Sunday, August 21, 2011

The fabulous fifty...

...millimeter, that is.

Back in the day I used my dad's Nikon S2 35mm rangefinder camera. It has three lenses: a 35mm wide-angle, a 50mm normal, and a 135mm telephoto. I used the 50mm normal lens the most. When my dad switched over to a Pentax 35mm SLR with zoom lenses I started using those. Eventually I used nothing but zooms.

I lost interest in using prime lenses. Yes, I knew that an 85mm or a 105mm lens was great for portraits, but I used a zoom that covered that focal range. Yes, I knew primes were always faster than zooms, but I didn't feel a need for a fast lens for low-light situations. And I didn't want the hassle of switching lenses: having a zoom negated that problem.

But...using a zoom in low light meant I had to increase my ISO on a digital SLR to sometimes undesirable heights. I wasn't happy with all the electronic noise as a result. So I started researching wide-angle (35mm) and "normal" (i.e., 50mm) prime lenses to use on a Nikon APS-C SLR, and finally settled on the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF-D lens. It was cheap and "fast" (allowed lots of light in). And with my crop factor of 1.5, the 50mm has the field of view of a 75mm lens on a 35mm film or full-frame digital SLR (which makes it act like a short telephoto lens).

Oh...and I need to remember that I have to move when I'm framing a subject.

Here are some examples using the 50mm:

Katie Sadie

Katie

Sadie

Sadie

I use it a lot wide open (maybe to a fault), as you can see. I focus on the eyes, and shooting with the aperture wide open causes the background to blur nicely.

It's sharp, the bokeh is nice, and with the aperture diaphragm made up of straight blades instead of rounded ones, you'll get wonderful 14-point sunstars when the lens is stopped down to f/16 or f/22. You can get one for about $125. It's being replaced by the newly-introduced 50mm f/1.8G.

(Important note: the 50mm f/1.8G AF-S will autofocus on the cheapest Nikon DSLR's (like the D40, D40X, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000, and D5100. The 50mm f/1.8 AF-D, the subject of this post, will not autofocus on the models I've listed.)

14 comments:

  1. I am currently taking a photography class so now all of this camera talk makes complete sense! I'm so glad you post all of the camera settings! I love seeing the results :)

    P.S. for some reason I couldn't comment with my google account, but this is angela from vagreys.blogspot.com

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  2. that's weird because i have the blog to accept everyone. but i'm glad i'm making sense to you. have fun with your class!

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  3. I've seen bokeh mentioned in various places but don't know what it or sunstars are so I'm going to hit up Google:) Or a dictionary!

    The photo of Sadie up the top is magical. Would you mind describing what you'd call it please? It's not B/W is it?

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  4. I love the first picture of Sadie! She always looks so photogenic, well, except when her head is in someone else's mouth! :P I wish I had a little extra money right now, because you make that lens sound really good!

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  5. I need to take a class. Thanks for the info Steve!! I might learn how to use my Leica yet!

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  6. @Greyhounds CAN Sit: that picture of sadie was processed using an adobe lightroom preset. (a preset is just a saved set of post-processing instructions that you can used over and over.) i often take a copy of a photo and play around with it just to see what i'll get. in this case, i was surprised with this result using a particular preset.

    @carrie: you have a d3100, right? i don't think the 50mm af-d will autofocus on your camera. i think you'd have to get the new 50mm f/1.8g instead, which goes for about $215.

    @gijenn51: hi, jenn! thanks for commenting. what leica do you have? i've never used one.

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  7. I currently have the 50 f/1.4 on my Canon 7D. I was practicing head shots this weekend. Love the Bokeh too.

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  8. now that is a nice lens, too.

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  9. Lovely shots! I've considered getting a prime, as lighting in the house is hard to come by in the summer (I know, the irony is overwhelming) and I'm thinking a fast lens might help.

    About what distance were you from your lovely pups when you took those shots, if you don't mind my asking. :)

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  10. i think they were taken from distances ranging from 3-6 feet (1-2 m) away. the top-most picture of sadie i remember i had to step away until the 6-foot-long leash was taut in order to frame her head with the large tree (yes, that's a tree -- i had to go back to where i took the picture and see for myself) beyond.

    i have made a habit of trying to get close to our greyhounds when photographing them. as a result you see few pictures of their entire bodies in my gallery. i really had to force myself to back away in order to get a different look.

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  11. Thanks for the explanation of that photo. I've looked up bokeh and sunspots and now I REALLY want a DSLR! But there's lots I need to learn about my P&S yet:) And photography in general.

    I think you'd love New Zealand. Lots of wonderful scenery packed into a relatively small area and Greyhounds are getting more and more popular:)

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  12. Those are such great pictures--and such great subjects! Greyhound faces are so expressive. I have not fostered one yet but you remind me that its high on my list. Thanks for the great post.

    Kirsten
    follow my foster adventures at www.peacefuldog.blogspot.com

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  13. thanks, kirsten, for your comment. i wouldn't necessarily say that greyhound faces are more expressive than other breeds, but they do affect me more than others. it's something i hope to capture in every picture i take of them.

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  14. Yes, you're right about the camera! Another thing to add to my wish list for Christmas! :P

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