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3 years, 4 months ago 51

I would like to encourage you to visit Scott Kelby’s blog today, right now!!!  I’m so very proud of Scott for doing what he is doing.  He has written a book, o.k. lots and lots of books, but this one is real departure for him.  He explains how it came about far better than I could so watch his 5 minute video where he talks about his new book,  then come back and let me finish the entry!


If you come to this blog, you certainly know that I have devoted my life to Jesus Christ, and you know that I have no problem, whatsoever, standing up for my faith.  I’ve know Scott for a long time and I’ve known he is a devoted Christian, and a wonderful father and husband, but he is not overt about his faith.  Don’t get me wrong if you’ve ever read any of his books, his stand is right there in black and white, but he doesn’t wear it on his shoulder, ( like some people we know! )  I’m sure Scott knows that coming out in the open like this might upset some people, and that is why I’m proud of him.  He did it anyway.  The scripture is very clear that if we are ashamed of Him He will be ashamed of us.  Scott certainly is not ashamed of his relationship with Jesus.


Have I taken a big risk by being so open about my walk with Him?  Yes and no, yes in that people can, and have, reacted to me the same as they will with Scott.  The difference is I’m not Scott Kelby.   Scott has an enormous following and has earned the respect and popularity with many, many people.  I know he knows, that this could not set well with a small portion those that follow his career.  The question is, if God calls you to do something, can you let that stop you?  We both know the answer to that, we can’t.  What Scott will learn is that when you make a stand for Him, He will bless you beyond measure!  How do I know this?  Well, if you have been here more than a few times you know that is exactly what He has done for me.


I’m very happy for Scott, because he has opened the door for even greater blessings than he has already received, and boy has he been blessed with a great family and wonderful people to work with.  Some would say that if you step out and proclaim your faith that you are taking a risk, I would say if you truly know Him, and don’t step out, that is the biggest risk of all!


I will be praying that God greatly honors Scotts releasing of this book.  That is an easy prayer to pray, because I know it is always God’s will that we make a stand for Him!


Be blessed,


the pilgrim



3 years, 4 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!



3 years, 4 months ago 11

When I got home last night from pro calls in Knoxville, I found a box from the UPS guy!  It was the long awaited new Nikon 70-200 AF-S VR f4 lens (above far right).   I’ve really been interested in the lens because it would complete my f4 series of Nikon’s top zooms of that speed range.   I wanted to wring it out and had a bunch of other lenses I wanted to compare it to.  So I took the following lenses and shot one of my favorite Christmas decorations our on the back deck.


First why do this????!!!  I was not worried about Nikon making a bad lens, and I wasn’t expecting any surprises but I have a personal philosophy that goes like this, Test your cameras and lenses and once you know they  are capable of making well exposed, tack sharp images, with accurate color, you will know when that’s not what you are getting, who is at fault!!!!  If I know my gear is capable, the only thing left to do, is make sure my technique is a good as my gear!!  The way to improve is to set standards and then work hard to meet them.  If you are wondering if it’s the lens or camera, how will you know when you’re getting your act together!?


So I tested the following lenses on a D600, set at ISO 800, and tripod mounted with the VR turned off for those lenses that had VR.  I used a remote release, the wireless Nikon ML-L3.


80-200 AF f 2.8 (the old push pull model from the 90′s)

70-200 f4  Manual Focus ( Last of the great MF push pull zooms from Nikon)

70-300 AF-S VR G f 4.5-5.6  (Current model)

80-200 Manual Focus f4.5 (the classic 1960′s and 70′s lens)

70-150 f3.5 Series E (made famous by the late Galen Rowell.  His Rainbow over the temple shot was made with this lens)

70-210 f4-5.6 AF

50-135 f3.5 Manual Focus

105 f 2.5  Manual Focus (Classic portrait lens from the 70′s)

70-300 AF f4.5-5.6 (older push pull model)

105 Micro Nikkor Manual focus f 2.8 (Set the standard for Micro lenses along with the 55 Micro Nikkor f 2.8)

24-120 AF-S VR G f4 (current and best 24-120 zoom)


This was the target


I could pull samples from each lens and publish them here,  but,  A. On the web you couldn’t see the difference between them (no lens was bad), and B.  You would strain your eyes terribly trying!!!!


Trust me, I just did, so let me tell you how I scored them!  (purely subjective by the way…..)


Best all around:  (Ease of use, overall sharpness, speed of focus, quality of construction, and price, plus effectiveness of VR, if it had it).


1.  The venerable 70-300 AF-S VR G f4.5-5.6.  Slightly less sharp than some of the others, but plenty sharp for almost any use.  Focuses fast, has very good VR ,(not up to the new 70-200 AF-S VR f4 though, it’s simply insane), Current Holiday price of a little under $400. makes it a steal!!!  Compact easy to carry, it’s a winner.


2. The new 70-200 AF-S VR f4  (killer VR, very sharp, almost as good as the sharpest lens tested, very fast focus, very well made, but lost some points on price, but worth it, if you need to shoot handheld and want all the rest!!)  Slightly bigger than the 70-300 AF-S VR.


3.  The 80-200 f 4.5 & 80-200 f4 manual focus classics (the sharpest lenses tested excluding the 105 Micro Nikkor which was our comparison lens.  Cheap (around $150. for mint ones), still readily available, but no VR, no auto focus, slow to work with, but they render superlative results if you are careful and patient, not so hot for action work.)


4.  The 70-210 f4-5.6 AF was the killer bargain of the bunch, still very available for around $120. to $150 bucks and tack sharp (among the three or four sharpest lenses tested!).  Auto focus is slow but it will focus very close and is made very well!  No VR.  If you happen to own Nikon 5T and 6T diopters they work great with it, and the MF 80-200 f4 as well.


The 24-120 was just thrown in to see how well it held up, it did very well, but is slightly less sharp than the sharpest lenses tested, but not enough to keep me from using it all the time!  It is still a very, very sharp lens.  Remember the comparisons were made at 100% crops

The 105 f 2.5 is still one of the best portrait lenses ever made and the 105 Micro Nikkor still will be my 105 Micro lens in the future.  The 50-135 and the 70-150 Series E are both tack sharp, and very useful when you want to carry a small manual focus lens, they held up to their sterling reputations without even sweating.  They also were tested among the upper half of sharpest lenses.  I’m very partial to the 50-135 since I used it to shoot much of my first America From 500 Feet book!  The print show form that book were 24X36 prints!!


Believe it or not the old 80-200 f 2.8 AF (not the new current III) was the weakest of them all.  Why did I not throw in the current 70-200 AF-S VR f 2.8 III?????  I am sure it would have tested right up at the top with the best lenses, but for me, it’s just to big and heavy to carry around. It is still the preferred lens for photojournalists and sports shooters who need fast focus and f 2.8 speed, and VR,  that’s just not me.


The good news is if you have the budget there are some astounding lenses out there to consider, and if you don’t, there are still great used lenses that perform very well too!!  Not getting super sharp telephoto shots??  It’s not the lens!




the pilgrim

3 years, 5 months ago 5

I don’t often pass these video clips along, but John Gompf has done it again and delivered a wonderful Christmas message to warm all our hearts, enjoy!  Go to the link below!


Joy ot the world,


the pilgrim