Nikon D810/28-45mm & Canon 1D MkII/200mm – Mix of Old and New

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I like old camera gear and in the ever-changing world of photographic equipment there's loads of it to choose from – sometimes for insanely low prices. Take for instance the Canon EOS 1D MkII that originally sold for something like $4,500 USD. I picked one up last year for $200 with a shutter count of 1,000! Yeah, it's only 8 mega-pixels, but this camera is seriously tough, it feels great in the hand, it's easy to work with, and the image quality is awesome! Oh, and then there's the old Nikkor 28-45mm f/4.5 AI lens that I bought for $40. This is a fun zoom from the late 70's that's built to last a lifetime and produces sharp images with plenty of contrast. And more recently, I acquired a factory refurbished Nikon D810 for way less that it cost new.

nikon d810 and 28-45mm lens

Last week when I decided to go to Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, California guess which pieces of equipment I brought – the Canon 1D MkII with a 200mm f/2.8L lens and a Nikon D810 with the 28-45mm f/4.5 AI lens. I wanted something that goes wide to normal and something that had some reach so that's why I brought those lenses; I also thought it would be fun to use a combination of old and new cameras and lenses.

This isn't going to be a comparison, for obvious reasons, but more of a discussion on these pieces of gear. I want to talk about my experience using these items and hopefully provide some information to people who are interested.

My Day in Calico with the D810 and 28-45mm Ai

street view calico ghost town

One thing is for certain, all this stuff is heavy and takes up some space in my bag; yet, I liked having two cameras handy – one for wider-angle shots and one for distant subjects.

For most of the day I found myself using the Nikon. The D810 and 28-45mm combo was fun and surprisingly easy to use. Even though the D810 doesn't have focus peaking, I was able to get most shots in focus. The focusing aid in the view-finder was helpful, but does not guarantee perfect focus. Also, focusing on people who are moving around was a little tough but doable.

wagon wheel in calico ghost town

With the Nikkor 28-45mm AI, going from 2 feet to infinity means rotating the focus ring about 150 degrees. Going from 5 feet to infinity is less than 90 degrees. My lens operates smoothly so maintaining focus on a moving subject wasn't too hard. Taking shots of things only a few feet away was fun and getting creative was not hindered by having to focus manually.

When using chipless, manual focus lenses on the D810 you simply go into the Setup Menu and select Non-CPU Lens Data to tell the camera the focal length and the maximum aperture. The camera will then give you matrix metering and proper EXIF data. I only used either 28mm or 45mm on the zoom so it was not a big deal to change that setting each time. You could also leave it on one setting but the EXIF data would be wrong if you moved the zoom ring. With regards to metering light, I left the camera on aperture priority and used matrix metering and exposures were always right on.

Nikkor 28-45mm AI Sharpness with the D810

kent fmily circus in calico

In my opinion, the 28-45mm can produce very sharp images and is only limited by one's ability to hold the camera steady and get things in perfect focus. When using a tripod and the camera's Live-View, getting sharp photos shouldn't be a problem. If the D810's 36 mega-pixel sensor is limited by this old lens, then it's not by much.

blacksmith shop in calico ghost town

Overall, I enjoyed using the D810, 28-45mm AI combo. The lens is super heavy-duty and offers a short but useful focal range. I'm not going to say much about the D810 since there's crap loads of reviews on that camera. That said, the D810 has been an awesome camera for the price. You get plenty of resolution for large detailed prints, it's well made and feature filled, and gives you the ability to use old manual focus Ai lenses up to the most modern auto-focus lenses.

Shooting with the Canon EOS 1D MkII and 200mm f/2.8L II

canon eos-1d mkii and 200mm

The Canon 1D MkII is an 8 mega-pixel, crop-sensor camera that's roughly 15 years old. This is a pro-grade tool that's built extremely tough. I love how it feels in the hand as the grip area is large and nicely contoured. One drawback for some might be that it's big and heavy. I don't mind the extra heft though.

On my trip to Calico, I chose the 200mm f/2.8L II lens for this camera. Having this lens on a crop-sensor camera means that the field-of-view is going to be a bit narrower than what it would be on a full-frame camera. Anyway, this combination is pretty good for people photos and distant subjects.

I think it's really cool that you can still mount a modern Canon EF lens on a 15 year old Canon EOS camera! On top of that, they still make the NP-E3 battery packs even though they're not cheap.

a steampunk character in calico

I like how this lens isolates the subject and image rendering is sharp with nice contrast and color. Focusing is always right on and it's fast too.

My only problem was that I didn't have a lens hood and was getting minor lens flare when shooting in the direction of the sun. In one instance when shooting two guitar players at around 3:00 P.M. my photos looked hazy and showed some lens flare. I couldn't position myself any better and would have really benefited from a lens hood if I had one.

pseudo-buckethead in calico

Another thing about the 1D MkII is that its low resolution sensor gives you little to no room for cropping photos. This makes me take my time more to compose my shots and try harder to get things right the first time. This of course was less of an issue with the D810. It's also not much of an issue if you only post photos online like I do.

If you want to shoot moving subjects or fill the frame with someone who's 20 feet away, this camera and lens combo would be a good choice. At 8 frames per second, you can capture plenty of action too.

Final Words

If you're like me and enjoy using older cameras and lenses then I think you'll like the items that I've mentioned here. The Nikkor 28-45mm Ai is a good general use type lens that can also be adapted to most mirrorless cameras. When mounted on the D810 you get sharp photos that aren't special in any way but just look great. The Canon EOS-1D MkII and 200mm 2.8L lens is a fun combo that produces great photos right out of the camera.