I love both of Kodak’s ISO 400 black-and-white films, Tri-X and T-Max, but for different reasons: Tri-X when I want that grainy look, and T-Max when I don’t. I didn’t when I photographed the cars at May’s Mecum auction.
As happy as I was to shoot Plus-X at the auction (see photos here), I was a little happier when I finished that roll and could load the roll of T-Max I had in my pocket. I knew that the relatively low-speed Plus-X (ISO 125) and my 50mm f/2 lens, which because of piddling available light I was shooting at or near f/2, were giving me very little margin for focusing error. Even then, bumping the ISO up to 400 improved the situation only slightly.
I tried to use that narrow focus range to my best advantage. Thank heavens my Nikon F2AS has depth-of-field preview so I had some idea of whether I hit the sweet spot or not.
Perhaps I need to buy a 50mm f/1.4 lens to give me an extra stop of exposure. But I might trade that stop for shooting the lens one stop shy of wide open, to see if I could get a little better sharpness.
But then, perhaps that wouldn’t be needed, as Nikon’s prime lenses are heralded for good sharpness corner to corner even when wide open. Given that used Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lenses usually go for north of $100, however, I’m not likely to find out any time soon. My money has other things to do right now.
And the f/2 lens is plenty sweet, anyway. 50mm f/2 lenses are almost always the unsung heroes of any system’s prime lenses. They can usually be picked up for a song, because most people would rather have a sub-f/2 lens.
The shot above shows just how narrow of an in-focus patch I was working with.