Town & Country - one day, one camera, one lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Ray Sachs, Nov 1, 2014.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Hi all,

    I bought a used Zeiss 21mm f2.8 for the Df a while back from B&H, but well within the return period, Nikon announced it's 20mm f1.8 which seemed like a better fit for me for a number of reasons, despite the Zeiss' AMAZING clarity and IQ. So I returned the Zeiss and bought the Nikon and while I can't say I regret it - the Nikon is a great lens and really IS a better fit for how I'll mostly use it, and less than 1/2 of what I paid for the Zeiss - there's just something about Zeiss glass that's indescribably wonderful and I do miss it. I have it in the RX1 and had it with the 21, but the 21 no more. So I started looking into Zeiss options at the wide end, where I figured I'd get by just fine without auto-focus and found a used 25mm f2.8 for a "normal" lens price (ie, around $600). So I bought one and got it on Wednesday and, long story short, it may be on my Df about 90% of the time. According to Lloyd Chambers, the lens is actually 25.7mm, so roughly half-way between 24 and 28mm, which I often have trouble deciding between as an all-day prime lens. So with this, I'm sort of in a sweet spot that I can just stick this on and forget it. It's also got wonderful close focus capabilities so it can actually serve pretty much any of my very limited macro needs (although I have a Tamron 90mm macro/portrait lens for when I want to get crazy-close).

    So I stuck this on the Df and early on Thursday awoke to dense fog, so I took the short drive out to my favorite ag preserve and shot a foggy sunrise. And realized it was gonna be such a nice day, I got home and immediately drove to the train and spent most of the day shooting in Philly. I took my 135mm AI lens along and did about five minutes of compressed perspective shooting with it on Philly's new walkway over the Schuylkill River, but basically I shot for many hours just with the Zeiss 25mm. I've never spent a day shooting in such wildly different contexts as what I had first thing in the morning and then the rest of the day in Philly and really it was kind of an exhilarating day of "pure" photography with basically one lens. The new lens was part of it, but it was also just a great day to shoot. I've been enjoying shooting mostly with the G7X for the last couple of weeks, but I was really ready to pick up the DF and do some REAL shooting. And I have to say, I can pretty much LIVE in this lens. It's manual focus but very easy to focus critically and very easy to use for zone focus - I never miss AF with lenses of this focal length. I think for anything longer than about 50mm, I'd really prefer AF (although the MF 135 works for landscape and other static subjects and it's nice and small and light to stick in the bag). But for wider focal lengths, I seem to be fine with a good MF lens. And this is a VERY good MF lens. It's not quite as magical as the 21, which had a clarity I can't quite describe, sort of like the 35 Sonnar on the RX1, but even a bit punchier. But it's CLOSE to that magic, and it's still the best 24-28 lens I've ever shot with and something I felt immediately at home with in my favorite focal length neighborhood. Who knows, maybe 25.7 will end up being my "goldilocks" focal length...

    So anyway, here's a pretty good sample, first of the moody foggy morning shots, then of the bustling city shots, with a mx of street and non-street...


    15649360976_53080d1563_h.jpg Stroud in Fog by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15671165641_fdac97bdfb_h.jpg Stroud in Fog by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15674570351_d76a44ea06_h.jpg Stroud in the Fog by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15674568171_706152994e_h.jpg Stroud in the Fog by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15056540674_663c9373b5_h.jpg Stroud in the Fog by ramboorider1, on Flickr


    15676503295_8d7581e6d0_h.jpg Rittenhouse Square by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15674579721_03c2ef7311_h.jpg Schuylkill Walkway by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15678093182_0065babc84_b.jpg Philly Zeiss-166-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15056552834_dfad82678a_h.jpg Philly Zeiss-146-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15056554274_b27df080b3_h.jpg Philly Zeiss-75-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    And some street stuff, so those who are sick of street stuff can tune out now... :cool:

    [​IMG]Philly Zeiss-466-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    A brief commentary on the state of race and communication in the US in 2014 - I even like how the white guy has the black phone and the black guy has the white phone:

    [​IMG]Communication in 2014 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15491114298_f503bf0cf7_b.jpg Philly Zeiss-200-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15652762026_634e72eb23_h.jpg Philly Zeiss-391-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    15490609309_c7b18beb97_b.jpg Philly Zeiss-426-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    • Like Like x 14
  2. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    May 13, 2013
    A fabulous series (again). There is indeed something special about those Zeiss lenses.
    If I have to choose: #3 and #14 are my favorites.
    I am sooooooooo jealous.....
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Nice series. The top one, though, is so evocative of so much . . .

    Cheers, Jock
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Boid

    Boid All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    That second image did it for me. I spent a good 5 minutes staring at it. It's perfectly composed. Really lovely. The rest of the pictures are stellar as well.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. RT Panther

    RT Panther All-Pro

    Dec 25, 2012
    First 5 shots = "atmosphere" and rock!!! :2thumbs:

  6. christilou

    christilou Legend

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    Number four and the red door, magical images :) I too have this lens on my M and also on the A7R. I tend to use it mostly on the M as it corrects better. I can't say it's a natural fit for me as I think I'm a 50mm shooter essentially but it comes into it's own when visiting cities and I've taken reasonable close ups with it too. It was my best bargain ever. I bought it used (out of the box once apparently) for half it's retail price. The guy was from Finland and enclosed the receipt. So glad I did!
    • Like Like x 1
  7. rbelyell

    rbelyell All-Pro

    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    good series ray. the 25 is purported to be the best of a very good bunch, and ive thought so as well. the bokeh is lovely, esp when set against that biting clarity.

    i really enjoyed the street shots. how do you find the volume of the Df shutter? is it discreet enough for this kind of work, or do subjects prick up their ears post-snap?
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Brilliant set!!!!
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    This is the f2.8 version Tony - they make 'em at the same focal length at f2.0 and f2.8 and there are tradeoffs. But with the Df's low light capability, f2.8 is more than fast enough for me in a wide angle and the f 2.0 is considerably larger, more expensive, and lacks the close focus capability. So for me, it was a no-brainer, particularly when finding one, as Christina did for around half the price of new. It doesn't have quite the amazing transparent pop of the 21 f2.8, but it's close and it's a focal length I can shoot with all day, while the 21 is getting just a bit wider and into semi-specialty territory. So this one is a keeper and will probably spend the majority of the time on the Df, although this weekend my mother-in-law and her dogs are visiting so the Nikon 85 f1.8 is living on the camera at the moment...

    • Like Like x 1
  10. rbelyell

    rbelyell All-Pro

    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    ray, how is the shutter noise for discreet street shooting?
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Oh yeah, sorry - spaced that part.

    I find it's fine for the vast majority of street shooting situations. I guess I wouldn't use it in a really quiet environment, but I'm rarely street shooting in really quiet environments. It's not a silent shutter by a long shot, although it's quieter and more muffled than most DSLR shutters. But on the streets of Philly or New York, or indoors in the public market where I often do some shooting when I'm in Philly, nobody hears it. Or, on the rare occasion they might, the reaction comes after the shot is in the camera, but it's really rare. I think it's more a matter of someone noticing the camera and that I'm actually shooting with it more than any sound the shutter makes. So to me the shutter is a non-issue except in extremely rare circumstances. But honestly, artistic merit or lack thereof aside, I think I finally have the technique for the kind of street work I mostly do pretty well nailed down and it's very rare that someone detects that I'm shooting with my camera when I'm on the street. And most people that are interesting enough to shoot are interesting specifically because they're too wrapped up in whatever they're doing to notice me at all as anything other than a peripheral shadow passing by. Like the guy demonstrating his fragrance sticks or the woman playing with the baby in the carriage or the older woman with the cane thinking HARD about what she was gonna buy to cook for dinner that night - I may as well have not been there for all they noticed me walking by. The Coolpix A and G7X are overwhelmingly more discrete cameras to use for this kind of thing than the Df, but I honestly think my rate of being noticed/detected is about the same with any of them. It happens but it's extremely rare anymore. And I think that's about 99.9% practice and the other tenth of a percent maybe related to the gear....

    • Like Like x 1
  12. donlaw

    donlaw All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Love this story and images.
    I used to have an extensive Contax SLR system and fell in love with the Zeiss lenses. It has been a long time since, but after seeing your results and reading your experiences, I may look into getting one for my Df.
    The 85mm f1.4 was one of my favorite. But that 21mm the best!
    • Like Like x 1
  13. rbelyell

    rbelyell All-Pro

    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    well don, i too come from the exact same background. you must be pretty juiced by the distagon 35/1.4 announcement. that was my fav by far, followed closely by the biotar 75/1.5 (exakta mount) and biometar 120/2.8 (P6 mount). now theres a kit!

    i will say i just copped a summarit 75/2.5 and while i ve only a few shots with it, i think its going to give the biotar a run. its in the supremely buttery bokeh that the tale will be told there, but the look is similar so far.

    ray, thanks for the reply, its very helpful. even as i'm more and more taken by my 6mp rd1, i must admit i see magic in that Df sensor. i just cant help thinking about pairing it with the above biometar--what portraits, oh my! and in any light because of the extraordinary high iso capability. when it comes under $1400 i think im in--even got the P6>F auto confirm adapter!
  14. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Thanks Don. I'm tempted by other Zeiss lenses too, but I'm really unsure about putting any real money into MF lenses longer than about 35-50mm. I have a really nice old Nikon 135 f2.8 AI lens that I picked up for about $150 and I love it, BUT I find myself basically unable to use it effectively for candid portraits, which is my favorite use for lenses in the 85-150 range. The Zeiss 85 and 100 are really nice and can sometimes be found for reasonable used prices, and the 135 f2.0 Sonnar is one of the great lenses ever made (but rarely sells for much below $2000), but I can't honestly see going that route given my preferred use and my obvious preference for AF for that use. But if you can use them effectively, by all means, they just don't make 'em better than Zeiss.

    And yeah, the 21 is just an amazing lens. I think the Nikon 20 is better for a walk around 20mm for my typical use, but that Zeiss 21 just created such amazing images that I think I might find a way to get it again someday. Now that I have this excellent 25, I wouldn't probably use the 21 as a normal walk around lens (and may not use the 20 that way now either), so having it available for certain days of architectural and/or landscape shooting would be less of a burden than it was when I was walking around with it on the camera all day. So maybe someday, but have a great Zeiss Sonnar in my RX1 already at 35mm and don't shoot much between 35 and 85, so probably these couple of Zeiss lenses at the wider end are the only ones I'd ever find use for on the Df. But I can find a LOT of uses for them! :cool: There's just nothing like great glass!

    • Like Like x 1
  15. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    The countryside pictures are beautiful. Wonderful mood.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. KillRamsey

    KillRamsey Super Moderator

    Jun 20, 2012
    Cambridge, MA
    Dammit Ray these are fantastic. I need to pay you a visit, ply you with beer, and spend a good long day out shooting. YOU shooting, me watching, that is.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Genster

    Genster Regular

    Dec 8, 2014
    Fantastic series Ray
    • Like Like x 1