Friday, April 17, 2015

Borrowing and trying out the Nikon D750 (Part 1)

(A tip of the hat to my friend John Gunnison, lifetime Nikon user and proprietor of online pulp bookstore Adventure House, for the generous loan of his well-loved D750, AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8, and AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 GII ED. Results with these lenses to follow in Part 2.)

This morning I had a new experience: I shot with a lens I hadn't used in about 30 years. It was surprisingly fun.

One of the things Nikon does well is lens compatibility. Its F mount lenses date to 1959 and its cameras continue to use the F mount. My second SLR* was a Nikkormat FT3, manufactured around 1977 or 1978 and furnished with a Nikon 50mm f/2 lens. I haven't shot film in decades so the Nikkormat has languished in the garage gathering large amounts of dust. Today I dug it out, dusted off the 50mm and mounted it to John's D750.

Nikkor 50mm, circa 1977

The gorgeous spring morning was pleasant, but the real fun was rediscovering focusing with this old non-autofocus lens. The focus ring on the 50mm turns more than 180 degrees, making it smooth and easy to focus just where I wanted. The viewfinder on the D750 was crisp and clear in the morning light. Very, very nice. At the risk of cliché: I felt like a kid again, and I didn't miss autofocus a bit.

Alas, the passage of time and the dirt inside the lens were unmasked in the images. They are hazy and misty, reminding me of the old trick of smearing vasoline on a filter. The soap-bubble bokeh is rather unusual, too:

Forest Floor
But I'd bet you could find a reasonably clean old 50mm for less than the price of a nice dinner. If I end up buying a Nikon DSLR, I'll be looking for one.

*My first SLR was a Minolta SR-T 101. No idea what became of it, but it was my first love.

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