In Half 1 of my Gear of the Yr for 2020 I discussed that the Fujifilm X100V has been in my arms nearly all of this yr. This text is a couple of very totally different piece of photographic tools in my assortment, which has additionally seen heavy utilization this yr. And an merchandise which – whereas a lot much less sensible for the sort of day-to-day documentation to which the X100V is so well-suited – is not any much less gratifying (in its personal method) to make use of.
The story of how I ended up with a Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm F11 is a bit sophisticated, and begins with a really totally different sort of product: the Coolpix P950, which I reviewed earlier this yr, on the peak of the Washington state quarantine. These a number of weeks of capturing with the P950 turned me on to the potential for a correct super-telephoto pictures undertaking, as soon as non-essential journey restrictions have been lifted.
And I knew precisely the place to begin – by the ocean.
Re-reading WG.S Sebald’s ebook The Rings of Saturn this summer time (sure, sorry, that is going to a type of sorts of articles), one line actually resonated with me. It is a description of fishermen on the Norfolk coast, in southeast England. Questioning about their motivation at a time when it’s ‘nearly unattainable to catch something from the seashore’ Sebald concludes that they ‘simply wish to be in a spot the place they’ve the world behind them, and earlier than them nothing however vacancy’.
I’ve all the time discovered it calming to look out on the ocean, and amid the seemingly endless chaos of this yr, I have been bolting right down to the Washington coast each time time and native laws permit, to place the world at my again for a short while.
The lengthy telephoto undertaking I initially had in thoughts was to be centered on the fishing boats that ply up and down the Washington coast. Sadly, it turned out that even with its glorious picture stabilization, correct framing with the Coolpix P950 was too troublesome with such distant, bobbing targets, and the 16MP decision was too unforgiving when it got here to cropping. That is the place the Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm F11 got here in.
The vignetting on this shot, and the others on this article, is optical. I do not thoughts it (and have not corrected it) in pictures like these, but it surely’s another factor that limits the usefulness of lengthy mirror lenses for extra typical work.
The Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm F11 is a catadioptric lens, which works by ‘folding’ the sunshine that comes into it utilizing mirrors. This offers a protracted focal size with out the necessity for a bodily lengthy lens barrel. The sunshine travels the identical distance inside a mirror lens as it could in a standard telephoto, it simply strikes in a zigzag.
The largest draw back to reflect lenses basically is guide focus (in nearly all instances – extra on that in a minute) and a set, sluggish aperture, normally F8 or F11. This severely reduces the vary of situations through which they can be utilized. Usually, mirror lenses are additionally much less sharp than typical lenses, in addition to being an absolute ache to focus by means of an optical viewfinder. They generally tend to throw off AWB too, and let’s not overlook the extremely distracting ‘donut’ bokeh, created by the annular mirror.
In a world of high-resolution digital viewfinders, magnified focus modes and totally digital shutters, mirror lenses are extra sensible now than they’ve ever been
For all that, mirror lenses have a devoted fanbase (and in case you’re searching for an affordable strategy to get into lunar pictures, look no additional). However there are a whole lot of good explanation why this lens prices $3,200 and this one may be discovered on the second-hand marketplace for lower than $500. And that is an unusually costly instance of the kind – most bog-standard 500mm F8 mirror lenses may be picked up used for round $100-200.
|This picture is a mixture of two exposures taken from the identical place, moments aside: one uncovered for the moon, and one for the wispy clouds.
F11| ISO 1600 (multi-exposure)
Catadioptric lens know-how hasn’t advanced considerably in a long time (with the honorable exception of the Minolta AF Reflex 500mm F8, which stays distinctive amongst mirror lenses for providing autofocus) however digicam know-how over these a long time has come on in leaps and bounds. And it seems that in a world of high-resolution digital viewfinders, magnified focus modes and totally digital shutters, mirror lenses are extra sensible now than they’ve ever been. Which is why when a ‘Like New -‘ situation instance of the Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm F11 popped up on KEH earlier this yr I jumped on it instantly.
|The British are well-known for our sentimental attachment to the coast, possibly simply due to its fixed proximity – nowhere within the UK are you greater than 70 miles from the ocean. Within the time it takes for me to get to Lengthy Seaside Washington from Seattle, I might drive nearly all the size of England.
That final paragraph, by the way in which, was going to type the premise of an opinion article I used to be planning over the summer time. Provisionally entitled ‘Due to Mirrorless Expertise, There’s Nonetheless a Place For Gradual Telephoto Lenses’, the air was taken out of the thought by Canon’s shock launch of the RF 600mm and 800mm F11 STM. However hey – I used to be proper. It seems that there is a marketplace for lenses like that.
Earlier on this article I implied that the Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm F11 is ‘gratifying’ to make use of. That wants some qualification: I take pleasure in utilizing it in the identical method as I take pleasure in mountaineering up actually steep hills. It makes me really feel good afterwards, however usually, once I’m really engaged within the activity, it is a bloody nightmare. Oh, let me rely the methods…
The Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm F11 lets me get a perspective that may be unattainable with any of my different lenses
First, the huge 108mm filter thread is non-standard, which signifies that there is no easy alternative possibility for the fiddly threaded steel (!) cap, which takes ages to get on and off. Then there’s the enormously lengthy focus ring. That is each a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, depth of discipline is so shallow at 1000mm you actually do want a very good, constructive guide focus ring with fine-grained management. Then again, in case you nudge the barrel of the lens (or the huge integral hood, which rotates with the focusing ring) or breath on it, or take a look at it flawed, you will throw off important focus. And since the focusing ring makes up 70% of the size of all the barrel (much more when the hood is prolonged) it is nearly unattainable to not nudge it when dealing with or repositioning the lens. Lastly, though smaller than a standard 1000mm F11 could be, it is nonetheless a giant, fats lump of glass and steel that does not match right into a digicam bag alongside my different gear.
Finally although I do not actually care about any of these points, as a result of the Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm F11 lets me get a perspective that may be unattainable with any of my different lenses and, sure, it is a whole lot of enjoyable.
From my favourite spot close to Lengthy Seaside, looking over the Pacific, the horizon line is roughly 10-12 miles away. Twelve miles is the official restrict of territorial and worldwide waters.
I shoot my 1000mm F11 lens tailored on a Nikon Z7, with digital shutter and a cable launch, and all the time clamped to a sturdy tripod with a 10lb weight slung underneath it. I attempted mechanical shutter and digital first-curtain, however after a whole lot of experimentation I discovered that the previous can create vibration points at such a protracted focal size, and the latter can result in uneven exposures at 1/4000sec and above.
With the setup I simply described, I can get away with shutter speeds of round 1/200sec in nonetheless situations. If it is breezy, I will improve the ISO and reduce the publicity time accordingly. If the fully-electronic shutter introduces any distortion, I am unable to inform. The subject material would render it unnoticeable anyway.
|Water spouts, created by whales breaching within the Pacific near sundown. These little puffs of water have been invisibly small to my bare eye.
The undertaking I am presently engaged on with my 1000mm is a bit of totally different to the one I would initially deliberate, and much more summary. it is shot largely from a single overlook about 100 ft up over the Pacific coast close to Lengthy Seaside WA, looking roughly 10-12 miles to the clouds and patches of sunshine which line the horizon, roughly on the boundary of Worldwide waters. Since I began engaged on this undertaking I’ve added a Tamron SP 500mm F8 and a second tripod to my assortment for these instances when 1000mm is simply barely too lengthy.
Possibly I will look again on the entire effort in a few years and assume ‘properly that was a waste of time’ (possibly you assume so already – and I am certain you will let me know) but when nothing else, turning my again on the world and concentrating on 1.3 levels of distant, hazy someplace else for just a few days right here and there has supplied a much-needed train in inventive meditation.
Subsequent yr’s post-vaccine undertaking: A closeup take a look at crowds, all shot on a 14mm lens.
Articles: Digital Pictures Assessment (dpreview.com)