$40.00 lens scary sharp !

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by hughes, Feb 6, 2010.

  1. I've been reading a lot of posts recently about the various Nikon products out there like the 70-200 AFS and the Nikon 85mm F1.4 etc etc all costing in the thousands, but I urge people to look outside the box. I'm as guilty as anyone that if funds permitted my attic would be full of empty gold boxes but thanks to the internet there is a treasure house of really useable lenses out there for very reasonable prices. I just aquired a 135mm 3.5 ais Nikon lens in mint condition for less than $40.00 it is an absolute jewell I put it on my D300 just to play, and took this very casual snap in bright sunlight while not a masterpeice I was blown away by not only by how sharp the lens was it but by the contrast also, it was shot at F8 and it seems bitingly sharp from edge to edge I'm not a sharpness freak but would love to hear if any body else has had similar experiences from bargain lenses.
    Steve
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  2. centre frame this is unsharpened out of the camera
    00VhtM-218165784.jpg
     
  3. Steve,
    Your are right, at f/8 you should be getting very sharp image or something is really wrong. This should be the case for almost all lenses, except for a broken lens, of course.
    The issue I have with the really old AiS Nikkors is that they tend to have a slight magenta cast. I have seen it on film and digital sensors.
     
  4. Most 135mm lenses are very good. Then, because of zooms and the need for longer teles, they got overlooked by many. I would expect that lens to be tack sharp as you have found. Just because the world has gone AF, DSLR this and megapixel that, does not negate the fact that Nikon and other manufacturers produced excellent optics long before some of you were born. It's nice to see people discovering this, and you got a good bargain.
     
  5. Well you have gone and exposed the secret, Steve. Sharpness was invented decades ago. Lots of folks overlook AI, and AIS lenses simply because they lack auto focus and other bells and whistles or they just don't know the more important truth you have revealed. As you have discovered, that can be a mistake. There are lots of cut diamonds out there just laying on the ground. ;-)
     
  6. I recently bought a 200mm f4 AI and I love it. It's also very sharp (when I can hold the camera still) and it seems to have just a slightly different color cast than my other lenses that I also like. Additionally, I've been playing aroung with my 28-80mm f3.3/5.6 G lens that I got with my N65 a few years ago and have been pleasantly suprised at it's sharpness (remember that this is a $50 kit lens). I'll post a couple of shots I took this afternoon.
     
  7. Let's try that again. First attempt didn't work because i didn't put in a caption.
    00Vhut-218189584.jpg
     
  8. 100% crop.
    00Vhuv-218189684.jpg
     
  9. There are a few prime lenses in certain focal lengths that seem to be great optical performers whatever the manufacturer, lens mount, or focusing system. 50mm lenses seem to be like that, and 135mm lenses, too.
    I had a JC Penney 135mm with a Canon EF mount that I got for $12 and produced images I could be proud.
    Congrats on your new lens...
     
  10. There is a range of focal lengths (~35-135) where good performance seems to have been mastered decades ago. The improvements since then have been mostly in coatings, ultra wide-angles, zooms, and ultra telephotos. So, if you're looking for focal lengths in the 35-135 range, old prime lenses are still great bargains. Even some old zooms are supposed to be better than consumer zooms from today (kit zooms and such). Of course, people try to sell new stuff, so they'll keep saying how good this and that newly introduced lens is, but if you look at some classic Zeiss lens designs still in use today - their design dates back to a century ago. Check Paul Rudolph's work, for an example - he also worked on the Biotar design, which interestingly is derived from a design of Gauss from 1817!
    135mm seems to have been a really popular focal length in the film era, along with the ubiquitous 50mm and 28mm. Lenses in this focal length are usually pretty sharp.
     
  11. What's good to know, for me, is that the 135mm is so sharp. I've avoided them because I've heard they were not very good.
     
  12. Like Cory, I'm a big fan of the 200mm f/4 (mine's an AIS) and often pack it instead of the 70-200mm (version 1). It's small, very sharp, and doesn't have the 70-200 version 1's corner issue on FX. It cost less than a 77mm polarizer.
     
  13. After 1945, all of the designs and patents of E. Leitz, Carl Zeiss, and Zeiss Ikon were placed in the public domain by the Allied powers. These were the starting points for the Japanese, notably Nikon, who subsequently improved them. It shouldn't be a surpise that a fixed focal length lens of moderate aperture from the 1960's can be quite sharp. By that time it was more a matter of quality control than anything else. High speed lenses and zooms are a different story altogether.
     
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    No offense, Steve, I have no idea whether your 135mm/f3.5 AI-S lens is sharp or not. However, the center crop you posted at 10:47pm looks a little soft to me. The man's left eye is not sharp and his eyeblow is like a blur. All of that could be the result of camera shake, subject motion, or focusing issues. Of course it could potentially be the lens also.
    Whether extreme sharpness is desirable for a portrait like this is another issue. A little softness may be desirable, especially for a lot of women and older people.
     
  15. Mind telling us where you bought this for 40 bucks? I do searches on Craigsl*st on occasions and people are trying to sell lenses at ridiculous prices.
     
  16. Shun
    No offence of course the shot is totally unscientific and I actually regret the title of the post, the fact it was a portrait was incidental. I was just very surprised by how good this little lens performed. It was as I said a snapshot there is as much chance of camera shake or subject movement or misfocus and I only took one frame, the post was inspired by reading so many posts about how people were unhappy with the image quality of the expensive lenses they bought I just wanted to point out some of these lenses that are available cheaply are still quite useable and will yield more than acceptable results.
    I might be some sort of voice in the wilderness but I feel there is way too much emphasis on expensive equipment and there should be more emphasis placed on actually taking pictures and improving ones skill, if this offends people I'm sorry, photography is as expensive an occupation as you make it, thats great. I just don't think people should feel excluded because they don't have the latest and greatest equipment that's all.
    Steve
     
  17. Here's a shot with a D200 and Nikon's 28-85mm Af 3.5-4.5 @ 1/30th F 8.0 with some fill flash, on a beanbag. This was a mid-priced zoom (I think it used to be $350 or so new in the mid 90's IIRC), and I bought it used on ebay a couple of years ago for $42.50. And it was in true KEH Ex+ condition to boot.
    Not a noble zoom nor perfect length for crop sensor use, but it works quite nicely for me and my needs.
    Jim
    00Vi8Z-218355684.jpg
     
  18. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I might be some sort of voice in the wilderness but I feel there is way too much emphasis on expensive equipment and there should be more emphasis placed on actually taking pictures and improving ones skill, if this offends people I'm sorry, photography is as expensive an occupation as you make it, thats great. I just don't think people should feel excluded because they don't have the latest and greatest equipment that's all.​
    Steve, that is all fine. I always remind people to improve as a photographer first and equipment is always secondary. Sometimes it is painful to see people using the latest D3 (actually it is not the latest any more), D3X, Canon 20+MP ... cameras and get crappy images.
    However, saying that all old AI/AI-S lenses are just fine today is also misleading. For example, the 35mm/f1.4 AI-S I bought back in 1987 now shows pretty serious chromatic aberration on digital, but I still regularly use the 105mm/f2.8 AF macro I bought in 1990. It really depends on which lens.
    In this case I simply don't think Steve's sample images validate the "scary sharp" part of the title.
     
  19. "Sometimes it is painful to see people using the latest D3 (actually it is not the latest any more), D3X, Canon 20+MP ... cameras and get crappy images."
    It's important to ensure that images are crappy because of the photographer, and not because of the gear!
     
  20. Shun
    point taken about the photo wrong headline and definitely wrong subject, I took unscientific to a new level. My apologies.
    But I here's what I said "but thanks to the internet there is a treasure house of really useable lenses out there for very reasonable prices." that's along way from "However, saying that all old AI/AI-S lenses are just fine today is also misleading" my point was for people not to overlook the older lenses available that's all. And I don't want to be misunderstood if someone want's to shoot their baby snaps with a $6000 camera and a $2000 lens I'm all for it, what I don't want to happen is for people to think they can't make decent photos without the latest and greatest equipment and figure the hobby is too expensive to bother with, because it doesn't have to be. h
    Here is another example of this lens still unscientific but showing the edge at wide open okay not scary sharp but quite useable, which should have been my original headline .
    One other thing is, these older lens are so nice and compact, I use them sometimes for no other reason than they are smaller and more discreet, a D70 with a 24mm lens is a nice little ensemble, maybe it's me but I sometimes get embarrased with using huge lenses for taking snaps.
    Steve
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  21. shot wide open
     
  22. the edge
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  23. Nish... you should check out KEH.com. I bought my 200mm f4 AI in "bargain" condition (it look's great to me) for $69.
     
  24. Nish
    I'm sorry I ignored your question, Cory's advice is very sound KEH is a great resource and much less of a crap shoot than internet list where I bought my lens but I kind of cheated it came on a camera and I sold the camera
    Steve
     
  25. Pictures taken with my AI and AIS lenses on the D40 have more contrast (and thus appear sharper) than with the 18-70 AFS zoom. That's with using bounce flash around f8. The 4 element 135mm lenses are inherently contrasty due to the fewer number of air-glass surfaces. That seems to be the case with Steve's photo. When it's possible to shoot without autofocus, Nikkor primes are a great choice to have.
     
  26. I have a Pentax Super-Takumar 200mm f/4 that I will never get rid of. It just has a look, a way of rendering, that I love.
    As Super-Multicoating came out about 1971, it can't be newer than about 40 years. It's as smooth and solid as when it was new.
     
  27. I, too, use a few of the "old" lenses. Some of them do exhibit some chromatic aberration...but many of the "new" lenses do as well. I'm getting good results from the 105/2.5, 100/2.8 E, 45/2.8, 200/4, and the 28/2.0. My 20/2.8 AF shows some CA, as does the 35/2 AF.
    Of the newer lenses my 35/1.8 shows some CA...and a lot of flare. The 16-85 and the 17-55 also present a touch of CA as well.
    There's a lot of good old stuff out there. Usually you can find it cheap enough to experiment with.
     
  28. I shot some portraits with an old 85mm 1.8 from the '70s. It was not as sharp as even my 18-70 but it had a wonderful look to it. I might use it again.
     
  29. I got a Vivitar 135/2.8 (auto telephoto) for 40 euro (+/- $50,-), manual focus but just as good as my Nikon AF 180/2.8D. But not every old lens is good, some are very disappointing (even in mint condition incl. Nikon's).
     
  30. I once got a really beat up Nikon FG with an E series 50 mm f/1.8 lens stuck on it. Well the body was pretty well trashed, but usable. The gem of the deal was the lens. This was the "cheap" standard Nikkor and it's turned out to be plenty sharp and very good. OK, it's not as flare resistant ans the AI 50 f/1.8, and not sexy like the f/1.4 and faster models. A lens hood takes care of the flare, and I challenge anyone to tell me that it produces inferior images.
     
  31. Seems like the old 28mm 3.5 nikkor is one of the best manual focus wide angles out there. Sharp as hell. And far better than the current autofocus 28mm 2.8, which kind of blows. You know, Nikon glass was extremely highly regarded back in the day and it remains as good as almost anything out there. Yes, Leica and Zeiss lenses can be better. But at 50mm, Nikkors do very well against their German competitors. And at apertures like f8 and f5.6 almost any old Nikkor is as good as the Leica equivalent (of course, many Leica lenses are that sharp at almost any aperture but there is obviously going to be a difference between a $100 lens and a $1000 lens).
     
  32. Sometimes, I think sharpness is overrated as a desirable quality.
    Sometimes, I like some softness, especially when the subject warrants it. As an example, see the first image on my website: http://www.kalahi.net -- at the risk of getting slammed, this image works for me...taken with an 85/1.4 AI wide open.
     
  33. Back "in the film days" I had an old 135mm f/2.8Q nikkor lens and LOVED IT. A couple of months ago I picked up one in MINT condition to use on my D70. I paid around $50. FABULOUS. I use a Sekonic hand-held meter with it.
    There are lots of gems like this out there. Another one is the 200mm f/4 Nikon lens. And, of course, the good old 50mm 1.8.
     
  34. My AI Nikkor prime lenses on D200 are almost always sharper than the AF DX zooms, especially if shooting from a tripod. I also have the 135 and it is amazing! I bought mine years ago. Also the 50/1.8 and my Tamron AI 90/2.8 produce great pictures. I've bought lenses off ebay for pretty decent price. I've seen those 50mm sell for as low as $30.
     
  35. First off Steve, that`s a pretty good head shot portrait. The bloke has one of those lived in kind of faces, fisho, cow cocky, (that`s a farmer in OZ), someone who has spent their life outdoors. As for the lens, again pretty hard to beat at the price, his left eyebrow could be sharper,but how deep are your pockets. You were there and you got the shot,and as HCB once said Sharpness is a Bourgeois Concept,or words to that effect. By the way is that your old station wagon and is it a Ford ? More photos please, and yes I do have the same lens,older pre-AI, and yes it`s a ripper.
     
  36. I use a manual Japanese made Kiron 105mm 1:2.8 (macro 1:1) Macro lens on my Nikon D50 all the time, for macro shots. I had bought it for under $100 for use on the F100 I used to have in the film days. I haven't splurged on a flash yet so I still use an SB-16 believe it or not, and two Vivitar 283s. I have a very limited budget right now. Everything is manual in this set up so I have to take a few shots to get a correct exposure. This is not good for moving bug macro shots, but it works great for still macros. I'm not wasting any film so it doesn’t matter. The Kiron (Japanese version) is considered one of the sharpest macro lenses ever made, and I have to agree. Too bad my eyesight is going so it is harder to focus nowadays. You have to do that rocking back and forth until your subject pops into focus which is NOT easy.
     
  37. Thank you, Cory and Steve.
     
  38. Here is one from my very old Nikkor 105 2.5. Its the first version of this lens.
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  39. I was lucky enough to find the Nikkor-Q 135 2.8 for $40.00 at a local camera swap meet last year. I got away from digital point and shoot when I found out the Nikon D40 would work with my pre-AI lens collection. The kit zoom (55-200VR) didn't let me shoot at my children's gymnastics meets, so with my budget, I kept a look out for these gems. This was taken a few weeks ago, and after looking through the 300 shots, I clicked on the button at the top of the screen that says "Store", and ordered the Sigma 70-200 2.8HSM II.
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  40. I did get very sharp (not scary sharp) images from my 135/3.5 but I found it hard to focus so i sold it. I got recently 105/2.5 and it is much easier to focus manualy.
    On a topic of "scary" sharp lenses: they are ok for the portrets of older men, when weathered skin shows experience. DO NOT EVER!!! EVER!!! point it at your wife or your mother in-law!!!
     
  41. Guys - this thread has struck a cord with me.
    I am a beginner and get lost and overwhelmed at the lenses and the prices. I just boughta D90.
    So if I want a lens say 50mm / 35mm / 18mm what should I get - AIS ? AS ? Af ? I see lenses at cheaper prices, but I guess it's my ignorance that drives me to something newer (and costlier)... where it is shown as compatible to my camera.
     
  42. For the 50 mm and 35mm I would get the AF lenses so they AF and meter with your camera. The 50 mm 1.8 is cheap new and the 35mm f2 can be found quite reasonable used. I don't know about the 18mm prime, Nikon made an 18mm f3.5 Ai/s super wide and also a 20mm F4 Ai/s and a 20mm f2.8 AF but I don't believe they will be all that cheap.
     
  43. Oh so true Thomas, made me laugh. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,especially mothers inlaw.
     
  44. Quote "Guys - this thread has struck a cord with me.
    I am a beginner and get lost and overwhelmed at the lenses and the prices. I just boughta D90.
    So if I want a lens say 50mm / 35mm / 18mm what should I get - AIS ? AS ? Af ? I see lenses at cheaper prices, but I guess it's my ignorance that drives me to something newer (and costlier)... where it is shown as compatible to my camera."
    Unfortunately to AIS lenses won't meter on a D90. They will meter on the D200, 300 and the Full frame Nikon DSLRs. You can still use them but you have to guess at exposure or use a hand held meter.
     
  45. Thanks Wayne. See, that is what I meant !
    I do not understand these limitations and hence do not risk looking beyond what I know for sure works, primarily looking at latest models.
    How do I find out definitely that a lens would work with D90 ?
     
  46. None of the Ai, Ais or any lenses before them will meter or AF on the D90. Your best bet for the 35mm and 50mm would be the regular AF versions as they will work. The 50mm I would buy new and proably pick up the 35mm AF used. You could also look at the new 35mm 1.8 af this is a DX only lens if I remember so it won't work on full frame properly but is also quite reasonably priced new.
    When you look at old lenses you have to weigh up if it is worth the hassle to lose AF and metering. A 40$/€ 135mm 2.8 Ai is worth the hassle because you won't get any thing that fast, that long with metering and working AF for anywhere near that price. A used series E 75-150 f3.5 is another used manual focus bargin that gives you a fast fixed apeture zoom but again you loose metering and AF. A 50mm f1.8 Ais will likely sell used for around same price if not more than a used 50mm 1.8 AF, it is not worth the hassel to use it on a modern body when the AF version is available so cheaply.
     
  47. Thanks Stuart. Looks like I am back to square one honing back on 35mm 1.8G and 50 mm 1.8 D (or at a later point 1.4D).
    Now at least I know what I will not be getting on Ai / Ais ones. But I will keep an eye for 125mm 2.8 Ai
     

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