Matthew Saville's reviews

  • Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sigma did everything right with this lens

    I purchased this lens right when it came out, back in 2005. I have used it very heavily and love it to death. It is the wisest lens purchase I have made to date.

    It beats the new Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 DC AND the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 DG Macro by a long shot for sharpness close up. And as an added bonus that most macro lenses lack, the Sigma 150mm is sharp all the way through infinity, not just close up.

    Built tough, love the tripod collar, quick AF. (though it does have a lot of distance to cover even with the AF limiter switch, so it takes some mastery)


    reviewed December 29th, 2006 (purchased for $680)
  • Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Affordability, build quality, speed, sharpness @ f/4
    slightly soft @ f/2.8 and close distances

    I purchased this lens just because it was on sale, so I could compare it with the Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 DC and the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro that I already have.

    Stopped down, this lens is truly as sharp as lenses can get. Rumor has it that it's even sharper than the Nikon 70-200 VR at f/8.

    Wide open though, the Nikon definitely takes a lead, and at close distances, the Sigma definitely takes a hit. Of course if you want to do macro work then you should be on a tripod at f/4 or f/5.6 anyway, but I'm just stating the facts. Awesome lens, half the price of the Nikon. That's a fact.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006 (purchased for $800)
  • Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Built quality, size/weight, sharpness, VR
    AF speed, tripod collar

    This is one of my favorite lenses in the Nikon lineup, especially as a nature photographer. (When photographing events etc, use the 70-200 VR of course!)

    It simply does a job and does it really well- Outdoor photography where stopping down is common, (although the wide-open performance is still great until 400mm) ...and on those hikes where you just can't bring the 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8 etc. etc. (although the 300mm f/4 AF-S makes a great alternative, especially if you are looking for AF speed.)

    It is not intended for shooting something like an indoor sporting event, stage play or wedding. The AF is slow and the apeture is often too slow for the VR to do any good. In decent light the VR can me a Godsend, but not in poor light.

    I think that this lens, paired with a 12-24 DX and a 24-85 AFS, would make the ultimate nature photography setup, discounting fast-apeture work.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF DX AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Build quality, sharpness

    This is one of my favorite Nikon lenses of all time. I prefer it a lot more than the 35mm lens it "immitates", the 17-35mm f/2.8. I didn't like the 17-35 because I don't need the extra apeture so I felt like I was carrying around a hunk of glass that I didn't really need. But the 12-24 is delightfully small and light yet still strong.

    You may want to wait and see what else Nikon offers if you really enjoy an f/2.8 constant apeture, but if you're like me and you shoot nature and often find yourself needing to travel light, then get this lens and you'lll be very glad you did.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM

    7 out of 10 points and not recommended
    Build quality, fast apeture, field of view
    sharpness, cost

    This lens has the reputation as one of Canon's most over-priced L lenses. This is probably because of the disappointing sharpness, or lack therof.

    I used it a bunch on a 20D, and so the extreme corners were hidden so to speak. (but you would hit them on a 5D etc.) On the 20D the sharpness is pretty good, perfectly fine stopped down and decent / use-able wide open.

    The only problem is that you can get a 17-40 f/4 L for half the price. People say that you should only get the 16-35 f/2.8 if you need the apeture, otherwise get the 17-40. But I say, you're probably better off under-exposing with the 17-40, getting a sharp image, and then pushing the exposure. Especially with the amazing high ISO performance of Canon DSLRs.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Build quality, fast apeture, stabilization, sharpness
    price, but well worht it!

    If you're going to get a 70-200mm L lens from Canon, you really will be doing yourself a favor if you "go all the way" and get this lens. Unless you truly don't need the stabilization, in which case you can get the non-IS version for a few hundred dollars less.

    But shooting with it on a 20D, I am stunned, seriously. It's almost as if the AF is faster than my own eyes could be. And the sharpness is pretty much the best you could wish for, all across the board. Feel free to shoot wide open! I wish I could permanently add this lens to my collection.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    fast apeture, size / weight, affordability, sharpness
    non AF-S

    I'm so glad I bought this lens, and I don't know what I'd do without it sometimes.

    Most people should probably just get the 50mm f/1.8 for half the price and be happy, but when you shoot in insanely poor light, you need all the apeture power you can get. And this lens, aside from getting an AIS f/1.2 lens, is the best thing you can get.

    Some complain that it's soft, but mine (an older, non-D version) is amazingly sharp even at f/1.4. It has the kind of wide open sharpness that allows me to shoot at any apeture I want without having image quality ever cross my mind.

    The only thing is, I hope and I bet that Nikon is going to release an AF-S version sometime, at which point I'll want that lens instead, because while AF-D lenses are lightning fast on the better Nikon bodies, I dislike the noise and the necessity to flip a switch whenever I want to focus manually.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006 (purchased for $200)
  • Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and not recommended
    build quality, image quality, apeture
    price, (but worth it) size / weight

    This lens is sort of a black sheep right now. Here's the deal:

    If you shoot with any current Nikon DSLR, you can get the 17-55 f/2.8 DX and you'll have an extra 20mm on the telephoto end.

    Image quality is pretty much the same, (I've shot with both) and some even say that the 17-55 DX can perform better.

    Unless of cousre, you are waiting for Nikon to release an FF DSLR, or unless you still shoot with 35mm film bodies. If that's the case, then either hold onto the 17-35 you already have, or pick one up for cheap on Ebay while everybody is selling theirs so they can get a 17-55... Hah!


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF DX AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    build quality, image quality, fast apeture
    size / weight, cost compared to alternatives...

    When it comes to super-wide angle lenses, Nikon sort of has the best thing out there, with the 17-35mm f/2.8 for film and the 12-24 f/4 DX for digital.

    But in the mid-range, wide-mid range zoom category, some third parties are coming pretty close to Nikon and at a fraction of the cost, making this lens a pretty hard one to decide upon.

    Personally after shooting with the 17-55 DX quite a bunch, I think it's definitely the best out there, but I'd still be tempted by other lenses like the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 or the Sigma 18-50 f/2.8.

    What the Nikon has going for it, though:

    - build quality is definitely a step above any competition. The Tamron is mostly plastic, and the Sigma is definitely not all-metal either. The Nikon is, and it feels burly.

    - the AFS motor, which can be taken for granted and very addictive. The AF speed of the competition might be nearly as good, but the silence of the AFS motor is golden, and the ability to focus manually any time without having to flip a switch is a huge plus.

    Personally I'm willing to forego the AFS motor, in hopes that the upcoming Tokina 16-50 f/2.8 is a winner. But if the Tokina isn't about as sharp as the Nikon, I'll just break down and buy the Nikon.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Fantastic for 35mm shooters
    image quality is slightly lacking

    A lot of people don't like this lens and claim that it's "soft" but soft is very relative. I've found that if you're just looking for a lens to play around with on family trips, especially if you're shooting film, this lens is THE lens to have.

    First of all I'm addicted to having the 24mm field of view, as opposed to the "better" lenses which start at 28mm.

    Second, the VR does indeed come in handy when you're shooting film and it's inherent fixed ISO rating. Instead of pushing your film to get an extra stop of shutter speed at the time of capture, you can let the VR do the work

    If you're digital though, this lens is an annoying 36mm on the wide end. I'd much rather have my 24-85mm AFS, which is smaller/lighter and sharper, thus making it perfect for landscape kind of photography. Whereas again, the 24-120 may be sharp enough for a 5x7" or an 8x10", it's not pro quality.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Affordability, image quality, size/weight
    Build quality, apeture speed

    I liked this lens so much that I bought a second one when my first one broke.

    So right off the bat- yes, it's not the strongest lens in the world, but then again I'm not the most delicate of photographers.

    But, I'd rather carry this small, light weight lens around and replace it every few years instead of lugging around something like the 28-70. I run the risk of dropping the lens and having it break, but I'm willing to take that risk.

    This lens is part of what I consider the ultimate nature photography setup- the 12-24 DX, this 24-85 AFS, and the 80-400 VR. All of those lenses are incredibly sharp, while relatively small and light considering their functional range.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006 (purchased for $225)
  • Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and not recommended
    AF speed, image quality, build quality
    size / weight, cost...

    Aptlly dubbed "the beast", this lens is big and heavy. Some consider it to be worth it, but I had to pass on it after just one engagement shoot.

    Why? It's just too much lens compared to how little it does. 28-70mm is barely more than 2x worth of zoom, and the thing weighs almost 2 pounds. With a UV filer on, you're probably at 1 lb per X worth of zoom.

    That would be bearable if 28mm didn't turn into a relatively useless 42mm on Nikon DSLR's. Which is why, unless you're waiting for Nikon's FF DSLR or you just happen to LIKE the 42-135mm focal range, ...I'd recommend getting the DX equivalent, the 17-55 f/2.8 DX. It's a few oz. lighter, smaller, and in my opinion slightly sharper when comparing 35mm full frame results with 17-55mm APS-C results. (I've shot with both lenses)


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    build quality, image quality, fast apeture, VR
    price, (but worth it) size / weight

    Like the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, this lens simply couldn't get any better.

    It could possibly get more affordable, in my dreams, but...

    Here's the break down:

    The Nikon is the best option out there, but third parties come really darn close, namely the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 EX DG HSM and now the new Macro version. There's a mean rumor going around that the Sigma is sharper than the Nikon when stopped down, and stopping down might imply that you shoot nature from a tripod and won't need VR anyway, in which case I'd recommend getting the Sigma instead. But the Nikon is decidedly much sharper wide open, so that and the VR would incline me to recommend the Nikon if you frequently shoot in low light.

    The Nikon costs about twice as much as the Sigma, and maybe it's not exactly twice as good, but it's definitely worth it if you truly need that extra edge.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Build quality, image quality, fast apeture
    Poor tripod collar, zoom ring loosens...

    Some argue that this lens is even sharper than the already legendary Nikon 70-200. All I know is that this lens has is resopnible some if the sharpest, highest quality images I've ever captured.

    If you're not going to need VR, (if for example you shoot fast moving things like sports players, who aren't going to be standing still for your VR to be of optimal use) or if you really prefer using a monopod, then hunt down one of these lenses on KEH or Ebay and enjoy.

    Be prepared however, certain vintages of 80-200 f/2.8 Nikon's are known to have the Zoom ring start loosening, and the tripod collar is not that useful. So this is therefore a great lens to use outdoors, hand-held, when image sharpness is paramount.


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG Aspherical

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Build quality, image quality, affordability
    no front threads

    This lens is a good performer on both 35mm film and digital SLR's, as well as APS-C DSLR's. Image quality isn't the best if you're looking for a landscape lens to print 20x30" prints with and inspect the corners with a magnifying glass, (you get the point) ...but for what it was designed for, (journalism, events etc.) it does it's job amazingly well and at a decent price.

    One tip is, there exists (I forget which make) a slip-on lens hood that converts this scalloped hood so that it has 82mm front threads, which you can use on an APS-C DSLR but not FF. So your'e not completely out of luck if you have a 30D or a D200 and want to use a circular polarizer- You just have to buy the expensive 82mm ones, and hunt down that adapter... Good luck!


    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM APO

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    build quality, image quality, fast apeture
    vignetting, close-up softness

    This is my most recent lens purchased, (obviously since it just hit the shelves a couple months ago) ...and I really love it.

    I also have the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro, which is legendary for it's image quality, and upon testing I've found that the Sigma 50-150 (at 150mm) is on par by f/8 close up, and sooner near infinity.

    The lens is definitely not built to shoot close up wide open like the 150mm is, the 50-150 exhibits heavy vignetting and sever image softness at 3 ft. focus distance. The sharpness is drastically improved by f/5.6 though, and the vignetting also goes away a lot by stopping down or backing off from 150mm a little.

    The way I convinced myself to be happy with this performance is by telling myself that at 150mm on an APS-C DSLR, I'm actually at 225mm field of view, which is 25mm extra compared to a 70-200mm lens on an FF body. 135mm is what, on my D70, would roughly equal 200mm, and at 135mm the Sigma 50-150 does great.

    So I highly recommend this lens!


    reviewed December 29th, 2006 (purchased for $690)
  • Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X 17 AF PRO Aspherical

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Build quality, image quality, affordability

    I've had this lens for almost a year now, and I really love it. It's sharp, it's small, it's light, well okay it's kind of heavy. But it's strong and durable, if you think of it that way.

    It is prone to CA, but I'm just happy that it's sharp from corner to corner, because you can fix CA in Adobe Bridge quite easily, but lenses this sharp are hard to find. I've even tested it to be slightly, SLIGHTLY sharper than the Nikon 17-55 f/2.8.

    These are somewhat hard to find at times, but hawk KEH and Ebay for a month and you can find a great deal, and I highly recommend it if you can pay as little as I did...

    reviewed December 29th, 2006 (purchased for $225)
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharp, built like the pro 50 1.4, accurate and consistent focus

    Unfortunately, in my opinion the copy of the lens used in the official SLRgear review must be a lemon copy, because mine is *INCREDIBLY* sharp even wide open. I don't know about charts and graphs, and I'm only shooting on a D700 not a D3X, but the bottom line for me is that this lens is WAY sharper than any other affordable 50mm lens on the market, except the new Nikon and Sigma 50 1.4's. This lens even beats the Canon 50 1.4, at f/1.8 and f/2, by a considerable margin. (With the multiple copies of the Canon 50 1.4 that I've tested, and the single copy of my Nikon 50 1.8 AFS-G.)

    I've been shooting with this lens all summer at weddings, and I don't hesitate at all whatsoever to shoot this lens even wide open for even the most important portraits. Maybe I bump from f/1.8 to f/2 most of the time just to milk a bit more sharpness out, and it seems to flatten the plane of focus too. But by f/2 and especially f/2.8, this lens is just flawlessly sharp. I couldn't be happier.

    Anyways, I didn't care much for 50mm in the past. I'm really a 35mm + 85mm kinda guy when it comes to primes. So I never felt like spending the extra money on the Nikon or Sigma f/1.4's, and the f/1.8 D is just not really a professional work tool in my opinion. It's not built as well as the 1.8 AFS-G, and autofocus is that crummy screw-drive focus that jitters if you like to use AF-C all the time.

    I'm very impressed that this lens has very solid (albeit "super-plastic") construction, like the 50 1.4 and unlike the 1.8 D. It even has a weather sealing gasket, and comes with a hood. Totally worth the extra ~$100 compared to the f/1.8 D, and unless 50mm is your absolute FAVORITE focal length, this lens kinda makes the f/1.4 AFS-G seem like a slight waste of money.

    In closing, I'm so pleased with this 50 1.8 AFS-G that I really, really hope Nikon also has a 85 1.8 AFS-G up their sleeve. I can only imagine how light, sharp, and snappy that lens will be!

    reviewed August 16th, 2011 (purchased for $220)