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Artsy-Fartsy in Kyoto, at f/1.2
Me  @  f /1.2 Photo by Zak Braverman -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Zak Braverman, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/250 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Me  @  f/1.2
Photo by Zak Braverman

Zak kindly offered to loan me his Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 for a while, so I took a walk down to the Starbucks on Sanjo (eastern Kyoto, Japan) for the pickup.

f/1.2 is an extremely big aperture. I've written about the shallow depth of field you get at large apertures (small “f” numbers), such as on this Sigma 30mm f/1.4 post, but this f/1.2 aperture is a new experience for me. Focusing on anything relatively near with the aperture at f/1.2 results in a paper-thin field that's in focus, but even then, the focus is “soft” due to spherical aberration and perhaps other things that I don't understand. Zak put this to good use above, knowing that my face in sharp focus would be a Bad Thing.

Zak  @  f /1.2 with a little extra artsy-fartsy contrast added in post -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/640 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Zak  @  f/1.2
with a little extra artsy-fartsy contrast added in post

The two primary uses of a large aperture lens like this are for low-light photography (such as this), and to take advantage of the shallow depth of field. In the spirit of the latter artistic use, I thought I'd use it on my walk home with an eye toward a more artsy-fartsy shot.

However, upon exiting the cafe, I see a monk chowing down on a Big Mac. So much for artsy-fartsy.

Hey, We've All Gotta' Eat -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Hey, We've All Gotta' Eat

While eating, he was watching the Kamo River flow by. A shallow depth of field with the scene below didn't really do much except make everything mushy, so I ended up with a more normal f/5.6. Except for the guy's yellow jacket and the green of the weeds, the scene was almost completely devoid of color, so I just went ahead and turned it into an artsy-fartsy grayscale.

You Flow Your Way, I'll Go Mine -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
You Flow Your Way, I'll Go Mine

You can walk or ride a bicycle along the banks of the Kamo river for miles, and it's mostly quite pleasant, but the short stretch between Sanjo and Ooike is really unpleasant on a bicycle...

Bumpy -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/4000 sec, f/2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Bumpy
Red Scoopy ( there was a Pink Scoopy parked nearby, as well ) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/2500 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Red Scoopy
( there was a Pink Scoopy parked nearby, as well )
Boring -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/5000 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Boring

I really like the view of the mountains to the north of Kyoto you get from along the Kamo River, how they fade in layers many miles back into the mist. I see it almost every day, but I've never figured out how to take a good picture of it. As the photo above shows, though, I am quite adept at taking bad pictures of it. With the general mushiness of this lens at f/1.2, the car (which is ostensibly the focus point) takes on somewhat of a “soft-focus glow.”

Perhaps that kind of effect would be appealing for some kinds of fashion photography.

Ofuku-san, $400 -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Ofuku-san, $400
Tommy Lee Jones is Tired, but Boss (a brand of coffee) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/1250 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Tommy Lee Jones is Tired, but Boss
(a brand of coffee)

The plants and mini vending machine were in front of someone's house. I tried a shot of the plants at f/1.2, but everything came out mushy...

Too Soft -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/750 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Too Soft

It could just be user error (that is, perhaps I didn't focus well, or didn't have a steady hand), but I'm fairly confident that I gave it a pretty good effort. I have a Katz Eye focusing screen, which allows for much easier/better manual focusing, and at f/1.2, the shutter was a zippy 1/750th second. It's still a sloppy mess.

Things are much sharper at f/5.6, but the result is unpleasingly busy.

Too Busy -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/60 sec, f/5.6, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
Too Busy

I should have tried it at about f/2 or f/2.8.

A few houses down, there was a small sprig of those red berries I wrote about at the end of last year, and at f/2, I really like the result:

Goldilocks Would Be Happy -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/320 sec, f/2, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
Goldilocks Would Be Happy

I took the opportunity to revisit the red berries seen in that red-berries post (in its first picture, and its last two pictures). I can't say that have I much to show for it, though. The background is just too busy, even at f/1.2, to work in a wide-angle shot.

Old Friends -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/5000 sec, f/1.2, ISO 160 — map & image datanearby photos
Old Friends

However, the softness at f/1.2 make a very nice effect with this flower.

Soft as a Baby's Bottom -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2008 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 — 1/1250 sec, f/1.2, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Soft as a Baby's Bottom

Comments so far....

My first experiences with photography were with a similar lens. My parents had just purchased a Canon A1 and a 50mm F1.2 lens. The lens turned out to be a ill-advised choice. My mother’s eyesight combined with no depth of field resulted in a lot of disappointing photos. Even stopped down it lacked the sharpness we expected. It wasn’t until I was a bit older and had enough experience with my own camera that I understood where we had gone wrong.

— comment by Mark Denovich on February 6th, 2008 at 8:38pm JST (6 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

That is one SCARY picture of me!

— comment by Zak on February 8th, 2008 at 12:46am JST (6 years, 9 months ago) comment permalink

Challenging lens on the D700, especially since the focusing screen is NOT interchangeable. Still, it’s cool to have the fastest lens Nikon still makes. I doubt they ever will turn out an AF that fast. It still gives you the latitude in dark scenarios that aren’t too dark to get the camera to find focus. And the bokeh was really nice in some of the shots featured. In any event, according to people like Ken Rockwell, at f/2, it’s the sharpest Nikkor 50 made. Bjørn Rørslett (www.naturfotograf) gives it a 5 out of 5 on the D3/D700.

— comment by ed on February 14th, 2009 at 5:50am JST (5 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

I like a 50mm on DX.

I tried the 50mm f1.2 as well. Nice enough i guess, but it really didn’t seem worth the mf bother, or the price.

I also had a 50mm f1.4G AF-S briefly & was underwelmed. Slow AF & cheapo bits, seemed like it was way overpriced (imo) by about 50%.

My favorite – by far – is the 50mm f1.8. What a nice lens … & surprisingly, the very nice price too!

I’m very tempted by what I’ve read about the Sigma 50mm f1.4,seems like the “best” of the bunch, but I’ve yet to try one as I don’t have a Sigma dealer nearby. Maybe for the best …

— comment by JR on April 25th, 2009 at 2:44am JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

I have to respectfully disagree re: 50 f/1.2. With a split circle focusing screen on my D700, I’ve found the lens to be exceedingly sharp @f/2. Lovely bokeh and probably the sharpest 50mm Nikkor @ f/2 according to several reviewers. Spherical aberration makes 1.2 useful only in pitch black but results are soft (beats no results at all in absolute darkness with a plastic f/1.8 AF lens). The amazing thing is that a reasonably exposed shot can be had on the D700 @1.2 even if it’s just about impossible to focus at all. My old 50 1.4 doesn’t hold a candle (expose the pun) to the 1.2 in terms of sharpness and handling.

— comment by ed on May 5th, 2009 at 12:26pm JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Zak, no, it doesn’t look scary, just a bit like Picasso’s portrait of Marie-Therese.

— comment by Anne on September 9th, 2012 at 1:37am JST (2 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink
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