Nikon Lens

One of my top quality Nikon DX lenses is up for sale, under the About TAA drop down menu.  If you’re looking for a versatile telephoto VR lens – this may well be the very one that you are after.  :-D

Conservatively priced ~ in ‘as-new condition’,  A superb lens.

Flash Point

For about a week something has been niggling away in the deep and labyrinthine recesses that I good-humouredly refer to as my brain:
And I have been somewhat troubled by it.   I’m sure that you know what it is like when something nadgers away at you, but for the life of you, you are unable to pin it down.  That’s how it has been during the last week.
Initially, my instinctive suspicion was that I had forgotten something.
A date:  An appointment:  A delivery or a collection:  A meeting with a client.
But, because my memory more accurately resembles a hollow cylindrical tube than a bucket-like receptacle in which to store things, I write everything, but everything, in a diary, in a calendar, and on my mobile.  With alarms – buzzers – dire warnings, and admonishments.

I have checked all of these.  Scrupulously; and on several occasions.
Absolutely nothing !!  Not a thing.

Then, today, I was talking casually to a client, who had called to enquire about some further work, when he very courteously and kindly commented upon a blog I had written about two weeks ago, concerning Nikon lenses.
He said firstly how much he had enjoyed reading it, in terms of the style of the writing, and secondly how informative and enlightening he had found it in terms of its content.   Now I can say these things without a hint of embarrassment or conceit, because we have already agreed that he shall have a 20% discount off his next order, in light of these very generous comments.  :lol:

And when he had gone, suddenly, the penny dropped.   It was since I had written about the lenses, and later had been reminded of an observation made to me recently, by a good friend, about flash-guns, that I had been so unsettled.

And gradually, the comment about flash-guns made to me by my friend, emerged to the surface, struggling out of the depths of my feeble memory, like a drowning man fighting his way out of a pit of molasses,

The comment:   Oh.  Yes.         I’ll tell you before I forget it again.  :-)
It was,    “Oh, I don’t use the flash very much; in fact not at all if I can avoid it.  I just stick it on the hot-shoe, switch it on. I never even think about the settings. I just take the shot.”
When I asked if the shots always turned out to his liking, he admitted that many did not.
He concluded by saying,     “In fact, most don’t.  I’m generally very disappointed.  But I don’t fiddle around with all of the ‘settings’ & ‘gizmos’ on the back of the flash.  I haven’t a clue what they all do.”
And he rounded off this tale of woe by saying,   “I’m seriously considering disposing of the flash altogether, and just using the built-in one on the camera.  The trounble with that is that I get awful shadows everywhere.”

And it was this final, almost despairing, comment which reminded me what I had written about in the Nikon Lens blog.
I had said something along the lines that many who bought the lenses I was discussing, did so with the assumption that the lens itself would produce better pictures.  And when it did not produce dramatically better images, they consigned the lens to the cupboard, until they decided to sell it.  Yet in their sales pitch, advocating what a super lens it is, without ever having discovered the fact for themselves.

And if you watch sales on eBay of perfectly good, very practical, flash-guns, you will often notice exactly this sort of comment being made.
“Like new.  Has not been used much.  Excellent flash.  Grab yourself a bargain.”

And what many of them are actually saying is,   “I never really got the hang of this thing.  Everyone said how great it is, but I haven’t got a clue what it all means.  So I’m selling it.”   And the underlying admission is, that by confessing that they won’t put themselves about to understand the working and setting of their flash, means that they, similarly, probably don’t understand the workings and setting of their camera either.  Because primarily, all that the settings of the flash are doing is sychronising either the camera with the deficiency of appropriate light, or the camera and itself with the deficiency and the colour balance of the image setting.
Distances are similar.  Compensations are similar.  Light strengths are similar.
Often when you talk to people with this sort of dilemma, you will find that range metering and the +&- compensation, bracketing and flash comp functions on the camera are similarly a mystery to them.  And when it is suggested that for a given hand-held shot, they use shutter priority with the speed set to overcome ‘shake’, and balance the aperture by adjusting the ISO, they look at you as if you have suddenly grown three heads.

Now admittedly, some of the most recent Nikon flash units on the market are, in my opinion, over the top.
Do we really need to have a Menu in a flash, comparable in size and complexity to the Menu on a D3?
I must admit that I have nothing more than several SB600′s and an SB800.  Oh, plus a SB28DX.  And I prefer the SB600 for most applications.
The SB900 was, in my opinion, a bit of a dogs breakfast.  Not the light provision. Just the digitalized LCD screen and it’s programme modes.
I gather that the SB910 is much better, though that Menu puts me off.   And I’ve heard some really wacky stories about the SB700.   The SB400 is fine to fit in your pocket for a day out with a small body and kit lens, but it is restricted rotationally.
And despite their de rigeur status, and associated price tags, none seem to be able to do anything of significance, that my SB600 or my SB800 won’t do.
Where the SB910 & SB700 do leave my flashes behind, is with the gels. :-)
I have to make my own and stick them to the flash head.

So next week, my bewildered friend is going to return.
With his camera.  His flash.  His flash manual.  And we are going to have an afternoon delving into the mysteries of flash photography, including off-camera flash.
It should be fun.
I’m looking forward to it, because I always finish up learning something too.
And, I am loathe to confess, often having to re-learn something that I now have to acknowledge that I had completely forgotten.  :oops:  :roll:

Flash photography, or at least knowledgeable and good flash photography, really does open up all manner of opportunities to improve your image making.  And you don’t need a studio or a host of other expensive equipment to get the best out of your flash and camera.
In fact some of the cheapest tricks are the most effective.   :-)

SB600 Speedlight

This may well be ‘old-hat’ to readers, but was a significant discovery for me.

For some time now, my SB600 flash has been behaving erratically.
It has something to do with old-age;  so I’ve been reliably informed. :oops:

When I’m not using my flash guns I store them in the camera cupboard, with the sprung-loaded flap to the battery compartment, open.  That way, even if I inadvertently forget to switch the unit off, before I disconnect it from the camera body, there is no possibility of the batteries being exhausted.   When I want to use the flash, I close the battery compartment cover, fit the speedlight to the camera body, lock it, switch it on and switch on the camera.  At which point the speedlight should adjust itself to the same TTL settings as the camera.
Sometimes, it doesn’t.  Sometimes it won’t even switch on.
I have found, from various persuasive activities, that the fault appears to be the fit of the battery compartment flap, which clicks closed and is then slid vertically to align the battery terminal contacts.  Always, by fiddling with the flap in it’s closed position, I have persuaded the speedlight to work satisfactorily.  Until recently; when it has been much less responsive.  :evil:

This evening, I decided to attempt to fix it – once and for all.
The flap is a tee sectioned piece of plastic, hinged to the body of the speedlight, at the base of the stalk of the tee.  Underneath the crossbar of the tee is a separate piece of plastic, on rails, carrying the battery terminal contacts.  And holding the sliding section onto the crossbar rails are two minute cross-head screws.

Quite by accident I discovered that not only do these two screws hold the sliding section in position on its rails, they also adjust the height of the sliding section, relative to the crossbar.  If the screws are undone ¼ a turn they lift the sliding section away from the crossbar, thereby increasing the spring pressure of the contacts onto the terminals of the batteries.
Problem solved.
It has to have been designed to do that, but even in the instruction manual, I could find no mention of it.

So if your battery flap terminals are not making satisfactory contact and producing erratic function of your flash unit, check the assembly details and even on a unit which is not Nikon, you may find a similar arrangement.

I was considering acquiring another flash, as a fault like that will always occur when it is least needed.  I like the SB-600.  It is easier to use than the SB-800, and nothing like as complex and fiddly as the SB0900/910/700.
But even a SB-600 is going to cost £120-130 second-hand.
And an SB-800 £180-200.

So, a providential enlightenment.   :lol:

Nikon Lenses

I either presently own, or in the past have owned, a significant number of camera lenses. Not all of them Nikons.  I’ve had Tokinas, Minoltas, Sonys and Tamrons too.  But I did, at one point in my photographic development, make the decision to dispose of any non-Nikon lens and to, henceforth, only put Nikon glass on my cameras.  Whether that was a wise decision, or not, is possibly open to debate; but that is what I have done.
And consequently, whenever I spot a lens that I also own, up for sale, I will read the description and sometimes watch, to see how much it sells for.

And two fairly common statements are made, which I find quite intriguing.

With regard to the AF-S 28-300 f3.5-5.6 ED VR Fx lens and its 18-200 Dx equivalent, owners say “I never take it off the camera – it is so versatile.

And so both of these lenses are.  And excellent lenses too.  But the owners are missing a great deal by restricting themselves to the sole use of these Fx or Dx multi-functional zooms.  Both, for instance, barrel or pincushion at their extremes, to varying degrees,  and both are subject to some measure of softness, due to difraction when stopped right down.

Other lenses which overlap, or also operate within these parameters, are excellent in their own right.  I have an AF 20-35 f2.8 ED IF Fx lens and an AF 80-200 f2.8 ED IF Fx lens; both of which are simply superb.  Not necessarily fundamentally better than the AF-S 28-300 f3.5-5.6 ED VR, but they were designed for specific purposes, at which they are, in my opinion, quite without equal.  And I use these two, in addition to an AF 50 f1.8 Prime lens, as much as I use the multi-functional zooms.

With regard to the AF 20-35 f2.8 ED IF Fx and AF 80-200 f2.8 ED IF Fx lenses, when offered for sale, the owner will almost always declare that their lens “has been owned from new and has had little use, being kept in it’s case: it therefore is offered for sale, ‘as-new’

Now both of these lenses are quite old, in terms of the date upon which they were first introduced to the market.   But Nikon still make them.  You can still buy a new one.  Both have been superceded by plastic variations.  The AF 20-35 f2.8 ED IF, for instance, by the magnificent AF-S 17-24 f2.8G ED VR Fx.  A pro lens with a wider angle with more elements and groups.  And stunning sharpness – less fall-off and sharper corners.
But it’s enormous !!  Humungous, even !!!!  :lol:
And you can’t fit either a front lens cap, or sacrificial, UV, or polarizing filters to it, because of the curvature of the front element.
And the first AF-S 70-200 f2.8G ED VR Fx which was supposed to replace the AF 80-200 f2.8 was very quickly replaced itself by the AF-S 70-200 f2.8G ED VRII Fx, because the first VR performed better on Dx bodies.  And the dear old AF 80-200 f2.8 was quickly reinstated to the sales brochure, to contend with the two pretenders.  And the reason Nikon originally wanted to replace the 20-35 f2.8 & the 80-200 f2.8 was because it was, and still is, necessary to physically press a button and turn a ring on the body, to move between manual and auto-focus (M-A), whereas Canon had developed the ‘grab the focus ring and it changes automatically to manual‘ technology – and Nikon were losing professional clients to them.  And are only now beginning to regain the same clients, with their own ‘grab it‘ technology.

The other factor which is often cited, is that the modern lenses are lighter.
And yes.  Indeed they are.  Because the modern lenses are made of plastic.  Whilst the two old warhorses are precision machined from aluminium and metal.  Consequently, they are much more robust.  Which is exactly what a pro photographer requires, in the hurly-burly of getting the picture, fit for publication.  And, the elements are precision ground glass, whilst the tendency with modern lenses is toward moulded plasti-glass composite lenses. (which are undeniably lighter, cheaper to produce, and arguably at least comparable optically too.  Time will tell whether they retain their quality and resilience.)

And this is why you can still buy these older lenses new, with a full warranty, for only slightly more than you will pay for them second-hand.
(when a lens doesn’t depreciate drastically, it is usually a good indication that it was, originally, a very worthy purchase)
[generally, lenses will retain their value much more realistically than bodies will]

Nikon, or indeed any other global manufacturer, don’t keep a product in their marketing brochure if it is no good and not realising the sales targets.  And both of these two AF stalwarts have been around since the very early 1990′s.
And 20+ years is a lifetime in the electronic consumer world  :-)

And the remarkable thing that I like about both of them, being metal and solid, is that you don’t need VR.  Because they are both IF, you line up your shot, focus, AF-L, check and shoot.  At a suitable shutter speed  (1/200th, or not more than 1/250th, because on Fx there’s no crop-factor to consider) with ISO set to enable the aperture setting that you require for DoF, the shot is razor sharp.  And the barrel, pin-cushion, fall-off and dark corners, are nothing like as evident.  Difraction is about the same

And both of the ‘two-old-warhorses’, purchased new, are approximately only 1/3rd of the price of their plastic counterpart, and will last you for a lifetime.  And if you fall over whilst taking a shot, you’ll come up, shaken but not stirred, still shooting and the kit won’t even have noticed. :-D

So one can only assume that the people who offer second-hand examples ‘as-new‘ are amateur photographers who have erroneously believed that it’s the professional kit which produces the stunning photographs, and not the thinking, creative accessory, who presses the shutter button. :lol:
And when they have discovered, to their immense chagrin, that their presumption is incorrect, they have consigned their precious, but apparently inadequate kit to the cupboard, disappointed, if not dejected; until, after a few years, they decide that they really ought to sell it; declaring as they do so, quite rightly, what a truly wonderful lens it is. :roll:  :-)

Funny old world, isn’t it ??   :lol:

A Bad Day

Today commenced as a day like any other.  A working week day.
Utterly normal.   Except that today has been one of those days that I hate.

Please be assured that the following is not a ‘sympathy trip’.  It is merely a record of a day, in the same manner that I have recorded many other previous days.

The plan for today was to sort out the commencement to a prestigious turning job. Then make a high quality frame for a military commission.
But, to start off, by quickly taking a photo of the the tripod adaptor and inserting it into yesterday’s Tripod blog, in the designated spot.

From the moment I set up my camera and equipment I knew that it was going to be awful.
I have days like today as a result of my strokes.
My memory, particularly my short-term memory, is shot to pieces -
my concentration is nil -
my co-ordination is all over the place.
If I tell you that the two very mundane photos in the Tripod blog are the result of maybe 20 to 25 attempts to set up the camera and lens and get a decent shot: and that it has taken me over an hour to write this, and correct all of the mistakes in it:  :oops: :roll:
you will have some idea of just how bad it has been so far.

I was getting results from the D300 that I had no idea how I had achieved, nor any idea of how to correct them.
I couldn’t figure out whether bounced flash made it better, or worse.
In P, A or S, I couldn’t remember how to adjust the variable.
I kicked the tripod leg on the several occasions when I thought I had it all set up perfectly.  In the end, after many puerile attempts to edit in PS CS4, I managed to get the two shots which I have now inserted into the Tripod blog, because I resorted to Manual mode – but it took me 20 minutes, and possibly 10 attempts, to upload them because I couldn’t remember how to carry out the insertion process.

I went into the workshop and took the length of framing from the rack, for the military piece and almost dropped it.  It cost me over £13 per metre.
I can’t afford to mess a 3 metre length of that up.
So I very carefully put it back into the rack.

I’ll do no more today.  It is so demoralizing.
A thoroughly Bad Day.

Tomorrow will be better.  In fact, tomorrow will almost certainly be fine.
I have a bad day possible no more often than once or twice a month.
I’ve had to learn that no matter how devastating a bad day is, it is part of having suffered a stroke and I have to just accept that – being grateful that I’ll be able to return to normality tomorrow.  I suspect that had I not persevered with keeping myself fit and looking for ways to remain active – with the photography and the workshop – every day would, by now, be a bad day.   And I’d be thinking  “I’ll be glad when I’ve had enough of this.”

So, in truth, I have a very great deal to be thankful for.  :-)

Wednesday 9th January

Back to normal today – even yesterday evening was better.
This morning I cut and fitted the military frame, and have half finished the commission for the engineering company.   :lol: