Tag Archives: Nikkor

Q&A: New Entry-Level Camera Purchase Recommendation

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  Here is an opportunity for you to redeem the reputation of Nikon aficionados by guiding me in the selection of a new DSLR camera. 🙂 My budget is up to $1,000, but that can go primarily to the camera body if need be. On the lower end it looks like the D3200 or D5100 might be good choices. On the higher end the D7000 got really good reviews. My original Nikon was a D50 (it’s kaput now) and it came bundled with an 18-55 lens and a 55-200 lens. My impression is that neither lens is particularly great, but they work and sticking with them for now gives me more budget for the camera body. Do you agree? So, what do you think overall?

A:  Well, crud.  Nikon had a Black Friday deal that ended yesterday for $999 on a D7000 and 18-105 lens.  Now it’s around $1200.  Still $300 cheaper than usual, but not within the $1K limit.

The cheap kit lenses really aren’t bad, and the 18-55 (either VR or not) looks surprisingly good for the price on my favorite lens testing web site.  The 55-200 doesn’t fare as well, especially in the middle of the range.  But most lenses will do a fair job if you keep them stopped down to f/5.6 or f/8.  (On the D7000 and other high resolution bodies, you can’t stop down too much or you start to lose sharpness due to diffraction.  On it or even worse, the D3200, f/11 is the most you can stop down, and even there, you have started to lose sharpness, especially on the D3200.)

Anyway, the D7000 is a great DX body with excellent performance, focusing, etc.  It’s around $900 right now.  Can’t go wrong for a higher-end body.  Does movies, too, of course.  Great body for an “enthusiast.”  17MP, which is more than enough.

If you’re looking for a great lower-cost body for family and vacation shots / movies, then I would look closely at the D3200.  It’s 24MP!  Does movies, if you care.  Has all the expected ease-of-use features you’d ever want.  Great body for a person for whom a point-and-shoot isn’t cutting it any more, but who doesn’t really anticipate becoming a camera nut.

I have the 18-70 and 18-200 lenses if you want to try them out if you buy a body.  I like them both for different reasons.

This is so exciting!  Always glad to help others spend their money.  🙂

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Q&A: Long Lens Recommendation

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  What’s your favorite long lens, the 300mm f/2.8?

A:  Long lens.  Hmmm.  That is SO dependent on application.  I trust Thom Hogan’s reviews a lot.  There’s also a good discussion here.

The 300/2.8 is top notch.  (I have two of them.  The AFS mk 1, and the AFS VR I.)  It’s the easiest to travel with on airplanes.  But I’ve finally had to admit that it doesn’t give the level of sharpness I want when I add a TC, especially the 2x.  And for what I need a tele for (birding), 600mm or more is often necessary.  Bottom line for me is that the 300 is too short.  Another good thing about it, though, is that it is very hand-holdable (if you have strong arms), especially the VR versions.  Available for $3-5K depending on the model.

Some like the 200-400/4.  It’s sharp until you get past 100 yds. or so.  When you’re shooting very dynamic subjects (like whales) it’s handy to be able to have a wider view to find your subject and then zoom in for the shot.  It’s often hard to initially frame your subject with a longer fixed lens.  And the 200-400 is very hand-holdable if you have the arms for it.  Can be found for $5K in great shape.

The 400/2.8 is probably the sharpest of them all, but is very hard to travel with on airplanes.  It’s too big to be hand-held.  Ever.  That means you can buy an older AFS mk I or mk II since you’ll likely never use VR.  They’re all incredibly sharp.  Decent with TCs, too, so it can be a decent 800/5.6.  Great for sports and wildlife.  Can be had for $5-7K for the older non-VR models.

The 500/4 is less difficult for travel, very sharp, and barely hand-holdable for short bursts.  Many view it as the practical sweet spot for wildlife.  I’m looking for a 500/4.  But that’ll run 6-8K for a current VRII, which is the model I want so I’ll have the best shot at hand-holdability.  I missed a mint VRII with all of the optional feet and camo covers a few months ago.  Just took me too long to decide to part with that much cash.

The 600/4 is the ultimate for wildlife.  Will always be on a pod, so the VR isn’t necessary.  With your new D4, the AF will work even with the 2x TC.  You can find decent AFS mk I or II for $5-8K.

Don’t overlook the 200/2.  You’d love that one with video, and folk say it makes a very decent 280/2.8 or 400/4 with the 1.4x or 2x.  And it’s cheap!  😉

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Q&A: Nikon Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 AF

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  With new little baby running around, I wanted to snag a great low light (super fast) prime lens to grab some fun portraits etc..  Anyone have any feelings about the Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF?

A:  I like the 85/1.8.  I don’t use it too much anymore since I have a couple of 2.8 zooms that cover the portrait range for day-to-day candids.  But whenever I know I am going to shoot some intentional portraits it is nearly always my go-to lens.  I used it on my DX cameras and loved it, and now use it on the D700 with the same great results.

Though the design is obviously pretty old, it is still tack sharp on the D700.  It’s nice and small, so it’s easy to carry and shoot.  And it’s cheap!  I got mine for $250 many years ago (used) and you can get a great example for $250-325 today.  The lens has a definite look to it, and I like the bokeh just fine, though I know that is very subjective.  Focus speed is typical for a non-AFS lens.  For portraits that’s completely adequate.  (BTW, you didn’t mention what body you have, but be aware that since it is not AFS, it will not AF with some of the newer low-end bodies that lack the focus screw like the D40 and D3x00.)

Yes, the new 85/1.4 is on my wish list, but not because I’m dissatisfied with the 85/1.8.  It’s just one of my character flaws…

I think the 85/1.8 is a very good lens, so I’d recommend it highly as a great value.  Unless you would be satisfied with a 50, I don’t think you’ll find another fast portrait lens for anywhere close to the price.  And the best part is that if you pick one up used you will nearly certainly get your money back out of it if you decide you don’t like it.

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Q&A: Third Party Macro Lenses?

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  Have you or anyone else used the Tamron 90mm f/2.8?  For $459 I’m wondering if it worth the price or if I should just stick with the known quality of Canon.  Have you compared the 100mm to the 100mm L for sharpness?

A:  I’m generally a snob about sticking with the Nikon (or Canon) lenses.  And even though the cost is sometimes double that of a 3P lens or more, there are two things that make the additional cost easier to swallow.  First, bodies come and go, but your lens investment will span decades.  I have a number of great Nikon lenses that I’ve had for 20+ years that work perfectly with my latest Nikon bodies (e.g., 300/4 AF, 180/2.8 AF, 85/1.8 AF).  Second, OEM lenses depreciate much less than 3P lenses do.  In fact, quite a few of my lenses are worth more now than I paid for them.  So a little depreciation spread over a lot of years makes for a very good overall cost proposal.

WRT 3P lenses, in nearly every case the 3P lenses produce visibly inferior images compared to their OEM counterparts.  And in most cases, the build quality and sealing is much poorer.  Finally, the resale value is much lower.

All that being said, the macro lenses, and specifically the 90-100mm range products are the one sweet spot for the 3P manufacturers.  Most of them are good, and the Tamron 90/2.8 specifically has always been an excellent lens throughout the many versions.  I’ve had two of them and at one point (back when I had time (= before kids)) I tested all of my lenses and the Tamron 90 was significantly sharper than every one of my excellent Nikon lenses.  (The Nikons did beat the Tamron for contrast, though.)

The Tamron build quality is decent, and it actually holds its value better than other 3P lenses.  One note of caution, though, is that the chips in the Tamrons sometimes are not compatible with new bodies (at least on the Nikon side), so you may not get the same life span out of them.  (That’s why I’ve had two of them instead of just one…)

And a final note on the original question, I haven’t used my 90mm Macro in probably two or three years.  First off, I don’t do that much closeup stuff.  And with many subjects you just have to get too close with a 90mm (even worse with a 50 or 60).  So when I noticed how well my 300/2.8 AFS with a 2x converter could do with small subjects from three or four feet away, I’ve been using that combo ever since.  I can take pictures of all sorts of cool bug stuff without disturbing the bugs or modifying their behavior in any way.

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Q&A: Fast Primes

(This post is from a forum conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  I was looking to expand my lens cache a bit, and wanted to see if any of the Nikon users have any experience with these lenses, if there are any impressions to be had?

Tokina 11mm-16mm f/2.8

Nikon 50mm f/1.8

A:  I agree with [another forum member] about using fast glass. There is just nothing like it. I’m using my 18-200 less and less and returning to my fast primes whenever possible.

That said, I have the 50/1.8 and haven’t gotten that excited about it. I think it’s probably just not a focal length that I gravitate to (once again, like [another forum member]). With a 1.5x crop it’s a little long for indoor stuff and a little short for portraits. I like the 85-105 range full-frame equivalent for portraits. Anyway, I use the 35/2 so much more often than the 50/1.8. Or it may be that the current 50/1.8 is just too cheap and plasticky feeling compared to my other lenses. I love the 35/2, not only because I like the focal length, but also for the speed and quality. I’m not even too concerned that it’s not AF-S. The 35/2 can be had on eBay for a decent price, and I think the money you spend over the price of a 50/1.8 would be very well worth it.

BTW, I love to use the 35/2 for panoramas. I know it goes without saying, but there’s just no comparison between a single horizontal shot from my 12-24/4 and a stitched panorama of the same scene with the 35/2. (Click on the Panoramas link to see some examples:  http://web.mac.com/jbingham1/My_Photography/Photography.html )

Nikon has been ignoring their primes for years now. It’s good to see them update the 50/1.4 to AF-S and a new optical formula. Let’s hope that means they are going to visit some other primes, too. The first on my list would be the 85/1.4. Then probably a fast new 28 or even 24.

All this simply to encourage you to add a fast lens to your kit, but also to second [another forum member]’s recommendation to consider other focal lengths along with the 50.

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