Initial Thoughts on my new Prime Lens and “Impact Thoughts”

It ended up being the Auto Nikkor AF 50mm f1.8 D :-) 


Some initial thoughts.

I’ve had this now for a few days and still figuring out certain things about it, but for the most part, I would say I’m a pretty happy camper.  When I first started thinking about this, it was about a week ago and the more I thought about this, the more it started to make sense for what I was going to be doing with my Nikon D3200.  A DSLR in my camera is actually quite new and I really really didn’t want to head this way, but I wanted to “dip my toe in” here so I could get a good perspective of what might be out there.  I got my D3200 with the 18-55mm kit lens and up to this point, when I did use the D3200 I’ve actually really pleased with it.  I decided to “kick it up a notch” here and decided I should actually get a prime.  My initial thought was to add the 55 –200 zoom, but in reflecting a bit on this, with my Panasonic GX1 and Nikon 1 J1, these zoom equivalents just aren’t getting used that much.

In reference to a comment on the D3200 about how often I use it.  For starters, I do have a lot of cameras.  The D3200 was simply sort of a progression and it’s use hinged on the “when and where” more than anything.  I have “layers”, if you want to call it that of cameras and the basic theme or “path” I’ve taken on this, is that I wanted to have a camera literally with me all the time.  I’ve harped a bit on this before.  For me, a DSLR, or my Compact System Cameras only get used when there is this combination of time vs situation vs equipment.  In other words, if I know I can take any of these with me and they won’t hinder me, fine.  OR if I know I’m going to need that “extra” on certain subjects, so be it.  BUT, for the sake of having a camera with me most times, these tend to get in the way more than anything else.  I wanted to kinda have my cake and eat it too :-)  Mobility and good quality photos. 

Control vs Functionality

I guess it depends on level you are at in this great hobby, but coming into digital from the world of 35mm (at quite an advanced level, I might add :-)) and being a little more selective, the approach this time around hinged on the fact that I wanted to be able to take a photo on a whim and still get some decent quality while being mobile.  And then there’s the element of time.  Or lack of it, let’s say.  Sure, if you have the time to use software to improve your shots – fine.  I came from the world of 35mm, and back then we didn’t have the luxury of software, let alone the ability to manipulate photos unless you had access to a darkroom, so getting it right the first time was a primary mandate back then.  What I’m seeing a lot of today and between digital and software I feel that there’s this “trap” there but I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing YET, but it SEEMS like it’s easy to “take the shot – fix it in software”.  Composition, color correction, etc.  From the 35mm days, it was not unusual to “bracket” for exposure and of course, it wasn’t always easy to get that perfectly composed shot but in saying that, a lot of that could get corrected with various lenses in your arsenal. 

When one looks at where digital cameras are today, in reality, the technology has covered off a lot of base functionality.  Most cameras today have a pretty good zoom ratio (more on this later), the sensors do a pretty job of controlling exposure AND at the same time, if you do need to override, that’s there for you too.  Soooo…. my base thought around this is “Why do you need software to offset a lot of this?”  :-)  The zoom SHOULD take care of any composition issues, the sensors are pretty accurate and depending on your level of expertise, color correction shouldn’t be that big of an issue.  IF you know your gear, and you get that exposure there really shouldn’t be that much you have to “remember” later.  My feeling is, that you “see” the shot and be in a position to be confident enough in your gear that you “got the shot”.  Granted, sometimes conditions aren’t ideal, but for the most part one should be good.  It’s a given, that in bright lit scenes, whatever, that’s it’s a good idea to bracket exposure as a safety measure, but still, unless you intend to do other things with the photo post, do you really need software to “fix stuff up?”  I see a lot of articles on things like polarizing filters, ND filters, etc. and you know, that information isn’t really any different today than it was back in the 35mm days :-)  It all breaks down to getting that shot in the first place. 

Back to a prime lens.  Back in the days of 35mm, when one bought an SLR, it was usually a 50mm lens of some sort.  Typically, in 35mm (or full frame today), it’s about what the eye sees.  Zooms were there, but came at a price.  In fact, it was less expensive to get a series of primes than zooms for the most part.  The more advanced amateur typically would have a wide angle lens – 28mm or 35mm plus a telephoto of sorts.  Usually, 135mm for most things.  With those 3 lenses, one could pretty capture most day to day things.  Today’s kit zooms tend to be in the 18 to 55mm and if you consider that crop factor of say APS-C sensors, you end up to roughly 27mm to 110mm equivalents.  For most people, that covers of probably, just about most things one would take photos of.  Scenery, some candid/portrait work and general “snaps”.  When I was in 35mm,  my highest use lenses was the Canon 85mm f1.8 and my 24mm f2.0.  The 24mm got me my landscapes/scenery and my 85mm got me portraits or shots that could blur out the background – “bokeh” is term today, I guess. 

When it came down to picking WHICH prime for my D3200 there were a couple of options I looked at.  One was the 35mm f1.8 AFS-DX or the 50mm AF f1.8D.  One got me autofocus and about a 50mm field of view (the human eye) range, and the 50mm was manual focus, but at around 75mm or slightly telephoto.  I decided on the 50mm literally at the last second :-)  The thought process.  In the stuff I’m doing at this stage of the game, I really wasn’t in that normal eye field of view – I was either on the wide angle side or at the telephoto side.  VERY rarely in that “normal” range.  The reviews I read after the fact (:-)) indicated that the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens was an exceptional lens for the money.  I would tend to agree with that but a little tongue and cheek too 🙂

Here are a couple of things I’ve found so far.  Minimum focus distance is taking a bit of getting used to. Not a lens issue – its a ME issue.  I’m used to getting closer with other lenses.  Manual focus – it’s taking a bit to get used to this.  All of my other cameras perform autofocus really well, though, all of them do have some trouble on close ups.  That was one reason I went with a manual focus lens (on my D3200 anyway). Is the lens better than my kit zoom?  Too early to be seen, but having the ability for  controlling bokeh is making certain shots “pop” compared to before.  I’ll do some comparison work later to test this, but for now….

Finally, simply getting use to a fixed focus lens again.  To me, it’s not a lens that I’m going to be using all the time – my kit lens will be my “norm”.  This lens, like my other cameras will have a specific use.  Is it going to be worth getting a second body?  Now there’s an interesting thought :-)  I’ve also been giving this some thought as I did this as well in my 35mm days.   I had one body with my 85mm f1.8 or a prime, and another body that held a zoom.  It was a way to obtain a high level of flexibility where time was a factor.  Back then, for me, time was a factor – at many events, lens swapping time wasn’t in the equation.  When I look at where I’m “thinking” of heading, it’s also a very real possibility.  We’ll deal with that when I get there.

Some test shots.  These have been cropped and resized for the post.  These are jpeg + fine.

Berries berries1 coke sheafs Snow Village_edited wolf


About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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