Got a 24-120mm f/4 zoom with my D850. It did initially help me to survive the weight & size shock of going full frame after enjoying 3 years of mirrorless lightness. And it’s a really good lens, having 98% of my most used focal lengths built in. But then I’d got bitten by the Bokeh bug & fell for the 58mm f/1.4 (I “outed” myself on that one here). So then I was out & about looking for a bokehlicious wide angle. Crazy, huh? Really? Yep, I admit that’s how bad I got bitten - maybe a good idea to get some professional help after all ... Sometime. Anyways, please read on if y’all wanna join me on this new adventure & fancy some advice as to which direction to go Bokeh!
One thing you can’t complain about Nikon is missing options. They got it all. Every lens you’d ever wished for. Wide angle with Bokeh potential? 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm, all with f/1.4 max. aperture. Right there, they got it. You just need to be some kinda millionaire ;-) and you need to have the patience of a saint to find what fits best to your needs! Well I gotta tell ya, ain’t no millionaire & for sure ain’t no saint either. And my trusted photo dealer wasn’t gonna appreciate me trying out all kinda different lenses (coz large aperture wide angle primes definitely aren’t mainstream. They gotta be ordered & payed for in advance, each single one :-) So, after many hours of research, burning the midnight oil on the net I got the Nikkor AF-S 28mm f1.4E in my sights. Why? it’s positioned as a wide angle with Bokeh and it got many great reviews.
So you want a “Storytellin’ lens” (which includes the subject’s environment)? Look no further, IMO this is the one. See the “Rooster house” image above and the airport snapshot of my wife below: After many years of using a 35mm equivalent on mirrorless I knew that the 35mm’s rendering is just a little wee bit too “normal” (narrow) for me, albeit great for everyday documentary use. I needed something with a bit steeper perspective (by requiring you to come closer to your subject), without hitting “distortion territory” in people photography. And, of course with Bokeh! The wider the angle, the less Bokeh and the more distortion potential. The 24mm distorts too much if your subject reasonably fills the frame and includes too much of the image if you maintain sufficient distance to prevent distortion. For me the sweet spot between perspective & Bokeh lies around 28mm! Definitely. Look at the image below - Amazing Bokeh on a 28mm wide angle! Hard to believe, right?
So there you got it. A wide angle with Bokeh! Now Nikon’s AF-S 28mm f/1.4E’s been quite a recent development (it came out last year if I remember right). 14 lens elements, of which 2 are ED lenses and 3 asphericals, which do cause a touch of nervousness in background Bokeh, as you can see (but not critical in my opinion). Overall Nikon made quite an effort on this one, resulting in an eye-watering price (hey, they forced me to trade in the complete rest of my Fuji kit to get this beast ...). But when you see the images and the Bokeh this monster creates you forget the pain. Garanteed! Even at f/1.4 the clarity & sharpness of this lens’s rendering just jumps off your monitor! You’re even forced to close the aperture to f/2, just to get sufficient depth-of-field. So depth-of -field’s the only reason for stopping down on this one. See below image of an antique Spanish wooden door:
The Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.4E’s superb image quality, nearly independent of the used aperture is quite unlike most other large aperture lenses which are soft fully open and need to be stopped down to achieve acceptable sharpness. This gives you more creative freedom and allows you to enjoy narrow depth-of-field even on a wide angle lens! The below snapshot of my pretty wife as we were enjoying a break in the airport lounge shows what I meant with staying out of “distortion territory”. With 28mm you can still get away with peoples’ heads close to the image frame edges, distortion staying within reasonable limits. Don’t try this with a 24mm, your subjects will not be amused by the egg-shaped distortion of their heads in case they’re located in the image corner!
The not too large 75˚angle of view of the 28mm thereby limits the inclusion of distracting background elements, allowing environmental portraits to not be overwhelmed by the secondary image elements. In this image stopping down to f/2.8 allowed me to also get the stuff on the table more or less into focus but still got enough blurring of the background to not distract from the main subject. I had a similar idea for the image below: Seperate the wrought iron gate from its shadow on the wall behind it by focussing the selective plane of sharpness on the foreground. This creates a better separation between fore- and background elements and gives it a more 3 dimensional rendering, what do you think?
So, does having this 28mm cover all your wide-angle needs? To be honest not completely. IMO 28mm’s a bit to short for street photography, because the 1-1.5m you need to come closer to your subjects to fill the frame sometimes already infringes on their private space and they notice their image is being captured. This still creates interesting images for sure but they will not strictly be of documentary nature anymore because you are now interacting with your subjects. So I will want to try out Nikon’s AF-S 35mm f/1.4G for my street photography at some time in the future ... anyways I’m sure looking forward to seeing y’all back here for that review ;-)
You may ask why I don’t use my zoom for all this. Simple, I mainly use my 24-120mm zoom when traveling or for casual photography (especially when I don’t need too much Bokeh ;-). For more serious photography I prefer to limit myself to one focal length for a specific topic. This allows me to focus more on the image rather than fiddling with the zoom ring (hell, even when using the zoom I try to stick to one focal length for a series of images). I can only advise you to try that for yo’self - I promise your photography will improve dramatically - less is more!
If you have any questions or anything’s unclear please leave me a message below or on my about page! Thanks for looking by & wish y’all a relaxing Sunday!
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