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Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 C Review

The Nikon F-mount is basically the same since 1959. You can get some classic Nikkor SLR lenses and just mount it on your latest Nikon DSLR and shoot straight away!
The Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 lens is one of those classic lens from the film age.

Reflex lens (or catadioptric lenses or mirror lens) has quite a distinctive look. There is a small circular plate at the center of the front element. If you are wondering how it works, basically, incoming light first gets reflected by the main mirror located at the back of the lens, then goes towards the secondary mirror at the front (that’s the small circle plate you see from outside). Then it finally reflects back towards the image sensor. If you are interested, you can read more about mirror reflex lens on wikipedia:

Nikon has made a number of reflex lenses in the past. The first 500mm reflex lenses was made back in 1960s and the latest version, the 500mm f/8 N was still in production until 2005.
Not surprisingly, the latest 500mm f/8 N is the best of them. It is not only the smallest and with the best optical quality, it also allow you to focus as close as 1.5m (which gives you a very good magnification ratio of 1:2.5). Unfortunately they are extremely rare and when one finally pops up, it also comes with a very high price tag.
The one we are reviewing here is the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 C. The “C” version is one of the later model, just before the latest “N” version. It has multi-coating, but is not as compact as the “N” and the minimum focus distance is around 4m.

Like most of the old Nikkor lenses, the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 C is made of metal and it feels like a tank, yes it’s very solid! Obviously, being such an old lens, it has no autofocus, no VR or any fancy features like Nano coating.

The metal focus ring is pretty smooth and the tension is just about right, with quite a long travel. The long focus ring travel is essential as the 500mm lens has a very narrow depth of field so you’ll need to adjust the manual focus ring very carefully and precisely. With the small f/8 aperture, the camera’s viewfinder is quite dim even during the day and that makes it hard to see if you object is in focus or not especially if you are shooting it with a DX camera. Good luck if you want to shoot under low light as you will have a very hard time just trying to locate your target through the very dim viewfinder. If you are like me shooting with a full frame DSLR like the D800, the larger viewfinder with the AF arrow indicators together would make the manual focus a bit easier and quicker. But still, I got a large number of shots that were out of focus. Using the liveview to zoom in would be a good way to improve the focus accurarcy. Unfortunately when you are shooting in liveview mode, it is really tricky to keep the camera steady. I have to use a tripod or monopod if I’m shooting in liveview mode.

Because of it’s long focal length and lack of VR, it’s also quite hard to keep the camera steady without help from a tripod or monopod. I need to keep the shutter speed above 1/500s when I’m not using a tripod/monopod. As a result, I am regularly shooting at ISO 800-1600 or above during a bright day.

Since it’s not easy to have the focus 100% correct and have virtually no camera shake, a large number of photos I took with this lens were blurry (either camera shake, or misfocus). But if I manage to nail the focus and keep the camera shake to minimal, the photos can be pretty sharp. Just don’t expect every single photo to be tack sharp unless you are shooting static objecct with a solid tripod.

The CAT design means the aperture is fixed. It means two things:
1. We can’t use the aperture to adjust the exposure. Since we have to keep the shutter speed quite high to reduce camera shake, most of the time we can only use ISO to control exposure.
2. We can’t control the depth of field and the depth of field is always very shallow. This is a bigger limitation than #1 as it greatly limits our photo composition and also what kind of photo we can take. For example, you cannot take photos of a group of people and have everyone in focus unless they all line up in a straight line perpendicular to you.

The lens comes with a pair of beautifully made metal lens cap and lens hood. The metal lens cap screws onto the metal lens hood, which can then screws onto the lens. So you can either just remove the flat lens cap and leave the lens hood on, or remove both together. I quite like this design but I can see the disadvantage is that the lens hood were made shorter than it should to minimse the lens’s overall length.  There are really a lot of interesting designs in the  older generation Nikkor lenses, for example, the Nikkor AF 135mm f/2DC has a built-in retractable metal lens hood which i quite like as well.

Lens cap and lens hood both attached to the lens

Lens cap removed, leaving the lens hood on the lens.

Both the lens cap and lens hood removed.

One of the biggest advantage of the reflex lenses is that they are a lot smaller and lighter than the traditional lenses with the same focal length. For example, the Nikkor AFS 500 f/4VR lens is nearly 4kg and 400mm long, while the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm is less than 1kg and the length is about 150mm. So the Reflex-Nikkor 500 f/8 is not really a small lens, but it’s small and light enough for me to carry and walk around and shoot handheld whole day. Don’t think I can say the same thing if I’m carrying the AFS 500mm f/4VR.

The lens also comes with a set of 39mm rear filters. If you are shooting digital, the L37C UV filter is probably the one you’ll use. I remember reading somewhere saying you have to install one of the rear filter as it’s part of the optical design. Personally I haven’t take off the L37C and check if that is true or not. But if you are looking at buying a second hand one, it’s safest to make sure the 39mm filter is included as well.


The most special characteristic of this lens, or any mirror reflex lens in general, is it’s bokeh. The bokeh matches the shape of the front element, looks like a donut ring. If you have any bright light source in the background, you can easily get that funny looking O ring bokeh in your photos which look very very busy. So if you don’t want a distracting background, you need to try find a smooth low contrast background when shooting with this lens.
But the funny bokeh is actually a double-edged sword. Try to be creative and the unique bokeh can help you create some interesting photos.

Be creative, and turn the enemy into your best friend


Most of the photos from this lens has low contrast, and the colour doesn’t seem to be as vibrant as well, especially when compared to the photos from the latest nano coating lenses. Fortunately, with DSLRs, this can be fixed easily by increasing the contrast/saturation settings either in camera or in post processing. You also have to be careful and try avoid any bright light source in front the camera as it’ll lower the contrast even more. The contrast can become so low that you can’t even fix it in photoshop. But if you are looking for that “artistic low contrast film” look, then you may see the low contrast as a good thing.

Unedited JPG straight out of camrea, notice the low contrast.

There is a hot-spot near the center of the image due to the catadioptric optical design, fortunately this is not really visible in most of the photos.

On the positive side, I didn’t notice any chromatic aberration at all, even when i was shooting some high contrast scenes.

The lens has an integrated metal lens mount that can be rotated but cannot be removed.

The reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 is a very special lens. It’s not suitable for everyone as it has a lot of limitations and it’s not easy to create nice and sharp photos. You will probably be frustrated if you are trying to use it to shoot a evening sports game. But if you understand what are the limitations and be careful and creative, this 500mm lens can become one great, low cost telephoto lens.

– A lightweight, small and affordable 500mm lens
– no chromatic aberration
– Decent sharpness, but only if you got everything right.
– Funny bokeh
– Solid build quality and interesting lens hood/cap design

– Manual focus, with very narrow depth of field
– Fixed aperture, which means you cannot increase the depth of field by stopping down.
– No VR, tripod/monopod is essential to keep the camera steady under low light.
– Low contrast, especially when there is strong light source in front of the camera
– Funny Bokeh

Feel free to discuss or add your comments on our forum:

Sample Photos
(Edited to taste with Adobe Lightroom, click to enlarge)

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Nikon D3200 Review

Nikon D3200 is the latest entry model DSLR from Nikon. It’s the successor to the D3100. We have just spent a week testing and playing with this camera, so how good is this new little DSLR?

First, let’s look at the D3200 specs.

D3200’s specifications is pretty impressive:

  • 24MP DX sensor
  • ISO 100-12800
  • Multi-cam 1000 11pt autofocus system
  • Expeed 3 processor
  • 420Pixel RGB metering sensor
  • 4fps
  • 3″ 921,000 pixel LCD screen
  • 1080p30 video with continuous autofocus and external mic input

There are also lots of smaller changes and improvements over the previous model that you don’t see on the spec list and we’ll talk about some of them later in this review. Anyway, looking at the D3200’s specs and it’s really hard to complain about this latest entry level DSLR.


Body design and handling

As an entry model DSLR,  the D3200 is a pretty light camera. Without any lens attached, the D3200 almost feel as light as my Fujifilm x10 compact camera. But while it’s light, it is not really that small. I haven’t really put it side by side with a D5100 but I felt the D3200 is pretty much the same size as the D5100, just a lot lighter! Some people will like the not-too-small size (especially if you have big hands) but some people may want a smaller camera.
As an entry model camera designed mainly for amateur or beginner  users , the D3200 doesn’t have a metal body or weather seal and is mostly made of plastic to keep the weight and cost down. But the camera still feel reasonably solid and doesn’t feel too cheap. If you have large hands the D3200 could be a bit small for you but the new rubber grip design makes the camera sit comfortably in your hands.

The camera is available in either black or red colour. The red one has a glossy red coating and comes with a matching red neck-strap. The red glossy coating looks shiny and pretty and makes the camera look quite special, but it also means the camera is a little bit more slippery than the normal black one. It’s not really an issue at all if you wear the neck-strap around your neck when you are walking around. But if you are like me who normally just hold the camera with one hand when walking around, then holding the black one feel a bit more secure.

If you are a complete beginner, you’ll probably be using the improved guide mode quite a bit. The guide mode is basically a step by step graphical wizard that help you to pick the best settings. But not only that, at the same time the guide mode will also give you explanations on the settings/technique so you can learn and improve your skills as well. The guide mode is not the fastest way to setup your camera but pretty much anyone can pick up the camera and follow the step by step menu to capture some fantastic photos.

If you already have a bit of photography experience, you may want to use the scene modes instead. This allows you to setup your camera quicker than using the guide mode.

And if you are an experienced photographer, you can just use one of the traditional A/S/M mode and adjust all the settings yourself.  Normally adjusting all the settings yourself on a entry level camera is not the easiest thing to do and requires you to go into the menus all the time. But I was surprised by how rare I have to go into the camera menus as a large number of settings can be adjusted directly by using the buttons and dials. I also found the button and dial layout is excellent and very easy to use. I can pick up the camera,  quickly turn on the camera power and adjust a lot of different settings and take the photo all using my right hand only. Or by pressing the “i” button on the bottom left, the information display will be displayed on the main LCD screen which allows the user to adjust about a dozen of settings quickly. There is also an user assignable Fn button but I do find the position of that button slightly awful to use.

One thing the D3100 disappointed me a little bit was it’s low resolution LCD screen. For the D3200, the LCD is finally upgraded to a 921,000 dot 3″ screen, which is the same resolution as the one on the high end model such as D3s or D700. The LCD screen is pretty sharp, bright and very usable even under sunlight.  But one thing I did notice is the LCD seems to has a little bit of blue colour cast occassionally. It’s nothing major but it is definitely noticeable.

As an entry model camera, it doesn’t have any top/secondary LCD screen. All the camera information are displayed on the main LCD and  the viewfinder. It’s not really a problem for normal users as the main LCD displays the current camera settings automatically everytime when you move your eye away from the viewfinder and also when you are changing the camera settings.

The camera feels very responsive thanks to  the latest EXPEED3 processor. Bring up and go through the menu is fast. And despite the large 24MP image file size, writing and reading photos is pretty fast when I was testing it with a 64GB 45mb/s Sandisk Extreme SDXC card.



Just like the D3100, the D3200 also use the Multi-CAM 1000 11 point Autofocus system. The Multi-Cam 1000 was originally released with the high end D200 DSLR a few years ago, so while it’s no where as sophisticated as the Multi-Cam 3500 or 4800 used in the latest high end models, the autofocus system is accurate and should be more than enough for it’s target audience. I remember I shot a lot of motorsports events few years ago with my D200, so there is no reason why the D3200 can’t be used to shoot fast actions as well. The D3200 also has a dedicated AF-assist illuminator to help autofocus when you are shooting in a dark area. And like all the recent entry level Nikon DSLRs, the D3200 doesn’t have a built-in AF motor so it can’t autofocus with the older “AF” type lenses.



The d3200 uses a 420 RGB metering system which should be the same as the one found on a lot of entry/mid level Nikon DSLRs like the d80,d90,d3100..etc There are three metering modes: Matrix, Center-Weighted and Spot metering. Spot metering is linked to the AF point like all the Nikon DSLRs. I am not sure if Nikon has made any adjustments or  improvements to the system but from the few hundreds photo I took I  found the matrix metering is very similar to those other cameras. Apart from a few shots where there was a strong light source in a dark scene, I found the matrix metering to be pretty consistency.  The exposure of the photos are pretty much what I expected and therefore I can dial in almost the correct amount of exposure compensation by just guessing.


Image Quality

The camera’s high resolution 24MP APS-C sensor is definitely one of D3200’s biggest selling and talking point. It’s the almost exactly the same resolution as Nikon’s last generation full frame flagship DSLR D3x. So when I heard the 18-55mm VR is D3200’s kit lens, I was a bit worried if the 18-55mm VR is good enough for the 24MP sensor. Afterall, the pixel density of the D3200 is even higher than Nikon’s high resolution monster, the 36MP D800!

Nikon D3200 with it’s 18-55mm VR kit lens

But after using the D3200 with 18-55mm for the first day, I can tell you the 18-55mm VR is surprisingly better than most of us thought it is. While I won’t call the images from the 18-55mmVR tack sharp, the image I got far exceed my expectation. Even at the corners, the image is reasonably sharp. If you display the images on a large 27″ monitor at full screen, you will still be quite happy with the picture from this little 18-55mm VR lens!

D3200 + 18-55mmVR @ f/8 1/20s ISO100 (Unedted JPG Straight out of camera)

100% crop

Because of it’s high resolution output, you need to more careful with your shutter speed as even a small amount of blur will now be visible in the output photo. But this is only an issue if you want maximum sharpness and you are viewing your photos at 100% on your computer screen as you are now viewing the photo at a higher magnification ratio then say viewing a 12MP image at 100%.  At the same time, the higher resolution allows you to do some extreme crop as long as you have captured a sharp image.

But of course, the beauty of getting a DSLR camrea is that you can use better/different lenses on the same camera to improve the picture quality and capture different photos. So while we were using the 18-55mmVR almost exclusively when doing this review, we also tried putting a few other lenses on the D3200 and see what results we got. The Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.8DX is definitely my favourite! The D3200 + 35mm f/1.8DX together is very light and small and the image quality is very nice and sharp! The large f/1.8 aperture allows you to capture photos under low light pretty well. The 53mm equivalent focal length means it’s a very good everyday lens! The other lens I found that works quite well is the AFS 50mm f/1.8G (or even f/1.4G) prime lens. The camera with the 50mm lens attached feels quite well balanced and it’s a fantastic light weight portrait setup! The 35mm or 50mm f/1.8G lenses are both quite affordable as well.

A versatile combo – Nikon D3200 + Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.8G DX

Nice portrait setup – Nikon D3200 + Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.4G


I’ve also tried mounting the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens on the D3200. (Or is it actually the other way round?).  While the image quality from this combo is excellent, the camera just feel very unbalanced and quite hard to hold because of D3200’s smallish grip. It looks pretty ridiculous too.

Now this looks a bit strange!

Two of the highest resolution Nikon DSLRs, 24MP APS-C D3200 with 35mm f/1.8DX and 36MP full frame D800 with 50mm f/1.4G lenses. Both setup give you almost identical view angle.

D3200’s native ISO range is 100 – 6400, but can be expanded to max ISO 12800. It doesn’t sound too bad on paper but the spec sheet is one thing and the actual real world performance can be completely different, so how good or bad the D3200 performs under high ISO?
If you look at the photo from D3200 at 100% zoom, i.e. examining the photo at pixel level, you’ll probably find the D3200’s high ISO performance is not too impressive and probably slightly worse than some other latest APS-C DSLRs. But remember D3200 is a 24MP camera so each pixel represent a smaller area than most APS-C sensor cameras. A more accurate way to compare the noise performance is by comparing the photo at the same output size. You can either resize all the photos (from different cameras) to the same resolution or simply display or print them out to the same physical size (e.g. print them out to a A3 size, or review the photo on the same size monitor and fit to screen). After all, what is most important about the noise  performance is how the image looks when display on screen or printed to a fixed size.
So if you look at and compare the D3200 photos this way, you’ll find D3200’s high ISO performance is actually pretty good. Even at ISO 1600, the photo is still quite clean and only has small amount of noise. At ISO3200 the noise become quite visible but the overall image quality is still not bad. At ISO6400, you can definitely see the colour, contrast, and fine details all starting to fade away. But for web and small prints, the photos taken at ISO6400 is still quite usable. Hi1 (ISO12800) is purely for emergency use only as the image quality drops significantly at this ISO. D3200’s high ISO performance may not be the best in the class but it’s not too far behind neither.

f/8 1/13s ISO6400 -2/3EV JPG straight out of camera

Since D7000, most of the Nikon DSLR can capture a very wide dynamic range and the D3200 is no exception. The dynamic range that can be captured by D3200 is very impressive especially at low ISO. If you shoot in JPG and turn on the Active Lighting, the camera can handle high contrast scenes easily. I took quite a number of photos under harsh and bright sunlight without using any flash, and I can still see a lot of details in both the shadow and highlight area. Speak about the active D-lighting, while the D3200 doesn’t allow you to specify how strong you want the Active D-lighting is, I believe the active D-lighting on this latest entry level camera is a lot smarter and more effective compare to the previous Nikons and can handle and render scenes with extreme lighting a lot better. If you shoot in RAW, you can extract even more dynamic range from the RAW file yourself!



D3200’s video mode improved quite a lot compare to D3100. D3200 can capture full HD video up to 1920×1080 (1080P) at 30/25/24p or 720p at up to 60frame per second. It has a built-in mono mic and surprisingly, Nikon also allows user to plugin an external stereo microphone on this entry level camera for better quality audio. It also has manual audio adjustment and can display audio information on screen. The maximum video recording time is also increased from D3100’s 10 minute to 20 minute. The video recording button has been moved from the back to the top, near the photo shutter button, that help minimise camera shake when you start/stop recording video.  But the position and size of the video record button is quite close to the info button so you might press the wrong button if you are in a hurry.

Overall, the video quality is pretty good and most D3200 should be happy with it. D3200 is able to do continuous autofocus when doing video recording. Even though the autofocus speed is a bit slower than the latest mirrorless cameras, it works pretty well overall. But one thing I found is, the internal mic just captures a lot of autofocus noise. With the 18-55mm VR lens, the autofocus noise recorded by the internal mic is so loud that the audio is almost unusable if you are recording in a quiet room. You really need to use an external mic such as Nikon’s own ME-1 if you want decent audio in your video. Even a cheap external mic can greatly reduce the autofocus noise.

The D3100 doesn’t allow full manual control in video mode at all but now the D3200  allows pretty much full manual control in video mode. You can adjust shutter speed, ISO and of course do manual/auto focus independently. The only thing you can’t adjust during recording is the aperture value .

Another thing I found during the review is, if you want  to record the video at 1080P30, you have to change the camera’s TV mode setting to NTSC first. If you set your to PAL, then the max 1080p framerate is only 25p.

Here is a short video clip I took with the D3200 + 18-55mm VR lens and internal mic


[youtube width=”600″ height=”365″ video_id=”FIDOJZccjFU?hd=1″]

(For best quality,  view the video on a new window and enable the full HD feed)

Wifi Connection

One of the big new feature for the D3200 is it’s ability to connect and control by a smart device such as Android phone using the optional WU-1a wireless mobile adapter. You can review photo, download photo and even capture photo using supported smart phone or tablet (at the moment it’s Android only, but iPhone support is coming later this year too!). Unfortunately at the time of doing this review, the WU-1a adaptor were not available for us to review yet. So we’ll be testing the WU-1a device later when it becomes available.
In-Camera Editing

The D3200 has a pretty decent in-camera editing ability, not only you can convert from RAW file to JPG and apply some basic editing like adjusting colour balance and resize..etc.  There are also a number of creative editing options like colour outline,  Miniature effect , Selective color…etc. Here are some example outputs I created using the in-camera editing feature:



On paper. D3200’s spec is pretty impressive: 24MP APS-C sensor, 11pt Autofocus system, Expeed 3 processor, 1080p30 video with autofocus and external mic input, 4fps, 3″ high resolution LCD…etc, and after using the camera for about a week, I’m even more impressed by this little DSLR! The camera is responsive and very easy to use, for both beginner and more advanced users. Button and dial layouts are excellent. And the picture quality is excellent too, even if you are just shooting with the 18-55mmVR kit lens. While the camera also has a few flaws, like internal mic picks up too much autofocus noise and the LCD screen has a bit of blue cast, the overall performance and specs of this camera simply outweight its flaws.

Apart from not having a flip-out screen, Nikon can easily make this camera a replacement for the higher end D5100. But looks like Nikon has become quite aggressive lately and they are putting everything they can in their products, so even this entry model camera got a lot of upgrades.

This makes me wonder, if Nikon’s entry model camera already has such an impressive spec list, what can they do when they are replacing the D5100 and D7000? Is there really room for 2 more higher end consumer DX DSLRs? I guess we should just leave it to Nikon to figure that out. In the mean time, if you are looking at buying a small entry level DSLR, I highly recommend the D3200 to you!



– High resolution 24MP sensor

– Great Dynamic Range

– Amazing Specs

– Wifi connectivity (which we haven’t test it yet)

– Excellent button and dial layout

– Easy to use, doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or experienced photographer

– Continuous Autofocus in video mode (even though AF speed is a bit slow)

– External Mic input



– Internal mic pick up too much autofocus noise, especially when recording at a quiet place

– Occassionally the LCD shows slight blue cast

– High resolution means you have to be careful with your camera settings (such as shutter speed or aperture setting) if you want the best possible image quality


Sample Photos

(All Photos taken with D3200 with 18-55mm VR)

f/11 1/500s ISO140
JPG straight out of camera

f/6.3 1/10s ISO3200 -2/3EV
JPG straight out of camera

f/20 1/10s ISO100
JPG straight out of camera

f/5 1/50s ISO2800
JPG straight out of camera

f/7.1 1/160s ISO200 +1/3EV
JPG straight out of camera

f/5 1/50s ISO2800
Edited to taste

f/5 1/50s ISO2800
Edited to taste

f/5 1/50s ISO2800
Edited to taste

f/5 1/50s ISO2800
Edited to taste

f/5 1/50s ISO2800
Edited to taste

f/5 1/50s ISO2800
Edited to taste

For more and bigger sample photos, please visit the sample image gallery on our facebook page:



For comments and feedbacks on this review, or if you want to discuss about the D3200, please go to our discussion forum:





Special Thanks to Nikon New Zealand www.nikon.co.nz for providing the D3200 for this review


Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. He is also a contributing writer for the D Photo magazine.

Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

Nikon AFS 28mm f/1.8G Quick Impression Review

After the recent AFS 50mm f/1.8G and AFS 85mm f/1.4G, the AFS 28mm f/1.8G is the latest addition to the Nikon prime lens lineup.
Since announced, a lot of Nikon users especially full frame DSLR users are very interested in this lens as it gives us an affordable choice when it comes to wide angle prime lens.

So we had a chance to play with the new Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G at Nikon NZ recently. And here is our quick impression review.

First, the specifications:

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm F/1.8 G

Lens type    Prime lens
Max Format size    35mm FF
Focal length    28 mm
Image stabilisation    No
Lens mount    Nikon F (FX)
Maximum aperture    F1.8
Minimum aperture    F16.0
Aperture ring    No
Number of diaphragm blades    7
Elements    11
Groups    9
Special elements / coatings    2 aspherical lens elements and lens elements with Nano Crystal Coat
Minimum focus    0.25 m (9.84″)
Maximum magnification    0.22 x
Autofocus    Yes
Motor type    Ring-type ultrasonic
Full time manual    Yes
Focus method    Internal
Distance scale    Yes
Weight    330 g (0.73 lb)
Diameter    73 mm (2.87″)
Length    81 mm (3.17″)
Sealing    No
Colour    Black
Filter thread    67 mm
Hood supplied    Yes
Hood product code    HB-64
Tripod collar    No

The Nikkor AFS 28mm f/1.8G is really quite small and light! I’m not saying 50mm f/1.8 kind of small. But it’s not really that much bigger or heavier than a AFS 50mm f/1.4G. Consider it’s a wide angle lens with 11 elements, it’s lighter and smaller than I thought it would be. Without looking at the actual figures, the AFS 24mm f/1.4G or AFS 35mm f/1.4G feel a lot heavier when you hold it in hand.

The build quality is great and the lens feel and look very similar to the recent Nikon prime lens. When I mount the 28 1.8 on my D800, it feels really well balanced and it would be a very good combo that you will be happy to carry around whole day.

The big golden “N” on the lens tells you this lens has Nano coating. Nano coating helps minimise internal reflection that cause lens flare and lower contrast especially when you shooting towards a strong light source. This is the only f/1.8 lens that has Nano coating so far. This lens also has 2 aspherical elements and Super Integrated Coating. It uses rear focusing design so the lens length doesn’t change during focusing. It has a metal lens mount and comes with a lens hood.

So how’s the image quality?
We have only played with the lens for a short amount of time so didn’t have the chance to do any extensive testing. But from our quick testing, we found the sharpness is really quite good even at wide open. There is a bit of chromatic aberration but it is not any worse than most fast prime lenses. Bokeh while not melting smooth like some of the traditional portrait lens, is quite pleasing especially at wide open.

Here are some photos we took at different aperture setting:






At f/1.8, vignetting is quite noticable but acceptable. Stop it down to f/2.8 and vignetting is not really noticable anymore.

Autofocus speed is similar to most of the latest Nikon prime lenses, i.e. not very fast. But I guess there are not many people going to use the 28mm f/1.8G to shoot sports or flying birds so the autofocus speed should be fast enough for most of us. And by reviewing the sample photos we took, I found the focus accuracy very good.

So we only had a quick play with the lens but we are already pretty happy with what we have seen. With the release of D4,D800, D800E and the upcoming entry model full frame DSLR that shouldn’t be too far way, there will be more and more demand for good quality FX lenses. While Nikon has alerady released a good number of great full frame lenses since the release of D3, most of them are high end lenses with huge price tag. So it’s good to see Nikon is releasing some great quality lenses that won’t break our bank. And looking at the photos I took with this lens, I’m pretty sure the AFS 28mm f/1.8 will be a very popular lens!

Kata 3N1-10 camera backpack review

A girl can never have too many shoes, and for us photographers, we can never have too many camera bags!

I probably have a dozen of camera bags and pouches at home. But when i go out to take photos, quite often none of my camera bags suit my needs and I just need to get one more camera bag then it’ll have everything I need. Only problem is, 3-4 one more bag later, I’m still wanting to get just one more camera bag!

I don’t really know why I always want one more bag. Maybe it’s because my gear is keep changing but another reason is most camera bags are designed for one particular use. You felt like a particular bag was perfect for you and completely suit your requirements so you went and bought that bag. But after you used it for a while, your requirements change and unfortunately the bag can’t adapt and suddenly it’s not your perfect camera bag anymore.

I got a slingbag, I really like sling bag as it allows me to access my camera and lenses easily. But after using my slingbag for a while, i found the penalty of using a sling bag is that all the load is applied to one shoulder. It’s ok if I’m going out for a short walk, but when I go out for a long walk, my shoulder becomes really quite sore. So even though i really like the bag, I only use it when I know I won’t walk too long. That really limits the chance I can use that bag. It is a shame as otherwise it is a really nice camera bag.

A while ago, I saw some people mentioned about the Kata 3N1-10 camera bag on NikonJin’s forum.  So after some quick serach on the internet, I noticed this bag has some very unique designs. And I decided to do a review on this bag and see how good this bag is.


I have now been using this 3N1-10 almost every day in the last 3 weeks, including a 3 day trip where the Kata was my only camera bag.  So let me share my thoughts and comments of this bag.


Kata is one of the most popular camera bag brand. But for some strange reason, I’ve never used a Kata bag before! This is the first time I’ve ever use a Kata camera bag. 

When I received the bag, the first thing I noticed is that the bag is really quite light. But at the same time very well made with high quality material used everywhere. I also really like the look of the bag, it looks very smart and does not look like a typical camera bag.


There is decent amount of paddings inside and outside the bag. The bag is quite comfortable to wear and should protect the gear inside quite well.


The bag has 2 main storage compartments, the top compartment and a camera compartment. But there are also lots of small pockets at various places.



What makes this bag really different from all the other bags available is it’s unique multi carrying mode design. By changing how the back straps are connected, the bag can be used either as a left sling bag, right slight bag, backpack or even a special X configuration.

Each mode has it’s own  advantages and disadvantages. Sling allows easy access to the camera gears but put all the load on one shoulder. Backpack mode shares the load on both shoulders so you won’t feel so tired easily when carrying heavy gears or walking for long distance. The disadvantage is that you can’t access your gear quickly. The X mode is basically sling mode but with another strap also connected to share the load. This way, it is as comfortable as a backpack but you can also quickly disconnect that secondary strap and turn it back into a sling bag for quick gear access.

The good thing with this multi carrying mode design is that instead of buying a sling bag and a backpack and having to choose which bag you want to carry, you can just setup the bag depends on what is most suitable for you.

Wearing the Kata 3N1 in backpack mode

Backpack mode is the most comfortable carrying mode.


Sling mode allows quick access to your camera gear


Using it in sling mode


One strange thing I found when I first started using this bag in sling mode is, I almost always put the strap on the wrong shoulder initially then I have to swap to the other shoulder. I don’t really know why as I never have this problem with the other sling bags I’ve used before. I gave the bag to a few different people to try and most of them did the same thing as well! But the good thing is, after you made the same mistake a few times, your brain would teach itself and you’ll be eventually start wearing it correctly.

X mode – A mix of sling and backpack mode



There are a total of 4 pull-taps for the camera compartment zip. This is to allow the bag to be used in (and switch between) any of the carrying option easily. But probably because of the shape and design of the bag, when I first got the bag, I found it was not that easy to zip and unzip it. But then after using it for a week or so, ,zipping and unzipping the bag seems a lot easier and faster. I don’t know was it because I’ve “run-in” the zip a little bit or was it just because i’m more familar with the bag.


The 3N1 comes with a raincover. When you don’t need to use it, you can easily put it inside one of the small pockets inside the bag, and it only takes 5-10 seconds to pull it out and covers your bag when it rains. And while I don’t think Kata said the bag itself (without the raincover) is waterproof. I have actually used the bag and walk under rain for 10 minutes without the raincover and the inside of the bag was still completely dry when I checked it after the walk.

When you don’t need to use the raincover, you can easily store it inside the bag or attach it to one of the zip.


One of the most important question people ask when they looking at buying a camera bag is, what sort of gear can you fit in the bag?

The 3N1-10 is the smallest bag in the 3N1 family, according to the manufacturer, the 3N1-10 is designed for carrying a DSLR w/mid-range zoom lens+ 1-2 lenses+flash. There are two bigger bags in the family. 3N1-20 and 3N1-30. The 3N1-30 is the biggest of the three. There are also three 3N1 bags that also allows you to carry a laptop. The model numbers are 3N1-11, 3N1-22 and 3N1-33.

This is the main camera compartment:

It comes with a little pouch for storing your memory cards.

For me, in the last few weeks, I’ve tried using the Kata 3N1-10 to carry different combination of gears, but most of the time, I was using it to carry the following gear inside the camera compartment:


Nikon D800 or D700 DSLR


3 of the following lenses:

Nikon AF135mm f/2D DC
Nikon AFS 16-35mm f/4G VR
Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G
Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.4G
Nikon AFS 28-300mm VR

I can fit the D800 + three lenses from the list above into the main camera compartment easily. If I swap my gear with a slightly smaller setup, for example a Nikon D5100 with lenses like the 18-55mm VR, 55-300VR…etc then there should be more than enough space for me to fit another lens or a speedlight into the camera compartment.
Unfortunately once a battery grip is attached to the D800, the camera becomes too tall and can no longer fit inside the bag in normal configuration.

I’ve tried to see how much gear I can squeeze into the camera compartment, and this is probably the maximum amount of gear I can fit in without breaking anything.

a Nikon D800 with 16-35mm f/4 VR attached + a 85mm f/1.4D + a 50mm f/1.4G + a  28-300mm VR.

This is pretty amazing for a fairly small bag. And to be honest, I can probably still upsize one or two of the lenses, but it’s already quite a tight fit with the gears listed above. I normally wouldn’t carry that much gear in this bag.

And then there is a top compartment, that can be used to store your personal stuff or another lens or even camera if you want.


I can fit quite a number of small items in there easily. And it is actually big enough to fit another DSLR with a small lens attached. My D800 + 50mm f/1.4 sits comfortably inside the top compartment.
There is one very cool thing that I only notice a few days ago! There is actually a zip between the top and camera compartment, and you can open it up and you’ll now have one huge compartment instead! With the two compartments combined, you can now fit big lenses that you were not able to fit before.

For example, previously there is no way i can fit my Nikon AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 VR into the bag:

Now, I join between the top and camera compartments, and the bag can fit the 70-200 f/2.8 VR easily!



There are still room for a few more lenses!


Kata 3N1-10 bag is a very unique bag. Kata has spent a lot of time and effort when they are designing this bag. I really like the multi carrying modes as it makes the bag a lot more versatile. I wouldn’t have used this bag for my recent 3 day trip if it’s just a normal sling bag. While it’s not a large bag, you can still fit a decent amount of gears inside the bag. And the option for joining the two compartment together gives you even more flexibility, I can probably fit a 400mm f/4 in this bag!!
And then all the little things like the provided raincover, memory card pouch, multi zip pull-taps really made me like this camera bag even more!
I did find a few minor issues when using this bag, for example I always put the strap on the wrong shoulder, and unzipping the camera compartment takes a bit of effort. But I believe they are mostly because of the bag’s unusual and unique design and once I get used to the bag a bit more these issues all seems to have disappeared.

So if you are looking for a small-medium size backpack or sling bag, I highly recommend you to check out the Kata 3N1-10 or one of bag in this series.


Model: Rachel Ryan

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions

I AM D800 – our unusual Nikon D800 review

D800’s spec was leaked way before it’s official announcement. but Nikon was still managed to surprised us at the last minute with a much lower than expected price.
It’s pretty obvious there will be a huge demand and low supply for this latest full frame camera. So after it’s announcement, I went and pre-ordered one from Auckland Camera (www.aucklandcamera.co.nz)  immediately.



Unfortunately because of the new Japanese regulations, the ENEL3 and the ENEL4A battery that were used on the D200,D300,D700,D2,D3..etc are now replaced by the new ENEL15 and ENEL18 batteries.
To prepare ourselves for the new camera, Igot ourselves some ENEL15 batteries and large memory cards. And waiting for my camera to arrive.



One day, I got a call from Ken, Nikon’s NZ product manager and he asked me to call Auckland Camera tomorrow. He didn’t say clearly why so I can only hope it has something to do with the D800!
I called the shop the next morning and confirmed my D800 was already on the way to the shop. Hooray!!


Nikon claims the D800 is now able to autofocus down to -2EV. So one of the first thing I tested was the low light autofocus performance. I turned off almost all the lights and mounted a Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.4G lens on the camera. I put a lens cap on the floor as the AF target. Because it was so dark, it actually took me a long long time before i can see where the lens cap is through the viewfinder, and to be honest i can not actually see the lens cap, i can only tell there is something there! I thought there is no way the camera’s autofocus system can see anything.
But surprisingly, the camera can do a AF lock successfully on the lens cap (even though it took a bit of time), I set the aperture to f/1.4 and the metering system tells me at ISO25600 my shutter speed still has to be around 1/30s. I took a photo with that setting, and examine the photo on screen, at f/1.4 and close shooting distance the DOF is very shallow, but the autofocus was spot on!
Then I mounted the same lens on the D700. The D700’s AF system just can’t even see the target even after 15 tries. I don’t really blame it as my eyes can barely see where I should aim! I mounted the lens back on my D800 and yes it was able to focus and accurately again!
So, yes D800’s improved 3500FX AF system’s low light performance is simply amazing!
p.s. both camera’s AF assist lamp was turned off

At 36MP, the pixels on D800’s full frame sensor are a lot smaller than the one on the D3/D700. So as a wedding photographer who shoot under dim light regularly, I was quite worried about if D800’s high ISO performance could be worse than the previous Nikon FX cameras. Amazingly I found the 36MP D800’s high ISO performance is just as good as the 12MP D3/D700. Actually after taking some more comparison shots under controlled environment, I can confirm D800’s high ISO performance is at least 1 stop better than the D700. Even at the maximum ISO 25600, while the photo is a bit noisy but it retains tonnes of details if you look at the full size image and the colour and contrast still remain reasonably good! Nikon could have push the max ISO to 51200 or even 102400  if they want. I guess Nikon is  a bit conservative and don’t want to output barely acceptable photos from their cameras.

D800 has the dual-axis electronic virtual horizon that tells you your camera’s pitch and roll angle. This is very useful for landscape or architectural photographer. While D3/D700 also has the virtual horizon feature, it was single axis only and the implementation (especially the viewfinder mode) isn’t as good as the D800.

I did a little test to test D800’s RAW file’s quality and dynamic range. I first set the camera to aperture priority mode and took a photo. Checked the photo on the LCD screen, even though there was a bright light source in the scene the exposure seems pretty much perfect, so that’s good! Next, I dialed in a -5 EV exposure compensation on the camera, yes 5 stop underexposed the photo and took another photo. Now the photo looks very dark (of course, it’s 5 stop underexposed!). Then I loaded the photo in Lightroom, pushed the exposure up by +5 stop. Amazingly the photo still look very nice! The colours are still there, there is very limited noise and there are still lots of shadow details. I then did some quick editing in photoshop and created this photo. I  think it’s hard to believe the original photo was underexposed by 5 stop, what do you think?



I went to the Zoo today with the D800 and a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I quickly took a photo of this giraffe when it was walking past me. But even at 200mm I still can’t get the close up shot I want. Fortunately the D800’s 36 megapixel output means we can crop a lot and still have a lot of pixels left. I cropped the photo so the output is prerty much what I would got if I was shooting with a 300mm lens. The cropped photo still have more resolution than a D700 can output and virtually I have a 1.5x teleconverter I can use anytime. When shooting with the D800, be very careful with your shutter speed and remember to keep your hands and body very steady if you want to capture sharp images.



If you take a DSLR with you when you go out with your friends or family, normally you will be the only one that taking photos as most of your family members or friends probably don’t know how to use a DSLR. But D800’s much improved liveview mode makes taking photo a lot easier and similar to a compact camrea.
The contrast detection in D800’s liveview mode is a lot faster. It is not as fast as most of the latest mirrorless cameras but it is a big improvement over the D700 and make the liveview mode a lot more usable.
The new 91000 RGB pixel metering system helps doing the face detection and tracking. The face information is also used to adjust the exposure. While I still need to dial in a bit of exposure compensation, the frequency and amount of exposure compensation i need to adjust is a lot less than before. Overall the metering system is a lot smarter than D3/D700’s 1005 RGB metering system.

So with all these improvements, you can now give the camera to anyone in the family (or even strangers, just make sure they won’t run away with your D800) and they can take some nice family photos easily.

I took this photo in liveview mode. Autofocus set to AF-S + Face detection. I use the LCD to compose the photo and the camera detect my daughter’s face straight away. I press the shutter button and the camera focus on my daughter’s face accurately. Also the exposure seem pretty good even though there is strong backlight on the right hand side.

Ok, no sports photographer would buy a D800 as their main camera. The 4fps shooting speed is probably the camera’s biggest weakest and my biggest complain about the camera as well.
But if we consider the huge image size, 4 fps @ 36MP = 144MP/s. That’s more MP per second than even the D3s (9fps @ 12MP = 108MP/s).
I remember I was shooting lots of motorsports events with my 10MP 5fps D200 happily just few years ago and I was not really complaining about the speed. With the D800, we can also shoot at 5fps if we shoot at the 1.2x crop mode. And even with the 1.2x crop, we are still getting 25MP images. That is still more pixels than the D3x or the Canon 5D Mk3. And with the same latest autofocus system as D4 (which has features like 3D tracking, but we’ll talk more about that later) , there’s really no reason we can’t go to a race track and be a weekend racer with the D800.
And yes we can boost the speed to 6fps in DX mode. But we have to get the MB-D12 grip (and use the correct battery). Seeing the D7000 powered by the same battery and EXPEED2 chip can already do 6fps at a similar resolution (as D800’s DX mode), it makes me wonder if Nikon purposely limit the D800 just to sell some MB-D12 or is it really caused by some kind of hardware limitation.

But anyway, yes the D800 can definitely be used as a casual sports camera when it doesn’t want to be a landscape or portrait camera.
This photo was shoot with the D800 + Nikon AFS 28-300mm VR lens at 1.2x crop mode.

I haven’t really test the D800 under severe weather conditions yet, but I have used the D700 and the D200 under heavy rain and all different kind of weather many many times and the cameras never have a problem. So there is no reason why the D800 would be any different. Afterall, they all have alloy magnesium body and protected by extensive weather and dust sealing. Just make sure the lens you use also has good weather sealing and you dry the camera and lens properly afterwards.

Street photography is all about capturing what’s happening on the street, especially the action or interaction between people on the street. Most of the time the photo oppournity appears and disappears quickly. You have no control of the subject you are shooting, you have no control of the lighting and you only have a short period of time to capture the scene.
So what makes a camera good for street photography? If you ask me, I would say the ideal street photography camera should be able to take great quality under various lighting condition, it allows you to change camera settings and take photos quickly, and it should easy to carry around and take photo without drawing too much attention.
Is the D800 a good camera for street photography?
D800’s very good high ISO performance, amazing dynamic range allows us to can take great quality photo under various lighting condition.
Then all those quick access buttons and dial + button combination means we can adjust most of the camera settings quickly without even have to look at the camera. The improved AF system + new metering system with face tracking/detection feature means the camera can help you nail the focus and give you a decent exposure without too much hassles. Oh Nikon if you are reading this, I would actually like to have the cross type AF points a bit more spread out if that’s possible, that’s my biggest complain about the otherwise awesome AF system.
Now the D800 is definitely not the smallest camera in the world, but it’s still one of the smaller/lighter full frame camera (with the exception of the Leica M9). It’s considerably smaller and lighter than cameras like D3, D4 and definitely looks a lot less intrusive when you point it to a stranger on the street. While on paper, it’s only 95g lighter than the D700 which doesn’t sound like much, but if you are a regular D700 user, you will feel the D800 is considerably lighter when you hold it on your hand. Also compare to the D700/D3, D800’s shutter sound is more quiet now, it allows you to take a photo more discretely. D800, like most other new DSLRs, also has a “Quiet” mode, but to be honest I don’t find it to make too much a difference. It’s a pity as sometimes I do want the camera shutter to be more quiet.
So is the D800 a good street photography camera? I leave it to you to answer this question but I know I love doing street photography with the D800.

 D800 has the enhanced Multi-Cam 3500-FX AF system with 51 focus points. 15 of the points are cross-type sensors and 11 midpoints. It’s based on the AF system used on D3/D700 but with a few improvements.  For example, the AF system can now operate at f/8. It means you can mount a 2x teleconverter on a 600mm f/4 lens (which gives you an effective f/8 maximum aperture) and go take some bird in flight photos and the camera’s autofocus system will still work. But I don’t have a 600 f/4, actually i don’t even have a 300 f/4! But i still went out and took some bird photos with my little 28-300mm VR instead. The camera also uses information from the 91000 pixel metering system to improve subject tracking especially when tracking smaller size subjects. And I do feel the autofocus system can track fast and slow objects more accurately when compare to the D700 which uses the original Multicam 3500FX AF system. There are lots of autofocus settings and it may take a while to understand it. (Nikon didn’t do a really great job with the D800 user manual explainingg the different AF settings. I probably had more question marks in my head after i read the user manual) The different autofocus mode, like 21 point AF, 51 point AF, or 3D tracking AF mode, all has their plus and minus and sutiable for tracking different kind of objects and you really need to spend a bit of time to get familar and understand what works best for you. But when you got the correct setup for the photo you are taking, the autofocus system can track the object with great accuracy and allows you to capture some amazing photos.

Even though Nikon released the first ever video DSLR – the Nikon D90 back in 2008, their whole video engineering team probably immediately went away to celebrate as all the following DSLRs were sharing pretty much the same basic 720p video mode, including the otherwise fantastic D3s. So it’s not really surprising that we never see any professional or even amateur videographer that uses a Nikon DSLR for video. But when their engineering team finally came back from their 2 year long vacation, they knew they got some catch up work to do and we saw improved video recording capability on the D7000, D3100 and D5100 . Now, with the D800 and D4, Nikon is clearly putting a lot of efforts in the video department and we see 1080/30p record mode, HDMI umcompressed output, external microphone input, headphone out, full time continuous autofocus (with face tracking), crop mode recording, new liveview/video recording buttons…etc in both cameras. So while the D800’s video mode is still far from perfect, (for example, the noise performance in video mode could be better at high ISO, the autofocus speed is quite slow compare to the mirrorless cameras, the internal mic picks up a lot of autofocus noise), Nikon DSLRs are finally no longer lagging behind the competitors behind when it comes to video mode!
If you have watched the short video Joy Ride (https://vimeo.com/36326055) you’ll agree the D800 can create awesome quality videos even under challenging conditions.

I AM THE BIG PICTURE – this is the offical slogan for D800 and you can print some really big photos from D800’s 36MP photo. While some people love the huge output from the D800, there are also people who don’t like it and think most people will never need anything bigger than 12 (or 16, or 18) megapixels and the extra resolution is just a waste of memory card and hard disk space. Funny thing is, I remember a few years ago, we were all saying 6MP is more than enough and 10+MP is a bit of overkill (and admittedly i was one of them!). But anyway no matter which side you are on, the 36MP sensor is definitely the biggest talking point among the Nikon users (or even non-Nikon users). I picked the same slogan as the finale of my D800 “I AM” review.

So what can I shoot to show “THE BIG PICTURE”? I don’t live in France so I can’t go to the Nation library of France and replicate Benjamin Antony Monn’s beautiful library photo in the D800 brochure).

Now if I can’t think of a beauitful building with lots of details to capture, how about I capture lots of buildings instead? I decided to go up to the top observation deck of the Sky Tower, which is the tallest free-standing structure in the Souther Hemisphere. I want to take some photos of the beautiful city I live in.
So I went up the Sky Tower, and I mounted the Nikon AFS 16-35mm f/4 VR onto my D800. I took this long exposure photo without a tripod through the observation deck’s thick glass window, in spite of that, the D800 still managed to capture a beautiful and detailed photo of the Auckland City. From the street and buildings nearby, to the bus parking space a bit further away, to the marina far away, there are just tonnes of details everywhere.

I wish I could go outside the observation deck so I don’t have to shoot through the thick glass and setup a tripod and shoot a better photo, but I’m still quite happy with what I got!



For comments and discussions, please go to the forum:

Remember, You can check-out the full screen size photos on our facebook page:

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine. (www.dphoto.co.nz)

Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636


All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions


Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 AS UMC Review – Part 2

In the first part of the review , we had a look at the build quality, general look and feel of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC lens. We also included some real world unedited samples shot with this lens.

Now we’ll have a closer look and examine the photo quality. When we were taking the real world samples, we already noticed the lens has excellent optical quality so we want to see how good it actually is by comparing it with one of the best 35mm f/1.4 lens available, the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G. The autofocus Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G’s price tag is more than 3 times that of the manual focus Samyang so can the Samyang give the Nikkor a good fight?


The Sharpness Test
First let’s look at the sharpness.

We’ll compare both the center image qualtiy and corner image quality. Red rectangle is the centre crop area, Blue rectangle is the corner crop area.

All test photos were shot with a D700. Camera on a Manfrotto 055 MF3 tripod with 804RC2 head. Manual Focus with liveview at maximum magnification. Camera in timer mode to minimise camera shake. Fine JPG.

Let’s look at center image quality first. Below is the 100% crop at different aperture. Left is from the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, right is from the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC

Both lenses are excellent and output great quality images even at f/1.4. The Samyang seems to be slightly better at wide open, a little bit sharper than the Nikkor and also less CA as well. The image quality improves when we stop down. The best image quality seems to be at around f/5.6.

Now what about the corner image quality? Below is the 100% crop near the image edge.

Surprisingly, the Samyang is still the better performer at the corner. Even at f/1.4 the image is very sharp with lots of details. The Nikkor’s f/1.4 corner image quality is actually quite good when compare to most other fast prime lenses. Stop it down to around f/4 and we get very good image quality. But even at f/8, the Nikkor still can’t matches the Samyang’s ability to resolve fine details at corner.

So I think we can say the Samyang is the slightly sharper lens, but a lens isn’t just about how sharp it is, what about the out of focus i.e. bokeh quality?
The Bokeh Test
For this test, we set the focus distance to 1 m and took the same set of photos with these two lenses, and there is a 100% crop to show the difference in bokeh.

The Nikkor’s bokeh is beautiful. It’s quite smooth, round (thanks to it’s rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm) and bokeh remain round even when stop down to f/5.6. The Samyang’s bokeh is not bad at all, but it’s slightly nervous. And while the bokeh is quite round at wide open, once you stop down to f/2.8, the bokeh from the 8 (slightly curved) blade aperture is not round anymore. The transition is also not as smooth as the Nikon. It’s not horrible, just not as good as the Nikkor.
The Vignetting
So how about the vignetting? Here are the results.

Both lenses has very noticeable vignetting at f/1.4 (but normal when compare to other fast prime lenses), you have to stop down to f/2.8 for the vignetting to become not so visible. And comparing the two lenses, it appears to me the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G has slightly less vignetting at wide open than the Samyang. But the difference is so small that i don’t think it really matters under normal use.
The Rest
The Nikkor has a big golden “N” label on the lens. It means Nano coating, Nikon’s secret weapon to reduce flare and maintain good contrast when you are shooting towards bright light source. It makes a huge difference when you are shooting towards a strong light source and you get very very little lens flare and contrast remains very high. The Samyang doesn’t have the Nano coating but surprisingly the flare resistance is still very good. I have took at least a dozen photos where there is a very strong light source visible and shinning towards the camera but I never get much flare and contrast never drops too low. If you have check out the sample photos from part 1 of this review, there is one photo that i shot directly towards the sun and i only get very little flare and the contrast is still quite good. It’s clearly that the Nikkor is definitely the better in this area but the Samyang is not bad at all when there is a strong light source in front of the camera. It’s flare resistance performance is probably one of the best among all the non-Nano coating lens I’ve ever used.
The Nikkor seems to be slightly better than the Samyang in terms of light transmission. When I compare the photos from each lens with exact same settings, the image from Samyang appears to be slightly dimmer. The difference is actually quite small, but is enough to be noticeable when you put two photo side by side.
The Conclusions
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC is simply an amazing lens! The build quality is good, i love how smooth the manual focus ring and it feels very solid when you hold it in your hands. But not only does it feel good when you hold it, the image quality is also excellent as well. Even when we compare it to the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, one of the latest and best 35mm f/1.4 lens, the Samyang’s performance is on par in almost every single area (and better in some areas!) Bokeh is probably this lens’s weakest area but having said that, it’s weakest only because it’s exceptional performance in all the other areas and there is not much else i can complain.
Obviously for a lot of people, there is one biggest short coming with this Samyang lens, it’s a manual focus lens. But if you don’t shoot too many fast moving objects, and want a wide fast prime lens with first class optical quality, a pretty good build quality and don’t want to sell a leg and an arm to pay for it, you really have to have a look at the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC. Currently it’s the #2 lens at DxoMark’s lens ranking chart, beating all those expensive Sony Zeiss, Canon L, and Nikkor gold ring lenses! And I think our test results definitely agree with that.

And before we finish, here are a few some more real world samples, all shot at wide open (f/1.4), again all are unedited JPG straight from camera.

For comments and discussions, please go to the forum:

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions


Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 AS UMC review – Part 1


The Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 AS UMC 

Samyang is not the most  famous 3rd party lens brand. If you are from New Zealand like me, you probably haven’t heard of it as it was only late last year that a distributor in NZ was apoointed and shops starting to stock and promote them. But if you follow the photography new/review websites closely, you should have read some great reviews on some of their latest lenses.  The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC is one of the lens that have received great reviews. Personally I have never used any Samyang lens before but I decided to try their 35mm f/1.4 and see if the lens is actually as good as some of  the reviews suggest.


The box

The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC lens comes in a gold/black colour  box and inside the box there is a plastic container that holds the lens.  The packaging is pretty basic and nothing fancy. Inside the box you can also find a lens hood, a lens pouch and an instruction manual.

The lens

The body of the lens is made of a mix of high quality plastic and metal, and the lens mount is made of metal. With a 12 elements in 10 groups inc. 1x aspherical & 2 HR elements design, there are a lot of glasses and the lens feels really quite heavy and it’s not a small lens at all! It weights 660g, 60g more than the autofocus Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, or 3 times heavier than the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.8DX. When I am holding it in the hands it doesn’t give me any cheap/very plastic feeling. One thing i really like about this lens is it’s smooth and well-dampened focus ring. It’s not Zeiss smooth but it still feels very smooth and nice and i find myself picking up the camera just to rotate the focus ring for no reason. Okay i know it sound a bit silly but I really did that a few times in the last few days!
The front element doesn’t rotate when focusing so that’s good if you are using a CPL filter. And while the front element moves slightly forward/backward when you adjusting the focus, the overall length of the lens doesn’t change. Overall the build quality and the looks and feel is very nice for a lens of this price.
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 lens also has an aperture ring, just like the older Nikon D lenses, and the aperture ring tension feels just about right to me. For people who uses the camera sub dial to adjust the aperture size (instead of the mechanical aperture ring), unfortunately there is no locking tab so you can’t lock the aperture to the smallest aperture. It means you may get the fEE error when you accidentally move the aperture ring. That happened to me a few times when i was reviewing this lens. Not really a major issue but can be a bit annoying or cause panic if you don’t know what that flashing fEE means.
The supplied lens hood is decent quality and quite easy to use. It doesn’t fall off the lens too easily.
The lens takes 77mm filters so that’s good if you already got some 77mm filters you can share with. But if you don’t have any 77mm filters then unfortunately you have to buy the expensive but very common 77mm filters.
Like most manual focus lens, it has a large focus distance scale which is really handy for a manual focus lens.
With my D700, the camera’s digital rangefinder can be used to help the focusing. The little arrow in my D700’s viewfinder indicates which way I should turn the focus ring to get correct focus until the focus confirmation light turns on. You still have to rely on your eyes to get the focus 100% spot on, but the digital rangefinder definitely makes it a lot easier/faster. The focus ring travel is similar to most manual focus lens and quite easy to use. Even when shooting at f/1.4, the 35mm focal length means the DOF is still not too narrow unless you are shooting at very close distance, it makes it easier to keep the subject in focus. Because of that, even though I don’t use manual focus lenses regularly (reads I’m terrible at manual focusing), the percentage of misfocus shots is still reasonably low and most of them were when i was shooting close moving objects. I have not tested it with a split prism focusing screen yet but I imagine that will make manual focus a lot easier and more accurate.  The lens is also available in Canon EF mount but if you are a Canon shooter, you are not so lucky as i read that the focus confirmation light wouldn’t work with this lens.

The camera’s metering system is working perfectly with the lens as well.



The Image Quality

I’m going to test this lens with the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G lens and see how the Samyang perform when compares to one of the best 35mm f/1.4 lens. I’m going to compare the sharpness, vignetting, bokeh so stay tuned for the 2nd part of the review.


The Samples

In the mean time, here are some sample photos I took with the Samyang 35mm f/1.4AS UMC. All photos are unedited JPG straight from camera: (click on the photo to see a larger version)

Or you can see the fullscreen samples  on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.273026076121862.63462.258422050915598&type=3

f/2.2 1/25s ISO6400

f/2.2 1/30s ISO6400

f/8 1/320s ISO200

f/2.0 1/8000s ISO200

f/1.4 1/3200s ISO200

f/2.8 1/6400s ISO200

f/1.4 1/2000s ISO200

f/1.4 1/8000s ISO200

f/2.5 1/50s ISO3200

f/2.0 1/30s ISO500

f/22 1/1600s ISO200

f/1.6 1/800s ISO200

f/1.8 1/50s ISO3200

f/1.4 1/40s ISO800

f/3.2 1/4000 ISO800 (opps forgot to lower the  ISO!)

 f/1.8 1/160s ISO3200



Stay tuned for the 2nd part of the review where i’ll test and compare the photo quality with the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G. The initial test results really surprised me!

Thanks to New Zealand Samyang distributor Focal Holdings www.focal.co.nz for providing this lens for the review

The 2nd part of the review is here:

For comments and discussions, please go to the forum:

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

All photos and text Copyright© 2012 www.nikonjin.com. All photos and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format without obtaining written permissions