I love all things retro especially when they’ve got old school flavour. The bug to pick up an old film lens has been biting for several years but I’ve resisted scratching that itch.
However, the lure of these vintage lenses reared its ugly head when the D750 arrived. I was sceptical about spending an additional $600 for the 24-120 kit lens so a little online research ensued and the pick narrowed to a beautiful 80-200mm f/4.5 AI vintage lens which was up for grabs for almost next to nothing.
So here I am with a 35 year old film lens. Regarded one of Nikon’s legendary lenses from its film days, it’s even been voted by some among the Top 10 best Nikkor lenses ever made.
In a word, it’s gorgeous.
Oozing character, this is one badass lens to look at. It features incredible build quality, and most importantly incredible glass for a fraction of what new lenses run for. Made of solid metal, with real rubber grips, and a feel to it that can’t be beat by modern plastic versions.
With no AF or VR complexities to deal with, its just a good old fashioned manual focus lens that takes great photos. I admit I’m missing AF but was never a big fan of VR. No more “hit ‘n run” shooting. Manual focussing will take getting used to but I think it’s going to make me appreciate the whole process of photography even more now that I have no choices left but full control over the camera.
I’m glad time and again I’ve been unable to justify the purchase of the venerable 70-200 VRII, a focal range I’ve been looking to get for a while. Personally I feel it’s huge, heavy, unwieldy and over-priced. Besides, the tonne of money I’ve saved is going to fund a whole set of AI primes that nobody wants anymore. I prefer compact lenses that allow me to blend and disappear into a crowd.
Nikon’s marketing is a well oiled machine that would have you believe that their expensive lenses are the best fit for their semi-pro and professional range of DSLRs. I almost didn’t pick up this lens as there were so many conflicting reports out there that IQ on new sensors could be an issue. It’s in Nikon’s best interest of course to get people to buy their new lenses.
That said, I’ve stopped reading reviews. My gut feel has yet to let me down and this is just another case-in-point. “Professionals” who write reviews are mostly paid for their opinions or are pixel-peepers who don’t actually take any photos of their own. I’ve owned lenses that had terrible reviews and yet I’ve shot some of my most highly regarded images on them. These old lenses work brilliantly on the latest camera bodies and in some cases even better than their new updated versions.
The images here were shot in RAW and processed in Aperture. No Photoshop and no effects whatsoever. Not bad for an old discarded lens. It’s in a good home now and I don’t think I’ll be swapping lenses off my camera anytime soon. It’s a challenging lens to focus but when you get it right, the results are amazing.
Any modern DSLR with a kit lens is capable of producing great images but even the best or most expensive camera or lens is not going to make you take better photos. In the end, it all comes down to your technique and how you see the world that makes for memorable images, everything else is secondary.