Thursday, 23 February 2017

There's no substitute for a good lens

People who read TBOTAM will know that we went away a couple of weekends ago to north Devon, and I ended up shooting a lot of rocky beach pictures. The weekend was all about my wife & her birthday, so I whacked on an old Nikon 28-85 AF zoom and just grabbed a few pictures as the scenery went past, rather than taking my time, changing lenses and carefully composing.

When we got back I was generally quite pleased with what I had at first sight, but then came the processing. The Nikon zoom isn't bad, but it's a long way from great too. The original colour images had very soft contrast due to spray and an overcast sky, and the lens also lent a softness simply because it's not dead sharp at any aperture. I felt fairly pleased with the results in Nik Silver efex, but had to push the tonal range and sharpness/structure of the images HARD to bring out textures and and shapes in the rocks, and it's degraded the images a little on subsequent viewing.

This is an example.

I really liked this at first, but there's just too much fiddly stuff in the rocks, and the cloud on the LHS is horribly distracting. Later I ended up running a whole bunch of images through the mono module in Perfect effects but wasn't really happy due to the lack of a sense of crisp, film-like tonality and detail. I wanted everything crisper, crunchier, sharper.

At some stage these images will need a re-visit.

And like I said, there's no substitute for a good lens.

So Sunday we went to Upton House north of Banbury again, and I photographed some of their 1940s office furniture, again. This time I had a nice crisp 85mm prime lens, and immediately on processing I could see the difference. No need to go trying to boost sharpness, no hoofing structure to try to squeeze more detail out. Just simple, tone and exposure control because all the sharpness needed has been baked right in.

And then this morning, as the gales and the rain were coming along I took a picture of Ben's Guzzi, this time with an old, battered Nikon 135 f2.8 AIS manual lens. It was the same story again - no need to go scabbling around for sharpness - it's there already, even though the lens was wide open. And it's also hard to beat the bokeh from a slightly old fashioned telephoto lens that hasn't been stopped down. Just apply some tonal and exposure control and Robert is pater's brother, as they say.

I wish every photo I took looked as good as these, but sady it's not about the gear and I can still make a mess of some pics. :p

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