A few days with a Nikkor 12-24mm lens

When a friend offered to lend me his Nikkor AF-S ED 12-24mm 1:4, I gladly took the opportunity as this could nicely complement my own choice of lenses. I do not intend to make a review of this lens, others are much more qualified to do that than me. For the ones who wants ALL the details, just seek the reviews on the Net, e.g. the one made by Thom Hogan. Bottom line: this lens is said to be very good by people who are able to squeeze the last drop of it…Er…will I, mere mortal, be able to use it ??

“It is for taking big landscapes, right ?”

The main use I -personnally- thought of when hearing “12-24mm” was to shoot landscapes. Sure, 12-24 mm on a DX body means not so wide, but ok…wide enough for me ! True to myself, having my camera always by my side, I decided to leave the lens on the body for several days and shoot anything that presented itself to me. Beforehand, I had the curiosity to do a “wide angle image” search on Google…and learned quickly that it is definitely not only for landscapes…Ah-ah. It is to get more into the picture then, right?

Most beginners, myself included for 15 years, think wide-angle lenses are for “getting it all in.” Ken Rockwell on How to use Ultra-wide Lenses

If, like me, you are not used to a wide angle, it is very easy to get both disoriented and fooled by how much more and how differently things can get into the frame. As a matter of fact, I ended up in the place that Ken Rockwell describes in his article: taking pictures of a (too) far away subject, with loads of distracting things on the side, then post-process by cropping as far as i could go to get something interesting enough…Somehow I was starting to use the 12-24mm like a telephoto zoom substitute… It turned out not too bad actually but not so great either…and certainly not satisfying…

12mm - 1/500 s - f8 - iso 200

I also quickly found out that I had some problems focusing. First, I thought that the autofocus was not working. Wrong: my thinking was at fault, not the equipment. First it is silent (Af-S…). Second, focusing on distinct but distant subjects = autofocus staying at Infinity…Ok, it was a good reminder that autofocus does not help when subject are far away. Next step ? Yes, I ended up doing manual focus most of the time with random results: trying to manually focus on a distant subject is not too good either (…sigh…). The combined result of all this is expressed in the picture below of those beautiful horses in a beautiful field in a beautiful environment…

ISO 200 - 24mm - f11 - 1/160s -cropped

See what I mean ? My approach was simply plain wrong. Surprisingly however, the quality of the lens combined with my D7000 helped me get some kind of pleasing results anyhow. So if one thing, it showed me how good that lens must be when properly used…but how do I do that? Read on.

Getting Closer

I started to read more carefully what experts are all saying: one should not be afraid to get really close and into his subject. Closer ? Like this below ?

ISO 200 - 12mm - f8 - 1/800s - -0.7ev

That seems like a clear YES to me ! Even if I took the picture handheld above my head, surprise, surprise: my focus/autofocus problems disappeared and I got a much more interesting picture. And I find the image sharp. May be I am wrong, I don’t know, but it is sharp enough for me. Of course I see issues, but I attribute them to my technique rather than anything else. For instance, on another example I could have thought to focus closer since I was at a smaller aperture. I guess weather was too hot for me to think straight…

“And now ?

When I look back at the last few days, I smile. I smile because I did learn a lot in the company of that very nice wide angle lens. I learned that the Nikkor 12-24mm lens would indeed be a great complement for me. It is a mighty good lens. However, I would probably not use it enough to justify its cost (at least not in the immediate future). What it did for sure, is to  teach me a few invaluable lessons on my own photographic technique and the huge margin I have for progression. I did not make wonderful pictures, but  it got me thinking and I think I got slightly better, and that’s wonderful to me…^_^

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One thought on “A few days with a Nikkor 12-24mm lens

  1. What a lovely progression in understanding a lens! Isn’t it fun exploring all these ways to get an image through those optics? I’m looking forward to seeing more of your pictures!

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