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Author Topic: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?  (Read 12045 times)

Nick Walt

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Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« on: October 24, 2014, 11:51:06 am »

Hi everyone,

I was going to get primes for the sub-100mm focal range, and an f4 zoom for the sub-200mm range. However, the physical size of the f4, while being quite light, caused me to consider other options.

I read a comment by DIGLLOYD about him being a prime shooter (even for his landscape work) and that his zooms mostly sit in the drawer, gathering dust. His view is that shooting landscapes at wide apertures with great nuanced glass can bring about some very interesting results.

I read this as I was beginning to explore the possibility of using the cheaper used Leica lenses on an A7 body and some of the great tele-primes such as the 105mm, 135mm, 150mm, and 180mm. This is quite appealing and I wanted to look at what four, or five lenses (maximum), would be like from a usability standpoint.

The focal lengths I am considering are (* are most likely):
20*
28*
50
85*
105*
135
150*
180

Is there anyone here who has moved to prime lenses for their landscape photography?

Cheers,
Nick
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synn

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2014, 11:55:21 am »

Lloyd chambers has not shot a single image worth a second glance in his life. You want pictures of a creepy doll and bicycles in a  garage, he's your guy.
There are plenty of great artists who get by just fine with zooms.

Choose what works best for your style. Primes are lighter and in most cases are sharper, but that doesn't mean zooms are crap. Carry around 3 primes that cover the 70-200 range and you've pretty much negated the size and weight advantage.



I don't cosider myself as an amazing artist or anything, but this was taken with a zoom that Lloyd Chambers won't think twice about.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 12:01:11 pm by synn »
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2014, 12:30:48 pm »

Hi,

Yes and no.

I have mostly shooting zooms, since something like 1985. Zooms work well for me.

On the other hand, I have been shooting a lot with an old Hasselblad using primes  recently and that works well for me, too.

I would also add that I am a typical f/8 on tripod shooter. I change apertures if I need to but like to work with medium apertures.

Add to that, I have not really found the primes I had superior to zooms.

On the other hand, with live view on the cameras I can focus manually exactly where I want. Precision manual focus and also expected arrival of high megapixel cameras from Sony (46-54 MP) got me interested in high performance manual focus lenses.

Depending on reviews, if the new Loxia lenses from Zeiss are really good, I will probably go with one or two of them if Sony delivers a camera to my liking.

There are problem areas with zooms, my 24-70/2.8 is very sharp midrange, but has awful corners at 24 mm and not really good off center performance at 70 mm. It's still good enough, mostly. The 70-400/4-5.6 is very good at 70 mm, but quite heavy. So I may consider a Sigma 70/2.8 macro to fill in which is said to be a really excellent lens.

Earlier I used a 400/4.5, but I have found that my 70-400/4-5.6 offered similar performance. Carrying just two lenses to cover the 24-400 mm range is convenient, especially when flying.

Something to be aware of is that zooms can be worn out. This was often the case with the Canon 24-70/2.8, according to Lensrentals. Servicing them will improve the optical performance. It seems the new 24-70/2.8 from Canon is not just a better performer but also more resistant to wear.

Just my thinking.

Present kit:

Sigma 10/2.8 fisheye - a keeper (APS-C)
Sonya 16-80/3.5-4.5 - a nice lens, my favourite for street
Sigma 12-24/4.5-5.6 - Makes decent pictures but not really that sharp.
Samyang 14/2.8 - very sharp
Sony 24-70/2.8 ZA - Mostly very good, weak at 70 mm
Sony 70-400/4-5.6G - Mostly very good, need to reevalute at 400 mm
Sony 70-300/4.5-5.6G - Not as good the 70-400/4-5.6 but I sometimes use it for street shooting with APS-C

In reserve (seldom used)

Minolta 100/2.8 Macro
Minolta 400/4.5 APO (may return to first line)

To that comes the Hasselblad with five lenses.

Best regards
Erik


Hi everyone,

I was going to get primes for the sub-100mm focal range, and an f4 zoom for the sub-200mm range. However, the physical size of the f4, while being quite light, caused me to consider other options.

I read a comment by DIGLLOYD about him being a prime shooter (even for his landscape work) and that his zooms mostly sit in the drawer, gathering dust. His view is that shooting landscapes at wide apertures with great nuanced glass can bring about some very interesting results.

I read this as I was beginning to explore the possibility of using the cheaper used Leica lenses on an A7 body and some of the great tele-primes such as the 105mm, 135mm, 150mm, and 180mm. This is quite appealing and I wanted to look at what four, or five lenses (maximum), would be like from a usability standpoint.

The focal lengths I am considering are (* are most likely):
20*
28*
50
85*
105*
135
150*
180

Is there anyone here who has moved to prime lenses for their landscape photography?

Cheers,
Nick
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NancyP

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2014, 12:34:33 pm »

Me! I don't have a great normal zoom, and when I went to buy a 6D and a Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 IS normal zoom, there was a used Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 in the window, same price, the Zeiss went home with me, I use the 35mm f/1.4 Sigma Art (which I had for my crop camera), and I bought adapters and am using some Nikkor AIS all-manual primes 50 f/1.2, 105 f/2.5 (and very quickly found out that the standard screen needed to be replaced by the super-fine screen, fortunately an easy user-installable option). Also, the 14mm f/2.8 Samyang

Yes, a zoom would be more convenient, and one of these days I will get one, but I really enjoy using manual primes, both for nostalgia and for a slightly different working process. It does make me work harder, bringing two or max. three primes on an outing. Some days I just feel like a single focal length.

Good-light image quality (color, microcontrast) is likely to be just fine at f/8 in really good zoom lenses. I do use the 14, 21, 35 mm prime lenses for astrolandscape - zooms probably would not cut it for coma and sharpness wide open, and it is a treat to be able to use the Sigma Art 35 at f/1.4 (actually too much light if in Bortle orange or yellow area, I stop down to f/2 or 2.8).
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dwswager

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2014, 02:08:51 pm »

I enjoy shooting both.  It really depends if you know what you are trying to execute and the locations then primes can be simple and handy.  On the other hand, in quick changing light you can do multiple images very quickly with the zoom on there.

I shoot Nikon so at this point, the zooms are the practical equivalent of the primes from an optical standpoint except some loss of light down the longer barrel.

One thing I learned is that zooms can make you lazy if you are not careful.  Sometimes you set up and the framing isn't right and you just zoom in or out changing perspective when you should have picked up the tripod and moved.

On the other hand, there have been times when all I took was the 20mm and 35mm and the location didn't allow the framing I wanted.  It would have been advantages to have a zoom.

I'm going the other way.  While I won't be selling the primes, I have been investigating better zooms.  The Nikkor 16-35mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 24-120mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/2.8 all have 77mm filter threads for ND or polarizers so that is handy.

In a discussion over using Diopters, I mentioned having read in a John Shaw book 33 years ago using the 62mm Nikon 5T and 6T on the 80-200mm f/2.8.  Googling, I came across his gear page.  The only primes he seems to carry now are the 3 T/S lenses.  Seeing the 16-35mm f/4 on there kinda tipped the scale for me as I had been waffling on it.

 Camera bodies:

Nikon D4 and D800E bodies, with Really Right Stuff L brackets

Lenses and filters (all   Nikon):

16-35mm f/4

24-70mm f/2.8

24-120mm f/4

24mm f/3.5 PC-E Tilt/Shift

45mm f/2.8 PC-E Tilt/Shift

85mm f/2.8 PC-E Tilt/Shift

70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S

70-300mm f/4-5.6 AF-S

200-400mm f/4 AF-S

500mm f/4 AF-S

Nikon 1.4X teleconverter

Nikon circular polarizing filters

Accessories:

Nikon SB-700 and SB-800 flash units + off-camera cord

Walt Anderson’s Better Beamer flash extender

Nikon remote releases

Photoflex LiteDisc diffusers and reflectors

Macro:

I use a Nikon 200mm f/4 AF Micro, occasionally adding a 5T or 6T Nikon closeup filter, or my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 with a closeup filter.

Tripods:

My standard tripod is a Really Right Stuff Versa 24L carbon fiber model with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head complete with an Arca-style quick release (all cameras and lenses have Really Right Stuff quick-release plates mounted on them).  I use a RRS leveling base between the ball head and my tripod to facilitate my panoramic work.
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MrSmith

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2014, 02:54:53 pm »

I look at your list and see 2 glaring omissions, a 24 tilt shift and a 35mm.
A 24 mm ts means you can do a left right stitch for panos if you want to go wider or shift up for more sky.
35mm is a great 'wide but not distorted wide' lens.
All IMHO.
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Nick Walt

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2014, 03:10:27 pm »

synn, that's pretty funny about Lloyd. I hadn't seen any of his images and I didn't know that he even shot landscapes before I read his comment.

As you say, most landscape photographers shoot with zooms, including one of my favourites, Hans Kruse. He typically uses Canon 24-70 and 70-200 and also Nikon 14-24 and 24-105.

Steve McCurry also uses a 24-70 on Nikon as his primary lens these days. Not so much for landscape but portrait, environmental and street (travel). I've been wondering about getting a standard zoom but feel that using primes at this stage in my learning might be the way to go.

Erik, thanks for your comments about zooms and some of the caveats. If I get a zoom it will likely only be the Nikon 70-200 f4 VR3.

Nancy, it's great to read about your experience with primes. I am impressed that you shoot mostly manual-focus on your 6D. I was seriously looking at the 6D and the nice Canon L glass, but after trying the D750's grip I decided to go Nikon... that is, if I don't get an A7 with manual focus primes from Leica, Voigtlander or Zeiss.

I understand your desire to have the Zeiss 21. Lately I've been more interested in the unique rendering characteristics of a prime rather than its outright sharpness.

One concern I have about primes is that they are not stabilised, except for the Nikon 105/2.8 macro and the Sigma 150/2.8 which have VR/IS.

dwswager, thanks for explaining your perspective on primes and zooms. I had been concerned about the disadvantages of primes when it comes to framing, as moving forward or backward is generally not an option when shooting landscapes. I think my thinking has been a little too constrained by finances and really I need to look at purchasing both zooms and primes to accommodate the different types of photography I want to do: street day/night and landscape/cityscape.

Photozone.de had a review of the 16-35 f4 and it didn't get a very good rating: only 2.5 stars:
http://www.photozone.de/nikon_ff/492-nikkor_afs_1635_4_ff

so, I'm surprised to read that you use it, as does John Shaw. Obviously you find it to be good enough. Do you have any thoughts about moving to the 14-24 f2.8? My only concern with the 14-24 is that it has no image stabilisation. Actually, that many Nikon lenses don't have image stabilisation is a concern for me. The IBIS in the E-M1 is fantastic and after being able to stabilise any prime you begin to wonder why others haven't moved up to IBIS and away from lens stabilisation. Too bad the sensor is only m43.

I checked out John Shaw and I like what he has to say. Thanks for the mention. I'll follow him from now on.

Cheers,
Nick
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 03:13:27 pm by Nick Walt »
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2014, 03:43:52 pm »

Hi,

Some observations:

Regarding Lloyd's photography I have seen mostly his tests, so I don't know what images he has on his wall. I would says that his tests are pretty interesting.

I was with Hans Kruse on one of his workshops this summer and plan to go another one in the autumn. Nice guy and he certainly knows what he is doing. He also makes great images. I carried 10/2.8, 16-80/3.5-4.5, 24-70/2.8 and 70-400/4-5.6 + two bodies. I have used both long lens and fisheye quite a lot.

Regarding moving back and forth I agree it is a problem shooting landscape. A way I found around it with primes is to stitch. So I use a lens that is a bit to long and stitch, instead of cropping.  

In a sense I would say that the way I shoot, a medium aperture manual focus lens without stabilisation makes a lot of sense.

Getting back to lens tests, I would say that most lenses outperform their users. The other factor is that lenses often are weakest in the corners and the corners very seldom contain important detail. One example is the Canon 16-35/2.8II, a lens that performs bad in tests but takes a lot of competition winners. The fact is that if you have a great image no-one is going to check the corners. But, would I have an image like below bad tree tops, I would not blow it up to 70x100 cm and put it on the wall:

This is two 120/4 Macro Planar shots with the Hasselblad, stitched. With a single shot I couldn't fit tree tops and the stone at the bottom of the image. I wish I had a little bit more space to the left. Turning the back vertical and shooting three frames would have given me more cropping options. Perhaps I get another chance next year?


This is a long lens shot (70-400 zoom at 140 mm)


And this one is fisheye:


Best regards
Erik


synn, that's pretty funny about Lloyd. I hadn't seen any of his images and I didn't know that he even shot landscapes before I read his comment.

As you say, most landscape photographers shoot with zooms, including one of my favourites, Hans Kruse. He typically uses Canon 24-70 and 70-200 and also Nikon 14-24 and 24-105.



I had been concerned about the disadvantages of primes when it comes to framing, as moving forward or backward is generally not an option when shooting landscapes.

Photozone.de had a review of the 16-35 f4 and it didn't get a very good rating: only 2.5 stars:
http://www.photozone.de/nikon_ff/492-nikkor_afs_1635_4_ff

so, I'm surprised to read that you use it, as does John Shaw. Obviously you find it to be good enough. Do you have any thoughts about moving to the 14-24 f2.8? My only concern with the 14-24 is that it has no image stabilisation. Actually, that many Nikon lenses don't have image stabilisation is a concern for me. The IBIS in the E-M1 is fantastic and after being able to stabilise any prime you begin to wonder why others haven't moved up to IBIS and away from lens stabilisation. Too bad the sensor is only m43.

I checked out John Shaw and I like what he has to say. Thanks for the mention. I'll follow him from now on.

Cheers,
Nick
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 05:31:33 pm by ErikKaffehr »
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Torbjörn Tapani

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Re:
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2014, 03:51:26 pm »

I tried the 16-35 VR. For my intended use it was too soft in the corners at 16. I went with the 14-24 and have no regrets. But I will say that today I would probably get the Samyang 14 instead and another fast prime for 24 mm. No filters is not a problem, cir-pol doesn't really work with ultra wide lenses anyway. The only other filter I would consider is a ND for long exposures. I used the 24-120 with filters instead (until I unintentionally smashed it on some rocks).

The 70-200 f4 get nice reviews. If the added weight and cost of the 2.8 is a problem.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2014, 04:01:13 pm »

Really nice picture, thanks for sharing!

Best regards
Erik

Lloyd chambers has not shot a single image worth a second glance in his life. You want pictures of a creepy doll and bicycles in a  garage, he's your guy.
There are plenty of great artists who get by just fine with zooms.

Choose what works best for your style. Primes are lighter and in most cases are sharper, but that doesn't mean zooms are crap. Carry around 3 primes that cover the 70-200 range and you've pretty much negated the size and weight advantage.



I don't cosider myself as an amazing artist or anything, but this was taken with a zoom that Lloyd Chambers won't think twice about.
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dwswager

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2014, 04:13:47 pm »

Getting back to lens tests, I would say that most lenses outperform their users. The other factor is that lenses often are weakest in the corners and the corners very seldom contain important detail.

Best regards
Erik

I about peed myself laughing at that 1st sentence because how true it is.  Almost all my 'mistakes', when I go back and check what I was doing, was on me, not my equipment or lack thereof.

I agree on the sharpness thing, especially for landscapes.  I'm surprised at the disparity of opinon on the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4.  People seem to love it or hate it.

Oh and I'll throw out another Shaw comment as this was my thinking on the D810:

"Can the Nikon D800 be used for wildlife photography?”  Well, why not?  Here are two full frame images taken last week during a short stop I made at Bosque del Apache.  Both images: D800E, Nikon 600mm, ISO400, early morning light.   FYI, I don’t have the extra battery pack for the camera so the motor drive rate is 4 frames/second.   Anyone else remember when 4 frames/second would have been considered pretty amazing?  Remember winding film with your thumb?
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ErikKaffehr

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Re:
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2014, 04:27:49 pm »

Hi,

The Samyang is seriously good:

The full resolution image is here (corrected for keystone effect): http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Technical/Samyang-1428/i-J7fw6ng/O


I tried the 16-35 VR. For my intended use it was too soft in the corners at 16. I went with the 14-24 and have no regrets. But I will say that today I would probably get the Samyang 14 instead and another fast prime for 24 mm. No filters is not a problem, cir-pol doesn't really work with ultra wide lenses anyway. The only other filter I would consider is a ND for long exposures. I used the 24-120 with filters instead (until I unintentionally smashed it on some rocks).

The 70-200 f4 get nice reviews. If the added weight and cost of the 2.8 is a problem.
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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2014, 05:22:38 pm »

I tend to be either/or re. primes & zooms when it comes to what I use on a given day, but I like to have both available when possible. Sometimes versatility is more important than absolute quality…though these days zooms are pretty darn good overall, and some are excellent.

-Dave-
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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2014, 06:15:23 pm »

I would be using zoom lenses for landscape if I didn't stitch. I haven't used a zoom lens for landscape for 10 years or so.

For low DoF photography the look of OoF areas is as important as the sharp ones so primes are often clearly superior. The fact that they have wider apertures helps too obviously.

For PJ work I tend to find the zoom function distracting.

Cheers,
Bernard
« Last Edit: October 24, 2014, 07:12:30 pm by BernardLanguillier »
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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2014, 06:46:05 pm »

I only use primes. The basic (kit type) zooms I had turned me off them, especially at wide angles, which had lots of distortion and chromatic aberration. Art Wolfe states he uses mostly 2 zoom lenses, a something to 70 and a 70-200 Canon. So that makes me shut up about primes.

If you feel the need to get everything in one shot, use zooms. If you are comfortable with stitching go primes.
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Shakyphoto (Slim)

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2014, 07:59:40 pm »

I mostly use primes for anything 50mm and wider.  Not for resolution, but I find primes to have better contrast and more pop.  I sacrifice portability and carry a lot of weight on my back for this.  I also carry the 70 200 zoom canon mk ii for anything tighter.
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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2014, 08:02:33 pm »

I am pleasantly surprised to read of the overwhelming support for zoom lenses amongst such an accomplished group of photographers. So often we hear the clarion call of primes (as I once professed as well); it's refreshing to hear the more practical side, along with a dose of "taking care not to get lazy with zooms", as is so easy to do.

I made the switch back to zooms for my landscape and nature work earlier this year with the addition of the "newish" Nikkor 18-35 f/3.5-4.5. Before buying this comparatively inexpensive zoom, I checked the DxOMark ratings and found it to be superior to the Nikkor 16-35 and my Nikkor 20/2.8 and as good as my Nikkor 24/2.8. Doing side-by-side comparison shots convinced me to sell the two primes and not look back. The 18-35 is surprisingly lightweight and far outperforms its price point.

Making landscapes using a tripod, mostly at f/11, means that image stabilisation is irrelevant, as are large apertures.
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synn

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2014, 11:01:31 pm »

Really nice picture, thanks for sharing!

Best regards
Erik


Thank you, Erik. This was shot with the 16-65 VR, btw.
Why do I use it? Because there's no easier way to go to 16mm and use a standard lee filter system.

I can always sharpen the corners using capture one pro. Never bothered me too much.
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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2014, 11:38:19 pm »

You can use what you want for equipment but somewhere your thoughts have to include
Quality of the light
Air quality
Clouds and/or weather in the image
WIND
Composition
And then you can get really anal and say no 35 mm camera yields an image that satisfies my end result so you get a tech or view camera and tilt, shift, swing of fall for the perfect focus points. Then you can go further and shoot 16 x 20 sheet film!
Personally my most satisfying images come from being at the right place in the right light and lucky enough to have a image with strong lines, shapes and colors. A subject that draws my eye around the frame....which isn't often enough for all the time one devotes to the hobby or the career.

For the 411 on zooms today they are great much better than zooms in the seventies. I'm sure any zoom maybe not at it's ends is close enough to primes for most prints.

Try a shot in the Canadian Rockies after a rain with a zoom and print it, hang it on a wall next to a shot from the lower 48 with a prime...then you'll get my meaning.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Moving to Primes for Landscape Work - Who has done this?
« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2014, 03:44:38 am »

Hi,

I have enclosed a pair of screen dump showing one of my favourite subjects, shot a few years ago. One pair is shot on the 70-300/4-5.6G which has a bit weak corners, a couple of days later I was able to reshoot that image using a 80-200/2.8 which is a better performer across the field. In this case the intention was to make a 70x100 cm print of that image, replacing one shot using a 10 MP APS-C camera back in 2007 (or so).

In this case the first image is far to ugly in the tree tops to make a good print, but I guess the second one might do. I never got to making that print.

Often the problem with sharpness is field curvature, that is he focal plane shifts moving to the corners, normally towards the camera. So corners can simply be out of focus and respond well to sharpening. But, it can be that spherical aberrations are overcorrected, that would result in double contours which is very ugly.

I have two ultra wides, a 12-24 Sigma zoom and a Samyang 14/2.8. The Samyang is very sharp, while the Sigma is so-so. But both perform well at small sizes, but the Samyang has much better sharpness and a lot of moustache type distortion. Sigma is not very sharp but has little distortion. Don't care about colour, very likely it is just processing differences.

Now, Sony has a 16-35/2.8 lens (with a Zeiss label). I have checked out quite a few tests and test images and I don't think it is a good performer, so I skipped over it. The Samyang is a good example that sometimes less can be more.

Sigma:
Full size: http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Technical/Sigma-12-24/i-xMKXkD5/O


Samyang:
Full size: http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Technical/Samyang-1428/i-J7fw6ng/O


Best regards
Erik

Thank you, Erik. This was shot with the 16-65 VR, btw.
Why do I use it? Because there's no easier way to go to 16mm and use a standard lee filter system.

I can always sharpen the corners using capture one pro. Never bothered me too much.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2014, 04:01:55 am by ErikKaffehr »
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