tclune's reviews

  • Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X 124 AF PRO DX II SD

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    sharp, high-contrast, excellent color fidelity UWA

    This lens is wonderful! It is well-made, tack-sharp, focuses well and is virtually without CA (which I attribute to my D5000 's processor rather than the lens itself, but on that body this lens is a marvel).

    I have taken a set of images at the Grand Rapids Meijer Gardens Chihuly glass sculpture exhibit that illustrate the lens properties:
    I down-res'ed the images for upload purposes, but they still give a reasonable idea of what this lens can do. I experimented with indoor hand-held architectural photography using the Tokina here:

    Some people have reported that the lens comes on/off their Nikon only with difficulty. My copy is as well-made in that regard as any Nikkor lens, but YMMV. The only negative I have encountered is that the lens hood impinges slightly on the upper left/right corners of the FOV at max width. All-in-all, I am absolutely thrilled with this lens.

    reviewed August 20th, 2010 (purchased for $500)
  • Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 SP AF

    7 out of 10 points and not recommended
    Extremely sharp, creamy bokeh
    CA, too cramped macro focal distance

    I picked up the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 1:1 macro lens while the Tamron $50 rebate is still in effect (good through the end of year). I am pretty much limited to lenses that are $500 or less, and have a Nikon D5000, so I was interested in a lens with a focusing motor. This lens, after rebate, was just over $400. One of the things that I wanted was to use the lens for indoor photos of school plays and the like, so I wanted it to be as bright as possible. I don't currently have a macro lens, so that was a plus -- although I am not really into macro photography, and have the Kenko 3 extension tubes set that has met what little need I have for such things so far.

    I am very favorably impressed with many aspects of this lens. It is sharper and brighter than the Nikon 85mm f/3.5 micro lens which was also in my price-range. This Tamron is just about as sharp as a lens can possibly be. Its color rendition, contrast, and bokeh are very pleasing. The motor is not silent, but close enough for me. The speed of focus is adequate for my purposes -- I don't do sports shooting and the like. Truth to tell, I don't have the chops for anything that won't sit still for me to figure out what I need to do.

    Two aspects of the lens were disappointing, however. First, there is a lot more chromatic aberration (CA) than I was expecting, especially given SlrGear's assessment of CA on this lens. I use the auto-lateral CA removal with Capture NX2 and I never see any CA after that on any other lens I own -- even those that are known for their tendencies in this direction (my other lenses include the Tokina 12-24 f/4 DX II and the Nikon 35mm f/1.8). This lens, however, showed very obvious CA, especially wide open, even after removing lateral CA. The good news is that I am able to fully remove the CA using Capture NX2's axial CA removal slider. I just wasn't expecting to have to.

    Second, the clearance distance between the lens and subject at 1:1 is stunningly short. Because the lens trombones and is recessed into its housing, at 1:1 the front of the lens housing is not much more than one inch from the focal point. I was expecting much better working distances from a 90mm lens. Macro isn't that important to me, so this isn't that big a deal. But, if I were actually caught up in macro (which I imagine the target market is) this lens would make me uncomfortable for that use. And it would not be possible to add one of the Kenko extenders to increase the magnification of this lens.

    Overall, I am quite happy so far with this lens. It is a very good bargain. But it is not an unalloyed blessing.

    I have a small gallery of photos that I took while evaluating this lens that shows the CA issue as well as the wonderful sharpness and creamy bokeh here: In addition, the gallery may illustrate a problem that I have heard others mention -- on smooth focal regions, the focusing system does not seem to function as well as many other lenses do. But, as I comment in the gallery, I'm not absolutely sure that the back-focusing on one of the images was the fault of the lens and not "cockpit error." I don't think so, but I can't be positive.

    ETA: Having lived with this lens for a year or so now, I wouldn't buy it again. I don't use it much anymore because of the LoCA and its tendency to miss focus at mid distance. I will still use it for macro photography, although I wish it had a better working distance. And, if I am specifically shooting portraits outdoors, I will include this lens in my bag. But, for the most part, it just sits at home. So I've changed my recommendation to a "no," even though the facts about the lens haven't changed over the last year. The lens isn't awful, but it is the only lens that I own that I have such luke-warm feelings about using.

    reviewed December 1st, 2010 (purchased for $410)
  • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED VR AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Inexpensive, good VR, good IQ below 200mm
    too slow for indoors, images get a bit soft at the far end of fl

    I bought this lens as a factory refurb and got a multi-year 3rd party warranty all for $400. The lens is in great shape. The pluses and minuses are pretty much what every review notes -- on the plus side, the lens is very sharp up to about 200 mm; the focusing is fast and accurate; the lens doesn't rotate while focusing; the VR is quite effective.

    On the minus side, the lens gets a tad soft above 200mm; the lens is both on the slow side and has variable aperture. For the price, it is a very good lens, but I still want to get the 70-200 f/2.8 VRII one of these days.

    I have not noticed any CA or distortion with this lens. I use Capture NX2, which auto-corrects these things, so my satisfaction on this score may be as much due to the software environment as the lens itself. But, to my mind, the only real negative is that the apertures are just too small for indoor use. The lens has a bit of a reputation for failing mechanically after two or three years, so I was very interested in getting the warranty with it. So far, I have not had any problems -- although I have only had the lens for less than a year so far.

    I have a small gallery of shots taken at a local secondary school baseball game that can be seen here:

    reviewed May 18th, 2012 (purchased for $400)
  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    bright, good combination of sharpness and color vibrance, versatile prime
    lateral CA

    This is a wonderful lens. It is a light sponge -- it seems like you could shoot in the dark with this puppy. It has very nice color rendition and contrast. While it isn't the sharpest lens in my kit (that honor belongs to my Tamron 90), it is sharp enough that it isn't an issue. The field of view is just about perfect for me -- my first "real" camera was a 35 mm Voigtlander Vito CLR, which had a 50mm lens. This is essentially the same field of view, so using this lens feels like coming home.

    This was the first lens I bought when I got my D5000 body. That combo was the system I wanted to start my foray into dSLRs with, and it continues to be my "go-to" setup, even though I have a few more lenses now. This is a wonderful general-purpose lens if you like shooting with primes.

    About the only thing to be aware of is that the lens has a lot of lateral CA. The D5000 will automatically remove this kind of CA (unlike the LoCA of the Tamron) in JPEGs, and Capture NX2 does the same with your NEF files if you use that, so you may never have to contend with the CA of this lens at all. Indeed, it seems to be designed to sweep all the design faults into this easily-corrected pile.

    But I have seen some folks with older Nikons complain about the CA while folks with newer cameras often have no idea what they are complaining about. If you're shooting with a D40, you need to plan on cleaning up the CA. Unlike LoCA, the CA in this lens can be cleaned up without degrading sharpness, color fidelity, or vibrance -- so it's nothing to worry about if you're willing to spend the time in PP.

    For the rest of us, this lens is one of those wonderful design confluences where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a delight to shoot with.

    reviewed April 29th, 2011 (purchased for $199)
  • Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical IF SP AF

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Sharp, bright glass; rapid focusing even in low light

    I got this lens because I don't have a standard zoom. I wanted a bright, sharp zoom that would work with my D5000, and this was much less expensive than the comparable offerings from Nikon and Sigma (the Sigma with a focusing motor is over $900 and the Nikon is about twice that).

    The one thing that I was worried about was how well it would focus in low light, because a number of other users have faulted it in that regard. I tried the lens out when my son was playing at a dark local bar. I had to set my ISO to my maximum 6400 and the lens to f/2.8. Still, the shutter speed ranged from about 1/10s to 1/30s -- it was dark on that stage! The lens focused without hunting every time. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly and accurately it focused. I don't shoot sports, so I don't have high demands for focusing speed, but for normal use the lens was perfectly appropriate.

    I also have the Tamron 90, which is a very good lens but has a bit of a LoCA problem. I have not yet seen any evidence of LoCA with this lens.

    I like the focal range of this lens -- it is just about perfect for portrait shoots -- how sharp it is, even wide open (though f/4 is even better), and how close the lens focuses. It is ideal as a "walking around lens." For me, this lens is a real keeper.

    ETA: I just finished a two-week vacation with this as my primary lens. My vacation album indicates which lens was used with each shot -- about 2/3 of the shots are with this lens, and can be viewed here:

    The biggest surprise I found when using the lens on vacation was how often I wanted to adjust the barrel distortion at the wide end. The SLRGear review suggests that this is minimal, but for some reason I found it more noticeable than I was expecting. It is simple distortion that is easy to correct, but was just more obvious than I was anticipating. At the long end, I have also occasionally corrected for pin-cushion distortion (again, simple distortion that is easy to correct). Nonetheless, this has become my default lens. It is very pleasing in terms of sharpness, contrast, and color fidelity. And the brightness and focal range are very much to my liking.

    reviewed May 17th, 2011 (purchased for $475)