Nikon 24mm PC-E

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Paul Furman, Jul 27, 2009.

  1. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    New lens, PC-E NIKKOR 24mm f/3.5D ED N
    here's my impressions.
    (PS it got long & I ran out of time to edit perfectly <g>)

    Sharpness Panic
    I snatched it up at $300 off ($1700) from J&R and was worried it might
    be some kind of reject return so I tested it against a couple other
    lenses at that focal length. Woah, I freaked out inspecting the first
    couple rounds but it turns out infinity is given some room for heat
    expansion or whatever, damn it didn't get sharp till f/16... whew, glad
    that was resolved. Still I'm amazed how well my old beater Ai 24/2.8
    performed. I got the Ai as bargain grade from KEH & it was in such
    horrible physical & mechanical condition that I haven't used it much, I
    just assumed the optics were shot too. Even after getting the focus
    right, I'm amazed the old Ai is darn sharp. Anyways, it does have more
    CA, bad vignetting, nasty barrel distortion and the corner sharpness
    falls apart in the last bit compared to the new PC-E. The other lens
    tested was a Sigma 12-24 which is not so great at 24mm though it does
    have an uncanny ability to remain sharp in the far corners and minimize
    distortion for architectural work. It's only f/5.6 at 24mm.

    The 24 PC-E does some CA in the worst situations but corner sharpness is
    excellent. It's quite close focusing, much more than the 24mm f/2.8
    prime with CRC. Geometry is great until you get to close focus shots
    where there is quite a bit of barrel distortion but that's
    understandable. It isn't a $5,000 lens <g>. Ah, actually that's on sale
    for $2500 now:
    $2,599.99 Sale Price—You save $2,100.00
    ($4,000 for the bellows to mount it)

    While not billed as a macro, the PC-E focuses super close, to a couple
    inches away, and you can tilt that to infinity. It fills the frame with
    a 90mm wide subject, about 2.5:1. If you shift, barrel distortion
    becomes severe but is not bad centered and the other 2 lenses come
    nowhere near this close. At ordinary distances the distortion is very
    minimal. I think this closeup ability will be a lot of fun to play with!
    My closeup lens attachment is nearly worthless, it's designed for long
    lenses and has a very small effect on close focusing. A 12mm extension
    tube has a noticeable but fairly minor effect and it becomes very hard
    to get light on the subject with the front bumping into things. The tilt
    feature at these close distances makes some very interesting and unusual
    scenes possible; I can almost fill the frame with a glass of water and
    tilt to keep infinity in focus at the horizon with the aperture wide
    open at f/3.5. Wow.

    The out-of-focus spots can be pretty bad/interesting or very nice,
    depending on the situation. The cause of this is revealed when you play
    with shifting against a bright point source. There are several nested
    bokeh circles that make a layered onion effect and shifting brings them
    out of alignment producing a grouping of different-sized oof circles for
    each point. Tilt that and they become oblong with variously clipped
    edges. That said, if you keep things thoroughly out of focus, the soft
    edges blur the weird ring patterns and create ideal creamy soft tapered
    blobs with gradually brighter centers. The Ai Nikkor produces the
    typical Nikon hard-edged, evenly illuminated discs. The Sigma has the
    most horrible bokeh I've ever seen. It's similar to the PC-E's onion but
    laced with irregularities so each circle looks like a freaky patterned
    mandala painted by a 5-year-old. I would never intentionally show blur
    with that lens but there are many beautiful possibilities for the PC-E.
    The rounded 9 aperture blades help too, the old Ai goes heptagonal if
    you stop down with it's 7 angular blades.

    There are very few movements restricted on a D700, it's only fully
    compatible with the D3 but the exceptions are trivial. It does interfere
    with the hand grip when shifted to the right, you have to pull your
    fingers back to make room (after getting your fingers crimped, you pull
    the shift back, extract your fingers & proceed. Normally shifting is
    done vertically for tilted perspective so it hardly matters. From the
    same link above:

    Wow. This is more versatile than I expected. A number of reviews
    complain that the movements don't go far enough but I'm amazed how much
    can be done. The plane of focus can be tilted to about 45 degrees from
    normal and the shift goes for roughly 30 degrees worth of correction.
    I've tinkered with a bunch of extreme home made setups and know what a
    really ridiculous tilt or shift can do, this comes close and holds up
    the quality very nicely. I expected I would only be interested in shift
    for perspective correction but the tilt is also useful. Anyone
    complaining for more movement doesn't know how bad that looks if you do
    it with a bag bellows on a medium format lens and doesn't appreciate how
    well this holds up. I have an older generation 85mm T/S nikkor also and
    I do not use shift with it at all; there is almost no impact for
    perspective correction at that focal length. Theoretically you could
    devise a mount to hold it by the front of the lens barrel and shift for
    seamless panorama stitches. Even without that kind of mount, it makes
    pretty nice 2-image panos, I haven't tried with the 24mm but it probably
    doesn't work well without a special mount.

    Very nice as you would expect. Different from most lenses though as the
    body is square to accommodate the movements, there is no way to weather
    seal this kind of design. It's a metal box with a cover plate & gears
    inside. The lens does not extend when focusing like the 85 and of course
    does not rotate. It's a little smaller than the 85 and the front element
    is a lot more exposed. I think a lot of what makes the 85 produce such
    rich contrasty images is the deeply recessed front element which is
    lined in grooved flat black metal. The 24 has that too though it's
    shallower & wider & it comes with a narrow sprawling plastic lens shade.
    I'd rather just hold something above the lens when light falls on it. It
    comes with a soft suede pouch, which is more useful than the round
    canister for the 85 that sits on my shelf.

    Electronic Aperture
    (the E in PC-E)
    I guess is nice but screws up any possibility of extension tubes other
    than wide open. Not that you'd really want to use it this way but the
    e-aperture isn't much of an improvement on the plunger the 85 has. It
    takes the same finger press on the lens to stop down. The plunger is
    long & vulnerable to trip ups when released. You have to open up when
    focusing and shoot manual when shifted or tilted. You could also just
    twist the aperture ring instead, I work both ways. Tilt makes less
    difference to the exposure and I often just shoot the 85 on A mode with
    some EC as needed but the 24 needs to be in manual when shifted or the
    exposure will be way off. That's mostly because I didn't use shift on
    the 85, just tilt. The regular DOF preview button works on the D700, not
    on the D200 but there's easy workarounds.

    Here's some shots I did with it:[email protected]
    tinkering to show extreme effects:[email protected]
    some of these are other lenses but all the wide ones:

    Paul Furman

    all google groups messages filtered due to spam
    Paul Furman, Jul 27, 2009
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  2. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Oh and it has the new Nano-crystal coating for internal reflections.
    Flare & ghosting seem reasonable, I got no more than a row of a few pale
    green smallish ghosts in the worst scenario. I didn't try side-by side
    into the sun for ghosts, flare & contrast.

    Oh, and Canon sucks!

    <just checking> ;-)
    Paul Furman, Jul 28, 2009
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  3. Paul Furman

    Paul Furman Guest

    Oh and it has the new Nano-crystal coating for internal reflections.
    Flare & ghosting seem reasonable, I got no more than a row of a few pale
    green smallish ghosts in the worst scenario. I didn't try side-by side
    into the sun for ghosts, flare & contrast.

    Oh, and Canon sucks!

    <just checking> ;-)
    Paul Furman, Jul 28, 2009
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