Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Further testing of the Tokina

I had the fortune of being the recipient of one of the two free tickets my brother-in-law scored for the MNF Seahawks' game vs. Green Bay at QWEST Field. It could've just as easily been a home game for Green Bay, as there were many Cheeseheads in attendance and the weather was most definitely appropriate. For more on that, see my Sports Photos blog.

Before the game, I shot a few pictures of the vicinity. I'd already set my camera to ISO 1000, so I've had to post-process 'em in Neat Image to minimize the noise. The game gave me a decent environment in which to test out my 'new' Tokina 80-200 f/2.8 AIS SD ATX-II manual-focus zoom. I'm actually a bit impressed by the quality of some of the non-game shots I took. Here are a few:

I wish I'd've toned down the ISO a bit, but I'm still very pleased overall with this lens. It's a good one, especially for the price I paid. I'll eventually get my Nikkor, but for now, I'm happy using the Tokina.

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Been neglecting this place. So, I'll throw a few pix up that I've also added to my PhotoSIG portfolios. Enjoy!

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Equivalents, 80 Years Later

I've neglected this place a bit, as I've just started hanging out over at PhotoSIG -- an awesome corner of the Internet where you can both give and receive comments and critiques on your photography (and give your c/c to others' works). One of the cool things about that place, other than being a rather large community of photographers gathered from around the world, of course, are the assignments that come up, both weekly and monthly.

I decided to jump in and contribute one image to the November assignment -- clouds. I've been studying and re-visiting a lot of the photographers who inspired and helped form me as a photographer. One of those photographers is Alfred Stieglitz, who probably was one of the most influential photographers in history -- whether directly or indirectly, Stieglitz probably has inspired all photographers in some way shape or form. One of his more popular photographic series is his study of cloud formations, which he called Equivalent. If you're not familiar with Stieglitz' Equivalent series, you can view some of the images online at the Phillips Collection web site here. Inspired by his images, I wanted to capture a modern-day version of those shots, and yet keep true to the vision he created. The technical imperfections here are OK -- they're purposely in the composition to try and recapture the emotion Stieglitz portrayed in his images 80 years ago.

Here's my PhotoSIG November Assignment contribution:

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nikon Snob Commits Cardinal Sin

I've been looking around at various options for an 80-200 f/2.8 zoom. Obviously, any of the Nikkors would be high on my list. The 70-200 VR, of course, is at the pinnacle of the "If I won the lottery today, what lens would I buy first" list. But, since I haven't the budget for any of them, I didn't count on owning an 80-200 f/2.8 any time soon. A few weeks ago, however, I found a deal that I just couldn't pass up. I found a manual-focus Tokina ATX-SD 80-200 f/2.8 with hood and a case for a price that was very much within my budget. Since Tokina lenses, for off-brand lenses anyway, seem to receive very high reviews, I decided to spring for it.

When I received the lens, however, I noticed some fungus growing around the spots that the seller had mentioned in the auction. We agreed on a fair settlement, and I kept the lens. After working through that arrangement, I found a screwdriver small enough to allow me to unscrew the front element. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. I cleaned what I could off the back of the front element, and reassembled the lens. I hope the fungus never returns!

I wanted to re-shoot a picture I took awhile back, zoomed in a bit. So, I grabbed the Tokina and took this one:

Now, I haven't really had a chance to test it out completely -- after showering this morning, I snuck out between rain clouds and took a few shots with it. I wanted to do a quick comparison of the Tokina at 100mm with my Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E. While the conditions weren't exactly lab-controlled, as of right now, the images below are all straight out of the camera, without any sort of post-processing applied (other than cropping at 100% and JPG conversion). Here's the informal first results:

Tokina 80-200 ATX, 100mm @f/2.8

Same image, cropped to 100% near the window in the center of the frame:

Comments: Overall, rather soft. I focused the lens at infinity. The same shutter speed was selected on my camera, and while I'd mounted the camera on my tripod, the shutter speed was fast enough that I could've hand-held it.

Here's the same picture shot with my 100mm f/2.8 Series E lens:

And, again, a 100% crop of the window, to compare the details.

Comments: I'm still very, very, very impressed with the sharpness of my $59 Series E Nikon 100mm F/2.8! While the 50mm Nikkor F/1.4 AIS has taken over first place as my favorite lens, this 100mm is a very, very close second. I absolutely LOVE this lens.

Here's the same scene shot at F/8:

Tokina 80-200 ATX, 100mm @f/8

Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E

Much closer comparison now. The Tokina seems to improve at this aperture a lot, which doesn't really surprise me. I'd read that this lens was indeed a little soft at f/2.8, and improves at the higher apertures. While this test isn't really a scientific one, and I'd like to do a bit more testing (I think I was zoomed in a little bit further than 100mm on the Tokina), I do think I'll be able to get some use out of this lens. It should tide me over until a Nikkor finds its way into my budget. But, I can see why prime lenses, even the cheaper-made ones like my Series E, are so much better quality at the same (or similar) focal length on a zoom.

Here's one more shot, tweaked pretty heavily for effect, that I made with the Tokina:

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Slightly Different View on Earlier Shots

Per suggestion over at PhotoSig, I've cropped a few of my pictures to see if they're a little more effective with a bit of cropping applied.

Seems to work a bit better. At least, I'm OK with these crops, and they don't seem to lose anything over the un-cropped versions. Perhaps this is a slight improvement...

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

And Now for Something Completely Different...

So, my wife and I were playing around with this picture of our dog. She wanted to see what it would look like if I overloaded the saturation. I got the idea to make an Andy Warhol spoof of the subsequent image. So, here's the result of our weird minds collaborating:

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More from F/1.4

Okay, the rain cleared long enough for me to go outside and play. More shots during the daytime, in between rain drops. I've decided this is my new favorite lens.

I love, love, love this lens! The interplay of focus and bokeh at F/1.4 on this lens is just outstanding! I imagine everthing would be rather sharp at f/8 or f/11, but that's for later testing. For now, enjoy life at F/1.4:

And probably my favorite. I didn't notice the grub until after I'd brought the picture into the digital darkroom.

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

First Impressions -- Nikkor 50mm 1.4 AIS

My latest lens arrived via USPS today -- a new-to-me 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor AIS manual-focus lens. I keep going back to the decision I made when purchasing my first dSLR, and being so thankful that I bought the one I did. While I really like the D70, and it's a major improvement over my D1H in so many ways, the one thing I'm able to do with my camera that I wouldn't be able to do with the D70 is meter with AI and AIS manual-focus lenses. Sure, I lose out on Matrix Metering, which can certainly make things tricky sometimes (although the spotmeter does work, and helps to overcome this deficiency). That I can both mount and meter with 20-30 year old lenses that were top-notch quality, within my tight budget, though, is worth the sacrifice in the other areas where the D70 kicks my D1h's ass.

I was a little nervous, since there wasn't much of a description on the eBay auction, and only a couple of pictures. But when I opened the box and, in a kid-on-Christmas-morning fashion, pulled out the lens, it was beautiful! It came with a Nikon lens hood, and while I'm generally a fan of rubber lens hoods, this metal one was a nice bonus. I couldn't believe I got this lens at the price I paid. Other than missing a front lens cap, it looked brand new! And this lens is 20 years old!

Unfortunately it was dark and rainy when I got home, so I had to find a few things indoors to test out the bokeh. I played around with a few shots and found an interesting corner of the hallway in my house. I liked the lighting and the texture, and (exploring a bit with my latest Group F/1 philosophy) found some interesting lines that could be created by playing with the focus. After all, the reason why I wanted a f/1.4 lens was to play with that extra thinness of focus that it gives you over a f/1.8. I'm sure there's not a ton of significance, but I've already noticed an improvement in the bokeh.

Without having much to shoot, I found the plastic fern that looks so real we almost water it to this day. It made a perfect test subject for my first bokeh review. Now, granted, I'm not doing a full bokeh review like Ken Rockwell did. Yet. I just wanted to play around with the lens a bit to get my first impression. With the crummy weather and darkness tonight, there wasn't much else to shoot. I realize the "in focus" area is indeed out of focus (I was standing too close to the plant -- not quite in the close-focus range), but I don't really care a whole lot about that for this test. I was more concerned with how well the bokeh areas would turn out.

So far, I like the qualities of this lens a lot. I can't wait to test it further.

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)

Thursday, November 02, 2006


It's been mighty cold in the morning 'round here. Having to defrost my car certainly hasn't been fun. But, taking pictures, of course, has been. I also downloaded a few free plugins to play with -- looking for a good IR-effect plugin (since I don't have the $800 or so it would take to get a second IR-converted dSLR, and I don't have the capacities to load and process my own IR film anymore). For this image, I IR-filtered using the Green channel in Red Paw Media's free Beautifier IR-simulation filter. It works in Fireworks 8, as do several of the other free Photoshop plugins I've tried. Sure, it's not quite the same as having real IR. But it's effective in this image anyway.

I'm a bit undecided, however, on how applying IR filters would work under my Group F1 philosophy. But since I shot this picture at f/7.1, it wouldn't count anyway. That's okay, though, because the philosophy certainly doesn't limit the photographer who subscribes to that philosophy to keep his/her photography within those boundaries.

A few more, however, that might fit into that philosophy:

If you'd like to use images in this blog post, please e-mail paul(at)