Intermediate/"Prosumer" Lens Collection

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Pigmyracer, May 3, 2010.

  1. Pigmyracer macrumors newbie

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    Apr 12, 2010
    #1
    Like my father before me, I am a closeted photographer. I enjoy taking pictures although I've never quite had time to take full advantage. I'm currently shooting a Nikon D80 although I've considered a D300s or D700 (an overly expensive proposition at the moment). Basically, I'm looking for an intermediate level lens kit for my Nikon that won't break the bank (assume for argument's sake that I don't have any lenses at the moment). In terms of use, I like to do a lot of action photography at a variety of ranges. I enjoy wildlife photography and would like to get more involved but my big demand is probably sports. I take pictures at all of the local cycling races, which means fast moving subjects. My last real "vice" is architectural photography (aside from your basic candid shots every now and then). I don't know helpful a description this is so feedback and suggestions are welcome.

    As an aside, I was also wondering what people thought of non-Nikon lenses for Nikon bodies. My father always bought Nikkor lenses, no matter what, on the assumption that everything else was crap. Does that belief actually hold? Are Sigma lenses of good quality? Again, help of any kind would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. jdavtz macrumors 6502a

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  3. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    Budgets are helpful.

    We want to keep that bank unbroken.
     
  4. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #4
    For sports and wildlife, you want two things- speed and length. *sumer grade lenses tend to not give you speed, so your best bet is to get professional lenses, current or a couple of generations back depending on your quality and budget requirements.

    Speed is where a new body would help you- newer sensors will go to higher ISO with less noise than older sensors. As you probably know, if you want to have lenses that will work on newer entry-level bodies, you'll need AF-S or equivalent lenses. This increases the price of used lenses.

    In the case of sports, 300mm is the generally accepted "best" focal length. The 300mm f/4 is a good lens, but you'll need to shoot at higher ISO than an f/2.8 lens. The 80-200mm f/2.8 is also a decent lens, though without the reach for even large wildlife. Either of those lenses will however produce acceptable results for sports. The AF-S versions will focus more quickly, but also be more expensive than the AF-D versions- but they also will give you the option of going to an entry-level body for a cheap sensor "upgrade."

    The AF-S version of the 300/4 runs about $1200 in good condition. The EDIF AF-D version is ~$550. The AF-S version of the 80-200 runs about $1100 and the AF-D version $500-750 depending on if it's the two ring or push-pull version.

    Third party lenses vary more than Nikon lenses after the "consumer" level- for instance, the Sigma 50-500 is a good lens for wildlife, though at f/6.3 at the long end, it's only good for shooting in bright conditions and wouldn't make a good sports lens.

    Paul
     
  5. doug in albq Suspended

    doug in albq

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  6. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

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    #6
    Whenever I've thought about buying a new lens, I've relied heavily on Bjørn Rørslett's lens reviews as well as Thom Hogan's. There are definitely high-quality, non-pro lenses available for Nikon.

    But Paul is spot on. The usual trade-off with any current generation prosumer lenses is aperture - usually these lenses' best results come stopped down a bit. That's fine for a walking-around lens or a landscape lens... but not with a lens for sports or any other fast action.

    With wildlife, it really is going to depend on how you are defining "wildlife photography". If you're walking around Jasper and want to photograph that marmot you just ran across, or photographing birds at the feeder in your backyard - then most any decent-quality telephoto will probably accomplish what you want. If you're a serious birder, or planning a safari - that's another matter.

    My suggestion is to think about what - specifically - you want to be able to shoot, and go from there.
     
  7. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    Tokina 12-24 f/4. Lovely and solid, good quality.

    Nikon 18-55 VR (I like the smallness, the lightness, the cheapness, but personally use the sigma 17-70 mentioned above, some people swear by, for example, the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8).

    Nikon 35mm f/1.8 (or the f/2 if you think you might go full frame, the f/2 is a lovely lens too)

    Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 (whichever used variant you can afford, though I suppose the newer ones are faster to focus).

    I would never use anything longer and so can't comment.
     
  8. HBOC macrumors 68020

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    #8
    with sports, i am assuming both indoors and outdoors, yes?
    You will need something with a good burst rate and buffer, as well as a fast lens with some reach.

    I know in the Canon camp (Nikon has their versions of the same FLs) the 70-200 is good for indoors. Outdoors, depends on the lighting and such, but you could "get by" with a 100-400. I would love to use a 600mm f/4 or an 800!

    For architecture, a wide lens is invaluable. I would say something like the Tokina 11-16 or a 10-20(22). Also a 17-50 or 24-70 (in that focal length) would also be helpful for a walkaround..
     
  9. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #9
    This one is pretty easy- start with the 35mm f/1.8, it's relatively cheap, relatively fast and relatively good. The only reason to go wider is if you need to do "Same side of the street" shots or get more in a single shot, then you'll have to decide between something like the Sigma 10-20mm, which will often need a tripod and de-fishing a 10.5mm fisheye. Don't underestimate the value of stitching shots together instead of going wide though when you have that option, though you'll want to have enough DoF for that, which again brings a tripod into the better side of doing things.

    Paul
     
  10. Pigmyracer thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 12, 2010
    #10
    Wow, thank you for all of the replies.

    In terms of budget I am fairly open. Photography is not cheap, never has been, so I am willing to buy what I need regardless of cost but probably over a period of 2-3 years. There is caveat however. I simply cannot afford to spend more than $1,500 per lens (and I can only spend that much on one, maybe two lenses) unless someone tells me that such a limit is unacceptable. I recognize that such a long term strategy necessitates prioritization. In my mind, it makes the most sense to buy a good zoom standard lens ASAP but I'm not sure what range would be most useful or what the next step would be (obviously I can either get a bigger lens or a smaller lens, but going bigger would seem to get very expensive very fast).

    To clear up a few things. 1) The action photography I do is almost exclusively outdoors which, is was mentioned means I need a large aperture in order to achieve the shutter speeds I need. What would an acceptable aperture at the long end be for something along the lines of an 80-400 zoom telephoto? I ask because there is such a Nikkor listed with f/4.5-5.6?

    2) The wide angle for architecture is clearly the way to go, thanks for the suggestions. Any thoughts though on zoom vs. prime (I know compuwar mentioned the 35mm f/1.8 which looks very tempting)?

    3)compuwar, the telephoto is obviously where I am going to be spending the most so I want to skimp as little as possible within reason. Is the aforementioned 300 f/4 "good" or merely "adequate" relative to the f/2.8? What are the negatives of shooting at a higher ISO in that kind of situation?

    4) Someone mentioned Bjorn Rorslett's. I have looked (or tried to look) at his reviews and found it very difficult, not because the site is bad at all, but because there are so many similar lenses and the abbreviations that differentiate them are probably meant for someone with a little better knowledge of Nikon's labeling system. Are there any good sights that will give me a crash course in Nikkor lenses?
     
  11. pdxflint macrumors 68020

    pdxflint

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    #11
    The image quality of the Nikkor 300mm f/4 is excellent--basically as good as the f/2.8 versions. As Paul mentioned, the AF-S version is quite a bit more expensive, and usually would need an aftermarket tripod mount since the included one is considered a bit flimsy. The older version is about half the price on the used market, and is an excellent lens, although it's autofocus isn't as fast. Note: The AF-S version will work with the Nikon teleconverters while the EDIF-AF version (screw drive) will function fully with Kenko converters, which do a great job and maintain very sharp results, especially the 1.4x.

    So, I'd recommend either one of the 300 f/4 Nikkors ($500 or $1000+,) the 80-200f/2.8 AF-D ($750 used, $1200 new,) the Nikkor 17-55f/2.8 (find a exc. condition used one for $750-$900) and the Tokina 12-24 f/4 wide zoom.

    All of these lenses are built to pro standard construction quality, but the only one that is actually weather sealed is the 17-55. But if you want rugged, not necessarily lightweight, lenses, these are all worthy of consideration.

    For disclosure purposes, I will add that I have all these lenses which I shoot on a D300, and if I had to do it over, I'd get the same lenses. So, these are my recommendations from personal experience.

    Good luck whatever you choose. :)
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #12
    The 80-400VR isn't a great lens, and f/5.6 requires 4x the light of f/2.8 for the same shutter speed. Unless you're shooting summer sports in a place that doesn't have many cloudy days, I'd avoid it, and if you are, I'd recommend the Sigma 50-500 instead as the extra bit of loss of light is made up for by the sharpness and extra reach IMO. I own the 80-400VR and have owned the Sigma 50-500.

    Everywhere I can, I shoot with either my 35-70 or 20-35 at 35mm and stitch, but that's mostly exteriors. For interiors speed is necessary, so the 35mm looks to be a bargain- I have a Sigma 10-20mm, but find myself using it less often these days than when I first got it, mostly for those times when I can't back up far enough to use something at 35mm or 60mm. The Nikon 12-24 is also a good choice, but more expensive than the Sigma. You can rent the Sigma and Nikon and choose.

    Really serious architecture shooters are going to spend really serious money on perspective control lenses or a bellows. A lot depends on what you consider architectural shooting and if you can stand to use a tripod- if you can use a tripod, then even the kit lenses won't be too bad at the wide end and stopped down.

    Absolutely nothing touches the 300mm f/2.8 in terms of absolute sharpness, however the 300/4 is good to very good (I own one, but if I didn't have a 400/2.8, I'd definitely own the 300/2.8 instead of the 300/4.) You'll have to shoot a stop faster (remember, each stop is half or twice the light depending on which way your traveling,) which will mean more noise, and potentially not being able to shoot indoors in dark gyms/arenas/rinks or evenings. The positive side is that the 300/4 doesn't require a monopod. The 200-400VR is an obvious choice for wildlife and sports if you can shoot at f/4, but it's out of your price range. Sigma also makes a non-stabilized 300/2.8 that's still a raftload of money, just a smaller raft than the Nikon.

    Many of the lenses Bjorn rates are much older lenses that are AF-D, AIS or manual focus only. AF-D lenses will AF on the D80, but will likely be slower on any of the consumer/prosumer bodies because the lower voltage batteries don't seem to do as well turning the screw. AIS lenses are oldies but goodies. These days though, many used Nikkors are expensive enough that you're better off getting a newer lens IMO.

    Paul
     
  13. Pigmyracer thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #13
    I hate to beat a dead horse but I've done some more research and have developed a few more questions.

    With regards to the telephoto and sports/nature photography... As compuwar suggested, I took another look at the Sigma 50-500mm. I'm generally hesitant regarding "generics" and while I realize that Sigma isn't quite a generic but it also isn't the real McCoy. That said, at $1000 that lens is a steal compared to the closest Nikkor equivalent. As I mentioned earlier though, the sport(s) I shoot are primarily outdoors and I have a rule of thumb that clearly states that if I am taking pictures, it will be cloudy. As a result, I am a little concerned about the large f/stops on the Sigma (and I won't be able to get my hands on one to try it out). Another lens that caught my eye is the Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 for ~$1000. Its not VR, doesn't quite have that ultra sleek pro look and seems like a massive lens for the focal length, but it seems like a steal and a quality lens (in other words, I really look this lens but I'm still not sure if its the right thing). Any thoughts on the trade-off between focal length and aperture among these quasi "second tier" telephoto lenses? How does the Nikon 300mm f/4 compare to the other two? Again, I realize the focal lengths are all different, but are there significant differences in image quality, size, weight, build quality, functionality/usefulness? Any info would be helpful in this situation. Also, any thoughts about teleconverters? I know absolutely nothing about them but the right combination of lense and converter might provide some more versatility without having to buy another lens.

    I should have probably mentioned this earlier, but I do a fair amount of hiking (hence some of the nature photography). My thinking was that a solid (but not too expensive) standard zoom lens would do the trick. Any thoughts on focal lengths?

    With regards to the architectural photography, I primarily do exteriors (lots of urban stuff, I travel a lot). I haven't been in the habit of using support for architectural stuff, but there is no reason why I couldn't. I notice a lot of discussion of zoom lenses around the 35mm mark. Would a 35mm prime be too limiting for say, same side of the street urban architecture? Would I be better off with the aforementioned zoom standard and a wide-angle zoom? I ask because I've never owned a prime lens and find the whole idea very limiting. I understand using a prime in a studio setting (ie where you never have to move), but in the field? Not so sure.

    Anyone else find the cost of lenses ridiculous? Its truly stunning, not to mention painful. Why can't I find an inexpensive hobby like drawing. Again, I apologize if my questions seem circular or annoying.
     
  14. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #14
    I own the 80-200mm AFD ED version, non AF-S and all I can tell you is that for the money, you will be hard pressed to find anything that rivals it. It delivers consistently extremely sharp images and even without the AF-S it's not loud and the AF isn't really slow. I consider my lens collection a great "all rounder" between pro and consumer lenses. One thing I have to say though, I buy only ED lenses, its a thing I have and so far those lenses have not let me down :)

    The 80-200 works for outdoors and indoors, the 24-85 that I have (AF-S) works pretty much for almost any occasion and then I am just considering the 20-35mm or the 18-35mm.. not sure yet. :)
     
  15. CK Williams macrumors regular

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    #15
    The 80-200 2.8 is a very capable lens based on images I have seen. A teleconverter can also be used with the lens to extend the reach somewhat. A 1.4 or 1.7 teleconverter would work best with the lens. A 2.0 would give you more reach, but at the cost of some image quality.

    I own the 300mm and it's built like a tank. It's not something I would probably carry if I was going on a backpacking trip.

    As for the 35mm, on your D80, it isn't going to have a very wide viewing angle. The lens would do fine for architecture at a distance, but would be poor in a tight area (urban/interior/most US & European cities).

    As an alternative plan, can I suggest the Nikon 70-300VR and a ultra-wide zoom (10-16, 11-16, 12-24). This would give you the distance you want at the tele end and a nice wide angle for architecture/interiors.
     
  16. ronjon10 macrumors regular

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    #16
    I was going to post this almost word for word. You can get the 80-200 for around 800, the 1.4 teleconverter for another 150-200 which give you a ~120-280mm f/4 lens with excellent quality.

    I like the Tokina 11-16 2.8 at the wide end.
     
  17. ManhattanPrjct macrumors 6502

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    #17
    I think everybody who starts in photography feels this way at first.

    It's a pretty big assumption that everything that's not Nikkor is crap. It's also a big assumption (though not quite as big) that you're going to have a problem with a third-party lens if you buy one. This article can help explain a bit: https://www.lensrentals.com/news/2010.03.06/this-lens-is-soft-and-other-facts

    Personally, as soon as I realized that every lens has a learning curve, I did my research and bought (mostly) third party lenses that I have no complaints about and that have performed very well for me. The Tokina 11-16 f2.8 has been my best third party purchase in recent history. If you feel like you NEED to have all Nikon products, I won't fault you, you'll just be spending on average twice as much as the third party alternative.
     
  18. pdxflint macrumors 68020

    pdxflint

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    #18
    I agree that the Tokina super-wide zooms are great-- built like Nikon pro lenses, same zoom and focus rotations... sort of like Nikkor alternatives. But, I'll disagree that you'll pay twice as much going Nikkor in general-- because this can be overcome by buying used... I paid $700 for my 80-200 f/2.8 (excellent cond.,) $500 for my Nikkor 300f/4 (exc. cond.,) and $710 for my Nikkor 17-55f/2.8 (exc. condition.) all second hand. None of them had a mark on them, and all had pristine glass and were as good as new. By shopping carefully, you can save a lot of money on used Nikkor glass, and they are still second to none. Yes, I'm comparing used lenses vs. new third-party lenses, but it is always a viable option when making decisions about what will go in your camera bag for long term use. And, the resale later is basically a no-loss proposition as long as you keep your lenses in good shape. I don't think the resale prices of third-party lenses will hold up over time compared with the Nikkors, if you ever need to sell, or decide to sell to upgrade. Just some food for thought.
     
  19. HBOC macrumors 68020

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    #19
    Man, i wish Canons' 300 f/4L was cheaper, but it seems they don't make the 300mm f/4 without IS. If it was $500, it would be high on my list!
     
  20. pdxflint macrumors 68020

    pdxflint

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    #20
    The version I'm referring to is the previous, non AF-S version (no built-in focus motor,) which is a steal in my opinion. The AF-S version will be a bit more expensive, and it has a closer minimum focus distance, but the IQ of both is really equal for the most part. The AF-ED (older version) takes drop in 39mm filters, like the big lenses, which is a good thing with the 82mm front element thread.

    What are the older Canon 300f/4 lenses going for on the used market?
     
  21. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #21
    You can rent one or you can shoot with another lens at f/6.3 on days similar to the ones you shoot in and see what it gets you shutter-speed-wise.

    The 300/4 is sharper at the center and edges than the 80-200, so the real questions is if you need the speed and can get away with the focal length if you do.

    Personally, I find 2x TCs degrade image quality more than I'm willing to accept. The TC must be matched to the lens, and this starts to make things challenging for a collection of newer and older lenses. The new TCs have to be physically modified to fit an older lens, so if you're going with a TC-14E-II or TC-17E-II and you want to put it on an AF-D lens, you have to be willing to file off a metal tab (I'm not willing to do that.)


    Totally depends on what you're shooting and how much weight you're willing to haul.

    People used primes long before there were zooms, but really you have to figure out for yourself how much you need to move to fit your vision- wider lenses don't tend to need as much movement, but a crop sensor is going to change things some in terms of what's acceptable.

    A lens will last a minimum of 10 years, and maybe 20 or so if it's treated well and gets a minimum of TLC.

    The 1.7x TC is AF-S only without doing modifications, which means you'd be buying the AF-S 80-200. Personally, I'm not all that sure the 80-200 wouldn't be a bit too soft with the 1.7x TC


    I like the IQ of my 20-35mm, but the prices these days have me considering selling it and getting a 24-70mm!

    Paul
     
  22. Pigmyracer thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 12, 2010
    #22
    Again, thank you for the phenomenal replies.

    As intriguing as I find some of these longer lenses, I think I'm just going to buy a good kit lens like the AF-S 70-300 f/4.5-5.6. Its not as "cool" as the 300mm f/4 or the 80-200mm and will probably limit the lighting conditions in which I can comfortably shoot, but it will be a serviceable lens until I nail down precisely what I'll be shooting and how frequently. I think I know now, but I want to be 110% certain before I start putting real money down. For now I'm going to be investing primarily in a few wide-angle and standard lenses. Thanks for all the help.

    As an aside though, where do people buy their used glass? It seems like a pretty risky proposition to do that online.
     
  23. HBOC macrumors 68020

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    #23
    I knew that Canon DID make a 300mm non IS, as i have seen on the B&S forums at FM.com, but they are rare. The reason for that is that the IS version came out in 1998 sometime. I have heard the non IS is amazing..I know want one, now that you mentioned it:)
     
  24. CK Williams macrumors regular

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    #24
    http://www.keh.com

    I have purchased several lenses from them without any problems.
     
  25. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #25
    If you're going to cheap out, then get an EDIF version of the 80-200 instead of the 70-300, the image quality difference is well worth it and if you decide it's not long enough you can sell it for what you paid for it.

    Paul
     

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