anabasis's reviews

  • Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    small, well constructed, good IQ
    heavy for size, some CA on digital

    The Nikkor 24mm F2.8 is an autofocus prime that offers sharp images in a compact, and reasonably fast lens. The 24mm is a good landscape and street lens. It is slightly larger and heavier then the 50mm f1.8 lens, but keeps the 52mm filters. The lens is a screwdriver lens that focuses with good speed and minimal noise on the professional line camera, and a bit slower on the consumer bodies. The lens has DOF preview lines from F11 to F22 on the window which is rather disappointing. I miss the older Nikkors with a much more complete DOF scale on the lens. The MF dial is large enough for easy manual focusing, and there is an aperture ring for use on older bodies.
    The lens offers good wide angle performance on film bodies, and acts like a 35mm lens on the digital bodies. This makes it a good “walk around lens” on digital bodies, and a good medium wide angle on film bodies. The images are sharp, contrasty and with minimal distortion. This lens can also be mounted in reverse on a bellows unit for approximately 9:1 magnification with good results.
    This lens is a favorite of mine for walk-arounds with my DSLRs. I like the 35mm angle of view that seems to be more useful then the 50mm focal length. Although 2 stops slower then my 50mm, the speed of the lens is more then adequate for most applications.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $250)
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    BOKEH, IQ, speed
    no AFS, screw on hood

    This is the legendary Nikkor portrait lenses. The lens comes with a screw on hood, excellent metal construction and is a solid performer.
    Image quality at middle distances is fantastic. The BOKEH is to die for, especially wide open, and the 9-bladed iris helps when the lens is stopped down. I prefer to shoot this lens from wide open to perhaps f8 as diffraction at the smaller apertures degrades quality. I like the sharpness and contrast of the lens and it is a top rated performer and a good sports lens for indoor events where the wide aperture makes formerly impossible shots within reach.
    The lens is of an older design however, and could certainly use several upgrades for better performace (while keeping the same image quality). For starters, the screw on hood is difficult to put on the lens, and I am not happy with how I can damage the lens by bumping it against something, as I am prone to doing. With a bayonet lens, the hood flies off and is easily retrievable, with a screw on hood, there is likelihood of thread damage.
    The AF is also a bit dated. While the lens has internal focusing, the use of the “screwdriver” technology makes focus slower, which is a real issue in sports shooting. Also problematic is that there is a ring to select manual or auto focus, and you must switch the ring to engage the MF focusing ring. I would like to see this lens in an AFS form while retaining the IF feature. This would not only speed up focusing tremendously, but also allow for on the fly manual focus over-ride.
    This lens is obviously a portrait lens, and gives top-shelf images when used properly. However the design needs some updating to make it truly spectacular, especially in indoor sports shooting.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $1,049)
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    IQ, speed, VR, BOKEH

    This lens should be a mainstay in any working professional’s camera bag. Not only does it offer the extremely useful focal length range of 70-200mm with a wide f2.8 constant aperture, it also has the added advantages of an AF-S motor for super fast and quiet focusing, and Vibration Reduction to aid in getting sharp photos at lower then normal shutter speeds.

    This lens is larger and heavier then the more pedestrian lenses of its focal range, but the added weight and bulk are soon forgotten as it focusing on moving subjects almost instantaneously and offers selective focus, a creamy BOKEH and color saturation that is just stunning to look at.

    If you like panning, the VR feature gives you vertical stabilization while allowing the horizontal plane to streak. With proper panning technique this feature renders sharp subjects while blurring the background. I get a much higher percentage of sharp images with this feature then with a standard lens. The VR will also allow shutter speeds 2-3 stops lower then normal, but remember that the VR will not freeze moving subjects at such low speeds.

    This lens is the main tool for my sports shooting. The fast response, portability, and useful focal length make it a real winner for hand-held action shooting at moderate ranges. While this lens doesn’t have the reach of a super telephoto lens, the image quality is great, and the features make it an indispensable piece of glass.

    When compared to its immediate predecessor, the 80-200 F2.8D AFS, you will find the lens much more svelte, but about the same weight. Others swear that the new lens is sharper, but I can notice little difference in side by side comparisons of general shooting. The new lens adds a bit on the wide angle side, and offers the VR features. Focusing speed is about equal however. Whether the size and VR features are worth the extra money is up to the photographer, but I would think the extra money is well spent on this lens.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $1,500)
  • Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    price, size, weight, VR
    slow, IQ, slow focusing

    The Nikon 80-400 VR lens is one of the Nikon zooms that uses Vibration Reduction technology that allows the lens to compensate for lens shake at slower shutter speeds. What this feature does is allow for a photographer to hand hold the lens at less then the usual 1/focal length shutter speed. Despite the VR, this is not a replacement for a fast lens for sports due to its slow aperture. The VR feature does help a lot with panning. The lens senses horizontal motion while covering vertical shake during the pan. I can get a stop or two slower with the VR activated which helps compensate the lens’ moderate speed in reduced lighting. The VR feature will only work with newer camera models. This is the only VR lens that has an aperture ring and therefore is can be readily used with many of the older bodies (those with AI metering), and I did quite well with it, sans VR, on my FM2.

    The lens is fairly fat, but not overly long. The lens shade is almost as long as the lens itself at the nested 80mm setting. There is also a tripod collar of the counter-lever design which isn’t as solid as I’d like. The whole collar will flex when holding down the lens which is not conducive to steady pictures. Fortunately, with the VR, hand holding the lens isn’t difficult so I rarely use it on a tripod. When mounted on a tripod the VR needs to be turned off but I keep VR on when using a monopod.

    The lens has a smooth zoom mechanism that extends the barrel a bit. The front element does not rotate as it focuses which is good. The focusing is fairly slow due to the fact that it is a screwdriver lens (no AF-S). There is a focus limiting switch which is handy for wildlife.

    IQ has been good, but not up to the pro optics. Stopping down to f8 or so helps a bit, but then you deal with the issues of slower shutter speed. While certainly not poor, the IQ can’t measure up to what I’ve shot with a 400 f2.8 and what I’ve seen from the 200-400. This is to be expected however with a lens a fraction of the price of the other lenses.

    The lens also gives up is close focusing ability. Don’t expect any sort of macro work from this lens. The lens may be a bit slow for some pros, but for amateur use it is a good compromise on reach and speed/VR verses size and weight.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $1,300)
  • Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX IF HSM APO

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    zoom range, IQ, speed
    tripod collar, zoom ring, filters, weight, focus scale

    This is a unique lens available only from Sigma. The lens is fast, versatile, and equipped with an internal Hyper-Sonic Motor) for auto focus.

    The 120-300 offers all the speed and length of 300 F2.8 primes, with the added bonus of being able to zoom out for a bit of framing versatility. The lens weighs in at over five pounds, which is about the same weight and size as most 300 F2.8 primes, so there is little compromise in portability. The lens comes with a leather boot lens cover and a lockable bayonet lens hood. The lens is sharp but loses some color saturation from the name brand primes.

    The HSM focusing is quite fast, and rivals AFS lenses. This lens is very useful in action shooting as you can frame the subject without losing reach, aperture, or AF speed.

    Like all long, fast lenses, this Sigma is equipped with a tripod collar. I am not impressed with its location or size. The collar is too small and located too far back from the front element. Even when the lens is mounted on the heavy F5, the lens wants to tilt the tripod head forward. The foot is also quite small and a larger footprint for added grip on the tripod head would be nice. Also irksome is the very stiff zooming ring. You have to put significant torque on the lens ring to zoom the lens in and out. The focusing scale is un-numbered except at the extremes of the focusing limits which is an unique and unwelcome feature of this lens. The lack of markings makes manual flash work all but impossible with this lens. The final negative issue I have with the lens is filtering. The front element is 125mm in diameter and the lens does not have a rear-mounted filter drawer like most 300mm primes. Filtering this lens will be very expensive and limited.

    In the end, if you need a fast 300mm, with the versatility of a zoom, and much less then the name brand 300 primes, this is a fine choice of lenses, but be aware of its limitations.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $1,800)
  • Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG Aspherical

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    angle of view, FF
    size, slow

    The Sigma 15-30 is one of my favorite lenses for wide angle work. The lens is a bit big, but not heavy at all, and offers sweeping rectilinear views that are beautiful for both film and DSLR users.

    On a film camera the lens acts as an ultra-wide to moderate wide angle lens. The lens is a bit on the slow side, but images are sharp, and distortion is minimal. The lens can be used in manual focus or auto focus, with the focus ring being disengaged manually for the latter. The focusing is internal, but not all that speedy. Fortunately it hits infinity at less then 10 feet, and with its large DOF, the slow focusing speed is not all that important in general photography work. The zoom ring is smooth and the front element sides back and forth in the integral pedal-shaped lens hood. Flare can be a problem is if the lens is zoomed way out and the sun is in the frame.

    The front element is a hemisphere and precludes the use of front-mounted filters. There is a small holder in the back of the lens that small gel filters can be slid into, but the use of standard polarizers is precluded.

    The lens cap of the Sigma is in two parts, the first is a ring that fits over the pedals, and the second is an 88mm standard cap. When using the lens on a standard camera (35mm sensor/film plane) both parts of the cap must be removed to avoid light fall off. If the camera is used on a 1.5x or more DSLR, then the ring can remain on the lens without any problem. The lens has an angle of view with a 1.5x factor of about 22 to 45mm which isn’t too bad for most applications.

    The large diameter of the lens does have its drawback with my D100. The built in flash is shaded at all but the longest focal lengths, requiring a shoe or external flash mounting to shoot at wider angles.

    As to be expected with a lens with this focal range, the depth of field is considerable, and keeping foreground and background elements in sharp focus is relatively simple, even when the lens isn’t stopped down too much.

    Included with the lens are a padded case with shoulder strap (very nice case), as well as front and rear lens caps, and a small template for cutting filters (easily lost).

    A great lens for wide angle work, especially for DSLR’s, and while more expensive then a lot of other more standard lenses, is very competitive for its class.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $550)
  • Tamron 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspherical AF

    4 out of 10 points and recommended
    cheap, light
    poor BOKEH, no focus indicator, plastic lensmount

    This is a light weight, cheap lens. It is slow, and not too great on the zoom range, but the cost and weight of the lens make it good for carrying the camera around to shoot snapshots when you don’t want to drag around a heavier lens.

    The lens works well on both film and digital cameras, and is good for general shooting. It comes with the lens caps and a lens shade. Since the manual focus ring is a bit on the narrow side, I often find that I focus it with the lens shade on the FM2.

    I don’t use this lens too often, except when weight is a consideration and I don’t expect to need a longer or faster lens.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $140)
  • Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di AF

    5 out of 10 points and not recommended
    10.7x Zoom, weight, size
    IQ, plastic build

    This is what I carry with me when I go on my ship. You can’t beat its weight and size in a 10.7x zoom for both film and digital SLR’s. Granted it is a bit slow, especially on the long end, and the image quality dips at 200+mm, but it replaces a case-load of lenses that I don’t have the room for.

    This lens is compact to carry when it is at 28mm, and balances quite nicely on the D100 (where it is basically a 42-450mm lens) and I find it nearly perfect on the ship for most of the things I want to shoot. I would like to have a bit wider angle but the lens does well enough for most applications.

    When the lens is zoomed out, the barrel extends like a telescope. The body is mostly plastic, so you can’t beat it up too much. There is a removable lens shade as well as lens cap that round out the configuration. The focusing throw is quite short, and the focusing is done internally. The focus speed is very slow, so this is not at all a lens to be used with quick moving action. The front element is a decent 62 mm, which allows for relatively inexpensive filtering.

    In addition to a large zoom range, the lens will also close focus at all focal lengths, and will get down to 1:4 at 300mm which is nice for more skittish creatures. The lens is a great travel lens, and will cover most situations if you can’t afford to bring along anything else.

    The fact that it does not provide exceptional imagine quality must be taken into account, although I have produced nice 8x10 images from the lens at 300mm on the D100 (6.1 MP).

    This lenses range on the DSLR’s has been mostly replaced by the various 18-200’s out there which probably offers better performance and would be my choice if I had to do it again.

    reviewed December 10th, 2006 (purchased for $350)