Self Portrait While re-Testing a Gift Lens.

Yeah. It's July in Texas. You feel it especially well on the humid days when the heat index rises up into the triple digits and you sweat walking from the house to the car. For the last week we've also had a weird atmospheric haze caused (absolutely true) by an enormous dust cloud that arrived from the Sahara Desert. Air quality dipped to "moderate" which is never a welcome sign. 

I'd gotten a cool old lens from a reader and fellow blogger and a few weeks back I did a cursory test of the lens. At the time I was having a brief love affair with polarizing filters and had one on the front of the new (to me) test lens. When I posted the images more than one person commented that the photographs had lowered contrast, or a hazy veil over them. I blamed the lens and moved on. But my sloppy test technique was keeping me up at night and so on Friday I took the lens back out and shot some more, but this time I ditched the filter. 

The lens in question is an inexpensive, older Nikon. It covers a focal range that I really like. It's a Series E 36-72mm f3.5 and is manual focus. I've posted some new samples here and I am growing to really like this lens. It has personality. It also has vicious barrel distortion at the wider focal length settings. It corrects with about a +3 slide in PhotoShops Lens Correction distortion panel. But here's the deal, you can have less distortion in a lens design but something else has to give, usually it's overall sharpness. This lens is very sharp in the center two-thirds of the frame and that suits me fine. 

I have a lot of lenses that cover this range but none are as petite and amiable as this one. Of all my lenses in this range the one that continues to surprise me for it's high sharpness and lack of distortion is the Nikon 35-70mm f3.5, two touch, manual focus zoom. It's built like...well....an all metal lens, and there are no design "nods" to small size or light weight, it just performs well vis a vis image quality and is remarkably accurate when manually focused on a D800e. It's refreshingly retro-technical. 

I can't counsel anyone to buy the smaller, 36-72mm Series E lens if their main interest is in capturing rectilinear architectural photos, although I've included one I corrected below. I can suggest that it's very fun to use and the limited range of focal lengths works well to focus your attention. 

Without the polarizing filter (Bad lens tester. Bad!) the sharpness is absolutely fine and I don't see the veiling haze or low contrast that I experienced before. I'll definitely keep it around for those times when the walk is necessary but the need to haul around "professional gear" is not. Thanks Stephen!


  1. Read it. Loved it. I usually read you via a feed reader, but I click through to your website about 80% of the time. I will try to do better.

  2. Well now it's TOO contrasty!

    (kidding, kidding!)

  3. Really? I thought it had too much resolution and not enough diffidence.

  4. I must admit that the micro-introspection is fantastic, but in the midranges the inflection feels a little crunchy. Nothing that can't be corrected with a judicious use the the turbo encabulator in Lightroom, though.

  5. Thanks! I was going to go and watch fireworks with needy orphans tomorrow but I think I'll stay home instead and re-work a few of those files...

  6. The E series 75-150 lens is a stunning performer.


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