Photo Equipment Neepery

I guess it’s mostly Nikon’s fault for giving the D3 such good low-light performance. Since there’s no way I can consider actually buying a D3 (I believe MSRP at release will be about $5000), I’m not sure why that’s the obvious driver to my looking at more equipment upgrades, but it’s at least one major factor. Another is that I got some money (not much in relation to a D3) for my birthday, so I can consider at least low-end upgrades. And maybe there’s still leftover energy from this spring, when I bought the 17-55mm f/2.8 DX zoom.

But once I start thinking, it snowballs.

I own and use the 58mm f/1.2 NOCT, a classic old AIS lens with an aspheric front element from back before those were a dime a dozen. Manual focus, though. I do okay with manual focus, I’ve gotten some great photos with that lens (on a DX body it has the angle of view of about an 85mm, it’s a great candid portrait lens). But AF is faster and often more accurate especially if things are dynamic, especially on the D200 (big upgrade from my Fuji S2 in autofocus). And this lens sells for absurd amounts of money on Ebay, I’ve seen it as high as $3500, though $1800 is more reliable. I bought it for $700 used in about 1995 I think, when it was still available new for, as I remember it, $1589. It’s an excellent lens, but I’m not really sure it’s the best use for that much money for me right now.

Or, if I’m going to continue with a lot of MF lenses, I probably want to get a Katz Eye screen installed. Which either means self-installing (which scares me; there’s this bit where they remark that you need to be careful to not lose the shims that position the screen at the right distance from the mirror, which means to me that if I mess up manual focusing gets completely ruined) or paying $50 and being without the camera for a couple of weeks.

I’ve been wondering if the AF-D 50mm f/1.4 (which I can buy for $260 new) will do for me. How much do I value the AF? I don’t believe I value the 1/2 stop (or is it 1/3 stop?) from f/1.4 to f/1.2 very much at all. Can the 50mm f/1.4 possibly be in the ballpark on image quality, when it’s so much cheaper?

I plan to try some tests with my old manual focus 50mm f/1.8 AIS, reputedly not as good a lens, and see how I feel about that. After that, I might buy a used 50mm f/1.4 AF-D and try it out (buying used carefully, I can most likely resell it if I don’t like it with very little loss). And if I do like it, then it’s time to sell the NOCT.

Once I get started down that path, there are other issues to resolve. Is it time to sell the FM-2 body and MD-12 motor drive? What about the old F (with Photomic FTN meter)? What about the PB-4 bellows? Certainly I should turn over the 18-70mm kit lens. Can I get anything for the Fuji GS645 with the pinhole in the bellows corner?

Does the D3 mean I need to be thinking about full-frame cameras for the future? My best zoom right now is a DX, and it’s also my most recent, and it won’t work on a full-frame body.

It’s a huge heap of work, and a huge pile of long-term decisions, and huge amounts of money, is what it is. Maybe just leaving everything the same would be easier? And good enough?

Edited to add: How could I forget the manual-focus 300mm f/2.8? That’s probably still worth a few hundred. I can actually make the arithmetic work if I sell the D200 and the 17-55/2.8 (which is a DX lens and less-than-optimally useful on a D3). No. Stop thinking this. This would be a lot of trouble, and would leave me with a body rather superior to the lenses I had left to use with it. And the full-price brand-new top-of-the-line professional body is not something I need for my hobby (though it’s special goodness is perfectly suited for the kind of photography I do).

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