5 Frames with a Nikon D800 and the Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton

By john mcmanus

A couple of years ago, when I came into some spare cash and decided to buy a new camera, I found myself faced with the problem of narrowing down my choices from the wide array of gear that’s available on the internet.

Although I also shoot film, I knew I wanted the new camera to be a full frame digital model – to replace my ageing, but still capable Canon EOS 5D Mark II (which in turn had replaced my original EOS 5D). Perhaps out of a certain contrariness, but, more seriously, from the understanding that Nikon offered products of an equal footing, I opted for the Nikon D800.

I remembered the attention that this camera had attracted when it was first released, back in 2012 – the leap up in the megapixel count being one point of interest (36.3 million effective pixels). Its dynamic range (14.4 stops) and the flexibility it offered in producing beautiful rendered colour files that made for tremendous b/w conversions, appealed to me greatly. The control of noise was also a strong persuader: indeed, on those occasions when I shoot at ISO4000 the ‘noise’ is not simply unobjectionable, but aesthetically pleasing.

Through a friend, I obtained a Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton. It was not in the best of condition, having some fungus behind the front element, but it was available and cheaply priced. Fortunately, some preliminary tests (of typical subjects) showed no sign of the fungus affecting its ability to produce high quality results.

All of the 5 shots featured here have been edited in a variety of programs, but chiefly Photoshop, which I first started using back in 1998 (Version 4.0).

Cronulla, 2024 – f8 1/1500 AV mode, pattern metering, lens focussed at infinity

I was able to react quickly when I saw the boys running because I knew the lens was already at infinity, and that the aperture I had already set would guarantee a fast enough shutter speed to freeze them in place. Careful timing and ensuring the horizon was as straight as possible were all that was needed.

Horse, Wollongong 2024
Horse, Wollongong 2024 – f11 1/750,AV mode, pattern metering 

A hot day and a scene with a wide subject brightness range. Overhead lighting usually makes for dull tones, but there is also something very Australian about this quality of light. Post production helped impart something of a glow to the file.

Late Afternoon Clouds
Late Afternoon Clouds-  f5.6 1/6000 AV mode, pattern metering, lens focussed at infinity.

As is often the case when I’m using this camera, I selected the 4/5 aspect ratio or “Image Area” (in the menu).

Rangoon Island
Rangoon Island, 2024 – F9.5 1/500 AV mode, pattern metering, lens focussed at infinity

Nikon’s pattern metering did a great job with this exposure, and the sensor provided an image with plenty of info that could withstand the rigours of what turned out to be a long editing session.

Handstand, Cronulla 2024
Handstand, Cronulla 2024 – f8 1/1000 AV mode, pattern metering

I find it’s helpful, when I want to take a photo of someone doing something, if there’s an action or a gesture on their part, a movement of some sort, that they repeat at intervals. This was the young man’s second attempt at performing a handstand – so  I was watching him closely. The boy   entered the frame at the peak of the action, and I felt it was the right time to fire the shutter (chance favouring the prepared mind).

At some point in the future, I’d like to feature photographs that concentrate on the bokeh of some of the lenses I use. Here,  I’d like to point out the versatility of the 58mm focal length lens (for full frame cameras) – it might not seem like much of an extension on 50mm (perhaps subjectivity plays a role here) but, using it I feel more comfortable composing subjects that are in the mid-distance or at infinity.. 

Of course,  the large file size delivered the D800’s sensor also plays a role here. Cropping, if needed, is possible with minimal effects on the final print size (such was the case with the shot of the young man performing a handstand – I was unable to move in any closer, and had to crop from the base, top and one side).

Couple that with the ability to blow files up to ever increasing sizes, and you have a workable proposition to cover a range of situations.

All in all I am very pleased with the purchase – the D800 was significantly cheaper than buying into a mirrorless system, while the fact that it is a DSLR does not mean it produces images that are inferior in value.

I can foresee using it well into the future.

John McManus

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About The Author

By john mcmanus
Born in 1972; started taking photographs with a passion in 1996, after graduating from Macquarie University (Mass Communications) and moving to country NSW (Australia). Cared for my parents, back in Sydney, for 13 years - documented my Mum's experiences across two nursing homes in the final years of her life. I love b/w: landscape photography (urban and natural), still life, and street photography. I shoot 35mm, 120 roll film (645, 6/6, 6/12) and full frame digital.
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Comments

Will on 5 Frames with a Nikon D800 and the Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton

Comment posted: 09/05/2024

Any examples of this wide open, John?
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john mcmanus replied:

Comment posted: 09/05/2024

Hi Will, Not a whole lot of them with this particular lens at the moment - which probably seems strange, since one of its strengths is its speed! I am working on a series of still life, some of which should showcase the strengths and potential weaknesses of the lens when wide open. When I have enough, I'm thinking of writing a Part II to this blog. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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Gary Smith on 5 Frames with a Nikon D800 and the Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton

Comment posted: 09/05/2024

A fine set of images there John! I've not yet owned a Nikon but there's still time. I enjoyed your narrative on each of the shots.
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john mcmanus replied:

Comment posted: 09/05/2024

Thanks so much Gary! This is the first proper blog I've put out there, so positive feedback is a real thrill. Am glad you found the comments interesting - I think a bit of background detail is always useful (I also like it when my favourite photographers show their proof prints - or the digital equivalent - and we get to see the shots that for one reason or another they didn't;t press ahead with)

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James Evidon on 5 Frames with a Nikon D800 and the Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton

Comment posted: 09/05/2024

Shooting at ISO 4000 does give a film-like character to the images. I do like it.
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john mcmanus on 5 Frames with a Nikon D800 and the Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton

Comment posted: 10/05/2024

Thanks James,

Yes - something about the way it softens acutance. I think there's a perceptible difference between generating the 'noise' in a capture by using a high ISO or adding it in post (a double blind study could be interesting here).
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Eric Rose on 5 Frames with a Nikon D800 and the Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton

Comment posted: 18/05/2024

Great read and wonderful images. I have a Nikon 800e which features even more sharpness! Using VC lenses is always a good move. I have several and love them all. I wish I lived close to the water. Being a water baby myself, being landlocked is a real drag.

I hope we see more images from you.

Eric
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john mcmanus replied:

Comment posted: 18/05/2024

Thanks Eric - yes, I think the anti-aliasing filter is absent from the 800e, which means more sharpness (but potentially more moire in some situations). Water is such great subject for b/w photography - coastal light, in particular, seems different from any other. I shoot as regularly as possible, and have a fairly healthy archive, so I might start work on another piece in the near future!

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Jeffery Luhn on 5 Frames with a Nikon D800 and the Voigtlander f1.4 58mm Nokton

Comment posted: 22/05/2024

Nice pix!! A big plus with Nikon DSLRs is the backward compatibility with old Nikkor lenses. And I mean OLD! I use a D-610 with lenses I bought second hand in 1975. The focus confidence light in the viewfinder is wonderful and the ability to use manual lenses in aperture priority is great. Never had a Nikon body or lens fail in 50 years!
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