofocus in live view.   Reported by Matt and I’ve confirmed it.

Nikon Df DSC_0001 and First Thoughts

It’s kind of a tradition for me to post my first DSC_0001 shots for each camera that I get, so I though I would take this opportunity to give my first impressions for the Nikon Dƒ.

Please note, it’s also my tradition to screw up the DSC_0001, so this one has the exposure adjusted.

Clicky for pixel-peeping.

Build Quality
The attention to detail and gloss and trim are really something to behold. It’s exceptional.  Yea, I know that someone is going to object and say “plastic front bits.” Ok, sure.  But you don’t see it, and you don’t feel it. When you have this in your hand, it has a very premium feel.  It shames the X100s.  In pure bling-factor, the D800 feels pedestrian.

Feel in the Hand
Not too heavy, not too light, in my opinion.  My eye went automatically to the viewfinder (same as the D800 as far as I can tell) and my finger found the shutter button instantly.  The locking exposure compensation dial is annoying, but the rest kind of make sense.  The grip is just ok – made for primes (and very small zooms).

The Sigma 35mm f1.4 or 24-85 3.5-4.5G (yes, the cheap kit) zoom is about the maximum lens size and weight that felt comfortable to me. I’m a fan of 24-85 as well as the Sigma, so they’ll be on the camera a lot.

Shutter Sound
If you’ve ever shot the D7000, it sounds similar with just a bit more pronounced “tick”.   The D800 is a smack in the face compared to this.  Quiet is very nice.

ISO Performance
What did you expect?  D4 sensor.  Pleasant noise and not nasty until well over H1.  H4 is colored sandpaper – emergency use only!

Focusing System
If anyone knows the guy who decided to put the D7000 focusing system in this wonderful camera, kick him in the balls, really, really hard, right now.

An example:  I took the 50 mm f1.8 that’s supplied with the camera (meh) and put the camera on H 0.3.  Aperture priority mode, f1.8. Then I walked around the house to find something with strong contrast that would give me a shutter speed of about 1/50.  Do you know what I was able to focus on?  Nothing.

Square in the balls. Really, really hard.

Strong contrast started to work decently at f1.8, 1/50th, ISO 12800. With no adjustments, all my lenses focused more accurately than my D800, so kick that guy in the balls too.

NEF Support
Nothing from Adobe yet, and I’d rather have my eyes gouged out while being kicked in the balls before I would use any camera manufacturers’ software, I’ve only shot JPEG so far.

Stay tuned: SOOC, unedited sample shots with the Sigma 35 f1.4 and size comparison mounted to the Dƒ.

UPDATE – Some Nikon Df Pre-Launch Reading

If you’re already considering the Nikon Dƒ, you’ve probably already seen the Nikon Dƒ first impressions review on DPReview, now updated with some sample test scenes.

The Dƒ user’s manual can be downloaded here.

Sam Hurd has his initial review up. Be sure to check it out.

“my first instincts are that it’s going to be a big hit for nikon fan”

The Three Guys first thoughts, the Beau Photo Supplies lunch with the new Nikon Df DSLR and finally, a full Three Weeks with the Nikon Dƒ from What Digital Camera.


Five Reasons Why I Ordered a Nikon Df

“Virgin tripod hole. Street. Grit. Throw it in the bag. Bang it, bash it, abuse it, use it, love it!” – Tim H.

So I ordered a Nikon Dƒ.

It’s sad that the photographic community is so divided that I feel the need to explain why it was the right decision for me. The reasons for me are not only emotional, but also very practical.

Df_SL_50_1.8_SE_front.high1. Size
First off, it’s the smallest full frame SLR you can get.  It’s only 5 mm taller  than the D7000 and even lighter – a camera with a much smaller sensor!

Size Comparison

(D7000 vs. Dƒ size comparison via camerasize.com)

I’m one of those guys who has a camera always with me.  After a brief love affair with the Fujifilm X100S, I knew I needed a full-featured camera: something fast, powerful, but still a practical every-day size.

2. Mirror
A mirror is a feature, not a sign of it being old-fashioned.

Only with a mirror can you get all of the following features:

  • A big, bright, live viewfinder instead of viewing the world through a tiny computer monitor in a box
  • Better autofocus, but I believe that sensor-PDAF will catch up some time
  • Lower battery usage. No battery sucking display running all the time.  I never turn my Nikon “off” unless exchanging the lens.  It’s always in standby – sometimes for weeks at at a time.
  • Faster start from sleep. When have you last had to wait for an SLR to boot up?

3. Compatibility
I own Nikon lenses.  Just about everything I need, and adapters are slow, have image quality  and other compromises.

4. D4 Sensor/Processing System
Arguably the best high-iso sensor in the world.  16 megapixels is enough for my run-and-gun style.  This camera is meant to be taken with me.

Virgin tripod mounting hole. Street. Grit. Throw it in the bag. Bang it, bash it, abuse it, use it, love it!

Speaking of run-and-gun, the buffer is pretty big too:

  • NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 12-bit: 37
  • NEF (RAW), Lossless compressed, 14-bit: 29
  • NEF (RAW), Compressed, 12-bit: 47
  • NEF (RAW), Compressed, 14-bit: 38
  • NEF (RAW), Uncompressed, 12-bit: 30
  • NEF (RAW), Uncompressed, 14-bit: 25

5. Design and Looks
Yes, looks.  Frankly, I find it very nice.  I also photograph people who aren’t used to being a model, and I think the Dƒ is much less intimidating than a big black SLR like my D800.  I chose silver for that reason.

Besides that, the idea of quick access to everything you need using dials is appealing to me.


It should arrive next week, so stand by for my hands-on initial impressions!