Going Digital with a Bag full of Nikon AI Glass?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by avincent52, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. avincent52 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    #1
    I'm thinking about a digital SLR and I'm looking for advice.
    I've got a bag full of nikon AI and AIS fixed focus lenses.
    20mm 3.5
    28mm 3.5
    50mm 1.4
    55mm 2.8 macro
    85mm 1.8
    180mm 2.8
    300mm 4.5

    All except the 50 have been AI converted or were AI or AIS to begin with.
    I've always been a Nikon guy so I'm leaning in that direction.
    If I understand correctly a D200 or D300 will allow me to meter with these lenses while a D40/50 won't.

    My question is whether the metering is worth spending twice as much for the body.
    The second question is whether those of you with AI lenses have found yourselves actually using them.

    FWIW, this would be for semi serious amateur/light pro use, although I've always focused more of my attention on the viewfinder than fiddling with the controls.

    thanks in advance
    Allen
     
  2. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #2
    Only you can answer that really, but here's my .02:

    If you have time to take shots for exposure, metering isn't all that big a deal- so if you're shooting in controlled conditions or relatively fixed light, then it's not worth it. Otherwise, it probably is. If you don't want to fiddle, metering in-body is the way to go, though you can still carry around a small incident meter and use that.

    I don't know how good those lenses are, if you don't need fast, many of the Nikon consumer zooms are "good enough" for most uses, a few of them for almost all uses. Older lenses had quirks, newer lenses have (in general) fewer quirks, so it's one of those "depends on what you have and what you get" sort of things.

    What you save on a body could at least partially fund a good lens though, so you'll have to decide what you normally shoot and at what focal lengths to see if it's "worth it."

    If you have a real full-service camera store near you, the thing to do is to arrange some D300 playtime when they're not busy and try your lenses and a few kit and select lenses on a card you own. Print the results at 8x10 (use the store if you can, it's the least you can do in return) and see what the differences look like- that should give you the information you really want, or at least the best approximation outside of field conditions.
     
  3. yeroen macrumors 6502a

    yeroen

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2007
    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    #3
    Ken Rockwell comments about this here:

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/afmf.htm

    but like a lot of what KR says (in particular all the heavy breathing over the optically dubious 18-200 VR) I find that I draw different conclusions.

    I continue to use a variety of AIS lenses on my D70, namely:

    28 f/2.8 (my "can only take one to a desert island" lens)
    55 f/2.8 Micro
    105 f/2.5
    135 f/2 (recently sold on ebay)
    200 f/4

    I find that lack of metering isn't really a big issue since the binary search algorithm of 1) given an aperture, make an educated guess for shutter and ISO; 2) shoot; 3) look at rear LCD; 4) adjust accordingly; is pretty efficient in practice (it usually takes me no more than 2 iterations). It may not work as well for action shots, but if I want to capture action I'll do it with AF lenses.

    Manually metering isn't so hard, but I find focusing can be when shooting hand held. For the 28 and 55 this isn't much of a problem given their (relatively) wide angle, but for the 105 on up it sometimes is. Unlike the old MF camera bodies, you don't have any focusing aids like split-image or microprism viewfinders (on the D2X/D3 you can swap out the viewfinder, but I'm not sure what's available).

    Nonetheless, I continue to use the older MF lenses on the new digital body. Why? Simply because they're either optically superior to their AF counterparts (the 28 2.8 and, so I've heard, the 105 2.5) or more generally their all metal solid build quality makes shooting with them a pleasurably tactile experience. MF lenses are meant to be handled, unlike the cheap plastic-toy feel of most under $1K AF lenses which once mounted to the camera are better left alone.
     
  4. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #4
  5. yeroen macrumors 6502a

    yeroen

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    Mar 8, 2007
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    Cambridge, MA
    #5
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #6
    I've still got my F2 body and of course some AI, AI-s and AI'd lenses.

    First off you WILL need to buy at least the "kit lens" that comes with the camera. Why? because you do not have an 18mm lens. the small 24x16 mm sensor has the effect of multiplying the focal length of your lenses by about 1.5. This makes your telephotos work better but your 30mm is now a "normal" lens and your 50mm f/1.4 acts like that expansive 85mm f/1.4 (nice feature) The auto focus is nice too, you will get used to it So buy a "kit lens"

    The histogram display on the LCD on back of the camera is the world's best light meter. Far better then any other meter I've used because it shows a graph of how the tones are distributed. It is ideal for the person who thinks about the Zone System. After taking one test shot I can see in the graph where shadows , highlites and mid tomes will fall. But on the other hand this is not quite ideal for action photography in changing light. You should know that CCD sensor act like slide film, Do anything BUT over expose and you will be fine

    For you, i would NOT recomend a D40/D40x It lacks a focus motor and will need to use AF-S lenses. Any other body is better.

    The other thing is that the new profesional level zooms really are better then they were in the past. Modern coating and glasses make them as sharp and contrasty as primes. I think the only reason to shoot a prime today is if you need the larger Aperture.
     
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #7
    There is a focus aid build into all Nikon AF fim bodies and DSLR bodies. Look for a little green light in the lower left of the viewfinder. When the light comes on the the AF sensor is detecting good focus. On one of my film bodies there is even arrows that tell you which way to rotate the focus ring
     
  8. yeroen macrumors 6502a

    yeroen

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    Mar 8, 2007
    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    #8
    Of course you have the little green light, but it sometimes flickers on and off when hand-held, as if the focus was only tentative. The green focus indicator can also be hard to spot when shooting outdoors in bright light.
     
  9. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

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    May 5, 2007
    #9
    I've generally been deeply disappointed with any inexpensive zooms, even ones which are supposedly ok (like say, the 18-70 kit). As such I'd shell out for a body that meters (even if it's not a huge deal with histogram, it's still more convenient). Even if the optical quality of a zoom is ok at f8 imo most of those primes will look 'nicer' plus you've got the (massive advantage) of a wide aperture for low light or shallow depth of field. It's astounding the difference between 'ok' and fabulous, even on very average camera like my D70.

    I wouldn't say I have massive experience with this but this is what I think from my usage. Even if you decide, ok, I'll get a D200(/whatever) and use my glass but then find yourself hankering for a modern AF zoom which you then buy - you've still got more camera with a better viewfinder, better build, and a million other things.
     
  10. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #10
    I was comparing todays pro-level (that means f/2.8) zooms to the zooms that were available back in the early days of the Nikon system when those AI and AI'd primes were made. They have made good progress in the last 30 years

    I have an 18-70. I'd say it is only "ok" not great, not bad. There is some distortion at the wide end and Nikon has made sharper lenses that sold for a lower price and Nikon was made softer zooms too. The 18-70 is kind of mid-range. But if you are shooting for viewing on an electronic screen it's all moot
     
  11. yeroen macrumors 6502a

    yeroen

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    #11
    This is why I don't like the D40. It's crippled w/respect to some of Nikon's best lenses. Even the inexpensive 50 1.8, which outperforms any zoom, is manual focus only on the D40. One of my gripes with Nikon is that they haven't introduced any new AF primes of focal length <=200mm in 12 years (apart from the exotic $4K 200mm f/2 VR in 2004, and the specialized 105 f/2.8 Micro VR, whose AF sucks btw).


    Personal tastes here, but I find it's easier to carry and swap between 4 primes, say a 28, 50, 105, and a 180 and 'zoom with my feet' than it is to lug around the lovely but heavy 28-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 which cover the same range continuously. Often with zooms, I find myself wasting time d***ing around zooming in-and-out to get the composition I don't know I want versus just pointing and shooting with a prime and being happy with the result.
     
  12. shieldyoureyes macrumors 6502

    shieldyoureyes

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    Nov 1, 2005
    Location:
    Uppsala, Sweden
    #12
    I use a D80 and a variety of AI and AI converted lenses including 28 f/2.8 AIS, 50 f/1.8 AI, and Ai'd 105 f/2.5

    Personally, I don't mind manually metering and focusing for a majority of what I do because it normally isn't moving to fast. With a little practice, guessing exposure become second nature and you would be surprised how accurate you will get. I use them the same amount as my AF lenses.

    I like the fact that it is more difficult to take a photo. It really slows you down, makes you think about the composition and what you are trying to show. As a result, the majority of my keepers are taken with these old lenses.

    Which ever camera you end up getting, keep those lenses. A lot of them are REALLY good.

    Plus, there is nothing like the look of a classic Nikkor.
     
  13. avincent52 thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    #13
    Thanks for the advice.
    I really love the look and feel of my old nikon stuff--an FE with a motordrive and a couple F2s. And FWIW, I shot a handheld closeup with the 55 macro on Kodacolor print film, and a designer told me that a hi-res scan of the neg was actually sharper and higher in resolution than a similar shot taken with a Hasselblad digital back in a studio.
    But there is something to be said for convenience, so I'm looking to merge old school and new school, like the squeezebox that drives my tube amp and preamp and sits proudly below my Linn turntable.

    best
    Allen
     
  14. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #14
    Nikon's D200 and the new D300 meters with the older non-CPU lenses; there is a function in the menu where you can set the parameters of the lens you're using and this then sets the camera up for metering with it. One nice feature but certainly not an absolutely necessary one. I have some older lenses and I have newer lenses. I enjoy manually focusing with the older lenses, especially for macro work, and when I do macro with one of the newer lenses I manually focus anyway, so it's not a big deal. As has been said you've got some nice lenses there, so do hang on to them! You will want some newer ones too, though....
     
  15. cube macrumors G5

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    #15
    Another nice AI option if you're not a speed freak is the Fujifilm S5 Pro, which is based on the D200 body but with a cool Fuji sensor and goes for only about $100 more in USA.
     

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