Should You Purchase a Lens Right Away

By John Frelich

Think of the times you look at a lens and think of a trip you’re ready to take. If only you had a 100-400mm lens to get some good zoom images.  Then you go to the various Photographic stores and see the price somewhere around $2200 for a camera manufacturer’s product. The prices can range higher or you consider a secondary manufacturer but still look at prices around $1500. Then you explore the grey market but fear something going wrong with the lens and no one will repair it. Finally, you look at refurbished or used lenses but are still apprehensive.

Well why not consider renting a lens for a weekend or longer trip? I just did a weekend workshop and rented a lens from Tempe Camera. Picking it up on a Thursday afternoon and bringing it back on a Monday afternoon cost me $93. The  price for a similar used lens is around $1700 so was it worth it? I tested it out on around 2,000 images and found that the quality of the images was “Good to Very Good.”

Notice I didn’t say “Great.”

When I evaluated the number of times I could rent the lens before I would equal the current value it was greater than 15 times. How many times will I be shooting images requiring this lens? If I hit 15 it will take several years. By that time will Nikon make a 100-400mm lens that will give me what I want? This zoom lens has been made for several years now so the technology that was used is waning.

Also secondary manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma are advancing their products at a fast pace. So if you’re not using a good lens on a regular basis, rental is a great way to get limited uses at a comfortable price. BUT, not all rentals are the same. A good camera store keeps their products in excellent condition. When online you must also consider the shipping and insurance costs both ways. That can be greater than the rental cost of the lens.

The key to success is if you live in a metro area like Phoenix and can find a local store that in essence let’s you try a product (rental) it gives you the best way to limit expenditures.

P.S. I have the first model of this lens and it serves as a paperweight because of its slow focusing and “soft” results. If you’re rich please ignore this advice. You won’t need it.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

When Wide Isn’t Wide Enough

Author:  David Huffman

Sometimes when you’re shooting, you just wish you had a little more angle to your widest lens so you could “get it all in.”  Including a sweeping vista in a landscape can be an interesting visual effect.  Similarly, if you are shooting architecture, especially interiors, you may need to show a greater amount of the horizontal view of the room than your regular wide angle lens allows.

Today I’ll share with you some basic facts about wide angle lenses and also a technique to “stretch” your widest lens when you need to include more subject in the frame.  There are three methods discussed below.

The first way to add more subjects in the image is to reduce focal length, by zooming to the short end of the lens or changing lenses.

Angle of view is the basic consideration and is expressed in degrees, based on a circle of 360 degrees horizontal, most lenses capture a fraction of this.   I’ll use a full frame reference for focal length and angle of view in the following table; if you are using a smaller format camera, please see your manufacturer’s website for a useful reference.

LENS FOCAL LENGTH ANGLE OF VIEW DESCRIPTOR
50 MM 47 DEGREES NORMAL LENS
35 MM 63 DEGREES MODERATE WIDE
28 MM 75 DEGREES WIDE
24 MM 84 DEGREES EXTRA WIDE
20 MM 94 DEGREES ULTRA WIDE
15 MM 180 DEGREES FISH EYE

Pictures are included below to show the results of these lenses, all taken on tripod from exactly the same place.50mm single copy

35mm single copy

28mm single copy

24mm single copy

20mm single copy

The second way is to use a lens which is “wider” than other wide angle lenses, and I’m referring to a Fisheye lens.

The 15mm Fisheye lens is the most unique of the group.  This is a “full frame” fisheye that provides a full image from corner to corner.  It will “stretch” the subject in the corners and this is exaggerated if the lens is pointed above or below the horizon.  (I use the horizon indicator in my Nikon D810 to keep things straight.)  I find creative uses for this lens and if I am careful, the images don’t “scream fisheye”  distortion with the bending of lines near the edges of the frame.

15mm Fisheye single copy

The third way to add more horizontal subject is to us a panoramic technique which combines 2 or more images, then “stitches” them together digitally.  This can be accomplished in the firmware in some cameras, but I prefer to use a post production program to combine the images.  The software programs have become much better over time, requiring less manual intervention to get a good final result.

Using Adobe ® PhotoShop ® I have two panoramic images, below, to share.  The first image combines 2 images from the 20mm lens, for a total of approximately 180 degrees angle of view.  I shot these two images by carefully leveling the camera, then rotating left for one shot and right for the second.  I left about a 10% overlap in the images, so that the software can align the shots into a blended single image.  To use this feature, from the Enhance menu, select PhotoMerge ®, then select PhotoMerge Panoramic ®.  You’ll then navigate to the images to combine and the software will take over.  It will align the images, and when done, it will ask you if you want the software to “fill in” the corners, select YES and that’s it.  I also find it necessary to use the burn or dodge tool to blend the sky.  Skies that are plain, like they often are in Scottsdale, show the blending at times, so I blend them manually for final effect.

Panoramic 20mm x2 copy
The second panoramic image, below, is a blend of 3 images taken at 35mm focal length, for a total of about 180 degrees angle of view.  Comparing the panoramic from the two different lenses, you will see a perspective change in the size of the subjects.  It’s a personal preference, deciding which image you like best.

Panoramic 35mm x 3 copy
Panoramics take some practice, especially the blending.  Also keep in mind that exposures often change across the subjects, from full sun to deep shadow.  If indoors, the inclusion of window with bright daylight outside can be particularly challenging, but I’ll save that solution for another time.

Good shooting!

David Huffman is a Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, Photographer, Author and Instructor.  Visit him at www.HuffmanPhotoArt.com.

Images and text copyright 2016, DW Huffman.

Circles of Confusion and the Sweet Spot — Part 2

Author:  Sara Goodnick

Every lens has an aperture setting where it performs at its best. It usually isn’t constant all the way through the various apertures. Most often, you will find that at the widest and the smallest ends of the aperture spectrum, there will be some softness in your images.

In some cases, lens softness will still be acceptable, and it others it will not.

The only way to find out a lens’ limitations is to put it on a camera, put them both on a tripod, attach a shutter release, or set the shutter’s self timer, set the camera into aperture priority mode, manual focus on one spot somewhere and keep it there, then run through all of the apertures.

Afterwards, download them into your computer and examine and compare them. The differences may be subtle, but they will be there.

Here are my results for a few of the lenses I tested:

On my Nikon D700:

  • Nikkor  2.8 fixed, 70-200mm, best at f/8 and 11
  • Nikkor  2.8 fixed, 35-70mm, best at f/5.6 and 8

Lumix GX8:

  • Panasonic, variable 3.5-5.6, 14-42mm, best at f/11
  • Panasonic, fixed 2.8, 35-100mm, best at f/5.6
  • Panasonic, variable 4.0-5.6, 100-300mm, best at f/4.0 and 5.6

The images below are from the Lumix GX8:

Sara Goodnick is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops