I Went for a Walk. Starting Points and Pear Trees

•September 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I went for a walk.


It was Cheatham Hill again. I travel the same trails. Each time, I hope to notice different things to photograph, to think about, and to write about. Lately, I have had plenty of time to think. If I’d thought differently years ago, I might be wandering a different trail by now.


A Small Marker


This field was a battlefield. Do we even have battlefields anymore? Did they go out of fashion when video gamers became soldiers? Things are so anonymous these days. Yet men and women continue to die in wars and battles. It is personal. Very personal.

War 150 years ago was much more personal. The distance from Confederate trenches to the Union trenches on this hill was less than 100 feet. That is not all that much further than good COVID-19 social distancing in line at the grocery store.

From the top of the hill looking down, viewing it from the vantage point of the memorial, one can easily see why this battle was more a slaughter than a battle, and why a lot of people died.

The memorial to the poor boys from Illinois was raised in 1914. There is a small marker, shown in the photo above. It says, “Here fell Capn. S. M. Neighbour … of Newcomerstown, Ohio.”

“And who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer asked Jesus, and he answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I don’t mean to take advantage of brave Captain Neighbour with a disrespectfully, crude pun. His death raised the question in my mind. His name is a convenient segway for me to ponder. Our parents give us names. There are consequences.

Charles Dickens named Scrooge “Ebenezer”, which is a biblical name. I am certain it was on purpose. “Ebenezer” in the Hebrew Scriptures means “The Lord has brought me thus far.” (The book of 1st Samuel, Chapter 7.) Our names transcend ourselves sometimes. In naming him Ebenezer, I am certain Dickens intended to reveal something deep about the character of Scrooge, a name which has come to mean anything but God’s providential care.

Captain Neighbour fell as he and his men charged the Confederate lines toward soldiers whom I am certain lay down a heavy volley both in anger and in wonder at those Yankee farm boys, who worked the black earth of Ohio and Illinois and not the red clay of Georgia and Tennessee. The relatively slow, but massive bullets and balls probably cut the poor captain in half.

Someone wrote a letter to his family. Perhaps a friend of his delivered it. Maybe his friend came with a personal word instead of a letter. His family mourned. They never got over it. War is personal.

Starting Point


Across the valley, across a stream, which meandered about back then, and up the hill toward Cheatham Hill Road, there is another stone marker which says “The Starting Point”. It’s in the woods. I wonder about those kinds of starting points. Sometimes you don’t know the starting point of battles until after those battles are finished. You have to walk back to find them.

Pears


Along the trail and in another open field there used to be a farm. The foundation corners are still there. Flowers bloom there in spring. There is a pear tree standing, and right now, this very minute, it is full of fruit; big, fat, luscious pears. I doubt the tree was there during the battle. However, I can imagine soldiers picking a pear or two before things heated up across the field.


The first house I remember living in, in Atlanta, had several pear trees, a couple apple trees, a peach tree, and grape vines. All produced enough fruit that my mom would make preserves and can them. We helped.

However, regarding this tree, I did not pick the pears, nor did I pick a peck of pears, nor did I pick a peck of pickled pears from this tree. Nope, not a one. But I do plan to go back tomorrow. I bet they’s good eatin’.

Selah

Sometimes I Sits and Thinks

•September 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I probably think too much.

I was playing around in Lightroom. It is fun just to play with toys. I enjoy learning about this excellent photo editing and workflow tool. I had some older images to bring into the current times. In fact, they began as film images. I had them scanned years ago, and I wanted to see what I could do with them in Lightroom.

The wonderful thing and the aggravating problem with tools today are the almost infinite ways you can edit a photo. I can’t turn a lily into a cloud but I can sure manipulate what attracts the eye.

The study of Sensitometry and its related scientific laws were well established in the early 1900’s. Almost 100 years ago, Ansel Adams made the leap from science to soul in his groundbreaking discovery expressed in Monolith, The Face of Half Dome. His epiphany was how he could control the nature of silver halide film through exposure and chemistry to create a work of art. Photography has never been the same.

The responsiveness of silver film to light is directly related to the size of the grains; the larger the grain, up to a point, the higher the speed, and conversely the smaller the grain, the slower the film and the greater the detail you can capture with it, within the limitations of the lens.

The exposure density formula is expressed as an S shaped curve. The sharper the incline or slope the greater the overall contrast and micro-contrast at the boundaries of tones and colors.

Capturing detail in the shadows requires a minimum exposure. That is the left side of the curve, or the “toe”. Capturing detail in the highlights requires control, and there is a maximum exposure beyond which no amount of manipulation will render any detail at all. That is called the “shoulder”.

The film “speed” or ISO is directly related to the grain size of the silver salt. It determines the minimum exposure. The manipulation part occurs during film development in chemicals. Adams and others spent large amounts of time working with film and developer combinations, including development time and temperatures to be able to obtain consistent results. Before Adams and the Zone System, photographers worked intuitively or they were just lucky.

Adams could obtain fine adjustments in the middle of the curve (adjusting the differentials) to control micro contrasts. He did it mostly by varying the chemical factors. However, once the film was developed he could not go back and change things. We have much more flexibility with digitally captured images.

Now a greater degree of control is available in Lightroom and Photoshop (and others) simply by adjusting a slider or setting a point on a curve and pulling it up or down. As long as I have information available in the digital image I can adjust it. We can change it, archive it, reverse the changes, start over and make something new.

The laws of physics and sensitometry still apply. The digital sensor has a base ISO rating, maybe 50 or 100. That value establishes our minimum exposure. I can adjust ISO in the camera by increasing the gain – you add a bit of electricity, increase sensitivity to ISO 400, 800 and so on, and with it signal noise, or static, and image degradation. It’s not the same as film grain at all, but it looks similar.

The range of tones contained in a digital image allow us to fine tune the final image with a greater degree of control than we have in film, at least natively. If I scan film and covert it to digital I can get some control back. If I want to lift the shadow detail of the roots in the black and white image of the water lily (below), as long as I have at least the minimum exposure required, then I can do it.

If I want less detail in the green leaves, I can reduce clarity. I can change the tint to warm it up, and make it more earthy, or cool it down by adding a bit of blue. Indecision is the key to flexibility as a friend of mine says.

I am also no longer bound to a darkroom. I can do it on my desktop PC, in the light of day, or a thousand miles away on my smartphone. Adams would probably be amazed and perplexed at his options if he were alive today.

But I ramble.

It is not so tedious as it sounds. In the case of the photograph of the water lily, I took it in color first, then I had it scanned, and years later I now play around with it in Lightroom. Because it is in TIFF and not RAW, I can only tune contrast, vibrance, and saturation to a limited degree. I can work with specific color channels to enhance certain colors. I can compress the curve. I can also desaturate the image and turn it into monochrome.

If I were to take this photograph today, I would most likely capture it in RAW (Nikon NEF, Sony ARW, or Canon CR2, etc.), and I would go from there to create whatever I want and however I want it to look. I can also photograph it classically on film. I am not limited. Really and truly, only one grabs me.

Guess which one I like better.

I think too much.

I Went for a Walk and Stopped

•September 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes you just gotta rest. Just a second. Stop and smell the coffee.

I went for a walk.

I stopped walking.

I bought a cup of coffee, a dark roast.

And a chocolate croissant.

I sat outside and watched people.

That’s it.

You should try it.

Selah

Bugs!

•August 14, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Don’t take photography so seriously. Sometimes it is fun just to chase bugs around the yard. Sometimes the best you can do for everyone is present something pretty.

Dr. Irving Finkelstein died in 2015. He was a good friend. He taught art history at Georgia State University. His joy was butterflies and moths, about which he knew an awful lot. A true teacher, he was not out to impress you with what he knew about them, but instead, he wanted you to be as excited about butterflies (and other insects) as he was. He gave a lot of his time to our kids teaching them the joy of bugs.

He spent a lifetime capturing and cataloging butterflies and moths. His collection was physically large and it covered a lot of territory – many species and varieties. Sadly, before his death, when he tried to donate his collection to any of the universities in Georgia which would take it, not even his Georgia State University was interested, and now the collection is in the Florida Museum of Natural History. I got to see it once in his home in Atlanta.

I wish Irving had been been with me yesterday. August is butterfly season in Georgia and I went over to the Smith-Gilbert Gardens again to chase around the little flying flowers. They have a nice butterfly house and I think I counted about ten different species or variations flitting about. There were about as many flying around freely as well. Besides the butterflies there are several paths, a couple of coy ponds, and artwork of various kinds on display. You can hide out in the woods on a bench if you like.

But I was there to sweat it out with the butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds. The temperature rises quickly in Georgia in August and when it does the bugs are moving fast. They were everywhere; fish in a barrel as they say.

I never use a tripod when I photograph butterflies. They move so fast, by the time I set up a camera and tripod they would be gone. So all the photographs here were with the camera hand held. I set the shutter speed to 1/250th of a second. Setting a fast shutter and relatively slow ISO, means that the camera will be choosing a wide f-stop, shallow depth of focus, with an out of focus background.

Given that speed and movement are involved, I use a fairly high ISO setting, starting at 200, but going up from there. I also shoot with fill flash. Now you might think that such lighting would be contrasty and result in dark backgrounds and artificial looking photographs. However, when you are dealing with a small subject, and up close, then the on-camera flash is more like a broad studio light.

I used my Nikon D7500 and D3400 cameras (APS-C) and a 60mm Micro Nikkor and 55-200 zoom Nikon DX G lens. On a Nikon APS-C sensor, multiply the focal length of the lens by 1.5 and you have the approximate effective focal length in 35mm or full frame terms. So for both cameras the 60mm lens is equivalent to a 90mm lens on a full frame camera. The zoom becomes more like a 300mm at the far end of the zoom range. About half the photographs I took using manual focus. The other have I used dynamic focusing.

I took over 400 exposures. Here is where digital really shines. In film terms, that would have been 13 or 14 rolls of film, then processing cost. My digital investment is sunk in the camera and a 64 GB SD card. I can shoot until I go blind, I don’t have to change a roll of film. I know, you may be wondering why anyone would consider film for nature photography. You may even wonder if film is even available. It is, and people are returning to analog, as they call it now. For this job… rather for this fun job, digital is the way to go.

Here ya go. They are not great works of art. There are only a couple that I thought were illuminating – the ones of the butterflies flying toward the flowers. Most of them look very much like other butterfly photographs I have seen. I will still upload them to stock anyway. The main thing is the joy of the chase and capture. No butterflies were harmed.

Selah

Making Sausage…

•August 8, 2020 • Leave a Comment

A high-brow is someone who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.

A. P. Herbert

… Is in the Details

In my opinion the original photograph is just the starting place. My attitude regarding the sanctity of the original changed with the digital age. When I discovered that I could make what I took look like what was in my head when I took it, everything changed.

I present to you three photographs. I was with some friends in a local park. I had my tiny Canon G7x Mark II camera. My friend called it my walkabout camera. It is. I can easily fit it in the palm of my hand.

We were sitting and talking and I had the camera in my lap. For some reason, and here is where the mystical comes into play, I turned almost 180 degrees around. I spotted the scene, the shadows, the sunlight, the deep color of the umbrella and the kids’ clothing. I took two exposures. I knew I had something in the second of the two. I turned back around and re-engaged. (I am a rude, ADHD laden photographer.)

Next is the first edited image. I cropped tightly. I lost detail, but I did not care. It was the color and composition I was after. I enhanced the color. But do you notice the kid playing above the umbrella? The color of his clothing matches, but he is a distracting element visually speaking. Nothing personal, kid.

Below is the final image. I exported the file from Lightroom and then imported it to Photoshop Elements. I used the Elements cloning tool to remove the child above the umbrella. Because the image is soft, the cloning tool edits are not as noticeable as they would have been had the image been sharp. The end result is more pleasing to the eye, a much better composition.

I don’t have to make every image razor sharp. The tiny Canon camera has a small sensor. If you photograph with it, and you use the telephoto, and then crop, you can expect the result to not be sharp. But I knew that when I started.

The point is, have a camera and be there. Then match the results to the image that you remember.

Selah.

Oooh! I See Ghosts. (Part 3)

•August 3, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I spent a parallel career in I.T. and one of the skills you must learn to be successful in that line of work is how to question your own assumptions.

I was on contract to a major corporation, and I was their lead engineer for an content management software package. The company used it for their internal portal. One day the entire thing collapsed under the weight of its own use; dead, flat on the ground, and I had to get it back up again.

Granted, the company had not made some very necessary upgrades along the way, and that caused the majority of the problems – those we could fix. How to manage your I.T. when you are a multi-billion dollar company is the subject of many a book. However there were also some internal problems with the software itself which the vendor refused to accept at first.

To make a very long, tedious story short, it took me 4 months to figure out all the problems and get them fixed. I would be presented with evidence. I would see something. I would go down the rabbit hole. It would dead end. I would have to change my assumptions. I would have to check my ideas about what I thought was true and argue against myself. I sought advice, but if the buck stops with you whose advice do you take. GOD is an object-oriented Programmer – the essence of truth is binary.

If you don’t challenge your own ideas then you’re pretty much a fool and your career ends.

Well, I am at a dead end.

Last episode of “Oooh! I Saw a Ghost”, I compared my two D3400’s. I shot jpegs. Lo and behold… Nothing. No ghosts! Nice, clean, sharp.

Then I thought, “Well it must be the RAW image processing of the D3400 that is causing the problem. So I tested again today. Here is the image exported from the RAW file. Same D3400. Same 60mm Micro Nikkor. Same exposure settings. Same cropping. No other editing except to convert the image to monochrome to minimize color issues that might contribute to the “ghost”.

Below is the original “scan” of the 35mm negative. Again, everything is the same, except the image above came directly from the camera as a digital positive RAW file, while the one below is a copy of the 35mm negative, also a RAW file. Remember that the ghosting went away when I switched from the D3400 to the D7500 copying (“scanning”) the same negative on the same copy stand, cameras both mounted the same, using a remote switch, etc. The ghosting was repeatable.

It bugs me to no end to have a technical problem that I cannot figure out. That made me good at what I did in I.T. However, when you’re dealing with problems like this one, and you reach a place where you have a workable solution, then the best course of action is just to let it go. Don’t spend more precious time on it. If the issue returns, I’ll attack it again.

If you have an idea about what may have caused the problem, drop me a line.

In the mean time, I will chalk it up to a “DEU Error”; that is, Defective End User, meaning me. I must have done something to cause it. I’ll just enjoy photographing with the excellent Nikon D3400 and D7500.

Selah

Oooh! I See Ghosts. (Part 2)

•August 2, 2020 • Leave a Comment

In my previous blog I posted that when I used the Nikon D3400 as a scanning solution for my film negatives, that I noticed ghosting around the edges of objects in the photograph. When I switched to my Nikon D7500 to copy the negatives, the ghosts went away.

I then decided to compare the D3400 “perp”, the one I used when I got the ghosts, to my second D3400. I bought these about the same time last year when I was ramping my photo business back up. I’d been invited out of my previous consulting job when business dried up. It was a long career anyway so I switched to my passion, photography.

Anyway, I have two Nikon D3400’s. The camera has a good reputation, and I use them as backups to my D7500. I photograph real estate, events, casual weddings, portraits, you name it. The D3400 with the Nikon 35mm f1.8 G lens is a remarkably lightweight camera combo, perfect for street photography too. So I couldn’t believe the camera was throwing the kind of error I saw in my negative scans, but it was there.

In the comparison test of the two D3400’s, I simplified my test steps. I set up a target – a literal target I got from a sporting goods store. I put D3400 #2, which I used for scanning on a tripod. I mounted my 60mm f2.8 Micro Nikkor. I set it to f8. The camera was on manual mode, ISO 100.

Here is the thing. I set D3400 #2 to JPEG Fine. For my scans, I always shot them in RAW, both on the D3400 and the D7500 (which scans perfectly). But for this series of tests I started with JPEG Fine.

I set the camera at 8 feet from the target and I made and exposure. Same magnification as in the previous post.

I think you can see there is no ghosting problem visible! Remember this is the same camera, same lens, everything the same except it is a JPEG Fine image and not RAW. The enlargement is about 10% of the image, at the upper right corner. I did not edit the image except set it to monochrome in case there was any color issues with the lens. (A 60mm Micro Nikkor has a superb reputation.)

Now I was really perplexed. So I took may “good” D3400, which I call D3400 #1, and I set up the test conditions exactly the same. Here is the exposure.

Both JPEG images look exactly the same!

Could it be the issue with the D3400 and scanning is with the RAW exposure?

Stay tuned sports fans.

Ooooh. I See Ghosts!

•August 1, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I’ve posted about shooting film and scanning the negatives and positives (slides) using simple setup of a DSLR, macro lens, and light source. Here is a good post on the subject. Click here. Nate gives good information. I followed his steps and have gotten good results.

I have seen some posts that recommend taping down the slide or negative. Don’t unless you don’t value the negative. Also if you are dealing with a strip of negatives, taping them down flat is still a challenge.

I have also seen posts that tell you to place glass over the negative or slide to keep it flat. This will work, except some camera sensors will introduce Moire patterns in the scan depending on how they respond to the glass. It is a tedious process to remove them from a scanned image.

So I now use the Lomography DigitaLIZA scanning mask both for 35mm and 120 film. Works great. The negatives lie flat and there is nothing between them and your camera. The masks also work with a standard desktop scanner equipped with a film scanning backlight.

I recently went photographing with my Nikon FM2N, my extremely reliable very old film camera. I was testing some Fomapan 200 film and Rodinal developer, a great combination. The negatives looked great.

However when I scanned them using my DSLR “scanner” the images were blurred. It took me a while to figure out. I won’t go through all the steps, because they are tedious and uninteresting.

Take a look at this image and notice the “ghosting” or shadow around the lines of the scanned file. Whether you make out the ghosts or not, the image is a blur, right? This is also an extreme enlargement of about ten percent of the image file, still as a negative and not inverted to a positive image.

I thought it must be some problem with the camera or the lens. I was using an old 1970’s Nikon Series E, 50mm f 1.8, one of Nikon’s cheaper lenses but which also has a good reputation for sharpness. The blurring did not make any sense.

So I began troubleshooting. I set up a target, a tape ruler, and I began to test the camera and lens at various distances and f-stops. I won’t go through all those individual steps.

The image above was made by “scanning” with the Nikon D3400 and a 60mm Micro Nikkor D lens.

After talking to a couple people, I finally narrowed the problem down to the DSLR. The sensors in the DSLR may introduce problems that cannot be fixed with Lightroom camera and lens profiles.

So I switched from the D3400 to my Nikon D7500, with the same 60mm Micro Nikkor lens. Below is a scan of the same negative, from the D7500, and enlarged approximately the same amount as the first image.

Moral of the story: It may be your scanning setup that introduces problems. In this case it was the D3400. I am not indicting all D3400’s. I am saying that for the scanning application, it is not the best camera for my setup and process.

The D7500 works much better in this case.

Selah

I Took a Walk: Why?

•July 26, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I am writing three books at once. One for my children, and two for everyone else. They are photography books. My most important photographs of and for my children are for them in a book. I will include a couple of their photographs in the other books as well, those that I think have some visual value to a person not in my family. There will be a collection of black and white photography, and a collection of color photography.

The books will be available in PDF format for download, and in print on paper. The print editions will be offered in two different quality levels. The less expensive one will be on thinner paper and soft cover, but the photo quality will still be excellent. The other higher quality book will be hard bound on heavy paper, 80 pound, with a linen cover. It will be limited edition, signed, numbered, printed to order, and limited to probably no more than 10 or 15 copies. It will be nice. I will offer individual prints as well. More details will come later this summer.

I have been thinking about my life in pictures and what it has meant to me. Maybe you will feel the same way. What follows is an essay which may appear in part or in full in the books. It seems few people take time to read anymore, but perhaps you will and perhaps you’ll find value in it.

I took a walk.

It’s been 50 years since I started thinking of photography as anything beyond just making simple snapshots of family, friends, and events.  I went through decades of being a “serious” photographer.  I entered contests, and I won. I have a trunk full of ribbons and plaques.  I spent the cash awards.  

I tried to sell my photographic art, with tiny successes here and there, nothing really notable; a book illustration here, a movie scene wall decor there, and some stock photography. I have photographs hanging in some nice bathrooms. Many friends have them. I helped run a gallery in the art district of Atlanta, and that was fun.

However, time passed and I came to the startling realization that I was not far from my original “family, friends, and events” photographs of my youth.  I understand now that they are the most important of all the photographs I have ever taken. 

There is no photography in Heaven, I think.  Why would there be?  If life over there is a glorious present, then what are remembrances to be hung on a wall or printed in a book? 

Photographs are extremely important on this side of life, as we all agree.  Besides my children and pets, I cannot think of anything more precious than family photographs, certainly not that I would risk my life to save from a burning house, can you?

We record the people who are most important to us, and the times in which we live.  We pass them on to the next generation as elaborate tribal knowledge; fables in silver and colored dyes.  The viewer in the future will behold the photograph devoid of its original context. They will apply their own context and value, and unless there is some written or spoken word, they will make up the stories and wonder about the people.  They may look for character hidden in lines, among shades of gray, in the two-dimensional shadow of the person, anything that reveals the soul, but find only the reflection of light from their skin and clothes, etched into the surface of the photograph. 

The graduated importance of my records justifies my addiction to making them.  I am compelled to photograph!  I would be doing it even if nothing of it remains after I am gone.  I hope against the certain reality of what I know will eventually happen to them.  If I had no hope beyond this life, I could really become depressed! But I photograph.

If you think in terms of mathematics and physics, vis-a-vis Sir Isaac Newton, a photograph is essentially the differential of a functional curve.  It is the single instantaneous rate of change of a function that is dependent upon some variable or set of variables; for example, me and time as we pass through this life are variables.  The photograph cannot have been made at any other time. It cannot have been taken by any other person at any other time.  If there is any change at all, one infintesimally small difference, then it would be a different photograph. It affects me. How fast am I changing?

The photograph represents a tangent, a point at which a line (time) touches a curve (my life), and an angle is formed.  In 1/60th of a second or some other fraction of time, the photograph collects a subset of electromagnetic energy, light at various wavelengths, reflected from an object or a collection of objects. It aggregates the energy, and deposits it upon a grain of silver salt or a silicon pixel.  Mathematics, physics, chemistry, mechanics, engineering, and optics all respond in an instant… and we are changed. 

What then of beauty, order, texture, contrast, color, and form, the stuff that art is concerned about? Photographers try to grab and keep stuff, or they manage to create an idol to it in their own image or vision.  Is it not enough to enjoy the sunset and hold it in one’s memory?  No, the photographer must scrape some of it off, and hold something of it in his hands and in his eyes, to view repeatedly. The picture transforms to the living thing from the disembodied spirit of the life it captured.   

There’s an old joke:  A photographer is strolling with his brand new baby down a sidewalk.  Two elderly women approach to admire the child. “Oh.  How precious,” one gushes.  “Oh.  How beautiful!” exclaims the other.  “That ain’t nothin’, ladies,” the photographer responds, “You should see my pictures!”

I hope not, but there is a reasonable possibility that photography may be prohibited by the second of The Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”  I can understand why the Lord would hold photographs in contempt. I say that as a photographer, the image becomes a thing in itself, separate from the object, divorced from the person pictured, aloof and estranged from the experience, and devoid of life except what we breathe into it.  Is it lesser, equal to, or greater than?  No. No. And no.

Painters and sculptors do not think this way, only photographers.

Selah

With This Ring I Thee Wed

•July 9, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I intend for this to be short.

Photography can be darn expensive. I suppose it is the tariffs that are driving up prices lately. Maybe the Virus from Hell messing up supply chains. I don’t know, but cameras and lenses were just a few hundred dollars six months ago, are coming in at over $1000.00 (USD) now. I’m not made of money.

If you have jumped into mirrorless cameras, you know the Sony A6000 has an excellent reputation and it is relatively inexpensive. It has a “plastic” body and not much in the way of dust and moisture sealing, but it has most of the features of its more expensive siblings. Plus, you can make it more robust and protect it better with a tempered glass screen and a leather half-case.

Oh, about those Sony and Zeiss lenses. Ouch! If you get Sony or Zeiss glass, they are pricey. Sigma is great, but their Art lenses are about as expensive as the OEM lenses, within a hundred dollars or so. There are some exceptional lenses that can be had inexpensively. Sometimes the Sigma lenses outperform Sony and Zeiss. See dpreview.com for comparisons.

So what do you do to get decent lenses and save money?

Let’s say you own a Nikon DSLR system and a few lenses. You can buy a Nikon Z50 and get an adapter. But you really like Sony and you you’d like to try it out. You can make use of your Nikon lenses on the Sony A6000 by using an adapter. ALERT: This setup will not work with Nikon G lenses.

To use a simple adapter, the lens must have an aperture ring. If you want to use Nikon G lenses and you want to have the lens communicate with the camera for autofocus and to pass metadata, then you will need a smart adapter and they will be much more expensive than the simple ring. But do I have a surprise for you…

A simple adapter that will mate your Nikon lens to the Sony A6000 body costs between $20 and $30 (USD). In this example, I use a Fotasy Nik-NEX adapter which you can find online for a whopping $13.00 (USD). It seems to be well made. It has baffling inside the barrel to prevent flare. It mounts securely. It allows infinity focus. It is inexpensive. It may wear out. Oh well. Buy another.

Your Nikon F-mount lens (except G lenses) will work in manual mode on the camera. No data will be transmitted to the camera but it will work just fine to take photographs. It will focus to infinity. The A6000 will still give you aperture and shutter speed information, and you can use the camera’s “focus peaking” feature to confirm you are in focus.

Here are some photos of the setup.

The Fotasy Nik-NEX adapter is a simple tube. It has a Sony e-mount on the camera side and a Nikon F mount on the lens side. In this case, I have my 20 year old Nikon 50mm f1.8 D lens mounted. The A6000 has an APS-C sensor, which makes the 50mm field of view like a 75mm lens. It is very nice for portraits. As of this post, a Sony FE, full frame, e-mount, 50mm f1.8 costs about $225.00 (USD), new on Amazon.

I also use a Nikon 28mm f2.8 D lens. On an APS-C sensor, the 28mm angle of view is the equivalent of a 42mm lens.

The lens with the adapter feels nice on the camera. It balances very well. The f1.8 aperture makes the image very bright in the viewfinder and on the screen, too.

Shooting in manual mode on the A6000 you have to set the camera to “Release w/o lens”. Go to the Settings gear icon in Menu mode, Tab 3, and the setting is near the bottom. You have to do that because the lens is not communicating with the camera. Now you are ready to shoot.

Notice several things here. First I am in Manual mode – the large “M” in the upper left tells me that. Next, note the shutter speed 1/30 in the lower left. You select the shutter speed using the dial on the back of the camera. Notice the F– bottom, center-left. The camera does not know what F-stop you are using. You set it on the lens.

On the bottom, center-right you notice -1.0. That tells you your exposure is one stop under. You also see I have the ISO set to 400. You set the exposure by adjusting shutter speed on the dial or by adjusting the F-stop on the lens, or by adjusting ISO. When the exposure is “correct” it will show 0.0. But wait a minute. Who wants to fiddle around with all those camera settings?

The A6000 will give you some automation even in Manual mode!

You know that correct exposure is a combination of three things; ISO, F-stop, and shutter speed. You set the F-stop and shutter speed. Then you let the A6000 select the ISO for a perfect exposure.

Let’s say you are doing street photography, and you want to shoot at f8 and 1/250th of a second. You don’t want to have to fiddle with F-stops and shutter speeds while doing that kind of photography. You just want to focus on the subject and shoot. Soooo… just set the A6000 ISO to AUTO and the camera will adjust the ISO up or down within your minimum and maximum ISO settings, to give you the proper exposure.

The ISO will top out at your maximum ISO setting. ISO settings are menu settings: Go to your A6000 Menu, Camera – which is the first icon, then to Tab 4, ISO. You set your ISO to Auto. There is a minimum ISO setting and maximum ISO setting. I have mine set to minimum 100 and maximum 3200. You set your lens F-stop to whatever you want. You set your shutter speed to whatever you want. The A6000 will give you a correct exposure by automatically adjusting ISO!

Here are some snapshots I took using this method. My ISO setting was AUTO, with a minimum ISO of 100, and a maximum ISO of 3200. I set the shutter speed to 1/250th second, and the F-stop to f8. “F8 and be there” I used a Nikon 28mm f2.8 D lens, and a Nikon 50mm f1.8 D lens. These photos have no edits except to apply the lens profiles found in Lightroom.

Shot with Nikon 28mm f2.8 D lens, set at f8, on Sony A6000 with shutter set at 1/250th
Shot with Nikon 50mm f1.8 D lens, set at f8, on Sony A6000 with shutter set at 1/250th
Photographed using the Nikon 28mm f2.8 D lens, f8 and 1/250th. Camera set the ISO.

One more thing to notice. Do you see the yellow in the bunny’s eye’s. That is not jaundice. That is “focus peaking”. It tells you what the camera is focusing on. Most of the newest cameras have the feature. It really helps. I have my peaking color set to yellow. Blue and red are also available colors for focus peaking on the A6000. I used focus peaking on the sample images above.

Other Benefits of Adapters

Battery Power Is Conserved

Battery power consumption dropped about 30% or more when I mounted a lens to the camera using the adapter. That was a pleasant surprise. The A6000 eats batteries. I assume the power saving occurs because the lens-CPU is no longer connected.

Depth of Field Preview

By rotating the lens aperture ring, you can observe the effects on the image when you stop down and when you open up the aperture. Nice feature. You can also do that with regular CPU lenses. I was more aware of it shooting on manual with the adapter mount.

Old Lens Qualities

You can get simple adapters for several screw mounts such as Leica screw mount L39, Pentax screw mount M42, Leica M mount, etc. All the old lenses are now being bought up to use on the mirrorless cameras. You can mix and match legendary glass from different manufacturers. What a blast, and you will get some of the same look and feel of photographs made decades ago. But hurry. Demand is driving up prices.

Recommendations

I would say if you are going to use adapters, use the inexpensive simple adapters. Currently, based on reviews, the ones with the CPU interface are expensive, running $200 up to $400 or more. For that money, save another hundred and buy a lens made for the camera. A simple adapter costs $20.

On the A6000 the simple adapters work great. The camera’s automatic ISO setting will get you perfect exposures. Focus peaking is almost as quick as autofocus. You may have a challenge if you use face recognition and eye focus features.

Finally, adapters allow you to try all kinds of lenses, ancient and modern from many different manufacturers. You can photograph and obtain many different “looks”.

Final Shots

I made these snapshots on the A6000 with the Nikon 50mm f1.8.

Selah