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Old Apr 19, 2013, 07:52 PM   #1
alphaod
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Using smaller apertures

I have a question for some of you aficionados…

Do you ever buy a lens (say a f/1.4 when there are other options available like f/2) and then go out and only shoot with a 1/1.4 aperture because you feel you want to get your money's worth?
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Old Apr 20, 2013, 01:26 AM   #2
ocabj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaod View Post
I have a question for some of you aficionados…

Do you ever buy a lens (say a f/1.4 when there are other options available like f/2) and then go out and only shoot with a 1/1.4 aperture because you feel you want to get your money's worth?
Kind of sort of. Large apertures (e.g. f/1.4) are great because that thin depth of field gives a dramatic look, helps create bokeh, and/or helps you create focus in your composition.

The only reason I bought the Canon 85 f/1.2L II is because of that huge f/1.2 aperture. But f/1.2 (and even f/1.4-f/2) can be tough to use if you don't have proper technique, because the smallest movement in a focus-recompose could put your original intended focal plane out of focus.

A lot of times, I'll have a 70-200 f/2.8L IS II on for portraits, but I'll still dial down to f/8 when I need some extra leeway in the focal plane (particularly with fashion, in which I may even go to f/11).
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Old Apr 20, 2013, 02:25 AM   #3
phrehdd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphaod View Post
I have a question for some of you aficionados…

Do you ever buy a lens (say a f/1.4 when there are other options available like f/2) and then go out and only shoot with a 1/1.4 aperture because you feel you want to get your money's worth?
Faster lenses to me means easier viewing and that is all. I almost never shoot wide open as it was in general not applicable to the best the lens has to offer. Usually a lens stopped down 2-3 stops is at its optimal combination with shutter.

Since this is the digital age, if you want to get the sharpest image, (this is general for most lenses) you can go to your computer and knock the background out of focus and also give a nice pseudo bokeh in the process.

The only time to use a lens wide open back in the day is when there was no choice or you are popping out a subject in a more exaggerated way from the back ground. Obviously, I come from a film background but the rules still apply to the digital world.
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Old Apr 20, 2013, 06:57 AM   #4
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If the situation allows, take shoots with a wide range of apertures. Later you can decide which is best. A range of shots also lets you do thing like focus stacking.
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Old Apr 20, 2013, 07:40 AM   #5
Mike in Kansas
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I buy a fast lens for multiple reasons, one of which is the ability to shoot wide open to achieve very shallow DOF. Another reason is to achieve very nice bokeh; the kind that it NOT achievable by just using a gradient blur in post via PS. Finally, another reason that I buy large aperture lenses is that the lens's sweetspot for sharpness is at a wider aperture than that of a kit lens. My 35mm f/1.8 is very sharp below f/4; my 18-70 variable aperture lens wouldn't be that sharp until f/7 or f/8; this gives me the ability to achieve sharp images in low light and get shots that aren't even possible with a variable aperture lens.

Buying a large aperture lens is like buying a Corvette; the majority of time you do not use those special things that set it apart from a Nova; however, on occasion there are times when you NEED what the Corvette offers in order to produce the best results. Just like I wouldn't floor it at a stop light every time a light changed to get to 60mph in 4 seconds, I don't shoot my wide aperture primes wide open all of the time.
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Old Apr 20, 2013, 08:18 AM   #6
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nope!

I have a nikon 24 1.4. At the time I bought this lens (a few years ago) Nikon did not have any real alternative. The 28 f1.8 had not been released, the 28 f1.4D is super rare and expensive, I think the 28 f2.8 was no longer produced (and I think did not have a mount gasket for weather sealing?), so the 24 1.4 was really the only option. If I was buying today, I would probably get the 28 f1.8, and I often consider trading in my 24 f1.4 for 28 f1.8.

I also use a Leica, with a 28 mm f2. I'm not really interested in getting the f1.4 simply because manually focusing with this DoF is a bit of a pain and too slow, plus the 1.4 is stupidly expensive!!!!
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Old Apr 20, 2013, 12:25 PM   #7
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Most fast lenses are significantly sharper ~ 1 full stop above their widest aperture, especially wrt corner sharpness. So there's an advantage to being able to stop down a bit if you don't need the really shallow depth of field and/or faster shutter speed.

One of favorite lenses to shoot with is my Sigma 30mm f/1.4, but I only rarely use at 1.4 -- I'd say most of my shots are taken in the f/2 - f/2.8 range (on a crop sensor). But when I do use it at f/1.4, I really need it. So I'm glad the lens gives me this option.

To adapt an old saying: "It's better to have an f/1.4 aperture and not need it, than it is to need an f/1.4 aperture, and not have it."
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Old Apr 20, 2013, 03:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by MCAsan View Post
If the situation allows, take shoots with a wide range of apertures. Later you can decide which is best. A range of shots also lets you do thing like focus stacking.
Oh, I don't shoot like this.

I have a friend who does and was wondering if was more widespread.
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Old Apr 21, 2013, 08:06 AM   #9
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I never buy the fastest. 9 out of 10, the second largest aperture lens is the best one, with better sharpness, less vignetting, less distortion, less dick-looks (hey, let me put this dick in your face when I make a picture!) especially if you include the much-needed hood on a large aperture lens, a full open quality comparable to the larger one stopped down to F4, and best of all, much cheaper.

I did a very careful comparison between the Nikon 85mm 1.4 AFS, the 85mm 2.0 AIS and the 85mm 2.8 PCE, and the last one delivers a knock-out to the first. It even beats it for portraits, as it has the nicest bokeh of any lens I own. Full open the 2.8 PCE is totally sharp, where the 1.4 gets comparable corner-corner sharpness from 4.0-5.6. It is very logic too: the larger the aperture, the more compromise in the design.

Another problem of that 1.4 is the closest focus distance. It can't even focus a face up close! With the PCE you can capture just the mouth if you like. And because of the closer focussing distance, you get creamier bokeh and more out-of-focus at 2.8 than possible with the 1.4! The 100$ 2.0 AIS on the other hand, is still the best-value 85mm out there. The 1500$ of the AFS 1.4 does not make sense.

Another thing, most of the time, the uber-large aperture ones have such a horrible vignetting, that when the center is for example 1.4F stop, the corner is already more like 2.8. So why not get that 2.8 then? I don't want dark corners.

Last edited by blanka; Apr 21, 2013 at 08:14 AM.
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Old Apr 21, 2013, 08:18 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by equilibrium17 View Post
To adapt an old saying: "It's better to have an f/1.4 aperture and not need it, than it is to need an f/1.4 aperture, and not have it."
It is better to travel light, be unobtrusive with your lens and have top quality at F2.0 on a F2.0 lens than destroy your spine with an F1.4 that gets the same quality at F4.0
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Old Apr 21, 2013, 09:07 AM   #11
equilibrium17
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It is better to travel light, be unobtrusive with your lens and have top quality at F2.0 on a F2.0 lens than destroy your spine with an F1.4 that gets the same quality at F4.0
Valid point, though I think this only really comes in with zooms and longer lenses. My Sigma 30mm f/1.4 may not be as small and light as the Canon 35mm f/2, but it's hardly a backbreaker and I really don't think the "obtrusiveness" factor is much different, either.

But once you get to 85mm and above, yeah; those bright lenses start to get pretty large and heavy. I don't own anything like this, but I do rent them occasionally for special excursions and you do have to think about how much weight you really want to be carrying.
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Old Apr 21, 2013, 10:35 AM   #12
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...
I did a very careful comparison between the Nikon 85mm 1.4 AFS, the 85mm 2.0 AIS and the 85mm 2.8 PCE, and the last one delivers a knock-out to the first. ....
Another thing, most of the time, the uber-large aperture ones have such a horrible vignetting, that when the center is for example 1.4F stop, the corner is already more like 2.8. So why not get that 2.8 then? I don't want dark corners.
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It is better to travel light, be unobtrusive with your lens and have top quality at F2.0 on a F2.0 lens than destroy your spine with an F1.4 that gets the same quality at F4.0
A few rather sweeping generalizations. I accept your observations for the that particular subset of Nikon lenses, but this is not necessarily true for all lenses from other makers.

Also, some people need those extra stops of speed. In this example, you need four times the amount of light for the 2.8 lense vs the the 1.4 lense - other factors being the same. Many people may not need that extra speed, but for some people it is a necessity. It is up to the individual photographer to judge what they do and do not need depending on what they shoot.

In my case, I prefer faster lenses because my system tops out at 800 ISO and does not offer image stabilization. I like to be able hand-hold if possible, so... I opt for the faster glass. Your case is different - and obviously you're happy with your glass. Excellent!

Luck.
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Old Apr 21, 2013, 02:57 PM   #13
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A few rather sweeping generalizations. I accept your observations for the that particular subset of Nikon lenses, but this is not necessarily true for all lenses from other makers.
I'm not talking about 2 stops different, but one stop less is acceptable with modern "great-till-iso3200-or-beyond" camera's.

The thing is, statistically when I go through hundreds of lens tests from 1970 - today, the one with the biggest aperture 8 out of 10 times looses from the second biggest aperture one when it comes to sharpness, vignetting, coma and flare, no matter the brand. The situation where the biggest one is the best is the exception, not the standard. But the big one will look like lensporn for sure.

Other samples I tested in house:
Nikon 50mm 1.4 vs 50 1.8: 1.8 wins on sharpness
Nikon 70-200 vrII vs AIS 80-200 4.5, AIS wins on sharpness
Nikon 28mm 1.4 or 2.0 AFD/AFS vs AIS 2.8: AIS 2.8 wins on sharpness
Nikon 20mm 2.8 AFD vs AI 4.0, AI wins on sharpness.
I could make this list very long....
Most of the time I have the large ones because of the AF, but if I have time to compose the picture by hand, the smaller old ones all win on corner-corner sharpness.

And nothing looks sexier than a D800 with a 85mm 2.0 AI.

Last edited by blanka; Apr 21, 2013 at 03:04 PM.
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Old Apr 21, 2013, 09:49 PM   #14
Mike in Kansas
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I did a very careful comparison between the Nikon 85mm 1.4 AFS, the 85mm 2.0 AIS and the 85mm 2.8 PCE, and the last one delivers a knock-out to the first. It even beats it for portraits, as it has the nicest bokeh of any lens I own.
How about the 85mm 1.4D? It's the gold standard for bokeh. And you must have gotten a bad 85mm 1.4G; it is regarded as incredibly sharp at even f/1.4. I also don't see how you can talk about traveling light and unobtrusive when extolling the merits of the 85mm PC-E; it's over 4" long and weighs almost 1.5 lbs; plus it has knobs and crap all over it.
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Old Apr 22, 2013, 09:12 AM   #15
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Ultra-fast glass is always a compromise. Generally, the best of these lenses are optimized to be at or near their best at their widest aperture, but many of them lag behind slightly slower glass at equivalent f/stops.

Case in point, the Leica 50 Summilux (f/1.4) and Summicron (f/2.0). Both are terrific lenses, but the 'Cron is the better lens at every f/stop. However, the 'Cron doesn't go to f/1.4; the 'Lux does. So you make a trade off: you get more speed, but it comes at the cost of larger size (the 'Lux is still far smaller than a DSLR 50/1.4).

Similarly with the Canon 85mm lenses, once you stop the lens down, the f/1.8 is just as good as the f/1.2. But it doesn't go to f/1.2!

So if I'm buying ultra-fast glass, then I'm doing so with the intent of shooting at ultra-fast f/stops. Not because I want to get my money's worth, but because I need those f/stops. When I owned the 85/1.2L and the 35/1.4L, I shot them at f/2 or below a good portion of the time, because that's where they shine.

On my M6, I have the Voigtlander 35/2.5 Color-Skopar, because all of my shooting with this camera/lens takes place in bright light, and I have no need for f/1.4 or even f/2. I don't miss it one bit. Similarly, I have the Voigtlander Nokton 50/1.5, because I don't need the speed or size of the f/1.1.
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Old Apr 22, 2013, 10:58 AM   #16
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"Money's worth" to me is getting shots I might have otherwise missed, or would have been sub-standard in quality. Sometimes that's a longer lens, sometimes shorter. There have been times I've wished for f32, others for f0.95. Bigger/better sensor...

Would I shoot everything with a 600mm tele, just because I laid out big bucks for it? Would I shoot everything at 1/4000 of a second just because my new camera has a faster shutter? Of course not. I'd miss a whole lot of shots that were totally inappropriate for that lens or setting. The point of investing in gear is to make more shots, not miss them.

If I can attribute a lot of missed/failed shots to a hardware shortcoming, maybe it's time to invest in new gear. For just a handful of shots? There's probably nothing that will make the investment pay off. As any fisherman can tell you, no matter what you do, there will always be the one that got away.
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Old May 7, 2013, 07:28 PM   #17
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I appreciate all the very thought out responses.
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