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Old School Meets New School

Jun 4

In Jobs at 3:48pm

Had a pretty intense assignment week last week, in Beijing. I was photographing “living masters,” a group of individuals whose unparalleled excellence at their art or craft had deemed them to be one of the treasures of China. It was a push of a job, shooting two, and occasionally three of these in a day, spread over six days of shooting. 380 gigs, total, jpeg/raw combo files.

When I got there, I felt I had the usual bases covered, lens-wise, but then realized, I was foolishly unprepared to get super close. Wukesong to the rescue! I visited that big box known as Wukesong, which contains many photo stores in downtown Beijing, and found a relatively untouched 55 micro-Nikkor f3.5, built, most likely, mid 1970’s. The tried and true F-mount, coupled to a D800E, presented no problem. It lacked certain of the technology advantages of lenses today, to be sure, but the years had not dimmed its sharpness. My eyes, by contrast, have definitely dimmed in sharpness, so focusing this puppy was a workout. But it got me in close, and sharp, giving me a window on the heart and soul of being a true master. These folks were amazing.

Above, Nikon D800E, 55mm Micro-Nikkor 3.5, shot at ISO 800, 1/60th at about, I’m guessing f5.6, on a Lexar card. Backstage prep for Kunqu Opera.

More tk….

Johan rosen says:

on June 4, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Yeah Wukesong is a cool place to browse around :)
Nice shot.

Charlie Cotugno says:

on June 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Beautiful image. Great pickup on the lens, looks as sharp as the day it came out of the factory. I’ve also had to all but abandon manual focus, the plague of being in the over fifty crowd.

Jacob says:

on June 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm

A lot of people dismiss older lenses as yesterday’s trash but there are a great deal if amazing performers in Nikon’s lineup that still perform wonderfully! I shoot professional gigs with all D series lenses and haven’t had a complaint. Sometimes comparing horses leads to splitting hairs 😉

Glenn Hartong says:

on June 4, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I love the 55 micro. For years we had three lenses in our everyday newspaper kit, our choice,
Even when we went digital, a wide zoom, an 80-200 and a 55 micro was my choice.
I cannot tell you how many small photos I copied, many wallet size, of victims of one incident or other.; a sad reality of news photography but the micro always excelled.

Koen Miseur says:

on June 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I also use an old Nikkor lens (135mm f2.8 AIs) on a new Nikon body (D7000) and they work great together and it is SO sharp!

Kryn says:

on June 4, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Wow, Joe, those images are friggin awesome!
You planning to come to Shanghai by the way? There’s a whole bunch of people here dying to meet you!

Kevin Lee says:

on June 4, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Every time I read your blog is like one more bullet is added under my belt. Thanks.

Jan Håkan Dahlström says:

on June 5, 2014 at 1:20 am

Old lenses rule! I got a 58/1,4 lens from 1961, working very well on my D800, beatiful bokeh and haze at 1,4…..

HaraldH says:

on June 5, 2014 at 2:29 am

Bless the F-mount. My Nikkor 105 mm/f2,5 (40 years old) is still – and after all those years – my favourite portrait lens. Pin sharp. No problem using it on my D700. I don’t even miss the autofocus. H :-)

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on June 5, 2014 at 11:18 am


The beauty of the Nikon system and the F Mount lens. I know there is a reason I have kept so many. The 55 Micro-Nikkor f2.8 was my standard lens on my F3 for years. Still use it. I can put it on my original F or my D800. I like that sort of consistency.

Great image, BTW.

All the best.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Kaz Neal says:

on June 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Fabulous texture and colour.

ofis dekoru says:

on June 7, 2014 at 2:59 am

Thank you for sharing

Michael Thurman says:

on June 15, 2014 at 6:13 am

That’s a great story and even better outcome!

When I’m not shooting my Nikon F2, their a several lenses that wind up on my, er, Canon digital with good results.

Looking forward to the Images from this shoot.

Norbert says:

on June 29, 2014 at 8:25 am

You know, I happen to use na old 50 1.4 (I’m guessing 1963 or so) and it is my favorité by far… Old does not have to mean outdated…

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