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A Tale of Two Lenses: A ‘First’ Each for Nikon and Canon

March 18th, 2013 No Comments

It was the ‘best and biggest’ of lenses, it was the worst and ‘shiftiest’ of times . . . .

Enough of the pseudo-Dickensianisms.  Let’s start with the biggest lens.

Here’s a candid portrait of the new pope, Pope Francis.  Shot with, say, a 70 mm?  Um, no.  The photographer was at ground level and the pope was on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.  As such, this ultra-long-range shot was taken with a Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6-8P IF-ED super-telephoto, PhotographyBlog reported earlier today. 

PhotographyBlog calls this lens a ‘monster’ and it is – it weighs sixteen kilos!  You’re not going to be taking this baby in your camera bag, right?  However, it’s also a legend of a lens deserving of its own page on Nikon’s website as it, “at the time boasted the longest focal length of any zoom lens for 35mm-format cameras.”

This page discloses that this lens was made especially to photograph high school baseball games in Japan!  Back in 1990 this ‘tuna’ was a state of the art zoom.  If you’re inclined towards photographic history, check out the 1200-1700mm’s ‘recollections’ page for an interesting read.

On to the ‘shiftiest’ (though far from the worst) lens.  This, of course, is a tilt-shift lens.  And how appropriate that it is . . . a Canon!

Trevor Dayley calls the Canon TS-E (Tilt Shift) 90mm f/2.8 “My New Favourite Lens.”  Interestingly, this lens too boasts a ‘first’: “The world’s first 35mm-format telephoto lens with tilt and shift movements for perspective and depth-of-field control,” according to this lens’s page on the Canon website!

If you’re not quite clear as to what a tilt-shift does, here’s one good way to look at it.  Just as using the native aperture of a lens allows you to focus on one plane while throwing other planes, both front and rear of the focus-plane, out of focus, a tilt-shift allows you to focus on a very small spot on one and the same plane, throwing all other points on that very plane out of focus.

Dayley not only has an excellent idea as to just how and where to exploit this type of lens’s capability, he proves it with pictures.  A 90mm T/S lens is, all-too evidently, a top choice for bridal portraits.

Soft focus, diffusion, bokeh, high key – all these have been staples of bridal photography.  Given its effects Tilt-Shift is, come to think of it, another arrow from that same quiver: “if I were shooting a couple up close and I wanted nothing but their faces in focus, I could tilt the lens to blur everything in the picture but their faces creating a unique effect,” writes Dayley. 

If you’ve associated T/S lenses with shorter focal-lengths, urban landscapes and trick photography, then read Dayley’s write-up and look at his striking portraits.  It’s one of those how-tos in which the pictures speak louder than words.


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