Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera

Started Nov 9, 2012 | Discussions thread
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tashley
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Two new wide angle lenses and the D800 is a new camera
Nov 9, 2012

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about my first six months experience with the D800 and concluded that, amazing though it is in many ways, I was still not in love with it. I had a lot of messages from people who felt similarly.

One of my issues, coming to it from medium format digital, was that there seemed to be a real problem in finding wides for landscape that could do what I was used to when using a medium format back on a field camera: get everything from toe to mountain top, edge to edge and corner to corner, sharp. I have reviewed the 28mm f1.8G and concluded that it is brilliant but 'tricky' and that very intimate knowledge of it is required before knowing how to combine aperture, point of focus and shape of subject field in order to get good results. I like the lens a lot but am not surprised that so many people have sent theirs back: it takes a lot of mastering.

Having canvassed opinions from an awful lot of other shooters, and read every review going, I realised that the lens I really want probably doesn't exist. No one (yet) makes a lens like, for example, the MF Schneider 35XL or one of the wide Rodenstocks: a lens that can make a vast print which is crystal clear everywhere. I really hope that someone makes a 'wide landscape lens', say an F5.6 thru F11 only, about 18 or 20mm. If such a lens were made brilliantly, I'd pay very handsomely for it. Retrofocus wides are very hard to make without field curvature, and trying to get a large-ish maximum aperture into the package usually makes that impossible. That's why I want a lens that has an F5.6 max aperture.

But I thought I'd take a flyer and order two new wides in the meantime and BANG, I am 95% happy, which for me is saying something because I am quite picky!

One of them, the Zeiss 21mm F2.8, is a semi-obvious choice. I had been put off it by the fact that MTF wise it is not as sharp as the 28mm 1.8G I already have and by the reported corner colour shifts and the fact that its real strong point is being extremely sharp wide open on centre, which is of limited interest to me. But then I read that it had only limited field curvature so I thought I'd give it a go.

The other is the Samyang 14mm F2.8, which is ridiculously cheap. About £300. So cheap that it can't be any good. But boy, is it... and some.

Some shots and comments:

The Zeiss takes a little bit of learning. It does have some field curvature and if you want the near foreground sharp at head height shooting, with far distant subjects sharp to the edges, then you really have to shoot at F8 (and focus fully at infinity) that means giving up a smidge of resolution on centre. Only a smidge. But though this lens has technically less resolution than the 28mm f1.8G, it has that incredible Zeiss micro-contrast and it has great colour, though there is a slight cyan/blue shift at the corners sometimes. Nonetheless, used right it gives me results within close spitting distance of what I was getting on MF and that is just great news.

Here's a couple... I am going to review it in full soon with full-sized shots of scenes that put it through its paces more scientifically, so these two are just for fun, and excuse the slightly gaudy processing: I was having fun.

F8, ISO 800, handheld at 1/80th, D800E

F6.3, ISO 100, handheld at 1/200th, D800E

Now to the Samyang. This thing is astonishing. It is very sharp all over, has great micro-contrast (very nearly Zeiss levels in fact) and very low aberrations for such a wide and fast lens. It is small, light, cheap, well made and has beautiful MF action. And it has full electrical connection to the camera, apart from for focus. It has only two downsides: it has a bulbous front element which means filters are a problem, and it has quite a bit of distortion (including a moustache that Freddy Mercury would be proud of) BUT that is easily fixed with PTlens, either standalone or as a plugin for PS or LR and only $25.

Here's a 'before and after' shot to show the distortion and the correction:



F8, ISO100, 1/250th, D800E

as above, corrected with PT Lens as LR External Editor

And here's just one shot that shows how, even at F4, you can get amazing sharpness from near to far.

F4, ISO200, Handheld at 1/60th, D800E

Now it is certainly true that there is field curvature here too but after a couple of days of shooting I have found an exact focus setting that, at F8, guarantees that anything you can throw at it will be sharp as hell, across the frame. I will write that up in detail when I blog review it. But really folks, buy yourselves a Thanksgiving present: it is the cheapest way you can find amazing new depths to D800 photography and it is a LOT of fun! It's the most fun I've had with a lens cap off for quite a while 

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Gallery & Blog : http://www.timashley.com

Nikon D800 Nikon D800E Panasonic Lumix DMC-F5
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