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Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G AF-S DX

Review Date: May 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,249.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Über-sharp, more reach than the 17-35, fast autofocus, silent autofocus, environmental seals
Lens extends during zoom, stiff zoom ring, hood has tendency to detach when in stored position, very slight to slight chromatic abberation

I got this lens after reading many positive reviews and deciding to trade in my trusty Sigma 24-70 and 12-24 to offset the cost of this gorgeous piece of kit. Upon first taking it out of the box, I was impressed with its heft and size for what is a digital-only lens. Build quality on this really does seem to be very high.

Shortly after beginning to play around with it, I realized how much the extending front element began to get on my nerves. Not that it affects me in any appreciable way, but I would rather a lens be without telescoping protrusions.

After taking a test run, I was very pleased with the results this piece of glass was able to deliver. I had been thirsting for some pseudo-wide angle for a while (24mm on a digital body is nowhere near an excuse for wide) and this lens was able to deliver some of what I enjoyed with the Sigma 12-24 at the f/2.8 aperture I needed for my work. The first round of downloads showed great resolving power of this lens on my D100 body (the D200 still fails to out-resolve this lens). In real-world situations, I am yet to be disappointed with the sharpness of which this lens is capable. This lens is gorgeous wide-open and continues to show improvement in sharpness until about f/6.3 for me.

In certain bright situations, I have noticed some chromatic aberration. These can range from very slight (just being able to tell it's there) to slight (I can just begin to make out the lines when looking at actual pixels). This usually occurs when the lens is stopped down quite a way, though.

I had the opportunity to test out the weather seals on this camera shortly after getting my D200 body. I was shooting a baseball game when it began to rain enough for the tarp to be pulled over the field. Normally, I would have put the gear away or at least try to get some shots from under the dugout, but with this lens I felt cavalier enough to yank off the 300 and put this lens on to shoot some fun rain-soaked field frames. The camera and lens continue to work without complaint.

Autofocus is very quick and I appreciate the SWM drive system. The focus ring has a typical "dry" feel to it and the stops at either end have clear tactile feel.

The zoom ring is quite stiff. It has loosened up in the month-and-a-half I've owned this lens, but it still takes some strong finger movements to navigate the long end of the zoom range.

I would complain about the G-type design—a scheme for which I continue to feel wary—but since this is a DX series lens, I don't think a complaint would be warranted. For any lens with a "full frame" image circle, I still would like the backward compatibility that makes the F-mount applicable today. However, since this lens will only fully work on a digital body I can cut the design a bit of slack. I do enjoy being able to set aperture with my left hand using the ring on the lens if available, however.

I have mixed feelings on the size of the lens hood. The length is quite noticeable and makes this already-big lens seem even bigger when attached. I do like the locking button arrangement when removing the hood, but would also appreciate some sort of detent-type retaining mechanism for when this moving part (inevitably) breaks. I have at least twice had the hood come detached with the camera slung across my shoulder when in the "stored" position.

As for the price, I am quite happy with the performance I get with this and feel the price represents par for the course. For most situations, one can easily get away with one Nikon's other, less expensive lenses with a similar focal range. If a fast lens is needed however, this lens is in close competition with the 17-35mm.