June 29, 2014

New Lens

I had been pinning for a new lens ever since I took my kit lenses to the zoo. I just wasn’t happy with the contrast and detail of the 55-200 zoom. As Nicki gets older, she sits still less and less. I love my primes, but a zoom is becoming a must to photograph a toddler.

I decided to replace my 55-200mm with two lenses: a midzoom/portrait 20ish-70ish lense, and a telezoom 70ish-200/300ish lens. The former covers the distance of my most use primes, and is the lens I expect to utilize the most these days where Nicki is never allowed to wonder that far. The later I expect to like more for things likes recitals and soccer practice. I can wait on that one.

The contenders for my new mid-range Zoom:

  1. Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (~$450)
  2. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 (~$1,000)
  3. Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 (~$600)
  4. Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (~$1,900)

Consumer research on the lenses:

The first lens has been in my “save for later” list on Amazon since before Nicki was born. I read a photography forum were all the moms raved about it for child photography. It lacks optical image stabilization, which could be a problem at the far end, so I also started considering the second Tamron on the list. While most of the reviews on the Tamron lenses were overwhelmingly positive, there were more than a few that complained about the auto focusing locking. Apparently when auto focus locks the only way to fix the lens is to detach and reattach it to the camera body. Given that my camera does not have it’s own focusing motor, I was worried that I would be more likely to encounter the locking problem.

The thinking behind considering the nearly $2k Nikon lens is it is one of the “pro lenses”. At that price, I probably won’t be buying anything else camera related for quite some time. Yet, I’d rather buy a top of the line lens that I will love throughout my photography career, than a marginally better lens every few years. In the long run, it’s got to be cheaper, right? The big issue with the Nikon 24-70mm is the weight. It’s nearly two lbs, twice the weight of any other lens I own.

The general rule of thumb that my photography friends tell me is that a lens with constant aperture over the zoom range (e.g. F/2.8) is usually better a quality lens. Then again, I’m trying to train myself not to rely on large aperture.

The third lens, Nikon 24-85 f/3.5-4.5, is actually a kit lens for the full frame (FX) camera models. I admit the fact that it’s a kit lens biased me against it from the start. It wasn’t until I realized my 18-55mm kit lens is also considered semi-pro (as indicated by the gold ring) that I started to lean towards it.

To compare image quality I tried a number of different sites: the digital picture, Ken Rockwell’s review and flickr. The digital picture review made the image seem terribly not sharp, though the sharpness was one of the the things Ken Rockwell raved about. There are also some gorgeous pictures on flickr.

The deciding factor:

A friend pointed out that the Nikon 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5 was available on Nikon’s website refurbished for a roughly $200 off. Yup, I’m cheaped out. At that price I was willing to take a risk.

The verdict:

The lens arrived Monday so this was the first weekend I was able to play with it. We took it out for water play in the park today. It was a hot, bright sunny day and I was exhausted out in the hot sun. I loved the ability to zoom and stay in the shade. The images were pretty sharp too.

Here’s a photo I took of Lily this evening: 1/30s, f/4.5, 28mm focal length, ISO 640.

Lily captured with my new lens
Resized, no other edits

Lily captured with my new lens
Cropped, no other edits

I’m happy with that. At 100% the fur around her eye is a little soft, but given the relatively slow shutter speed, I’m hardly surprised.

The lens is definitely capable of delivering at my current skill level.

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