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Turns out I'm a bit of a bokeh whore - who knew?!?!?!

Discussion in 'Nikon DSLR Forum' started by Ray Sachs, Nov 20, 2015.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    If anyone had suggested to me when I first got back into photography again about 5 1/2 years ago that I'd turn into a bokeh snob, I wouldn't have believed them. Hell, I wouldn't have known what they were talking about. I knew all about the relationship between aperture and DOF and how to isolate a subject from my experience in the film days, but I'd never really thought about the QUALITY of the out of focus areas... Well, it turns out, now I think about it, almost to the point of obsession...

    I've been doing some shooting recently with the Voigtlander 58mm f1.4, a really nice manual focus lens and a hell of a value - you can see some recent samples in the DF thread if interested. But I've been drawn to the Nikon 58 f1.4G, an auto focus lens without an aperture ring. A big plastic blob I wasn't inclined to like...

    EXCEPT....

    It renders incredibly and has about the nicest bokeh I've ever seen in a lens short of about 135mm. It's not ultra sharp - it wasn't designed to be - it was designed for portraits and bokeh. And they nailed it. Sort of a modern day version of the old classic 58 f1.2 Noct that sells on ebay for north of $3000. So I rented one. It arrived yesterday and did a day of shooting in Philly today. I really like this lens and the AF came in handy too. I even did a few "street portraits" at the Reading Terminal Market - those would have been really challenging without the AF...

    I'm gonna shoot with both lenses through Thanksgiving and then decide which to keep. I suspect I'm gonna end up buying the Nikon rental I'm shooting, returning the Voigtlander, and selling off my other 50's, and maybe another under-used lens or two to finance it. The Nikon isn't cheap and even used will be more than twice the price of the Voigtlander new... Focus seems really good on the DF - that always seems to be the case... And I'm starting to really enjoy these middle focal lengths - I'd been really cold on them for a long time, but have made a bit of an effort and it's finally starting to feel comfortable and even fun. Although I seem to like 58 more than 50, that extra bit of compression and reach just feels different to me... I shot wide open as much as made sense (and was possible given the light) and I'm pretty sure all of these posted shots are wide open.

    The Voigtlander is no slouch in the bokeh department and is a bit sharper wide open as well. But the bokeh can get a bit busy depending on the variables. The Nikon's bokeh is just creamy in almost every situation I've tried with it. So, here I go, bokeh-ing out...

    23159234565_3915a369d3_h. Philly-129-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    22765052607_ab7be45e92_b. Philly-304-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    22863430960_17cbcd1aa5_h. Philly-181-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    23159216995_2c7818b533_h. Philly-315-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    23133105326_e3d6d5f595_h. Philly-328-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    23133107786_81cb48e016_b. Philly-299-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    22765067497_e2aea18b75_h. Philly-130-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    If I'd have found this before the end of the hair challenge (and if I'd been eligible to enter), I think I'd have used this wig...
    22791236769_db4b3c70d8_h. Philly-209-Edit by Ray, on Flickr

    -Ray
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I LOVE that photo of the avocados. Looks like you got a great new lens there, Ray.

    One thing I've never noticed (and maybe lots of lenses {or all of 'em for all I know}) is what is going in on those leading lines fence shots. Do you see what I'm talking about? Why does those two horizontal rails on the fence appear to both converge AND diverge as they go towards the vanishing point? Do all lenses do that? How is is explained?
     
  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I never really thought about that Luke, or noticed it before. But if you look at it, all that happens is that each line, or rail, just gets wider and wider as it gets farther and farther out of focus. So it makes sense. The centers of each of them remain parallel (although they appear to converge in photographs due to the perspective that comes with distance), but the top of the top one and the bottom of the bottom one get farther apart, and the inner portions of them necessarily intersect and then overlap. I haven't noticed it before but I've never shot extreme OOF shots of converging lines like this before either. I took that first one and then, turned and continued walking down that sidewalk, and damned if someone hadn't left a diet coke bottle sitting there to model for me, so I had to take another one. They both appear to do the same thing, as they should because it's the same basic railing.
     
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  4. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Well I don't understand why they seem to get wider as they get further away from the lens. That just seems counterintuitive......maybe it's because they are getting further and further out of focus. WHatever the case, I've never seen it before. ....... and I think it's pretty cool.
     
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  5. Tilman Paulin

    Tilman Paulin SC Top Veteran

    683
    Nov 15, 2011
    Dublin, Ireland
    that's exactly what it is, Luke. It's the highlight that runs along the rail getting more and more defocussed (causing a continuosly wider and wider spread of the highlight).

    Maybe it's easier to visualize what's going on if you'd imagine a row of point lights (like LEDs) along the railing. Then you'd get increasingly larger defocus discs the further away you'd get...


    Ray, I can imagine one reason you like the Nikon so much is the contrasty processing you prefer. Contrast can kill smooth transitions into defocus pretty fast. So the smoother the source is before postprocessing, the better...
     
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  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    That's a good observation and would have been right for quite a while with my shooting, but isn't what's going on here. Since I started getting more interested in this "bokey" thing, I'd noticed the same thing. So for about the last year or so, give or take, whenever I'm working on a shot where the bokeh figures prominently, I don't add any contrast to the OOF areas, and occasionally reduce it if needed. I may occasionally isolate the IN focus portion of the shot and add a bit of contrast and structure to that area (using controls points in Nik software), but I always leave the background areas neutral and occasionally de-tuned if they need that. With these two lenses recently I make it a serious point not to touch the backgrounds - I just want to see how the lenses render on their own.

    -Ray
     
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  7. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    They only appear to converge as they get more and more out of focus at greater and greater distance.

    Take this spoke on my barometer in focus:

    LX100 spoke out of focus 001.JPG
    Now here it is deliberately out of focus -- it appears to be wider:
    LX100 spoke out of focus 002.JPG
    If two of these spokes were close, side-by-side, they would appear to overlap when they were thrown out of focus. The same thing happens with those fence rails as the distance from the place of sharp focus increases.

    Cheers, Jock
     
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  8. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 SC Top Veteran

    537
    Feb 6, 2015
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    We all are to a degree. :D
     
  9. serhan

    serhan SC All-Pro

    May 7, 2011
    NYC
    Bokehlicious:)

    If you are looking for a cheaper af option, you can check the older Sigma 50mm 1.4 hsm also...

    [​IMG]

    original.

    original.

    original.

    original.

    original.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2015
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  10. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I think the Voigtlander is the cheaper option, or the cheapest option is just to keep the Nikon 50 f1.2 AIS. Of course, I go back and look at images I've done with the cheap 50 f1.4D and they don't suck either, not by a long shot. And I think I'm crazy to think about spending big $$$ for this really subtle and fairly slight aesthetic improvement that probably won't result in better photographs overall. If I'm smart, I'll probably sit tight with what I've got, or sell my two Nikon 50s and buy the Voigtlander, which would be pretty close to a wash. Sometimes I'm not smart though... ;)

    -Ray
     
  11. lenshacker

    lenshacker SC Regular

    193
    Nov 21, 2014
    I picked up the 50/1.2 Ais recently, have had the 55/1.2 Ai and 55/1.2 Nikkor-SC for decades. The 50/1.2 Ais is gorgeous, Nikon can certainly make them like they used to, when they want to. I still like the 55's, fastest T-Stop lens ever made by Nikon, T1.25. The new 58/1.4 comes in at a T1.7. I don't know why it is almost a full T-Stop slower than the older lens. I suspect the design is actually a 58/F1.6. Sharpness is about the same as the 50mm F1.8 AF-S, which is a T1.9 and is also an Aspheric design. The 50/1.8 AF-S, 50/1.4 AF-D, 50/1.2, 55/1.2Ai, and 55/1.2 Nikkor-SC were under $1000 for all five lenses, but I bought at a good time.

    Nikkor-SC 55/1.2, wide-open.

    21437526254_2df89a9b0b_o. NikkorSC_55F12 by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    55/1.2 Ai, wide-open.

    22053654901_f2b693ab2d_b. Portrait by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    The optical formula of the 55 was slightly changed between the two versions, most likely to allow the Ai to focus to 0.5m.

    If the 58/1.4 was a 58/1.2 Aspheric about the same size as the 50/1.8 AF-S, I might be tempted. It is an F1.6 lens that uses 72mm filters. It does have nice Bokeh. I cannot see it going for ~$1500.

    21039294675_9987381721_b. nikki_f2_1934_sonnar by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    I prefer the Sonnars for nice Bokeh. But that's the thing about Bokeh- it's personal taste, and if a lens suits you and your style- get it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2015
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  12. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Hi Ray,
    Sorry I missed your post earlier so I am glad it has been featured.
    I am one of those bokeh snobs, as you call them, although I am not interested in specific shaapes etc but in the way contributes to emphasizing the main subject/object.

    I can testify that the 58mm 1.4G is a heck of a lens. There is something special about it. There might be MF lenses with similar results but AF is important to me with my eyes. So I am very happy with this lens.

    I've heard that used ones can be bought for around 900USD, which looks like a great deal. I wonder why they're so cheap. Perhaps because the lens is not as sharp as some others? In my case other factors are important so I stick with this lens.

    I am looking forward to reading more about your findings after Thanksgiving.

    P.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  13. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I have a 50 f1.2 AIS also and I love it at f2, but it's a rare combination of variables that results in a shot working for me at f1.2 with that lens. The SA is strong enough and the bokeh generally busy enough that most f1.2 shots from that lens almost hurt my eyes. And then occasionally there's a melding of subject matter and weird optical effect and perhaps the sun has to be in the seventh house and Aquarious must re-emerge and for THAT shot, magic happens at f1.2. But a day of shooting is not like a Grateful Dead show and I can't just wait around for the magic to appear! ;) So I usually end up shooting everything at BOTH f1.2 and f2 with that lens and 95% of the keepers come at f2 and that's just no way to live. So I'm gonna sell that lens because I like both the Voigtlander and the 58G more optically. And I seem to like 58mm more than 50.

    Not too worried about the T-stop - with the DF, having enough light is never a problem even at f2.8 and damn rarely at f4, so I'm more concerned with the look than light gathering capability from these lenses. I think the old, outrageously expensive 58 f1.2 Noct has the nicest combination of sharpness and gorgeous bokeh I've ever seen, but not $3000-3500 worth! And I really like the Voigtlander, even though it's background bokeh is a bit busier than the 58G (while the foreground is just as pretty). On a lot of shots it's not, and on those where it is, a bit of contrast reduction and PP de-tuning usually mellows it out more than enough. So it's probably down to one of these two lenses for me. The 55 AI might be worth a look though...

    The only Sonnar I've shot with is the one on the front of the RX1 and that was as lovely a lens as I've ever used. And, yeah, the bokeh was remarkable for a 35mm lens - just gorgeous. I've occasionally thought about the 135 f2 APO, but that's a big honkin expensive lens and at 135 I'm not gonna spend that kind of money without AF and probably not with AF. For MF, I'm frighteningly happy with the little 135 f2.8 AI, which also renders quite nicely. I think when you get up to 85-100mm and beyond, really nice bokeh get's a lot easier to come by and I've got an 85, 100 (Zeiss), 135, and 180 that I really like without exception. As well as a 75-150 f3.5 that's way nicer than it has any right to be for the $75 I paid for it...

    Didn't realize it had moved to the front page - I usually just live on the "recent posts" page... I agree about shape - not too bothered by a bit of a cat-eye shape of the off-center bokeh balls. But there's something about the creaminess that matters. But I'm pretty sure that once I get past this obsessive stage of looking at every image way too long and closely (I'm starting to think that bokeh peeping really isn't much different than pixel peeping - it's just a slightly different brand of obsessive behavior!), I'll be absolutely thrilled with the rendering and bokeh from either of these lenses, maybe a touch more-so with the 58G, but plenty with the Voigtlander as well. The AF/MF thing is gonna be a big part of it. If I find myself really enjoying shooting people at this focal length, that'll probably push me toward the Nikon's AF. If not so much (on past experience, I seem to like something 85 or longer for most of the candid people shooting I do), I like the feel and operation of the Voigtlander a lot more than the plastic blob of the Nikon - and I really HUGELY prefer an aperture ring than busily working that control dial with my thumb.

    And then there's price. I haven't seen the 58G go for less than $1250, and generally more like the $1300-1350 range. I think a bunch of them may have created a glut in the early days as a lot of people, as you say, weren't satisfied with the sharpness, but that's long gone now. I'd snap one up for $900 if I saw it. But I have to assume a big difference between the price of the two. Which I could mostly make up by selling both of my existing 50s and the little used Voigtlander 40 f2 I have that would be UN-used once I get one of these. Over the long term, the $$$ isn't that critical. But it's still definitely a consideration.

    -Ray
     
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  14. lenshacker

    lenshacker SC Regular

    193
    Nov 21, 2014
    I remember when the 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor could be bought for under $1000. Now, it's skyrocketed. The Canon equivalent is still available at reasonable prices, anyone shooting Mirrorless should get the FD version of that lens. The Voigtlander 50/1.5 Aspheric Nokton and 35/1.7 Aspheric Ultron cost me $300 each. The Ultron has incredible smooth Bokeh. Rangefinder lenses under 58mm are easier to compute, no need to clear the mirror.

    35/1.7 Aspheric Ultron, wide-open.

    14426189841_f739065297_b. Pilot's Day 2013 by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    I've gone as far as re-arranging and switching out lens groups in Sonnars to get the look I wanted.

    14038888762_2b10ed61cc_b. Hybrid J-3/Sonnar by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    This one has glass from 3 different lenses and parts from 6.
     
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  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Good heavens! OK, you win - you're way crazier and more obsessive than I think I'll ever be - I'm just trying to decide between two nice, stock, off the shelf lenses. I will not be parting out lens elements!!!!

    That's a really sweet result though - worth it if you're that into it... And fully explains your online nick-name, which I hadn't thought about enough to take literally. But I will commence to understand it literally from this point forward!

    Just did a little back to back shooting with the two lenses. At close distance with relatively close backgrounds, nearly indistinguishable - a blind test MIGHT go to the Nikon but might not see a difference. But the farther the focal point and background, the more the Nikon comes to the fore. The Voigtlander starts getting notably busy while the Nikon still just oozes buttah! That pretty much confirms what I'd been seeing in the field. Now I just have to decide how much it matters...

    -Ray
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
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  16. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013


    "Long after the price (difference) has been forgotten, the quality will be remembered"
    Quote from ??? (forgot name)
     
  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Yeah, to me price is usually a binary consideration - either I can swing it or I can't. If I can't, it's off the table, like the new RX1 or Leica Q.

    If I can, I decide based on what I like more. Sometimes that's the more expensive choice - often it's not. But if I like the more expensive thing more and buy something cheaper instead, I'll always second guess that and end up thinking about the money for a long time. If I buy what I want, I forget about the cost (bigger or smaller) almost right away... If I decide to get the 58G, I'll have to sell some stuff I'm not using, but that won't be hard to do... And then I won't look back...

    -Ray
     
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  18. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    I wish you lots of wisdom in the decision process. Looking forward to hearing the verdict.
     
  19. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    Lovely images Ray. Your pictures make me want to consider bokeh while making an image. Almost.

    Though I shoot a D800e with a bunch of lenses, my favourite "bokeh" comes from a apsc DP3m. I need to try more lenses on the Nikon.

    OJeiDyg.
     
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  20. lenshacker

    lenshacker SC Regular

    193
    Nov 21, 2014
    Bokeh.

    over/under correction for Spherical Aberration impacts the intensity across the circles of confusion:

    21576681709_14df2de0c4_b. spherical_correction by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    Astigmatism and Football shapes at the edges:

    21772940691_0566aaa07d_b. astig4 by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    Field Curvature tend to cancel out astigmatism, but the point of best focus weaves in and out of the main point of focus:

    21142500073_33be4d0074_b. astig5 by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    Add it all up.

    22926240940_9124d1d049_b. Sweet-16 by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

    Nikkor-HC 5cm F2 (Sonnar formula), wide-open on the Leica M8.
     
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