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Tamron 60mm f/2 Di II LD IF Macro 1:1 SP AF

Screen_Shot_2013-11-15_at_10_54_15_AM
Review Date: Apr 1, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Well priced, internal focusing, good working distance, sharper & less CA than the older Tamron 90, excellent IQ with the Kenko tubes.
Cons:
Stiff/jerky focus ring.

Very good general purpose macro. Great working distance for a 60mm focal length (100mm from front element). I use this pretty well exclusively with Kenko tubes and gives me about 2.36x magnification & 75mm working distance. I also owned the Tamron 90 (older version) and the 60 is sharper up to f11 and has significantly less CA. Internal focusing is also a plus and AF speed is quicker than the 90mm & also much quieter. I use it on a crop camera (D300) & it's a nice focal length for portraits. Wide open (f2.2 for portrait distances) it's quite useable (slightly better than the 50 1.8D) but stopping down to f2.8 it's razor sharp. Build quality is fine for a macro, but certainly on the lighter side. Bokeh is also quite pleasant IMO.

The main con with this lens is the focus ring is quite stiff or jerky which can make fine focus adjustments a bit tricky. I have had the lens for more than 4 years and this has not improved unfortunately.

If you have the older 90mm versions this is definitely worth the upgrade in my opinion.


 
Nikon D300

d300
Review Date: Nov 25, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: great IQ, LCD, AF system, lots of useful features and setting options, build quality, sensor cleaning
Cons:
None really (it's not perfect but at this price point it's hard to complain)

Upgraded from the D70s about 18 months ago and have been very pleased with this camera. I shoot a variety of subjects (sports, macro, candids, birds) and this is really a great all round performer.

IQ is very nice though I would like better low ISO performance in the shadows, though the D70s was much worse. I find ISO3200 quite useable even without NR as long as you expose properly. DR is excellent and big step up from the D70s.

AF is very solid though I only tend to use single point or 9 pt dynamic. Not a huge fan of the 3D tracking, though I haven't really used it that much. Outer AF points work fine in low light situations as long you have some decent glass attached :D

After using the D70s, the new LCD on the D300 was a real revelation and worth upgrade alone to me. Having an rgb histogram is great as well. Liveview is a nice feature but I don't use it very often.

The quality and fit of the grip is excellent and of course gives you 8fps which is super for sports and BIF's.

Build quality is great and overall balance with the grip attached and longer lenses like the 300VR 2.8 is nice.

Initially I thought the sensor cleaner was a bit of a gimmick but I haven't had to clean the sensor in over 12 months and I change lenses fairly often. I wouldn't buy a camera without one now.

If you are on a budget and can't afford a 'pro' body and need a 1 body solution, the D300 is hard to beat.

Cheers
Leigh


 
Nikon 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED AF-S VR

Nikon_300mm
Review Date: Nov 22, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $5,500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, lighting AF, handles TC's very well.
Cons:
A bit pricey in Oz. Lens foot is next to useless.

Bought this secondhand in great nick for a bargain price and couldn't be happier with my purchase.

IQ is just superb and there's really not much difference in centre sharpness between f2.8-5.6, though the corners do improve noticeably as you stop down. I use this lens with the 1.7 quite a bit and while sharpness is reduced it is still very good and easily useable wide open though I tend to use it at f5.6-6.3 (I used to own the Tamron 200-500 and the 300VR + 1.7 TC blows it out of the water @ 500mm). Oh, and the bokeh rocks on this lens as well and is great for protraits :D

AF is very quick and makes the 70-200 look slow in comparison. With the 1.7 TC it still does a stellar job (BIF's are no worries) though obviously a bit slower than the naked lens.

VR works very well and I use it a lot with the 1.7TC even at higher shutter speeds for easier framing/composition of images.

Handholding is possible but only in short bursts with VR on to steady camera shake. I use mine mostly on a tripod or monopod with a Wimberley SK and it works very well.

Also bought the Kirk lens foot for mine and is so much better than the woeful Nikon one and also provides better balance on the Wimberley SK.

I use mine on a D300 which does a good job but I still think it limits the allround capabilities of this lens, so I can only imagine how it performs on a D3s/D3x.

Conclusion - if you can afford one, get it!!! Also with the 1.7TC it becomes a very nice 500 f5

Cheers
Leigh


 
Sigma 100-300mm f4 EX IF HSM APO

100-300if_1_
Review Date: Nov 22, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,700.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharp wide open in the 100-250mm range. Well priced.
Cons:
Soft @ 300mm & AF is lacking compared to the Nikon 70-200VR. No OS.

Used this lens on a D300 for about 6 months and as a zoom it's a pretty decent performer but there are compromises.

Wide open this lens is tack sharp @ 200mm (at least as good as the 70-200VR and better in the corners) but gets softer near 300mm. While it's still useable, the 70-200VR + 1.4/1.7 TC is just as good in terms of sharpness. Colour and micro contrast are good but still a bit behind the 70-200 IMO.

AF is reasonbly fast in good light but starts to struggle a bit with lower contrast subjects compared to the 70-200VR. The Nikon is also clearly better when it comes to tracking subjects moving directly towards the camera.

Also used the lens with the Sigma 1.4 TC and it works pretty well with minimal loss of IQ (unless you are manual focusing, other TC's are useless on the Sigma lenses).

Build quality is excellent and it is handholdable if you are used to 70-200 2.8 or similar weight lenses.

In summary, if you absolutely need a zoom in this range it's hard to beat as long as you are aware of its limitations. but if you are shooting mainly at 300mm, get a prime lens (I've since bought the Nikkor 300VR 2.8 and the extra cost is most definitely worth it).

Cheers
Leigh


 
Nikon 18-70 f/3.5-4.5G AFS DX

DX-18-70_L
Review Date: Feb 22, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Light, great IQ, Nice focal range for me, price
Cons:
Build quality, ocassional vignetting @ 18mm

Got this as the 'kit' lense with my D70s. Don't know why people continually refer to this as a "kit" because it can certainly hold it's own against much more expensive glass.

The 18-70 is pretty sharp when stopped down a little but certainly useable wide open. Focus is snappy enough and I always found it pretty accurate on the D70s. Ocassionally I would get some vignetting at 18mm but nothing signficant that could not be corrected.

The main difference in IQ between this and the 50mm 1.8 or 24-70 is micro-contrast and better colour rendition of the latter. But if you can nail the focus and expsoure, this lens really does produce very nice images.

Build quality is as you would expect for a lense in this price range but is still reasonable. I actually dropped mine a couple times (once on bitumen) with the body attached and both times it broke the lense hood but the lense was fine.

If you don't need fast glass or you just won't a nice, cheap walk around zoom with consistent IQ right through the focal range, then you should consider this excellent little lens.


 
Nikon D70s

D70
Review Date: Feb 6, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Light, great IQ, Good feature set for beginners
Cons:
A bit noisy & limited DR by today's standards

This was my first DSLR camera and if you're a beginner on a budget this is a great place to start. Got it with the 18-70mm 'kit' lens and they make a great combo. If you want a great (and cheap) portrait setup grab a 50mm 1.8 as it really shines on this body.

The AF is nothing flash (5 points and 1.5 fps) but I shot a lot football (Aussie rules) with this and 70-200VR and it does surprising well even just using dynamic AF mode.

One thing I used a lot was the 1/500 flash sync feature which is really handy when using fill flash in bright conditions.

The noise is noticeable even at ISO200 in the shadows and in poor light I wouldn't shoot any higher than ISO800. In good light with good glass ISO800 is quite good. One thing I found was that it didn't handle black or dark suits to well at weddings and apart from noise you also get some banding if you underexpose even a little. Certainly the D300 is much better in this regard and is also at least 1 stop cleaner than the D70s.

Build quality is good and I've even shot in moderately heavy rain for 30 minutes or more without covers and it never bothered it at all.

Overall IQ is excellent with good colour but you will want to shoot ISO200-400 for best results. I shoot mainly macro and you will be surprised how much detail this lowly 6mp sensor can capture with a dedicated macro lens (I use the Tamron 90). While the DR is noticeably less than the D300 if you shot RAW and use Capture NX you can still pull a reasonable amount of detail out of shadows or recover detail from blown highlights (1 stop either as a general rule).

The LCD is pretty small and dingy compared to the newer bodies and you can't judge critical sharpness like you can with the D300 display.

Overall a great a little camera and perfect for newbies IMO.

Cheers
Leigh


 
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED NIKKOR AF-S

224-70
Review Date: Jan 31, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Build quality, IQ
Cons:
Soft at the wide end, expensive, heavy

I use this lens on the D300 and at the long end (50-70mm) you won't find better IQ anywhere. I use it for candid portraiture and the sharpness, colour & micro-contrast is superb (as good as any prime IMO). Wide open it is tack sharp and is even better at f4.

Unfortunately at the wide end (24-35mm) it is woeful in the corners at all apertures (I've had 2 copies and both were the same). This softness seems to be a real issue on DX bodies and less apparent on FX bodies. I also have a Tamron 28-75 and it slaughters the 24-70 in corners at the wide end which is a real shame as this lens excels in all other areas.

Cheers
Leigh


 
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor

1906NCP_180
Review Date: Nov 13, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, light, fast AF and great micro contrast
Cons:
Not great wide open.

This was my first prime and it's one of the best value lenses made by anyone IMO. My copy is quite soft wide open but it is tack sharp @ 2.8. I use it for candid portraits on the D70s/D300 and the clarity of the images is wonderful (you can clearly notice the difference between the prime and the 18-70 @ 50mm). Nothing like a prime lens for great micro contrast.

I also use it with the Kenko 12mm tube for shallow DoF macro shots and it is great and the bokeh is surprisingly smooth for a 50mm.

I also own the new Nikkor 24-70 2.8 and while it can match the 50 at f4 for sharpness and contrast, the 50 is clearly better at 2.8 (not that the 24-70 is bad wide open, just that the 50 fantastic at 2.8).

Highly recommended.


 
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR

2139NAS_180
Review Date: Nov 10, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,950.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, verstile & great bokeh
Cons:
Soft in the corners

This lens is by no means perfect but as my most used lens it does everything I want and although expensive it is worth it.

Whether it sports, macro or candid portraits this lens always delivers. I normally shoot at f4 and it is tack sharp and bokeh is as good as it gets. Recently I have been shooting wide open on the D300 and I'm pleasently surprised at the sharpness which seems much better than on my D70s for some reason.

I use it extensively with the Nikon 1.7 TC and it works quite well when stopped down 1 stop, though images require extra sharpening. I've also used it with the Kenko 1.4 TC and image quality is excellent (better than the 1.7) and its focus speed is still pretty good on the D300.

VR is good but I don't use it that often. I don't mind the weight and often shoot handheld for long periods without too many worries.

Corner sharpness is not great but that's not an issue for me as I'm cropping 90% of the time anyway.

I use the lens with the Canon 500D for macro and image quality is superb.

I'd also recommend the Kirk lens foot replacement as well if you are going to be using it a lot on a tripod or Wimberley SK.


 
Tamron 90MM F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 SP AF

lens_1_
Review Date: Nov 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, contrasty, and light. Build is decent and price is very good.
Cons:
Has some CA up to f8 on high contrast edges but really only noticeable at 100%.

My main macro lens. It's sharp and light so I use it handheld 90% of the time. Sharpness is very good even at small apertures (f20-32). Optimum sharpness on the D300 is between f8-14 range @ 1:1 and it's pretty good at wider apertures for portrait shots. Bokeh is excellent and probably close to the 70-200VR IMO. I have used it extensively with Kenko tubes (2x) and with the Kenko 1.4 TC & reversed 50 1.8 with excellent results up to 2.5x mag @ f20. I've found the working distance is fine for most subjects even with the tubes attached (about 70mm). The front element is recessed about 40mm inside the barrel so don't even worry about the hood, it's not needed.

I find the AF/Manual clutch arrangement quite good and means you can change very quickly from AF to manual if needed. The AF is slow & does hunt a bit with low contrast subjects but I have used it to capture bees in flight on my D70s so it is capable with some practice.

People say the build quality is not great on this lens but I've found it quite solid and while it's not as good as the Nikkor 105VR I'm sure in 10-15 years time it will still be going strong.

The only improvement Tamron could make with this lens would be to make it IF rather than the extending barrel arrangement.

Overall a superb lens. Buy one, you'll be impressed.