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Nikon D60 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Posted by daniel 
July 07, 2009 06:12PM
These photos are not to showcase my photographic talent (which I definitely do not showcase here), but rather to reflect on my first experience with a prime lens, and a lens that has a very shallow depth of field. Many of these photos I took just to test exactly how shallow the focus was, rather than because of interesting content.

What I have learned: f/1.4 is only useful in certain situations. I regret not stopping down to f/1.8 or f/2 on several occasions, because I had to delete several photos that were essentially worthless because of focusing issues (e.g. - brim of hat instead of face). while i was aware that that is a "side effect" of using such a wide aperture, I didn't realize this issue until i was looking at the photos on my computer monitor rather than the LCD of the camera. obviously the closer one is to the subject of the photo, the more aware one must be of precision focusing.

1. focus point was the left ice cream (my favorite, by the way). even shooting from a slight angle made the labels of the other ice creams blurry.


2. i actually think this photo is pretty cool. i have realized i enjoy photos that show depth, often of the same object (like three isolated trees, each farther away than the next).


3. here is one photo i almost really love. two sisters looking at each other, but as you can see, i accidentally caught the edge of the large hat as the focus point, and because the faces were an even distance away from the camera, they were both out of focus, even though the very front of the hat looks wonderful. :mad:


4. the drink of the gods


5. pepper


6. whiskey bottle




7. smores



8. here is another "almost" photo. i believe the focus here ended up being on the face. just a bit smaller of an aperture and i would've captured more detail in the slate painting.


9. and another. focus is on the slate, leaving the face slightly out of focus. kind of frustrating when all it would take for an awesome photo is f/1.8


10. cribbage


thanks for looking, C&C welcome!

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July 07, 2009 07:44PM
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daniel
two sisters looking at each other, but as you can see, i accidentally caught the edge of the large hat as the focus point, and because the faces were an even distance away from the camera, they were both out of focus, even though the very front of the hat looks wonderful. :mad:
I like this photo too, except for the focus issue that tripped you up!

Auto-focus is a two-edged sword, and situations like this are ones where it's useful to outsmart the "helpful" electronic aids. Were you using multi-point focus? In most of my photos, I use a single center spot-focus, which keeps the camera from trying to guess what I really want in focus. In photos like this where the subject(s) is not centered, then you need to focus on the subject with the center point, and then reframe the shot while keeping the shutter release halfway pressed. It's actually pretty quick and works very well as long as the subject isn't moving.

Having said that, over the 4th of July weekend I was taking a lot of pictures like this with two people in the shot, and I switched to multi-point focus just to make my life easier. It worked, but then no one was wearing a big hat. smiling smiley If they had, I would have been in the same boat as you found yourself.

Another option for stationary subjects is to switch off auto-focus altogether and use manual focus. I grew up with manual focus cameras, and if you've never used one it's surprising how many good shots you can get that way.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
July 07, 2009 08:22PM
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Dave_G
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daniel
two sisters looking at each other, but as you can see, i accidentally caught the edge of the large hat as the focus point, and because the faces were an even distance away from the camera, they were both out of focus, even though the very front of the hat looks wonderful. :mad:
I like this photo too, except for the focus issue that tripped you up!

Auto-focus is a two-edged sword, and situations like this are ones where it's useful to outsmart the "helpful" electronic aids. Were you using multi-point focus? In most of my photos, I use a single center spot-focus, which keeps the camera from trying to guess what I really want in focus. In photos like this where the subject(s) is not centered, then you need to focus on the subject with the center point, and then reframe the shot while keeping the shutter release halfway pressed. It's actually pretty quick and works very well as long as the subject isn't moving.

Having said that, over the 4th of July weekend I was taking a lot of pictures like this with two people in the shot, and I switched to multi-point focus just to make my life easier. It worked, but then no one was wearing a big hat. smiling smiley If they had, I would have been in the same boat as you found yourself.

Another option for stationary subjects is to switch off auto-focus altogether and use manual focus. I grew up with manual focus cameras, and if you've never used one it's surprising how many good shots you can get that way.

yeah i use the spot focus in the center to choose my focus point, and then frame the shot with the shutter release halfway down. i'd like to do some MF shots (this lens is good for that because you can MF override the AF without a switch), but in this particular case the subjects were also walking towards me, and i told them to stop, so it was a kind of spur-of-the-moment shot.

just so i have this straight: if i use multi-point focus, it is simply leaving it up to the camera what to focus on, NOT focusing on various depths, right? i shoot on aperture priority but i suppose if i switched to P or auto it would change the aperture to allow for a couple faces rather than just one brim of a hat. i like the idea of controlling my DoF, though.

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July 07, 2009 09:05PM
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daniel
if i use multi-point focus, it is simply leaving it up to the camera what to focus on, NOT focusing on various depths, right? i shoot on aperture priority but i suppose if i switched to P or auto it would change the aperture to allow for a couple faces rather than just one brim of a hat. i like the idea of controlling my DoF, though.
Yeah, the only way to control depth of field is with the aperture, not the number of focus points. Having multiple points just gives the camera more options to choose from in deciding what to focus on. Sometimes that helps; other times it just confuses things.

I'm not sure, but I don't think switching to program mode would pick a smaller aperture in order to give a wider depth of field based on what it perceives as a subject. I don't think it's that smart. Personally I never use it. Mostly I use manual exposure, and sometimes aperture or shutter priority.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
July 08, 2009 06:26AM
Fun! I can't really offer any criticism (constructive or otherwise), but I will say that from what I've read, most lenses tend to not be their sharpest wide open. So having a f/1.4 lens means that you should get really sharp shots by, oh, f/2 or so. When I'm trying to get shallow DoF with one of my f/1.8 lenses, I try to stay above f/2.2 or thereabouts, although I'll shoot wide open sometimes, too. I'm still learning...

I use single point focus, but on the D90 at least, unless you specifically set it, the AF will refocus when you recompose, even with the shutter release half-pressed. I can set it to hold exposure and focus values on the half-press, or I can use the exposure/focus lock button, but just focusing on the subject and then recomposing will not necessarily keep the subject in focus. Just something to keep in mind.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
July 08, 2009 06:48AM
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Cab Treadway
on the D90 at least, unless you specifically set it, the AF will refocus when you recompose, even with the shutter release half-pressed.
I would guess that Nikon has different AF modes similar to what Canon has, which would solve that problem. The AI Servo mode is for tracking moving subjects (I use it for sports all the time), and it will behave as you describe if you try to reframe your shot after focusing. However, there is also a one-shot AF mode for still subjects that will not try to refocus if you reframe. (There's also a third AF setting in between those two.) My bottom-of-the-line Canon has these; I would bet that your Nikon has something similar.

__________
Dave
'91 325iX
July 08, 2009 07:48AM
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Dave_G
However, there is also a one-shot AF mode for still subjects that will not try to refocus if you reframe.

this is what i use. for nikons there are three (or at least on the D60): AF-A (auto, might change focus if you move the camera), AF-C (will change focus if you move the camera), AF-S (will not change focus if you move), and MF obviously. I use AF-S. Even in my experience using AF-A, i haven't had the camera refocus itself. when i was shooting shots at the racetrack a month ago, i took a few burst shots (holding the shutter release down). in that case, on AF-A, it refocused in between each shot.

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July 08, 2009 10:00AM
Yes, like Daniel said, there are different AF modes. I usually use AF-A, although that's probably not the best mode. There is also a setting where I can tell the camera to hold focus and exposure settings when I half-press the shutter, or different ways to use the AE-L/AF-L button, which locks the focus and exposure. I haven't played around too much with that as of yet.

I was just pointing it out, in case he was inadvertently using a setting that would change focus on recomposition, but looks like Daniel was already well aware of the different focus modes.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
July 08, 2009 12:36PM
AE-L is very useful. i have it on by default, so it sets the exposure based on what i am focusing on. if i want to set it somewhere else, i can press the button to turn it off, find the spot i want, lock the exposure there, then frame the shot, focus, etc, while maintaining the locked exposure.

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July 08, 2009 08:00PM
Gosh, all that fuss! I guess that I shall have to learn how to use the manual mode on those digital cameras in order to replicate the wonderfull performance that I have enjoyed with my completely manual,mechanical, chemical film Nikon FM circa 1977.

Since it is difficult to get good development of film now, I am in the market for a digital SLR, but it is going to be a Nikon, since I should be able to use my present battery of lenses on a Nikon digital box, I believe.

The secret to not having to worry too much about focus when changing targets is to use the smallest aperture possible for the conditions. Of course, my FM has a handy depth of field button to <preview< the objects in focus. The smaller the aperture the larger the depth of in focus field is. Using as wide as possible lens also helps with depth of field. But then, maybe the techniques are a bit different for digital photos!

Can someone recommend a good scanner so that I can digitize my extensive slide collection. I want something that can serve to make at least 10"x14" photos for framing, which I have been doing with my 35mm film.

Tks.

Bob P.
July 08, 2009 10:22PM
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Bob P 325is 88
Since it is difficult to get good development of film now, I am in the market for a digital SLR, but it is going to be a Nikon, since I should be able to use my present battery of lenses on a Nikon digital box, I believe.
look here to see what is compatible: [www.nikonians.org]
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Bob P 325is 88
The secret to not having to worry too much about focus when changing targets is to use the smallest aperture possible for the conditions.
while it is true that a smaller aperture will increase DoF, sometimes a very shallow DoF is desirable in order to completely wash out the background of a subject, and often times that makes for a more interesting photo.

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July 09, 2009 06:49AM
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Bob P 325is 88
Gosh, all that fuss! I guess that I shall have to learn how to use the manual mode on those digital cameras in order to replicate the wonderfull performance that I have enjoyed with my completely manual,mechanical, chemical film Nikon FM circa 1977.

Since it is difficult to get good development of film now, I am in the market for a digital SLR, but it is going to be a Nikon, since I should be able to use my present battery of lenses on a Nikon digital box, I believe.

Yes, as Daniel mentioned, many if not most of your lenses should work on most current Nikon bodies. The lens compatibility table he linked to is fine, although I like this one, too.

You certainly can use your camera set to manual and not worry about any of the autofocus or metering or any of the other stuff the bodies do these days. Depending on how much you want to spend, your new DSLR will either have a sensor the same size as 35mm film (called full frame or FX in Nikon-land - 36mm x 24mm) or it will be smaller (DX format - ~24mm x 16mm). Only the "pro" level DSLRs are in FX format, and they are quite expensive. The DX cameras are great, however your lenses will behave differently. The smaller sensor means the focal lengths are effectively multiplied by 1.5. So your 50mm "normal" lens is now a 75mm short tele, and your wide angle lenses are no longer quite as wide. This may lead you to a D700 or D3, both full-frame bodies.

The other thing you'll notice, coming from a mechanical camera is absolutely dreadful battery life. While the batteries power lots of neat things like the LCD (and the sensor), you'll have to recharge them regularly, at least 1-2x per week, depending on how much you use the camera. When compared to changing the batteries of a film SLR maybe once every couple of years, that becomes something you must be aware of. I have been able to take 200-300 pictures or more on a charge, less if I'm doing a lot of LCD use, but I don't find the battery life to be a big deal. I just keep a spare charged and check the charge meter every day or so.

There aren't aperture rings on most modern Nikkor lenses that I'm aware of. The aperture is now controlled electronically. On my camera, there are two wheels, one under your right thumb and one in front of the shutter release. In aperture priority, the front wheel controls aperture, the thumbwheel controls ISO, the camera sets shutter speed. In shutter priority, the thumbwheel sets shutter speed, the front wheel does ISO, the camera sets aperture. And in manual mode, front = aperture, thumb = shutter, ISO is set by a different button on the back of the body. So you have to spend a little time getting used to where the controls are for the mode you are using. Since you're used to and probably enjoy full manual control, this probably won't be an issue, just leave it in manual mode all the time. Of course, now that ISO is controlled digitally, you don't need to worry about film speed, that's another adjustment you'll be making.

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The secret to not having to worry too much about focus when changing targets is to use the smallest aperture possible for the conditions. Of course, my FM has a handy depth of field button to <preview< the objects in focus. The smaller the aperture the larger the depth of in focus field is.

My D90 has a depth of field button. I can't speak for other Nikon bodies, but I'm pretty sure that any camera higher up in the lineup will also have this, and possibly the lower bodies as well. I think you'll find most of the functions you are used to carry over, you just have to learn how to access them on the new bodies.

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Using as wide as possible lens also helps with depth of field. But then, maybe the techniques are a bit different for digital photos!

Not really, the techniques are pretty much the same with a DSLR, just keep in mind the crop factor I mentioned. Your super wide angle 14mm lens isn't quite as SWA anymore. They do make some DX-specific 10mm lenses now, so you can get back that wide perspective.

Here is an article about film to digital transition. There are many long-time pro photographers that have websites dealing with everything from modern lens and body reviews to techniques to just simple blogs. And of course there are hundreds of books specifically geared toward digital techniques, software, etc. But all the stuff you know about exposure, composition, etc, all still applies.

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Can someone recommend a good scanner so that I can digitize my extensive slide collection. I want something that can serve to make at least 10"x14" photos for framing, which I have been doing with my 35mm film.

Tks.

Bob P.

I can't speak from experience, but B&H Photo is a good place to look around.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
rkj
July 09, 2009 04:48PM
Quote
daniel
These photos are not to showcase my photographic talent (which I definitely do not showcase here), but rather to reflect on my first experience with a prime lens, and a lens that has a very shallow depth of field. Many of these photos I took just to test exactly how shallow the focus was, rather than because of interesting content.

What I have learned: f/1.4 is only useful in certain situations. I regret not stopping down to f/1.8 or f/2 on several occasions, because I had to delete several photos that were essentially worthless because of focusing issues (e.g. - brim of hat instead of face). while i was aware that that is a "side effect" of using such a wide aperture, I didn't realize this issue until i was looking at the photos on my computer monitor rather than the LCD of the camera. obviously the closer one is to the subject of the photo, the more aware one must be of precision focusing.

thanks for looking, C&C welcome!

Doesn't seem to be a lot of depth of field, is it supposed to be like that?

Rick



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/12/2009 09:01PM by daniel.
July 09, 2009 05:34PM
Quote
rkj
Doesn't seem to be a lot of depth of field, is it supposed to be like that?

Rick

at f/1.4, yes. from 5 feet away the DoF is less than 4 inches.

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July 12, 2009 09:02PM
a couple more



playing with photoshop


just to show the creamy bokeh for brad


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July 18, 2009 02:54AM
Quote
daniel
just to show the creamy bokeh for brad

hahaha. thumbs up
August 18, 2009 12:10AM
i think the sweet spot of this lens is at f/2.2. any lower than that and i have trouble with focusing consistently. i don't know if it is me or the lens.

me + dog


friend



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August 18, 2009 06:17AM
That seems consistent. I've heard that most lenses aren't at their best wide open and need to be stopped down a bit. So you need something like a f/1.4 to be able to get good shots at f/2. My f/1.8 lenses are okay wide open, but probably better up at f/2.8 or so.

Cab
1990 325i(s)
2004 325XiT
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