Giant Nikkor Lens of Doom

When I was in high school I used my dad’s Nikon F camera a ton. It weighed approximately a million pounds and was twice my age but I loved the hell out of it. I was particularly proud of the fact that it was entirely mechanical and my dad had a huge collection of lenses for it (also completely mechanical; to this day I still find autofocus to be a little foreign).

Most of the lenses sat in the closet when I finally moved to a digital SLR, until a couple years ago when I got an adapter ring that lets you used the Nikon F-mount lenses on a Canon EOS body. Obviously none of the computerized features work, but the through-lens metering on my T4i does a pretty good job at exposing the shot. This weekend I pulled it out to use with my dad’s Nikkor 500m f/8 lens. It’s a short (for a 500) fat lens which we affectionately call “the Hubble  because it’s really best suited for taking pictures of the moon and other distant, slow-moving objects.

The church down the street (about 5 blocks away) fit that description well so I stuck the camera on a tripod and tested things out. I used the 2 second self-timer function on my camera so I wouldn’t jiggle the camera when pressing the shutter release. Because at 500mm even a tiny bit of jitter looks like a lot.

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It turns out the church is actually much too close to be able to do much shot composition. I had to back up about 15 feet from the window just to fit that much of it in the frame. What’s incredible to me is that you can see the individual bricks that make up the church. This church is far enough away that I can’t read the clock from my bedroom window. Turns out it’s wrong anyway.

Focusing the lens was a challenge. My camera has a “live preview” feature which lets you zoom in on sections of the frame, so I used the edge of the clock face to get things as sharp as I could (which isn’t very sharp with this lens).

The next day I took it to the zoo and got up close and personal with some of the animals.

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It’s not the most practical lens but it’s a lot of fun, and I’m glad to be able to use the older lenses in my dad’s collection. The flexible and super high ISOs of modern SLRs make the lens more useful now than it ever could have been with film.

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