Nikkor 85mm PC-E on D800: general thoughts?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by david_r._edan, Jul 12, 2014.

  1. I was about to order this lens but then I began having second thoughts.
    I should tell why I want this lens in the first place.
    Mainly for product photography, food, tabletop still life, that kind of deal. The shift movements are always welcome but mostly I need the tilt function of getting the right things in focus. I am not interested in the miniature effect B.S. or any other gimmicks of that sort.
    Just to make sure we're all talking about the same glass, here's the link to it:

    My concerns are such:
    1. Physical compatibility with my D800. By 'physical' I mean the flash protrusion. I just couldn't find any definitive info on that. Does the D800 body limit the movements in any way and if yes, how bad is it?
    2. Optical compatibility. 36MP is no joke. I am yet to see or even hear about one Nikkor lens that does justice to their (actually Sony's) 36MP sensor. I've noticed that the design of this lens does not incorporate any special elements, just their standard glass, so it made me doubt its resolving power.
    I sometimes create super-resolution images with my D800 and a few prime lenses, so I know what a truly sharp, 36MP image should look like. Moreover, I've been producing stitched panoramas of 100-300MP+ since about 2005. It is VERY hard to wow me by image detail in general. I think I know what to expect from the 85mm PC-E in terms of sharpness, so I've lowered my expectations but even then, I have a feeling I'll be disappointed. The lack of proper image samples strengthens my suspicion. There's the MTF which looks fairly decent but then, it was produced by Nikon. Can anyone post a link to a few image samples taken with this lens, preferably captured with the Nikon D800/E. Obviously I need to take a look at full-res photos and those should be able to demonstrate the full optical resolution capability of this lens, not the fake miniature effect that it can produce. Looking at photos taken at f/2.8 and f/4 would be nice too. Again, I need to see the sharpness, across the image plane, not some sort of artistic implementation at wide-open.
    There's another matter that I'm curious about. I'm aware that there is quite a bit of vignetting involved when the 'shift' is employed but how does that affect image sharpness? Does the vignetting also bring on softness?
    3. Ghosting... Nikon states: "Nano Crystal Coat virtually eliminates internal lens element reflections..." What about the REAR element?
    We all know the drill: the image bounces off the sensor, then off the rear element, then it ends up back on the sensor, forming a 'ghost' image. Another scenario is: from the sensor, through the rear and any consecutive elements, reflected off the diaphragm back to the sensor, ending up as diffused, stray light, that creates unwanted 'density' all over the image plane, swallowing up shadow detail and lowering the contrast. It all comes down to how well the rear element is coated to handle this kind of issue.
    Perhaps the best way to test the performance in this area would be to photograph a close-up of a regular safety match on black background. And by 'black background' I mean that it really should be way back and not produce any sort of signal under the following shooting conditions. The match should be held by a clamp and should run the entire lengths of the frame. The light source (strobe or continuous) should be placed very close to the subject and the spill on the background minimized. The exposure should be set to expose the match so it would occupy the upper end of the dynamic range, without clipping. Focus manually and take a picture. Remove the match and take another picture; same exposure and focus. Now, the images should be compared. For best comparison, the two should be overlayed in Photoshop. If the lens produces ANY ghosting, it will show up in this test... Now, has anyone been in a similar scenario with this lens? How was the ghosting?
    Good rear element coating that knows how to handle sensor-to-glass-to-sensor reflections is a major time-saver in post-processing. I need this.
    4. Electronic compatibility. Obviously, I'll be working in LV, manual mode. Does the metering just work? Mostly I'll be using my strobes anyway but available light will also be used. What about the aperture? "Lens aperture can be preset by using aperture ring and aperture stop-down button"... I never got that. I understand that this is because the older bodies cannot control the electronic diaphragm. There is a lot of confusing information on this. I have the D800 body, so: Can the command dial control the aperture just like with any other D/G type lens? Does the DOF preview just work?
    5. Durability. The 85 PC-E has been out there for a while. It appears to be built to last but is it really? I've read somewhere that the movement gears are made of nylon. Has anyone ever had issues with them? What about drifting? I'll be making long exposure with this lens too, that is if I decide to buy it.
    6. Tube extensions and teleconverters. I must say I'm fairly impressed by the 1:2 reproduction ratio as I do (at least used to do) a lot of macro work. I have a set of 4 tubes and I was wondering if I could use them at all with the 85mm PC-E. All of the extension tubes relay the electronics to the camera body. I've had zero issues in that department with D and G type lenses... the AF (not that I need it) and the metering just work. Obviously, the image circle will suffer to some extent with the 85mm PC-E, however, I'm curious - can any 1:1 macro work be done with this lens? What about the tilt? In theory it should not be affected but has anyone actually done it?
    What about teleconverters? Kinda interesting.
    Another major concern is the lack of a proper alternative. 85mm tilt lens for product photography for the D800? - Nikkor 85mm PC-E. Period.
    I'm aware of the 90mm Schneider but I am put off by its complete lack of electronic interface. For that kind of money I would at least like to get my metering. The Novoflex adapter is not even a lens. But if anyone does have a better solution, I would love to hear it.
    So, anyone - feel free to chime in. Any and all input is welcome and appreciated. I'd love to hear about your experience with the lens. You can address anything that I've touched on, even if it's not specific to the equipment in question.
  2. "I am yet to see or even hear about one Nikkor lens that does justice to their (actually Sony's) 36MP sensor."

    This gets stated quite a bit but the concept is a little misguided IMO. The lenses aren't being out-resolved by a 36 MP sensor and it's not as if other brand lenses would make a dramatic difference with this sensor. A better lens will give better results with any sensor regardless of megapixels. Higher resolution sensors will simply amplify all attributes of a lens (resolution AND defects) so a better corrected lens will look better. Medium/large format cameras have traditionally had lower resolving lenses over the years but easily out resolve 35mm. I can't possibly imagine your images looking like mush with this lens but not knowing your standards and what you are comparing it to I can't say for sure. I believe the 85mm PC-E was released in 2008 so it's not really an ancient design and should compare reasonably well to similar alternatives in the market. If resolution is the utmost of importance then you will be limited to a handful of prime lenses no matter what you shoot. The primary attraction of these lenses is the movements. Being a niche product means you are limited in your options.
    90mm Schneider: This lens ( and other 3rd party expensive tilt-shift alternatives) are medium format lenses adapted to fit 35mm bodies. The advantages included considerably larger image circles which allow for greater movements with less vignetting than the Canon/Nikon versions. Of course, as you mentioned, they don't interface electronically with DSLR bodies so you would have to decide if this (and the steep price) is worth it.
    As to the other questions I can't really say for sure but these are just some observations I noticed when I was considering a Nikkor PC-E lens. Also, Nikon seems to refuse to send these lenses with the ability to control tilt/shift independently (Canon is better in this regard). You can send it in to Nikon to have them modify this (for a price)
  3. Rent one shoot it and see if it does what you need it to do.
  4. As Michael Bradtke suggested : rent one . Try

    Sony may (or may not) be physically fabricating the CMOS , but the design of the entire sensor package(micro-lenses,
    filter, readouts and A/D converter and processor) are engineered and designed by Nikon. Saying flatly that It's a Sony
    sensor is like saying the Empire State Building is totally made of Acme steel.

    Heres a link to an independent review of the lens:
  5. Youtube is flooded with unboxing videos, how to shoot buildings and how to make regular people look like legos. Not one proper tutorial of doing some serious studio work.
    Daniel: You got me a little confused (a little more than I already am). I need this lens to be able to tilt AND shift simultaneously. Can it do that? This is so important that I simply cannot be mistaken. Forgive me if I sound stupid.
    As per the rental. Renting and testing this lens is a lot of work and time. Aren't there already photos of test charts taken with a D800? Someone must have them online. I would rather pay money for something like that than renting this lens and doing all the work myself.
    As I said, I don't expect any miracles from this lens but I do have a certain standard in mind. If I wasn't doing serious studio work with a 36MP camera, I wouldn't be concerned as much. And yes, with the Nikon D800 and the kind of commercial work that I do, image detail is of primary importance as I have to compete with folks who shoot with Hassleblad and what not. Ease of operation is also essential. It's enough that the 85mm PC-E is manual focus and Christ knows what kind of aperture control but I have to give up the metering too if I want something else?
    What a cluster****.
  6. 1. Physical compatibility with my D800. By 'physical' I mean the flash protrusion. I just couldn't find any definitive info on that. Does the D800 body limit the movements in any way and if yes, how bad is it?

    The 45mm and 85mm PC-E are perfectly compatible with the D800. Only the 24 PC-E has minor issues which most people aren't bothered by, either.

    2. Optical compatibility. 36MP is no joke.

    36MP makes every lens resolve more detail than that same lens resolves on a lower resolution sensor. The 85 PC-E is not a particularly high contrast lens but it does make very sharp images, when the tilt and focus have been carefully adjusted.

    3. Ghosting..

    Well, I have used this lens for many years and never made an image with a visible ghost using it.

    Good rear element coating that knows how to handle sensor-to-glass-to-sensor reflections is a major time-saver in post-processing.

    All lens element-to-air surfaces are multicoated; the nano-coating is only applied on specific surfaces where it is seen to improve the results significantly. It is not applied on external surfaces of the lens.

    4. Electronic compatibility

    It is fully compatible obviously. Metering with the mirror down (optical viewfinder in use) is affected by the tilt and shift so you cannot rely on metering to be accurate after movements have been applied. However, the live view image and histogram should display the correct exposure (when the exposure simulation mode is on; press ok to toggle between autogain and exposure simulation modes).

    5. Durability.

    It is very rugged and durable, but of course it is not a good idea to willfully play football with it. There is no play (or drift) in the focusing ring in mine (it is quite firm) and each movement is accompanied by a lock to prevent drift in the tilt or shift. Do use the locks.

    6. Tube extensions and teleconverters.

    I don't think this is a good idea, but to be honest I haven't tried them with this lens. Since the movements affect the position of the rear element, some of the light may be blocked by the baffles in the extension tubes (if any), and the optical formula of the teleconverter may not work optimally either. If you zero the tilt and shift, you may have better success. As you approach 1:1 to handle a given angle between sensor plane and subject plane, you needquite a lot of tilt, and the tilt is restricted to 8.5 degrees if I remember correctly; at 1:1 (if you get there) you have to have the subject almost parallel to the sensor plane. Finally I find the lens to have optimal sharpness at mid magnifications, not at 1:2; application of tilt will mean the outer parts of the image circle will be used for image formation (they are a bit less sharp than the center); further increasing the magnification will likely make the optical quality of the lens seem insufficient. In light of these considerations, Nikon was wise to limit the lens to 1:2. At 1:1 if you want to shoot at significant angle to the subject and tilt to compensate, you need a bellows with considerable freedoms of movement and a corresponding large image circle lens. I would use the 85mm PC-E within its normal range of focus distances and magnifications. (At 1:1 you can use e.g. Novoflex castbal bellows with an appropriate lens and adapters). Novoflex sell a preassembled Schneider Kreuznach Apo Digitar 90mm f/4.5 for the bellows if you are interested in an alternative to the 85 PC-E. I don't have that lens however, so I can't comment on its optical quality. I do know that the PC-E Nikkors are much more practical to use in the field than the bellows, which is pretty good for studio work.
  7. Nikon seems to refuse to send these lenses with the ability to control tilt/shift independently (Canon is better in this regard).

    Canon has independent movement axis for tilt and shift in their 17mm TS-E and 24mm TS-E II lenses, but not on the 45mm or the 90mm.

    I need this lens to be able to tilt AND shift simultaneously. Can it do that?

    Yes, but the direction of the tilt and shift are by default in orthogonal (90 degree angle from each other), so you can't tilt and shift in the same direction, in the default configuration. The lens can be adjusted to work in a different way in service but then the tilt and shift axis are then parallel. By the way the Novoflex bellows I mentioned is parallel movements only. I have never found this to be a problem; I take advantage of what movements are available and obviously don't use movements that don't exist.

    what kind of aperture control

    It is more flexible in aperture control than the usual G Nikkors. You can adjust the absolute aperture on the lens aperture ring, or when the lens aperture ring is set to minimum aperture, the body sub-command dial is used to set the effective aperture (which takes into account extension). The aperture is fully automatic on D3 and newer higher end DSLRs but if you use an older camera (such as the F5), the aperture is closed and opened using a button on the lens itself.
  8. "I need this lens to be able to tilt AND shift simultaneously. Can it do that? "

    Yes it can, however the way Nikon sets it up the shift and tilt are at ninety degrees to each other. I have heard of people
    who have had a technician set it so that the shift and tilt are in the same direction.

    If you are looking to increase depth of field alone I suggest you learn how to focus stack. Have you tried that? I use the
    CamRanger for this with standard autofocus lenses like the AF-S 105mm f/2.8G VR Micro-Nikkor. Using the CamRanger
    the screen of the device you control it from acts like a very large live-view screen. Http:// for more

    I have an extremely picky still life client (they make extremely expensive golden wooden frames and it's extremely
    important not only are the details rendered very crisply but also the subtle differences in the color of the gold and silver
    leaf that they use is rendered accurately and gold especially is a real b----h to photograph accurately ) and have found
    that I get the best results in terms of detail rendering by using focus stacking. If you haven't used it focus stacking you
    shoot a series of frames where the point of focus shifts from frame to frame through the depth of the subject. The process
    allows you to work at an f-stop like f/5.6 where the image is not diffraction limited the way it is at smaller apertures. I use
    Helicon Pro software to do the compositing.

    The reason I was suggesting you rent the lens is because you obviously have very specific criteria and know what you
    are looking for. While my or other people's opinions might point you in the right direction, the only real way to know is to
    do test the lens for yourself using your processing and post-processing workflow, typical subjects, and knowing your
    client's output needs
  9. Ellis +1+1 on the rent it and try it.

    You seem to have pretty fixed views, and I don't see how anyone but you can answer your questions, except maybe for durability. Nikon is not famous for lenses that fall apart in use. Moreover, nylon has been used in cameras going well back into the 1980s and they are all doing fine in the ones I have.
  10. I use the PC-E 24 on a D800E. The image quality is excellent. The build is a little flimsy, and it's not as flexible as the Canon TS-E24II. Oddly, the Canon gives a slightly wider angle of view, even though they're supposed to be the same focal length.
    I haven't used the 85, so I can't comment on that lens in particular.
  11. You're going to need to use the lens to get even 1/3 of your questions answered, but for what it's worth (again from my experience with the current Nikon PC-E 24mm only) -
    Does the metering just work?​
    Nikon recommends that you meter before you apply movements. This is common with all PC/TS lenses. The camera's meter won't work properly once movements have been engaged.
    Mostly I'll be using my strobes​
    You'll need a flash meter. (Sekonic makes good ones.) Or you need to set exposure by trial and error using the camera's histogram. Either will work flawlessly once you get the hang of the technique.
    What about the aperture? "Lens aperture can be preset by using aperture ring and aperture stop-down button"... I never got that.​
    My PC-E 24 has an aperture ring. You control the aperture manually. I prefer this design in a PC/TS lens. The more manual, the better. The meter responds to the aperture that you set. I assume that the 85 shares this design, but I'm not sure.
    I've read somewhere that the movement gears are made of nylon. Has anyone ever had issues with them? What about drifting?​
    It's not the most robust design. (Canon's latest TS-E lenses are better in this regard.) It's difficult to lock the knobs down fully without breaking them or getting them stuck. I have had problems with drifting. On the other hand, I have taken many long exposures successfully. No one can predict whether it will be a problem for your application.
    Tube extensions​
    Do you mean extension tubes? I haven't tried them with my Nikon gear. There's no optical component to an extension tube, so as long as it fits the lens and the camera, it should work fine.
    I sometimes create super-resolution images... What about teleconverters? Kinda interesting.​
    Teleconverters always have a negative impact on image quality. Always. If "super resolution" is your goal, I would avoid them.
    I'm aware that there is quite a bit of vignetting involved when the 'shift' is employed but how does that affect image sharpness? Does the vignetting also bring on softness?​
    It's a valid concern, because I notice both vignetting AND softness as I approach the limits of the lens' shift capability. The outer edges of the image circle are not as sharp as the unshifted image, which is sharp edge to edge.
  12. not to repeat the points others have brought up but given your stated needs:
    Mainly for product photography, food, tabletop still life, that kind of deal
    I thought this was odd trade-off considering the optical quality of the Schneider:
    I'm aware of the 90mm Schneider but I am put off by its complete lack of electronic interface. For that kind of money I would at least like to get my metering
  13. Great discussion, everyone! A great deal of help!
    Now I understand (more or less) how the movements are applied with this lens. It makes the most sense to have them the way they are. It's a shame that this lens doesn't provide more freedom of movement though. Obviously there are all kinds of solutions out there. However, I simply cannot use a cumbersome bellows+rail (such as the Novoflex) because I sometimes have to work on location; mostly food shoots in restaurants. Food is not exactly 'still life'. The photos have to be taken fast, while it all looks freshly made.
    A 'view camera converter' is not the way to go for me. At least not for now.
    The Nikkor 85mm PC-E though is right up my alley. It will be my first ever (and long overdue) T/S lens. It's almost exactly what I need for my work. I'll buy it, see what's what, take great pictures with it and when the time is right - maybe even sell it and get something else. I'm not marrying it.

    Ellis: I did dabble in focus stacking. I've tried it a long time ago with PhotoAcute (which I use for super-resolution) but about a year ago I've been convinced that Helicon Pro is the best tool there is. I haven't really implemented this technology in any of my commercial work or my personal projects. Shooting 6-7 frames per photo is time consuming and difficult enough, especially when strobe lighting is involved but post-processing is something else entirely. D800 file sizes, 16-bit workflow, a few dozen pieces of jewelry per catalog, 6-7 frames per photo to process.... Do the math. It's simply not feasible. I had a girl working for me part-time, handling some of the post-production. I don't see how it could be done even then. Focus stacking is by no means for any high-volume-low-manpower projects. I do plan to get my technique polished and to at least devise a proper workflow for it.
    You will agree with me though that the purpose of tilting is not limited to acquiring as much DOF as possible. I see it as the 'proper' technique of achieving the 'desired' DOF. It's not just about getting what I need IN focus. It is also about getting what I DON'T need OUT of focus. And you just can't do that with focus stacking.
    As per your client with the golden picture frames.. Have you tried shooting them in a tent? I do almost all of my jewelry in a tent and it doesn't get more 'golden' than that. Those frames are probably big but I'm sure you can find a tent that's right for you. I have 2 and one of them has a removable back, so it becomes a kind of a 'shoot-through' tent. Gold, silver and gemstones look their best in a tent, plus I can use whatever background I want and light it however I need.

    Howard: The 90mm Schneider is very tempting. The build quality, the optics, the huge image circle, the tripod mount(!). I work mostly on my Arca Swiss D4 head and those two would be just perfect together. The price is within my budget too. But right now I feel that this lens is just 'too big' for me, if you know what I mean. And it's bulky too. When I do get on location I have to haul so much stuff with me in my SUV - it's ridiculous. And I almost never get any help. Right now I need ONE all-around T/S lens that I can also take with me for out-of-studio-under-time-pressure work and the Nikkor 85mm seems to fit the bill. I have a feeling that someone will produce an even finer T/S lens very soon. One with proper electronics and maybe even AF. Would be kinda cool. As an owner of the 90mm Schnider, where would that leave me in terms of resale value? I'd just be stuck with it because no one would need it (unless for dirt-cheap) as long as there were a better lens available, possibly more competitively priced. I'll start small and see where it goes from there.

    Everyone who says I should rent a copy first: What if I get a rental that's been dropped? What if an element came out of alignment? What if the lens is a lemon and the store doesn't even know it? Should I really form my opinion of its resolving power, based on a rental? What if I buy this lens, test it and find that it's adequately sharp but in reality it is not as sharp as it should be? I keep it and live happily ever after not knowing that all that time I'm shooting with a lemon.
    No matter how you look at it, I need to see some proper samples, so when I rent and/or buy, I'll have something to compare my own results to. Does ANYONE know where I can see some ful-res photos taken with this lens? At this point I'll look at anything, even pictures taken by another camera.
    Once again - great discussion. If anyone else has to add anything, I'm not going anywhere.
  14. If you rent from a rental house the lenses are checked before they go out and when they come back. They are probably maintained better then most privately owned lenses.
  15. David you might be interested in Ming Thein’s review of the 50mm and 90m Schneider lenses. He thinks the 90mm is pretty good, and the 50mm isn’t good, but he mainly uses the Nikon 85mm these days for high end watch photography clients. See:
  16. "I had a girl working for me part-time..." I think child labor laws would prohibit this. Perhaps you meant "woman."
  17. Thank you very much, Steven. It really was a great read. If previously I've been considering the 90mm Schneider, now I know it's not what I need. The insufficient 1:4 magnification and poor optical performance in conjunction with extension tubes is the real deal-breaker in this case, not the lack of electronic interface with the camera body.
    I really want to believe that something better is on the horizon, for us, DSLR shooters. It's long overdue. For now I have to settle for the Nikkor 85mm PC-E. 'Settle' because it's not exactly what I need and there is simply NOTHING else out there.
    T/S bellows and even Canon PC lenses I can throw out the window because those take away the ability of focusing on objects beyond a few feet away. And 'a few feet' is the best case scenario.
    The REAL bummer in all this is the awkward, and in my opinion, retarded way Nikon decided to design this lens. After some thinking and better understanding I realized that the orthogonal alignment of the tilt and shift axes is very limiting, especially for my type of work. I'll just have to get this lens 'hacked', like others have already suggested.

    I thank all who contributed. I need no further help with this.
  18. Not exactly what you asked for but perhaps, interesting nonetheless. I use a 45 PCE on a D300s, the first 20 or so pix, tilted and shifted as needed. Clean and sharp? As good as can be for the WWW. I use the lens for nearly everything. Some compromises, but max versatility. One thing, seems you're after speed. It is a fast lens alright, but the set up never is.
  19. Thanks for the post, Pat. With the 1.5 crop factor of the D300 things are not as indicative. If there's significant blurring and vignetting around the edges, you simply can't see it. I'll be trying to utilize the whole frame of the 85mm PC-E with my D800 body, however, cropping out the bad stuff is often a viable option with 36 MP. This is one of the reasons I thoroughly test all my optics; to find out if any particular lens is sub par around the edges at any give setting and whether the image it produces is sharp enough for cropping. The findings of such tests affect my composition.
    The 85mm PC-E has a very odd construction and it really bums me out because there is nothing else out there. Your 45mm has the same problem, which is manifested in the first photo. The exercise of 'shift' is very evident but the complete lack of 'tilt' on the same axis demonstrates a major flaw in the design of all Nikon's perspective control lenses.
  20. Would not be too hasty. That first shot, tho a result of the tilt, was intentional. I wanted to emphasize the hardware and connection closest to the camera. This one done with full tilt; reached right across the substrate.
  21. That's all nice and well but you couldn't get that other corner in focus if you wanted to. All thanks to the stupid design of Nikon's PC lenses. (talking about the first photo)
  22. "Another scenario is: from the sensor, through the rear and any consecutive elements, reflected off the diaphragm back to the sensor, ending up as diffused, stray light, that creates unwanted 'density' all over the image plane, swallowing up shadow detail and lowering the contrast."​
    This is a misguided concept. Yes contrast is lowered by diffuse flare from camera body and lens, but the effect generally is to increase shadow detail, not to lower it. You can see this working for yourself by adding artificial flare with a double exposure. The first exposure needs to be of an evenly illuminated sheet of white paper or similar, about 8 or 9 stops underexposed, followed by the main exposure of a high contrast subject. If you get the first "flashing" exposure at the right level you'll see an effective increase in sensor speed and better shadow detail. Mind you the D800's sensor is already pretty much working at the limit of what can be done within obtainable levels of camera flare. I last tried this experiment with a D700, and the level of shadow detail could be lifted considerably - but the first exposure needs to be critically accurate. I gave up on the idea because the flashing exposure was so touchy to get right, and also the camera only allows a 10 minute window to flash the frame before the main exposure. At least with film you could pre-flash a few hours beforehand.
    Personally I've never witnessed ghost images from the rear element of a lens, though they can readily occur when a filter's fitted to the front of almost any lens. The rear element would have to be concave to focus light back onto the sensor, and most lenses have a convex rear element, which simply scatters a small amount of light evenly around the dark chamber. This actually helps to reveal shadow detail - see above.
    As for a viable alternative to the Nikon 85mm PC-E: Sure! A third party TS adapter and a Schneider Digitar or Rodenstock equivalent. Maybe even a PB-4 bellows with tilt front and almost any long-focus lens you like. See this website -
  23. I am loving this discussion!

    Rodeo Joe, believe it or not but I know exactly what you're talking about. Back in the days of film I went through all the spot-metering-zone-placement school. I used to develop the b&w film myself and my whole 'imaging system' was very well calibrated. I myself have also dabbled in the area of increasing the dynamic range of film, and I'm not talking about 'plus' or 'minus' developing.
    In theory, a certain amount of light is needed to produce even the slightest density. If the light that strikes the film is less than the required minimum, the film will be clear after developing. This principal could be applied to increase the shadow detail with no tangible loss of detail in the highlights, thus expanding the practical dynamic range of any given emulsion.
    In my calibrated system, all I had to do was place the entire frame at Z0. For my film testing purposes I've constructed a diffuser from 2 sheets of matted plexiglass, with space between them. It was held in front of the lens with a Cokin P filter holder.
    This technique of 'priming' the emulsion prior to the main exposure was fairly easy to execute. I was using the Nikon F5 body, which imposed no limitations on multiple exposures. And since I was experimenting with B&W film, I had no issues priming the emulsion with anything other than neutral density. I would place the camera on a tripod, set it to stop advancing the film, slap on the diffuser, focus on infinity and take a center-weighted reading. Based on the reading, I would set the exposure to place the entire frame at Zone 0. The diffuser worked so well that I could even have light sources in front of me, yet the film plane was lit evenly. I should still have my home-made diffuser today, though I'd have to look for it.
    Anyway, in my experience, the increase of detail in the shadows was trivial at best. It was not worth the hassle, not by a long shot. I must say that much later I did wonder if this theory could have any application in the digital capture world. Now I'm intrigued. When I have some time on my hands, I must try this with my D800, though it would be very different. The amazing shadow detail this camera captures is jaw-dropping. I'd have to test first, just how much light I can get away with before it begins to register. This idea is very far-fetched but I will definitely try it sometime.
    As per the tilt-shift bellows... Am I stupid or is it really possible to take a regular Nikkor lens, put a bellows between it and the camera body and still be able to focus on far-away objects? Even at infinity? Am I missing something here?
  24. Hello, I have owned and used both the 85mm PC-E, and the older 85mm PC lenses simultaneously, although I used them
    on D700 bodies. I had to make a choice between the two lenses based on my needs, so I made a little comparison list
    for myself to help me decide. Perhaps it will help a little with your decision.

    If you do not plan to use the lens for portraiture or any photography that might involve quicker handling, then the older 85
    PC might fulfill your requirements. The older 85 PC can be used on a bellows, on non CPU extension tubes, or even with
    an older film camera since the aperture is purely mechanical, while the newer PC-E needs the camera to provide power
    for the aperture for each shot. The newer version may work fine with the Kenko type tubes with the full compliment of
    electrical contacts, but I did not try it yet. So with the older model, one would set the aperture, and open the stop down
    button to focus wide open, and then depress the stop down before the shot to stop down the aperture, and allow the
    camera to meter properly. It's a little slow, but with practice, it tends to become second nature. If you forget to hit the stop
    down plunger before hitting the shutter, your exposure will incorrect. With the newer PC-E, photographers are spoiled
    because the lens is always wide open for quick focusing, and it automatically stops down the aperture for you when the
    shutter is pressed. This makes a huge difference when any type of quick shooting may be needed, because one can just
    concentrate on focusing, and there is always a bright finder to look through. These features allow the 85 PC-E to do
    double duty as a manual focus portrait or nature lens depending on your focus skills. The stop down button on the new
    lens holds the aperture to the desired setting for previewing depth of field. Between the two lenses, the newer version is
    more hand holdable, and operates very similar to the Ziess ZF lenses that I am used to.

    The newer PC-E lens is also physically smaller than the older lens in terms of girth. This makes the newer lens easier to
    carry, but those with larger hands may actually like the ergonomics of the older version instead.

    I like the larger control and locking knobs on the older lens, and found the knobs on the newer lens to be too small to use
    comfortably. The tilt movements on both lenses seemed comparable, but I found the shift movement on the newer lens to
    have more play than the movement on the old lens. With the newer lens, when the shift lock was loosened, I could
    actually see light through the shift plane interface, so the lock always had to be kept at least slightly snug to prevent this.

    The newer PC-E lenses have a weather seal at the mount, but both lenses by nature are prone to dust intrusion due to
    the movements. I would be cautious using either in wet or dusty environments.

    The tilt and shift planes of the older lens can be easily orientated to parallel or perpendicular at home or in the field with
    the proper screwdriver and some patience. The newer lens appears to need a new ribbon cable according to what I've
    read, so you may have to send the lens into a shop if you need to change the orientation on the PC-E lenses.

    The new lens has the Nano coat on the elements, but it is very hard for me to see a difference in the photos I took. Some
    of my images with the newer lens, may have better color saturation, and perhaps a tad more contrast, but it may have just
    been the different shooting situations I was using them in. I do not think I could easily differentiate between images from
    either versions of the lens. Both lenses are very capable of making outstandingly sharp images, and both lenses likely
    out resolved the D700s I was/am using them on. I do have more portraits and family snaps from the newer lens that I
    may have missed if I had the older lend mounted at the time, simply do to the extra time required to control the older lens.

    The price difference is certainly a factor, one can do a lot with the money saved on the old version of the lens, but again,
    how you use the lens, may have more weight on your decision.

    I hope that some of this helps. My fingers are tired ;)

    D. Lafon

    PS. I should add that while using the lens movements, neither lens interfered with the prism overhang on my D700s. However, it is possible to pinch your fingers in spots between the camera and lens if not careful.
  25. I thought this thread was dead but thank you for your input.
    Even though I won't be using this length for any portraiture, buying the older version of the 85mm T/S makes no sense at this point. The new version is well within my budget and I will get myself a copy as soon as I get around to it. I'll have to run it through numerous tests and then send it back to Nikon for the axis change. Then when I get it back: more tests. All this takes precious time which I currently do not have.
    This discussion has been very helpful.

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