Getting back into photography ... used to be f4/velvia guy

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ab3, Dec 22, 2019.

  1. ab3


    Is there any issue getting big square filters in front of that lens? I recall issues with some wide zooms in the past.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I can tell you what I would do if (1) I were in your situation and (2) budget is not a concern. However, I am not you.

    For landscape photography, the best Nikon camera now should be the Z7, and I would couple that with a 14-30mm/f4 S lens that would provide a lot of flexibility. In addition to that, the 24mm/f1.8 S lens is excellent and Nikon will add a 20mm/f1.8 S in 2020. All of those should be excellent wide lenses for landscape. The major advantage of mirrorless is that lenses are no longer designed around a mirror on the rear end so that the rear elements can be much closer to the sensor. Moreover, the discussion about distortion is very 20th century. Modern lens designs have more distortions built into the lens, in favor of smaller, more compact designs. There are now lens-specific profiles in post-processing software to correct for specific lenses at various focal lengths.

    If one is really serious about landscape photography, I would go a step further to get a Fuji "medium format" mirrorless body, but the sensor is less than twice the area of FX, not quite medium format is the more traditional sense.

    I started using film SLRs some 47 years ago and Nikon 42 years ago. I have used all sorts of film from Kodachrome to Velvia, etc. etc. At least to me, there is no point to use film any more unless you are into large format to take advantage of tilt, shift. However, I also have graduate degrees in computer science so that computers and post processing are not at all foreign to me.

    I fully understand that not everybody is ready to make a major leap into mirrorless and post processing. Therefore, the real answer is how modern a system the OP is ready to accept and use.
  3. ab3


    Thanks for this very detailed and interesting reply! I work in software engineering, and I want to minimize the time I need to spend using a computer to make prints and manage my images. That's one reason I got tired of scanning my slides, and took refuge in my darkroom. But I'm back because I miss photography, and I perceive that things have matured to the point that I could have a pretty streamlined digital workflow. I'm the opposite of a gear-head - I love making photos, I hate messing around with gear. I race bikes and am the same way with that ... I'll always just go with my team's gear, and how my shop sets it up. I just wanna ride. haha.

    Your remark about distortion is very interesting. I don't mind spending money for more compact gear, so long as I'm not losing quality. These distortion corrections, is this something easy to add to one's workflow? What post-processing software are you talking about?

    Thanks again for all the amazing replies. I can see the community is as amazing as I remember it.
  4. I own it too; it's the lens that got me to move to FX. And VR was a major selling point for me. I recently got a Tamron 15-30/2.8 VC - it's better in every way than the Nikon - except for the fact that it doesn't take regular filters.

    I already seconded Sun's suggestion of the Z7 with 14-30 in my 1st post; especially in regard to the advantages in size and weight given the OP's activities. Lens distortion correction is automated in most post-processing software (LR, PS, DxO) - and often already incorporated in the camera itself (certainly when shooting JPEG). As Shun pointed out, there's a whole lot more to mirrorless than small size and less weight - the main benefit of moving towards the Z-mount is the already demonstrated higher optical quality of the lenses. Apparently so far there's not a single one that doesn't leave it's F-mount equivalent in the dust.

    Again, I don't know how old your lenses are - but they have to be Ai or Ai'ed otherwise you can damage the camera by attaching them. The only DSLR that can take non-Ai lenses is the Df - not a camera I would choose for pretty much anything.
  5. ab3, there is more to it than meets the eye. Many well-intentioned replies are from photographers who made the switch to digital many years ago, and have worked their way thru several generations and types of digital camera. Their experience reports have tremendous value in most respects, but OTOH they are so far beyond your starting point they may have forgotten some of the bitter disappointment they felt at the beginning of their transition from film Nikon to digital Nikon.

    The number one killer "gotcha" is the so-called "compatibility" with manual focus AI or AIS or pre-AI Nikkor lenses (like your beloved 20mm f/3.5). While it is true semi-pro models like D7200 and D810 are equipped with AI meter coupling, and it was admirable of Nikon to maintain that compatibility, in practical use it almost doesn't matter. A key factor one learns very quickly is that digital sensors are much more ruthlessly revealing of focus errors than film, yet at the same time the "AF-only-optimized" optical viewfinders of DSLRs are near-worthless for manual focus unless you're blessed with flawless 20/20 eyesight and ability to set perfect focus by pure instinct.

    Chances are, you will have a hard time equaling the results from your 20mm f/3.5 on film when its attached to a DSLR. The D810 is a lovely camera, but the 36MP sensor is very hard on old lenses, revealing aberrations you never knew they had, Add the difficulty nailing perfect focus, and you might be left wondering why you bothered. The dirty little secret of DSLRs is that they really only work conveniently and consistently with modern electronically coupled AF lenses. The camera bodies are programmed with profiles for most existing AF Nikkors, which you'll discover is way more significant than you might think. Aspects like overall pleasing exposure, color balance, and aberration reduction can dramatically tilt the scales in favor of AF lenses. Our trusty old manual Nikkors that were utterly predictable on film can be total wildcards on DSLR, with color balance shifting from shot to shot and true clarity in perhaps 1 out of 5 manually focused shots.

    Hence, one of the biggest advantages of mirrorless cameras is their improved usability with old manual-focus lenses. Instead of relying on indistinct optical focus screens or clumsy rear-panel live view LCD, their full-time electronic viewfinders give you a continual preview of what the sensor is seeing. Manual focus becomes much easier and more accurate, color and exposure shifts immediately visible (a slight re-framing can work wonders on the spot when a manual lens shows whacked-out color). This is why the Sony A7 full-frame mirrorless concept was an instant hit, forcing Canon and Nikon to reluctantly offer their own variations like Z6.

    But, theres no perfect compromise when it comes to using old (or even some new premium) manual focus lenses on digital bodies. Mirrorless has the advantage for manual focus ease and overall instant preview, but physical operation of the mf lens can be awkward and confusing. The Z series will let you mount lenses like your 20mm Nikkor via the FTZ adapter, but the adapter adds cost and bulk, and is dumb as a brick as far as coupling to the lens. Unlike the Nikon D810 that has actual AI meter coupling, manual Nikkors on the FTZ adapter are completely uncoupled. The aperture is locked in stop-down mode, metering is stopped down, the camera body has no clue what aperture is set on the lens, and there can be some oddly unpredictable stopped-down metering errors that take awhile to wrap your mind around. The good news is since you're always viewing thru the actual shooting aprture, you get a preview of any issues like curvature of field at various apertures.

    In the end, depending on camera type, you lose a few points and gain a few points when using manual vintage glass on digital bodies. The old Nikkors are still capable of wonderful images, and often have a nice "character" that can be sorely missing in the new "perfect" digital AF lenses. But theres a bit of a learning curve: you can't just slap your old Nikkor on a new digital body and expect to use it exactly as you did on your F4 film body. Instead, you'll be exercising and developing new modes of thinking and shooting, with some stumbles along the way.

    If you'd prefer to bypass all that, for a grab and shoot experience more akin to your F4, put your beloved manual Nikkors on a shelf for now and wait until you're more in the mood for a bumpy transition. Instead, buy the digital body that most appeals to you, along with compatible matching lens (20mm f/1.8 AFS for the D810, the 14mm-30mm zoom for the Z6). Good luck and have fun, whichever path you choose!
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  6. ab3


    Wow this is a lot to think about. Thanks!!

    I think I have not thought clearly enough about why I want to use that lens. It's not the price or anything, I just like it. And I guess the way of shooting that went with to for me, using and taking the time to compose with a super wide lens, always using a tripod, using a lot of grads to control the exposure. I don't need to use that particular lens, I think I just bring it up cause its the one I shot most of my best prints with.

    I want to come close to that experience, without putting blinders on and missing what new gear can give me. Thanks for the reply.
  7. The manual focus AI / AIS Nikkor wides are a mixed bag on digital, esp newer high-res bodies of 36MP and 40+ MP. You will read many conflicting opinions: some feel they are utter unusable dogs with anything but film, others have a more nuanced opinion depending on the specific lens, example of that lens, and subject/shooting conditions. When initially migrating from film to digital, it is perhaps easier and less confusing to start with latest AF version of your favorite focal length that you can afford.

    There is an inexplicable alchemy between AF Nikkors and Nikon's digital bodies: when I first moved to DSLR, I was floored at the outrageously better results I got from a lowly AF kit zoom than from my wonderful fixed focal length manual Nikkors. Some of it is due to AF vs MF getting that nth degree better focus needed by sensors, some of it due to the metering and white balance electronics of the digital camera being just a little too ridiculously dependent on electronic feed back from the lens.

    It makes no sense, but in many cases the plastic Nikon kit zooms can superficially blow prestige manual Nikkors like the 28mm f/2.8 and 35mm f/1.4 out of the water (no matter how carefully and slowly you shoot at optimum aperture and focus sweet spot). Its as if the camera spitefully holds back some quality and consistency if it doesn't sense an electrical connection to the mounted lens: even simple-minded screw-drive AF Nikkors that don't transmit anything but their focal length and aperture. With time and practice, you learn how to subconsciously outwit the camera when using manual Nikkors, and many of us love the results once we get a handle on the differences between their film and digital performance envelopes.

    Using your 20mm f/3.5 for example, there are ways you can get away with using it on film that won't work as well with digital. This lens has great flare resistance when shooting into the sun, an advantage it still holds over many similar modern lenses, and is particularly well-suited for dramatic perspectives where you have a main subject closer to the lens framed by an expansive background. But for infinity edge-to-edge landscape, it can fall apart on digital due to its field curvature being unable to bring the entire frame to the same flat focus point required by a sensor. Depending on the size and type of your print, this may or may not be significant.

    Also, like several other manual wide AI / AIS Nikkors, the 20mm f/3.5 has a peculiar inconsistency in color/contrast from sensor to sensor. With some Nikon DSLRs, it renders much as it did on film like Velvia, while with other Nikon bodies/sensors the images can seem flat, dead, dull. This can usually be fixed in post processing, but is annoying if you prefer more baseline-ballpark straight-out-of-camera images. All you can do is try it on your eventual body choice: maybe you can continue to use it productively, or maybe you'll feel the need to replace it.

    In the 20mm range, a very popular compromise for fans of manual-focus lenses is the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 (available in Nikon F mount as either a ZF.2 version or Milvus version: same optics, slightly different barrels). This is a stunning lens, among the best wides ever made regardless of AF or MF, but much larger than your petite 20mm Nikkor. The 16-35mm AFS Nikkor has roughly the same bulk as the Zeiss, but offers AF and of course zoom flexibility (if not quite the same optical performance). The lightweight Nikkor AFS 20mm f/1.8 is very fast, which can help with dark interiors etc. If you opt to go with the mirrorless Z series, the current 14-30 zoom is remarkable, while the upcoming 20mm Z lens is likely to be spectacular enough to merit waiting for.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2019
  8. ab3,
    The D7200 for the price and image quality is a very good starting point for reentry into photography. It will make your 20 mm into a 30mm equivalent angle of view. It's got lots of resolution and has outstanding dynamic range that is as good if not better than many full frame bodies. It's image quality is smokin. When I shot Provia and Velvia I would expose Velvia at ISO 40 and could push Provia to 200 with grainy results. Now days you will see many full frame images shot at ISO 6400 and DX crop sensor images shot without much penalty at ISO 1600. Dx will be more forgiving of your older lens because of the narrower angle of view.
    If your shooting landscape you will get the best "dynamic range" shooting low ISOs. Of course with a tripod. You can continue to use your Singh Ray grads though with the increased dynamic range compared to film you can get by with carrying fewer grads and adjusting in post. Maybe needing only a 2 and a 4 or a single 3 stop hard or soft. If you really want to start with a new system you should consider mirrorless. I just started with a Fuji mirrorless advanced point and shoot X100F (dx) last spring and I think it has image quality that is outstanding. I am adjusting to the electronic view finder and kind of like it though still have the option of optical. Fuji cameras have Velvia and Provia film emulation. I print 17x22 and like what I am getting. I own both full frame and dx late model Nikon dslr bodies and would not dissuade you from dx. Also the current version of Lightroom has noise reduction, sharpening and grads built into the soft ware that are seamless. I am a Photoshop user but think it would be better and more efficient to start with Lightroom and its organic lossless file system. I still enjoy scanning my slides with my Nikon cool scan 4000.
    Good hunting.
  9. On the other other hand. don't overthink it. If you like taking photos, especially if you use a tripod, a D750 or D810 or whatever used with "Live View" lets you focus to taste. Live View reads right off the sensor so lets you see the exposure, depth of field, etc.
    I have not had a big problem focusing manual lenses on the Dxxx cameras. I am more landscape so f5.6-8 mostly with wider depth of field. I actually find the little green focus light in the optical viewfinder to be useful at these apertures.
    A major plus of digital is that extra shots don't cost you anything. Take lots. Vary the focus point, and f stop. To paraphrase Galen Rowell, throw most of your images away. They aren't that good.
    I have found that when looking critically, the corners on many of the old, good manual lenses aren't up to snuff. Really annoying given how heavy the newer lenses are.
    Its all fun. Look up KEH camera and start buying used lenses and selling them back, just to play with them. Accumulate the ones you like. Keeps us off the streets (unless you like street photography).
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  10. ab3


    This has all been so helpful - thanks so much! It seems to me I'm not ready to appreciate mirrorless, and that I'm maybe being too narrow minded in wanting to use my old glass. The D810 and the new 16-15 nikkor might be the best way back for me.

    Will I have any issues using a P square filter holder with that lens?
  11. If You want to embrace what is Velvia in digital domain, why not to look for Fujifilm X-T100 plus 14mmF2.8 R. There is all that jazz in marketing, but there often is little bit of truth in every marketing phrase.
  12. I would try the existing lens for yourself on whatever digital body you buy before deciding one way or the other. Meanwhile, check out what others have done with the 20 f/3.5 on various cameras here: Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 UD/AI/AI-S
  13. DXO Filmpack makes digital output somewhat looks like film. I rarely used it as digital looks just fine to me. :)
  14. You want to streamline the digital workflow then simply write the software to do it. You're a software engineer aren't you?
    I think still your best bet is the D850 because it would work with all your lenses that you used on the F4 (except the Pre AI lenses but I doubt you have one of those). It would give images of the same angle of view and depth of field.
  15. ab3 not sure about the filter size of the lens you mentioned. The Cokin P holder’s largest adapter ring will accommodate a 82mm lens thread. I still shoot Singh Ray and Hitech grads that fit a Cokin P holder. Big investment to replace. If I were starting over I would go bigger than a P mount. My Zeiss 15 mm requires a very large Fotodiox Wonderpana filter system for oversized Fotodiox, Cokin Xpro and Lee grads, and oversized polarizer and ND filters. The Wonderpana fits over a fixed lens hood of large wide angle lenses.
    Merry Christmas
  16. The 16-35 f4 has a 77mm filter size. I used to use graduated neutral density filters for sunrise-sunset on Velvia. It had what, 5 stops of light to work with?
    However, with digital, you can shoot multiple shots, bracketing exposure and merge to a high dynamic range (HDR) image in software. Alternatively you can take two images at different exposures and blend a properly exposed sky into the lighter foreground image. I haven't used grad filters in many years, although I still have them.
    Still need a polarizer since that can't be done in software. Other filters can be mimicked in software. I don't do much of that but its there.
  17. After my digital Nikon D70, I have gone to a Nikon film SLR and shot Velvia, my last batch was using a USA shop for film and a USA lab while I live in New Zealand since it's so $$$ here. I am a saturation addict hence Velvia. I have also then gone and shot Velvia with medium format.

    For me it's a bitter pill to swallow b/c slides are so $$ and it's tiresome to collect up my film for 2yrs before I send them to the USA as a single batch. Which i something I have done for a couple of years now. While I probably will shoot some slides in a occasionally it would be a lot lower than the past.

    Speaking of myself I would get a Nikon Z system if you are going with the Nikon brand. If you want something cheaper and not so concerned about the future then maybe a dSLR.

    As said I am a saturation addict with patience maybe I will hunt out those surreal sun shots and shoot Velvia. With digital you can shoot at more hours b/c it has more dynamic range, you don't have to scan or purchase a scanner or pay someone else to do it.
  18. I still shoot Velvia 50 but with a medium format camera. Here's old and new shots. Just to stir your memory. Good luck in whatever you decide.
    Search: velvia | Flickr
  19. ...What Rick wrote, is what I'd say almost in similar terms. Replace 'F2' for 'F3 + F4' and there you go! :)
  20. Ab3, Sorry, I didn’t catch that you were talking about the 16-35 f4. I own that lens. It’s 77mm filter ring will definitely fit a P mount adapter of that size.
    Lots of landscape folks still using grads these days, even though with the newer software HDR renderings are not as cartoonish as they were when HDR was first catching on. On a different note I got a snap on telephoto lens for my iphone under the Christmas tree, so I am going to sell all my long lenses and use the money to buy a 12 wide mobile home on some swamp land in Mississippi and shoot iPhone fine art images for a living. Merry Christmas

Share This Page