Saving money………

6 years, 3 months ago 6

I got a few surprising emails after yesterday’s post, the most interesting comment was this one; “I was surprised that you seemed to favor some of the older lenses to the newest ones, are they really better?”  Let me attempt to clear that up.” it depends!”  First I own the 16-35 AF-S VR f4, the current newest super wide, modern Nikkor lens.  I also own the 24-120 AF-S VR f 4 once again, the newest, and latest lens of it’s focal length.  Nikon’s most modern lenses employ some great technology including very fast focusing speed, modern integrated coatings to reduce flare and increase contrast, and Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass.  All this adds up tot some of the finest lenses we’ve ever seen in history.  Now, having said that, that doesn’t mean some of these same engineers didn’t design some exceptional lenses in the past!  Choosing gear is always a compromise between budget, needs, and the kind of work you do!  I will use my self as an example because I don’t know anyone else as well as I know myself.


I shoot, mostly, subjects that don’t move very much; landscapes, close-ups, old rusting cars and trucks, old historic buildings, and Americana subjects.  Therefore, I don’t need super fast focusing, and don’t need VR very much since I shoot from a tripod 90% of the time .  I also have limited funds to apply to equipment, and lastly, I’m a throwback!  I still love the feel of the old lenses, how smooth they focus with such gloriously tight fit.  So shooting with manual focus lenses is not an issue for me.  It takes more time, and you have to be very careful, however, you never miss a shot because autofocus didn’t work!!   98% of the time my autofocus lenses work just fine. The truth is, I just love shooting the way I learned to, long ago, turning the actual aperture ring, and focusing manually.  The modern Nikon DSLRs that I use the most, all have a wonderful focusing aid for manual focusing that is deadly accurate, and once you get use to it, you can do it pretty rapidly, as if I need to focus rapidly!!!


There is another reason to use some of the older glass, you can!!!  Nikon in it’s infinite wisdom has never made older glass obsolete.  The venerable F mount has never fundamentally changed, and all modern serious DSLR are set-up to take full advantage of the older lenses!  So I guess that was a long answer to your question, yes, the new lenses are great, but the older glass is still pretty spectacular as well.  It’s a matter of using what you enjoy, and what works best for  you.


Now let’s talk money.  Let’s start with bodies.  I don’t write about any other brands of gear here except Nikon, because I’m simply not as familiar with other brands.  My advise would be to buy the most current cameras available, as the technology continue to speed ahead.   The latest bodies, especially the D7000, D600, D800 and D4 are all marvelous examples of the camera makers craft.  I personally use the D7000, the D600, and D800 the most, once again just don’t need the speed of the D4, though it is a marvelous camera!


The reason for writing this is I meet a lot of folks that really want to shoot great images, but simply don’t have the budget for the latest most expensive gear.  Truthfully, I’m proud to work for Nikon, because it is obvious that their philosophy makes allowances for those that may have to find an alternative way to still be a serious shooter.  With a reasonable budget you can own a great camera body and until you can come up with the cash to buy the latest gear, you have a wealth of older lenses to choose from!!  I’m currently using the D600 a lot with some of the older, less expensive, manual focus glass and it is a tremendous marriage of the old and the new!!!!


In no area is budget cutting more successful than in close-up shooting, the image below was made with a used 70-210 AF Nikkor lens I picked up for $130., with addition of a Nikon 5T close-up diopter that is long discontinued but can sometimes be found used for around $100!!!!  Automatic extension tubes (around $195.) also work great!!!



Do a little research!  My favorite books on older glass were done by my buddy Moose Peterson, they are still available;

Magic Lantern Guides: NIKON Lenses by B. Peterson (Jun 30, 2000)

These should be available as e books (hint, hint Moose!!)


Also feel free to email me with any questions, I love to talk old glass, and have been studying them for over 40 years!


The bottom line is that photography can be an immensely satisfying hobby or passion, and it doesn’t have to break the bank!  Enjoy!


In Him,


the pilgrim


Photo Note: Top shot?  D700 (12 mega-pixels) and the Nikon 200 Micro Nikkor, had it for twenty years!



6 Responses

  1. Bill Pritchard says:


    I have been told by several camera store people that the older film lenses should not be used with Digital cameras. You do not agree with their view ? They were selling me anything, we were just talking.

    I have been looking for a good macro lens but have not found one yet.


    • admin says:

      When the D800 came out, it was suggested that it needed to be used with only very best glass currently available. I was curious and took a trip and shot only older manual focus glass with the D800! I can’t say that the best new glass would not have been even better, but my stuff was spectacular and met my standards, and I have to tell you my standards are extremely high for color and sharpness!! So it has been my experience that old film era lenses, if tthey were legendarily sharp then, if in good condition, are still that sharp, now, even on the D800 and D600!!! Hope that helps!

    • David Wilson says:

      If you are comfortable shooting with manual focusing and working with the metering challenges, the old lenses work fine. The difficulty comes for those that are uncomfortable working without the assistance from the camera to get the exposure correct and to focus. With my D50 I have used my 55mm f2.8 AIS Micro Nikkor and my 105 mm f2.5 AIS lenses. I use the camera built-n display to tell me where the highlights are blown and/or the histogram to get the exposure right. I use the focus indicator help me nail the focus.

      I love the images from the 105mm lens. However, when I’m trying to make photos of the high school band’s halftime show, these lenses stay home and I use my 18-70 mm zoom or my 70-300 mm zoom. These lenses are slower (f3.4-4.5 and f4-5.6) but they auto-focus and work with the camera’s metering. So, as the pilgrim indicated, using the older glass depends upon your subject and what you need the equipment to do to help you produce great images.

  2. admin says:

    Well stated! You hit the nail on the head, determine what you need the camera to do for you in each situation, then select the lenses that “meet that need”! I own a number of current AF-S lenses and use them “most of the time”. My pleasure in using manual focus glass is the joy of a throwback experience and the knowledge that those old friends won’t make me pay an optical penalty in the results! Thanks for your comment!!

  3. Jenn says:

    Assuming that your audience is not made up entirely of Nikonians (ahem, me), let me just share some insight as a Pentaxian!

    I shoot with a Pentax K5 (which was the latest & still greatest Pentax available) when I purchased it a little over a year ago. Like Bill, I agree with spending money on the technology in the body if the type of work you do lends itself to manual focusing, so that way you can take full advantage of the range of lenses available. The fastest lens I have a 50/1.4 plus a mediocre zoom (which I’ll be using for trade in this coming year). The rest are used MF lenses; one seriously lacks in color & contrast, but it’s sharpness is RIDICULOUSLY good, so much so, that I’m willing to take the shot into Photoshop and correct what’s lacking. It’s a 100mm lens that set me back all of $80.

    Pentax, like Nikon, was smart about making their lenses trascend technological advances – the K mount dates all the way back to 1975. My first 50mm was a 1.7 aperture that dated back close to around the time that the K mount was introduced. One of the best images I got with it was of my cat’s front paws. The image was so tack sharp that you could see every individual hair on his paws, as in razor sharp.

    Camera brand aside, I couldn’t agree more that legacy lenses are some of the best money you’ll spend. They are affordable, feel great in hand with smooth focusing and have a way of making you feel a little more like an actual photographer as you spin the aperture ring…

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