Saturday, December 15, 2018

Nikon Z6 and 24-70/4S Z-Mount Lens - Impressions, Musings, Review

image © NikonUSA

**UPDATE**  12-18/2018
Added information within the post for updates on Auto Area AF mode as well as an update on shutter shock phenomenon.  Added additional pictures from a portrait shoot.


All thoughts and ideas are my own personal beliefs based on years of working in the photo industry.  While they may not be 100% right, or you may not agree with them all, they are just that, opinions that are open to interpretation, speculation and debate.   Please feel free to comment on any aspects of the post in the comments below.  Be aware though that I will not tolerate being spiteful or hate.  We can debate, but in a manner that is conducive to a healthy conversation.  I'm telling you now that I will delete your posts if you get combative or out of line.

Introduction

There has been a lot of hype and speculation surrounding the new Nikon mirrorless camera.  Rumor sites have been buzzing for months and fanboys have made it out to be the next coming of Jesus and haters have dismissed the camera as an utter failure even before the official announcement.  To say that this is a polarizing camera is an understatement.  Even after people have gotten their hands on them, we are getting reviews and opinions based on a limited amount of time shooting with the cameras.

That is nothing new if you have been around the tech blogs, and especially the photography forums.
We are going to stay away from that kind of talk and look at the camera from my perspective.  A years long Nikon SLR/DSLR shooter as well as an ex-Fujifilm and a current Micro Four Thirds/Olympus shooter.

August 23, 2018, Nikon announced the following cameras, lenses and accessories for their new z-mount, 135 sensor size (FX in Nikon speak) mirrorless camera.

BODY

The Nikon Z6 is the all arounder, 24mp camera.  Could be considered the mirrorless version of the D750.  MSRP is $1999 body only or $2599 with the 24-70/4 lens.  If you bought during launch and got a camera/lens bundle, Nikon discounted the FTZ adapter by $100.

The first launched Z7 is the high megapixel camera, 45mp.   Your almost D850 but mirrorless option.
Price is $3399 body only or $3999 with the 24-70/4, same FTZ adapter discount as with the Z6.

LENS

Nikkor S-Line 24-70mm f/4
Price $999
Nikkor S-Line 35mm f/1.8
Price $849
Nikkor S-Line 50mm f/1.8
Price $599

ACCESSORIES

Battery Grip - release date TBD
FTZ Adapter - allows for full function of ~90 existing Nikon f-mount lenses and potentially manual use of D type and older lenses.
Price $249 or $149 if purchased with a camera and lens combo.

The Tech Stuff

Let's dive into the technical aspects of the new cameras.

Camera Body

What I'm looking for from the Z6 is to see if it can handle the job of what I bought the D750 for.

Just so you have an idea in your head of the Z6 and how it compare to other mirrorless cameras on the market.  Series of images below were pulled from CameraSize website.

After these images and comparisons, we'll get into the initial thoughts on the camera itself.
front
Nikon DF / Nikon D750 / Nikon Z6

top
Nikon DF / Nikon D750 / Nikon Z6

all with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G attached (Z6 has FTZ adapter)
Nikon DF / Nikon D750 / Nikon Z6

native f-mount cameras have Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
Z6 has native 50mm f/1.8S in middle
adapted 50mm f/1.8G on far right
Nikon Df / Nikon Z6

front view
Nikon Z6 / Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II

front view
Nikon Z6 / Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II / Fujifilm XH1 / Fujifilm XT3

similar fields of view
Nikon Z6 - native 50mm / Nikon Z6 - adapted 50mm / Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II - M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.8


Lens Lineup

Out of the gate three lenses were announced.  A 24-70/4, 35/1.8 and 50/1.8
The 50mm was not initially available during pre-order.

My initial testing will bring me to one initial decision.  Can the native 24-70/4S hold its own in IQ versus the veteran f-mount 24-70/2.8G.  If IQ is something that is a wash, I can do without the f/2.8 on that lens and replace it.

Accessories

I did not get anything else outside the FTZ adapter, so I have nothing first hand that I can report on in this regard.

Why the FTZ Adapter Matters More Than You Might Think

While it is always the best option to use the native mount lenses for a given system, in the early stages of the release, only so many lenses can be made to go along with the cameras.  Nikon makes some great lenses in the f-mount space and if you are like me, you have a large library of those lenses.

Seems like Nikon listened and put out an adapter that is quite versatile.  Full functionality for lenses that are AF-S had AF-P and E or G type lenses.  Nikon has a full list of what they consider compatible on their website and I recommend checking that out.

I've used quite a few f-mount lenses on the FTZ and Z6, more detail on that later, but just as a teaser, I've been very happy with the experience so far.

If the f-mount lenses is CPU enabled, the FTZ adapter has the ability to use the aperture lever of the lens to shift exposure for you.  THis is done via a lever arm within the f-mount side of the adapter.  This could make a potentially stop down metered, manual focus lens a fully meterable lens that just needs to be manually focused.

If the lens does not have a CPU, then it can still be mounted to the FTZ adapter.  You change the aperture value by using the aperture ring on the lens.  The only issue is that there is no way built into the camera for the aperture value to be recorded, except the widest aperture that is in the non-CPU lens data menu in the camera.

I challenge Nikon to either update the Z cameras firmware to allow a command dial to match the aperture ring value manually or to create another adapter for those non-CPU lenses with an aperture feeler arm to record those values from the lens directly.

Future potential

With the new z-mount, Nikon engineers are claiming that it is possible for them to make lenses that are fully functional as fast as f/0.65.  They also claim that the communication bandwidth in the new mount can handle quite a lot and should be sufficient for all they want to do in the future, potentially for the next 100 years.

Performance

Here, we are going to be looking at overall system performance, native and adapted lens performance optically and AF/MF, metering.

Overall System Performance
From powering on to waking from sleep the system performs well.  One of the biggest issues I had early on with the Fuji X system was power on and wake from sleep.  Lost a lot of potential images because of the lag.  The Z6 is not that way at all.   That is one of the first things that I look at when evaluating a new system.

Is it as quick to power on as a DSLR.  No.  Is it going to make me lose the opportunity to grab an image.  No, I've never missed a shot.  That is from powered down to powered on.   Waking from sleep is actually faster.

Even the menu diving, touch screen interface is quick and snappy, getting you setup how you want quickly.

Auto Focus
AF-S performance is very quick with native lenses and just as good and possibly just a little bit slower with some adapted f-mount lenses.   This is really lens dependent.
Sometimes while using the 24-70/4S, I did not realize that the camera had focused.  It was that quick and quiet.  The other thing is that the AF confirmation is not a dot in the bottom corner like it is on a DSLR.  The focus box is red, and then turns green when AF is acquired.

I didn't notice too many issues with AF locking that a DSLR would not have had an issue with either.   Contrast detect AF systems need good contrast and there were some times, like when trying to get images of the umbrella girl fountain below that it did hunt or could not get focused. I set the AF point on the statues face and there was enough shadow and low contrast that the system did struggle a little.   Post processing allowed me to pull the shadows up in post processing.

Nikon 24-70/4S Z-Mount
1/320, f/4, ISO 100 @ 70mm

Then we look at the street image below where I just composed and fired straight off on the lady with the bike.  AF point on her face and the camera nailed focus with no issues.  Focus more was S-AF.

Nikon 24-70/4S Z-Mount
1/160, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 54mm

AF-C performance might take some time to get a full accounting.   I do not have a lot of upcoming shoots where I can really push it and test it like I would with the other DSLRs in my stable. 

I will say this.  I was never a fan of fully automated AF like the AUTO AF or 3D AF on the DSLRs from Nikon.  I much preferred to use the single point AF or the D9/D25 in AF-C modes.   The Z6 doesn't change my mind on that either.  Going forward, I'm most likely going to use the same tried and true AF modes I've always used on my Nikon cameras, and will do it happily.

I did get a chance to shoot some dogs running about at a local dog park.   Far from a definitive test, as I only got to check out single point and dynamic area AF using the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF on the FTZ adapter.  I did get some shots, but  I still have a lot to learn about the AF system.  I've heard from some that I should have used the wide area S or L for tracking and would have gotten a better hit rate.   Will post future impressions when I get a chance to use those other focusing modes.  I also shot at high extended, which might have been an issue as well.

Nikon Z6 & Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ
1/320, f/4, ISO 1100

Nikon Z6 & Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ
1/1000, f/4, ISO 4000

Nikon Z6 & Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ
1/1000, f/4, ISO 3600
**UPDATE**  12-18-2018
Auto Area Auto Focus:
I used this for an entire portrait photo shoot.   I have never really used it before on any camera because, well, to be honest I never trusted it.  So after experimenting with it a little, I decided to give it a full chance.  Auto area AF with face detect active was used for 95% of the shots.   In the portrait shoot above, I shot over 250 images.

Guess how many were out of focus?

2

Yes, 2 total.  Much better than I thought it would be.  I still need to figure out why that is, but once I do, I'll be able to mitigate the issue and have 100% success.

The other mode I used was using the OK button for tracking.
I was a little confused by the reviewers who stated that in order to use the tracking you had to do the following:
  • activate auto area AF option
  • press the OK button/touch the rear LCD 
  • move the tracking box over the subject
  • press OK again
  • camera tracks
In practice, this is not what I found.
in reality, all I needed to do was: 
  • activate auto area AF
  • press OK
  • move the box over the subject to track (didn't need to use the thumb stick or touch the LCD I just did a focus and recompose move)
  • half press the shutter to start focusing and it tracked as well.
While there is an extra step in there to press the OK button, after that you are up and running quickly.  Between that feature and face tracking it made the process of the portrait shoot much easier.

Here are some examples from the portrait shoot:
24-70/4S
1/80, f/4, ISO 250 @ 70mm

24-70/4S
1/80, f/4, ISO 250 @ 35mm

24-70/4S
1/125, f/4, ISO 250 @ 48mm

24-70/4S
1/60, f/4, ISO 500 @ 52mm

24-70/4S
1/60, f/4.5, ISO 1250 @ 52mm

Manual Focusing
On native lenses, the ring that you would normally associate with manual focusing is actually a programmable function ring.  By default Nikon set it up to be manual focus, but it can be exposure compensation or aperture values.

This is a focus by wire system, meaning that the focus ring is not directly hard wired to the gears that move the glass elements.  Instead, it sends electrical signals to the motors to tell them what to do.  This allows variable speeds on the focus to occur.    Some people may looks this, but for video, this could be an issue as it makes it difficult to hear impossible for the lens to do a pull focus consistently.

Focus Peaking
This is one thing that I wanted to test out quite a bit.  Having used adapted lenses on Micro Four Thirds a lot, I use focus peaking with yellow highlights.   I setup the Nikon the same way.  I like having the peaking and it makes manual focusing much less of an issue.  On the Olympus using adapted lenses, you must press a button to activate the peaking feature, then it stays active until you press the shutter and if you power the camera off or it goes to sleep, you must press the button you assigned to peaking to re-activate.

Nikon's solution is, in my opinion, much better.  If you are using a manual focus lens with the FTZ adapter, the peaking is on and stays on.  If you are using a native Z-mount lens, then the peaking kicks in when you manually focus, either by selecting it or whenever you use the focus ring.  Thank you Nikon for making this solution work the way I think is best.

Here are some manual focus only lens sample images.

Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AIS
1/500, f/5.6, ISO 100

Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AIS
1/640, f/4, ISO 100

Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AIS
1/250, f/8, ISO 100

Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AIS
1/250, f/4, ISO 100

Viewfinder
The viewfinder is excellent and the best EVF I've had the pleasure of using. It is crisp and clear, low levels of smearing when moving quickly following subjects.

I used the camera in bright sunlight and had no issues with the eye sensor getting tricked and turning the EVF off while I was looking  through it.

While not specifically about the viewfinder persay, I do want to mention the modes switching between the EVF and the rear LCD.   There are 4 modes.  EVF only, LCD only, Auto Switch and Prioritize Viewfinder.

They are all pretty well described, so I will not go through a description of all of them.  However, I use prioritize viewfinder.   What this mode does is keep the viewfinder as the main display, but when you want to review images or hit a menu option, the rear LCD is employed at those times. 

For those who want to shoot off camera flash, here is a tip for you.   Get familiar with d8 - Apply Settings to Live View in the custom settings menu.  This option switches between the EVF showing you a real time view of what the exposure settings will do to the image versus a standard bright view.  Why does this matter?   In a DSLR, the optical viewfinder shows you just a through the lens view of the scene.  If shooting portraits indoors and you are using your shutter speed to kill the ambient light by shooting at 1/200 or faster shutter speeds, the EVF view would be very dark and hard for you to see your subjects and frame accurately.

Use the d8 option to switch between these 2 modes.  I'm familiar with this from shooting portraits on the Olympus M43 cameras.   Olympus added an option called S-OVF, which basically does the same as what I've described above.  It simulates the view so that it always looks bright and "normal".   You can also put this menu setting in the "i" menu or the My Menu section. I placed mine in the "i" menu.

Rear LCD
Again, another great display here.  The big issue with some - it is only a tilt screen and not fully articulating.  For me, any articulation is good.  Fully articulating is better for me with video modes, but I have an external monitor for that kind of work.

F-Mount Lenses I've Tested On The Z6

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC (generation 1) - some jittery movement if the AF is way out of focus, but much better and more consistent if the focus is not that far off.  Exposure functionality is 100%

ZhongYi Mitakon Creator 85mm f/2 - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus (this lens auto focus' in the opposite direction of the other Nikon manual focus lenses.

Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AIS - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus

Nikon 28mm f/2.8 AIS - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus

Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AIS - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus

Nikon 35mm f/2.8 Nikkor-S Auto - Nikon lists this as incompatible, so I did not try it out.

Nikon 55mm f/3.5 Macro - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus - great macro option.

Nikon 105mm f/2.5 -  meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF VR - perfect AF and exposure metering

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G - perfect AF and exposure metering

Nikon 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5D - perfect exposure metering, but just manual focus

Nikon 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6D - perfect exposure metering, but just manual focus

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G - perfect AF and exposure metering

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus

Nikon 200mm f/4 Pre-AI - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus

Nikon 180mm f/2.8 ED AIS - meters perfect (Stop down metering required) but does not record aperture values used, manual focus

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/60, f/4, ISO 4500 @ 54mm (hand held)

Batteries

The Z6/Z7 cameras use the newer EN-EL15b batteries.  These are very similar to the EN-EL15a, except that allow for in camera USB-C charging.

I have spare EN-EL15a batteries as well as some third party ones, so I tested them in the Z6.
Results are as follows - prices of the battery when I bought them :
EN-EL15a - same performance as the EN-EL15b ($60)
Bower - worked fine to power the camera, about 2/3 of the longevity ($20)
RAVPower - worked fine to power the camera, about 3/4 of the longevity ($25 - 2 batteries + charger)
ProMaster - worked fine to power the camera, about 3/4 of the longevity. ($25)

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/60, f/4, ISO 2800 @ 62mm (hand held)

Ergonomics

Feel In The Hand
The camera feels good in the hand.   The grip is deep enough to feel secure if holding the camera in one hand.  Some people have had issues with reaching the 2 function buttons next to the mount, but I have had no such issues.  I might have longer fingers than most, though or perhaps my grip on the camera is different. 

The little thumb grip is a nice touch as well.

My pinkie fingers does fall off the bottom of the grip, but to be honest, it is not really bothering me that much with the current lenses I am using.  I might see about getting an l-bracket or similar thing if I find myself using larger lenses.

The way I feel about these things is that I'd rather have smaller and add on to make it larger than have something larger that you are stuck with the size.

Button Placement
The buttons feel familiar to me, coming from a Nikon DSLR.  The power switch is still around the shutter release button.  Love it there.

The exposure comp, ISO and movie record button are just behind the shutter and the same setup as in the D500/D850.  That's good for me as an owner of the D500.

The AF joystick is great, too as I have become enamoured with it since having it on the D500.   I've setup the center press of the AF joystick to reset the AF point to center position.  I've also setup the OK button in shooting mode to be the punch in zoom, used when I need to verify focus.  I did this because I use zoom view quite a bit and the OK button is easier to reach than the + magnifying glass button.

Some people want to have the rear LCD used as a touchpad for AF points.   My Olympus cameras  have that and I did not like it and turned it off.   Too much accidental touching and it just didn't feel right to me.  I appreciate the joystick implementation of the AF point selector.

I like having the AF modes as a button on the camera body, like on the Df or D500, but the Z puts it in a menu option.  This is easily accessible through the "i" button and since the menus are fully touch compatible, switching is quick and easy, but it will take me some time to get used to going into a menu option instead of just pushing a button and turning a dial.

Drive modes are accessed via button at the bottom right of the camera body.  Again, like the focus mode, I would have preferred to have it like on the D500 or Df as a button and command dial turn or a dedicated switch.  Perhaps higher end bodies in the future will have this.  Don't get me wrong, it is a perfectly usable setup, it is just different than what is in DSLR land and will take some time to get used to working this way.

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/30, f/8, ISO 3600 @ 31mm (hand held)
Image Quality - Stills
Nikon is my favorite camera as far as IQ goes.   Great dynamic range, love the colors and the files are very pliable in both JPG or RAW configurations.

There has been some mention of banding and it certainly is true that it is there...but you really need to push the exposure to over 5 stops to run into it.   I cannot honestly say that I have very had a need to push it that far.  Even if you did, there are post processing options that will help with correcting that banding issue, so all is not lost.

The Z-Mount 24-70mm f/4S lens is a great lens.  It focus' quickly and the zoom is stiff enough to prevent zoom creep.   It is very sharp even wide open.   I could shoot this lenses at f/4 all day and all night with no issues.  It is very similar in the way that I can shoot my micro four thirds lenses wide open without sacrificing image quality.   The benefits of a good contrast detect AF systems helps with this too by eliminating AF accuracy issues with a separate PDAF module.

No surprise, though if you are familiar with our reviews - I like to let the images speak for themselves.      Check them out below!

Nikon 70-300/4.5-5.6E AF-P VR
1/320, f/5.6, ISO 4000 @ 300mm

Nikon 70-300/4.5-5.6E AF-P VR
1/320, f/5.6, ISO 8000 @ 300mm
The image below is at ISO 18,000.  Just wanted to point that out and it is not a typographical error.
Nikon 70-300/4.5-5.6E AF-P VR
1/320, f/5.6, ISO 18000 @ 300mm

Nikon 70-300/4.5-5.6E AF-P VR
1/320, f/5.6, ISO 1600 @ 300mm
 This image below shows off the IBIS a bit.  Hand held and shot using the rear touch screen to activate the shutter release.
Nikon 24-70/4S z-mount
1/24, f/4, ISO 250 @ 24mm

Nikon 24-70/4S
1/100, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 56mm

Nikon 24-70/4S
1/80, f/5.6, ISO 125 @ 70mm

Nikon 24-70/4S
1/60, f/5.6, ISO100 @ 38mm 

Nikon 24-70/4S
1/200, f/5.6, ISO 100 @ 70mm

Nikon 24-70/4S
1/60, f/8, ISO 100 @ 54mm
**UPDATE** 12-18-2018
Shutter Shock
Went into a deep dive after processing the portrait shoot images.  The camera and lenses are fantastic.  The 24-70/4S is a natural portrait lens IMHO, giving great base images to work with.  Sharp enough, but not too crazy as to require a post processing workflow to tame any kind of bite. The 35/1.8 is noticeably sharper.   This is in a "pixel peeping" capacity.

Given the overcast conditions and the focal lengths used, I had quite a few shots in the 1/60 to 1/80 shutter speed range as I used the zoom lens a lot in the 40-70mm range, as you'd expect for portraits.  I did bring along and used the D500 with the Tamron 70-200mm f/1.8VC.

Again, in a "pixel peeping" mode, I did notice some shutter shock artifacts in those ranges.  I didn't think about it until after the shoot.  In the future, I will definitely be using the electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS) when I know that I will be using the focal lengths and shutter speeds in the shutter shock range.   The artifacting was gone once I hit 1/100 and faster speeds.

Just wanted to put that out there that there is indeed a need to look out for shutter shock.  Luckily, it was not severe enough that I lost any pictures to it.

Image Quality - Video
Nikon provides both 4k and 1080p video options.  1080p gives you the ability to shoot in 120fps for some cool slow motion effects.  No grading, sharpening on the video below, shot in 1080p 30 and 1080p 120, basically straight out of the camera.  I'll probably go back and grade, sharpen and then republish for a side by side.  Slow mo and transitions in Premiere Elements 2019.


Final Thoughts

You never know what you will think or feel about a new camera until you get it in your hands and have some quality time shooting with it.

Even after a short time with the Z6, I love how it gives me all the stuff I love about shooting a Nikon DSLR mixed with all there is to love about the Olympus OMD cameras.

If this is the quality that Nikon has started with, and the trend/trajectory is for this to only get better, then we are in for a great ride and Nikon should have a great stronghold not only in the mirrorless stills market, but also a strong video camera contender.

Right now, the Nikon Df is still my favorite camera of all time, but the Z series mirrorless could get close to taking that #1 spot.   It will take some time to figure that out.

Some additional images for your viewing:

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/400, f/4, ISO 100 @ 70mm
McLaren 720s In Green

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/80, f/11, ISO 100 @ 47mm

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/250, f/8, ISO 100 @ 70mm

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/640, f/4, ISO 100 @ 35mm

Nikon 24-70mm f/4S
1/50, f/11, ISO 100 @ 24mm
Nikon Z6 & Nikon 50mm f/1.8G + FTZ
1/50, f/3.5, ISO 250

Nikon Z6 & Nikon 50mm f/1.8G + FTZ
1/400, f/1.8, ISO 100

Nikon Z6 & Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ
1/1000, f/4, ISO 4500

Nikon Z6 & Nikon 300mm f/4E PF + FTZ
1/320, f/4, ISO 3200

Monday, December 10, 2018

Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AIS Lens Review


Background

More manual focus lens fun, this time a longer telephoto!  Yes, the Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AIS lens is next up on out list of legacy lenses to review!

Previously, we owned and reviewed the Nikon 135mm f/3.5 Q.  We link to that review later on here, but a bit of a spoiler - this AIS lens is better in most respects than the Q version it replaced.

Let's find out how this sub $100 legacy lens performs.


Handling/Size/Weight

For a mid to long ranged telephoto lens, this is relatively small.  It is an almost perfect size when mounted on the Nikon Df.

This lens has a built in, telescoping metal lens hood.

The AI and AIS versions of this lens are basically the same optically, so if you can find either one, this review should cover you for both.

You've got an all metal construction, as you would expect for a lens built before AF lenses were the norm.

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

On this copy, the exterior is in great shape.  The aperture ring feels solid and clicks into place at each step.

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 manual focus 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.

Used on an adapted camera, it just fits right on the adapter.  Using it on the Nikon Df, it just mounts on and setting it up in the non-CPU lens menu allows the aperture feeler to accurately report correct EXIF information.

Nikon Df
1/160, f/8, ISO 1250


Weather Sealed

Not on this guy!  An old Pre AI lens.

Nikon Df
1/160, f/3.5, ISO 180


Image Quality

This lens is sharp and contrasty.  I'd say right off the bat that could hold it's own against a lot of the modern optics out there.

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.

IQ - In a word, it works very well to capture crisp images, even at /3.5.  I find that wide open it has very little to complain about.   It does get better stopped down, but even at f/4 you could use this with the aperture ring glued there.  The lens is sharp, but I would not call it bitingly sharp.  You can enhance that sharpness in post, though to your liking.

Shooting on the Df, you'll appreciate using it between f/4 and f/11, but don't shy away from wide open if you need it.

I did not notice any real distortion on this lens either.

The bokeh on this lens is pleasing and smooth.

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

Nikon Df
1/160, f/4, ISO 140

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

Nikon Df
1/200, f/4, 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 Nikon Z6, focus peaking worked well with this lens and made it super easy to dial in.
The focus throw is good and you can go from close focus to infinity with not much movement.

This would be a good portrait focal length lens. Bottom line here, is that if you've ever used a Nikon manual focus lens, you know what to expect here.  It is all good!

Nikon Df
1/160, f/3.5, ISO 800

VR

No VR in the lens, but used on adapted cameras 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
1/250, f/4, ISO 110
Nikon Z6
1/250, f/4, ISO 100
Nikon Z6
1/500, f/4, ISO 100


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 135mm is an excellent optic that on full frame sensors is a great portrait length and on adapted cameras like Micro Four Thirds gives you 270mm field of view, but in such a small package.

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.

Nikon Z6
1/250, f/8, ISO 100
Nikon Z6
1/640, f/5.6, ISO 100