Old 05-16-2008, 12:52 PM   #1
fullreversal
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Exclamation 2.8 lenses: Are they worth it?

I've been wanting to get some new glass for awhile, but just haven't been able to pull the trigger yet. I shoot with a Nikon D70s that I purchased almost two years ago, and it came with the standard 18-70mm kit lens (which I am not very happy with), and I also bought a 70-300mm lens as part of a package deal.

Part of me reasons that lens technology progresses at a slower rate than technology for a camera body does, which tells me to spend some good money on lenses.

Now for two questions,

-- Are f2.8 lenses really worth it? The price break between a2.8 and a 3.something or a 4 lens is tremendous. How often do you guys shoot at the low end and need more light?

-- Also, is that 18-200 VR do-it-all lens really worth it? It would be nice to not have to change lenses. I don't think I was very smart making a hard-and-fast break at 70mm. That makes these 50-135mm lenses look good.

Thanks for any input!

Darrell Krueger
Chamblee, GA
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:10 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fullreversal
-- Are f2.8 lenses really worth it? The price break between a2.8 and a 3.something or a 4 lens is tremendous. How often do you guys shoot at the low end and need more light?
Keep in mind that f/2.8 is not just to capture low light. First, focusing can be faster in low light, regardless of the f/stop you have chosen, because focusing occurs with the lens wide open. Second, perhaps most important, f/2.8 lenses often are of better quality at any f/stop.

Whether it is worth it is up to you. I use the f/2.8 end of my Canon 17-55 IS primarily for indoor family pictures without flash, not for trains. But then, these days I am rarely trackside when light is low, so I might find uses for it were my shooting patterns different. So I offer no opinion on its utility for trains; for indoor shots without flash it is necessary, at least for me.
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:34 PM   #3
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I can't speak about f/2.8 lenses as I don't own any...although I certainly would like to TRY such a lens just to see the degree to which the speed and quality improves over what I have....and is that difference really worth it to me given my skill level?

I do have some limited experience with 18-200mm VR lens. I purchased it because, like you, I had two other lenses with no overlap in focal length....meaning I was changing lenses a lot and yes, getting dust on my sensor.

The 18-200 is a decent walk-around lens. Once you put one on your camera, you'll rarely find the need to take it off. You can also pretty much leave your other lenses at home unless you're on a trip and want a back-up....just in case. Yes, this lens is a big compromise. First, it is heavier than any of my other lenses. It isn't terribly fast and if the light starts fading, I'm boosting ISO. It also has some distortion issues, so if you're shooting in urban settings with lots of vertical structures, you may need to do some correction with software afterward. It is reasonably sharp, but I think the 18-55mm and 55-200mm VR that I have are both sharper....jury still out there. The VR feature is nice. At Cass last week, Southwest Airlines lost my tripod (found it later), so I had to shoot hand-held in low light.....and got away with at least one in those conditions that made RP.

I note that you made reference to a 50-135mm lens. Did you mean the 18-135mm AF-S Nikkor? If so, I tried that and returned it. The distortion with that one was intolerable for me. The 18-200mm VR is better, but if there are a lot of vertical lines in your shots, you will notice it.

To me, having a single walk-around lens beats hauling around a bag of glass. Also, if I can delay the day when I have to have my sensor professionally cleaned, it will perhaps save me a few bucks. If you can put up with the compromises, the 18-200mm VR is not a bad choice.
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Old 05-16-2008, 03:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fullreversal
-- Are f2.8 lenses really worth it? The price break between a2.8 and a 3.something or a 4 lens is tremendous. How often do you guys shoot at the low end and need more light?
It depends on what kind of photography you do. If you are just shooting railroad subjects outdoors in good light, an f2.8 lens might be overkill.

But, if you shoot other subjects, f2.8 might be invaluable.

One thing not mentioned is the shallow depth of field and corresponding subject isolation f2.8 gives you:



(Sorry I don't have anyting better at the moment. I have trouble accessing Smugmug from work.) The bokeh from wider aperture lens also seems to be smoother and more pleasing than those with smaller apertures.

An f2.8 lens can always stop down to f5.6, but an f5.6 lens can never open up to f2.8.

The wider aperture lenses also are usually better constructed with better weather sealing; the trade-off of course is size, weight, and price.

Quote:
Also, is that 18-200 VR do-it-all lens really worth it? It would be nice to not have to change lenses. I don't think I was very smart making a hard-and-fast break at 70mm. That makes these 50-135mm lenses look good.
Again, it depends on your needs and budget. I'm thinking about selling my 70-300VR, since I haven't used it since picking up a 70-200VR, and getting an 18-200VR as a lightweight "family vacation" lens. The caveat is that "do-all" anythings rarely "do all" really well. Indoors, without a flash or tripod, the limitations of an f5.6 lens are going to be quite apparent.

YMMV,

Doc H.

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Old 05-16-2008, 09:43 PM   #5
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Yes, 2.8 lenses are worth it if you are serious about photography. Think of it as a $300 tripod that will outlast twenty $20 tripods. If you get a 2.8 lens it is very unlikely you will be replacing it, but if you get a consumer lens you will probably get something different sooner or later at an extra costs to you. You still end up with a consumer lens when you could have just spent all the money upfront and actually have some good equipment.
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Old 05-17-2008, 02:01 AM   #6
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You know what you will be shooting and how you shoot. is a 2.8 L lens sharper than a f4 L lens, No but its sweet spot is faster,F5.6 and F8 and for the f4 it will be at F8 to F11 at its sharpest. All lens are sharper stopped down two stops to three, be it Nikon or Canon, or Sony.
Most think if you shoot at f16 its sharper there not. The lens diaphragm is just a small hole and the light has to bend around them, causing diffraction killing some sharpness. Shot wide open at f2.8 it may be sharp but not as sharp as it can be.
What is the rant about buy what you may need latter if buying GOOD glass. But will you want to hall fast L glass in a bag all the time, there heavy, maybe f4's will do. Do you hike in to shots, do you have a bad back? Try one out if you can. Yea there nice to have take sharp shots, but think about what you need not what would be nice to have.
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Old 05-17-2008, 06:17 AM   #7
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A review of the Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm VR is available at Photozone and DPreview if you haven't already read it.
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Old 05-17-2008, 03:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Switched out
A review of the Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm VR is available at Photozone and DPreview if you haven't already read it.
I would recommend NOT getting the 18-200. It is a great lens if you never want to change lenses, but there are some major problems with it. It has horrible distortion which is a very bad thing for railroad photography. It also isn't the sharpest lens available, it's OK, but not great. The 18-135 is a sharper with less distortion and is considerably cheaper. I must warn you (OP) that both of these lenses are DX, meaning they won't work fully on a FX camera.

Last edited by Mike B.; 05-17-2008 at 11:35 PM.
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Old 05-17-2008, 10:03 PM   #9
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The review from Mike B. to the contrary, the Nikon 18-200 VR is being used by some very good photographers who are getting excellent results. It's all I use when I'm traveling by air, so I don't have to lug around a bunch of heavier lenses or a tripod. With airlines charging $50 for an extra bag (including my tripod bag) I've gone without a tripod on a few trips. I've been able to shoot at 1/5 second hand held and get about half the shots quite sharp.

Even when I'm not traveling I still use it most of the rest of the time for convenience, since I don't need to keep changing lenses and that helps keep dust off my sensor.

It's a compromise lens and would be unacceptable for film (yes I know it's a DX lens and won't work with film anyway), due to the slow speed, but for digital it's pretty good. When you get into low light you will start turning up the ISO and since the D70 is an earlier model it will get noisier faster than if you are using a newer camera like a D80, D200 or D300.

The distortion is noticeable at the edges on the very wide angle settings, but most railfan type shots, unless they are broadsides, tend not to suffer much if there is a bit of field curvature, so read the reviews with that in mind. Adobe CS2 and above have a lens distortion correction feature included. I'm not sure about Elements, but I suspect that it may be there in the latest version. I think there may be some third party plug ins available to fix it as well.

Image © Michael F. Allen
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Photograph © Michael F. Allen

This was shot with the 18-200 and cropped a bit. PhotoShop lens distortion correction was not used. Distortion is certainly not objectionable.

My biggest gripe is the lens creeps if you tip the camera down, or it did until I dropped it one day, now it's nice and tight! I wouldn't suggest trying this at home, but sometimes things just work out for the best.

All things considered, for the price, you can't beat it.

If price isn't an issue and you don't mind changing lenses get the 12-24 f/4 for ultra wide, the 24-70 f/2.8 for mid range and the 70-200 f/2.8 VR for your tele shots. Once you spend that kind of money on lenses, you will probably want to move up to a D300 or a D3. Me, I can't afford them, but I do have the 12-24 (which now that I have the 18-200 I don't use very much) and have used a friend's 70-200, which is a simply awesome lens.

Michael Allen

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Old 05-17-2008, 11:44 PM   #10
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The 18-200 certainly isn't a useless lens, but considering how most railfans drive when shooting, I don't think space is often a worry since there is plently of room in the car for a few lenses.

As you mentioned, the 18-200 is a great lens for traveling when space is often at a premium and changing lenses can be bothersome. Also, the VR as you mentioned is useful but that's not so much the case with railroad photography.

My point was that for the money you have to spend to get the 18-200 (almost $700) it would be better to get two different lenses for better quality.


Hey...I got that same shot, but the two ladies were sitting across from each other.
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Old 05-18-2008, 12:12 AM   #11
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Maybe they got bored and decided to move!

They were real troupers, sitting there until at least 11PM while a bunch of crazy railfans got their shots! Kudo's to Pete Lerro for setting it all up and to Nils Huxtable for bringing his mom (the one in the center) and her friend to help make this shot a memorable one.

In keeping with the railroad theme, they arrived in Minneapolis on the Empire Builder! Too bad they couldn't go home on the Olympian Hiawatha!

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Old 05-18-2008, 02:40 AM   #12
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Yes, the ladies were very cooperative. I was surprised how many people came from around the world for that photo charter. It was in my backyard and I got to go for free!
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Old 05-18-2008, 02:47 AM   #13
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I was planing to save for the Nikon 70-200 f-2.8 with VR, but I found out recently about the 55-200 VR, and decided that, given the cost, and the better focal length range for rail photography (among other things) made it a better choice, at least right now. Having a 2.8 telephoto is something I may want one day, but a f-4/5.6 is fine most of the time.

I'm suspicious of super zooms. There are some logistical advantages to an 18-200 or smiler focal length range lens, but the trade offs in distortion and general picture quality don't cut it for me. And they cost way more than a lens like my new 55-200 VR, which so far is working very well. The VR is a very good feature. I have a test shot I took at the camera store at 200mm, f-5.6, 1/30 ISO 800 under low artificial light, and there are signs across the store where the writing is soft, but almost totally unblurred. Think about what that can do for an engine's number boards under low light conditions.
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Old 05-18-2008, 02:47 AM   #14
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What sucked is i live 3 hours South and didn't have the gas to make the run would have made the run. Now if i can get out to see the 261 come back from Chicago, hoping
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Old 05-19-2008, 02:18 AM   #15
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If you're still interested in the Nikkor 55-200 VR, this picture may be of interest to you
Image © Sam D.
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