Final Reflections Before I Jump… to FX.

So a year some went by since I realized that I wanted to man a camera seriously with 48032 clicks on my D5100 (via camerashuttercount.com).

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This thing was a real trooper and survived more than your average camera gets put through these days- various lenses, traffic slalom, snow, poorly lit conditions, and not that much rain due to its lack of weather sealing (snow doesn’t count since its magical substance that simply shakes off before getting inside of anything).

It saw the kit lens days, including 55-200 that quickly made me realize that I DO want a long telephoto and I want it in a much better quality than ‘5-200 had to offer…

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Not that I didn’t take some neat snaps with this one,

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But it really does not compare to my realistic tele-zoom dream- 70-300 VR.

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But this thing came much, much later on since I went through a dirt-poor photographer stage and couldn’t event squeeze enough cash out of my pockets for this guy. I did get weary of kit quality, despite upgrading to a much more capable 18-70 DX along the way, and fiddling around to fix its busted manual focus ring (that I honestly seldom used anyway)…

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So budget days brought about the biggest revelation and my best to-date photography teacher: Nikkor-H 50 f/2.

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This was a true, full-manual bargain that also came with an extension tube that I didn’t fully and properly break in until way, way later.

This lens required me to truly learn aperture as a whole and rewarded me with a realm of speed being an f/2 lens, which IS miles better than kit 3.5 and up. Not to mention its sharpness that really impressed me given that the 50 survived all the way from 1966 (via some internet serial number sleuthing) and that it only cost me ~$45 with postage.

And drove my enthusiasm through the roof, making me try crazy stunts like shooting bees using an ancient piece of glass coupled with some insanity.

This combo (or rather, mostly the 50 since I neglected the 18-70 hence after) lasted me until my decision to invest into some fast auto-focusing glass for the sake of night-time action shots.

Did I like this $200 worth of plastic and silent focusing? Even despite it leading to my discovery of chromatic aberration that I’ve never seen prior to shooting this little guy? Given the power to trust my 5100 to focus for me third of a stop faster, it was quite refreshing indeed.

And the round bokeh! This lens became the new workhorse given the season for DC road skating and me not wanting to have to worry about poor aperture vs manual focus.

Consistent and terrible CA in direct light still bugs the heck out of me, but I just can’t deny the usefulness of this little guy.

Eventually the 18-70 found a new home and has been treated and treating the new owner very well from what I hear, feeling right at home on another D5100 to boot.

I finally mustered up the funds for the glorious 70-300 and it became my primary workhorse of a lens unless I absolutely needed a wider angle than it offered. I absolutely abused it at the National Zoo, which eventually led to some collaborations with a good new friend.

I worked my stubborn, natural-light mentality towards a proper flash that changed the game very substantially towards a positive new level and started to miss <50mm kind of field of view since my 18-70 was no longer at my side. I’ve also come to miss having a mid-range zoom since the flash took care of having relatively low aperture and having a zoom would have been much more convenient indoors than dancing around with my primes. My solution? Another bargain hunt- Sigma 24mm Super-Wide II f/2.8 for a whopping $40 shipped, and it even came with the original leather case!
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This guy had surprisingly awesome color rendition and plenty of angle for me to work with too.
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Somewhere in between all of that I got lucky with my research tendency and actually narrowed down a dream lens, that I got lucky enough to be able to find and afford around past October- Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 AI-P pancake. The modern remake of the old one, and pretty much the only duo of true pancake lenses Nikon ever made. It sported uncanny thin profile and the oldest, Zeiss-like Tessar lens design.
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And once this went into action, I would rarely take it off despite being forced to use manual focus and only having f/2.8 as my highest aperture. This lens simply felt perfect for me, and this is speaking with the DX field of view, so of all others I can’t wait to use it as it was intended to be on a FX body.
The ghosting/flare rendering is extremely unique thanks to the Tessar design and I love having something that produced unique images. A lovely flower of light instead of the standard straight scatter.

I’ve done some odds and ends with this thing too, like mounting it onto my neglected macro extension tube and using a ring light on its front via step-up rings.

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With surprisingly decent results to boot.

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And so, now I’m ready to enter a whole new world of full frame sensors and plethora of useful settings to help me fight my ideas and framing more than the ISO and shutter speed on the camera. D5100 has been a solid starter, with pretty capable video capability, but it’s simply not a body I want to trust with small things and feel confident in its judgement of my idea of utmost quality. Hopefully my D600 that should be here in couple of days will rise to the challenge with confidence and quality. Based on all the reviews I’ve watched and read, as well as user opinions, it should be able to do just that for where I am on my learning curve.

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Another Macro Dabble – Extension Tube – 45mm f/2.8 AI-P

Had this thing ever since I got my 50mm f/2, but hardly used it since I didn’t quite grasp the essence of this direction before. So, I proceeded to use my 45mm AI-P paired with the tube and my WJ-60 light to shoot some Bismuth.

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Try one was pretty nice, so I proceeded with a slightly better setup for this-

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Thanks to my friend, a lil shot of me doing my experiment. This time the subject was propped up, camera mini-tripod’ed, and remote in full swing to minimize any shaking.

The final result (after very minor photoshopping the prop stand out), quite nice:

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While nowhere near a proper 1:1 kinda stuff, this is a solid close-up method on a budget since virtually any lens at hand will suffice and older non-AI extension tubes are dirt cheap. An older lens with manual aperture will help, but isn’t crucial since shooting at a small aperture is better for macro.

And So, A Year Goes By

Friday, the 27th, marked my D5100’s technical birthday. The little bugger went through hell and back over this year and I can’t quite think what I haven’t tried to shoot with it. As of the very last shot on Thursday, the shutter count was 43543 via CameraShutterCount.com. That quite the mileage I put on it in just a year- far more than I used to put on cars when I drove and commuted.

And so, one of the very first shots this guy took was this one-

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And the 43543rd was this-

Was a pretty fulfilling year in terms of a new direction in life, and this next one will be bigger, better, and uncut.

Classic Feel, Classy Look, Modern Finesse

Must say, shooting a modern DSLR with a full manual lens has been tons of fun thus far, and has been extremely educational without having to hit books. The new battery hack helped me ditch the grip that made this lens look puny and now my D5100 is a nice, compact yet powerful blend of classic goodness.

Here’s one recent, untouched shot save watermark and slight exposure bump (in all fairness its something we could do back in the printing days).

Using my 50mm helps me reduce auto-everything slop, and in turn coming back to my 18-70mm allows me to appreciate the long way that technology came from the good old days.

And newly edited blog logo stacked onto my classic one as an added bonus/self-defining element of the composition.

Nikon-Patch for D5100 – 3rd Party Battery Check Removed!

As all of us d3100 and d5100 users know, Nikon implemented a genuine battery check in all the firmware updates post-initially released one. The only way around that was to buy a dual battery grip and trick the camera on cold-boot using one genuine battery; however, these grips were made quite clunky and added 1/3 the body fat to our slim snappers making them quite a bit more cumbersome (albeit sometimes easier to hold).

So in the mere past 2 months since I got the D5100, Nikon-Patch updated added the much needed hack to remove such battery check from our beloved snappers and it works!

And so, here’s a quick video proof that my D5100 survived the digital operation and works perfectly fine. To boot, latest patch fixed all of the battery indication levels and the camera even knows not to allow firmware update on low power level even when using 3rd party juice boxes .

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And the video proof with my muggy commentary.

Nikkor-H 50mm f/2 Prime

Wanted to look into the legacy glass to feel one for myself (and being on a broke budget doesn’t exactly help getting shiny new things). This one ran me a whopping $35 shipped on ebay and here are some test shots:

Aluminum beast itself with an extension mount for macro kinda stuff (quite bad using 50mm and such though)

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And the test snaps (most were shot wide open, at ISO 100-200)

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And one awkward one with that macro adapter monstrocity

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It didn’t take me that long to adjust to having manual aperture control and lack of auto indexing, and bless the power of instant gratification of a digital camera to test and readjust on the fly.

All in all, for a whole $35 this is definitely a steal. Build is full metal, focusing ring is silky smooth and not loose at all, and having f/2 instead of 4.5 at 50mm is a real delight.

This Is How We Do It – Fixing Nikkor 18-70mm Focus Ring

So when repairs would cost more than the lens itself since apparently even most trusty places have no idea what they’re doing or simply want to charge you out the ass in our economy and when parts are nowhere to be found online, what do you do? You take matters into your own hands with help of styrene and superglue.

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Not quite the final product, but it does work well. Rough on the eyes? Perhaps, but once again nothing some EVA/craft foam and more glue couldn’t fix. And a final note, I did have to sand the plastic casing down a bit to avoid binding the new focus, ummm, “ring.”

D5100 On-Board Flash Ghetto Diffuser

Until the next chunk of change brings me a more proper speed light, I might as well tweak what I have to work more like I want it to, right? This was my solution:

So I don’t have to resort to software EV flash compensation, because that’s not fully manual experience in my book, and I will now get a much softer and true color light of my environment. No more white wash.

The little guy was a simple piece of vinyl sticker, white to avoid diffuser tint, and it works perfectly.

The third snap was with my Galaxy S2 and that’s how the room looks under “natural” lighting, so my diffuser wasn’t too far off all things considering.

D5100 – Neewer Macro Filter Kit

Another awesome budget addition to play with some macro photography- Neewer filter kit. Comes with +1,+2,+4, +10 magnifying filters, and a nice leather case with soft inner padding and dividers.

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+10 alone. Not too bad honestly, but the only pickle is that the lens protrudes way too much to be able to put a cover on it. Using any hood, shouldn’t be a problem though.
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+17 via stacking them all together.
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These should prove for some interesting shots and a little shoot I have in mind in the future.