With today's high ISO performance of digitals do we still need super fast lenses?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by kmahler, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. I have a Nikon 50mm f1.4 that I purchased over a decade ago when heading to Paris. I wanted something that I could shoot in the museums.
    Well, it has developed the dreaded aperture problem. Oil on the aperture fins keeps the aperture from closing down when a photo is taken.
    Well it's going to cost almost as much as a new lens to fix it. But, I have been thinking lately. Do I really need super fast lenses with the great high ISO performance of my D700 and slightly less performance of my D7000? I have not found myself in a situation where I feel I must have this lens.
    But, I'm curious of other people's opinions. Would you spend the money to fix or replace this lens given the high ISO performance of today's digital cameras.
    FYI, my currently working cache of lenses include 20mm f2.8, 16-35 f4, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8 and many more. But the point is that I'm not lacking for fast glass.
  2. I've shot in a candlelit restaurant where ISO 3200, f/1.4, 1/25 sec still required an exposure boost in post-production, so yes, I think fast lenses are still needed at times. Also, if you want the shallow DOF of f/1.4 or f/2, you aren't quite going to get it at f/2.8, and still less at f/4.
  3. Sure you do. I was at a couple of shows this week, both had much dimmer lighting than I was expecting.
    D200 • ISO 800 • Sigma 30/1.4 • ƒ/1.4 • 1/30th
    Sure, a D300 or D7000 would have helped. Even assuming a two stop advantage (say ISO 3000), I'd still only be able to stop down to ƒ/4… which is beyond most kit zooms. The other big advantage of fast primes on crop bodies is, IMO, that you can use the wide lenses and still get decent separation of the background.
  4. Don't forget that most lenses aren't at their best wide open. A slower lens needs to get slower still make the most of sharpness, contrast, avoiding CA, etc. A lens that starts out at f/1.4 is already getting that stuff under better control before f/2.8. And, as Craig mentions ... all of that high ISO juice can still leave you in a dim venue, and cussing at your f/2.8 lens. Oh, and, of course ... a lens with a big fat aperture is dragging more light into the camera body. That gives the AF system more to chew on, and provides you with a brighter viewfinder, since the iris is wide open while you're composing/focusing.
  5. short answer is yes.
    high-ISO can help in dim lighting by giving you a faster shutter speed, which is great when shooting action. but there's no substitute for a fast aperture. even 2.8 isn't all that fast in some situations. if you don't find yourself shooting in anything less than good daylight lighting, then maybe you don't need a 1.4 or 1.8 lens for low-light. but you might want to shoot at a fast aperture for subject isolation in good lighting--a situation where you might be shooting at base ISO.
    in the OP's case, i would either replace/repair the 50/1.4 or, if finances are too tight, just pick up a 50/1.8. i wouldn't want to be without at least one fast prime, and this especially makes sense with a full frame camera like the d700, where it's a normal lens which could conceivably be the only one you'd need for a full day and night of shooting. on a crop body, a 50 is somewhat less useful as far as focal length but still useful for its wide aperture since the high-ISO capabilities of DX are still not on a par with FX.
  6. Yes, fast lenses will be demanded for better control over depth of field. This is particularly true as the gap narrows between digital still and video photography.
    Also, despite the incredible advances in low noise at high ISOs, the market will demand ever increasing performance from cameras. Noise level at ISO 1600 that was considered acceptable five or so years ago is now generally considered unacceptable. While some of the current crop of dSLRs offer what I perceive as exceptionally good low noise/high ISO performance, chances are very good that today's "good" performance at ISO 12800 will be considered too noisy in a few years. Faster lenses will help photographers maintain a competitive edge a little longer with less than state of the art digital cameras.
    I doubt lens development will slow down. Ten or so years ago I wouldn't have predicted something like the 24-70mm f/2.8 AF-S would be available for under $2,000 and with exceptional performance. I'm not seeing any indication that the current state of the art in lens design will be considered "good enough" by pros and serious amateurs. Consumers are extremely demanding, more so than ever before, and willing to pay for fast lenses that once would have been considered not merely exotic but impossible to produce cost effectively.
  7. "Well it's going to cost almost as much as a new lens to fix it."
    Ouch...my AF 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye has had a sticky aperture for about 1.5 years. I don't really miss using it, but it's such an expensive lens that I really should have it fixed
  8. Thanks everyone. I'm convinced. I will actually try to repair the 50 1.4 myself based on instructions I have found on the internet. Since I can't make it worse and the repair costs are as much as replacing it, I'm in. If I can't fix it, I'll get the 50 1.4 AFS which would at least be a bit of an upgrade.
    I did contact Nikon about fixing the 50 1.4 since it appears that this is a very common problem with this lens. They made me ship it in before they told me, they would charge me about the replacement cost to fix it. I was highly upset with them. Based on that experience, I hope I never have another problem with Nikon kit.
  9. Lets go the other direction, how about it Nikon, some of us are still waiting for a modern 50mm 1:1.2 lens.
  10. I think narrow DOP is one of the main differences between P&S and DSRL. You need fast lenses to achieve that.
  11. Ouch,
    I think its a shame that after all these years, Nikon has not done much to stop the "Oily Blades Syndrom' yet.... :-( ( Or is it a "builtin" moneymaker feature for the Nikon services dept ??) .

    And Yes I agree with all respondends that I still like / love /want / need fast lenses for all reasons metioned, and for the sheer joy working with fast lenses in particular...
  12. As ISO goes up, dynamic and color range go down. If you like and have typically used the lens regularly, fix or replace it.
  13. It`s curious that fast apertures use to be only considered for low light shooting. If photography is all about imagery, creative possibilities should be even more important that the "physical" capabilities of any lens... as Lex points out in his post.
    In this digital age the control over DoF for sure can be simulated in PP, but I prefer to have it ready at a shutter release button push.
  14. Most of reasons were already covered by many.
    To summarize and add a bit, there are many reasons for use of fast lens:
    Assuming that the lens at least has Auto aperture, and Auto Focus working.
    1. To make easier auto exposure determination for both ambient and CLS pre- flash, when the aperture is wide open.
    2. To make easier Auto Focus tracking, with cameras that have this feature.
    3. To obtain narrower Depth Of Field.
    4. To use faster shutter speed allowed, at any ISO value.
    5. other opical lens benefits... and already mentioned.
  15. Short answer (as has been stated already): yes. But there isn't much advantage of a 50/1.4 over a 50/1.8 in terms of speed. However, if the 50/1.4 is optically much better, get it.

    Photographers have been shooting in very low-light for decades. It's easier now but photographers could do a lot with f/2.0 and ISO 160 back then.
  16. Besides the advantages in AF speed and DOF control with fast lenses, high ISO performance can be seen as better underexposure tolerance. As Elliot pointed out, you lose dynamic range and color range.
    For best quality keep ISO down. Fast lenses are here to stay
  17. It's not always about having a faster shutter speed. Sometimes it's for the rendered out of focus backgrounds you get when isolating a subject where to have a background that is in focus is an image that fails to convey the intended feeling of the image. I am not a professional photographer nor do I pretend to be, but I do earn a certain amount of $ from the sale of my images & faster/better lenses do play a major role in the success or failure of an image. Sometimes it makes the difference between making a saleable photo or making an ordinary grab shot photo.
  18. Faster lenses will also AF better. So even if you are shooting at say f/5.6 if the lens has a max aperture of f/2.8 you have a better chance of getting the AF right in really dark indoor conditions.
  19. FWIW, I found myself shooting my 200mm at f/2, 1/50 and ISO 5000 at a family gathering with my D700 yesterday. I couldn't do that with my 28-200 f/3.5-5.6. Partly I wanted the narrow depth of field (well, at least to throw the background out of focus), but it really was dim lighting - and this was a few table lamps, we're not talking candles. The D700's still usable at ISO 5000, but I'm a lot less nervous below the ISO 3200 point.

    I don't use my 50mm f/1.8 so much because it's not very good wide open; the bokeh puts me off an f/1.4 upgrade. There's a lot to be said for fast lenses, but it would be nice if a few of the fast lenses were better quality used wide open (which is a lot to ask of a lens design, admittedly). I'd buy an AF-S 50mm f/1.2 if it behaved like the 200mm.
  20. It depends.

    Just being "fast" is not reason enough to use a lens. Some lenses are optimized to shoot sharp at wide open apertures - others are not. A fast coke bottle is still a coke bottle :)

    Personally I have never gotten into hi ISO. I look for digital systems that let me shoot much like I did with film.

    Remember - "the best lens is a tripod."
  21. It costs hundreds of dollars to clean the blades on a prime lens? Surely there's a better prince to be found. Shop around a bit.
  22. don't forget also, that as your ISO goes up, your dynamic range goes down....something that digital isn't great at in the best of circumstances.
  23. I'd rather shoot an f1.8 lens at f2.8 than shoot an f2.8 lens at f2.8, given the choice, regardless of ISO capability. Or... I'd rather shoot a wide 2.8 zoom at f5.6 than shoot a variable aperture zoom wide open at f5.6.
  24. You're falling for the common misconception about those astronomically-high ISO numbers. It sounds like a lot, but each time you double the ISO rating, it's only one stop better. Going from ISO 800 to 1600 is no different than going from f/2.8 to f/2. When you look at it that way, I think you can see for yourself that you can still need a fast lens indoors if you don't want to use flash. That being said, I think that a new, relatively cheap 50/1.8 lens would be as good as an older f/1.4 if the cost of repair is too high.
  25. I guess no one can answer a question like this for you but yourself. Personally I think the D3 (and other new cameras) have opened up a whole new world of pictorial opportunities that could not be approached successfully in the past. Fast glass is also needed, not as much to get a useable picture in low light (as it was in the past) but to get the cleanest, most noise-free images, and to separate the main subject from a cluttered background. I'd always prefer to shoot at at most ISO 800 even with FX as the tonality is better and images are cleaner and crispier at lower ISO than e.g. 1600-3200. For example I tried to shoot an aircraft landing yesterday at night. I had to shoot at 1/60s, f/2.8, 160mm, ISO 3200 with VR hand-held. It came out sharp, but the dark areas had lots of noise. If I want the image to be cleaner without sacrificing as much sharpness I have to resort to faster glass i.e. 200/2 or 135/2 to be able to use a lower ISO. With slower shutter speeds the airplane became a streak which was not my intention. Alternatively, I could shoot at dusk/dawn but then it's not a night picture.
  26. Remember - "the best lens is a tripod."​
    Mmm, Id like to see a fast lens being substituted by a tripod and catch a bird in flight....
    How does that work ? Do you throw your tripod at the bird to stop it from moving ...? :) :)
  27. C.P.M. - First tie the bird to the tripod. There's probably a plamp attachment for egrets. :)

    I was having a go at photographing small birds in hedgerows on Boxing Day, with my shiny new (well, sort-of) 500mm AI-P, a teleconverter, and an (inadequate) tripod. My ISO was in the thousands a bit more than I expected. I've got some image processing to do before I decide whether my manual focus technique is any good and whether I was being unduly paranoid with shutter speed. I may or may not have done any better with an autofocus lens (hedges do not interact well with autofocus). Would life have been easier with a 200-500 f/2.8? Well, I doubt I'd have been any more able to hand-hold it, but I might have some less noisy blue tit. What I really needed was light - ideally, to have been antisocially shooting on Christmas Day, which was sunny, instead of Boxing Day, which was overcast. My SB-600 wouldn't have contributed much at the range I was shooting, even if I could have put it in the right place. I needed sunlight.

    The best lens is a tactical nuke, set off at a suitable distance, preferably positioned by radio-controlled helicopter (and a reflector)?
  28. Mostly I want wide aperture lenses for DOF reasons, not so much low light these days...
  29. IMO, yes. AFAIK lower (especially native) ISO always yields better IQ, if not in terms of outright noise, then in terms of DR, contrast, tonal gradation, etc. The other advantages of super fast lenses have already been mentioned (brighter VF, better control of DoF, surer AF), except that they generally also have better bokeh if that matters to you.
    Mmm, Id like to see a fast lens being substituted by a tripod and catch a bird in flight....
    How does that work ? Do you throw your tripod at the bird to stop it from moving ...? :) :)
    Just curious - do you get more BIF keepers shooting long teles handheld, or when using a good gimbal mount and a sturdy tripod?
  30. D.B. - I've got okay BIF shots hand-held with an IS lens in tracking mode. I tried shooting - er, photographing - a red kite that flew past over the weekend, with a 500mm f/4 on a (cheap) gimbal and (not very) sturdy tripod, with very little success. That might have had something to do with trying to manual focus on a moving subject, though. I have a few smaller birds taking off from a bird table - shutter speed (ISO and aperture) definitely mattered, since the wings blur even at 1/1000. I've no idea how steady the tripod was keeping me, but at least it let me aim the lens.
  31. Well, Andrew , DB ,
    Its obvious that you may need both, but I'm trying to break the repeatedly used oneliner "Remember - "the best lens is a tripod." ... because its not true, "no lens no picture.."...
    A tripod cannot replace any lens, you still need the lens , and depending on the Lens, and subject and available light and usable ISO capability , and the type of picture you want etc, etc. you may need a tripod or something else to steady your cam. ( beanbag ?) too....
  32. Not really, f2.8 is fast enough for most and a professional zoom has this by design. An ultra-shallow depth of field is nice, but for most not essential. Having said this, however, I do like my 35/50/135 f1.4-f2s, but they are definitely "extras".
  33. the best lens is a tripod​
    well I haven't heard that one before......doesn't even make any sense.
    the whole point of small format photography is to be agile and discreet.........if you're going to use a tripod, you may as well break out the MF or LF monsters.
  34. Ty, I think you're confusing the working of the statement with the spirit of the statement. I believe it's meant to mean that if you can't get enough light to shoot (or for your lens to shoot at a sharp aperture), then a tripod does wonders. And it does. Assuming I have a tripod with me, I'd rather shoot f/4 and 1/15th of a second over f/2 and 1/60th, unless I'm doing a wedding or something where people are moving a lot.
    Also, the smaller sensor/film of the 35mm-sized cameras allows for large telephotos, something not really an option with medium or large format film. Your 600mm f/4 would be equivalent to around 200mm if you were shooting 4x5 film, and 200mm just isn't going to cut it for any wildlife more dangerous than a sparrow. Plus it would probably end up being an f/11 or f/16 lens.
    But it still weighs a lot. Hence tripod, or prone position.
  35. One issue to consider also is that on a DX camera the DOF is increased at the same aperture, so until all things become FX, I believe that wide primes remain very important.
    In your case however with a D700, it seems that a F1.8 (less than a 1 stop difference from 1.4(2/3rds to be exact)) lens would be sufficient if the build quality, glass quality and number of aperture blades were all to your liking. One thing to note however, is that If you like to use the lens at say F2 the 1.4 will probably serve you better given that it is stopped down a whole stop rather than just a little bit.
    I tried to read the whole thread to see if I was going to be redundant, but missed parts here and there so i apologize if this post simply repeats what was said before.
  36. Since we've taken the radical move back to the OP's original question, rather than debating whether a tripod + pinhole is better than using glass...

    I have to say the 24-70 f/2.8 is an awfully nice piece of glass (as far as I can tell from reviews). It keeps up pretty well with the 50mm primes, which are much simpler designs, and it's pretty sharp even at f/2.8 - at least, it's close to how good the primes are at that aperture. Aside from a little outlining, the bokeh's not bad either (and no worse than the bokeh of the AF-S 50mm). I love my 50mm f/1.8, but one and a third stops - and fuzzy at that aperture - isn't much over the zoom, especially since the prime is so light you'll lose a bit of stability compared with the zoom.

    I'd get the 50 f/1.8 if you want something light to carry around on the camera. I'd choose it over the f/1.4 for the same reason. Given that you own the 24-70 already (and I don't), I'm not sure I'd bother with it to add much functionality. If you want it for subject isolation, I'd choose a longer lens anyway (even on the D7000).

    The 50 f/1.4 G is much sharper wide open (away from the centre) than the f/1.8 or the old AF-D f/1.4, so I'd be more inclined to consider it usable at two stops faster than your zoom. It still has slightly sucky bokeh (the Sigma is better but less sharp), but it depends on your subjects and what look you're trying to get as to whether this is an issue for you. Of course, it costs more than the AF-D. Not that there's anything wrong with the AF-D wide open so long as you like centering your subject. I'm vaguely hoping an AF-S 50 f/1.2 might crop up (with a more advanced optical formula), but I doubt I'd be able to afford it when it does.

    To summarise: I'd get the 50 f/1.8 if you want a light walkaround lens, but not to add optical functionality over your zoom. I'd get the 50 f/1.8 G if you want sharp photos at two stops faster than your zoom and don't mind dodgy bokeh; I'd get the Sigma or possibly a replacement AF-D if you want better bokeh but less sharpness. If you want everything, I'd cross fingers and hope a 50 f/1.2 that's perfect turns up. I'd also look through my EXIFs and see how much I was using the lens.

    Of course, if you can repair it yourself for free anyway... Good luck!
  37. Some very good points have been made. I'll address a few on which I have an opinion:
    First, a tripod is not the best lens. Now, I'm a big fan of tripods. In fact, I just spent over $1300 on a new one including an arca-swiss head. But, when I'm trying to take photos of my young cousins at a Christmas dinner holding the camera still is not going to solve the movement problem. Those little rascals are fast.
    I do feel that my 24-70 f2.8 is as good if not better quality at 50mm than the 50mm f1.4. Even opened up at f2.8. Now the ability to blow out the background more can be had by moving back a bit and zooming the 24-70 to more like 70mm at f2.8.
    Many of the responders made the assumption that all of my bodies are DX format. When, in fact, I only own one DX format body today and it's not my primary camera. I only pick up the D7000 when I want something light weight or does video. My D700 is my default camera. Yes, I get the confusion over the model numbers but I blame that on Nikon.
    I honestly don't find much of a loss of IQ when cranking my D700 up to ISO 3200 or even 6400. The physically large sensor and amazing low noise performance create stellar IQ even at high ISO. My older D300 wasn't even close to the performance of my D700.
    In the end, I will attempt to fix the 50mm f1.4 on my own following instructions I have found on the internet. If I destroy it, I have lost nothing. However, if I do, I seriously doubt I will replace it.
    Thanks for all of the input,
  38. Kevin, the D700 is indeed phenominal at high ISOs. Still grainy, but at 6400 it looks like 800 ISO film - much more natural than noice typically is.
    If you're not sold on the primes, I'd look into a 50mm 1.4 AIS, F2-era. I've had one for years (not quite as long as its been around), and it's still my most reliable lens and my general go-to. Image quality is much sharper than the 1.4 G, although its more prone to showing pores and other small imperfections. I find it very easy to focus on the D700, fairly easy on the D7000 and D300, and pretty hit-or-miss on the D90 and below, as the less expensivecameras do not have viewfinders sharp enough to judge a thin sliver of focus as well. That said, it's more-or-less permanently attached to my D7000.
    It can also be had used for $100-$300 depending on condition.
  39. Zack - I doubt the AI lens would help with the "little rascals". :) I suspect a zoom lens would help, too.

    I'm interested to hear your opinion of the AI-S. The review I've seen (KR's) suggest it has slightly better bloom resistance than the AF-D (in spite of being roughly the same design), but I'm surprised that you find it better (well, sharper) than the AF-S - although I could believe it does a bit better in the centre in return for softer edges. I'll keep an eye out in case I spot a cheap one, but my experience of normal primes is that I value autofocus more than I do with other focal lengths.
  40. I did a dirt, fast resolution test (but still reliable to me) months ago and found the AiS and AFS performance wide open to be quite the same on the D700... in fact, the only way I found to recognice each lens was in the highlight spots; on the AFS are almost circular, clearly polygonal on the AiS. It was surprising to me, for whatever the reason I used to consider the AiS a very soft lens under this conditions. I was not able to find any bokeh differences.
    I only checked center resolution. I really don`t care about side&corner performance when shooting at such apertures.
  41. I only checked center resolution. I really don`t care about side & corner performance when shooting at such apertures.​
    I've heard that argued a lot, and I'm sure it suits the style of shooting of many. Myself, I've never bought the theory. If you have subject detail on the (pseudo-)rule-of-thirds point on a full-frame camera, they're almost as far from the centre as the top middle is on a crop body. That's often well away from the sweet spot. I also tend to have something - floor, tabletop, whatever - in view that's bisected by the focal plane. Sure, it's usually not the main subject of the photo, but if the bokeh blurs into pure sharpness near the middle of the frame point and into splodge at the edges, I find it distracting (my eye tends to follow the line of focus when peering around the scenery). I don't expect every lens to be perfect, but nor would I be happy with the Lensbaby effect every time I shot faster than f/4. This may be a failing of my compositional skills, or just be because I work in computer graphics and I'm naturally drawn to pixel-peep at details.
  42. Well, better to have a great performance in the whole area, of course. There will be always a situation to desire it in this way. I must admit that most of the times I shoot f1.4 just for fun... :)

  43. It was taken with a 50AFS, wide open.
  44. Another one, 50AFS wide open too.
  45. This time with a 50AiS version, wide open.
  46. Last one, 50AFS wide open, again:
  47. Alex Z and Jose, nice,nice, nice, love the shots. And YES, I want the fast lenses. I know too I could do better with a 700 or 7000 but I still feel I'm comfortable enough with my trusty D200s and the 1.4 and 1.8, and Alex I shoot jazz club stuff ISO800 with the old manual 50 1.8 alot but I really admire that shot with the 30 1.4 So another vote for the faster lenses here. Dave
  48. hmm, not super crazy about the 50/1.4 AF-S bokeh. nice shots though.
  49. *waves hands*
    Voigtlander 58/1.4. Handles being pointed at light sources pretty darn well, not a lot of barrel distortion or vignetting, but you get a lot of green fringing pretty easily. Plus, nice bokeh and a much better focusing action than any Nikon lens I've held. It might just be perfectly damped.
  50. I'm with Eric, I just don't like the bokeh on many of the Nikon primes (the 30/1.8 and most of the 50s too). They're beautifully sharp, but that's not always what I'm looking for. Likewise you don't need to shoot wide open to get nice bokeh from many lenses. But you do need the fast lenses for low, available light photography. If you're looking for a fast, manual focus prime it's hard to go wrong with the 58/1.4. The out of focus rendition is beautiful, the transition from focused to not focused is fantastic, it's small. But it's prone to green fringing (which /can/ make the bokeh pretty busy) and takes 58mm filters (an odd size for Nikon kit it seems). I mention the Arsenal Mir-24N 35/2 because if you don't NEED the speed of the Sigma, it's cheap (about $100 off of eBay), has a beautiful focusing action, nice aperture ring with lots of detents, and focuses pretty close (0.24m). Seemingly less vignetting than the Sigma, and it too takes 58mm filters (which fits in well with my kit, I just leave the step up adapter on the 28/2.8 all the time).
    D200 • ISO 800 • Mir 24N • ƒ/5.6 • 1/125th
    Note: I *had* to use this lens because I was going to shoot some pictures of Soviet tanks. How could I not? :D
    D200 • ISO 800 • Voigtlander 58/1.4 • ƒ/3.5 • 1/180th
    D200 • ISO 640 • Voigtlander 58/1.4 • ƒ/1.6 • 1/60th
  51. alex, every time you post your 58/1.4 shots i feel a twinge at my heart. or is that a tug at my wallet? nevertheless i am impressed with how you have been able to turn a d200 into a good low-light camera with that lens (and the Mir, which also seems nice). that kind of speaks volumes to the OP's question.
    i'm a little reluctant to delve into MF waters, simply because i do far too much PJ stuff where AF is essential, but you have made an excellent case for fast MF primes. that last shot is particularly good because the ISO was only 640 and the image has decent sharpness for being at 1/60 and 1.6. with live bands/musicians, you can sometimes get away with a bit of motion blur, which adds to the scene rather than detracts from it.
    If I want the image to be cleaner without sacrificing as much sharpness I have to resort to faster glass i.e. 200/2 or 135/2 to be able to use a lower ISO.​
    to address Ilkka's point, there is a(nother) solution: the D3s, which has very clean shadow areas up until 6400. but even with a D3s, you still may need faster glass than 2.8, especially if you are dealing with strong backlighting, i.e. neon (which overexposes at high ISO values like a supernova), or taking no-flash shots in environments which should be too dim for picture-taking.
  52. and the crop...
  53. Well that was a hell of a lot easier than I expected. It took me about 15 mins to disassemble the lens, clean the blades and put it back together. I think I am going to disassemble it again and clean the elements one more time, I left some spots on the back element. Here are some shots with the newly repaired Nikkor 50mm f1.4.
    If you want to see more stops, they can be viewed on my website at http://pics.kmahler.com/main.php?g2_itemId=6947
    If anyone else has the 50mm f1.4 with oily blades, it is really easy to repair yourself.
  54. Kevin: Cool, glad it worked out for you!
  55. Eric, a computer screen is very forgiving. They're small, and are low resolution devices. I just ordered some 4x6 prints to get a feel for what sort of sharpening and color correction I'd need to do. Sure, I need to sharpen the images *more*, but the slightly off focusing is very apparent. That said, photojournalists have been around for much longer than autofocus. Stopped down a bit on a full-frame camera and I don't see anything inherently impossible with trying to focus manually on moving subjects. After all, this is digital. Missed shots are cheap. With a better viewfinder and some practice and I think the rate of keepers would improve dramatically.
    For low light situations tho, you cannot beat some sort of AF assist lamp. The red grid style is great and unobtrusive. There's simply no way I could even come close with the teeny tiny D200 VF and a manual focus lens. Any keepers I get in super low light situations are merely wild-assed guesses.
    I liked the composition here, but probably should have opened it up a bit to blur the building a bit more. Because this wasn't posed, I left it at ƒ/4.5.
    This was shot at ƒ/3.5. As I recall, I was pretty surprised how many well focused shots I got of these guys. I doubt the Sigma 30 would have done as well. Something like this would have been hard to shoot with a kit zoom lens because the light was fading pretty fast. A decent constant 2.8 zoom lens would probably have been a-okay.
    I've mixed feelings on the D200. On the one hand, I really don't like how noisy it is. But, from about ISO 200 – 640 it's got a very analog feeling noise to it. Almost like film? Maybe. I've learned to embrace it a bit. Beyond that, perhaps by ISO 1000 the color noise and shift is just awful. Sure you can counter that with some decent NR, but the resulting images leave me pretty disappointed.
  56. DOF control; improved AF performance. Yes, I would love a 24mm/1.4DX VR.

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