Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thoughts On Buying Nikon Lenses (FX): Part 2

Yesterday I posted my thoughts on Nikon's wide angle lenses that best suite FX (full frame) cameras, and today I'm going to discuss mid-range lenses. This is an area with a lot of lenses to consider, since everything from the Nikon 24-70mm F2.8G to the Nikon 24-120mm F4VR along with numerous primes are up for consideration. I'm not going to drag out this preamble though, so lets get right to the lenses.

Nikon AF-S 24-70mm F2.8G (I Have This Lens) - This is Nikon's pro mid-range zoom, which offers a somewhat limited zoom range and a fast aperture. The 24-70mm F2.8 is the second member of the of "holy trinity" of Nikon lenses, including the 14-24mm F2.8G, 24-70mm F2.8G and 70-200mm f2.8G VRII. Some pro photographers have each one of these lenses, due to the nature of how they shoot each has a purpose. The 24-70mm F2.8G is a lens that is highly regarded, although is not considered to be the best mid-range fast zoom lens on the market. Some people feel that Nikon should add VR in a revision of this lens, but I suspect that any revision is a least a year or so down the road, although releasing an updated version along with the D4 later this year is possible.

This lens has a lot of things going for it, a fast aperture, excellent build quality and feel. I've had a chance to test the 24-70mm F2.8 on a D700 and it has to be one of the nicest lenses that I've ever handled. The ergonomics of using this lens when mounted on the D700 are great to say the least. Of course there are some downsides, first in terms of size, weight and price. For a working pro the price might not be an issue, but for hobby shooters it could be. The size and weight are another issue, but it might not be a problem for everyone. I'm used to carrying around the Nikon AF-S 300mm F4 IF-ED (1440g), so the 900g 24-70mm wouldn't be too bad from my point of view. Then there is talk of the light leak through the focusing scale, which might effect some users, mostly studio photographers,.

Nikon AF-S 24-120mm F4 VR - I previously owned the AF-S 24-120mm F3.5-5.6G VR, until November 2010, although I liked the zoom range on a full frame camera, sharpness was lacking. Most user reviews seem to say that this lens is good optically and in terms of build quality, but some of the professional reviewers don't look very highly upon it. I can understand why, because as you increase the size of the zoom range, you also increase things like distortion on the wide end, and pincushion effect on the other end. Those things combined with not being sharp in the corners wide open seem to push down how well this lens does in lab tests. From a practical standpoint the 24-120mm F4 VR should be a very convenient lens to use because there would be very few situations when you would have to change lenses.

Nikon AF 35mm F2.0D - I have to admit that I like the viewing angle of 35mm on an FX body, it's not too wide and not too cramped. That being said the 35mm f2.0D is one of those prime lenses that is reported to come up a little short. It's been said to be soft wide open, other than right in the center. The lens offers decent performance overall, and many photographers like this lens due to the compact nature of its' design. That being said,  it is showing it's age and is likely due for replacement in the next few years.

Nikon AF-S 35mm F1.4G - This is Nikon's fast 35mm prime, which has an improved optical design over the 35mm F1.4 AI-S (which is still available) that it replaced. If you need a faster aperture than the 35mm F2.0D, then this is the lens to have, just keep in mind that it is not compact or light weight.

Nikon AF 50mm F1.8D, AF-S 50mm F1.8G , AF 50mm F1.4D and AF-S 50mm F1.4G - 50mm is considered the classic focal length for 35mm cameras, as such these lenses can be a pleasure to use on an FX camera. Each one of these lenses has slightly different characteristics, and those should be considered before you buy one of them. (I have the AF-S 50mm F1.8G)

Read Part 3: Telephoto Zooms and Primes