Tech Update Friday – Lenses

9 years, 8 months ago 0

I get a ton of questions about; lenses, how much should I spend, is ED glass necessary, is this lens long enough….etc., etc., etc.? Well, buying lenses is tricky, there are so many choices and it’s easy to get really confused. I have been addicted to glass, (what pros call lenses), for a long, long
time, so I’ve studied the subject a great deal. Now working for Nikon for eight years I have learned a lot more from the experts that I work with in our company. Now I’m going to share it with you. Not all of it! You don’t have time, and would loose interest long before I spilled all the beans. But, here are my top tips about buying lenses:

* First a quick caveat, I work for Nikon, and have been a life long Nikon shooter, I know far more about Nikon than any other brand, but most of what I say would apply no matter what your camera brand happens to be.

Rule 1. You get what you pay for, most of the time. If the very top end Pro lenses cost three times as much, or more, they are often worth it. Pro grade lenses are made to stay in specifications under hard and continuous use. Pro grade lenses use ED or other high end glasses and aspherical elements that make them of much higher optical quality. Pro lenses are color matched so you get the same color quality across the spectrum of lenses. Pro grades lenses use the latest and most effective lens coatings like Nikon’s N coatings (Nano technology). Pro lenses are expensive, but worth it.

Rule 2. Always buy the best glass you can afford. If you buy the very best lenses in the first place you will save money. If you get really serious about photography you will probably end up owning them eventually anyway. It’s cheaper to buy the best lenses in the first place.

Rule 3. There are bargains, but be careful. My definition of a bargain is something that has far more value than you’re asked to pay. A good example is the Nikon 70-300 AFS VR lens, at around $550. it is one of the very best telephoto zoom lenses ever made. It is the only long zoom I usually carry. In a mid range zoom, Nikon’s new 24-70 f 2.8 AFS zoom is the sharpest we have ever made. The 24-70 runs around $1,800. and it’s worth it, but if you don’t have that kind of money to spend consider the 10 year old design, 35-70 f 2.8 AF-D lens still available used, often in very good shape for around $300. It is nearly as sharp and has just a little less range, but is lot less expensive. That is what I call a bargain. I own both, by the way. The 35-70 is also a great travel lens being smaller and lighter. See the photo below, right.

Rule 4. Buy only what you will use and can carry.
I don’t own the 600mm AFS VR. I can’t carry it.
Well, I can carry it, I just don’t want to. If I was still
a professional sport shooter I would own it and would
(ugh) carry it. Fortunately I’m not. I’ve found that
most people are not comfortable carrying more than
about twenty pound of gear, except for a few dear
friends I know that are text book masochists! If you
are young and strong and have the right kind of
back pack, or rolling bag you may be able to carry
more. Over time I’ve learned that an aching back
takes away my ability to concentrate on seeing and
composing the shot!

Rule 5. Are any of the less expensive lens any good? Actually, today almost all lenses are computer designed and are surprisingly sharp. The 18-105 kit lens that you can get with a D90 is
a very sharp lens. Many people feel the 18-55 zoom that is the kit lens with several of our lower priced bodies are extremely sharp. I use the 16-85 AFS VR all the time and have found it to be very sharp and contrasty. So why buy an $1,800. 24-70? Easy, it will remain that sharp even after long, hard, abusive use for years. However with reasonable care many of these less expensive lenses can serve you very well indeed.

Rule 6. Learn what your photo interests are, that will help you know what you should own. If you shoot poisonous reptiles you will want to own a 200mm Micro lens. If you shoot interiors of houses and building, you will want the 14-24 AFS f 2.8 wide angle zoom. If you shoot airplanes in flight you will want the 70-300 AFS VR and a DX body (like the D300s or D90). If you like to travel and want a great system at minimum weight and cost, consider a D90, 16-85 AFS VR and 70-300 AFS VR. If you’re a wide angle freak add the 10-24 AFS f 4 wide angle zoom. If you photograph people in very poor light, you might consider a D700 or D3/D3s and the 24 f 1.4, 50 f1.4, 85 f1.4 and 180 f 2.8. As you see, what you do will determine what you need and what you will eventually own.

Rule 7. Never forget, photographers make images, not equipment. As my dear friend and great nature shooter, Rod Planck, always said, “Technique beats equipment every time.”

O.K. I know your question, “what do you carry?” I’m a photo generalist, some travel, some nature, a little close-up work, people, fine art, abstracts, and aviation photography make up the majority of my interests. So I do 95% of my work with following system:

D700 my everyday body – D90 for travel and to stretch my long glass.
17-35 AFS f 2.8 wide angle zoom
24-70 AFS f 2.8 mid range zoom
70-300 AFS VR f 4.5-56 long range zoom
105 f 2.8 Micro Nikkor for close-ups (the older manual focus model – a gift from a dear friend)

I also own for specialized purposes: 200mm Micro Nikkor, 85mm f 1.4, and 15 various other
old lenses that just have sentimental value and can be pressed into service as needed. Keep them mostly to fondle them and remember the old days.

I use products from Lowepro and Think Tank to carry my gear, except when shipped in
Pelican and Lightware cases.

Just for grins, this is my system back in the film days, with Nikon F4/F4s film bodies. Today my
four lens package and D700 and D90 “Replaces all of this!!!!!!” (*Except for the 16mm f 2.8
Fisheye) Capture NX2 and Photoshop have replaced all the filters except polarizers,which I still use today. Still have the same vest……………and it still fits……

Hope this was helpful.

Always remember, God loves you, and He is always ready to talk. Have a great weekend.

the pilgrim

O.K. don’t believe me that the the 70-300 AFS VR is among the very sharpest zooms Nikon has ever made? Here is my proof: Doesn’t look any different @ 24” X 36”

Rest my case……………………..

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