Monday, June 5, 2017


As I mentioned in my last, all-too-long-ago post, I bought a lens for my new Nikon DSLR. It looks like this:

It is a modest lens, of a brand that has never garnered a lot of respect, though at one time Vivitar made quite serviceable low-cost lenses, of which I owned a few. The name has recently been sold off and the brand is not to be trusted, which I can unfortunately attest to from personal experience. But this piece of glass is from an older Vivitar tradition.

When I mount this new acquisition to my modern camera, I get a message at the bottom of the screen that looks like this:

This might seem a very disconcerting, even disheartening message, and probably would be for anyone who's used to shooting with a lot of automation. But to me, those are three beautiful words. They mean that the camera is not communicating with the electronics in the lens. Because, of course, there are no electronics in the lens.

Turning the control to manual solves this problem. The camera will not set the aperture or focus on this lens, because it can't, and it won't meter. But that's actually just the way I want it. With this lens mounted, I can use a thumbwheel to set the shutter speed and (while pressing another button) the ISO. And I can just leave them there, as I would normally do when shooting film, and use the aperture and focus rings to get just the effect I want.

I have not, so far, resurrected my light meter, and may not do so very often, because I can pretty well see the effect on exposure and depth of field using the viewing screen, which is the only viewfinder when shooting video, and shooting video is what this lens is for.

I have already shot a little video with it. I took it down to my green screen and set it up, It's a little on the wide side, and I have to stand closer to the screen than I normally like (I'll be fighting with the lighting to keep shadows off the screen), but this is just a test; I plan to get a longer lens sometime soon, something in the 75-85mm range.

The best part about shooting with this lens is focus. When I shot all of the other green-screen videos that I've made, I had to have a stand-in, not just for framing, but to lock the focus, and it didn't always work. Now I can literally measure the distance from the sensor (approximately—there's not film-plane marker on the camera that I can find; if you don't know what I'm talking about, I understand) to where I knew I was going to stand, then set the focus according to the markings on the focus ring.

That's right, markings. Actual distances that assist is setting the focus even when you can't see the image (or when you can't see it clearly), or when, as in the case of shooting myself in front of the camera, the object you are trying to focus on is just not there.

And the results? Amazing. Sharp and clear, with good color rendition. Not bad for what once was, even in the heyday of Vivitar, a relatively cheap lens.

Time has been a little short, but I expect I'll be back in front of the green screen sometime next week to show off my new acquisition.

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