GearHead Wednesday 14-05
Got a gear question you want answered? Send your gear questions to me at Gear Questions and I’ll do my best every Wednesday to answer as many questions as I can. Keep in mind the answers are just my $.02 worth and you have to take what works for you and embrace it and ignore the rest. So here’s this weeks questions ….
I have a Nikon D700 and 14-24, 24-70, 70-200, 200-400 zooms and a 200 macro. I’ve not always been happy with the critical focus on my photographs. Do you run the ‘AF fine tune’ option in the camera menu when pairing a camera with each lens? How do you go about the testing procedure?
Rob, it would seem GearHead Wednesday opened up this debate even greater because as like you, many others emailed after the its posting. Other than the resolution chart, for the untrained eye to determine if an image is blazing sharp or just sharp is near impossible! And training the eye to “see” this level of sharpness takes time and at least for most my peers and myself, the making lots of large prints (24×36 or larger) and closely examining them. And like I mention last, I have seen only a couple of lenses that were the issue, the rest of the time it was pilot error.
Now you mention the term “critical focus” and you have the who’s who of Nikkor glass there. In the equation you present crticial focus x great glass, if you’re not seeing the results you think you should have, the weak link is the body (or photographer). Now the D700 should have no problem delivering great quality, so if it’s not with ALL those lenses, personally I would send it in to Nikon and not mess with AF Fine Tune. The odds you have all bad glass are a bit slim.
Back in the day, before the web, digital photography and mass hysteria, when a photographer thought he had a bad lens, there was a basic philosophy in determining if it is the lens or the photographer causing the issue. It was this: “If you get one sharp image, the issue is the photographer.”
So to directly answer your question (the same answer as last week), I do not AF Fine Tune, never have. My testing is simple real world shooting as I described last week. I would add one additional thing this week. If you look at all the great shots from history, the number of those great shots that are tack sharp, you can easily count. What the world needs is not more technically perfect photos. What the world needs are more photographs with passion.
I’ve been enjoying your sharpness series and practicing the techniques but there is one thing that always seems to get in the way. I have to have my glasses on; no ifs or buts about it. I’ve tried to wear contacts but I just couldn’t get it to work. So what I’m looking for is an alternative that you may have seen work for those of us who have to wear glasses as compared to you pushing your eyeball right up to the glass in the eyecup.
Thanks much and keep up those fine blog articles and videos.
Jim, my heart goes out to you because you have an issue I’ve been looking for an answer to for three decades. And with NO luck! I don’t wear glasses to shoot so personally don’t have that issue but have heard from many photographers like yourself who do, all asking the same question. Here’s all I have to offer you.
Many manufactures make diopter correction eyepieces. They are coming harder and harder to find but they are available. Of course, this means you own a DSLR that has a replaceable eyepiece which is also coming harder to find. While this works for some, not for most eye glass wearers. The best answer I’ve ever seen is having your optometrist make a custom eyepiece for you based on your script. Yes, you have to remove your glasses to make this work, but that permits you to use proper handholding.
One other thing I have been playing with the past couple of months comes from my new glass frames for my reading glasses. I don’t shoot with them, couldn’t see a thing if I did. But the frames are carbon fiber, incredibly light and more importantly, incredibly strong and flexible. The lens gets smudged but you can press the camera against the glasses for proper handholding technique! It works really well with these frames, but they are not inexpensive. And that’s all I’ve got to offer you, regrettably.
Taking a trip to Nebraska to photograph Sandhill Cranes. I own the Nikkor 300 F4 and the 1.4x TC and it’s a great setup. My question is do I spend money on renting a 200-400, 80-400 or 600 or alternatively buy the 1.7x or 2.0x teleconverter? I realize for the week, I’d spend more on the TC, but I get to take it home. You have said in previous GearHead Wednesdays all the TCs are great, but will 420, 510 or 600 be “enough” length? Not easy to answer since you don’t really know how close I’ll be, but I’d guess 20-40 yards. Maybe a better question Is the flexibility of the zoom (e.g. 200-400 with or without TC or 80-400) essential in blind shooting? Will I spend too much time switching TCs and not enjoying the view?
Beau, you raise a great question with some really great options and points! In one sense, you really couldn’t go wrong with any of those combos. Having photographed the cranes on the Platt many times, this is an easy question to answer. It’s all up to the cranes! I’ve gone to the blinds with just about every long lens you can imagine and since the cranes have never some in close enough even for 1200mm (600 w/2x), focal length is not always the key. If I were to be going there this April (regrettably, I won’t be), I would have the 800mm w/TC-.25 (1000mm) and 80-400VR3 and that’s all I’d want. Last year, I had the 80-400VR3 and used it the entire time with success.
Keep in mind a simple saying when it comes to bird photography. If you don’t go out with your longest lens, you’ll comeback short.
But the issue is where the cranes decide to land and roost and that depends on water levels in the Platt. Since we use blinds the majority of the time, being close physically is real simple when the birds comes close to you and that’s what has always been the issue.
So my answer to you would be, take as LONG of reach you can afford and then cross your fingers the cranes came and say hello. On a side note, the Platt and the cranes is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet. Even if you don’t come back with the great images, you’ll be richly rewarded by your adventure!
Olwen, you have a great question commonly asked. Since you’re shooting with a DX body and talking about FX bodies, I’m assuming you want to change. With that in mind, I would highly recommend either the D610 or the Df. These are both great bodies that are half the price of the D4.
If you’re thinking about staying in the DX format, then I would recommend the D7100. Many say it’s a year old and time for a new body to come out. To them I would point out that everything is getting older and there is always something new coming out (much different from the days of film.) And waiting means you’re possibly missing taking amazing photos. I encourage photogs to not wait for something possibly coming out that might be the miracle body. The photos are here today! Find the best body you can afford today, buy it, embrace it and make those photos and then share them!