Shooting wide open: what a difference a stop makes

Check this out: a simple shot of a lamp in my back yard, at different apertures on open end of my prized Nikon 35mm 1.4 lens. This is the lens that Nikon made during the 70s using radioactive glass (really) and as a result, today the lens has a very warm cast caused by the decaying isotopes. It’s the perfect lens to warm up those cool cloudy days in Seattle.

But that’s not what caught my eye about this sequence. What I’m blown away by is how very, very different the image looks at each of these apertures. Check out the huge difference between 1.4 and 2.0, for example. All the way open, the background almost looks painterly, like you can see brush strokes. But the detail in the foreground is noticeably less sharp. That cleans up instantly at 2.0. The background strokes are still there – just a hint. This is pretty much the sweet spot of this lens.

Anyway, no reason for sharing this today except that it’s good to remember exactly what your lenses can do, and shooting a series like this really makes it startlingly clear.

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