Monday, October 15, 2018

Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AI/AIS Lens Review


Background

Not only do we want to look at lenses for use on the newly released Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras, but we can also use these vintage AIS lenses on the Nikon Df.  There are also some modern DSLRs that are capable of using these manual focus gems.

Looking for something on the wide end, one of our local camera stores had a nice copy of the Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AIS.  How does this lens, released between 1977 and 1984, hold up today?

Let's find out!

Olympus PEN-F
1/100, f/5.6, ISO 200


Handling/Size/Weight

This is a small lens.  Smaller than the newer Nikon 20mm f/1.8 AF-S.

You've go an all metal lens on your hands here.

It is easy to find the aperture ring and differentiate it from the focus ring without even looking at the lens.

I must say that there is something very satisfying when using a manual focus lens.  While the more modern Nikon AF-S, full time manual focus override, lenses are more convenient - there is something quite different about the way that Nikon made their AI/AIS lenses.  Manual focusing is satisfying, and just feels right.   The focus ring is dampened, but only really moves when you want it to.   It feels so smooth and the throw is such that getting precision and accuracy is almost effortless.

The aperture ring has clicks for each setting.  f/3.5 and f/5.6 are marked on the lens, but there is a detent you'll hit right after f/3.5.   That will put you on f/4.  That setting is not marked on the lens, but the Nikon Df indicates the aperture when used.

Speaking of the Df, the lens mounts perfectly and handles well on my favorite DSLR.

Since the size is so small, the Olympus PEN-F or EM5 Mark II can use this lens adapted with ease.

Nikon Df
1/160, f/8, ISO 100


Weather Sealed

Not on this guy!  An old AIS lens.

Nikon Df
1/320, f/4, ISO 100


Image Quality

While it probably is not up to speed in relation to the thousand dollar state of the art Nikon lenses, this one can perform quite well.

One thing I'd like to point out and I find this to be true for all Nikon manual focus lenses that I own:  There is a potential for the aperture ring to move slightly past the widest setting.  When this happens, it degrades a image quality quite noticeably.

So, for this lens, you can turn the aperture dial just to the right of f/3.5.  I first captured this example on the Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Q lens.  That review is linked to the left and it is shown in the first set of images.

I mention this as it is easy to do accidentally.  I just want everyone to be aware if it.  It may be normal, but those may not know could appreciate the heads up.

IQ - In a word, it works very well to capture crisp images.  I find that wide open is not it's strongest suite, although it is by no means unusable.  Even going to f/4, you could shoot there all day long and be happy.   The lens is sharp, but I would not call it bitingly sharp.

It does fall off in sharpness from center to the edge at wider apertures.  Shooting this lens on the Oly PEN-F, you get a 40mm field of view and the sweet spot of the lens all the time.

Shooting on the Df, you'll appreciate using it sot between f/4 and f/11.

I did not notice any real distortion on this lens either.  There are plenty of brick walls in the sample images here and none of them were corrected.  This is straight out of the camera stuff here except for some exposure tweaking

As I usually do, here are images to let the lens speak for itself.

Nikon Df
1/500, f/5.6, ISO 100

Nikon Df
1/125, f/8, ISO 640  
Nikon Df
1/125, f/4, ISO 140


Nikon Df
1/125, f/4, ISO 320 

Focusing

This is manual focus all the way, but since it was made to be manual focus, working the ring is a satisfying experience.

On the Df, the AF confirmation point worked well...better when using the middle point, especially if shooting at f/5.6 or smaller apertures.   You can always start shooting wide open,then close down the aperture after you got the focus nailed down.    I found that I did not need to do that much and is not how I generally shoot.

On the Oly PEN-F, focus peaking worked well with this lens and made it super easy to dial in.  You may be asking why the dual testing?  Simply put, I wanted to see how this lens might feel in use when I get the Nikon Z6, which should be in our hands come sometime November 2018.

The focus throw is good and you can go from close focus to infinity with not much movement.

What you also have going for you is that 20mm depth of field is generous, even at f/3.5, that when shooting further away subjects that say, 3 ft, you can just put the lens to infinity and shoot away!

Bottom line here, is that if you've ever used a Nikon manual focus AI/AIS lens, you know what to expect here.  It is all good!

Nikon Df
1/60, f/4, ISO 450 


VR

No VR in the lens, but used on adapted cameras like the Olympus PEN-F with IBIS, you do now have the ability to take advantage of it.  Even the new Nikon Z mirrorless cameras have in body image stabilization that will work with this lens.

We are looking forward to testing this lens out on the Z6.

With our time using it on the Olympus PEN-F, we set the focal length for the IBIS to use and off we were.   No issues, whatsoever.

Nikon Df
1/60, f/8, ISO 5000 


Bottom Line

Not much is thought of manual focus lenses in this age, but i think people forget how easy it is to work with them once you give them a chance.  The 20mm is helped by having a generous depth of field to help get things just right.

Another reason to give these older lenses a chance is the newer technology in the camera bodies.  Here, we have punch in focusing and focus peaking when adapted to either a Micro 4/3, Fuji, Sony mirrorless camera as well as the newly released Nikon Z cameras.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AIS Lens Review


image © NikonUSA


Background

Not only do we want to look at lenses for use on the newly released Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras, but we can also use these vintage AIS lenses on the Nikon Df.  There are also some modern DSLRs that are capable of using these manual focus gems.

Nikon Df
1/400, f/4, ISO 100

Looking for something on the wide end, one of our local camera stores had a nice copy of the Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AIS.  How does this lens, released between 1971 and 1984, hold up today?

Let's find out!

Nikon Df
1/100, f/4, ISO 100

Handling/Size/Weight

This is a small lens.  Smaller than the newer Nikon 28mm f/1.8 AF-S.

You've go an all metal lens on your hands here.

It is easy to find the aperture ring and differentiate it from the focus ring without even looking at the lens.

I must say that there is something very satisfying when using a manual focus lens.  While the more modern Nikon AF-S, full time manual focus override, lenses are more convenient - there is something quite different about the way that Nikon made their AI/AIS lenses.  Manual focusing is satisfying, and just feels right.   The focus ring is dampened, but only really moves when you want it to.   It feels so smooth and the throw is such that getting precision and accuracy is almost effortless.

The aperture ring has clicks for each setting.

On the Df, the lens mounts perfectly and handles well on my favorite DSLR.

Since the size is so small, the Olympus PEN-F or EM5 Mark II can use this lens adapted with ease.

Weather Sealed

Not on this guy!  An old AIS lens.

Nikon Df
1/640, f/4, ISO 100


Image Quality

While it probably is not up to speed in relation to the thousand dollar state of the art Nikon lenses, this one can perform quite well.

One thing I'd like to point out and I find this to be true for all Nikon manual focus lenses that I own:  There is a potential for the aperture ring to move slightly past the widest setting.  When this happens, it degrades a image quality quite noticeably.

So, for this lens, you can turn the aperture dial just to the right of f/2.8.  I first captured this example on the Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Q lens.  That review is linked to the left and it is shown in the first set of images.

I mention this as it is easy to do accidentally.  I just want everyone to be aware if it.  It may be normal, but those may not know could appreciate the heads up.

In a word, it works very well to capture crisp images.  I find that wide open it is just as sharp in the middle of the frame as it is at f/8 and f/11.   What gets better are the edges of the frame at smaller apertures.  I would call this lens bitingly sharp.  I'm not sure you could get a whole lot better in a modern lens than this.  Modern lenses will give you the convenience of auto focus, but image quality wise - if 28mm is what you want, this is a great option.

It does fall off in sharpness from center to the edge at wider apertures.  Shooting this lens on the Oly PEN-F, you get a 56mm field of view and the sweet spot of the lens all the time.

Shooting on the Df, you'll appreciate using it shot wide open, but if you want greater depth of field, go through to f/8!

I did not notice any real distortion on this lens either.  There are plenty of brick walls in the sample images here and none of them were corrected.  This is straight out of the camera stuff here except for some exposure tweaking.

As I usually do, here are images to let the lens speak for itself.

Nikon Df
1/80, f/2.8, ISO 100

Focusing

This is manual focus all the way, but since it was made to be manual focus, working the ring is a satisfying experience.

On the Df, the AF confirmation point worked well...better when using the middle point, especially if shooting at f/5.6 or smaller apertures.   You can always start shooting wide open,then close down the aperture after you got the focus nailed down.    I found that I did not need to do that much and is not how I generally shoot.

On the Oly PEN-F, focus peaking worked well with this lens and made it super easy to dial in.  You may be asking why the dual testing?  Simply put, I wanted to see how this lens might feel in use when I get the Nikon Z6, which should be in our hands come sometime November 2018.

The focus throw is good and you can go from close focus to infinity with not much movement.

What you also have going for you is that 28mm depth of field is generous.  Not as generous as the 20mm f/3.5 AIS that we also reviewed, but not bad either. When shooting further away subjects that say, 5 ft, you can just put the lens to infinity and shoot away!

Bottom line here, is that if you've ever used a Nikon manual focus AI/AIS lens, you know what to expect here.  It is all good!

Nikon Df
1/500, f/4, ISO 100

VR

No VR in the lens, but used on adapted cameras like the Olympus PEN-F with IBIS, you do now have the ability to take advantage of it.  Even the new Nikon Z mirrorless cameras have in body image stabilization that will work with this lens.

Nikon Df
1/800, f/4, ISO 100

Bottom Line

This lens is a bit sharper than the Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AI/AIS lens.   However, if you need the 20mm focal length on FX size sensors, there is no substitute.  If you need something in between 20mm and 35mm and want the size convenience of a prime lens, this Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AIS is just fantastic.

All the awesomeness of a made for task manual focus lens are there, plu image quality that should satisfy even by today's standards.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G - Lens Review

image © NikonUSA

Background

The "nifty-fifty".  I highly recommend that everyone have one of these lenses.  Versatile, inexpensive and a great jack of all trades.  The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is an upgrade to our older 50mm f/1.8D.  If you've read our 70-300mm AF-P lens review, you'll know that this is an upgrade to prepare for our impending purchase of the new Nikon mirrorless camera, Z6.

This 50mm with AF-S should work perfectly on the Z6 with FTZ adapter.

How does the newer lens hold up against our previous version?    Let's discuss!

Nikon D750
1/100, f/4, ISO 100


Handling/Size/Weight

The 50mm f/1.8G is larger in all dimensions than the older 50mm f/1.8D.   Don't get me wrong, the G version is still not "large", but it is definitely bigger.   As with most things in the camera world, size is relative to the person.

One thing that I did not like about the 50mm D version was the fact that the AF ring at the front of the lens would move.  The G version does not do this.   You do get the added bonus of the G lens having full time manual focus override.

Since the lens is a little bit bigger and you don't have to worry about your fingers on the AF ring, I'd definitely give the handling edge to the G.

The amount of plastics and the simple design do not make this a heavy lens either.  Definitely something that we can keep with us a lot of the time with little to no carry penalty.

It feels quality in the hand, so do not be put off by the amount of plastic used in the body.  You've still got the metal lens mount.

Nikon D750
1/50, f/4, ISO 500


Image Quality

With modern optics and coatings the newer 50mm G may have a slight edge over the D.  Certainly not enough to make that a sole decision on which on to buy.   50mm prime was the second lens I ever bought and one that I wish I had convinced myself to buy earlier.  The IQ is great, rendering is crisp with good contrast.

Images for you to view:

Nikon D750
1/125, f/4, ISO 100

Nikon D750
1/50, f/4, ISO 125


Focusing

Focusing is quick and accurate.   The AF-S motor is not silent like other lenses, but it is quieter by far than the screw drive D version we owned previously.

I did not experience any focus hunting while using the lens on the Nikon D750.

Focus speed is great and I never fear that using this lens will make me miss a shot because the AF was not fast enough.

Bottom Line

If I were not wanting to migrate my lenses in anticipation of the Nikon Z6, I would still own the 50mm f/1.8D.  The move here was basically a lateral move.  My big question to answer was to ensure that the functionality and IQ is at least lateral.   I'm not going to lie, I did think about upgrading and getting the 50mm f/1.4G.   Given the price increase and other reviews and our use....if all these years the 50mm f/1.8D worked just fine - shifting over to the 50mm f/1.8G just made the most sense.

We are again in a situation where a recommendation for either lens really comes down to what you want to spend and what cameras you have.  If you need f/1.4, then there really is no substitute.

If you have no desire to upgrade to a camera without an in body focus motor and want to save some money....the Nikon 50mm f1/.8D is my recommendation.

If you have a plan on getting a Nikon camera without an in body focus motor or are looking to move to the new mirrorless Z cameras the newer 50mm f1/.8G is a perfect choice.

Some additional images for your viewing pleasure!

Nikon Df
1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 100

Nikon Df
1/1250, f/1.8, ISO 100

Nikon Df
1/60, f/1.8, ISO 100

The above image of the Butterfinger wrapper is shot through glass as well, just to be completely transparent on the shooting conditions.  Auto Focus was on the 'r' on the wrapper.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-P DX VR - Lens Review

image © NikonUSA

Background

Looking for a smaller wide to medium zoom lens for use on the Nikon D500, one of the highly regarded consumer zooms is the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DX AF-P VR.

Having previously used the Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6 VR, that lens has not really gotten a lot of use.

Will this smaller, newer lens be able to cut the grade?  Come with us on our review and find out.

Nikon D500
1/50, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 18mm


Handling/Size/Weight

18-55mm is a tiny lens.  Mainly plastic, this lens is also very light weight.   It is a DX only lens, so it's utility will be limited to APS-C sensors.

There is a lock button on the 18-55mm which prevents the zoom from extending when it is in the locked position.  Pressing the button and turning the zoom ring will get you to 18mm and then the zoom lens will work like any other you are used to.   To go back to it's compact position, you press the lock button again and park the lens.

The mount is plastic, so if there is a potential point of failure, it could be this part.

Zooming from 18-55 does not take very long of a throw, so zooming through the range is fast.

The focus ring is very small, so using manual focus may be a bit of a challenge for those who need it.

VR

Another point to mention is that there is no VR on/off switch on the lens.  This lens leaves the VR on by default.  If you want to turn it off, you'll need to use a camera that has the ability to turn the VR on/off within the menu system.

The VR works adequately.   Normally 18-55mm focal lengths don't need a lot of VR help, but it is nice to have it for when you need it that to not have it at all.

Nikon D500
1/60, f/4.8, ISO 1250 @ 38mm
Nikon D500
1/40, f/8, ISO 1400 @ 24mm


Image Quality

Nikon has done something very special with these AF-P lenses.  They are some of the sharpest kit lenses I've used for DSLR systems.  We were pleasantly surprised by the 70-300 AF-P and wondered if other reviews of the 18-55 AF-P would follow the 70-300.

Well, they certainly did.  While I won't say that the 18-55 AF-P is as sharp as the 70-300 AF-P, the lens is no slouch on the D500 it was tested on.

From 18mm to 55mm the lens performs very well even wide open.

There is some distortion at all focal lengths, but that can be dealt with easily in post processing.

Focusing

As with most AF-P stepper motor lenses, the AF speed is swift and sure.  Using it for landscape and street photography, there is no issue with its performance.

Bottom Line

So why give up the versatility of the 18-140VR for the 18-55mm?  Size is one factor, obviously.  The 18-140 is a sharp lens, but it is an older design and it does lag in the IQ department somewhat for me.   Since we picked up the 70-300 AF-P, we also have the longer end of the zoom range covered.  Don't get me wrong...the 18-140 is a great lens...I'm just being super nitpicky, to be honest.

Lastly, we look at price.  New, on its own the 18-55mm AF-P retails for $249.  However, since this lens is packed in with a lot of kit lenses and the used market is saturated with people wanting to upgrade to faster aperture glass, you can find these lenses now for $100 or less.

Would I want to use this lens to shoot very low light?   As good as the Nikon D500 is, no I would not.  However, if you have good light and need something inexpensive, sharp and versatile this is a great choice.