HighSierra's reviews

  • Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    6 out of 10 points and recommended
    Zoom range, VR-II make for high versatility
    Image and build quality are lackluster for the price

    After using this lens for about 6 months, I recently sold it. Though it is very versatile, and remits you from lens changing if not for an ultrawide or supertele, I was just never that impressed by it's image quality. Essentially, by using this lens, you are transforming your DSLR into a bridge camera with better high ISO performance. The lens is only marginally sharper than that of my Fuji E900 point and shoot, but with more CA and distortion.

    This is perhaps the ultimate lens for "get the shot" people, or those who take what I'd call documentation pictures. Between the large zoom ratio, very effective VR, and the high ISO performance of a good Nikon (or Fuji) DSLR, there should be almost no excuse for missing the shot (other than mediocre AF performance at the long end).

    For me, it is not worth the trouble and risk of taking a DSLR if only to take documentation pictures of an event of place that is not particularly interesting. I would just as soon sacrifice a few percent of image quality and simplify my life with a good P&S. Then spend on lenses that allow more creativity via higher image quality, larger aperture, more extreme focal lengths, etc.

    It really blows my mind to think that people were paying $1000 and up for this lens, just a year or two ago. The build quality is less than I'd expect for the $600 that I paid for it, let alone over 50% more. For this cost, I'd expect a lens that feels extremely well made, but this lens is merely average in that regard.

    In the end, this lens is a jack of most trades, master of none. For those who'd rather not miss a shot than exploit what their DSLR is truly capable of, there is no current substitute.

    reviewed June 14th, 2008 (purchased for $600)
  • Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF DX AF-S Nikkor

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Relatively few optical flaws, good build for the price
    Not the sharpest Nikkor kit lens (see 18-135)

    This is a very solid lens with few weaknesses for the cost. It covers a very nice focal range, and is faster than the typical kit F/5.6 at the long end. Distortion is an issue at 18mm but not too bad through the rest of the range. It has average build quality, and feels solid enough for the price, and handles much better than say an 18-55.

    The question is whether to get this lens, or its' cousin the 18-135. The latter is sharper and covers a wider range, but the issues of vignetting, CA, and distortion are more apparent, and require greater post processing to correct. Also the 18-135 is built more cheaply, lacking a distance scale and having a plastic mount.

    For relevant uses, the 18-70 is a satisfying lens for the price. The relative lack of optical distortions make it more suitable for the JPEG shooter who wishes not to post process their images. If you think this lens works for you, it is certainly a value at current used prices, or in a kit.

    reviewed June 14th, 2008 (purchased for $200)
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G AF Nikkor

    4 out of 10 points and recommended
    Very cheap, light, and compact for a 300mm lens
    Shaky construction, hardly the sharpest pencil in the class

    Let's be honest. This lens is no world-beater, and one wonders how much it even deserves to be called a Nikkor. From about 135mm onwards it is fairly soft, even stopped down to F8 or F11. The extending tube rattles back and forth while the AF clanks, clunks, and hunts in all but brightly lit scenes.

    So why bother? Well despite the drawbacks, it does get you effective 450mm on a DX sensor camera. If telephoto is not your primary focus as a photographer (no pun intended), or you just need a lens for getting closer in low-light where P&S camera go to die, this lens is a very attractively cheap option. I've used this lens to take casual photos at baseball and football games that were nice to have, but not worth investing $1k+ into a single lens for. Considering that ISO1600 was needed for night events, the output from a point and shoot would have been a noise nightmare.

    Without spending $400+ on a 70-300VR or $1k+ for a 300mm F/4, you can buy into this little lens, and get pictures where you otherwise might not have. It's hardly the greatest lens ever built, but considering the price, it has a place and time for those who might need it.

    reviewed June 14th, 2008 (purchased for $125)
  • Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Supreme rectilinear width, sharp and colorful, low CA and distortion, HSM
    Slow max aperture

    I've been extremely happy with this lens. Overall image quality leaves very little to be desired, especially when used at F8, where max sharpness is only lost in the extreme corners at 10mm. At 12mm and higher, distortion isn't an issue, and CA has never been significant enough to merit correction for me.

    I picked this lens because it has the widest angle of view, and closest focus capabilities of the current crop of DX ultrawides, and it has not disappointed in either regard.

    If I could change anything about this lens, I'd make the maximum aperture faster. But considering all of the positives about this lens, it is tough to consider that a con, since after all, you can't have everything.

    The build quality is very nice without being overly heavy, just very solid. The outside finish looks nice and professional. HSM focusing is just as quiet and quick as Nikon AFS.

    Unless one really needs the F/2.8 of the Tokina 11-16 or Nikon 14-24 lenses, the Sigma offers a unique package of characteristics in the best value in ultrawides at this time.

    reviewed June 14th, 2008 (purchased for $460)
  • Nikon 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Extremely sharp straight from F2.8, very solid construction
    Purple fringing around extreme contrast borders at F2.8

    Wow, what a lens! I really can't detect any increase in sharpness when stopping down, on a D200. Thus F/2.8 can be used with impunity and no remorse. Beyond sharpness though, this lens has great bokeh, and a very nice way of rendering tone. Though I'd probably be better off with a more versatile 50-150 or 70-200 for event work, something about the images this lens produces just keeps me coming back for more.

    The only image quality issue I have found is that areas of extreme contrast can be subject to (uncorrectable) purple fringing at F/2.8. Stopping down negates the issue.

    The build is great, with nice crinkled metal, the slide-out lens hood, and damped manual focus ring. Sure it is screw-drive, and not AFS, so it could be quieter, but on a D200 is focuses quite quickly, and i've not had any issues with hunting.

    If you can live with a fixed lens, the Nikkor 180 is a great choice, and quite a steal on the used market currently.

    reviewed June 14th, 2008 (purchased for $440)
  • Nikon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED DX AF-S Nikkor

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Cheap, Light, Sharp, AF-S
    Feels fragile, CA, Distortion, Vignetting @ 135mm, No Distance Window

    This might be the best current large range zoom for Nikon, price considered. It's significantly sharper than the 18-200VR, at a much lower price. The main optical flaws of this lens are CA and distortion, easily solved in post-processing, as is the vignetting at 135mm. You can't replace sharpness that was never there though, hence the reason I prefer it to the 18-200.

    The lens is very light, and makes a D80/90 or lower body hardly seem like a burden, and even lightens the load of my D200 quite a bit. Of course, you get there through the cheap plastic construction, but for sharpness on a budget, something had to give. I find the lack of a focus distance indicator annoying, but just another concession to price, I suppose.

    All-in-all I think this is a very useful lens, as its' flaws are largely forgivable if you don't use OOC JPEG's. For a RAW shooter like myself it is a great carry-around lens at bargain-basement prices on the used market.

    reviewed October 7th, 2008 (purchased for $210)
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    SHARP! Nice Bokeh, Light and Small
    A bit of pruple fringing, not built like a tank

    Whew, and I thought the Nikkor 180/2.8 was sharp! From about f/2.2 on, this lens will just slice you up, certainly the sharpest I've yet mounted to my D200. Most other aspects of image quality are great as well. The only issue I've had in that regard is purple fringing, much like from the 180, particularly at the larger apertures. If only it was correctable easily in software, it would be no worry.

    The lens is built very well, and the internal focus is a welcome upgrade over similar Nikkor primes like the 50/1.8 and 35/2.0. The focus ring could stand to be larger and better damped, but it is an AF lens after all.

    The only reason I'm getting rid of this lens is that I've found the focal length to a bit of a tweener on DX. I'd rather use 50-60 or 135-150. I'm sure this lens would be great on film/FX, filling the hole I use 50 in on DX.

    reviewed October 7th, 2008 (purchased for $340)
  • Sigma 24-60mm f/2.8 EX DG

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Generally sharp, very small for a FX f/2.8 zoom, low distortion
    Just enough CA to need correction

    The value of this lens as sold by Cameta for around $200 is undeniable. Furthermore, it is very compact for an f/2.8 zoom which covers the full FX/film plane.

    I generally find the lens to be quite sharp, even at f/2.8. I owned the Nikkor 35-70 F2.8 at the same time, and did not find any significant difference in image quality at shared focal lengths. At f/2.8 it has just as nice a bokeh as the Nikkor, if not slightly better. It is also very sharp stopped down for landscapes.

    I have no real issue with the focus speed, on my D200. Despite being a screw-drive lens, it focuses faster and quieter than the Tamron 17-50 with "built-in motor" which I owned previously. It is not as quick or quiet as the ring-type HSM of the 10-20 or 50-150 Sigmas, but it certainly could be worse.

    I actually like the 77mm filter size, as it is easy to share with a number of other lenses that use it, as compared to a more oddball size like 72mm.

    reviewed October 7th, 2008 (purchased for $192)
  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 II EX DC HSM APO

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Convenient size/range/aperture, sharp, nice bokeh, great HSM and build
    Uncorrectable color fringing in OOF areas, wish it could focus closer

    The lens produces very satisfying sharp images throughout the zoom range. Not quite as bitingly sharp as the 50 1.8, 85 1.8 , and 180 2.8 primes it replaced, but close enough for the convenience of a zoom to win out. I also feel this lens produces nicer bokeh than any of those three (rounded 9-blade aperture anybody?)

    My only real issue with the image quality is a type of CA which occurs most noticeably around OOF areas when stopped down, as it is not correctable via normal means. The lens exhibits very little CA in areas which are in focus. There is a bit of vignetting at the long end, but that is easily correctable. Distortion is usually not a significant issue.

    The HSM is true ring-type, super quick and quiet. The lens is built very nicely, like a solid block, and both control rings are wide and nicely damped. This is the best manual-focus AF lens I've owned.

    reviewed October 7th, 2008 (purchased for $650)
  • Tokina 17mm f/3.5 AT-X 17 AF PRO Aspherical

    7 out of 10 points and recommended
    Center sharpness, color, contrast, very solid build
    Corner softness, high CA

    Used on a Nikon D700 (full-frame) the corners of the frame produced by this lens were never truly sharp, even at f/16. The center was sharp straight from f/3.5 onwards. By f/8, a relatively small portion of the corners was still soft.

    A rather high amount of CA was found across the frame, but was largely correctable. The CA found in the corners however, could not be corrected for completely, either in-camera, or in post.

    The lens does flare pretty easily, even when using the hood, but it doesn't erode contrast across the frame too much. The flare itself, I'd call good, in the sense that it is relatively pretty, unlike the flare produced by many more complex zoom lenses.

    Overall the lens produces very nice images, in terms of color, contrast, and sharpness (outside the corners). If you crop your shots to about 20mm equivalent, or use the lens on a DX/EF-S camera, the corner issues should be negligent, especially at smaller apertures.

    The build quality is great, typical Tokina AT-X Pro. My only small complaint is that the focus ring, when used in MF mode, doesn't have the smooth, damped feel of the 20-35 or 28-80 AT-X Pro lenses.

    To sum up, a very well built lens which produces nice images but not without fault on a full 35mm frame.

    reviewed June 29th, 2010 (purchased for $300)
  • Tokina 20-35mm f/2.8 AT-X 235 AF PRO

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharpness, contrast, great MF feel, fast aperture
    High, but correctable CA, long minimum focus distance

    Using this lens on my Nikon D700, I find it to be an excellent, if oft overlooked, zoom lens. While the frame is a bit soft at the edges at f/2.8, it sharpens up nicely across the board with stopping down. CA is ever-present across the frame, but easily removed either in-camera or in post.

    The weakest point of this lens has to be the minimum focus distance (MFD), which only allows for about 10:1 reproduction ratio, at best, on the 35mm end. This can be a bit limiting of composition, especially at the 20mm end. So don't buy this lens if you are into wide-angle close-ups.

    One of the best aspects of this lens is the focus clutch. While a touch fiddly to engage (one must first focus to infinity or MFD with AF, then move the ring to the right setting, and pull back), it allows the lens to have a buttery smooth damped feel in MF, yet focus very fast in AF. The MF is so good that I enjoy using it on my FM2. In this regard, it is like two lenses in one.

    The build quality otherwise is very high, with tough-feeling metal all over. The focus and zoom rings have nicely differentiated patterns, and the hood is even lined with felt.

    Overall this is a very good lens for full-frame photography, with much better corner performance than its' fixed 17mm cousin. At the bargain used prices it sells for, it is a real bargain.

    reviewed June 30th, 2010 (purchased for $250)
  • Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 Di SP AF

    5 out of 10 points and not recommended
    Light, low CA
    Cheap construction, soft until well stopped down

    Even after having my copy adjusted by Tamron, the corners were still extremely soft, until at least f/11, where they became more tolerable. I'd never use this lens wide-open, as the region of sharpness was restricted only to the very middle of the frame. CA was pretty low for an FX wide zoom.

    I am not a fan of the construction of this lens. The focus ring rotates very freely, even with the AF motor of my D700 engaged. As a result, it was easy to inadvertantly turn the focus ring against the AF motor, which I can't imagine is good for the camera.

    Furthermore, this lens is made from the cheapest, flimisiest feeling plastic I've ever seen on a lens. Noticeably worse than the other Tamrons I've owned, and worse than Nikon kit zooms. The hood is overly wide, making it difficult to fit the lens in a bag when mounted.

    In the end, there are better FX wide zooms out there. The Tokina 20-35 is far better built, sharper, and constant f/2.8. It often sells for less than this inferior Tamron.

    reviewed June 30th, 2010 (purchased for $250)
  • Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM APO Macro

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Perfect images, every time
    AF not blazing as ring-type HSM should be

    What an excellent lens! Though it is nothing new, I must add my name to the list of those singing the praises of this macro lens.

    Pretty much regardless of aperture and subject distance, you are guaranteed to get a superb image from this lens, with impeccable sharpness, clarity, bokeh (where applicable), and very low optical distortions. There is nothing bad I can say about the optics of this lens. It does just as well at portraits and landscapes as it does macros and product shots.

    The AF mechanism is the only slight letdown of this lens. For macro, the average speed is not a big deal, but for general telephoto use, I wouldn't mind it being a bit quicker. Otherwise, the physical attributes of the lens are all very well done, including the removable tripod foot.

    Unless you feel that a fixed lens in this focal length class would be too limiting for your uses, there is no reason not to buy this lens.

    reviewed June 30th, 2010 (purchased for $500)