Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New lens in my kit: Nikkor Ai-s 50mm f1.2

Dear reader,
 Today, I'll write a short review of the nikkor Ai-s 50mm 1.2 for Nikon body. I recently got one second hand in very good condition, so I decided to write up my tale with the beast.

I won't t go back on historical facts as some other websites do this better than I can do (here for example). So what's so special about that lens? It's simply the widest aperture 50mm available (and affordable) out there for Nikon body. There might be some 1.0 prototypes but no where available. The fact that this lense has been manufactured in really big quantities help. The maximum aperture of 1.2 just allow for very very shallow depth of field, a bit too shallow sometimes. It has a commonly hated bokeh because of its nervousness but some sees it more as a signature of the lens than anything else. It is said to be sharp but I don't care too much about that fact, as far as it is sharp enough to give me good quality picture, I am ok with it. As it is an Ai-s lens, it is manual focus only. Right now, only Canon did a AF lens with such specs but that lens flies at around 1500USD price tag. Building an AF would be easy but we might get into the limitation of the lens, the image at 1.2 is quite soft and might not be sharp/contrasting enough for the autofocus module to work correctly, hence, we never saw an AF version, partly explaining why Nikon never updated the lens and is still manufactured as is at their factory.

I got it for HKD3000 from a nice guy in Hong Kong, ebaY auctions would fetch around USD450, so I did get a good bargain, the glass are clean, no fungus, I even got the rubber hood that goes with it. Once mounted on my body, I noticed several plays. Both rings (aperture and focus) have some plays, which make the lens shifting a bit during shutter release. It's so loose that the focus ring will actually rotate a little bit during exposure. It is annoying and I might get it fixed (got some ideas, need to do some testing).

Now, about manual focusing. How hard is it? Obviously, nowadays, we are spoiled with all those automatic functions, now AF module have 50 focusing points and would be able to track a cockroach in the night with only the stars for light. So, off the original body, it IS hard to focus, and it's hard to focus really well. For online pictures, it won't be too much of an issue, but for big print, you can see that the focus is off my a few mm. So I needed to dig around to see how I could improve the situation and the solution came by going back in time and asking oneself how on earth people where doing manual focus? the answer comes in form of a splitsreen and microprism assembly, that will come in another future post, but it came in handy helping me get the focus down.

Working on a DX body. It works, but I lose half of the bokeh goodness. Next purchase, I really need to upgrade my body. When I put my AFD 35mm f2 lens on the body, it frames like a 50mm on FX body, but the bokeh is so much underdeveloped compare to the 50mm. That's my only complain, I need to switch, before throwing any more money on lens, I'll get a new full frame body.

Anyway, I'll stop talking about gears: here are the pics:

Myrtille, off focused but still good looking

 and another one:

I'll have plenty more in future posts.
Hope to post them soon.

On the way to Kindergarten

Dear reader,

One full year has passed and I did not write a single thing so I decided to get back to my keyboard and post some news. Time has flown this last year, I have been busy taking care of both Yukyin and Myrtille, learning about myself, about being a husband and about being a dad.. It's not easy at all. This year, Myrtille will be three and she will start going to Kindergarten! A totally new experience for her hehehe.. Hope that she will get herself accustomed to that.

So just a quick note about our school selection. Choosing a kindergarten was something really troublesome. In Hong Kong, education is a big topic with parents easily getting hysterical about their kids schooling. So when it came to us, we thought hard about what school should we get Myrtille to?
Firstly, French or local?

It's a difficult one, but after talking to several people, and talking about our own experience, we still believe the French system would provide a better growing experience to the kids in terms of workload stress, and they better prepare kids to face the real world. So we did consider the French schooling but in the end we found it not so practical, fees are not cheap, it is far from home (HK island side) and we wanted something closer to our beliefs (there is a Roman Catholic group in the school but it remains completely different from our beliefs). We would also encounter issue of social discrimination as we got word of several cases. The school is mainly for expatriates and they usually have a high living standard, way beyond ours.

So what remains from the local system?

To my eyes, the local system is not right (I don't say it's wrong), actually, it's not the local system that is wrong but the whole Hong Kong students/parents/school thing that is sad to contemplate. Their core values are just twisted and some people just take profit from the system. People think that without a University Degree, there is no hope.. Society is totally based on money and life is a race to gather more and more of it, who can get the best pay, the best benefit, manage to get the highest profit from their transactions. Thus, we, parents, are pushing kids in order to get the best diplomas/certificates package they can ever dream, cram school, private lessons are commercialize, education level is heading down, just think about it: if you were a successful student, would you go to education university? Or would you build your business in hope of high gains? The second question would be: if you are a successful teacher, would you continue to work a basic salary in a common school? Or would you give it up and take high fees in one of those cram school? I don't think it's totally wrong, but it's just sad to see that. But what is really wrong now, is that kids get to higher levels of stress than their parents, kids get to higher levels of exhaustion than their parents. They have longer working hours. Some of them are just study machines. Kids bear all the consequences of a whole bunch of cascading effect on their shoulders.

So what did we do? or what can we still do? What can God possibly prepare for us in this mess?
For Myrtille's kindergarten, we decided to keep close to our faith. Wisdom and intelligence is something that comes from God, we need to do our homework and prepare a path for her, but God is there to help her reach what He planned for her. Our first requirement was to stick to a Christian kindergarten, we were happy to see that Hong Kong offers this option (you don't have that chance in France as school is nondenominational). We had one in mind, the PEC kindergarten in Shatin. Yukyin had that idea since before our marriage, we had a presentation from the dean once and since then,she kept thinking that if we were to have kids one day, that's the kindergarten we would be getting them into. So we browse for other different Christian School around home in case she would not get into it and found a few but when we went there for their open day, we did not feel so much of the Christian background. Fortunately, another school still caught our attention. Visiting PEC kindergarten open day confirmed that we were aiming to the right direction, the school provides a good growing environment and a solid Christian background. So we end up with two top choices among other not so good choice but good enough if we did not manage the first picks.

How does it work? Kids pass an interview and based on their performance, they get in or not.. I still disagree this practice but there is really nothing we can do. That's the result of many years of competitive system.

Keep praying.. And God will provide.

Myrtille went to her interviews, 3 of them, her worst performance was at our top choice, hence we needed to keep praying even more. Fortunately, this school had a questionnaire where we could explain why we wanted our child there, so we had our chance to explain our values and vision for Myrtille.

After several weeks of praying and wondering if she would make it or not, we had a letter telling us she got in! God has answered us!

So we are very glad that for her three first ears of schooling, she'll enjoy one of the best Christian education.

Thanks You Lord for opening doors to your sweetie.
On this last note, I pray that I can keep writing this blog again.