Harry Lavo's reviews

  • Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro APO

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Inexpensive; very decent quality if used properly; good macro
    Soft above 200mm in normal mode; fails to seek focus sometimes

    This is a tricky product...because if used properly it is quite good, but if used improperly it is useless above 200mm.

    What do I mean by "use properly". Just this: the lens is quite sharp in "normal" mode one stop above wide-open, and useable wide open at most focal lengths....that is up to 200mm. Above 200mm sharpness desolves quickly....UNLESS...one switches to macro mode. The lens will then stay even sharper from 200mm up to 300mm. In other words, "macro" isn't just for macros, but also essential for the tele end of the range.

    In macro mode the lens is soft at some apertures but very sharp at its optimum f/13, with a usable range from about f/9 up to f/16.

    The most annoying thing about the lens is its tendency to just quit looking for focus sometimes...in this case it is necessary to manuall focus to the vicinity, then let auto take over. It also helps to look for a really sharp contrast to focus on.

    So it is a quirky lens. But if you learn its quirks...and learn to live with them...it is a tremendous bargain. It will outperform Nikons own 70-300 non-VR handily, and its 70-300 VR in the 200-300 range (when used in "macro" mode as suggested above).

    Since the lens is light it is easy to handhold, and in good light is quite capable of capturing birds in flight.

    The DG designation indicates both glass and multicoating designed to reduce glare and I can personally attest to that since I also own the older 70-300 APO Super. That lens went out longer in "normal" (to 240mm), was sharp again in "macro" at 300mm, but useless if the subject light agains a dark background in bright light.

    So I give the DG version perhaps a better rating thatn some people, but it is contingent on using it properly.

    reviewed August 11th, 2008 (purchased for $169)
  • Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Excellent overall IQ; high quality construction; "emergency macro"
    Loss of contrast, glare at long end; limited range at wide end

    I bought this lens to use as a "portrait zoom" to fill in between my very sharp Tamron 17-50 2.8 and my Nikon 80-200 2.8 in a compact three lens journalism kit. It fills the bill nicely.

    Between 35 and 60mm, the lens is superb rivaling the best Nikon portrait lens in quality. From 60-70mm the lens loses contrast, and tends to expose "hot" due to glare (but without overexposing in AF on my D300). I keep a macro in Capture NX to run exposures throgh taken at this length which reduces exposure and adds contrast.

    The lens is extremely well built, as were most good lenses back in the late '80's when this lens was first introduced.

    Prices for used lenses have gone up since Nikon introduced the D3 and especially the D700, as these lenses are ideally suited for the full frame format.

    So, all in all, less of a bargain than it used to be, and with its quirks....but excellent optics overall, with the "character" of the better old Nikon portrait lenses.

    If it meets your needs, I can recommend it.

    reviewed September 6th, 2008 (purchased for $295)