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How to feel (the) blue without the need of a tripod: the Nikon 16-35 mm f/4 VR

The long awaited Summer painted the city of Zurich with its finest blue.
artborghi-blue-light-zurich-2

Can you feel the whispering of the couples walking in the streets of the old town?
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Do you hear the chatting of the restaurant guests from the outdoor tables?
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People and buildings and sky blend in these nights of forgotten dreams.artborghi-blue-light-zurich-4

The most beautiful time of the year, the longest blue nights did not come unseen:
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suck all the marrow out of these nights with greed.
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And in case you are just walking around with your camera but not with your tripod, the Nikon 16-35 mm f/4 VR on my D800 made an excellent job. Pictures all shot hand held with times down to 1/3 sec (!) Click to open them full size in a new tab.

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Nikon D800 left AF issue as May 2013: good news?

The pictures of this post have been sent to Nikon service. They reply me to send my D800 back for service: it would last max 5 working days. I already went through one service. I read online horror stories about 3 or more consecutive services ending tragically, with not a single AF bank at last calibrated.

artborghi-d800-50_af_issue-small  artborghi-d800-16-35_af_issue-small
artborghi-D800-70-200VRII_af_issue-small 

As I could find a compromise with my D800 and the lenses I own, I do not want to risk. Unless you know of novel (after April 2013) Nikon guidelines for technical services on this D800 AF issue. Any news?

Click on each picture to magnify

Legend

L: left AF; M: middle AF; R: right AF; Lv: Live View; nAF: fine AF tuning value

red star: chosen setup
green point: as good as live view
orange point: acceptable but worse than live view

All picture open at maximum aperture, where the issue is mostly visible.

Pictures shot in different lights but also with  (16-35mm) / without (50mm, 70-200mm) the last D800 firmware update (A 1.01, B 1.02): some yellow tint removed from jpeg format?

How sharp is the Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4G ED VR on the D800? The Papa Francisco case

Papa Francisco (in the picture below, adapted from the Vatican newspaper l’Osservatore Romano) was around 380 meters far away from my D800.

papa francesco d800 easter 2013 small

In the panel below it is depicted how could I see him with a 50 mm and a 16 mm mounted on my D800. First, second and third column are respectively left, middle, right crops of the full size pictures (f/6.3 and ISO 100 – click here and here for downloading 15 MB full size pictures) Click on the picture panel to see it full size. 

50 mm vs 16 mm

Except for the slight chromatic aberration on the left side of the 16 mm picture (that is automatically removed by lens correction, compare middle and bottom rows), I am happy I had this lens just in time before visiting Rome.

Barrel distortion of the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR on D800: picture comparison

artborghi-barrel-distorsion-16-35mm VR-nikkor

When I bought the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR I read about the huge barrel distortion coming with it at 16 mm but I was not aware it was so … unnoticeable. Click on the animated gif above (1.1 MB, give it time to load) if the slide show is not running. You will see the original NEF files and the result from the automatic software correction for this lens (click here for more corrected pictures from Rome). Of course it is better after correction, but the distortion is not as disturbing as I thought. Maybe it goes worse with modern glass-and-steel buildings … not my usual subject anyway.

Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens on D800: exciting news, old problems

I recently mounted on my D800 a new 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens. This tele, as expected, provides excellent results. Here are my first tests on quite dull, but distant, subjects (100% crop from full pictures shot in the same conditions with a 50mm f/1.4G and this tele). Colors, contrast and speed are exceptional at every length. Autofocus is ultra silent and ultra fast, as well the stabilizer worked solid with me also with slow times.

The lens weight is still acceptable, although I should try day-long hikes before writing anything about it. With its f/2.8 it’s easy to shoot fast moving objects and situations with poor light conditions (click here to watch).

However, such broad apertures (and, although less, even higher) are not really compatible with D800 still having the infamous left AF issue. Although my camera already went through service at Nikon Switzerland, at f/2.8 the image focused using the the left AF bank, whatever fine AF correction value used, is always blurred.

This is the second lens having such problem with my D800: time to ring Nikon Service Switzerland ? Click on the picture for a bigger version.

for nikon service small

Learn the lens you own, find their limits: the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G example

nikkor 50 mm f/1.2

The Nikkor 50 mm f 1/4G is a very nice lens, as also reviewers on Nikon USA write … but like every lens it has its limits. Finding them should let you adapt to your lens in difficult situations.

For example, hand-held night shoots mounted on a full frame camera like the D800. Sharpness with ISO 4000 and close to f/2 is not excellent as expected, but optical aberrations at the borders are quite annoying. Click here for a full size zoom/pan version on zoom.it or click on the post picture.

At f/1.4 it  is of course even worse and all the picture lights suffer distortion (click here to see a convincing full size example).

With night shoots I would recommend to remove the UV filter you possibly forgot mounted, unless you like green ghost fireworks on the picture, click here for a clear example.

So, when similar results pop out, keep your subject just in the middle, go up with the aperture when possible or find somebody to carry your tripod along!

Nikon D800 dream-team: a few suggestions for choosing new lenses for your new camera

artborghi chosen gears

It is quite difficult choosing which gear to buy for a new camera. You are used to your old gears and, especially when switching brands, a whole new world has to be explored. First questions you have to answer are:

1) What do I need this new lens for?
2) What do I like to shoot with my camera?
3) How much do I wanna spend?

I previously used a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM and a very nice Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS. The long tele was nothing special and I have seen it often equally compared to the Nikon 70-300mm. The 17-55mm was a precious toy but with the D800 I wanted to give a try to easy prime lenses. The D800, like many others, requires some field work to be fully appreciated and I wanted to focus on it more than on immediately learning a new lens.

So, what I did was:

1) Scavenging lens data online on Nikon photography blogs, something like Ken Rockwell and Nasim Mansurov and other forums, newsgroups and so on.
2) Avoiding pure technical test websites: boring and not really informative as I like to shoot something more than Siemens stars
3) Looking for ebay and new prices

The knowledge I hopefully gained pushed me to own, order or just dream the following lenses:

[Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G]
Easy, light, small, very fast, no cons if stopped at 2, still ok if you go down to 1.4. I am very happy with it and the kind of dim light pictures I can shoot now I could dream with other lenses for this price.

[Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR II]
Ordered and hopefully soon on my D800. I did not want another average 70-300 like the Canon I had, I could not spend so much money for the wonderful Nikon prime long lenses, I was not convinced by the quality of Sigma 50-500mm or equivalents. I really do not believe wonderful reviews on barrels like the Nikon 28-300mm being as sharp and fast: I stay far, far away from this all-round lenses … it is like when new “family-movies” are announced: you now it will be no good.

[Nikon AF-S 17-35mm F/2.8 IF-ED]
Still dreaming on it. One day I will get this excellent wide angle, I really want to go down to 17mm for landscapes, this time on a Fx camera! If you have one home and you do not use it donate it to me!

[Nikon AF 200mm F/4.0D IF ED MACRO]
Another wild dream. THE macro, as I could see and read around, with a long focus distance to have 1:1 whatever fearful subject you shoot.

[Nikon 135mm f/2 DC]
Many call it the portrait king … maybe one day when I will win the lottery I will finally buy also this one

So, I hope the several hours I spent online might be useful to you too in choosing the lenses you need, if your needs and wishes are similar to mine. Enjoy shooting!

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