The Past Made Perfect

I like the new stuff—the cameras, lenses and Speedlights. I like learning about them, working with them and figuring out how they fit into what I like to shoot and the way I like to shoot it (and sometimes, how they change the way I like to shoot). But every once and a while I get an updated classic to play with—a proven winner, useful, versatile, now with added features from today’s technology.

Recently I got three of those: the updated versions of our classic f/1.4 primes—the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G,
50mm f/1.4G and 85mm f/1.4G.

I’ve got a special attachment to the fast primes. My first camera was an F2, and because I wore glasses I had trouble with ground-glass and even split-image rangefinder focusing. So I favored fast primes because they were so bright that I could focus in almost every light condition. As I got more serious about my photography I realized there were other things to like about those lenses—like great results in low light and isolating my subject from the background with the shallow depth of field they provided. And I learned the value of the photojournalist’s technique of using depth of field to call attention to a subject.

Then came autofocus and versatile zoom lenses; the former solved my focusing problems and the latter showed me that carrying one lens was easier than carrying three.

But what goes around comes around, and when we introduced the new 35mm, 50mm and 85mm primes, it was time for me to find out how today’s technical advances matched up to focal lengths from the old days—advances like Nano Crystal Coat (an antireflective coating developed by Nikon that virtually eliminates internal lens element reflections), aspherical lens elements (for sharper results), ED glass (for optimum correction of chromatic aberrations) and AF-S silent wave motors (a responsive motor system for instant start-up, highspeed AF and incredible accuracy).

And I wanted to see how those lenses performed when matched with the advanced imaging sensors of today’s Nikon D-series cameras.

We’d also updated one of my favorite zooms—the 24-120mm that’s been in our lineup for over a decade with its f/3.5 (at the wide end) to f/5.6 (at the tele end) variable aperture. What’s the improvement? Well, you’ll note from its complete nomenclature—AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR—that we’ve added vibration reduction technology and given it a constant aperture of f/4 over the entire zoom range. We also gave it Nano Crystal Coat. It’s an FX-format lens that when used with DX cameras provides a magnification factor that makes it the equivalent of a 36-180mm zoom.

Of course, despite my shooting theme of old is new again, I couldn’t resist adding a new zoom range lens to my current traveling bag of goodies: the AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR, an FX-format lens (the equivalent of a 45-450mm zoom when used on a DX camera) that’s ideal for...well, travel.

So those are the new and improved lenses I’ve had my hands on recently, and let me tell you, improved really means improved when the gear’s capabilities are advanced by current technologies while care is taken to preserve the features that made the classic a classic in the first place.