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Bright Idea: Adding Star Power
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Bright Idea: Adding Star Power

Creating a starburst in your photographs

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Comfort Zone

Ryan Brenizer on photographing weddings with prime NIKKORs

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4.1 Rating
Critical Focus: Getting the Most From Your D800

Michael Clark on getting the most out of your D800 HD-SLR

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4.4 Rating
Taking Pictures in Cold Weather

Weldon Lee has some tips to keep you taking pictures—even in the cold and snow.

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3.9 Rating
Tips and Techniques For High Flying Photos

Tom Bol discusses taking photos from hot air balloons, planes and helicopters

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Want Better Landscape Photos? First Check Your Definition of "Landscape"

Tony Sweet offers tips for better landscape…

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Vibration Reduction

Vibration Reduction (VR) is an image stabilization technology that minimizes blur caused by camera…

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3.9 Rating
Tips for Shooting Sports

Sports shooter Bill Sallaz knows what he wants and where to stand in order to get it

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Moiré & False Color

The role of the optical low pass filter in D-SLRs.

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4.5 Rating
Understanding Maximum Aperture

Learn how aperture affects the end-result image.

Beginner

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3.8 Rating
First Look: The All-Seeing, 360° Nikon Action Cam

Corey Rich describes his experience shooting with the KeyMission 360

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4.3 Rating
How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse

Learn the techniques needed to shoot solar eclipses from Mr. Eclipse, Fred Espenak

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Getting Started: How to Hold Your D-SLR Camera

Getting sharper, more in-focus pictures can be as simple as learning how…

Beginner

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4.3 Rating
How to Photograph Lightning

Storm chaser Jim Reed offers valuable tips for making photos of lighning while staying safe.

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Photographing Sports Indoors and Out

Capturing the action of a sporting event is easy when you follow a few simple…

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3D Focus Tracking

3D focus tracking automatically shifts the focus point to follow the movement of the subject. With the…

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3.2 Rating
Taking Close-up Photos

How do I take close-up photos of flowers and small objects?

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5.0 Rating
Outdoor Pursuit

Bill Hatcher photographs the impossible—well, let's say the extremely difficult.

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4.1 Rating
Nikon 1 Advanced Camera with Interchangeable Lens System

Revolutionary camera system designed for today’s picture taker.

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4.1 Rating
New Directions: The D750 Inspires Creating, and Sharing, New Images

Lindsay Silverman shoots with the D750 DSLR

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You’re the Guest: How to Capture Unique Photos at a Wedding

Abby Liga discusses getting great photos when you're a…

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4.8 Rating
Caring for your Nikon 1 Waterproof Housing

Regular maintenence and care of the WP-N1/WP-N2/WP-N3 will ensure its…

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3.7 Rating
Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is a phenomenon in which light rays passing through a lens focus at different…

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4.9 Rating
Speedlight Tutorial: Day to Night Technique

David Tejada uses Speedlights to create the illusion of a night scene

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4.5 Rating
Using the D810A DSLR for Deep Space and Nebulae Astrophotography

Photographing Nebulae and other celestial objects with…

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4.1 Rating
Nikon Electronic Format (NEF)

Nikon's RAW file format contains all the image information captured by the camera's sensor.

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Matthew Jordan Smith

Celebrity and fashion photographer Matthew Jordan Smith is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his…

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4.6 Rating
Outside Shots: Go Long

Tony Sweet on revealing the invisible in images

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Six Steps to Lighting Magic with Joe McNally

Follow lighting expert Joe McNally's instructions for easy flash photography…

Beginner

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Let the Sun Shine In!

Bambi Cantrell's quick exposure tips in bright sunlight

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4.4 Rating
Versatile Views of the World of Wildlife:

Ron Magill field tests the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens

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Jim Richardson: Why Fast Lenses Make All the Difference

When You’re Constantly on the Move, Fast Glass Makes Tough Shots…

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Zoo and Wildlife Photography

Spend a day at the zoo with wildlife photographer Julie Larsen Maher

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4.7 Rating
Extra Added Attraction: How to Boost the Reach of Your Nikon 1

Mark Alberhasky on using the FT-1 and NIKKOR lenses on…

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When to Use Graduated Neutral Density Filters

How to use a graduated neutral density filter to decrease extreme light to…

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Cherie Steinberg: Capturing the Wedding Vibe

For Cherie Steinberg being a wedding photographer means wearing more than…

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Macro Photography Tips: Photographing Insects and Other Small Creatures

A few quick tips on macro photography

Beginner

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One Shot: Supermoon

Sam Garcia photographs the Supermoon

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One Shot: Are We There Yet?

Gary Crabbe shoots The Subway in Zion National Park

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Understanding Auto ISO

Auto ISO can simplify shooting under changing lighting conditions

Beginner

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Photograph Family and Friends During the Holidays

The holidays are prime picture-taking time. Get some great tips on…

Beginner

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How to Use Aperture and ND Filters to Control the Depth-of-Field in Movies

Depth-of-field for video

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Moose Peterson

Wildlife and aviation photographer Moose Peterson is a Nikon Ambassador. Learn more about his photography.

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The Power and Beauty of Bears and Other Animals

When the animal in the viewfinder is a bear, this photographer knows…

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How a Sports Illustrated Photographer Shoots his Kid's Games

What can a Sports Illustrated photographer teach you about…

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Shooting the Full Moon with the COOLPIX P900

Using the Moon Scene Mode and 83x zoom of the COOLPIX P900

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Taking Better Photos of Your Kids at Play

Taking photos of your kids while at play make great images; next time you’re…

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51-Point Autofocus System

The 51-point AF system positions 51 points of focus within the frame to allow photographers to…

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What is a Lens MTF Chart & How Do I Read It?

Modulation Transfer Function or "MTF" is a measurement of the optical performance potential of a lens. MTF charts can give you a better understanding of the optical quality of various NIKKOR lenses, and can be useful references when researching, comparing and purchasing a lens. MTF charts can be found on the webpages dedicated to each NIKKOR lens on the www.nikonusa.com website.

A MTF chart plots the contrast and resolution of a lens from the center to its edges against a "perfect" lens that would transmit 100% of the light that passes through it. The contrast of a lens is important as this works in correlation to lens resolution.

Using a MTF chart is the preferred method for studying lens optical performance as they use theoretical equations to plot a performance graph and don't rely on subjective opinion, subject matter, camera features, software or other factors.

The y-axis (vertical axis) of a MTF chart plots the transmission of light through the lens with a maximum value of "1.0" which would indicate 100% transmittance of the light, although 100% transmittance of light is not possible because glass is not 100% transparent.

The x-axis (horizontal axis) shows the distance from the center of the image towards its edges. So, the "0" in the lower left corner represents the center of the lens and the numbers along the lower axis represent the distance out towards the edge of the lens in millimeters.


How to read a MTF chart

There are two groups of data plotted on a Nikon MTF chart: Sagital and Meridonial lines.

"Sagital lines" (the solid lines) represent the contrast measurements of pairs of lines that run parallel to a central diagonal line that passes through the middle of the lens from the bottom left hand corner to the top right hand corner.

"Meridonial lines" (the dotted lines) represent line pairs also positioned along an imaginary line from the center of a lens to the edge but these line pairs are perpendicular to the diagonal line.

There are two groups of test lines for each Sagital and Meridonial value: one group or line pairs at 10 lines per millimeter and a second group at 30 lines per millimeter. The lower line pairs (10 lines/mm) will generally be plotted higher on the graph than the more challenging fine resolution 30 lines/mm.

In general, the higher and flatter the lines the better. Higher lines indicate better contrast (10 lines/mm) or resolution (30 lines/mm) while a flatter (left to right) line shows that the optical performance is close to the same at the edge of the image compared to the center.

Below is a MTF chart for the AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G lens. When measuring a lens' performance for a MTF chart, Nikon tests are carried out with the lens at its maximum (widest) aperture. The contrast of the Sagital and Meridonial line pairs at various points from the lens' center are read and plotted on the chart.

The MTF chart consists of measurement for the Sagital and Meridonial lines at both 10 lines per millimeter and 30 lines per millimeter. This produces a chart with 4 separate lines.

The red 10 line/mm (10 lines per millimeter) indicates the lens' ability to reproduce low spatial frequency or low resolution. This line indicates the lens' contrast values and the higher and straighter this line is the better; because the higher the line appears the greater the amount of contrast the lens can reproduce. 
The blue 30 line/mm (30 lines per millimeter) indicates the lens' ability to to reproduce higher spatial frequency or higher resolution; this line relates to the resolving power of the lens and again the higher the line the better.

The line starts on the left of the chart which represents the center of the lens. As the line moves to the right it indicates the edge of the lens, so you can see how the contrast and sharpness of the lens decreases from the center to the edge of the image.


Using a MTF chart to determine the bokeh effect of the lens

Another factor that can be read from the MTF graph is the 'bokeh' of the lens. Bokeh is a term used to describe the quality of the out of focus areas a lens produces. The bokeh effect varies between lenses and the effect is influenced by the quality of the lens elements used and the number of aperture blades in the lens design (more blades produce a better circle and therefore a better 'bokeh' effect). The closer the solid line and the dotted line are together, the softer the out of focus effect will be on a particular lens.


Lens performance

While a MTF chart can be used to compare two similar lens from the same manufacturer it can be difficult to compare across different manufacturers due to testing and display differences. Further, a MTF chart measures theoretical optical performance of a lens only. Many factors (camera imaging sensor, camera software settings, filters, subject matter, subject/camera motion, etc.) can greatly affect the final image quality so MTF charts should only be used as a starting point when comparing and purchasing a lens.

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