“What is the best f/stop?” This is the #2 most frequently asked email question that I receive. Seriously! I’ve written about this a few times here on the blog. It came in again today and this time it really struck me as really funny since, I’m rethinking that whole DOF question for myself. Readers of the BT Journal have read a little about how I started to “re-investigate” minimal DOF earlier this summer. While I’ve owned the 28f1.4 AF for some time and I didn’t have really kind words about the new 50f1.4 AFS, I now own one. It’s all Joe’s fault!
The upcoming issue of the BTJ will chronicle how with the file quality of the D3x, I’ve gone 180 degrees back to shooting mostly wide open. This photo of a Brooks Griz is a good example of what I’m liking, 600mm at f/4. Technically the only thing that is sharp are the eyes, a little behind them and a little in front. Why does more look in focus than that? The readers of the next issue of the BTJ will have the answer (I gave an answer to the class last week in ME). What does that have to do with buying the 50f1.4 AFS?
This portrait of Jim taken in Central Park is why I think McNally is on to something in his own retro look back/forward at minimum DOF. Making the subject “pop” visually in the photograph has been the cornerstone of my photography from the get go. You can see it plainly in the photo of Jim where the background is physically so far away when shooting at f/1.4, the background is out of focus. It’s not so obvious in the thumbnail image of the griz. I’ve been very privileged to see some of Joe’s images where he’s exploring this same retro look back at minimum DOF that he has taken with the new 50f1.4AFS. What makes it work is the fact that while the 50f1.4AFS is not a fast focuser (is that a word?) it is gloriously wicked sharp! That measure of sharpness for me is when you can count the whiskers on the chin; this image of Jim taken with the 28f1.4 has that quality. The 50f1.4AFS delivers the same which is why I bellied up to the bar and bought a class B one from Jeff at Adorama when it became available (saved me some bucks).
Creating a video on the 50f1.4 AFS (and I still owe one on the 16Fish) will serve as a better review of the lens. For now, just wanted to keep you all in the loop where photography is taking me and where I’m taking my photography.
Here’s the proof….Joe’s lying on smelly, fish gut covered dock with a 50f1.4AFS shooting the bow of a dingy to create a landscape image! No flash, no flash remote, reflectors not in sight. This is a true McNally landscape shooting sighting!
In all seriousness, Joe had a very cool find which he shared and soon, the small dock was covered with DLWS shooters. Joe shot at f1.4 to have a very narrow band of focus. I wanted the same thing so shot the same scene using the 24PC-E lens, tilting the lens to achieve the same basic effect. In my interpretation of the scene, I went high and limited my band of focus to the seats.
Photos captured by D3x, 200VR / 24 PC-E on Lexar UDMA digital film
While we were stuck with a down vehicle, we took the opportunity to shoot along the road. The winter Lodgepole Pine forest really intrigues me so I took out the new 50f1.4AFS and went a shootin.
The lens is very sharp corner to corner. It’s physically larger than I thought, really nice shade and, it’s a pretty sexy package. The AFS speed though isn’t really too hot IMHO. I think my standard 50f1.4AF focuses faster.