AI 135 f/2 test photos

Joined
Apr 11, 2007
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Holyoke, MA USA
Thought you folks might be interested in a few test photos taken with the AI 135 f/2 purchased two weeks ago from Cameta (I've been away in FL for a week of that time). Rember this photo?

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I plan to use the lens for available light photos/portraits and for some outside/inside sports shooting where zone focusing is appropriate. Since I didn't have people available to use, I used "found objects" in my immediate vicinity instead, but they give me a pretty good idea of what to expect. Since the lens will rarely be used with a tripod, I did the tests hand-held, again to simulate what I might expect in actual use.

These pictures were shot jpeg with the D300 at "medium/fine" picture quality and "low" noise reduction settings, run through DxO for tweaking, were reduced again 50% in dimensional size, and a touch of contrast applied where needed. Care was taken to avoid any possible jpeg degradation by saving to new files at all stages and using highest possible copy settings (99%) until the final web copy.

These are 1520 pixel (long size) photos that you can see in full size by clicking on the reduced photo, and then clicking again in the window that comes up.

We start with two low-iso shots, one a backlit indoor shot focused on the edge of the base of the table lamp, and another a rainy-day outdoor shot of a neighbor's caddy grill, focused on the left side (from camera view) of the grill.

#1 Table lamp and accessories. 1/250s f/2.0 iso200
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F/2 base iso200 shot....focus was done on the sharp right edge of the lamp base...candle is about two inches behind...stack of drink holders about three inches in front. No contrast applied....shot "as is" from a distance of about 6' (and as such might use a contrast bump but I like it as is...see discussion near end of post).

#2 Caddy grill on showery day. 1/1600s f/2.0 iso100
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Neighbor's car covered by drops of water from light rain. Unremarkable, until one remembers that this f/8 quality is available at f/2, as here, on a grey low-contrast day. No contrast applied; shot from a distance of about 20-25'.

Now we move on to some high-iso shots taken of some antiques on top of my TV set, given to me by my second wife (I marketed these brands at the mid-point of my career for Heublein, Inc.). Again, the only lighting is side-lighting from the front window on a grey, drizzly day. Distance is about 9'.

The first shot is at f/2; the second is at f/2.8 to illustrate the bokeh at these two "fast" apertures.

#3 Grey Poupon Mustard, Brands A1 Mint, Heublein Club Martini, and A1 Steak Sauce bottles 1/320s f/2.0 iso2200
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Natural but weak late afternoon filtered light requiring high iso. This was taken at f/2 handheld to show the bokeh of the background as well as pretty good sharpness for a high iso picture. Just a touch (+10 in CaptureNX) of contrast was applied.

The grey you see is dust....not haze (The bottles were sitting on top of the TV set, and I am a terrible house keeper). The colors, I should note, of all of these shots are highly, highly accurate. Focus was on the top of the middle bottle (Heublein Club Dry Martini).

#4 Grey Poupon Mustard, Brands A1 Mint, Heublein Club Martini, and A1 Steak Sauce bottles 1/320s f/2.8 iso4500
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This is shot just like the prior picture...but this one was shot at f/2.8 to show the slight increase in background detail and bokeh. Notice that iso jumped all the way to 4500 to accomodate this change in f-stop, but the color balance and picture clarity didn't change much...just a bit of "film-like" grainy noise and a slight blurring from the in-camera noise reduction. Again, a slight +10 (CaptureNX) contrast bump was applied.

This camera (the D300) is pretty remarkable in its high-iso cababilities, especially when combined with DxO's noise processing and to me this is a highly acceptable photo result.

Now to a photo that shows the lens weakness/quirks.

#5 Son's guitar case; cat's fur 1/250s f/2.0 iso2500
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F/2 shot of my son's guitar case resting on chair infested with cat's fur. The light source is a window just to the left of the chairs back, and the focus point is the guitar case's lower corner stiching. The distance is about 6'.

This lens was designed with a known weakness, which the designer's considered a strength. Within ten feet, the lens develops an under-corrected CA "haze" that was considered a benefit in getting creamy portraits. I had to apply substantial contrast to overcome it here...+60 in CaptureNX (and it also explains why the bottles at 9' required a bit of a contrast bump.) Still, this shot is very sharp edge to edge...notice the detail of the cat's fur and the grain and stitches on the case.

The corner flare is obvious. This results from the window light bouncing inside the lens hood on the "opposite" corner (upper left, sun; lower right, bounce). This reflects the len's early origins ('76-77) and subsequent lack of coating. If anybody questions why lenses became coated, then multicoated, then multicoated for digital....this flare shows why.

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I hope you enjoyed this little "tour" of the AI 135 f/2 lens. It clearly is not an all-purpose lens, but it seems to me under the right circumstances it can be an excellent available light or portrait lens, kind of a "poor man's 85/1.4".

Your comments and critique are welcome.
 
Joined
May 21, 2007
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Toronto, ON
It's a great telephoto for portraits too!

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Both at f/2
 
Joined
Apr 11, 2007
Messages
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Location
Holyoke, MA USA
Do cat portraits count, Taylor?

Thanks, Taylor....going to do my first one (portrait) tomorrow. But I practiced on the cat this evening, even though I had to hand hold:

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I'm not sure if the lens doesn't have a slightly blurred lower right corner...I'm also going to do some technical focusing tests tomorrow or Tuesday. Between portrait and test, I should have a good fix on it by then.
 
Joined
May 21, 2007
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Toronto, ON
Looks like a slight backfocus in that photo, are you using the "green dot" to help you focus? The right corner might just be an area that's more out of the depth-of-field.
 
Joined
Apr 11, 2007
Messages
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Location
Holyoke, MA USA
Taylor - I've confirmed backfocus using the focusing grid that I use to autotune the AF lenses. It focus from the plane of the focus point back @f/2.0. In other words, focus on the nose and you'll really be focused on the eyes. What I don't know is whether wearing glasses is affecting this or not.

The "green dot" doesn't work with manual focus so far as I can tell. And without a CPU, the AutoTune feature also doesn't work. Iim going to contact Nikon about what (if anything) can be done, at what cost. May or may not be possible or worth adjusting.

I also tested for the lower right hand softness, and it was an illusion. The lower right corner is as crisp as anywhere else. I was only concerned because I got some flare in that corner on an earlier test as well.

ps. Your are really good to pick up the backfocus on this picture...I noticed it much more on another I took. On this I was focused on the bridge of the nose just in front of the eyes, so yes, his head is backfocused to a degree.
 
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