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Old Film Camera lens and digital compatibility

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by WilliamIII, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. WilliamIII

    WilliamIII Guest

    I have one AF 35-105 Nikon Lens 1:3.5-4.5 and one one AF Nikon ED 70-300 1:4-5.6D

    I understand that both will fit and operate with automatic focusing on the newest Nikon digital SLRs, are there any issues I should be aware of? I understand that the newer ED lens I have is more compatible with Digital but I am not sure why.

    As you can see I am new to digital and do not yet own a Nikon digital camera. I was considering the D-200 but I have heard that that camera had some noise problems shooting at extreme low light level at 3200 ASA. Any advice on which camera is best for low light level work and how to reduce noise would be appreciated
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2007
  2. You may know this already by virtue of using Nikon film bodies, but just in case..... The 'AF' lenses use the older generation AF system using a lug in the camera body to control the lens' focus. The current AF-S generation lenses use ring motors in the lens body itself - a great improvement in speed. The AF lenses are slower and seem to 'hunt' more than the new stuff, but otherwise they will work fine in the new DSLR bodies. Either system is dependent on the sophistication of the the camera's AF sensor system, with the high-dollar cameras having the better sensor arrays.

    Neither AF system will work very well in really low light levels. Nikon claims that they won't work at all at effective apertures of 5.6 or smaller (not true), but that's just their way of avoiding complaints in that department. One thing that might help in these situations is to attach a modern speedlight like the SB-800. You can turn the flash head off, but it will still emit infrared light prior to shutter release to help the AF sensors out. The newest flash connector cord (SC-29 I think?) has it's own IR emitter that can add to what the flash puts out. I'm not sure if the cord's emitter will work with no flash attached. I could hook mine up and check if you want.

    I'm not aware that an ED lens is better than any other in the AF department per se, but it may have some qualities that will indirectly affect the AF system. The AF system uses contrast as it's main measuring stick, so maybe the reduced reflections, etc of an ED helps in that department. Plus most ED lenses are on the higher end of the quality spectrum. I should point out that ED is a designation Nikon has used consistently to describe its 'extra-low dispersion' coatings. Although these coatings have gone through several generations of improvements, the ED designation has stayed the same.

    I think you'll find that noise at low light levels is one of the Achilles heels of all digital sensors, regardless of brand. I've never used a D-200 so I can't help there. I have a D1H, D1X, D2H, and D2X and this low-level noise is a persistent issue. In my experience, the CCD sensors in the D1 series cameras is much better in this regard than the CMOS sensors in the D2 series. If I was going to concentrate on low light situations, I'd consider a used D1X over any of the newer models. It's a pro body with a 5.74 MP sensor, but it doesn't have some of the improvements in electronics of the newer models.

    Other than that, I'd suggest a noise reducing software program. NeatImage is what I use and it works pretty well, although even it won't eliminate all the spurious white dots you get in a dark background from a CMOS sensor at 3200 ISO. NoiseNinja is another program that is pretty popular.

    Hope this helps. I'm operating off the top of my head here, so anyone else feel free to correct me if I misstated anything.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2007
  3. Jaws


    Mar 27, 2007
    Columbia, MD
    One thing you should know is that your lenses which were designed for film cameras, although they are compatible with the digital cameras, will have their field of view/focal length affected by the cropping of the digital sensor. The digital sensor has a 1.5x cropping factor.

    So, your 35-105mm lens will function as a 52.5-157.5mm lens, and your 70-300mm lens will function as a 105-450mm lens.

    It doesn't really add telephoto capabilities to the lens, but it crops the image so that it's the same view as a lens with more telephoto reach.

    If you handhold your lenses, you need to take this into consideration when deciding what is the slowest shutter speed that you can handhold the lens without getting a blurry photo. This cropping factor does affect the slowest shutter speed due to it magnifying the lens' capability.
  4. older AF lenses on DSLR

    If you should consider the D40 and D40x instead of the D200 you should know that they do not have a motor to drive the screw drive focus mechanism on the older AF lenses.

    As for noise on the D200, how often will you want to shoot above ISO 400?

  5. WilliamIII

    WilliamIII Guest

    Thanks to all for the very useful information. During my black and white film era I shot above ISO (it was ASA then) 100 percent of the time, I used Tri-X rated at 650 which is normal using C-76 (D76 with a Crone additive)

    I also pushed some Tri-X to 1600 and 3200 ASA for some shots; for those rolls, I used the XRI Perfection chemistry and found that the grain at 3200 is less than what one usually gets from 800 ASA Tri-X processed in D-76.

    I also experimented with the new (in 1982) Kodak 2475 rated at 1000 ASA.

    I was shooting a lot at night in San Francisco with lights from streetlights and store windows only. All hand held as the subject matter was male prostitutes and other street people. I had to be unobtrusive and ready to move fast so no tripods.

    The same for shooting on the street and in pubs in Belfast in the 6 counties... "northern Ireland" as its known to the rest of the world. I shot Ektachrome 400 there and pushed to 800 for some indoor pub shots, I had those processed locally in Belfast. My notes say I shot some E-400 pushed to 1600 and 3200 but my photos from that shoot are in storage as well as my notes so I can't remember taking those pictures....or the quality level!

    I wonder if there is less noise apparent with digital using the black and white mode?

    I found that shooting indoor sports that I needed faster ISO ability for digital color.

    I really hated using strobes and never acquired much skill as a result. I did find them useful for filling in shadow detail in bright sunlight using color film.

    I figure I will have to look for some 1.5 lens but they do seem to be rare and expensive.
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