Thursday, 4 November 2010

More Autumn

This time with a twist; the new toy. Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens on the S1 Pro. Mmm.

It's often said that a good, fast prime lens will improve  your photography far more than sticking with the slow kit zoom that comes bundled with most dSLRs these days. I couldn't agree more, after getting bitten by the prime bug using the Zenit recently.

There are a multitude of benefits to a fast prime:

  1. Lovely shallow DOF
  2. Great low or dim light performance
  3. Sharper image due to higher quality glass
  4. Gets you used to moving your feet
The last one is a point of confusion. Surely it's better to have a zoom instead of clambering about all over the place? Well, no, apparently not. It makes you lazy. Something a little bit too far away? Just zoom a bit. Something too close? Zoom out. But changing focal length affects every other aspect of the picture, from the available f stops to the depth of field to the telephoto compression.

Shooting with a prime forces you to think about your composition. Having a fast prime with a wide range of f stops (f1.8 to f22 in this case) means you also have to consider the depth of field. It's easy, for example, to have it too wide and make part of the subject blurred. Or too narrow and cause the subject to blend into the background. Having to physically move to get the position and framing you want forces you to think it through far more carefully.

The shallow depth of field is a wonderful thing. It's great for "almost macro" shots, and the "creative blur" (commonly referred to as bokeh on the internet) can make interesting shapes and patterns in the background. I'll put more examples of this up later.

The speed is, of course, a great benefit. My old lens, am f3.5-5.6 28-100mm zoom, was sloooow. In fact, wide open the prime is almost 8 times faster than the zoom at 50mm because it was stuck at f4. This translates directly into much, much faster shutter speeds. In fact, shooting today's pictures involved dialling down the f stops because the body can only handle 1/2000th second and it wasn't fast enough.

The sharper image due to higher quality glass is sometimes rather subjective, but I intend to explore this property in upcoming weeks. Smoother colours, sharper edges and pin sharp focus are all for the taking. Just need to practice with the manual focus a bit more. The Zenit is the first camera with manual focus I've used in a long, long time because the manual focus ring on my zoom is too loose and wobbly to be used reliably. The prime has a much stiffer movement, and is easy to turn it exactly to the right place. The handy focussing dot in the viewfinder is a great help, of course.

Lots of learning to do. Now to get on with it!

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