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Nikon 18-70 f/3.5-4.5G AFS DX

DX-18-70_L
Review Date: Feb 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Small and light package, reasonable build and excellent picture quality, fast focus
Cons:
not a 2.8 lens

excellent kit lens, probably the best ever. Delivers excellent pictures many people won't be able to distinguish from pro lenses. A cheap and light lens most people should have on a DX format camera. I don't use the lens anymore because I replaced it by the 18-200VR, a much more versatile package even if picture quality is not on par with the 18-70, but that's a personal opinion.

Highly recommended... the lens just delivers excellent pictures.


 
Sigma 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 EX OS APO

Sigma_80-400_OS
Review Date: Feb 23, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Extremely versatile (range and stabilization), sharp, good build, well balanced, impressive, allows to shot at very slow speeds (1/60sec at 400mm), excellent tripod mount, can be used to carry the lens/camera combo
Cons:
(Too) impressive, size, weight, not ultra fast

General: That lens is one of my favourite lenses. The range is perfect for a telezoom and the stabilization makes it incredibly usable even in low light... I have been able to take shots at night @400m 1/50 sec. You can win up to 3 stops, 4 stops if you are lucky (very steady arm). I really got addicted to that lens. It is one of my most used lenses overall. The percentage of keepers is very high.
Sharpness: that lens is very sharp all over the range even fully open when shooting from a short distance.
Sharpness is decreasing if the subject is far from you at long focal distances. This perception is also due to the fact that there is usually much more air between the subject and the lens, but sharpness is definitely lower in that situation (but still sharp enough).
Focus: no HSM, the focus speed is just normal (not as fast as HSM or AF-S) but I never had issues because of that even for semi-action shooting (race, airshow). Sometimes it is difficult to track flying birds when they are moving erratically. The "slow" focus sometimes allows to lock the target faster (I had more hunting problems with faster AF lenses).
TC: this lens can be used in MF with a Sigma TC. @800mm with a 2x TC, pictures are still very usable but are of course less sharp, AF not possible and f11 fully open.
Stabilization: very impressive, takes half a second to be activated so that you have to prepare your shots (prefocusing for instance). Also works fine for panning.
Makes some noise when activated.
Size: that lens @400m with suncap is huge !!! Interesting to impress friends but not too easy to shoot unnoticed: the lens is so big that everybody is staring at you while shooting.
It is also a very heavy lens, don't forget it when going for a hike. It is very well balanced and the tripod mount is fantastic and I am using it constantly to carry the lens/camera combo.
I almost never used the lens on a tripod thanks to the possibilities of OS.


 
Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EX APO IF HSM

05_03_1_
Review Date: Jun 19, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Good price, picture quality (very sharp), focus speed (HSM), f2.8, quiet, tripod mount, accessories and excellent bag included, IF (fixed length)
Cons:
Heavy but not too much, no OS/VR, tripod mount cannot be used to carry the camera (like with the 80-400 for example)

When I purchased this lens, I have been comparing with the 80-200 from Nikon, which was slightly more expensive. When comparing with TC included, the Sigma had a significant price advantage for the combination... so I went for the Sigma.

I made quite a number of pics with that lens. Most of them were excellent and razor sharp... but I had to throw away some of them. I did some testing and came to the following conclusion:
everything was "perfect", razor sharp if shot at f4+ or at max 165mm, in other words only my pictures wide open (f2.8) at 165-200mm were slightly blurred (pictures like 150mm f2.8 were excellent). I interpreted that as the limit of the lens (seeing other reviews saying that the lens was soft wide open).
I brought the lens back to the shop, they controlled it and sent it back to Sigma for recalibration. I do not know exactly what they changed but the lens is definitely different: it is quite sharp on the whole range now...
My only conclusion is to confirm that Sigma might have some initial quality issues sometimes...

Anyhow, overall this is really an excellent lens, solid construction even if not on par with Nikon, attractive price, excellent quality (after my problem was solved), very fast and quiet focus (HSM is impressive when you are used to 'normal' AF lenses), IF internal focus meaning the lens has a fixed length while zooming and focussing. The range is very good and can be extended with a TC (I use the Sigma 2x) without significant quality loss (AF is still working, you just have a 140-400 f5.6 lens). Manual focus corrections are easy to do.
Another plus point is that the lens "feels" good, it is quite well balanced on my D70, easy to manipulate even if a bit heavy to take on vacation...