Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Story Behind my Supermoon shot: The Viral Image

OK …. now it is time to share the real story and effort behind my most viral photo so far ….. "Supermoon".

Like any other day i also got to learn last month from Facebook & several other resources that on Nov 14th its going to be a biggest Supermoon in last 70 years or so going to happen and its related attributes was also shared on NASA and different websites. Facebook was the most discussed media for such news frankly speaking. Since last month i was literally in thought day and night how to take photo of the Supermoon which can stand out among the millions of others. i was literally searching & looking the places and calculating the travel time …. foreground elements and its combination ….. and other related logistics. But the most difficult part was for me to select the location and quite frankly i was not happy as i have not many options in the list because Supermoon was happening during the weekdays which is my working day (not weekend) 

Fast forward Nov 12th, Saturday, i short listed 2 locations. One was in Sharjah & other was Burj Khalifa to shoot form Palm Jumeirah. On Nov 12th i went to my desire location in Palm Jumeirah and start scouting the point. The moon rise on that day @ 4pm exactly. 

And this was the shot i had. 

I had to make above image B&W to bring out the details of the moon because it was 4:30pm in the broad day light. So yes i got some idea what to do and what not to do. Then the big day came Nov 14th. I went to the location on Palm Jumeirah around 5pm as the moonrise was at 5:35pm local UAE timing.

While i was driving to the desire location i was having this feeling that there will be many people on the location ….. and this it turned out to be true. 

Now it was too late for me to change or select my location. There is a saying in my local language ….. "Marta Kiya Na Karta" (means have to stick with the only available option). Now the only thing was making tense is to get the "different" shot among all these photographers standing in above image as all of them are having long lenses. Not to mentioned some of my friends who literally open challenged me on Facebook to do some thing different. 

Now the biggest concern for me is to choose the right gear for the shot. Now it may sound strange to many but gears depends on what kind of shoot you like to do. If you wanna do only Moonrise then you need the longest lens u have and put with crop body to get more reach and shot the moon. If you want to add some foreground element then you need zoom lens like 70-200mm which probably work better with Full Frame because you need to accommodate more frame and foreground elements into the frame. I put 70-200mm f/2.8 on a full frame body and put it on making time lapse video which i will be releasing soon. Then coming to the biggest question …. what camera and lens do i have to choose to shoot the moonrise. As per my limited experience, i decided to go with Nikon D500 & Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG APO Sports lens. Why ???? ….. because of the 2 reasons. 

1- Nikon D500 which is a crop body with 20MP sensor and supports higher ISO upto 51,200 along with 10 FPS which means that in case if i need to go in burst mode to shoot some birds or boats passing in front of the sea, i will have more chances to get the desire frame. And another major reason to go with D500 is ….. it provides more Mega Pixel per square mille meter then mighty D810 36MP sensor which means i will have more higher resolution image then D810 even if i crop the image. Another reason is the incredible Dynamic Range of the D500 which i already checked. Last reason is the amazing ISO performance of the D500 which perform like a full frame under some scenarios.  

2- Nikon f/2.8 lenses are very expensive at higher focal length. Some how i got a great deal of Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG APO Sports lens and i decided to use it because of the flexibility of the zoom. And it gives me f/2.8 which will help me in low light when the moon rises and sunsets. 

So i used the above mentioned gears and waited for the moon and moon start getting visible around 5:40~5:45pm ….. I was among those who sighted it first and then there was non stop action and clicks by many photographers. I tried many composition by zooming in & out …. included the moon with foreground and without ….. some frames of moon with Burj Al Arab hotel ….. but every body was getting the similar frames. Another issue was to get the right exposure of the moon with the foreground elements which almost all photographers encountered. If we exposure the moon, everything goes dark. if we expose the foreground then moon get over expose. 

I saw below image long time back which of course is composite. I don't know who's image is this else i would have take the permission to utilize it in my blog for the reference. My intention is to take some thing like this …… BUT ….. without any Photoshop tricks or doing composites. 


Frankly speaking …. i have lost many chances to get cool frames because i don't have the camera with me some times ….. and i also don't want to do composite because my photography foundation is build on pure photography skill set. I have learn photography from people who spends many many $$$$ to get the desire exposure right from the camera rather then digitally manipulated in post process using Photoshop. I consider and call all photo shoppers who do composites as an "Digital Artist" rather then photographer …. And both are doing great jobs BTW. 

My goal was to get some thing like above image but without Photoshop. When Supermoon was announced, at the back of my head i was thinking to try this kind of image. While every body was clicking when the moon rise ….. i was trying different frames at different zoom length and at different exposure bias. My camera was set on Manual mode. ISO was Auto. i set the aperture f/2.8 because i need to have maximum light so i can lower down my ISO as much as i can. I set the shutter speed at 1/60 of sec. Put the camera on MONOPOD so i can quickly change the position if required which exactly happened. If i would have tripod then i probably not easily move around to get my desire angle. 

While people was clicking and move left and right ….. I was also moving left and right but at one point i start moving up & down at the right side wall of the below image. I was the only one who was standing at the wall clicking. When i was standing on the wall with Monopod, i really found some interesting angle which was not possible by standing on the ground. That outer portion of the hotel in Burj Al Arab was only visible as a silhouette with moon behind when i was standing on the wall because moon was constantly rising in the form of a arc and positioning the famous Burj Al Arab hotel and with rising moon requires me to go left-right-up & down.   

As i got the right angle by stating on the wall, now the most difficult part is to get the right exposure. I was in Matrix metering the hotel building. Of course result was over expose the moon. To bring down the moon exposure I quickly dialed -1EV exposure compensation to get some details of the moon as i knew that i can recover the hotel details in post processing ….. thanks to the amazing Dynamic Range of the Nikon D500g. But Moon was still very bright. Then i had to dialed -2EV exposure compensation which gave sufficient moon details. Ones i saw that i an work with this image, i quickly packed my stuff and went home. At home, in post processing. i quickly looked all images and realized that many frames are useless because of the over expose moon ….. of course they will be because i want all right from the camera with no composite ….. right :) ….. then i started working on the under expose images and i selected this image of mine. Did all post processing and shadow recovering in Lightroom CC and final signature & hotel building sharpening in Photoshop only. You can see below the original image right from the camera and how i able to recover details in post processing …. All thanks to the amazing sensor & SNR firmware of the Nikon Flagship DX body D500. 

And thats how i made my most viral photo yet ….. is this is the best photo of mine? …… Nope ….. My best is yet to come :) 

The reason i am writing this experience and sharing with you all is to emphasize only one thing ….. HARD WORK ….. Hard work never gets wasted no matter what. I waited for this kind of shot for a very very long time and finally i did it without doing composite. People do composite of airplane silhouette with moon ….. i literally tried for 3 long years for such kind of shot and finally did it …. not ones but twice. So yes …. if you really work hard and consistent in your efforts …. for damn sure you will get your desire shot without the help of composite or Photoshop ….. But again …. thats only thought. You are free to do any thing you like but then don't feel angry if some one put their finger on your image and say "it is photoshop" ….. "yeah to Photoshop hay" ….. You will get the results for what you do …. it is that simple. And yes .... this is my most calculated shot yet.

I wish you guys happy learning. 


Monday, October 17, 2016

Selection of Full Frame or Crop .... based on ISO performance.

This is serious stuff guys ..... when ever i hear or read that ..... "We need full frame for better ISO performance" ...... and i was like 😳  & 😁 at the same time. 

If you talking about bad ISO of a crop body and have a strong believe that only full frame gives better performance ...... then let me know why Canon 5DS/5DSR which is a full frame body ..... Why it is starts producing noise even at low ISO like 400? Why it is max out at ISO 3200/6400?

And the answer is ..... Pixel Pitch (Pixel Width) ..... Higher Mega Pixel make smaller size pixels which cannot provide sufficient gain over time (G/T) to have better ISO & sufficient Dynamic Range. The pixel width & depth is not enough to hold more light & they get saturate earlier then expected. 

The new trend by all these camera manufacturing companies is to make a full frame camera bodies with crop body pixel pitch. It means, they are having the same old crop body who's sensor is over 24x16mm size with specific pixel density, they uses the same pixel density of a crop sensor and overlay it over 36x24mm sensor and makes a new breed of Mega Pixel Monsters.

Let me explain with examples here. It was started with Nikon D7000. Nikon used 16MP sensor of D7000 which was spread over 24x16mm, and then spread the same pixel pitch (pixels per square millimetre) over 36x24mm sensor and made the world first Mega Pixel Star ...... Nikon D800/D800E.

This trend was later followed by Canon. They took their 7D MkII which was 20MP machine and enlarged it pixel pitch over full frame and introduced you the world first 50MP machine 5DS/5DSR. But if you look at the ISO performance of the D800 or 5DS, their performance at higher ISO is exactly like D7000 & 7D mkII respectively ..... because they are made on the foundation of a crop body sensor pixel density. Which leads to this interesting fact that the "Gap of Performance" between Full Frame & Crop Body is almost gone. Now both are more or less the same ..... specially if you talking about higher Mega Pixel machines. Now i am waiting for the Nikon reply for the  Canon 5DS/5DSR. If they uses Nikon D500 and enlarge it sensor over full frame area then we might have 47MP machine ..... or if they uses the D7200 for the same purpose then we will have 54MP monster under the name of D850/D900.

Below are some old camera in comparison. You can plot the new higher MP machines into this chart and then you will see some interesting co-relation. 

If you look closely above, you will notice Nikon D3200, D600 & D3x all are having same mega pixels. But Their pixel size is different. D3200 having 4um & D600/D3x haivng 6um. Reason is simple, D3200 is crop size sensor body so area of the sensor is small but there are more in quantity so the effective pixel size has to be smaller unlike D600/D3x which are full frame sensor cameras where the sensor size is bigger. 

Another interesting fact if you notice is that all camera in the above list and the new ones, their pixel size is not smaller then 4um. Reason is that all these camera companies found out that 4um is the threshold of a pixel pitch where they can have maximum efficiency physically from a silicon wafer of sensor which can provide sufficient Dynamic Range and optimum ISO performance. (Note: 4um means around 24MP). Therefore you cannot see from Nikon or Canon or Sony or Fuji manufacturing any crop body or full frame with pixel pitch smaller then 4um...... in other words they are not making crop body more then 24MP. You may found some machine like 3.9/3.8 but they are floating around 4um. Any camera with less then 4um pixel pitch produces worse Dynamic Range. The best examples are the mobile phone cameras where the pixel pitch is around 1~1.5 micrometer and their performance is not even close to the DSLR. But due to better SNR firmware they are doing some really decent job.

Please see below the Dynamic Range chart containing both full frame and crop sensor which will help you in understanding the relation between Mega Pixels & Dynamic Range. 

Here is another funny thing ..... it doesn't matter what format of camera you are using ..... exposure of any scene always remains the same on all type of camera sensors, it never changes, which means ISO is totally irrelevant then. What matters are the following things,

- Aperture of the lens 
- Shutter Speed 
- Pixel pitch (also known as Mega pixels)

All these 3 items mentioned above in general knows as "Native Gain". By adding or subtracting any of above 3 things.... you can have better or worse results. For example a kit lens with Aperture f/3.5~5.6 not enough to provide better native gain unlike a prime lens of f/1.4. Same goes slower shutter speed where you can drag the shutter slow and get more light into the sensor by keeping lower ISO.

Let me share some more example to make better understanding about Pixel Pitch. Nikon D3/D3s/D700 & Sony A7S/A7SII all are 12MP which means they all are having 8.4um pixel pitch which is exactly double then Canon 5DS/5DSR 4.14um. This means that all machines of Nikon & Sony can handle low light situation pretty darn well because their sensor got "bigger" eye balls then Canon. They have the tendency of capturing light more then double & still produces low noise in compared to Canon 5DS/5SDR ...... and funny thing is that they all are Full Frame but still 3 performs better then 1 ..... All because of different pixels sizes and its impact.  

Now some one will jump and say "What about ISO?" ..... i mentioned this thing multiple times in past that ISO is just a "Applied Gain". The way you increase the audio in a stereo system, ISO exactly works in the same way. You can change the applied gain in post processing but you cannot change the "Native Gain" change in post processing ..... thats why they are Native.

Bottom line is ..... This impression that Full Frame works better in low light & produces less noise ..... i just explained in detail above with example that it is not the case any more. The difference of performance between the full frame camera body & crop sensor camera body is now near to ZERO. Todays crop body DSLR are performing far better then full frame of the past. Best example is Nikon D500 which is giving you the latitude of ISO performance upto 51,200 ISO which was unheard 10 years ago. Not even Full Frame released 8~10 years ago can go upto this much ISO .... thanks to the new sensor technology, advance A/D convertor & SNR firmware which all these camera companies working very hard on and releasing product to make our life easy.

But our life is never bin easy because we are engaging in this machine/brand rivalry instead of focusing on developing our skill set of Photography.

Happy Learning Guys 👍🏼



Sunday, September 18, 2016

What is Noise in the Digital Image?

What is Noise in the Digital Image?

Noise is just LACK of GAIN. Basically there are 2 types of gain in the DSLR. Native Gain & Applied Gain.

Native Gain:
There are multiple types of native gain. Aperture, shutter speed & pixel pitch are the main native gain which CANNOT be change after you take the image. You can change these gains and increase of decrease the noise into the image. Every camera pixel pitch is based on its mega pixel count. Lower the mega pixel on full frame means bigger the pixel pitch which means better gain. The pixel can accommodate or capture more light and they are more sensitive to the light. When any sensor is manufactured, the pixel pitch is fixed and cannot be change. Same goes for the Aperture & Shutter Speed. Bigger aperture lenses like f/1.4 for primes or f/2.8 for zoom provides better gain. Slower shutter speed provide better gain and vice versa. All these parameters cannot be change AFTER you take any time.

Applied Gain:
ISO is applied gain which you can change BEFORE & AFTER taking the image. ISO is input gain, it has no connection to the actual exposure. As I mentioned above, Noise is lack of Gain. Noise is filtered by SNR firmware which is embedded into the main processor of the camera. Noise has about 6 or more frequencies that are dialed out in signal processing before the final output dumped onto a SD/CF card.

Happy Learning Guys !


Friday, June 10, 2016

The best lenses for Nikon bodies .... Period.

Before i start to write anything about which lens is the best and something similar .... allow me to clear this point at the beginning that no one has paid me to write anything about Nikon lenses. What ever i am going to write is totally based on my hands on experience with lenses that are Nikon F Mount ..... So ..... Shall we start?

Nikon has a rich history of making some awesome lenses from not only new G-Series but also some old manual focus AI-S lenses which were made like 15-20 years old and they still rocks. In case is some one is wondering how to identify Nikon lenses over the period of time then i suggest to the respected readers to check out this link, it will help them to understand the terminologies and acronyms which you will be reading next. In this blog i will try to be as simple as i can be so all readers will understand based on what attributes i am suggesting any lens.

Lets divide lenses into 3 general category which sounds familiar ....

1- Wide angle lenses (covering from ultra wide 14mm upto 28mm)

2- Normal angle lenses (covering 35mm to 60mm)

3- Zoom or Telephoto (covering from 85mm all the way to 300mm)

Lets discuss one by one which lens is the best in each category. Also note that i will be including zoom and prime lenses in each category along with Auto Focus and Manual Focus lenses. Also i will be mentioned and recommending lenses which is the best in low budget and still gives the best performance. 

1- Wide angle lenses (covering from ultra wide 14mm upto 28mm)

This category is simplest. No rocket science. The king of the ultra wide angle lenses was (and still to some landscapers) Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. But its price is way expensive which is roughly $1,600. Some how Tamron did a magnificent job and dethrone the mighty Nikon 14-24mm with its Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 DI VC which is around $1200. But the problem with both lenses is that they are having huge front element using which you cannot mount any typical filters on it in general practice to capture any long exposure or landscape images. Though there are few companies making filters for these 2 lenses which you can find here but keeping in mind that the choices for the filters using this assembly is very very limited. Then here comes to rescue Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR which is around $1100 or less depending from where you are getting. But still that sounds expensive. Then here comes the most budgetary & sharp wide angle lens which is Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED which is around $750. The best part for the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 & 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 is ..... You can use "Filters" in front of them as both comes with 77mm standard filter thread for mounting these lovely filters for the long exposure and Graduated ND filters for Landscapes shots. 

Now here comes the choice ..... Price vs Performance ..... If you are really tight with budget then go straight away with Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED. It will really going to save your day in case if you are shooting events and stuff in low budget profile. If money is not an issue and you still want to use filter with more wider angle then Nikon 16-35mm f/4G VR is the best choice. And if you have money and you dont want to use filters then its totally your call if you want to go the widest of them all which is mighty Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED or Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC.

BTW .... there are also some unsung heroes which many people don't know or even heard about like Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED which is insanely expensive around $1700 and its not that good like Nikon 14-24 or Tamron 15-30mm. Then there are some old buddies from the film time like Nikon 15mm f/3.5 or f/5.6 AI-S (both are the same optically) and they are manual focus lenses. Their price varies from $1000 ~ $1500 depending from where you are getting it. Now question is why they are so expensive even being classics and with no Auto Focus in it? .... The answer is ..... These lenses are among very very few lenses in the world who are "rectilinear" means they have ZERO Distortion. There is one another lens in the world which is the "widest" from Nikon till date and it is also a "rectilinear" lens and it is so unique that you cannot find it ..... they call it ..... "The Holy Grail" ..... Nikon 13mm f/5.6 AI-S ...... and its price is ..... NO BODY KNOWS ..... why? ..... because Nikon only made 350 of them in total from its production era (from 1976-1998). That lens is priceless. You can search on google about it and then you will know why they call it a Holy Grail and why its insanelyyyyyyy expensive. Fortunately i found one 15mm f/3.5 AI-S from ebay. Its construction is total metal ..... Body ..... lens hood .... all metal. Means its rock solid and will survive multiple life times unlike any of the above plastic made lenses i mentioned above ...... and BTW ...... that 15mm is really SHARP. The only draw back of these 13/15mm AI-S is ..... they produce too much ghosting and flare even if small light source pointed towards the lens and its not into the frame because they dont have nano crystal coating on their lens elements which causing these ghosting and flare to be remove. Also there is another hidden GEM which no ones knows is Nikon 28mm f/1.4D. Back in late 1990's, it was the most famous lens and can be found in every Photo Journalist camera bad. Un-fortunately Nikon stopped making that lens because it was too expensive for them to make it. Its still found online on ebay and both price and performance of this lens is very very high. BTW, that lens can be very handy for wedding shots.

When it comes to prime, recently Nikon introduced some really low price primes with superior optical performance in the focal length range of 20, 24, 28 & 35mm and all these lenses are coming in f/1.8G aperture. BTW ..... You dont need f/1.4 for the wide angle shots unless you are doing "Astro-Photography". But among them, the best is 20mm f/1.8G ($750) which is insanely sharp and very light weight. That lens is producing some really nice high contrast images. I am glad i did the right decision by buying that lens. BTW ..... i am NOT going to recommend Carl Zeiss wide angle lenses like 15mm or 21mm. Ziess is the best in the portrait focal lenght of 50mm and above but when it comes to wide angle lenses Ziess performance is considerably poor then the rest of the lens manufacturer with only one exception and that is ...... Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 Distagon T* ZF.2. Its considerably an expensive lens with a price tag of $1200. But ..... Boy oh Boy ..... that lens sharpness is Inter-Galatic ..... I own this lens ..... fortunately found a used minty piece online at half price as the owner is not using it for a long time and decided to sell it. The shots from that lens is just out from the world ..... Trust me when i say this ..... i have used many lens ..... but so far ..... i have not seen the sharpness ..... colors ..... contrast ..... acutanse which this lens is producing, the other lenses have no match to it ..... its really inter-Galatic lens ..... its results just mind boggling. You will be blown away .... Just take a look below on a sample image right from the camera ....shot @ f/4 ..... and its SOOC. BTW ..... Zeiss has just stopped making this lens. So if you finds a copy of this lens from any where ..... grab it ASAP before it get classic and becomes more expensive.

Another wise and economical choice for the starters is Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ($329). It was my very first ultra wide lens before i switch to Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. The performance of its not like Nikon version but it produces some descent sharp images at very economical price. In case if you are tight with budget then this lens it the life saver for many landscapers.

So summing up the wide angle category, the best budgetary wide angle zoom lens will be Nikon 18-35mm and best performance lens will be 16-35mm f/4 VR who BTW produces stunning micro contrast if you are shooting B&W images. In prime lens category, i highly recommend Nikon 20mm f/1.8G followed by Nikon 24mm f/1.8G. But if you want the best of the best of the best in wide angle primes ..... then Carl Zeiss 35mm f/2 Distagon T* ZF.2 is answer. Another strong candidate for the wide angle primes is Samyang 24mm f/1.4 lens ($650) and as per DXO mark rating, that lens offering more sharpness then Nikon's own 24mm f/1.4G ($2000). I have used Samyang lenses and trust me they are making some crazy sharp lenses. The only draw back is, they are making manual focus lenses which will disappoint many young talent who totally rely on Auto Focus.

2- Normal angle lenses (covering 35mm to 60mm)

This category is simple and mostly based on prime lenses which means not many lenses to talk about. I already covered the 35mm focal length using the Carl Zeiss example in the Wide angle lens category which i should have mentioned in this category but its ok. BTW you can still consider Samyang 35mm f/1.4 UMC lens ($450) and its performance is mind boggling considering its pricing. I own this lens and its performance is so incredible that i never felt that i need Nikon 35mm f/1.4G ($1500). But again, its a manual focus lens. Now what other lenses do we have !!!!!!

Normally after 35mm, you jumped directly to nifty fifty 50mm focal length. I have used both Nikon 50/1.4 D and G type and i found both equal with micro upper hand of a G-Type over a D-TYpe. D-Type ($334) is more cheaper and almost equal in performance of the G-Type ($400). If one cannot afford the f/1.4 version then the best deal will be Nikon 50mm f/1.8G ($217) which is new, cheaper & optically equal. Then there is the only single f/1.2 lens from Nikon which is 50mm f/1.2 AI-S ($700). Though it is a manual focus lens but Nikon is still making that lens for a reason. Optically it is a challenge to a photographer to get the tek-sharp images at f/1.2 by going manual focus. (Not an easy task for a Rookie). I kudos to Canon who is the only company in the whole world which is making Auto Focus lenses for f/1.2 aperture category ..... including the legendary 50mm f/1.0L which is legend and hard to find now.

But among them ..... the real fun starts when 58mm focal length makes the entry. 58mm focal length is the most versatile focal length because if you use this focal length on a APS-C sensor you will be getting 87mm prime lens angle of interception which is more good for portraits. Here is another interesting fact. Canon users says that the shallow Depth of Field in the 50mm category is produced by their famous 50mm f/1.2L ($1350) lens as we speak. Well that's not true ..... the shallowest DoF is produce by Nikon 58mm f/1.4G ($1600) condition provided shooting at the widest aperture and same distance. Why ???? because of that extra 8mm that Nikon lens got.

But i am not going to recommend Nikon 58mm f/1.4 lens at all ..... reason? First off ..... its very very expensive if we talking about 50mm category ..... Second reason is, its made of plastic mostly. So whats the alternative? ...... Its Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 SL II which is costing almost 1/4 the price of Nikon 58mm version  and it is around $450. That lens built is all metal ..... like a Tank ..... its building quality is equal to Leica lenses which cost around $5000~$10,000. So now you can enjoy Lieca quality lenses at 1/10 of a price. I own one copy of that 58/1.4 from Voigtlander which i found online second hand used and its optical performance is something that i have not seen in 50mm category at all. BTW ..... its a manual focus lens which may turn off many photographers ..... specially young talent out there who totally depends on Auto Focus and dont know how to do manual focus. Well all i can say .... either pay $1600 for one lens with Auto Focus ..... or learn manual focus and safe 3/4 amount and buy manual focus Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 SL II and other lenses from the saved budget. Which way sounds more logical? Check out below the sample image from this lens straight out of the camera shot at f/1.4. Picture Control was set on Vivid with additional contrast on D750. 

One last lens in this category is 60mm ...... there is only lens i recommend which serves as a TRIPLE PURPOSE ..... Nikon 60mm f/2.8D Macro. I already mentioned its triple effect in a separate blog which you can read here. Just buy that lens and you will be a happy camper.

3- Zoom or Telephoto (covering from 85mm all the way to 300mm)

This last category is stretched over many great lenses ...... let me list them down first which will make life easy for me. If you own or going to own any of these lenses from the below list, you will be having a best result at very economical price. 

- 85mm f/1.4 Samyang

- 85mm f/1.8G Nikon
- 85mm f/1.4G Nikon(Expensive)
- 100mm f/2.8 Macro from Tokina
- 105mm f/1.8 AI-S Nikon
- 105mm f/2 DC Nikon
- 105mm f/2.5 AI-S Nikon
- 105mm f/2.8G Macro Nikon
- 135mm f/2 DC Nikon
- 135mm f/2 AI-S Nikon
- 135mm f/2.8 AI-S Nikon
- 135mm f/3.5 AI-S Nikon
- 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED Nikon
- 200mm f/2G Nikon (Expensive)
- 200mm f/2 AI-S Nikon
- 200mm f/4 AI-S Nikon

- 120-300mm f/2.8 DG Sport Edition Sigma

Before i write anything further, let me clear that in this category the lenses which are highlighted in Cyan are all manual focus old lenses. These lenses are no more in production and these are the best of the best. All these lenses are comes with less glass element count which means the images are going to be POP-OUT from the screen like u see in 3D movies. Yes .... any lens which comes with less glass elements produces better image quality (not talking about sharpness only). When light enters into the lens from the front element, it get "processed" and WELL DONE by the different glass elements inside the lens and then the processed light get out from the rear glass element of the lens and fall over the sensor. Many fellow photographers doesn't know the fact that the more glass element inside the lens, the more image quality is going to be destroyed. The less glass elements inside the lens produces far better results .... so that's why all these lenses highlighted in Cyan produces far far far better results because they are having less glass element in it in compared to these new modern day Auto Focus Prime/Zoom lenses with like 16 or 23 glass elements in it. Just to let you understand what i means to say here by less or more glass elements. Just imagine ..... what will happen if you hit your head on a wall 5 times ..... in compared to 23 times? Chances of less damage lies where? ...... You know the answer ..... isn't it :) .

Among the top list, my most favorites lenses based on their superior optical performance are the following and I highly recommend them. 

- 85mm f/1.4 Samyang ($280) To tell you the truth about this lens, its performance is so remarkable that i never had the need of Nikon 85mm f/1.4G ($1600) which is like 5x times the price of Samyang. Why its so cheap? because it is a manual focus lens. When you hold this lens and start rotating the focus ring, its soo buttering smooth and focus ring throw is long and fine enough that provides you plenty of room to fine tune the focus. Also this lens is for Nikon mount so some how Samyang is able to put in the AE chip inside the lens along with the focus confirmation which is not bad at this low price. Note that all top lens manufacturing companies in the world who producing expensive glass are making manual focus lenses like Carl Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 which is $4000 on average. Imagine you are paying so much money to have an expensive glass like this and still not getting Auto Focus !!!!! How painful is that :) .... Keep that in mind there is a reason these companies are not putting AF system inside these bigger aperture lenses one will learn ones you start using manual focus lenses.

- 85mm f/1.8G Nikon ($475) The best micro contrast and sharpness this lens offers with Auto Focus. It is optically more sharper then expensive Big brother Nikon 85mm f/1.4G ($1600)

- 105mm f/2 DC Nikon ($1200) The best Bokeh with sharpness you can get from this lens. It is far better and far sharper then its own big brother Nikon 135mm f/2 DC ($1350).

- 105mm f/2.5 AI-S Nikon ($250) Just love this lens like anything, best portrait lens i ever have. I found this lens the incredible, and its results are just off the charts. It is the same lens which was used by Steve McCurry to take his iconic portrait of a "Afghan Girl" for National Geographic. Yes this lens is a Legend and you much own it. I am looking forward for its second copy .... :)

- 135mm f/2 AI-S Nikon ($600) Optically sharper and its cheaper then Nikon 135mm f/2 DC.

- 135mm f/2.8 AI-S Nikon ($250) Optically superior and crazy sharp just like 105mm f/2.5 AI-S. You can say that both are cousins offering same level of performance. Note that there is also another version of it which is Nikon 135mm f/3.5 AI-S offer the same excellent optical performance.

- 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF Nikon ($1000) It produces images with 3D rendition hint & sharpness is totally what you have no seen before. $1000 price is for new but you can find online second hand some where around $400 ~ $500 depending on condition. Highly recommended.

- 200mm f/4 AI-S Nikon ($150 ~ $200) Best & most compact 200mm lens at the most economical price. I literally tested this lens @ 200/4 with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II at the same 200/4. But some how that manual focus AI-S produces some 3D image rendition which i have never witness before. The images produced by this lens just POP's out from the screen when you see them.
People who bought this lens based on recommendation are happy campers.

- 120-300mm f/2.8 Sports DG APO Sigma ($3000) Among my most fav. list of the lenses, the only expensive lens is this one. Why i included it? Because it is the only lens in the 300mm category which produces very sharp images with high contrast at comparatively low price then what Nikon can offer at aperture f/2.8 at this focal length. Also you will be having zoom range from 120-300mm which makes it more practical and versatile to use for birding by putting 2x Teleconverter. No other lens manufacturer offers any thing like this which optically superior & versatile at the same time.

So guys .... here i am going to end this blog by stating that ..... all lenses that i recommend are based on my practical hands-on experience. I am sure there are many lenses from my this blog you come to know for the first time .... That's one of the another reason i am writing it down so people can learn whats the best out there at the most economical price to get better images. Now many will wonder like where is 24-70mm f/2.8G or 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II lenses? Well first off, these lenses are covering multiple category so judging their performance based on the spectrum that they are covering is in my opinion is not something right. We can have separate blog in future for the zoom lenses only.

Happy Learning Guys ....