Monday, August 30, 2010

Nikkor glass: Good-buys and Good-byes

I gave my advice on purchasing used or refurbished Nikon dSLR bodies here, now I'll talk about lenses.

I'm not going to give pricing level indicators as I did with the bodies. Once you find what you're looking for, price check with others to make sure you're not being taken.

I have experience with all of these.

First off, let's start with the

Good-byes: Nikkor lenses I would avoid
18-105 VR. The D90 kit lens, I was never particularly happy with it. The VR didn't seem to work well, AF-S manual focus override (being able to turn the focus ring instantly to override autofocus) didn't seem to work at all, and it seemed soft. Maybe I just got a bad sample, which I'd like to hope, because this lens could otherwise be a more affordable alternative to the 18-200.

18-135. My objections are similar to the 18-105VR. Low image quality, crummy build.

18-55/18-55VR/18-55VRII. Unlike the above two lenses, I'd be perfectly happy to find one of these gems in my bag. But I wouldn't go out and purchase one. Lack of autofocus override sinks the deal for me.

55-200/55-200VR/55-200VRII. Same as with the 18-55s, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot with one of these lenses, but if it's my dosh, I'd spend it elsewhere.

14-24. If you need it — and if you can afford it — you're probably not reading this blog for advice. For us mere mortals, I would recommend the 16-35 f4 instead.

Good news: that's it! Not too many Nikkors I've used make the DNP list.


Good-buys: Nikkors I'd put in my bag
18-70
. A forgotten lens from the D70 days, but excellent. No VR, otherwise a fine piece of kit.

16-85. A little wider and a little longer than the 18-70, but also considerably more expensive.

10-24DX or 12-24DX. Get the 10-24 if you need the extra 2° at the wide end, the 12-24 if you need better build quality. The 10 is an f3.5-4.5 variable aperture lens, while the 12 is fixed at f4.

17-35. In a pinch this lens doubles as a weapon, a plus for photojournalists shooting in dangerous parts. The new 16-35 performs much better wide open and in the corners and is reputed to be built just as well, but for serious PJ work I'd prefer the 17er. Fixed f2.8 is a plus, too.

70-300 VR. Make sure you get the VR model, not the ED and not the G. (They all pile up. The bottom of the pile is the 70-300 G, followed by the 70-300 ED G and then the top of the heap, this 70-300 AF-S VR G.) If you're shooting with almost any daylight, this is enough.

18-200. If buying used — and I wouldn't hesitate to — I'd look especially for the first generation without the zoom lock. That one little thing seems to add quite the price premium, when the glass inside is the same. So long as you know what you can reasonably expect from this lens, you should be happy.

35 1.8 DX. Every DX shooter should have one of these. Period. FX shooters would do well to consider...

50 1.8 AF-D. An excellent, excellent time-tested design. If you have the money, need the extra half-stop or need instant manual focus override (AF-S), go ahead and drop another $300 or so on the...

50 1.4 AF-S. Zoom-zoom fast in low light, but no zoom. Get it?

85 1.4 AF-D. Nikon just released an AF-S update to this venerable glass but I doubt there's enough difference to justify the price difference.

I've not shot with it, but... 24 1.4. I hear good things about it from the early adopters. Of course, you will pay for the privilege of seeing in the dark: about $2,200. In case you want to get smart, the discontinued 28 1.4, which shouldn't perform as well as the new lens, goes for over $3,000 used. Ouch.

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