I got a few surprising emails after yesterday’s post, the most interesting comment was this one; “I was surprised that you seemed to favor some of the older lenses to the newest ones, are they really better?” Let me attempt to clear that up.” it depends!” First I own the 16-35 AF-S VR f4, the current newest super wide, modern Nikkor lens. I also own the 24-120 AF-S VR f 4 once again, the newest, and latest lens of it’s focal length. Nikon’s most modern lenses employ some great technology including very fast focusing speed, modern integrated coatings to reduce flare and increase contrast, and Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass. All this adds up tot some of the finest lenses we’ve ever seen in history. Now, having said that, that doesn’t mean some of these same engineers didn’t design some exceptional lenses in the past! Choosing gear is always a compromise between budget, needs, and the kind of work you do! I will use my self as an example because I don’t know anyone else as well as I know myself.
I shoot, mostly, subjects that don’t move very much; landscapes, close-ups, old rusting cars and trucks, old historic buildings, and Americana subjects. Therefore, I don’t need super fast focusing, and don’t need VR very much since I shoot from a tripod 90% of the time . I also have limited funds to apply to equipment, and lastly, I’m a throwback! I still love the feel of the old lenses, how smooth they focus with such gloriously tight fit. So shooting with manual focus lenses is not an issue for me. It takes more time, and you have to be very careful, however, you never miss a shot because autofocus didn’t work!! 98% of the time my autofocus lenses work just fine. The truth is, I just love shooting the way I learned to, long ago, turning the actual aperture ring, and focusing manually. The modern Nikon DSLRs that I use the most, all have a wonderful focusing aid for manual focusing that is deadly accurate, and once you get use to it, you can do it pretty rapidly, as if I need to focus rapidly!!!
There is another reason to use some of the older glass, you can!!! Nikon in it’s infinite wisdom has never made older glass obsolete. The venerable F mount has never fundamentally changed, and all modern serious DSLR are set-up to take full advantage of the older lenses! So I guess that was a long answer to your question, yes, the new lenses are great, but the older glass is still pretty spectacular as well. It’s a matter of using what you enjoy, and what works best for you.
Now let’s talk money. Let’s start with bodies. I don’t write about any other brands of gear here except Nikon, because I’m simply not as familiar with other brands. My advise would be to buy the most current cameras available, as the technology continue to speed ahead. The latest bodies, especially the D7000, D600, D800 and D4 are all marvelous examples of the camera makers craft. I personally use the D7000, the D600, and D800 the most, once again just don’t need the speed of the D4, though it is a marvelous camera!
The reason for writing this is I meet a lot of folks that really want to shoot great images, but simply don’t have the budget for the latest most expensive gear. Truthfully, I’m proud to work for Nikon, because it is obvious that their philosophy makes allowances for those that may have to find an alternative way to still be a serious shooter. With a reasonable budget you can own a great camera body and until you can come up with the cash to buy the latest gear, you have a wealth of older lenses to choose from!! I’m currently using the D600 a lot with some of the older, less expensive, manual focus glass and it is a tremendous marriage of the old and the new!!!!
In no area is budget cutting more successful than in close-up shooting, the image below was made with a used 70-210 AF Nikkor lens I picked up for $130., with addition of a Nikon 5T close-up diopter that is long discontinued but can sometimes be found used for around $100!!!! Automatic extension tubes (around $195.) also work great!!!
Do a little research! My favorite books on older glass were done by my buddy Moose Peterson, they are still available;
Magic Lantern Guides: NIKON Lenses by B. Peterson (Jun 30, 2000)
These should be available as e books (hint, hint Moose!!)
Also feel free to email me with any questions, I love to talk old glass, and have been studying them for over 40 years!
The bottom line is that photography can be an immensely satisfying hobby or passion, and it doesn’t have to break the bank! Enjoy!
Photo Note: Top shot? D700 (12 mega-pixels) and the Nikon 200 Micro Nikkor, had it for twenty years!
This entry was posted on Sunday, December 9th, 2012 at 4:47 pm
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