loss of pic quality using old lens on nikon digital slr?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by besatch, Jan 2, 2006.

  1. besatch

    besatch Guest

    Hello all,

    I've read that my 3 very old AF Nikkor lenses will work on a Nikon
    digital SLR--except for the loss of 3D Color Matrix Metering and i-TTL
    Balanced Fill-Flash for digital. How does the loss of those two
    features impact picture quality?

    My situation is this: I'd like to get a digital camera. Ideally, I'd
    want to get a nikon digital SLR and use the old lenses I have. But I
    also want to be sure that the picture quality is going to be a
    significant improvement over a $300 pocket digital. Enough to justify
    the extra cost. I'm not sure what the loss of the 3D color metering and
    ttl balanced fill-flash means.

    BTW, I wouldn't consider myself to be a photo enthusiast. Something to
    take high quality shots for vacations and special occasions is all I
    really need. Thanks, Aaron
    besatch, Jan 2, 2006
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  2. besatch

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    Not at all. Those features are incredibly minor.
    It will be. And the availability of many old lenses (which are often of
    higher quality than the newer ones) is a big advantage of Nikon.
    Almost nothing. 3D color metering is something that makes very little
    difference; the fill-flash metering is significant, I guess, if you're
    using fill flash, as the newer lenses can transmit (rough) distance
    information to the camera to help with the flash calculations, but it's
    not a big deal at all. I don't consider those features at all when
    buying lenses.
    Jeremy Nixon, Jan 2, 2006
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  3. These things have nothing to do with the quality of the picture - they are there
    to help YOU figure out what is the best exposure. You don't really need these
    things if you bracket the photos, something easy to do in digital! Take as many
    photos as you like - one should be good! Anyway, the lens that comes with the
    camera is all you would need for snaps.
    If you just want snapshots, maybe you should get something cheaper. Look for a
    Leica lens...
    BobFlintsTone, Jan 2, 2006
  4. besatch

    cjcampbell Guest

    You do not buy a DSLR because the picture quality is going to be
    significantly better than on a $300 pocket digital. It probably will
    not be, though I say that with some reservations. Your old lenses will
    almost certainly be better than the lenses on a pocket camera, although
    the pocket digitals are sporting some pretty high quality lenses these

    You buy a DSLR because it is faster and more flexible to use. All other
    digital cameras have some lag between the time you press the shutter
    and the time it takes the picture. Their viewfinders are so bad that
    you are practically forced to use the LCD on the back; some of them
    don't even have viewfinders! By the time you take the picture your
    subject is likely to have moved or even left the scene entirely.

    Not only that, but the pocket digitals drain batteries because when
    they are on, they are on all the way. They have a kind of sleep mode
    which turns the LCD off, but their sensor is always draining the
    battery. The DSLR has no battery drain except for taking the picture,
    displaying the pictures you took, and the built-in flash. You can leave
    it on all the time and it will not drain the battery any faster than
    turning it off.

    DSLRs do have some advantage in picture quality, notably sensor size.
    There is far less digital noise with a DSLR so you do get a much finer
    grained picture. But that is about it for quality difference.

    The 3D color metering is a big deal. It is so good that it is worth
    getting new lenses. As I understand it, the meter takes a focus
    weighted average reading (as opposed to center-weighted average
    reading; digital cameras allow you to change the focus area to
    different parts of the frame). The whole image is then compared to a
    database of images stored in the camera, comparing contrasty situations
    with those having less contrast, etc., and then the whole thing is
    processed to come up with the correct exposure. The camera knows when a
    subject is backlit, even when the subject is off to one side, for
    example, and manages to correctly expose for both background and
    subject in many cases. After all, the software could adjust the
    exposure for each individual pixel on the sensor, if it wanted to, and
    sometimes it appears to be doing exactly that. It is almost magic. As
    the technology progresses, it will be magic.

    The iTTL metering is 3D color metering for flash. It works only on
    DSLRs for that reason.

    You can use your old lenses and expect pretty much the same results
    that you have always gotten from them. DSLRs do not have the same
    resolution as 35mm film, but they are getting close. They are far more
    color sensitive and have greater dynamic range than film, with one
    important exception: when highlights are burned out they are gone.
    There is no gradual fade to white; the picture just chops off at white.
    Many photographers deliberately underexpose their pictures for this
    reason -- just to keep some detail in the highlights. Underexposed
    areas store a wealth of detail that can be brought out in post
    processing -- far more than you could ever do with film.
    cjcampbell, Jan 2, 2006
  5. besatch

    Hunt Guest

    As others have stated, the loss of a few functions of metering (ambient and
    flash) is minor. The "quality" of the lens is the determining factor. If you
    have good lenses (for film), they will be good for digital. Only real
    difference will be the coverage provided by the film-lens. The Nikons use a DX
    sensor with a 1.5 magnification factor, so a 50mm lens (roughly "normal" for
    35mm film) will have the coverage of a 75mm (short tele/portrait) lens on the
    digital. Otherwise, all else will be equal, or nearly so. This can be a real
    boon, if you have a 300mm tele, as it will yield the results of a 450mm.
    However, if you have a 20mm and want really WA on the digital, you end up with
    only the coverage of a 30mm lens. That is why there are Nikon DX lenses in the
    10-12mm range for really WA.

    Hunt, Jan 2, 2006
  6. besatch

    Sheldon Guest

    Except for the kit lens that came with my D70 all the other lenses I use are
    converted AI lenses that were awesome when I used them with my 35mm Nikon.
    I just bracket exposures with the older lenses, and if anything they might
    even be a bit sharper when you consider that your digital camera only uses
    the center of the field of view on the 35mm lenses.

    As someone else said the beauty of the Nikon DSLR's is that virtually any
    older Nikon lenses will fit or can be made to fit, even though you may not
    be able to use all the features. You only sacrifice automatic features, but
    not sharpness. That might be a problem for a novice, but if you understand
    the ins and outs of exposure it's not a big deal.
    Sheldon, Jan 3, 2006
  7. besatch

    besatch Guest

    Thanks for the input everyone. There's another extra bonus for using
    old lenses on a DSLR. If I lost any of the automated features, that
    would just make me want to learn more about cameras in order to
    manually compensate. :)
    besatch, Jan 5, 2006
  8. besatch

    besatch Guest

    Thanks for the input everyone. There's another extra bonus for using
    old lenses on a DSLR. If I lost any of the automated features, that
    would just make me want to learn more about cameras in order to
    manually compensate. :)

    besatch, Jan 5, 2006
  9. The nice thing about these older lenses, is teh fact thay are available
    extremely cheaply nowadays. So you can build up an arsenal of quality lenses
    for your DSLR without having to spend a fortune.
    Nigel Cummings, Jan 6, 2006
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