Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is the deal with our 85mm f2.8 PC-Micro-Nikkor?

I've been asked for some samples of what our rental lenses are capable of- specifically, the 85mm f2.8 PC-Micro-Nikkor.

In addition to being an exceptionally sharp macro lens, the PC-Micro-Nikkor's big tricks are its tilt/shift abilities. What these allow is greater control over distortion and plane of focus, similar to what large-format cameras are capable of.

Shifting moves the lens off its axis, in any direction. This is mostly useful for architectural photography, but it can also be used to slide your viewpoint off-axis without moving the camera. So if you need to take a picture featuring some kind of reflective surface, and you want to make sure the camera doesn't appear in the image, shifting the lens may let you get away with it.

Tilting is more interesting for creative photography. When you take a picture, the area in focus is a slice of your subject parallel to the film or sensor plane. To illustrate:

If you tilt the lens, the area in focus tilts, too. So instead of having that in-focus area parallel to the sensor plane, you can lay it down against your subject so that more appears in focus:

Both of these ruler pictures were taken at the same aperture from the same spot.

Especially useful for macrophotography, where depth of focus can be a real problem, you can also get great effects from this technique in portraiture and landscapes. National Geographic published an excellent Hurricane Katrina photo essay taken with a Speed Graphic large-format camera, which features the kind of selective focus effects the 85mm f2.8 PC-Micro-Nikkor is capable of.

Part of our rental fleet, the 85mm f2.8 PC-Micro-Nikkor rents for $35/day.

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