iPhone vs Camera

I was privileged to join some of my professional photography colleagues to cover the Big 12 football championship game last month. Number of us using smartphones to cover the event? Zero.
I was privileged to join some of my professional photography colleagues to cover the Big 12 football championship game last month. Number of us using smartphones to cover the event? Zero.

A fellow photographer recently asked me if I would do a head-to-head comparison between an iPhone or iPad and the cameras I use every day as a photojournalist.

I felt this comparison to be an apples-to-lemons challenge, since, for me anyway, there are many things my iPhone does better, and many things my DSLRs do better.

A smartphone is a capable and useful tool in photography, but it is only one of many.
A smartphone is a capable and useful tool in photography, but it is only one of many.

I prefer to use my phone for video, since the video I get from it is smooth, clear, and has decent audio, while video with my DSLRs tends to require a lot more production – microphones, steadycams – than my phone does. I also love the way I can seamlessly send lightly-edited images from the field to my staff with little effort, and of course there is video streaming.

My DSLRs are better at sports, a big one for me since I cover a great sports scene at our newspaper. They are much, much better in situations in which I want to add light, like with a flash, or when I need to create selective focus by using shallow depth of field.

Finally, there is handling. This may be the veteran in me talking, but holding a big camera and lens up to my eye is infinitely more commanding in almost every photographic situation. I can compose and organize much better with a DSLR than I can holding a phone or tablet at arms length… in some ways, using a DSLR or even a film camera is making pictures, while using a phone or a tablet is like watching television.

Despite all the advances we see all the time in smartphone and tablet technology, a camera remains a better tool for photography.

This image was made with my iPhone 7 at a basketball game I was covering last night. Compare it to the next image...
This image was made with my iPhone 7 at a basketball game I was covering last night. Compare it to the next image…
...made with one of my D300S digital cameras with an older 180mm f/2.8 AF lens, standing in the same spot as in the previous image. As you can see, the comparison is almost unfair.
…made with one of my D300S digital cameras with an older 180mm f/2.8 AF lens, standing in the same spot as in the previous image. As you can see, the comparison is almost unfair.

Steal My Balls and Play with Them

Christmas is almost here, and that means photography. I recently grabbed some of my favorite lenses to help create these beautiful backgrounds. In some circles, these artifacts are called “bokeh balls,” after the largely misunderstood and over-emphasized feature of the out-of-focus portions of an image. You are welcome to download them and use them as you like.

@ richardbarron.net
@ richardbarron.net
@ richardbarron.net
@ richardbarron.net
@ richardbarron.net
@ richardbarron.net
@ richardbarron.net

These images were made with my Fuji X-T10 mirrorless camera and the Nikon 28mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/2.0, 85mm f/1.4, and the 200mm f/2.0.

The Nikon D500

Tulsa World news photographer Ian Maule photographed me in the media area at the Big 12 Championship football game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas Dec. 19.
Tulsa World news photographer Ian Maule photographed me in the media area at the Big 12 Championship football game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas Dec. 19.

Photographer Kyle Phillips at one of our sister newspapers, The Norman Transcript, was out of action recently, so he offered to let me borrow their new Nikon D500 digital SLR since I was slated to shoot the college football Big 12 Championship game in Dallas on December 19, and I accepted.

The Nikon D500 stands tall on its large vertical grip. The grip adds a battery, and, more significantly, a better handling experience for me and my long hands.
The Nikon D500 stands tall on its large vertical grip. The grip adds a battery, and, more significantly, a better handling experience for me and my long hands.

The D500 is a professional-level 20-megapixel camera. It is a neat camera, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a news  or sports photographer in a minute, but it’s not a game-changer.

The Ada Cougars took on the Shawnee Wolves Dec. 18, and I used the D500 to photograph it. This image was made at ISO 10,000, and the noise is there, but controllable.
The Ada Cougars took on the Shawnee Wolves Dec. 18, and I used the D500 to photograph it. This image was made at ISO 10,000, and the noise is there, but controllable.
The Vanoss Lady Wolves celebrate an overtime victory again Latta earlier this month. Shot with the Nikon D500 at ISO 10,000, it's a good clean image with minimal noise.
The Vanoss Lady Wolves celebrate an overtime victory again Latta earlier this month. Shot with the Nikon D500 at ISO 10,000, it’s a good clean image with minimal noise.
  • The Nikon D500 is an incremental upgrade to the Nikon D300S, two of which I use every day. The main improvement the D500 makes is high ISO noise. Frame rate and pixel count are up, but not enough to really matter.
  • The ISO dial has traded places with the exposure mode dial, which I really don’t like, and not just because I’m used to buttons where they are. The mode dial belongs on the right next to the shutter and aperture dial and the shutter release. I kind of think Nikon engineers move stuff arbitrarily. Real photographers set their file type once, mostly on the day they get the camera, and leave it there forever. Only dilletants and dabblers change file types regularly, so as far as I’m concerned, this button could disappear into the menu.
  • I had to shoot JPEGs instead of RAW files, since my laptop at work has an older version of Adobe Lightroom that won’t read the newest RAW files. The D500 makes very decent JPEGs.
  • The D500 has a swinging/tilting rear display as well as 4K video capability, a feature that makes little difference to me, since I make short videos to go with news and sports, but would make a big difference to videographers.
  • The D500 is equipped with SnapBridge, but I tried several times and got the message, “Pairing unsuccessful. Make sure D500_XXX is turned on, in range, and is ready to pair.” That’s typical in a world of incompetent coding. My Fujifilm X-T10, a camera of the same era as the D500, did it without a hitch.
  • The D500 has two card slots, one for SD, and one for XQD, a high-speed replacement for CompactFlash cards, but I don’t have any of these cards and have never used them, and I find that the photography community regards this format as a dead end.
  • The D500 isn’t a particularly popular camera. I have only seen one other one, in the hands of Coalgate High School yearbook advisor Kathy Ingram.
  • I found that 10 frames per second and a nearly unlimited buffer resulted in shooting a lot more frames than I usually do, with little impact on the quality of my product. So many files of the same thing just tends to choke my workflow.
Engineers love to fix what isn't broken, in this case moving the mode button to the left and the ISO button to the right.
Engineers love to fix what isn’t broken, in this case moving the mode button to the left and the ISO button to the right.

At the Big 12 Championship game, I brought my AF Nikkor 300mm f/2.8, betting on needing the f/2.8, but the lights were very bright and even. If I had to do it again, I might use my AF-S 300mm f/4, a much newer and somewhat sharper lens.

Here is a nice tight crop from Saturday's action at the Big 12 Championship. My 300mm f/2.8 is sharp and capable, but my 300mm f/4 is even sharper, and faster-focusing.
Here is a nice tight crop from Saturday’s action at the Big 12 Championship. My 300mm f/2.8 is sharp and capable, but my 300mm f/4 is even sharper, and faster-focusing.

I pressed the D500 into service, and found that it does what a digital camera should: make photography easier by getting out of the way of the photographer. I was very glad to use it for a while, and really enjoyed it. Thanks again to Kyle for offering to let me use it. I know he will make many great images with it over the years.

The Nikon D500 has a flipping rear LCD display, an excellent option if you are making a lot of video, but almost entirely unused by me while I had this camera.
The Nikon D500 has a flipping rear LCD display, an excellent option if you are making a lot of video, but almost entirely unused by me while I had this camera.

Film: Some Snapshots

These are a few frames from the mountain of film negatives I shot over the years before the advent of digital imaging.

Brother and sister Deb and Robert Stinson pose in the Art Department at the University of Oklahoma in 1984.
Brother and sister Deb and Robert Stinson pose in the Art Department at the University of Oklahoma in 1984.
I photographed Debbie Mociolek in March 1982 at her request. She was killed in a car accident just two weeks later at the age of 19.
I photographed Debbie Mociolek in March 1982 at her request. She was killed in a car accident just two weeks later at the age of 19.
My sister Nicole and her best friend Stacey pose with their Bruce Springsteen concert tickets in Dallas in September 1985.
My sister Nicole and her best friend Stacey pose with their Bruce Springsteen concert tickets in Dallas in September 1985.
Scott AndersEn and I photographed our combined Nikon equipment in his dorm room in late 1984.
Scott AndersEn and I photographed our combined Nikon equipment in his dorm room in late 1984.
Your host poses with Robert Stinson in my apartment in the early 1990s.
Your host poses with Robert Stinson in my apartment in the early 1990s.
Your host poses with Robert Stinson in my apartment in the early 1990s.
Your host poses with Robert Stinson in my apartment in the early 1990s.
Robert Stinson uses a tripod as we make pictures at my apartment in the early 1990s.
Robert Stinson uses a tripod as we make pictures at my apartment in the early 1990s.
Robert Stinson shows a photography student how to load the Nikon F4 with film.
Robert Stinson shows a photography student how to load the Nikon F4 with film.
Robert throws up his hands as he and I make pictures in downtown Ada in the late 1990s.
Robert throws up his hands as he and I make pictures in downtown Ada in the late 1990s.
Robert uses the 75-300mm f/4.5 lens on his Nikon F4 camera.
Robert uses the 75-300mm f/4.5 lens on his Nikon F4 camera.
Robert uses a tripod to photograph a flowing river in the Talihina area in 1984.
Robert uses a tripod to photograph a flowing river in the Talihina area in 1984.
Robert poses in his father's loft in Tulsa in the 1980s.
Robert poses in his father’s loft in Tulsa in the 1980s.
Robert enjoys dinner in his rooming house just off the University of Oklahoma in 1985.
Robert enjoys dinner in his rooming house just off the University of Oklahoma in 1985.
Robert and I photograph a young model named Masha in my apartment in 1999.
Robert and I photograph a young model named Masha in my apartment in 1999.
Robert and I photograph a young model named Masha in my apartment in 1999.
Robert and I photograph a young model named Masha in my apartment in 1999.
You host shoots a "selfie" before the word "selfie" was invented.
You host shoots a “selfie” before the word “selfie” was invented.
The author poses with the Ada High School Couganns dance team in the 1990s.
The author poses with the Ada High School Couganns dance team in the 1990s.
Scott AndersEn poses on railroad tracks near him suburban Chicago home in 1987.
Scott AndersEn poses on railroad tracks near him suburban Chicago home in 1987.
Scott AndersEn washes his car at his suburban Chicago home in 1987.
Scott AndersEn washes his car at his suburban Chicago home in 1987.

Film: My Time at The Daily Times

I worked for a short time at The Daily Times in Ottawa, Illinois,  in 1988, with a very talented young photographer named Harold Krewer. We often challenged each other to feature photo shoot-offs, and it raised us both up in quality, and it was very fun.

Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/1.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/1.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5

Film: My Time at the University of Oklahoma

R.E. Stinson works in the Copeland Hall darkroom at the University of Oklahoma in 1984.

I worked in Student Publications at the University of Oklahoma in 1983, 1984, and early 1985, where I met some very talented artists and photographers, notable R. E. Stinson and Scott AndersEn, with whom I am friends to this day.

I photographed Melissa on a number of occasions, like this image in 1984. She was a natural in front of the camera, but she and I were never a good fit for a relationship. We made this image on a winter day when she came to OU with me from Oklahoma State, where she lived in the ZTA sorority house. I shot it on Kodak Plus-X Pan Film with my 105mm f/2.5, lit with a single flash into a reflector over my left shoulder.
I photographed Melissa on a number of occasions, like this image in 1984. She was a natural in front of the camera, but she and I were never a good fit for a relationship. We made this image on a winter day when she came to OU with me from Oklahoma State, where she lived in the ZTA sorority house. I shot it on Kodak Plus-X Pan Film with my 105mm f/2.5, lit with a single flash into a reflector over my left shoulder.

We shared darkroom facilities at Copeland Hall in the School of Journalism. Because many student journalists shared the darkroom, it was frequently full. There were two small, light-tight rooms for film processing, and around a corner through a black curtain was the room with five enlargers in it. Only one of the enlargers, which you can see in the image above, had a color head on it, so if you wanted to use it, you waited in line or showed up in the middle of the night.

I talked about these days before (link), but I chose this entry to include my entire black-and-white portfolio from college.

Chemicals were often contaminated, since young photographers often didn’t understand the difference between developer and fixer, or why you can’t “back contaminate,” so I brought my own chemicals.

I frequently found myself mentoring pretty college girls, hoping to kindle some romance, and took a few out, though none of those efforts lasted.

I found I preferred working for the Sooner Yearbook rather than the OU Daily, thinking I was making higher-quality, longer-lasting work. I preferred Microdol-X film developer, with the idea that I was making sharper, finer-grained images.

I helped Liz Stocks process film and print on a couple of occasions. We went out once, to see The Breakfast Club in a theater.
I helped Liz Stocks process film and print on a couple of occasions. We went out once, to see The Breakfast Club in a theater.
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 50mm f/1.2
Photo by Richard R. Barron 50mm f/1.2
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/2.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 200mm f/4
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 28mm f/2.8

 

 

Film: My Time at The Shawnee News-Star

This is the tiny, filthy, smokey darkroom I shared with Ed Blochowiak at The Shawnee News-Star for two and a half years.
This is the tiny, filthy, smokey darkroom I shared with Ed Blochowiak at The Shawnee News-Star for two and a half years.

I was the swing-shift photographer at The Shawnee News-Star from November 1985 through April 1988. I was partnered with a talented former Vietnam Air Force member Ed Blochowiak. Between us we made some great images and won some awards. Ed spent his entire career at the News-Star, and, sadly, died just two months after retiring in October 2016.

Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 35mm f/2.0
Photo by Richard R. Barron 24mm f/2.0
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 24mm f/2.0
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 24mm f/2.0
Photo by Richard R. Barron 105mm f/1.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300 mm f/4.5
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 180mm f/2.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 300mm f/4.5
105mm f/1.8
Photo by Richard R. Barron 24mm f/2.0

Film: Ada Cougar Football State Championship 1988

Richard R. Barron | The Ada News

I had been at The Ada Evening News (now, The Ada News) just six weeks when I photographed the Ada Cougars winning their 15th state championship in December 1988 at Oklahoma State University’s Lewis Field.

Most of the action and trophy photos were published in the sports section that Sunday. I was looking through a box of black-and-white negatives from that month and decided to write my column about scanning film, and scan many of these images, which have not been published since that time.

Richard R. Barron | The Ada News
Richard R. Barron | The Ada News
Richard R. Barron | The Ada News
Richard R. Barron | The Ada News
Richard R. Barron | The Ada News
Richard R. Barron | The Ada News
Richard R. Barron | The Ada News

Monochrome Challenge: After the First Freeze

Despite colder weather, Hawken always wants to splash into the pond up to his chest and get a big drink.
Despite colder weather, Hawken always wants to splash into the pond up to his chest and get a big drink.

My readers will recall that after the first hard freeze of the year, Hawken the Irish wolfhound and I expand our walk to include a large area of woods to the west of our home. If we exhaust all the trails in a single walk, which we often do, it comes to about three miles round trip. We are never bored.

For this edition of the Monochrome Challenge, I brought my tiny, seldom-used Olympus FE-5020.

Bare tree branches are set against a deep late-autumn sky. I used the red filter setting in Lightroom to give the image some additional pop.
Bare tree branches are set against a deep late-autumn sky. I used the red filter setting in Lightroom to give the image some additional pop.
The sun shines through a portion of woods onto tufts of wheatgrass.
The sun shines through a portion of woods onto tufts of wheatgrass.
We walk past this cross on our longer winter walks. I don't know who or what is buried beneath it.
We walk past this cross on our longer winter walks. I don’t know who or what is buried beneath it.
Sunlight filters through trees onto tall weeds on the far west end of our hike.
Sunlight filters through trees onto tall weeds on the far west end of our hike.
We often take a route that includes going past this pumper jack, which, probably due to low oil prices, has been inoperative for a couple of years.
We often take a route that includes going past this pumper jack, which, probably due to low oil prices, has been inoperative for a couple of years.

How to Shoot a Silhouette

The annual Parade of Lights in 2014 was a perfect opportunity to create a silhouette.
The annual Parade of Lights in 2014 was a perfect opportunity to create a silhouette.
Ashlynd Huffman wields my 300mm f/2.8 lens at my office a couple of month ago.
Ashlynd Huffman wields my 300mm f/2.8 lens at my office a couple of month ago.

Fellow journalist Ashlynd Huffman texted me recently asking how to create a silhouette. It occurred to me that it would be worth it to have my own tutorial about it.

Silhouettes are essentially lithographs, and are usually created with a bright background that is correctly exposed, with something underlit or unlit in the foreground that forms a shape without having much detail.

Most of my silhouettes are happy circumstances of natural light, but it doesn’t take a lot to construct one. Throw some light on a background, and leave your foreground figure in the shadows.

If you are shooting in manual exposure mode, move up and down the exposure scale until you get the background about right, and the foreground item, person, or figure, very dark or black.

A statue of the icon Southwestern flute player Kokopelli is show normally exposed.
A statue of the icon Southwestern flute player Kokopelli is show normally exposed.
Kokopelli is shown as a silhouette. The only thing I changed was exposure using the exposure compensation feature (the +/-). This image is four full exposure values (stops) darker.
Kokopelli is shown as a silhouette. The only thing I changed was exposure using the exposure compensation feature (the +/-). This image is four full exposure values (stops) darker.

If you are shooting in an automatic exposure mode like Program, Shutter Priority, or Aperture Priority, use exposure compensation aggressively to get the look you want. Green Box Mode usually won’t let you control your exposure.

If you are shooting film, bracket: shoot a series of frames at widely different exposure settings.

Silhouettes imply shape and anonymity.

Silhouettes should never take the place of strong narrative, but if used correctly, can contribute to a strong narrative.

Coaches are silhouetted against a beautiful late-summer sky at a football game in Stratford, Oklahoma.
Coaches are silhouetted against a beautiful late-summer sky at a football game in Stratford, Oklahoma.

More Thoughts About the 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor

Summer is a very special dog for us, since we adopted her right after our previous female Chihuahua, Sierra, died. We photograph her all the time, as I did yesterday afternoon with the excellent 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor.
Summer is a very special dog for us, since we adopted her right after our previous female Chihuahua, Sierra, died. We photograph her all the time, as I did yesterday afternoon with the excellent 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor.

Readers might recall that I recently bought a long-ago favorite lens, the Nikkor 85mm f/2.0, and that I mentioned that this lens has an undeserved reputation as not very sharp, especially when compared to the 85mm that preceded it, the 85mm f/1.8 of 1970s vintage.

The 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor sits on my Nikon D7100 today. The D7100 has an aperture tab, so it can communicate with older, non-autofocus lenses.
The 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor sits on my Nikon D7100 today. The D7100 has an aperture tab, so it can communicate with older, non-autofocus lenses.

I have made a point of shooting with this pearl of a lens, especially since this autumn has been among the most beautiful ever here in Oklahoma, and not only have I enjoyed the excellent build quality and handling characteristics, which come from an era of superb camera craftsmanship, I can say without reservation that this lens is as sharp as I could want, even at wide open at f/2.0.

Hawken is a gorgeous dog, but can be hard to photograph sometimes because he is so friendly and curious, he comes over to you. For this image, he and I had been for a walk, so he was resting.
Hawken is a gorgeous dog, but can be hard to photograph sometimes because he is so friendly and curious, he comes over to you. For this image, he and I had been for a walk, so he was resting.
The neighbors kids brought their Chihuahua, Chi Chi, to visit their chickens.
The neighbors kids brought their Chihuahua, Chi Chi, to visit their chickens.

If you get a chance to pick up this lens and are either a Nikon shooter, or have a Nikkor lens adaptor for a mirrorless camera, by all means get it. It is a pearl.

This maple leaf came from our tree in the front yard, which I planted 15 years ago, when it was just a leafless stick. Now it is three stories tall.
This maple leaf came from our tree in the front yard, which I planted 15 years ago, when it was just a leafless stick. Now it is three stories tall.

Another 85mm???

Autumn leaves take on subtle color on this rainy afternoon.
Autumn leaves take on subtle color on this rainy afternoon.

I admit I might have a lens addiction problem.

In my defense, this most recent purchase was delayed for months while I searched and searched for a bargain on eBay.

My new/used Nikkor 85mm f/2.0 sits mounted on my Fuji mirrorless moments after I got it from eBay. In practice, I have a matching screw-in steel hood for it.
My new/used Nikkor 85mm f/2.0 sits mounted on my Fuji mirrorless moments after I got it from eBay. In practice, I have a matching screw-in steel hood for it.

I know I already have a couple of 85mm lenses, and that I can make 85mm with several zoom lenses. This 85mm, the Nikkor 85mm AI-S f/2.0, is of 1980s vintage. I had one for years in the 1990s and 2000s, and never used it as much as I should have. I sold it during a period of purge when I went digital, and missed this lens more than any other of the bunch, including the 24mm f/2.0, the 35mm f/2.0, and the 105mm f/1.8. The 85mm kept calling me back.

At my wife Abby's urging, the first frame with this classic lens was of our Chihuahua, Summer.
At my wife Abby’s urging, the first frame with this classic lens was of our Chihuahua, Summer.

Of note is that this lens, unlike my other 85mm lenses, has the vintage Nikkor seven-straight-bladed aperture, and should create beautiful 14-point sunstars.

It's fall in Oklahoma, and a beautiful one. This image was made this afternoon, though when the sun comes out, I'll be at it again.
It’s fall in Oklahoma, and a beautiful one. This image was made this afternoon, though when the sun comes out, I’ll be at it again.

This lens has what I think is an undeserved reputation as not very sharp, but today I was able to get very nice sharpness wide open at f/2.0, with just a tiny squinch of sharpening in Lightroom. And at f/2.0, it yields very nice wispy bokeh.

Welcome back, old friend.

Rain clings to berries on a fence near my garden, shot with my new classic 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor at f/2.0. It sharpened up nicely without adding much noise in Lightroom. The feathery bokeh is outstanding.
Rain clings to berries on a fence near my garden, shot with my new classic 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor at f/2.0. It sharpened up nicely without adding much noise in Lightroom. The feathery bokeh is outstanding.

Photography in the Margins

A poet recites esoteric verse.
A poet recites esoteric verse.

I spent an evening this week with some friends old and new at a poetry/fiction reading event at a home here in Ada. Lit by Christmas lights, candles, and camp fires, it really was photography pushed to the edge of all the margins: ISO 6400, aperture f/1.4, shutter speeds down to 1/8th of a second.

I shot it with my Fuji mirrorless and the magnificent Pentax K-Mount 50mm f/1.4. The results are messy in a great way; the chaos and intimacy of the imagery mirrors the chaos and intimacy of the participants and their words.

The evening was quiet and warm, so we mostly sat on the ground to listen.
The evening was quiet and warm, so we mostly sat on the ground to listen.
A friend listens to verse on this warm evening.
A friend listens to verse on this warm evening.
A single light catches the poet, and elements inside my 50mm f/1.4, to create a sense of the rhyme.
A single light catches the poet, and elements inside my 50mm f/1.4, to create a sense of the rhyme.
Mac recites verse, some of which she had never shared before. The light in the upper left corner is the moon.
Mac recites verse, some of which she had never shared before. The light in the upper left corner is the moon.
A camera and a cup of tea sit on a table.
A camera and a cup of tea sit on a table.
The evening began and ended with excellent conversation.
The evening began and ended with excellent conversation.
The fire in the front yard turns to coals as the evening ages.
The fire in the front yard turns to coals as the evening ages.

More from the Mamiya Sekor

The Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 sits in my dressing room today.
The Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 sits in my dressing room today.

Here are a few more images from the Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 I recently bought on eBay for just a few dollars, shot on my Fujifilm X-T10 with an M42 screw-mount adaptor.

Hawken Rifle Trail, our Irish wolfhound, enjoys an evening walk.
Hawken Rifle Trail, our Irish wolfhound, enjoys an evening walk.
Marigold color is muted in hazy evening air.
Marigold color is muted in hazy evening air.
Flare creates a dream-like effect on this morning glory vine.
Flare creates a dream-like effect on this morning glory vine.
Wheat grass gently sways in the evening air.
Wheat grass gently sways in the evening air.

The Way They Made Them

Our Rose-of-Sharon bush in the back yard is always a good place to start taking pictures, like this one shot with the Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 on my Fuji mirrorless.
Our Rose-of-Sharon bush in the back yard is always a good place to start taking pictures, like this one shot with the Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 on my Fuji mirrorless.

Sometimes when we see an old tractor, a restored antique firearm, or even a beautiful old house, an aphorism that sometimes comes to mind is, “They don’t make them like they used to.”

Such a phrase came to my mind when I opened box from eBay recently to find the Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 I ordered. As soon as I pulled it out of the bubble wrap, I was amazed by its smooth, slow, well-oiled focus mechanism, it’s heavy-checkered focus ring, and the fact that it didn’t make any sound when I shook it.

As soon as I pulled the Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 out of the box from eBay, my wife commented, "It looks brand new." In a way, that's a little sad, because it means this lens was probably stored, not taking pictures, for most of its life.
As soon as I pulled the Mamiya Sekor SX 200mm f/3.5 out of the box from eBay, my wife commented, “It looks brand new.” In a way, that’s a little sad, because it means this lens was probably stored, not taking pictures, for most of its life.

I bought this lens as part of an ongoing effort to open a new avenue of photographic creativity and mastery that started with the purchase of a Fujifilm X-T10 mirrorless camera in July, for the expressed purpose of bringing old lenses back to life using various adaptors.

If you are trying to find a lens that that makes pictures with a retro look, this one does the trick. It’s just a teensy bit soft wide open, and has that slightly-ratty bokeh of a lens designed an built by humans, in this case in Japan.

The mechanics and optics in this lens are good, especially considering I paid so little for it.
The mechanics and optics in this lens are good, especially considering I paid so little for it.

Most of the lenses of this era were mechanically sturdy, heavy, all-metal tools that weren’t as good optically as today’s hardware, which, since the early 2000s, have been getting optically better but mechanically more and more plasticky. This helps hold down cost and weight.

We are, however, seeing a reverse in this trend in the latest lenses coming from Sigma, Sony, Nikon, and Fuji, who have discovered a new market for craftsmanship.

The Mamiya Sekor 200mm f/3.5 is an M42 screw-mount lens, and I use it with a cheap pass-through adaptor to mount it on my Fuji. Focus and exposure are entirely manual. Because the M42 mount isn’t very precise, when the Sekor is mounted, the focus scale and the aperture ring face down, and the aperture pin strikes a rim on the adaptor, locking it to the f/stop you pick before mounting it. This is fine with me, since I don’t use the focus scale much, and I got this lens intending to mostly shoot with it wide open, at f/3.5.

This frame is cropped to show about the maximum amount of sharpness I could coax out of this lens, with the help of our Chihuahua, Summer.
This frame is cropped to show about the maximum amount of sharpness I could coax out of this lens, with the help of our Chihuahua, Summer.

F/3.5 seemed to be a tipping point for lenses made in the 1970s, presumably due to manufacturing limits that resulted in diminishing results with larger apertures, as well as a photographic community that is far less obsessed with selective focus and bokeh as it is today.

Being able to focus a lens is a rarer commodity than it was 25 years ago, but it seems to be making a little bit of a comeback with the retro film scene. I look forward to grabbing this lens for all kinds of creative endeavors.

Testing a manual-focus lens on the neighbor's chickens seems like cheating: they are contrasty and spotted and interesting-looking, all of which makes focusing on them easy.
Testing a manual-focus lens on the neighbor’s chickens seems like cheating: they are contrasty and spotted and interesting-looking, all of which makes focusing on them easy.