Landscapephotography with the “nifty-fifty”

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Evening light, Riessersee. An example of my “straight” style. Shot from eye-level at a “normal-range” focal length.

As I described in my last posting, I tend to compose most of my images “straight” without a deep dominant foreground or other striking perspectives. When I am at a location, I like to use long time to study the subject and investigate different angles and views, as well as light and other elements, but I most often find myself composing the image straight forward without any awkward perspective. Furthermore, I have turned more and more towards shooting in the “normal range” of focal lengths, from 35-ish to about 70mm.

The lens I use most for my landscape-work is the Nikkor 24-70 f.2.8. Big and heavy, yes, but very solid. It is also very sharp compared to most other normal-zooms. However, when I sometimes have photographed the same subject with one of my other favorite lenses, either the Nikkor 14-24 or the Nikkor 70-200, I just can’t help myself in thinking that these two latter lenses give an image that is just a tad crisper. At least when pixel-peeping. Now – for most pictures this is not a problem, but since 80 % of my work is done with the 24-70, I started to look for an alternative that was even sharper. I used to have some primes that were nice and crisp, but as the hikes got longer and longer, I  switched to zooms some time ago to minimize the gear. Primes does however almost always have an advantage over zooms when it comes to resolution, so I decided to investigate some primes further. For my shooting style a 50mm would be ideal. There are lots of primes in the marked in this range, mostly lightweight and good, but most have a flaw in some feature. When the first rumors about the Zeiss Otus 55mm 1.4 started about a year ago, I thought that I had found my holy grail. I was about to pull the trigger on the Otus this spring when I first heard about the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art. As the reviews of the Sigma 35mm Art had been fantastic, especially for resolution, I decided to wait and see what the reviews said about the 50mm Art. It turned out that most reviews were extremely positive, and of course at less than one-third of the price of the Otus ($950 vs $3000), this was a lens to seriously consider. After all, one can have a lot of fun for the $2000 difference…. Also, the Sigma has autofocus, the Otus doesn’t. Maybe not very important for landscape-work, but nice to have.

I bought the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art a couple of months ago and have used it a lot. The first thing that struck me was how solid it is built. It gives a real heavy-duty impression and is on par with my professional-grade nikkors. However, it is not weather-sealed, a definite disadvantage for me. Furthermore, it is very big and heavy, at least for a 50 mm prime, but it is a little smaller than the Zeiss Otus.  But the sharpness….wow. A photography buddy of mine stated that the images were so crisp that it almost hurt his eyes! And I will not argue. Even wide open, the sharpness, both centre and corner, is extremely good. From f4 it is amazing. I think this is the first lens I have had that really takes out the full potential of the 36mp sensor in my d800’s. Bokeh is smooth and nice for landscape work, vignetting and distortion negligible. Fringing is less of a problem than with my zooms, and is easily removed in postprocessing. I have not tried the Otus, but I doubt that I will look any further for a go-to normal prime. For landscape-work (at least in dry conditions, and if you like to shoot “straight”) this lens comes highly recommended from me! By the way, I have no affiliation with Sigma.

Thanks for visiting and reading, have a nice week!

Dag Ole

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At 8.5 x 10 cm and 815g the SIgma 50mm 1.4 Art is a real chunk of gear. But it gives amazingly crisp images!

2 thoughts on “Landscapephotography with the “nifty-fifty”

  1. Just this weekend I bought myself a nifty fifty by Nikon, and I feel good about it. I’ve bought the af-d instead of the af-d since I got a good deal. Only thing I don’t like is the sound when auto focusing. Sounds like a blender. I have heard great things about the sigma art lenses. Enjoy and happy Monday!

    Kind regards, Tieme

  2. Hi, Tieme!
    I have newer owned the 50mm af-d, but a few othe af-d’s- e.g. the old 80-200. Excellent lens, but as you mention, the autofocus system makes som noise… But that doesn’t really matter, at least not to me! Have fun with your 50mm, I find it both challenging and rewarding to work with a normal prime!

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