Prime Glass

It doesn’t autofocus … it doesn’t even talk to the camera.  I’ve got to adjust the focus and f-stop manually.  But it’s a Nikon 50 mm f1.8 prime lens … and it takes a pretty great picture.

Beachscape And I’ve had it for years.

I started taking pictures back in high school with a 35 mm Nikormat that my dad found in a pawn shop in Bloomington.  He was a Nikon guy, and I have his old Nikon F body in my home office, along with my old Nikon EF camera that was given to me as a gift 25 years ago.  And while I’m very fond of the 55-200 zoom that is my primary lens for the D40, I’d been lusting for a fast prime lens for the camera.  A “prime” lens, BTW, is one that has a single focal length.

Now, there are a couple of prime lenses available for the D40.  The Nikkor version is an f1.4 autofocus lens that the company is very proud of.  It’s around $435 dollars most places I looked, and that’s not too much less than I paid for the camera.  Nikon has announced a 35mm f1.8 lens that will cost around $200 … but as long as I’m not working, that’s not in my budget either.  And I haven’t found any definitive answer as to whether it’s actually available.  It’s on my with list.

But I went into the office and picked up my old EF film camera, and it had a very nice little 50mm Nikon lens.  I put it on the camera, it woke up, and said “OK … you can use this”.

Now, this is not a new, state of the art lens. I have to manually focus the lens.  I have to manually set the f-stop.  But the camera will still electronically control the shutter speed, ISO (“film speed” which relates to the sensitivity to light), and white balance (which we never worried about with film cameras).  So, I’m back to the basics of photography with this lens.  Like I learned.  Setting shutter speed and aperture.  The camera has to be set to to shutter speed priority, which is not a problem.  And it seems to work just fine.

Beachscape 2

Today was about photographs with plenty of light and a long focal length.  That makes it very easy to focus and get a decently sharp image.  I hope you’ll click through and see the larger versions of the photos on Flickr.  My challenge will be to work with the lens in different light conditions, finding the right combination of aperture and shutter speeds that will give me good results.  Yes, it would be tremendously more easy to get the fully auto lens, but in the end, understanding those combinations will make me a better shooter, and that’s not going to be a bad thing.

Beachscape 5 I’m certainly not going to give up on the 55-200 kit lens.  The 50 mm focal length is similar to the human eye, and 55 is not too far off from that.  So, what you see is what the camera would see.

But I’ve had some frustration with the autofocus lens wanting to lock on to a something other than my main subject.  That’s a composition issue as well, but if I’m focusing the lens, at least I know who to blame.  I’ve also got to learn how the diopter compensation affects my ability to manually focus the camera.  Still, at this point, until I am again gainfully employed, it gives me the functionality of a prime lens, and the opportunity to go back to basics.

I can live with that … unless someone wants to give me an autofocus f1.8 35 mm lens in order to write a review …..





Filed under Beach Living, Photography, Prime Lenses

3 responses to “Prime Glass

  1. It’s funny. I’ve got the 1.8D, but I rarely use the autofocus on it. I never kicked the all-manual habit.

  2. tcpatton

    If my old lens would talk to the electronics of the camera, I’d be perfectly fine. But I’m constantly guessing on exposure and shutter speed. The good news is you can see the results immediately, and make adjustments. Still, it’s on my list for when I’m able to buy toys again.

  3. David Gano

    Ah, ya know when we talked this past weekend about the prime lenses, it completely slipped my mind that you had a D40 — and the “affordable” Nikor 50mm f/1.8 won’t work on that… I think it’s time for a new camera body 🙂 We’ve just got to find you a job first!

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