Lens review : Nikon's 50mm f1.8

Nikon 50mm f1.8D Best value for the money on the market.

I could stop my review here, the lens costs nothing and outperforms most of the middle range zooms that costs 5 times more. At medium apertures, it performs as well as a $1200 zoom.

If you are getting all serious about photography but you are on a budget, if you want a versatile lens with a strong portrait orientation, if you like to have nice bokeh (blurry backgrounds etc.), you should keep reading.

  • Plastic made 
  • 7 blades
  • F1.8 to F22 aperture
  • Minimum focus distance 45cm (1.5 ft), no macro
  • 52mm diameter
  • 150gr
Yes please. As sharp as it gets if you shoot above F2.8.

Auto focus
Fast fast fast

What distortion?

  • Best image quality for the money in the DLSR market
  • So cheap it's like nearly free
  • Ideal complement to a kit zoom lens for portraits
  • Gets a little soft (not as sharp) below 2.8, but sharpness is not synonym to good picture
  • Plastic made, doesn't feel so solid, but feel and reality are different. I've had one for a while, it has seen a lot, and still doing fine.
  • On non full frame, it can be a little long focal length for landscapes
Short review you might say? 125$ for a top performing lens, what else do you need to know !

SAMPLE SHOTS (photos by me)

Versus other 50mm Nikon mount lenses

Nikon 50mm f1.4
- The main differences are built quality (a bit better on the 1.4), and sharpness at f1.8 superior on the F1.4. It is worth getting the F1.4, no it isn't. 3 times the price for a 5% improvement isn't worth it.

Nikon 50 f1.2 AIS
- Now that's a different story. I am replacing my 50mm 1.8 by this. Why? Because this F1.2 lens is the ultimate machine for nice blurs. However, it costs 6 times the price, and is manual focus only. If you are an accomplished photographer trained an manual focusing, get this one. For everybody else, don't. You will find it very very hard to focus on a DSLR with the focusing screen unchanged.

- Sigma 50mm f1.4
No. Vignetting is not acceptable below 2.8, doesn't perform great at all. Only built quality is good, but I've been very disappointed by Sigma's reliability in the past.

- Zeiss Planar 50mm 1.4
No. Too expensive and not worth it. Build quality is great, performance is good at mid range, but wide open it's rubbish for the money.


Get one. Against all other Nikon mount lens at 50mm, this one wins thanks to its super fast AF and price. You wouldn't be making a compromise on quality, it really, really works brilliant. I use it as a studio lens. 
If you are seeking perfection, have money, and can focus manually, get the 50mm f1.2 AIS. But it'll be much harder to use.

Review: Epson V700 film scanner

Привет !
You now can say "hi" in Russian if you can read Cyrillic. That was my Flickr moment of the day :)

Frequent readers know that I am much more passionate about film photography than digital. See those articles:
However, shooting film raises a question: how do you get a digital version of your shots? Well the best way for me is to get a negative scanner, or a scanner that can scan negatives. The difference? There used to be scanner just for negatives, working magnificently, but there are no more on the market for a few reasons: they were more than 3000$ and demand was little.
Now most people use a flatbed scanner that can scan negatives.  Flatbed you said? It means a normal one if you prefer, the ones with a glass, a hood on top etc.

The great news is: best flatbed scanners perform just as well as dedicated used to , and cost much much less: about 10-15% of the price of the other. Also, they allow you to take all film sizes, and not only 35mm. That is a huge plus.

Today I'll review what I believe is the most well spread scanner for that purpose on the market, the Epson V700 Perfection (yes, they dared).

Now the next 5 lines are for those who are reading that on their smart-phones and won't go all the way down as their bus is about to reach destination: 
  • get one, it does the job well at a reasonable price
  • no the V750 (one version above) offers nothing that is worth the extra bucks
  • yes it does from 35mm to large format, and normal scanning too, comes with a decent scanning software and costs about 550$. 
  • the only flaw: the film holders are kinda crap, it's much better to scan against the glass, but it requires flat films or a anti newton glass. 
Now the detailed version for tablet users bored in the train:

  • Dual lens system, can go up to 6400 dpi (on a 6x7 neg, you can images that are so ridiculously big your computer pukes them out of indigestion)
  • 16 bits per pixel in BW, 48 in color
  • USB 2.0
  • film holder for 35mm (20 shots), medium format (6 to 8 shots) , large format and slides.

  • Comes with a LaserSofr Imagine SilverFast, Photoshop Element, Epson Scan
  • Has a dust removal technology 
  • you can scan normally (normal paper), on the glass or on the holders
  • the most important: image quality
  • scanning speed
  • reliability (so far mine is a rock and trust me, it's been thru a lot)
  • ease of use
  • versatility
  • software is simple and work well
  • film holders have adjustable height. More or less a few millimeters, etc. However, since film rarely is flat, and the holders only pinch fil on the edge, the film gets curvy in the middle, hence out of focus. You simply can't solve it unless you buy better film holders with a anti newton glass to compress them flat. For that reason I shoot on the glass, and use small yet heavey metal parts to keep the film flat. My anti newton glass order is pending. Once you have one (70$), it's a perfect system.
  • the software works well, but sometimes bugs and get you kinky stuff with color negs. For example, the color rendering on the preview has nothing to do with the final file. Rare occurrence,  just relaunch.
  • Too much anti dust removes actual details from the picture. Just clean your stuff.
Would I recommend it:  yes, a million times

When I got it, I wanted to be independent with my medium format scans, not rely on the cost of printing, and have the freedom to do with scanning what i'd do in a dark room if I had the time and the skills. This brings me the best of both world, film for shooting, digitalization for everything else.
I had one main ask, I wanted ultra sharp, beautiful rendering that would honor my Mamiya RZ67. It does it brilliantly.
Last but not least, you can get huge files for super large printing. 

Example 1, Trix 400 at 1200 Dpi + crop on 120 film.

Example 2, Portra VC, (crop soon to come)

Example 3,  2400 Dpi + crop on 35mm film.

What kind of photography do I do?

Lately I have heard comments according to which my work is about kinky stuff, with the underlining insinuation that it's aiming at seeing naked girls for erotic purposes. Now I know this is coming from a minority of people who probably have a limited understanding of boy / girl relationships, and rely heavily on alcohol to get lucky. 

It didn't trouble me the slightest bit before, there are always people who think heavy metal is for satanist brutes,  hip hop for drug dealers and, in the same vain, a girl who poses for a photographer has little vertue. You just can't educate the whole world to maturity. 
However, I realized that some models are troubled by the fact that some assimilate them to erotic models, which they are not, and that it could affect negatively the way they feel about posing. Now that bothers me. 

Some facts, on www.ronanshotme.com, my portfolio contains:
  • 83 pictures
  • 2 of them show breasts, on none of them you could recognize the person
  • 3 feature a lingerie shot, in a extremely non provocative pose
  • 12 of the 29 beings represented are men. 
Now if you watch my site between two sessions on youwank.com, and make some incorrect assimilations, your problem. Don't go around claiming that the girls are erotic models. They never agreed to that, and don't want to be qualified as such. 

So what is this about? 
It's about contemplation of the beauty of normal people around me, I happen to be straight so I'm naturally inclined to shoot women. I don't sell it, because I do it for myself, and to make people happy seeing themselves through a flattering arty eye. It's a portrait site. 

If you think photography is a way to see naked chicks, then try it. Your reputation will end your young career before you can see it coming.

I'm not claiming to be indifferent to the girls I shoot, if I was, I wouldn't be inspired. And yes, I sometimes tell myself "oh she's hot !" But that's it, I transform that into motivation to do justice to the person on the photos. Now if you recognize yourself in that unflattering description, no hard feelings. All I ask is that you keep those comments to yourselves, and stop assimilating model to easy. Ask yourself: do you also see Manet or Gauguin's work as erotic? If yes, email me, I can recommend plenty of much better sites for what you intend to do. 

Last interesting point: I've tried to get men to pose for me. In some cases they said yes, didn't happen due to logistics. But in many cases, I was told it was "gay", and asked if I was not "hitting on them". Seriously? And yes only gay men ask to pose for me, they only didn't make the cut because they didn't have the looks. So guys, next time you want to call my models easy erotic whatever kinda girls, get yourself a pair of balls and ask yourself, would you dare to do it?

The biggest balls are not always where they seem to be.

Nikon D800 pictures

Here it is. From the pics, unless some spent a week on photoshop, those pics are real. They at least correspond to a real prototype. It's in the details. I can only hope that means Nikon is getting closer to refresh their digital lineup.

National Geographic photo contest

Still open until the 30th of November ! Check some really nice shots I selected here.

Click here to apply.

"The Grand Prize Winner will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2012: A behind-the-scenes experience like none other."

More Anna

Same story: shots of Anna with a Mamiya RZ67 pro II, 110mm @ F2.8. Color in pro 400H fuji, black and whites are with TriX low grain) and Neopan 400 pushed to 1600 (high grain). All scanned with an Epson V700.

Anna @ home

ë ! ("yo" in cyrillic, yes I'm learning Russian...kinda...trying at least)

Shots of Anna with a Mamiya RZ67 pro II, 110mm @ F2.8. Color in pro 400H fuji, black and whites are with TriX low grain) and Neopan 400 pushed to 1600 (high grain). All scanned with an Epson V700.

Thanks to Anna.


The best photo store in Dublin

Hi all,

A local post today, after a week away from the blog (sick with the good ol' Irish flu).

If you shoot film, if you like the feel of a family owned business where people do what they do because the love it, and because they like customer relationship, go to John Gunn Camera Wexford street need Stephen's Green park.

It looks the exact opposite of an Apple store: crappy, small, messy, stuff pilled up here and there, but I love it. The have all the film you can dream of, plenty of analog gear, and most of all, they develop manually, can push film if you need, they do it quick, really well, and cheap.

It's nice talking to them, they are not quoting the manufacturers' booklet when trying to sell you stuff. Finally it's got that warm village shop kinda feel.

D7000 VS D700 and image feel


Let me try to actually add something to that debate.

Lately I got tired of waiting for a D800 that is likely to cost an arm. An also remembered that it won't change a thing to my photography whatever the technological advancement. So I remember why I want to upgrade from my good ol' D80:
  • I want to be able to shoot up to 3200 ISO
  • I want a state of the art metering system like only Nikon can do
  • I am truly considering video as an interesting extension to what I do
  • but most the most important expectation of all: I want to get closer to the image "feel" of a large sensor film camera.
This is when it gets tricky: last night I spend 2 hours searching a back to back image comparison between the Nikon D7000 and Nikon D700 , but I was looking for a nice portrait with a 85mm fast lens. I didn't want to compare pixels, I wanted to compare how the image felt. I wanted to see that difference coming from a mixture of technical details coming together, creating a different texture, impression.

But no, all I could find was high ISO test shots and pictures of a control grid for sharpness and chromatic aberrations. I mean, do you guys even care about the pictures???

I see photography as painting, it's just that I suck with a brush so I use a camera. However I bet no one compare brushes'... hair -or whatever you call it- in painting forums without showing an actual painting in the end !

So my question remains unanswered: I have never been able to see real shots, taken with the actual intention of creating a beautiful image,  with both those cameras, in full size, in order to compare on they feel. Only lab test shots.

I'll try to provide you with some at the end of this post.

My conclusions so far are:
  • Everyone who says: "oh in the end go Nikon D700 , it's FX (full frame sensor)", or "Do you need FX?" can't argue beyond that. Apart from the ISO performance, they don't seem to be able to tell if images actually feel better. Only Ken Rockwell mention the finder size as an element of comfort. But clearly to him, image quality is the same.
  • From what I saw, the Nikon D7000 performs just as well in low light, differences are pointless for someone who cares about pictures. Such a person would not shoot beyond 1600 anyway, 3200 max. Going higher is just masturbating on gear.
  • I was not stricken by a huge difference in image feel between the Nikon D700 and Nikon D7000, by looking at different images that unfortunately weren't really comparable. Sensor surface of the D700 is more than twice as big as the Nikon D7000 , however, it does not strike me. I once shot with a D80 and D700, in natural sun light, for a juice brand campaign. All with FX prime lenses. Inside, the D700 was raping the D80, noise related. Outside, it was very very hard to guess what image was from what camera, when shot at iso100. On some shot you can perceive that the D700 allows narrower DOF, which is tempting, but I can get that by opening wider...not worth the extra thousand bucks. I saw my shots on large posters in town, same here, I couldn't tell which one I shot with what camera.
  • The Nikon D7000 has a 2 000 dots RGB metering system. That rocks. I mean no other camera has it: it mean superior exposure and dynamic range than any other camera. That appeals to me.
  • It's all about the lens. See the very last photo in that post. It speaks for itself. Get a D7000 + a really premium lens. Actually, I've seen shots with the lens used on the last shot (55mm F1.2 pre AIS) on a Sony NEX 3, and yes, it felt as good as if taken with a D700. It's all about the lens.
In the end, the rational answer is that the 2 cameras are strictly equivalent from a performance point of view, with strengths that differ: the D7000 has stronger battery life, metering, and video capacity, the D700 has a more comfy view finder, allows you to make the most of your FX lenses, performs a little better in very low light if you shoot animals at night etc.

If you put the price in the equation...the Nikon D7000 clearly wins. Let's put it this way: the only advantage of the D700 is the sensor surface. 

I know I know, I keep saying sensor size is key, and anything below 24x36 is not suitable for pro stuff. And yes it's consistent with me shooting 60x70mm all the time, but between DX and FX...it's not that striking. So I'll wait for the D800 pricing, but if it's too high, I'll probably go Nikon D7000 .

See for yourselves with those pictures, taken by a skilled amateur:

First a D700 shot: metering is not perfect, bokeh is nice,70mm F2.8, iso 1600. Nice.

    D700, F3, 150mm, ISO 800

    Now D7000 shots: F8, ISO 2200, 180mm. Superb metering.

    D7000: F2.8, ISO 100, 180mm. 

    Finally my favorite one: D7000, 55mm F1.2 pre AI @ F2. ISO 100. My point: it's all about the lens.