CraigH's reviews

  • Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp all the way out and a pretty much wide open.
    Rubber ring on the front element keeps popping out.

    This is just a superb old fashion professional grade lens with that Nikon crinkle black finish on a metal construction. The onlder push pulls were fairly slow but the new two rings really spin with a pro body. You can feel the torque.

    Most lenses by Nikon look good and will do a good job if you do your part. A very few are just special. They have that crystal clear razor sharp 3D pup look about the images. That would describe this beauty. You do your part and you get those oooos and ahhhhs from viewers.

    There is one downside. The lens has a non-fixable focus issue with some bodies. It was designed a long time ago and the rotation ratios don't match some of the bodies well, from what the Nikon people tell me. When this happens, it's hard to fine tune and when you do, it changes at different distances. On my D300, mine works unbelievably well but on my D700, it seemed soft at 200. When I fine tuned that, it was soft at shorter lengths. Nikon worked on it but finally admited the issue.

    I was going to sell it, but it worked just too well on the D300 and if I manually adjusted on the D700. When I bought my D3S, problem solved. It's perfect and my new D800 wears this lens wonderfully, so I'm happy.

    As a full time corporate photographer, I appreciate the price tag over the more expensive 70-200 and VR I'd never use when I get this high level of performance in a product that just plain feels good to use.

    reviewed August 7th, 2012 (purchased for $980)
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp, beautiful micro contrast, magnesium internal parts, external polycarbonate, Nano coating
    Would prefer an aperture ring

    This might be the highest quality optics for an 85mm lens available. It's as sharp as sharp gets wide open and edge to edge. If this sombrero effect is visible, it is not by these eyes nor any other reviewer. This optic is best of class and worth the price for someone who wants the very best.

    It has replaced my AF-D version to become my work-horse for location portraiture or any other purpose requiring this focal length. In the studio, it shares top spot with an old Nikkor 105 f/2.5 AI lens on a D700.

    Forgetting sharpness for a moment, this lens also shines with a special quality that is hard to quantify or even truly qualify. I call it micro contrast. Some just call it high resolution image quality. Whatever it is, this glass has it in spades. You load of the RAW file and begin to work then realize so little is needed. The image is stunning as it sits. I look close at the color and luminosity transitions and am amazed that glass can get it so right.

    As is usual, it's not the camera or the lens but the photographer that creates a compelling image. In the case of this Nikon 85 f/1.4 G, you've got something which really helps to contribute, making it easier if you do your part.

    reviewed May 30th, 2012 (purchased for $1,700)
  • Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp, light weight, somewhat small, tank
    front rotates, push-pull design, some flare

    I've had this lens since new and used it for several years on film bodies. I keep thinking about upgrading for zoom range, but the 35-70 keeps producing superb images. The hood stays on it to defend against flare.

    This is a bright, extremely sharp pro-grade lens that need never be updated in your kit. The price I paid new was a bargain then and the price used today is certainly a bargain. Be careful in that some used models seem to have haze and fungus. Look closely, then be ready for one of the finest lenses for the money you can purchase.

    Even though I can write off a resplacement and upgrade to the 24-70 f/2.8, I feel no need with this lens in the bag. It's not about money. It's about sharp image quality across the plane. It's about clear, crisp and biting quality you get with some Nikkor lenses. Combined with the Nikkor 16-35 f/4 and the wonderful 2-ring 80-200 f/2.8 you have a killer pro kit on a budget that can stay with the trinity all day long for not much more than one of the trinity.

    As I get older and maybe retire from paying photography, I might move to more VR lenses. My hands aren't as steady as once were. Even so, I doubt I'll update the 35-70 f/2.8. You have to use it for a while to appreciate what you get here.

    I don't find the macro mode particularly useful. It's only at 35mm and disables autofocus. I don't find the macro IQ much to write home about either, so I'd not consider it an benefit even in an emergency.

    reviewed October 14th, 2012 (purchased for $600)
  • Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp, fairly light weight, perfect ultra wide range, balances nicely

    I preordered this lens when it was announced, something I don't ever do, but I wanted an ultra wide for FX to go the the Grand Tetons with. I read the initial reviews posted by the internet forum nay-sayers and felt a bit discouraged. Then I got the lens and actually used it. What a pleasant surprise. Goes to show why not to listen to the intitial views of the pixel peeping measurabators.

    This lens might be one of the sharpest, most contrasty lens in my kit. If I do my part, the output is stunning to say the least. This lens is usually mounted to my D700, D3S or my D800 and finds itself at paid assignments as well as pleasure photoshoots.

    The 16-35 f/4 is a tough lens. Situated on the side of a mountain in driving sleet and snow for six hours waiting for after storm light, I just kept knocking sludge off of it and the D700. No damage and no fear of it. It just kept doing what it was designed to do.

    My sweet spot in FX extra wide is around 24mm. My rational for not getting the 14-24 f/2.8 was that I'd always be fighting that 24mm area and need to change to a longer lens. The 16-35 f/4 allows plenty of room both side of 24mm so I am always able to adjust. Just makes sense.

    This lens has incredible barrel distortion at 16mm and goes away fairly fast as you zoom in. The thing is that if you don't want it, it's so simple to process it away in or out of the camera. It's not a problem unless you're stitching panos at that length. It's a very simple type of barrel distortion.

    Now, let me say this and I'm sure I'm rare, but I love a good bit of barrel distortion at times and have been known to add it in on some images. A fisheye has a ton of it and can really be creative. Your eye has a huge amount of barrel distortion your brain doesn't allow you to notice unless you try. I sometimes love the look which really only is seen on a straight horizon or with lots of horizontal lines. It can be very fun. Correct it if you don't like it, though.

    This lens is a real work horse as well as a fun creative chunk of high quality glass. I highly recommend it.

    reviewed October 14th, 2012 (purchased for $1,250)
  • Nikon 28mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp and contrasty on my D700, D3S and D800. Crystal clear rendition with no color cast.
    Almost too light weight for a $700 lens if that's possible.

    I was in one of my favorite camera stores buying a new Nikon V1 for my gal when feeling a little under the weather, I started looking at glass. Spending can perk me up. ;)

    I'd been casually thinking about this new 28 f/1.8G for a couple of months but was a little worried about the reports of focus shifting and had 28mm covered so many ways. Besides, I rarely need fast glass in wides. Also 28mm is not my sweet spot. I bought it anyway on shear impulse thinking I could return it if it had too much uncorrectable focus shift.

    I'm going to have to say I'm quite happy with the initial results on all three FX cameras I own. Not only is there not perceptable focus shift but the lens is sharper and more contrasty than I ever expected. It has as pretty and as clean of an output as any of my top lenses like my 85 f/1.4G or any other Nano coated lens in my kit. Even the bokeh is rather nice if slightly busy. It's creamy enough and better than most wides. That's for sure.

    The only possible negative I can think of is that it's almost too light weight. All my FX cameras and one DX model are somewhat heavier all magnesium bodies. All my better glass is heavier metal and glass lenses, so this lens is super light. It feels like my 50 f/1.8G for Heaven's sake. As good as it is, I'll get used to it, I'm sure. I might even learn to love 28mm. ;)

    I"m going to use it on the job next week and that's saying something for sure. I usually use a lens for pleasure a long time before committing to it on paid assignments. Highly recommended.


    reviewed October 21st, 2012 (purchased for $699)
  • Nikon 35mm f/2D AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very small and light weight. Real DOF scale. Sharp enough
    A tad soft wide open. Needs screw on hood.

    I think this lens is a pretty good FX lens, especially when used on a forgiving camera like a D3 or D700. For people and groups, it does a superb job. On my D700, I've made credible landscapes and scenic shots at f/8.

    I think it's a very nice lightweight companion which is often underrated by novice and DX shooters. I own both the 35 f/1.8 DX and this lens and would more often choose this lens just to get the better build quality and depth of field scale. Prior to FX, I made quite a few large gallery prints with this 35 f/2 which still sell well to this day.

    When adding a good B+W polarizer and Nikon's metal screw-on hood, you get a nice handle to rotate the polarizer. It's small enough to store with the hood attached. You can't reverse it anyway.

    My newer Nikon 28 f/1.8G has replaced this lens as a standard walk-around on my D800, but I still hold a healthy respect for it today. With hood attached, it still fits in your pants pocket better for a 2 lens walk-around solution on holiday.

    reviewed May 23rd, 2015 (purchased for $300)
  • Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Robust and extremely sharp with a flat field of view. No distortion. Good tripod collar and 3-way Focus Limiter.
    None that isn't inherant for all macro type lenses.

    I purchased this lens not long after it was released because of its specifications for the work I needed done which was studio product photography and copying artwork for artists. Since then, it has also become my go-to lens for outdoor corporate portraiture as well as a great combo wilderness walk-around, bird tagging and macro lens.

    Along with an impeccable build quality, its optical ability has no peer. I've owned a lot of macro lenses in the last 40 or so years and this one might be the finest in every respect. It can play with and outperform the big boys from Nikon and Canon and might be the best of its type made by anyone. This might be a little surprising in that it's from a third party manufacturer, but nonetheless true.

    The only negative, and this is picky, is the rubber type focusing ring tends to bleach out a little over the years. It might be from sun, wind, and saltwater spray when I've extensively used it on barrier island bird ringing expeditions. It allows me to capture the gull, the tagging ring around the leg, and the number on that tag when that gull won't let me approach too closely. Wipe it down and back it goes to the studio Monday morning. I've used it in this manner on both US coasts, England, The Channel Islands, Portugal and Spain so far.

    It truly deserves the reputation it has and the cult following that exists surrounding this Sigma 150 f/2.8 APO Macro. If you're an unbeliever, rent or borrow one and see for yourself. This lens has paid for itself many times over and in this regard is only rivaled by my Nikon 85 f/1.4. Truly a superb optic.

    reviewed December 6th, 2014 (purchased for $559)
  • Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp and contrasty on my D700, D3S and D800. Crystal clear rendition with no color cast.
    It's a bit of a learning curve maintaining focus on bird in flight.

    I own a Nikon 300 f/2.8 VR and a Nikon 500 f/4. I wanted a zoom in this range for a bit lighter weight use because I've gotten older and developed Parkinson's Disease. This is an excellent lens. If I were one of those forum complainers, I'd have probably returned it in 30 days because I was struggling with autofocus. My keeper rate was very low and as one does, I blamed the lens. Fortunately, I decided logically this was me and this lens just took longer to master. I'm glad I decided to ride the learning curve because this lens can be absolutely spectacular when properly understood. You just can't be sloppy on focus here. My 300 and 500 primes, I can sometimes be, but not this zoom. You have to be certain you're locked dead on target and you're fine. With regards to BIF, I suggest the minimum of a good monopod and careful panning technique at a fairly high shutter speed. You have to get lock early or you just never will. You will have a series of blurred birds. Don't trust tracking either. I've not solved that yet, but I will. I promise.

    If you're patient and take the time to master this lens, it will repay you handsomely by rivaling your very best glass. If you try to push that learning curve with instant gratification, I think you might be an unhappy camper. Just don’t blame the glass. If an older guy with advanced Parkinson’s Disease can master this lens and end up with a good keeper rate rivaling a Nikon 500 f/4-P on Kingfishers in flight, then you certainly can.

    One little warning. Do use the lens hood and you'll have very good flare and ghosting control. Do not use a protective filter unless you want a veiling flare and ghosting even with that hood in contra lighting. I got it with a $200 polarizer too. It doesn't seem to like filters much and that's not a problem for me. Just sayin'

    reviewed July 5th, 2013 (purchased for $2,700)
  • Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very sharp. Easy to use; small and light weight
    Tendency to overuse

    I was looking for an FX fisheye to replace my DX Nikon 10.5 Fish and it came down to this lens or the Nikon 16 f/2.8. The Nikon was over $200 more expensive and most reviews said this lens was slightly sharper. Both had the same 180 degree view somehow. This lens exceeded my expectations and produces very nice and very sharp images if I do my part. The only tendency is that some folks overuse fisheyes. It should be a very specialized lens.

    reviewed June 2nd, 2013 (purchased for $609)