azoele's reviews

  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    *Sharp* (from 2.8), very fast autofocus, VR works very well, excellent construction, beautiful colours
    Only 135mm@1.4m, not sharper, on D700, than a good 80-200AFS, expensive

    I own a 80-200AFS, and that is an extremely impressive lens: sharp from wide open, fast focusing, beautiful rendition. Only drawback, no VR.
    What was a surprise to me, is that in side-by-side tests, the VR II, despite all the hype, is just *marginally* better. Perhaps on a D3x it'd show its qualities better, but on a D700 it simply vignettes less than the AFS! Sharpness wise, I can't distinguish them in a blind test, even at F2.8, and the only giveaway is the AFS's more pronounced vignetting at full aperture...
    That, and the nasty VR II's habit of getting shorter the closer you focus. Before owning it, I thought it was one of those net's whines, now I can assure you, it really bothers... for this issue, the old AFS is a lot better.
    It is built like a tank, really, excellently built, and autofocus is very, very silent, and fast. I feel it is even faster, just a little, than the AFS.

    All in all, it's a *stellar* lens. But after having owned it for a month, I'm inclined to believe it's not really worth 2x the cost of an AFS...

    reviewed February 18th, 2011 (purchased for $2,200)
  • Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness, bokeh (when you get it...), fast autofocus, colour
    2.8 is quite slow on m4/3s

    The lens is a real surprise: very fast to autofocus, and very, very sharp. Colours are pleasing and saturated, and the out of focus areas tend to be gentle, not harsh.
    Optically, a real winner, and one of the very few lenses I dare use wide open with nary a thought.

    The only negative is the speed: f2.8 might seem fast, but on the m4/3s format it is indeed a pretty limiting factor, as it forces you to raise your iso quickly as light gets dimmer, and makes it difficult to get much out of focus (or any at all...) unless you're shooting very near subjects.

    An impressive little lens.

    reviewed February 5th, 2014
  • Carl Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* 2/135

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness. Colour. Contrast. "Presence". Minimum focus distance
    Out of focus rendition can be a tad harsh. Manual focus only. It forces you to downgrade your appraisal of all your other lenses...

    I grew interested in this lens after reading raving reviews online.
    But it was only when I held one in my hand, took a few shots and stared at the results that I was convinced: its qualities won me over, and made me forget all my fears (135mm is certainly my most used focal length, and manual focus only is a pain).
    I simply tried it, and in a sort of trance bought it and left the shop!

    How is it?
    In a word: fantastic. Nothing I ever used, ever, can touch the results from this lens.
    Wide open it is incredibly sharp and detailed, with mesmerizing colour and clarity. By f2.8 everything tops, and the image jumps at you, bold, crystal clear, saturated. The first shots you take with it are truly shocking, so much they are bold and crisp, with deep colours and razor sharp edges.

    I tried a few times a 400 2.8, and it won't touch this Zeiss for rendition, sharpness and contrast.
    I own since 3 years a 200/2 VR II, and while an incredible lens, it doesn't have the *bite* the Zeiss shows with ease already at f2, and even stopped down doesn't provide the same contrast, despite its nano-coating.
    The 135 APO Sonnar simply has higher contrast and saturation than those 2 excellent primes, said to be the best in Nikon's lineup, and of everything else I've seen before.

    Is it then the "be all" lens?
    Not really, if one needs be sincere.
    Bokeh is harsher than I expected: while still good in absolute terms, it is inferior to that of other famous lenses (105/2 Nikon, 85 1.4D/G, not to mention the 200/2), and one may want to be a little careful with that, especially with complex backgrounds very near your subject.
    Also, focusing manually means is a bane for everything that moves. The plane of focus is just to thin, unless you start shooting f5.6 or f8.

    But it is still the best lens I have ever used, bar none.
    Also: it is so well corrected already wide open, that it is the very only manual focus lens I can focus trusting the "green" dot in my D3s and D4. If the dot lights up, the lens is in focus.
    No other lens I own (17-35, 70-200/II, 105/2, 35 1.4, 24 1.4, 200/2) or have ever tried is so well corrected wide open and so reliable in manual focusing.

    In summary: it is an astonishing – albeit quite specialized – piece of equipment. It is expensive, rather on the big side, difficult to operate due to manual focus... but make no mistake, its output is simply gorgeous, and one always feels like carrying it around to take another picture.

    reviewed July 20th, 2013 (purchased for $1,900)
  • Nikon 200mm f/2G ED AF-S VR II Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Excellent image quality. Truly astonishing bokeh. Speed (T2). Lightning fast autofocus.
    Weight. Balance. Shape makes it a little more difficult to hand hold than it should be.

    One of the best lenses in Nikon's lineup. Sharp wide open, fabulous by 2.8, with an incredibly smooth rendition of out of focus areas.
    It's one of those very few lenses that "make the picture themselves". The photographer clicks, and customers go "ohhh"... :)

    Plus, it has excellent transmissivity making it a true f2 lens: for this reason it is excellent when light is marginal, allowing quite more than the nominal stop of light versus the 70-80/200 2.8 lenses.

    It was my reference lens for image quality until I tried the Zeiss 135 Apo Sonnar. Still, it is an incredible piece of equipment.

    Of course, it costs an arm and a leg, it is a hassle to carry around, gets you immediate attention, and requires a clear commitment to its use... carry and use it for a day, and you'll want to drop it in a river in frustration.
    But it always, always gets back at least one amazing photo: as a tool, its fantastic.

    reviewed July 20th, 2013 (purchased for $5,500)
  • Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S Nikkor

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Excellent rendition stopped down. Beautiful bokeh.
    Focus shift makes it a nightmare to focus. Really not sharp enough before f2.

    Fell in love at first with this lens because I love wide angles, but such "love" meant not seeing the issues it has that eventually lead me to avoid using it.

    First, the lens is a nightmare to focus.
    I thought at first it was my technique, or my uncalibrated cameras. But in time, tests and investigations lead to a simple truth: the lens suffers from a marked focus shift, which makes it impossible to calibrate it with fine tune. If you fine tune it at f1.4, it will be out of focus at f2, 2.8, and vice versa.
    This shift originates from a mediocre correction of aberrations wide open, which unfortunately has also two other damning effects: it makes the lens misfocus relatively often, and even on pro bodies (D3s, D4), and it results in a lackluster performance until f2, where sharpness finally starts to pick up.

    (unfortunately, such "unsure" focusing behaviour and low sharpness between f1.4/2.8 is common in the new "G" trio (24/35/85).)

    Is it all bad then?
    Not really: there's also *much* to be loved.

    First of all, the lens is very sharp stopped down (it eats my 17-35 for breakfast), has good flare resistance, and imparts a sense of clarity to images from 2.8 onwards. In a word, it's the best 24 I have used.
    Also, bokeh in the f1.4-2.8 range is very good, which makes for interesting creative possibilities.
    I used to set it F2, focus in Live view to ensure proper focus, and enjoy wonderful wide portraits of people, with a gently blurred background and beautiful colour.

    But the point is: as good as it is from f2 (or 2.8) onwards, it really is a lens to be careful with, as it can miss focus by a meter without one noticing in the viewfinder. This behaviour, and the softness until f2, 2.5, made me regret eventually the 2000$ spent for it.
    Seeing what Sigma makes for half the price (I own their 35 1.4 HSM) I see no reason whatsoever for Nikon not to be as good, or better, at double the price...


    Note:
    I tried 3 (three) copies, all new, before selecting mine. My experience (and what can be found with some digging online) seems to confirm that this is not the special case of an unfortunate exemplar, rather the average behaviour of the 24 1.4...

    reviewed July 20th, 2013 (purchased for $2,000)