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  Reviews by: Marsellus W  

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Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor

Review Date: Nov 28, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: - One of the sharpest lenses I've ever used - Easily sharper than all DX kit lenses - Sharp wide open - Quiet focusing, nothing moves or extends - Good build quality - Affordable
- Depending on aperture and focusing distance, occasionally harsh bokeh - Focuses slower than I expected

See above. A must-have lens for DX. One of the sharpest lenses I've used. 'nuff said.

It even works quite well on FX; only the extreme corners remain dark. A full-height square crop is easily possible.

Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF-ED AF

Review Date: Nov 28, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: - Decent optics for the money - Very fast AF - Aperture ring, so it works on almost any Nikon (D)SLR ever made. - Nothing moves externally during AF
- Build quality is merely acceptable - Completely loose focus ring - Lot of fringing around highlights - Weird pointy shape of defocused light sources - 77mm filter ring makes this lens take up a lot of space in your bag - Same holds for the MASSIVE lens hood - Price for a new one is too high

Used on D700. I paid EUR 275 second-hand for an absolutely mint one.

This is the more affordable brethren of the F/2.8 17-35 AF-S.

Build quality is not very good. I think it's quite solid in real terms, but it feels very plasticy. The focus ring is completely undamped. It's plastic all the way. Build quality wise, it's about the same as the 18-70 DX lens: nothing real bad, but mounted on the solid D700 the difference in build quality between lens and camera automatically grabs your attention. Having it used quite a lot in sometimes very adverse conditions, it still looks and works as if it were new. So build quality might actually be better than it appears. It feels a little heavier than you might think.

It's at its shortest at 30mm, extending just 2mms towards the 35mm setting and about 10mms towards the wide end. The zoom ring is smooth but very lightly damped. No zoom creep, not even if you try.

It focuses insanely fast, instantly, AF-S fast. Really. It also focuses close (33cm, just over 1 ft). From closest to infinity is less than a 90 degree turn, and only two-and-a-bit turns for the in-camera screwdriver.

Wide-open image quality is definitely usable, but not great. Stopped-down to F/5.6 and beyond it's very good - not significantly worse than its big brother the 17-35 AF-S (I tried). The wide end is always a little better than the 35mm end. Corner softness is an issue, but only in the very extreme FX corners, and goes away completely by F/8.

It has some barrel distortion at 18mm, which eases out to 35mm where it is essentially distortion free. As with most wide-angle zooms the distortion is not easily corrected; some minor waviness always remains.

It has a surprisingly low amount of chromatic aberration. However, blooming (fringing) around light sources in night shots is quite severe, especially halfway from the center and beyond. From F/8 this largely disappears. Wide-open it has lots of coma at the shortest focal lengths, rendering light sources in the frame as weird pizza-slice-shaped objects pointing towards the center. At normal viewing distances/magnifications no one would ever notice though. On slide film, projected HUGE (6x4m) with a Zeiss projector I can see it, because I know where to look. Others don't.

It is very insusceptible to flaring and ghosting, so I always leave the humongous lens hood at home.

Conclusion: the new price of around 700 EUR/$ is too high. Stopped-down this lens is capable of producing really excellent results. For landscape photography this is a viable lightweight, lower-cost alternative to the 17-35. When you need wider apertures this lens just doesn't entirey cut it, although it's never bad. If your mainstay will be around 35mms, look somewhere else. Build quality is a little lacking. Because of its hood and 77mm filter ring this lens takes up a lot of space in your bag.

Nikon 70-210mm f/4-5.6D AF

Review Date: Nov 28, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Very, very cheap second hand Great build quality (no wobble, no play, hefty, solid, mostly metal) Very good image quality across the frame Superfast AF on D700 (AF-S fast really) Metal lens hood included Metal filter threads
Image in viewfinder jumps around a bit during AF @200mm Front element rotates during AF Focus ring rotates during AF Somewhat unusual 58mm filter size Some CA @200mm

For a long time this great lens has been a sleeper with very few people interested in it. When I went digital I switched to Canon (because of the affordable 300D) so I even sold mine back in the day, and I got almost nothing for it. I'm not a great telephoto user, but occasionally I missed the longer range when I recently got the D700. This lens immediately came to mind, and I got an absolutely mint one for EUR 100 within a day, they seem to be everywhere, and still there seems to be little interest in them.

Well, let me tell you: this lens is a gem.

It has a push-pull design which was the craze in the 80s, but few people like that today. An advantage of push-pull design however is that the lens takes up much less space in your bag; it's only 13cm (about 6") long, caps attached. This might save you from using a large bag.

This lens has very smooth, well-damped zooming action without any stickiness, wobble or play whatsoever. When you look at pictures of it you wouldn't tell, but it's really built like a brick / solid as a ROCK. The 70-300VR / 55-200VR can only dream of build quality anywhere near this puppy. It's built from the same materials as the older 20-35, 35-70 and 80-200 pro push-pull 2.8 zooms.

Image quality is very good wide-open and excellent stopped down. Compared to modern lenses it only lacks a smidge of contrast - sharpness is definitely up there. The most impressive part is how even the quality is across the frame. No corner softness or anything. Distortion is absolutely minimal, I can't remember adjusting for it in PP. AF is incredibly fast, near-instant and faster than many AF-S lens - it easily tracks sports, dogs, cars and the like. AF might hunt a little @200mm in low light. There's very little cyan-red CA at the borders at 200mm in your FX NEF-files, but it's easily correctable. It has very smooth bokeh, no hard edges - something I find very important. It comes with a very effective solid metal screw-in lens hood.

Drawbacks: front cap doesn't fit with lens hood attached, front element rotates during AF making use of a polarizing filter a PITA. It is chipped, so apart from losing AF it will work brilliantly on the d40(x),d60,d3x00 and d5000.

The non-D version is equally good but it focuses quite a bit slower.

If you're looking for a superbly built, fast focusing portable FX telephoto zoom this is the way to go. I tried many slow Nikon 70/80-2xx lenses but this one is head and shoulders above the rest yet one of the cheapest.

Just try it, when you get this quality for EUR/$ 100 you'll be stunned. You might save yourself a lot of dollars, a big bag and back pain. If you don't like it you can sell it on without taking a significant financial loss.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Jun 12, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: This lens is perfect for what it is. The only question is whether it's the right tool for you. Amazing clarity, colour and contrast. No flare, no ghosts, no CA
Weight (still). It would be great if it were even lighter than it is. It's still quite a brick at about 700g. It has an awful, attention-drawing cream colour.

There is no real downside to this lens. Within its specs it excels in everything. Fast AF, nice build quality, light weight for a professional grade lens, colour, and first of all excellent clarity. Compared to lower-grade lenses photos with this lens don't look like they were shot through glass.

The mimimum focusing distance is only 1.2 meters, which makes this lens ideal for flowers and other semi-macro work, especially on a 1.6x camera. This adds great flexibility compared to some other Canon offerings in this focal length range.

The bokeh is very nice and smooth. This lens is great for portraits.

The sturdy lens hood fits nicely reversed and does its job very well. I don't see the advantage of petal-shaped hoods and I don't care about the looks of my gear. It works great, so it's fine with me.

USM autofocus on this lens is fast, but not the fastest. The focus is always dead-on, I have yet to experience the first picture where AF didn't do what it should do.

F/4 is a nice compromise for weight and speed. F/4 is not fast and not slow. During daytime this lens is easily handholdable. It's fast enough for outdoor sports.

A great feature is that everything zooms and focuses internally. Nothing extends or rotates, so there is no dust or moist sucked in and there's no zoom creep. The zoom action is smooth regardless of the orientation. Using a polarizer is a breeze.

Sharpness is already superb at F/4. Corner sharpness (if you care) is great too, even on F/4 on full frame. It's 100% usable at F/4 all the way through. From F/5.6 on the corners are perfect on full frame.

I haven't seen lateral chromatic aberration/purple fringing yet.
Vignetting is not a problem as with most teles.

It sucks that canon sells the tripod collar separately for a ridiculous price (about EUR 100). You can do without, however.

If you are in the market for a 70-200 and if you can live with F/4, this lens is as good as it gets. There's nothing better in its class except the IS version, which is twice the price of this one. I have quite high demands for lenses, and with this one I don't see any real room for improvement.

Highly recommended.