1119 – Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire

OK, that’s better now. Yesterday I did two things: I took my time and I changed lenses.

Taking one’s time is pretty much a precondition for any kind of photography. I mean, sure, on some busy days I have made some images that were jolly good, and what may have looked like hard work had been no more than a minute of luck or two. But that’s just that, luck, and you can’t rely on luck. Detaching oneself and spending some substantial time in disconnectedness with one’s work and troubles is still the best recipe for creativity.

The other thing is the lens. I have changed to the Sigma 70/2.8 Macro, this fantastically versatile lens of highest quality, for sure one of Sigma’s best designs. I set it to f2.8 and for the rest of the day kept it at that. If this lens does not give me fresh views and ideas, then I’m probably dead. Thankfully I wasn’t 🙂

Speaking of lenses, there is a purchase that I’ve been contemplating for a long time now, I suppose at least half a year. I’m speaking of a mid-range zoom. I felt the strong urge for something like that when we were in Udine last Saturday. I carried the Tokina 11-16/2.8, the Nikon 10.5/2.8 fish, the Sigma 28/1.8, the Nikon 50/1.8 and the Nikon 70-300 VR, and after much changing around, I finally ended up using only the 28/1.8. It worked pretty well, but in many cases I had wished for something in the range of below 20 to at least 50, maybe more.

Of course I have the Nikon 18-200 VR, and normally I carry it with me when I’m on trips, I just don’t use it. Recently, while I was sick and at home, I had a look at old images made with the 18-200, and I found that it was never really sharp. I mean sharp like the Sigma 70/2.8 or sharp like the Sigma 28/1.8. I guess I’m just spoiled, but I don’t really like the 18-200 any more.

Basically I see two candidates, the Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC, a stabilized low-light champion, nice for winter nights, and the highly regarded Nikon AF-S VR DX 16-85mm 3.5-5.6G ED. Both are stabilized, the Tamron is faster, the Nikon has a better range. Both cost about the same. See my problem? I can’t really decide what I need. In Udine, in that wonderful, bright light, the Nikon would have been the clearly superior choice, in winter nights in Vienna the Tamron might allow me to stay in low ISOs. So what’s that? A winter lens and a travel lens? Do I need both? None?

The Tamron may be better for the coming season, but don’t my primes suffice on Vienna’s streets? Is a stabilized 50/2.8 any better than a non-stabilized 50/1.4 or even a 50/1.2? Hardly, huh? And is a zoom really what I use in Vienna?

You may find me mulling about that much longer, or I may make a quick decision, I have no idea. Let’s wait and see.

The Song of the Day is “Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire” from Joni Mitchell’s 1972 album “For the Roses”. Hear it on YouTube.

7 thoughts on “1119 – Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire”

  1. A hard decision, definitely, hard as the steel (? alloy?) bar in your image. Up until recently I completely relied on zooms in that range, but went through three of them until I settled for the CZ 3.5-4.5 16-80. Reason for the exchanges: sharpness. At least I can rely on in-body-stabilisation, so I get this advantage even with my primes.

    BUT: In our latitudes, a fast lens is indispensable, and in bad weather and/or in a hurry a zoom is more than just a convenience. That said, I recently bought a fast prime, want to buy a 2nd one (the Sigma 1.8/28 because of your glowing descriptions).

  2. First off, my favorite Joni album is For the Roses, so that is always a way to get my attention. Second, I am looking for a 28mm prime; what do you think of the Sigma? I didn’t know they even made a 28mm prime. Third, just love your work; your images always just pop off the screen

    1. Thanks. Regarding lenses, I have three primes in that focal range, the Sigma 28/1.8, the Sigma 30/1.4 and the Nikon 35/1.8. The only lens covering the full 35mm frame is the 28/1.8. It’s also the biggest, the heaviest, the one that focuses closest (20cm from the sensor plane, that’s not much from the front lens) and the one with the best bokeh. It’s cheaper than the 30/1.4 and it is sharp as it gets. Try it on your camera, I have no idea how it behaves on full frame. On my D300 it is a fine slightly wider than normal lens and I love it.

  3. I already own the 30mm 1.4 for my 10D and like it quite a bit. But I am moving to a full-frame digital and love a 28mm FOV, and am looking for a full-frame prime in that length. The Nikon 28 2.8 is cheap, but I love the fact the Sigma is faster.

    1. It’s not only faster. For me the big difference is the shorter minimum focusing distance. You can do so amazing things just by going near. That’s also the reason why I love the Sigma 70/2.8 Macro more than the Nikon 85/1.8. Of course going near is not everybody’s thing, but mine it is 🙂

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