A new lens and an old farm

Having been stuck with nothing but my nifty fifty since I bought my d800, the day came when I finally got around to treat myself with a new lens: the 16-35 mm f4 G. I brought it along for a weekend visit to my grandparents old farm with the intention of trying it out a bit more thoroughly.

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The first thing that struck me as I got around to use the lens was its ability to use slower shutter speeds. Having been stuck with a 50 mm for a good while it meant I’d regularly shoot at 1/100th of a second and up. At the widest end I could now shoot around 1/25th of a second confidently and down to 1/10th somewhat safely. This is an effect of the focal length as well as the vr. The massive resolution of the d800 still means you can’t go quiet as far down as you would on for instance a 16 mp d4.

The downside of this was that once I got comfortable with shooting with such slow shutter speeds, I would forget to bump it up once people were in the frame, resulting in several blurry shots of my family.

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Being able to go down to as slow shutter speeds was definitely a an improvement when shooting in dark and murky environments such as inside a barn. The fact that you get a massive depth of field even at f4 and 5.6 was also much appreciated.

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Overall, I found the relatively wide range of focal lengths that 16 mm all the way to 35 mm represents to be very useful. 16 mm means quite a bit of distortion, but it’s easily handled in camera raw with a single click. That’s just one type of distortion, though. There’s also the inherent distortion of the focal length that means the slightest tilt of the sensor plane versus walls, trees etcetera will result in seriously dodgy looking pictures. I’m not necessarily a fan of this effect, and that’s why the widest focal lengths can really only be used in nature shots where the human brain doesn’t as easily recognise that something is off with the extreme perspective that 16 mm is.

From 24 mm and up is really what you can start using when there are buildings and people included in the shot. I find this range to be especially interesting to use and I would like to get a nice and fast prime sometime in the future. But it’s definitely very hand to get that in the same lens that also gives you the super wide 16 mm, albeit without the light weight and maximum aperture that a prime would give.

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Comparing it to the Tokina 11-16 f  2.8, a lens that I used on my old Nikon d90 crop sensor camera, I’ve been able to reach a few conclusions. Firstly, the auto focus is light years better than the hideous machinery that was kept inside the Tokina lens.  Secondly, it’s much sharper. Perhaps not as noticeable at f8 and f11 but definitely when using wider apertures and in the corners. The Tokina was essentially unusable at 2.8 in everywhere except for the the very center, and I would have to stop down several steps for it to improve somewhat. Other pointers are the obvious in terms of specs: VR, weather sealing and even more zoom abilities.

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Here’s a test shot trying out the bokeh potential. It’s obviously really the worst possible lens for this (quite literally) seeing as how it’s both relatively slow with the maximum aperture being 4 and it being an ultra wide to normal lens. What does help, however, is its impressive maximum closest focusing distance. Opening up to f4 and zooming in to 35 mm does mean some potential for blowing the background out.

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All in all I am definitely a fan of the lens. The widest focal lengths are really something for a few occasions only, but being able to zoom in all the way to 35 is a great benefit. It’s still not necessarily a lens I will find all that many uses for outside of the classic wide-angle landscape shots. When I sometime in the future find the money to buy a nice and fast 24 mm or 35 mm (did anyone say Sigma?) it’s quite likely that this lens will find it self somewhat obsolete. That’s the charm with glass as opposed to bodies though: the 2nd hand value is still quite significant. If the day comes and I get tired of it I’ll just toss out an ad and hope to get some cash back for it.

But why am I already talking about selling the lens? I own it and I love it and I will keep using it for a long time, of that I am sure.

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/Martin