Nikon Df / Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 and Nokia Lumia 1020 - An unlikely combination

One of the more unlikely combinations I've ever used to take photographs with is the Nikon Df + Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 pictured above and my Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone. 'Full Frame' sensor plus manual focus lens designed for film and a micro sensor camera phone. Unlikely maybe, but it's actually a very creative pairing allowing me to create very different images from the same source material. 


The most obvious difference here is the potential to use very different amounts of depth of field. The pan focus of the smartphone as opposed to the very selective focusing from the large sensor and wide aperture lens. 

The idea that stock photographers are constantly roaming the world looking for new locations has long gone. When picture libraries were based in one country and pictures editors would send people to peruse vast quantities of transparencies in filing cabinets or get envelopes full of developed film arriving on their desk, that was a common thing. But now with global internet based libraries photographers have to make the most of their local environment, since there is little point in travelling halfway across the world to take pictures when there are plenty of photographers living there who are already doing that.

Many of my best selling images are taken within a few miles of where I live and for someone like me who is out shooting on any day that it's not raining (and often when it is) it's not hard to realise that I end up visiting the same places time and time again. I get the seasonal differences sure and light is always changing, but I have to be creative in adding to my portfolio. And if I took the same old conventional 'picture postcard' type shots over and over again to add to what is probably an overabundance of similar images, my income stream would soon dry up.

Stock photography has sometimes been called 'The ability to create interesting images of the commonplace' and it is something that I keep in mind when I'm working. (Though the notion of doing what I do being 'work' is somewhat unfamiliar to me!!) And once I've got the 'big picture' I always concentrate on the more localised details. For example above are a couple of pictures of some easter eggs in a tree surrounded by daffodils. This is the grounds of stately home and these are in position for an easter egg hunt which will take place when lots of family visitors arrive during the upcoming easter weekend. So it's a seasonal shot and one that relates to a bank holiday activity. Since there are countless 'Things to do this holiday' articles being published at this time, you will appreciate the 'generic usefulness' of shots like that. And one of the pictures above is with the Nikon + Voigtlander and very limited depth of field. The other is taken on the Nokia with the reverse of that. So choices for, hopefully, potential buyers. 

There are also a couple of different interpretations for the watering can and plant shots and this was the main benefit I got from the two alternatives I was working with. And they couldn't really be more different. Disregarding medium-format, this is about as disparate as you can get in sensor size and the two cameras turn out quite different images. The low angle daffodil shot being a classic example of what a smartphone can come up with. However the one I was pleased with the most is the daffodils next to the roadside with the car in shot. I saw the opportunity for the picture, but wondered whether the Nokia would handle it, as there is a slight delay on the shutter.  However one practice shot and a slight anticipatory readjustment as the car was out of frame in my first attempt and I got what I wanted. Considering that the car was travelling at about 30mph I was impressed. Sports photography on a smartphone anyone?

Voigtlander 58mm f1.4 Color Nokton SL II Lens - Nikon Fit

Just a few thoughts on this lens. It's nice and sharp, though there is a fair bit of fringing wide open. However at f/5.6 - f/11 it's seriously good. You might think the aperture ring would come into play, but it has electrical contact with the Nikon so it has to be set on automatic and the aperture altered in camera. The other thing is it's an odd focal length for a prime though Nikon also have an ultra expensive AF version of this focal length. It's too narrow for a standard and too wide for a telephoto, so it's a neither nor lens. And I have to say with the most popular primes I pretty much know how to use them and also where to stand to get the composition I want. Not so with the 58mm. However, that was a source of investigating a new option for me, rather than a problem. Certainly I was pleased with what I got.

So, an interesting excursion and one that I enjoyed and explored some different compositions with. This was the first time I'd used the 58mm on the Df and it was nice to try something different. And this is one of the pleasures of stock photography, in that I can experiment with different combinations and gear to create new images from familiar surroundings. As ever, I came back with very little repetition of what I had come up with in that location before. And because the shots are suitably generic, in many ways the precise geographic location is unimportant.

The Nikon Df

It was also nice to use the Df again after some time testing out newer cameras. As ever it was incredibly fast to focus and get the shot and with all the time I spend with mirrorless these days, that comes as a surprise almost every time. DSLR's may slowly be loosing ground in the camera marketplace to smaller, lighter (and quieter!) alternatives, but I'm still a fan of a slapping mirror and all that entails. The Df is a one-off though and there's nothing else on the market quite like it. Many seemed to think that it would be some kind of digital FM2, but it's not that. It's bigger and heavier than the FM2 and is more accurately thought of I think as a D4 'lite'. It's retro, but still has a great many of the familiar Nikon attributes and it's nothing like the Olympus OM-D series, which it could be (wrongly in my view) compared to, apart from an aesthetic similarity. It is pretty unique and you'll not be surprised to learn that's one of the main reasons I like it.  It's certainly not lacking in 'character.' And in these days of polycarbonate lookalikes there's a lot that attracts me to it because of precisely that.