Friday, May 29, 2009

Vacation Break

I am just back from my vacation and will updating soon and frequently. The Teleconverter series of blogs, Sigma DP2 and Canon 500D closeup filter blog articles are in the works. Watch out for them.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nikon Teleconverters

Teleconverters are optical extenders which will magnify the image and effectively increase the focal length of a lens. My experience is limited to the latest Nikon TC-XXE II teleconverters and Kenko pro TCs. I will be discussing my experiences with TCs and compare Nikon and kenko. I will also discuss my experiences of using TCs with Nikon 70-200mm VR, Nikon 70-300mm VR, Nikon 300mm AFS lenses and a comparison of these lenses with TCs.

TCs were available for along time (since 1976 for Nikon to be exact). They have their followers with some touting as most useful photographic accessory to others claiming total waste of their time and precious space in their camera bags. There are basically 3 different TCs which magnify the images to 1.4x, 1.7x and 2x. I am going give some basic facts about teleconverters before I go into their uses with different lenses.

Basic facts:

1. The most important fact is to realise what you are trying to achieve with this. TCs achieve longer focal length with existing lenses. These must be used for obtaining very long focal lengths where the original focal length lens is very expensive or simply not available like 300mm or longer lenses. If you buy a TC to use with a 50mm lens to make it 100mm it makes no sense either economically or photographically since the TC itself is more or almost as expensive as 100mm lens and it decreases the quality and aperture of the original lens. Whereas use it on a 500mm lens to get 700mm or longer lens then the effort is worthwhile since there are no primary lenses longer than 600. You can also use it on a $5000 300mm lens to convert it to a 600mm lens which costs $10,000, thereby justifying the savings to slight decrease in image quality.

2. TCs are designed for prime lenses. All TCs result in loss of image quality. If the original lens has extremely high resolution and sharpness, especially one that exceeds the sensor resolution, then TCs will not cause noticeable or unacceptable decrease in IQ. But there are few lenses which have this kind of resolution and they are mostly primes.

3. All TCs cause decrease the amount of light transmitted. A 1.4x TC loses 1 stop, 1.7x TC loss 1.5 stops and a 2x TC loses 2 stops of light. This also affects AF ability and speed. So your lens aperture should be f/2.8 or atleast f/4 to get the best out of the TC. For most current camera systems you need atleast f/5.6 for good AF so if your TC makes your lens slower than f/5.6 the AF is going to be seriously affected.

4. All TCs decease the depth of field. So you need to stop down more than you normally would to achieve the same depth of field.

Advantages include

1. Longer reach for your lenses. This is very important of you are a bird, wildlife or sports photographer.

2. The minimum focusing distance is the same, meaning you get magnification with an increase in focal length. This may not substitute for a macro lens but does give closeup effects to a certain degree.

Next I will blog about my experiences with the 1.4x TCs both Nikon and Kenko. Stay Tuned.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS vs Zeiss 50mm f/1.4

I have had the opportunity to use these two lenses. Obviously the question is which is better. Let's see the qualities of these 2 lenses.


Wide open:

The Nikon is f/1.2 while the Zeiss is f/1.4 and the Nikkor is eminently usable at this aperture. The view through such a lens through a full frame camera is a real joy to use. You also get the one half stop advantage which may prove to be very significant in extreme low light situations.


Resolution:

The Nikkor and Zeiss run head to head in resolution but the Nikkor achieves it's top resolution by f/2 whereas you have to stop the Zeiss to f/2.8 or f/4 to match the Nikkor resolution.


Distortion/CA/Vignetting:

Mostly they are comparable with no definite advantage to one or the other.


Bokeh:

There is no contest here. The Nikkor has a superb bokeh while the Zeiss bokeh is average at best. Please see my Nikon 50mm lens review (link below) for a detailed description.

I wanted to write a detailed comparison but after using these 2 lenses extensively I do not think there is any question that the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS is better in every respect compared to the Zeiss. Zeiss does produce some excellent lenses like the 35mm and 25mm lenses but certainly the Planar 50mm is not one of them. Apart from the Zeiss brand name there is nothing that goes for the Planar 50mm compared to the Nikkor 50mm. I will definitely recommend the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS to anybody looking for a manual focus lens. IMHO the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS is the best 50mm lens available currently (with the caveat that it is manual focus only).

For a review of Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS click here

For a review of Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 click here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS review

The Nikon D700 is an incredible low light camera. When I started using this camera, I started to yearn for a super fast lens capable of extremely low light work. Naturally I stumbled upon the fastest Nikon lens in production. This is the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS. I already had the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 so this Nikkor had serious competition.

The Lens:
This is a superb manual focus lens well worthy of Nikkor name. The lens build quality is simply superb with a nice feel to it. This is not weather sealed like modern lenses, but would survive rough use. The lens lineage comes from the Nikon 55mm f/1.2 and the Nikon Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2. The lens is completely manual focus with specifications of 52mm filter and close focusing distance of 0.5m which is decent for its class.

Image quality:
I have had surprises from unexpected quarters in the Nikon camp and I did expect this lens to perform to an exceptional degree but even then I was stunned by this lens. The lens is very good wide open at f/1.2 and in conjunction with the D700 this lens sings. Any 50mm lens is going to be sharp, even a $25 50mm f/2 Nikkor, but this lens has a certain look, a class that is very rare. It just is about perfect in rendering skin tones. The only lens that is as good or better is the Nikon 105mm DC, which is saying quite a lot. Caucasian skin tones are very difficult to capture easily. You might have read many times complains of digital look or "plasticky" look. This is partly due to difficulty in the lens/digital combination to capture the Caucasian skin tones. This lens does not suffer from this and renders skin tones in a very natural fashion. Stop down this becomes razor sharp and stop to f/4 or f/5.6, you get a dreamy image that is superb for a portrait and you can easily create a 3D effect. No this is by no means a portrait only lens. This is superb for any use. The colors are natural with just adequate contrast wide open and it is a joy to use this lens and review the images captured.

Bokeh:
The bokeh of this lens is exceptional. It is just about right. It is creamy with a beautiful transition of out of focus areas. Superb. This is a big contrast to all other 50mm Nikkors which have a tad harsher bokeh.

Chromatic Aberration:
The lens has CA which is about average for its class but is easily removed. It is gone by f/2 or f/2.8.

Vignetting and Flare:
The lens has mild light fall off. from f/1.2 to f/2.8 and is negligible to gone beyond this level. This is again easily corrected with software.
Tip 1: Do not use the hood it worsens the vignetting. The lens is very good in handling flare and you do not need a hood unless you are shooting directly against a bright light source which is not a common situation.
Tip 2: Please do not use a filter, especially UV filter. It creates filter flare easily. This happens especially if you shoot in the dark with a point source of light anywhere in the field of view.

Coma:
Typical of a fast lens, this lens exhibits Coma aberration. This is present from f/1.2 to f/2.0. It is negligible by f/2.8. The only lens better than this one is the Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 which was specifically designed with aspherical element to control coma.

Focusing:
This lens has a very shallow Dof. At f/1.2 and near focusing distance, the Dof is 4-5mm. This very thin and very difficult to focus. This is the single most important reason that this lens did not achieve the status it deserves.

You need 2 things to be happy with this lens.
1. A camera with an excellent viewfinder.
2. A split prism screen for focusing.

If you have these 2 then this lens is a real joy to use and I highly recommend the screen like Katz for accurate focusing. The money is well worth it.

Overall I would describe this lens as a sleeper for manual focus users. If you buy it used, it is unparalleled for its price performance ratio. As with any lens there is a caveat. This is a manual focus lens and this is definitely not for AF users especially considering that even with experienced MF users this lens is difficult with its thin Dof. But if you put in the effort you will be rewarded with exceptional images.

(Comparison with Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 and photos coming shortly)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Zeiss 50mm F/1.4 review

Zeiss is one of the oldest and legendary optical manufacturers. They were pioneers of most of the lens designs. The 50mm lens is also one of the oldest and most used focal length range in photography. The initial 50mm designs were Tessars followed by Sonnars. The Planar design was developed, as the name implies, to limit distortion. This was more than 100 years ago. Today most 50mm lenses by any manufacturer is based on a variation of the original Planar design.

This is about the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4. There are mainly 2 versions. The Contax version (Z/Y mount) and the Nikon F mount.I have used both and do not find any difference in image quality. The Nikon F mount is made by Cosina and is mostly similar in design to the older Z/Y mount.

As expected of any manual focus lens the build quality is excellent. It will survive normal usage and some occasional bumps. (It may surprise you that the so called cheap "plastic" lenses by Nikon and Canon will do exactly the same in similar situations and because of the plastic, they may actually fare well in certain situations, more on this on some later blog). The Zeiss is not weather proof, meaning that though the lens may survive, the camera may be damaged if water leaks on to the electrical contacts. (This would not happen if you use weather sealed camera/lens combo).

This is a manual focus lens and you have to set the aperture on the lens. The focus and feel of the lens is excellent. Focusing is smooth and if you are shooting wide open for the most part, you need a focusing screen to get accurate focus. But as far as manual focus lenses go, this lens is excellent.

The first thing about any Zeiss lens is its image quality. This is all Zeiss is about. Zeiss has the reputation of having a certain "look" and a 3D appearance to the images. As far as the Zeiss 50mm planar is concerned, it does have a distinct look but whether you get 3D appearance or not depends on your subject and this lens has little to do with it apart from the fact that it is fast with shallow Dof at f/1.4 which helps. Zeiss has a lot of reputation built and some are real while some are not. The true Zeiss strength is resolution and in that respect this lens is exemplary. Todays DSLRs demand high resolution due to the very efficient sensors and this lens provides all the resolution that is needed. At f/4 the resolution is nothing short of stunning. From f/4 to F/11 the images are sharp and offer plenty of resolution. Diffraction sets in at f/16 and beyond. The lens is contrasty true to its Zeiss origins. Colors are punchy and natural. You should be happy with the image quality.

Now wide open at f/1.4 the lens is plenty sharp and has excellent resolution in the center but soft in the corners. You will have to stop to f/2 or f/2.8 for corners to catch up.

No one can talk about a lens without mentioning Bokeh. (Check out Bokeh rant for my thoughts about this) So here it goes, the bokeh of this lens is decent. It is going to be a bit harsh but nothing that would distract your subject if you are capable of composing carefully, appreciative of what you intend to get out of it. The transition of sharp areas with out of focus background (or foreground) is short but again decent without attracting undue attention.

The lens exhibits minimal distortion that is average and similar to most 50mm lenses. The CA is present wide open and is a little bit more than I would expect from a 50mm lens. But is manageable easily with RAW converters. Light fall of or vignetting is significant wide open and needs to be stopped to f/2 or f/2.8 for DX cameras and to almost f/4 for FX cameras. This can again be easily eliminated with RAW converters so I wouldn't worry much about this. Flare is well controlled and is excellent in this regard.

Overall this is a very good lens with exceptional resolution, excellent build quality, smooth focus mechanism and a great manual focus lens. It is average at far as CA, vignetting and distortion goes. This lens will provide you with amazing photos provided you have the right subject and you are a capable photographer. But it does not create magic, it will not make average photos better. To extend it further it will not produce any distinguishing look to most photos. Sometimes when things work as far as subject, composition etc goes, the resolution will make it look exceedingly good but never magical rarely 3D. So do not spend your money if these are your expectations. The Zeiss look reputation is more from its Sonnars than planars. This is a good lens but there are better lenses in the Zeiss line up. As far as competition there is the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, Leica summicron 50mm f/2 ( if you willing to use adapters). My next blog is a comparison of the zeiss planar 50mm vs the Nikkor 50mm /1.2 lens. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fuji F200EXR review

I was a brief owner of the Fuji F200EXR for 2 days. I was tempted by the potential of this camera considering its touted high ISO capabilities and higher dynamic range. So I bought this even though it did not have RAW which is an essential feature of my usual work flow.

The camera is purely intended for Auto all consumers, nothing wrong with that but I expected atleast some flexibility with regard to manual override of the auto features. But they have made this too complex and very limited in use. For example in AE(aperture priority) mode, you can either shoot wide open or stopped down, nothing in between. ISO cannot be adjusted in D-range priority mode. The file size is limited to M(medium) and S(small) in most modes. Well unlike the Canon G9 the auto mode is not as accurate with regard to focus, ISO, exposure and Flash, so it is a bit limited in that you cannot change certain parameters.

As far as the images are concerned, the resolution is fine at 12MP. The 6MP images are also good enough but do not try to look at 100% and compare to 12 or 14 MP cameras. The 6 mp photos are very good for 10x8 prints which is the only one I made in my use of this camera. The color accuracy is average, with a slight reddish tilt. The chromatic aberration is at moderate levels and without RAW it is difficult to get rid off.

The speed of the camera is average with start up time of around 2 seconds and shot to shot time of 2 seconds. This is not going to be the darling of street photography or photo-journalistic enthusiasts.

High ISO is OK, may be one or one half stops better than the Canon G9 or panasonic LX3. I have the G9 and so i pixel peeped a bit. The Fuji F200EXR is not going to challenge even the entry level DSLRs. The Fuji F30/31 was groundbreaking with regards ISO performance of compacts in its days. But that was 3 years back and this is 2009 and ISO performance have improved in all cameras, including compact, hybrid or DSLRS. This camera in 2009 is not going to be a FujiF31 of 2009. The ISo performance upto 400 is decent, ISo 800 may be acceptable, ISO 1600 and above has very little practical use unless you are aiming for a artsy noise smoothened water color effect. I guess this effect can be produced with any digital camera you own. I think the incamera noise reduction is a bit high handed but i think fuji is forced to do it to tout the ISO capabilities.

If there is something positive about this camera then it is the Dynamic range mode. There is definite visual increase in dynamic range compared to normal modes. One thing you need to note is, that the improvement in dynamic range is in highlight areas and not in shadow areas. The shadow regions of the image remained the same whereas the highlights showed worthwhile improvement. My advise is then to expose to the right, get the shadow region exposed to your liking and let the EXR take care of the highlight areas. Do not expect magic though, you will still see blown highlights but the range is as good as DSLRs which itself is a feat for a compact camera. This is were the lack of RAW is solely felt and RAW would have definitely helped pull even more details and extended the dynamic range even more to very impressive levels. there is potential in this region and we should watch to see if Fuji can use this sensor/technology implemented in a better camera.

Well I genuinely tried to like the camera but I could come up with any excuse to keep the camera. I am passing this to my family friend as a gift which was my plan anyways even if I liked it. But i would not be getting one for myself. But I will definitely keep my eyes open for Fuji to do something different with this technology.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sigma DP2 A Non Review

This is not a review but just my impressions about a camera which has the potential to be promising. This camera was announced around Photokina 2008 and now at PMA 2009, more details are emerging.

The Sigma DP1 was released in Q1 of 2008. This is a compact camera but what distinguishes it from other cameras are its Foveon Sensor, Fixed focal length lens and APS-C size of the sensor. Many of us want a compact, light weight, carry everywhere camera. We also want the camera to have very high image quality, one that is fast and responsive. The Sigma DP1 with its large sensor, excellent lens and with a lot of useful controls and available RAW capture had exactly the combination that would interest a broad range of enthusiast and professional photographers. But personally I felt that the camera itself did not live up to the promises. Now we are in 2009 and once again we are tempted with an upgraded version of DP1.

Lets digress from the present and see what the Sigma DP1 had to contend with in Q1 of 2008. The DP1 had to compete with compacts like the Canon G9, Panasonic LX series and Ricoh GRDs. The DP1 had advantages in the image quality but the price was 1.5 to 2 times that of the competitors. It also faced competition from compact entry level DSLRs which were priced similar to DP1 but offered competitive image qualities and other useful features unavailable in DP1.

The reason why the DP1 did not achieve the success that it had intended was due to the following reasons.

1. The total MP was 4.7 (Sigma claims it to be 14 but it is not). Granted due to its unique sensor, the per pixel quality was good and uprezzing the images produced almost comparable but not better results than competing compact DSLRs.

2. Focusing in low light situations was another problem due to non availability of AF assist light.

3. Speed, The camera was slow, extremely slow than even its competing digicams. It took 10-12 sec to write a RAW image that it was useless immediately after you capture a photo.

I also feel that personally a focal length choice of 28mm (35mm equivalent) is not ideal to appeal to broad range of photographers. Something like a 35mm or 40mm was better.



Now come march 2009 and we have an upgraded Sigma DP coming in the form of DP2. This camera comes with an upgraded Processor, faster normal lens (41mm f/2.8), a new 3 inch LCD monitor and upgraded, Increased frame rate, selectable color mode, in camera image tweaking, Custom My settings Dial and other ‘fine tuning’ of controls.

Now let’s see what we are sure about the Sigma DP2.

The lens is absolutely wonderful even when looking at the handful of images available. Considering what Sigma achieved with the 30mm and 50mm DSLR lenses, the DP2 lens (41mm) should be excellent. It is also faster than the DP1 by one full stop (f/2.8). The images produced by this lens has excellent clarity with smooth background transition. There is very little distortion and the images have good contrast and color saturation.

The DP2 sensor is the same as that of DP1, only the image processor is different. The good side of this is that this sensor has superb per pixel image quality and yields very good results with uprezzing. The color rendition, especially in RAW images are absolutely brilliant. Better in camera image tweaking will satisfy jpeg lovers.

The faster processor should help in the speed and responsiveness of the camera that was sorely lacking in DP1. The availability of Custom My settings and fine tuning of controls should also help in the camera’s responsiveness.

Thus far it looks good. But this is 2009 and the competition is also evolving. There is first the Micro Four thirds format which has exactly the same target audience and there is a lot going in their favor. Then there are the entry level compact DSLRs. Heck even small sensor digicams have 12-14 Mps. These cameras may not have the per pixel quality of the DP2 but they produce huge file sizes (real 12-14 Mp) and by their sheer size they are going to have better image quality since you have to significantly upsize the DP2 images to reach the level of their competitors. Sure megapixels are not “the all and be all” but when the difference in size is so huge, it may matter to some if not a lot of potential users. Then there is also the issue of noise. The DP1 sensor is not exactly a noise champ. Sure it trumps other small sensor digicams but not so much with compact DSLRs and Micro FTs. In fact looking at some DP2 images at ISO 200 to 400 there is some chroma noise in the shadows that concerns me. Minimal luminescence noise is not a big deal and can be easily removed but not so with the chroma noise. The noise of the DP2 needs to be better than the competition if it hopes to capture the interests of a broad base of photographers. The processor is improved but how significant is it to affect the responsiveness of the camera remains to be seen though I am hopeful that there is going to be some definite improvement in this regard since the file size is the same as DP1. Then there are also additional features like image stabilization, swivel screen are some of the factors that are going in favor of the competition.

Last but not the least of importance is price. How is Sigma going to price and position the DP2? The price is definitely going to play a role in deciding it’s competition. If it is priced at $300-400 it is going to compete with compact digicams and then it is in a good position but if priced at $800-1000 then it is going to compete with the compact DSLRs and Micro FTs not to forget that the midrange DSLRs like the superb canon 40D and Nikon D90 are also in this price range though exactly not so compact.
(Update: Available for pre-order for $650 from Amazon and Adorama).

Finally the key is that buyers need to justify the purchase of this camera with regards to the competition. The Sigma DP2 brings in lots of promises especially for a niche audience who have been waiting for the perfect compact carry everywhere digital camera. The DP1 did not cut it but Sigma is taking another chance at it with the DP2. The expected release date of Sigma DP2 is probably April or May in US and it will be interesting to see what the full production camera brings to the table.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bokeh Rant

We all know that the term “Bokeh” refers to the rendering of out of focus areas of an image. Mr. Johnston claims credit for the Americanized spelling and this term has been increasingly used since the millennium. Before this time, though there were some references to this quality of a lens, very few photographers showed deep interest in it. But recently I have noticed that this is now a rage in various forums and lens tests.


I have used a range of lenses from primes to zooms and manual focus to autofocus lenses. I have used Planars, Tessars, Sonnars among others. I have used lenses from the 1950s to the latest nano coated versions. I also love to look at photographs. I love to analyze the photographs especially in the context of the lens used to capture it and more so if the aperture is wide open. Usually prime lenses have a signature and sometimes it is possible to identify the lens used, case in example, Leica Noctilux wide open. The bokeh is an important aspect of lens rendering and its signature. But it is not the only parameter of a lens.


My concern is that the photographic community’s recent overtures to this single characteristic of a lens has gone to a state of obsession. There is also lot of misconception about bokeh especially the idea that the more blurred the background the better the lens.


My take on this.


Bokeh is determined by the spherical aberrations of a lens. All lenses have some spherical aberration. A good lens will have less of it. But this is over simplification and completely erroneous if you believe this is the only parameter which determines Bokeh. Any bright point in the out of focus area is going to be a disc. Whether the edges of this disc appear bright or is smooth is determined by the spherical aberration. So spherical aberration primarily determines the edges of point source of light in out of focus area. It has very little role in the transition characteristics of the in-focus and out of focus areas or the rendering of points which are not bright in the out of focus areas.


Factors which really Affect Bokeh

1. The most important determinant of bokeh is the focal length of the lens. The longer the focal length, the smoother the bokeh. (You can see this easily even in a zoom lens where the bokeh at the long end of the zoom is smoother compared to the bokeh at the wide end.) If you simply want a smooth bokeh use a telephoto lens you will be happy for the most part. But there are exceptions as there are other factors which play a role in bokeh. (Please note I have used the term “smoother” and not “better”). There are also other factors that affect bokeh.

2. The aperture of a lens is another important determinant of bokeh. The character of bokeh of the same lens changes with the aperture. Some lenses have good bokeh wide open, some stopped down a bit. If ever there is a generalization then the sweet spot of any lens for bokeh appears to be f/2 (in 35mm format). I have observed the following

  1. An f/2 lens will have a better bokeh than a f/1.4 (or wider) lens even if the lenses made by the same manufacturer.
  2. Even if a lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.2 or f/1.4 (or any other below f/2), the lens will have its best bokeh at f/2.

3. Next Bokeh is affected by lens design. A sonnar based design is going to have a better bokeh compared to a double gauss planar based design. I am a big fan of Sonnars. They are the best designs for portrait lenses.


Factors which do not significantly affect the Bokeh quality.

1. Contrary to popular belief the number of aperture blades do not significantly affect bokeh. But lens design does.

2. Zoom lenses do not necessarily mean bad bokeh and primes do not necessarily mean good bokeh.

Finally bokeh rendering of the same lens with the same camera changes with different background conditions and bokeh is very subjective so what works for one photographer may nor for another. A good bokeh for fashion portraits is not necessarily a good one for news or sports coverage.

As far as I know there are only 2 lenses designed give photographers the option of changing the bokeh rendering. These are the Nikon 105mm and 135mm DC versions. These lenses are unfortunately difficult to use and suffer from bad reviews from users who did not use it as it is intended. I have the 105mm DC Nikkor and as far as bokeh is concerned this lens represents the pinnacle of lens design.


A Gaussian blur like effect is the most sought after by many photographers but it is not the best. It may work occasionally for some portraits but it has nothing to with creating a dimensional (3D) look. In fact, it does the opposite, it flattens the image. Heck if this diffuse Gaussian blur like bokeh is what you like then please do not waste your money. Buy any cheap lens and shoot. To get the Gaussian blur for the background buy this software. You will be happy and save a lot of money at the same time.


Finally a word about Dimensionality or 3D look. Yes you can get this look if you know how to get it.

1. You need a wide angle lens to get 3D look. You may be do with a standard or short telephoto but a lot depends on the subject. The best focal length is 35mm for this.

2. The bokeh is important for 3D in the sense that the lens should render the background with a slight blur where you see the background and identify elements in but should not distract the subject.

3. The most important aspect is your subject and composition. Without this nothing can compensate to produce a magical 3D like rendering.


It seems that much of the lens evaluations online including the forums concentrate too much on bokeh and whenever a photo is posted the comments are mostly about the bokeh. There are very few who show concern for the subject. Are we forgetting the picture for the background?


Your comments are most welcome.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

PMA 2009

  Today was day 1 of PMA 2009. Last few years saw release of DSLRs and/or lenses at every major photography show. This year PMA is sure to be the least interesting in recent years, without any significant product launches by the major Marques aka Canon/Nikon.

  This year PMA's most interesting announcements were the panasonic GH1 and Sigma DP2. Sure the recent photokina and a slew of new DSLR/Lens launches at this time and the slowing economy plays a significant role. 

  A lot of rumors were circulating before PMA and though these sounded like some body's wish list, there a lot of people eagerly anticipating new product launches. There is going to be disappointment for some but it should also be a relief. In recent years the product life cycle has become so short that new DSLRs were launched every 12-18months.  This cannot last long and the message is slowly dawning on the manufacturers. With the current state of economy, product obsolescence is delayed and cannot be artificially created by incremental improvements in products. 

  Anyway my thoughts are that some products may be launched in summer if there is any sign of atleast the economy stabilising if not improving.

  My thoughts on the Panasonic GH1 and Sigma DP2 in my upcoming blogs.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nikon MB-D10 vs Phottix grip vs other third party grips

 My main DSLR is the Nikon D700 and to get more fps I decided to try the optional battery grip. Nikon offers the MB-D10 grip and there are numerous third party grips available. The Nikon grip is almost twice or even three times as expensive as some third party grips. I first decided to try the Phottix grip. I ordered this on ebay. I used this for several days. 

My impressions on the phottix grip.
 My usage pertains to D700. The Phottix grip was good and works as advertised though it feels cheap and you know where they cut corners.  My Nikon D700 immediately recognised the grip.
Actually it has all the features that the Nikon MB-D10 offers. There is a shutter button, AF-ON button, front and rear control wheels and the multifuntion selector. The wheels and buttons feel good and work fine. I did not try the additional remote that comes with this grip. My biggest gripe was the threading screw was not very secure and the whole grip wobbles a bit when being used. I was also worried about the electronic contacts too. And I will never mount this on a tripod since this does not feel sturdy and I am woried it is going to break (no i am not worried in fact I am sure that with a heavy lens like 24-70mm this will break).

Due to these concerns I bought the Nikon MB-D10. 
This a solid piece of gear and has a nice rubberised surface which just feels part of the camera. Most importantly the grip fit snugly to my Nikon D700. I used the AA batteries and the 8fps is sweet. The control wheels, vertical grip and shutter buttons feel so smooth compared to the third party grips that you will never feel this as an attachment but an integral part of the camera.

The camera recognizes the grip and uses the battery in the grip. (You can change this setting if you need to). You can shoot 8fps but you need 8 AA batteries. They last longer compared to EN-EL3e battery. If you use the EN-El3e though you do not get 8fps. You can use the optional EN-EL4/a battery also to get 8 fps but you need the additional BL-3 cover. Well I find this unacceptable since for the price this should have come with the grip. It does come with some nice touches though. The battery holder comes in a nice pouch. The electronic contacts in the Nikon D700 have a solid rubber cover which can be stored snugly within the battery grip without having the risk of loosing it. These some small but nice touches.

There are 2 disadvantages to the MB-D10 though. First it is very expensive (in my opinion) and second it is very heavy and the combination of D700 with MB-D10 is heavier even than a D3. 

My recommendation is to buy the Nikon MB-D10 and save yourself the trouble of having to buy a third grip and also the MB-D10 which you would end up buying anyway.  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR vs Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR

I had mentioned in my blog about the Nikon 70-300mm VR that I will add some comments and comparison with the 70-200mm VR. Here's my thoughts on these lenses in response to the many emails I got. I have tried the 3 different Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR lenses. One briefly at the local shop and 2 extensively which belonged to my friends. My impression is solely for FX format.

This is a very good lens with super sharp optics especially near the 70mm end. The build quality is excellent, AF is super fast and with f2.8 and VR steady shots are easy.

As I had mentioned in my previous blogs I had used the legendary Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L version as well as the Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS. So I am very used this focal length range and my expectations are pretty high.

The most important thing I noticed when I tried this lens was the soft corners especially close to the long end and the vignetting. When shooting wide open with standard or wide angle lenses, soft corners are usually not a problem since the subject is usually close to the center and the corners contain mostly the blurred background. But at the long end of the telephoto the subject occupies most of the frame usually and soft corners are more apparent in this situations. This may not apply to everybody but in my style of photography I found that the corners were too soft and noticeable for my liking. The vignetting though a little bad can be corrected with RAW processing.



The second issue I had is the weight of this lens. This is very heavy and not something that you would want carry all day. I understand that I have to accept the weight for the sake of optical quality but (this is a big but) the image quality wide open is not at a level where I want it to be. For the price and the weight of this lens there is simply very little optical advantage offered.

In comparison, the image quality of 70-300mm is superb especially when you consider the 70-200 range in this lens. At f/5.6 both lenses have the same superb optical quality. On top of it the Nikon 70-300mm lens is very light (comparatively)and very cheap. Hey it can also zoom to 300mm. There may be complaints about this lens at 300mm but you do not have this 300mm option at all in the other lens.

The inference, no the Nikon 70-200 VR AFS is not a bad lens but you must know its strengths and weaknesses when you go for this lens.
My recommendation for this lens is this. If you shoot fast moving action in low light, if your subject is going to be somewhere around the center without going too much to the corners and if you are willing to accept the weight of this lens then you can go for this lens. But remember you are paying 3 to 4 times the price of Nikon 70-300mm VR. You are paying for this lens to shoot at f/2.8 at this zoom range. If you understand this clearly and if this what you need then you should be happy with this lens.
For most others I recommend the Nikon 70-300mm lens at 1/3rd to 1/4th price and similar optical quality (albeit without the option of shooting at f2.8) but with added advantages of longer zoom range and low weight. What's not to like about this lens.



As for me unless Nikon releases any other version of new lens in this zoom range with better results in full frame I am going to stick with the 70-300mm VR. I really like it and by the way it is almost .... almost as good as the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR


I bought the Nikon 70-300mm VR lens along with my Nikon D700 as part of the package. The following review pertains to its use in FX or Full frame format aka Nikon D3 D700 and D3x. Obviously the lens is going to perform better on DX frame bodies compared to full frame, but just to note that I have not yet used it on crop sensor body.

There are 2 other Nikon lenses in this focal length range the G lens and the ED lens without VR. I do not have any significant experience in any of these lenses other than the fact that I briefly mounted the G lens on D700 and the autofocus was so bad that I did not bother anymore. It may be a bad sample but I do not know for sure.

I come from Canon world and this focal length is very familiar to me. I have used the Canon 70-20mm f/4 L IS lens and the legendary 70-200mm f/2.8 L (non IS) lens. So I am aware of what to expect from lenses in this focal length range.

I am going to include this next paragraph in all my consumer lens reviews.
This is the current lens in the Nikon line up so though it is not weather sealed but of adequate build quality. I am not the person who looses sleep overbuild quality since half of those who comment on it do not have a clue about the materials used. In modern lens standard the only relevant question is weather sealing. All else is immaterial. Most people do not realise that expensive lenses withstand the same amount of abuse as this one baring weather effects. I will try to expand on this in some future blog. But suffice to note that this lens will take a lot of abuse before showing signs of it. The zoom is smooth and precise. There is no creep or other issues.

As I have noted several times before I was a canon user for a long time. When I got the Nikon D700 the Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR was the second lens that I tried. I had already used the 24-85mm f/2.8-4 D before and was pleasantly surprised with the good image quality especially considering it is a so called “consumer grade” zoom. I was expecting something similar in the 70-300mm also but I was totally taken by the superb image quality that this lens produced. The images were simply superb for any zoom consumer or otherwise, even when compared to the excellent canon zooms in this range. I also had the option of getting the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR. I also got to try the Nikon 70-200mm VR several times when shooting with my friend. My thoughts on Nikon 70-300 vs 70-200mm AFS VR lenses.

Lets see how the lens handles the usual parameters.

Chromatic Aberration:
Any long zoom lens especially of this range covering such a wide range is going to have chromatic aberration as it is almost impossible to remove it. So this lens has some chromatic aberration but it is in very moderate amounts. As far as I am concerned the key question is how easy is it to remove the chromatic aberration using a single slider in Lightroom (or similar software) without compromising image quality in any manner. In this regard I never had any issues. The chromatic aberration is very much within acceptable and should never be an issue.



Distortion:
Just like chromatic aberration distortion will be present in any lens be it Samyang or Canon or Leica. The key question again is whether is it visible in real world applications and if it is removable. Yes there is minimal barrel distortion at the 70mm end which is extremely minimal and easily correctable if need be. There is moderate pin cushion almost in the entire zoom range except may be at the end of zoom closer to 300mm. This is not easily seen in routine photography but when it does you do have to spend time to remove it. It is not as easy as removing say light fall off. But overall this is not a significant problem with this lens.

Vignetting:
There is light falloff throughout the focal length range, but once again this is minimal and easily corrected in the RAW work flow without compromising image quality. This should be even better with crop sensor cameras and you should not see any light fall off at all.

Flare/ghosting:
This is one which differentiates a mid priced zoom from a super expensive prime. The good aspect of this lens is it handles Flare really well. For the most part I was shooting without the hood on but even then it did fine in most of the situations. There was not ghosting that I could see either. In contrast the 24-85mm lens exhibits severe Flaring without the hood. So the Nikon 70-300mm VR is excellent in this regard, being one of the strong points.

Autofocus:
The lens is optimized for autofocus and with the Nikon D700 this simply zips through. It is extremely fast, quickly locks on to the subject, very little AF noise and very accurate. This lens handles AF as good as any lens constrained only by its widest aperture of f/4.5-5.6.




(For in depth explanation of various Auto focus settings and custom modes in auto focus for users of Nikon D700 D3 and D300 please see http://prakashphotography.blogspot.com/2008/12/nikon-d700d3d300-autofocus-settings.html)

Bokeh:
Any telephoto lens will have a good bokeh and this lens is no exception. The bokeh becomes smoother as the focal length increases. The bokeh characteristics of this lens is very good to excellent.
(Just my take on bokeh, this is a new fad in lens evaluation in the recent years, this is one parameter that is given undue overimportance to the point of neglecting the image for the background. My thoughts on this in my latter blog).



Sharpness & Resolution:
A very important parameter for any lens. This is where the Nikon 70-300mm VR AF-S showsits true potential. Whether you use wide open or stopped down the lens is extremely sharp and at the same time has exceptional resolution. From 70 to 250mm or so it is sharp corner to corner. After 250mm there is slight decrease in corner sharpness albeit better than most lenses at this focal length. The resolution is exceptional especially considering the zoom range. Thereis some complaints of sharpness at 300mm but it may be due tothe reason it is too sharp from 70-250mm. To put things in perspective the resolution at 300mm is as good or better than the Canon 100 to 400mm F/4 L lens (which by itself is a very highly regarded lens). This lens is only bettered by the latest Nikon primes (VR) in this focal length range.



Ergonomics:
The size and weight of the lens is very low for this focal length zoom. This is very light and compact compared to the 70-200 VR. The zoom ring is smooth enough does not distract from framing. The AF noise is almost unnoticeable. The minimal focus distance is 1.5m which is a tad long but usual in a zoom of this range.

If you notice I have been very optimistic about this lens. Well as with any lens there are compromises and so there are drawbacks. The main drawback is its aperture range f/4.5 to f/5.6 in its focal length range. At 70mm it is f/4.5, becomes f/5.0 at around 135mm and is a f/5.6 lens at above 200mm. With good light this is not an issue. If you shoot with D700/D3 then the excellent VR of the lens combined with the camera's good ISO, for most situations this is a non issue. But VR and ISO cannot stop motion and if your subject motion is a little fast then you really feel the need for wider apertures. This is the most important and only significant drawback that you must consider before purchasing this lens.

If the slightly slow aperture is acceptable then this lens is a bargain considering its image quality, handling, zoom range and price. For FX cameras currently (Feb 2009) there is no better VR lens at this zoom range.



Saturday, February 7, 2009

Nikon D700 vs Canon 5D Mk II weather sealing & adverse conditions.

This is something that I did not think worth mentioning in my previous blog (http://prakashphotography.blogspot.com/2008/12/nikon-d700-vs-canon-5d-mark-ii-mk-2.html). The 5D Mk II felt a little bit flimsier and Knowing that D700  is weather sealed whereas the  5D MkII is not, I did not care. I had a Canon 40D and I was wondering vaguely if the 5D Mk II was not even up to the Canon 40D but I was not sure.


Here is another take on this issue from 2 very respectable sources.

The first is from Jim Reed Photography, granted the camera was loaned by Nikon to him and they use his images for advertisements. But dont let this take away anything from the camera or phtographer.

Here is what Jim Reed writes
  "The camera held in my right hand is the D700. Our storm chase vehicle, the camera, and yours truly were covered in dirt and dust by day's end -- but safe and uninjured. It literally took two days to clean everything. Although VERY dirty, the D700 performed flawlessly and never stopped working!

As weeks passed, and the record-setting severe weather season continued, the D700 was subjected to heavy rainfall and, believe me, the camera got SOAKED. It was constantly around lightning and, at one point, was hit by a falling hailstone. Still, not so much as a hiccup. It performed reliably on every level.

While hurrying toward the end of a mission, the D700 was even dropped onto a concrete driveway. The circular polarizer was destroyed, but the camera was fine, and continued to perform as if nothing ever happened. So, with respect to durability and weather-resistance, I give the D700 an "EXCELLENT" rating."

Here is link to the web page - http://www.jimreedphoto.com/content.html?page=5
Here is the link to the images which speak for the photographer and the camera - http://chsvimg.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/d700/home.htm the landscape images are by Jim Reed.


Next is the link from Luminous Landscape. Again Michael Reichmann who has enough experience and credibility states the following comments about equipment failures during his recent trip to Antarctica. Please note that he went there during this January which is summer time in Antarctica and temperatures are relatively mild in the 30s to 40s. He also explains about the conditions during equipment failure which included some drizzle and the 5D IIs that failed were protected to some extent.

Basically his experience was that 25% of the canon 5d Mk II cameras failed. This is quite a high number and unacceptable for even a camera which does not have weather seal. Also note the fact that the Loaner Canon 5D Mk II from Canon itself failed.

Here is the link - http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/antarctica-2009-worked.shtml

Please read the entire article and come to your own conclusions.

This is interesting for me since I have the D700 and not the Canon 5D mark II since I was so close to keeping the 5D II instead of D700 considering my then investment in Canon lenses. I just wish to add one more aspect for those who consider these 2 cameras, since photography in adverse weather conditions may be a factor for some individuals, though not much in my case since I usually quit to retire to the comforts of home/hotel long before my camera quits, one advantage for me being an amateur rather than a pro.

I am adding some of my own pictures with the Nikon D700 in extreme conditions of explosion with fire and flying cars, flash flood and snow storm. I never had any problems with the D700 in any of these conditions.










































































Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nikon 24-85mm f/2.8-4 ED IF lens review

I was looking for a standard zoom for my Nikon D700 when I made the purchase and got a very good deal on this lens so I bought it. I was more interested in the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 AFS G lens at the time so I tried one at the shop and also tried my friend's lens. The 24-70mm f/2.8 is a very heavy lens and I decided to give the 24-85mm a try before I decide to sell it.

I was primarily using the 24-85mm as my main lens and I have been shooting extensively with this lens. This is my very subjective opinion about this lens. This pertains to FX format but most of it holds good for DX format also but this becomes a 36-129mm in DX format so something to keep in mind.

This is the current lens in the Nikon line up so it is not weather sealed but of adequate build quality. I am not the person who looses sleep overbuild quality since half of those who comment on it do not have a clue about the materials used. In modern lens standard the only relevant question is weather sealing. All else is immaterial. Most people do not realise that expensive lenses withstand the same amount of abuse as this one baring weather effects. I will try to expand on this in some future blog. But suffice to note that this lens will take a lot of abuse before showing signs of it. The zoom is smooth and precise. There is no creep or other issues. The lens is internal focusing so the front element does not rotate, makes it useful if you use a polarizer.


Autofocus:
This is a Screw-drive lens meaning that there is no internal motor but relies on the camera to focus. This translates to the effect that the AF speed will depend on your camera also. On a D700 AF is fast and precise. You will not loose any shots due to the AF speed. The closest focus is 0.5 m.

(For in depth explanation of various Auto focus settings and custom modes in auto focus for users of Nikon D700 D3 and D300 please seehttp://prakashphotography.blogspot.com/2008/12/nikon-d700d3d300-autofocus-settings.html)

Manual Focus:
This lens is optimised for AF. MF is possible with a switch. It is easily workable as a MF lens if need be but not as fluid as dedicated MF lens.

Vignetting:
There is some vignetting at the widest end (24mm) which is easily correctable with software (I have used both lightroom or Capture NX2 to good effect). The vignetting is gone by the time you stop down to f/4 or f/5.6. There is also decrease in vignetting as you go from wide to tele. For practical purposes vignetting is not a problem.

Chromatic Aberration:
This lens handles CA very well and I could not recall any photos where I had any significant CA.

Distortion:
There is moderate barrel distortion at the wide end with curvature of field. This is typical of a zoom lens. The 24-70mm G lens also has similar distortion.

Resolution:
This lens has excellent resolution that is better than 35mm f/2 at 35mm and almost as good as 85mm f/2 Nikkor. I have no experience with 85mm f1/8. You will be hard pressed to fault this lens based on its resolution.

Macro:
Not a true macro. Excellent close focus of about 21cm. You cannot go wider than 35mm in macro mode. But at 85mm you get 1:2 which is very decent macro for a zoom lens.
Important tip: Switch to normal mode from macro when you want to zoom wider than 35mm otherwise you will not be able to go beyond 35mm. Another important consideration is to focus beyond 50 cm before you will be able to switch from macro to normal mode. Remember this otherwise you will think that the lens malfunctions.

Contrast:
There is some loss of contrast wide open but contrast become very good as you stop down. This is where the 24-70mm G pulls ahead. The expensive zoom has spectacular contrast even wide open.

I still have the 24-85. The reason is this is such a good walk around lens for Nikon full frame. The lens has excellent resolution and decent in most parameters. Most importantly this is such a light weight lens. Personally the weight is the only factor that prevents me from switching to 24-70mm AFS. By no means am I suggesting that the 24-85mm is a better lens. What the 24-70mm gets you is slightly better distortion control, better contrast, uniform aperture of f/2.8 and better build quality. Only the user can determine if it's worth more than $1000 price difference.

For FX format Nikon this is the best walk around lens considering the price, performance and weight factors. I have briefly used the 28-105 but was not impressed either with resolution or with the wide end. No its not a bad lens but the 24-85mm is definitely better. If you are buying this lens used there is no better bargain. For comparison let me put this in a way I am familiar with. I have used most Canon zooms which are excellent by the way and this 24-85mm is as good as the Canon 24-105mm f/4L which I owned and is a great zoom in its own way. This is one of the few things that Nikon has impressed me with. They really don't hold back on consumer zooms and give the best possible within that price range.

Check my impression on the Nikon 70-300mm VR AF-S here

Some photos with this lens:



































Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nikon D3 firmware update

Nikon has updated the firmware for D3.



According to Nikon the following features are modified by firmware

Modifications enabled with upgrade of A and B firmware to v.2.01

  • Geodetic information is now displayed in ViewNX 1.2.0 or later and Capture NX 2 2.1.0 or later shooting information for images captured with the GPS Unit GP-1 mounted on the camera.
  • Autofocus-response performance in focus mode C (Continuous-servo AF mode) with relatively dark subjects has been increased.
  • When the AF-ON button is pressed, the monitor turns off and a focus point can now be selected using the multi selector.
  • Photo information displayed in full-frame playback has been modified as follows:
    • HI-, LO- has been changed to Hi, Lo
    • WARM TONE has been changed to WARM FILTER
    • COLOR CUSTOM has been changed to COLOR BALANCE
  • Manamah, displayed in the Time zone options for the World time item in the setup menu, has been changed to Manama.
  • An issue that, in extremely rare cases, resulted in noticeable black dots in images captured with Long exp. NR in the shooting menu set to On has been resolved.
  • When the Speedlight SB-800 was mounted on the camera with flash mode set to Distance-priority manual (GN) mode, and then the exposure meters were reactivated or the camera was turned on, the distance information displayed on the SB-800 changed. This issue has been resolved.
  • An issue that, in some rare cases, caused images captured with the following lenses to be under-exposed, has been resolved.
    • AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
    • AF VR Zoom-Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED (5.0x)

Instructions to update firmware found in the links.

Nikon D700 firmware update

Nikon has updated the firmware for D700.




According to Nikon the following features are modified by firmware

Modifications enabled with A and B firmware Ver. 1.01

  • When Custom Setting a4 Focus tracking with lock-on was set to Off in Continuous-servo AF, the lens drive moved gradually without achieving focus.  This issue has been resolved.  
  • When the Speedlight SB-800 was mounted on the camera with flash mode set to Distance-priority manual (GN) mode, and then the exposure meters were reactivated or the camera was turned on, the distance information displayed on the SB-800 changed.  This issue has been resolved.  
  • When the Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D10 was mounted on the camera and an EN-EL3e battery inserted in the camera but no batteries inserted in the MB-D10, and SB-900 flash mode set to TTL auto flash mode, the flash mode changed to A mode when the exposure meters turned off or were reactivated, or the camera was turned off or on.  This issue has been resolved.  (This issue has also been resolved with SB-900 firmware Ver. 5.02.)
  • An issue that, in extremely rare cases, resulted in noticeable black dots in images captured with Long exp. NR in the shooting menu set to On has been resolved.
  • Manamah, displayed in the Time zone options for the World time item in the setup menu, has been changed to Manama.

Instructions to update firmware found in the links.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Autofocus Microadjustment

I had the opportunity to use both Canon 5D MKII and Nikon D700 recently and I found one of the new advances in the last year was AF Microadjustment feature these new cameras offer. This feature is extremely useful for both consumers and the camera makers and helps you save a lot of time in sending lenses back to the company for calibration.

You may already know that DSLRs and lenses like most products have manufacture tolerances. If the camera or lens focuses, say within +/- 3 then it may be acceptable for the manufacturer. But if your camera is +3 and your lens is also +3 then you may have focus issues. The most common cause for front or back focus is because of this.

Focusing accuracy is the second most important factor in image sharpness (after blur due to camera shake). So if your lens looks to be not sharp enough this is worth a try to rectify your problem.

If you own one of the newest cameras from Nikon or Canon (I am not sure about other manufacturers) then you should have this feature. In Nikon this feature is available in D300, Nikon D700, Nikon D3 and Nikon D3x. In canon this feature is available in Canon 50d, Canon 5d mark II and also in 1 DS & 1D mark III.

(For in depth explanation of various Auto focus settings and custom modes in auto focus for users of Nikon D700 D3 and D300 please see http://prakashphotography.blogspot.com/2008/12/nikon-d700d3d300-autofocus-settings.html)

I have used this feature in both Canon and Nikon and I will go through this set up process.

AF MICROADJUSTMENT:

For this you need the test image which you need to download (links below) and use LIVE View feature in your camera. The adjustment process uses Moire interference patterns produced by these images when they are in focus.




































You need to put your camera on your tripod. You need to have the image on your computer screen (Please don't print !!!). If possible use a monitor, instead of laptop screen. Use Live View to manually focus. Do it slowly and carefully and a patience helps a lot in getting your focus accurate and also use less tries to get it set up.

Here are the steps:

(Please note these steps best work for f/2.8 or faster lens. If you use f/2 or faster primes this method may or may not work, please see below another method for these fast lenses)

1. Bring the Test image on your screen. Make sure it is at 100% size on your screen.

2. Place your camera secure on a tripod. Level it by viewing the center of the image on the screen (do not bother about focus now). Turn off VR, IS features if your lens has one. Make sure the camera lens and monitor screen are parallel.

3. Place the tripod so that the lens is beyond the minimal focus distance at its longest focal length (if it is a zoom, ex. for 24-70mm use minimal focal distance at 70mm). If your lens can focus to 1 meter then set the tripod at 1.2 to 1.5 meters.

4. First turn on Live view. Use Aperture priority mode and use maximum aperture for the lens (as wide open as possible). Set your lens to manual focus.

5. Use Live view screen to manually focus your lens till you see the most significant Moire pattern on the Live view.

6. Now without moving your camera or lens set your lens to Autofocus. Set your camera to single shot AF. Manually select center AF point for focusing. Next half press the shutter while you watch the focus distance scale of your lens.

7. If your lens focus distance scale did not move then your lens does not need any AF microadjustment. Go back to live view and make sure the moire pattern has not changed. Repeat this process if needed to make sure.

8. If your lens focus scales did move then you need to make AF Microadjustments. Go to Set UP menu in Nikon to access AF fine tune or Custom Fn. III in Canon to access AF microadjustment (set to adjust by lens). Now if the distance scale moved clockwise dial in (-) or if it moved anticlockwise dial in (+). Dial in 5 or 10 depending upon the movement. If you make a mistake and dial in + instead of - your focus will be way off so you should be able to recognise this. Keep changing the AF adjustment till the focus scale does not move. Once you are done do not forget to save this setting for this lens. You have to press the info button in Canon and the OK button in Nikon otherwise none of your settings will be saved.

That's it you are set for this lens.


Well his method works for zooms whose widest aperture is f/4 or smaller. But for primes f/2 and larger, I did not found this method to be efficient. These fast lenses have razor thin DOF and the above method is not very accurate. So I created my own way of adjusting AF fine tune. Please give it a try you may find it very accurate.

You can always get the commercial available tool for this at www.rawworkflow.com/lensalign but if you want to save $140 you can try my method.

Basically I use a remote. You can use any remote that has numbers. It is readily available and no one should have problems finding several in your homes.
Now I think this is a very good method. This method is copyrighted by me and me alone and you can try it free but if you post it elsewhere my international copyright attorney is watching every website in this planet and you will be found and brought to justice. If it does not work the fine print says I am not liable. Beware of my legal entourage. Okay just kidding. Here goes my innovative method.

I selected a remote and not a ruler because in a remote each number has its own button which is 3 dimensional and so your accuracy will be very high.

1. Place the remote on a flat surface or better at 45 degrees.

2. Place your camera and lens on a tripod at a distance just beyond the near focusing distance (with the lens at maximum zoom if it is a zoom).

3. Focus on any number in the middle of the remote. Make sure there are numbers below and above this.

4. With your lens wide open and your camera set to single point AF take pictures. Examine the photos at 100% and check for AF accuracy.

5. If your photo shows that the focus is exactly on the number you tried to focus and if the numbers in front and behind are blurred then your lens does not need any AF microadjustment.

6. If your photo shows that the number behind the one that you tried to focus is sharp then dial in + adjustment. If the number in front is focused then dial in - adjustment. Keep repeating this till you get your number in sharp focus. Once you get a sharp focus save this AF microadjustment. You are done.

The only suggestion is to improve accuracy and ease is try to find a remote where the number spacing is such that you get only one row of numbers in focus with the front and back rows blurred. This should be very easy if you have 2 0r 3 remotes in your home.

As usual your comments are greatly appreciated.