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Thoughts on My Injured Knee, Aging, and Native Lenses Weighing 1/3 As Much as Preferred Option

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist and Nikon mirrorless wishlist and Canon mirrorless wishlist.

View the image below at full resolution on an iMac 5K. It is from the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S Aperture Series: Sage, Aspen, and Waterfall. If your eyeballs don’t pop out of your head as to the quality, well then, get some glasses (or an iMac 5K). Color, contrast, detail—it has it all: Nikon has never built a lens this good (focus shift aside).

The knee and older-age hubris: (yeah, well it is a first time)—six days ago I carried a 6-pound tripod + ballhead along with about 20 pounds of gear for a ~14 mile hike (Rock Creek via Mosquito Flat to Bear Lake) from 10200' to 11100' down to 9600' up a steep and loose slope up to 10200' that tweaked my knee slightly, back down to 9600', back up to 11100', then miles back to 10200'. Plus some “extra credit” stuff off trail. I was frisky as a spring lamb to Morgan Pass / Morgan Lakes (75 minutes flat), leaving everyone in the dust in spite of the weight (double centuries do something for aerobic fitness!). But my left knee started nagging on the way back, and by the time I got to my Sprinter van, it was swollen up like a softball. Sitting here writing this, my knee now constrains what I can consider doing. I can walk short distances while I listen to crunchy sounds. I know it is probably mostly fluid (that happened to a hamstring earlier this year just before my concussion), but it is something that makes me sit back and take pause—sometimes life starts broadcasting messages that should not be ignored.

For starters, I am going to take along my “hang scale” that I’ve used for bikes and such in my garage, and limit my pack to 15 pounds from now on, preferably 12. I’m sh*tting bricks hoping my knee returns to normal, because I love backcountry hikes and was aiming for another decade before hanging up my jockstrap (so to speak).

Second, I’m working with Really Right Stuff on an ultra light tripod that would be extra light and about as high as my chin, which should drop weight off the tripod situation. Stay tuned, as RRS might make a long version for me as well as a slightly shorter version that can be taken on an airplane. No promises of course—that’s their ROI call and it might not happen. It won’t be for heavy loads, but way more than adequate for all the mirrorless cameras and DSLRs I shoot for any reasonable lens.

Which leads me to camera gear. I wrote The Irrational Aim of F/1.4 Lenses a few years ago. It is not irrational if market sales prove otherwise (e.g. video), but the situation is this for me now: large and heavy f/1.4 lenses suck, no matter how good optically and what the hell do I really need f/1.4 or f/2 for when hiking anyway? Give me Zeiss Otus grade f/2.8 lenses please, and Zeiss Loxia lenses will do if that ain’t gonna happen. If I had not hauled all that f/1.4 stupidity along, my knee might not be in its present state of yuck.

Then there are cameras and native lenses. Let’s take the poster-child for an absurd amount of focus shift, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S. Mounted on the Nikon Z7, the combination is never a strain on neck or back or knees (along with a few similar lenses). That is clearly the future for anyone with physical limitations: f/1.8 or f/2 or f/2.8 on mirrorless. DSLRS are truly dead for that reason alone, as a generations of photographers 'mature' and the onslaught of 'killer' mirrorless cameras accelerates.

To wit: the Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S weighs 1/3 as much as my preferred Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4, even less considering the required Nikon FTZ lens adapter for the Milvus. Which can I afford to carry, speaking in terms of physical risk and the ongoing physical discomfort? Now that I know how to deal with the ridiculous focus shift of the NIKKOR Z 35/1.8, the compromise is just fine for landscape work: well over a kilogram plus adapter, or ~1/3 kilogram. A frickin' no-brainer.

Seems to me that Zeiss has a real opportunity here, one never taken up in spite of vigorous lobbying for f/2.8 Otus-grade lenses back in Oberkochen by Ming Thein and I several years ago. Is the still photo market really not there? Hard to believe.

Creekside Aspen
f6.3 @ 2.0 sec IBIS=off, ISO 64; 2018-10-19 18:16:44
[location “Bishop Creek”, altitude 8700 ft / 2652 m, 38°F / 3°C, LACA corrected]
NIKON Z7 + Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S

[low-res image for bot]
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