The Question of 18-300mm Lenses, Part Deux

This article is written in response to “The Question of 18-300mm Lenses” article written by Romanas Naryškin. I used to like my 18-300mm zoom – I called it my Guilty Pleasure Lens (GPL). It was hands-down the most fun lens I ever shot with. When I wanted to just go out on an adventure outside and had no idea what I’d run into, instead of grabbing my FX body, my 16-35mm zoom, 50mm prime, 105mm macro, 80-400mm zoom and of course a manservant to carry all that gear, I’d grab GPL and my D7000 and blast on down the trail. Sure GPL wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but neither am I. In our shared ignorance we’d shoot grand vistas or cool nature abstracts or maybe even crawl through the dirt for a close-up or two. What a fool I was thinking I’d found a partner that liked to do all the things I liked to do.

Well, I’ve seen the light and it was time to get even with GPL for deceiving me into thinking we had something special. Before tossing GPL into the dumpster I was going to show it how a real lens behaved. Enter the 10 lb 1 oz Baby Jesus, AKA the Nikkor 800mm, AKA BJ. Yep, the top stud in the Nikon stable. The lens that doesn’t have a MTF curve – it has a WTF curve. And GPL, well suffice it to say we know what gets shoveled up from the stable floor. I figured I’d go out on one last shoot with GPL, ostensibly for “old times sake”, but really to show GPL how a real lens like BJ would handle those situations.

Right off the bat I think GPL knew something was up. GPL insisted we shoot a selfie. This is what it looks like when an 18-300 owner takes a selfie:

Verm-selfie-100-Sunset-Crater-0622

And at 100% – ick.

Verm-selfie-100-Sunset-Crater-0622-3

It was a bit awkward getting the selfie with BJ.

Verm-selfie-800-test-0205

But the results were impressive. Check out the creamy bokeh. Awesome.

Verm-selfie-800mm-test-3042

We then rolled over to Sunset Crater where GPL saw an abstract cinder slope landscape. Knock yourself out GPL, this is your last hurrah.

Verm-cinders-clouds-Sunset-Crater-0302

Hmmm, kinda cool, but let’s see what BJ has to say about these cinder hills. Oh yeah – BJ gets right down to the inky soul of the landscape.

Verm-Golden-Eagle-Sunset-Crater-3126

Not only that, but he throws in a Golden Eagle sweeping the cinders with a wingtip to boot.

Verm-Golden-Eagle-Sunset-Crater-3126-2

100% of awesome is just more awesomer. Take that GPL – you couldn’t shoot a bird if you were full of buckshot. Just to prove it let’s look at this roadrunner. So sharp it hurts your eyes, huh?

Verm-Roadrunner-Big-Bend-6903

What do you say to that GPL? Uh, what? You shot that? Don’t lie to me, I’m checking the metadata. Oh, you did shoot that, at 300mm no less. Oh, now I remember when we shot that – that doesn’t count, that roadrunner had a limp. And besides, this is just at web resolution. Nobody shares photos on the web. What do you think this is? My Space?

At this point GPL was getting desperate and insisted we shoot some close-ups. I’m a sucker for nature detail shots so I gave in.

Verm-cinder-lichen-cu-Sunset-Crater-0415

That’s pretty, but lets look closer. Ah ha, look at those soft spots between the rocks!

“But that’s just OOF,” pleaded GPL.

“You can’t spell goof, without OOF,” I replied. That shut GPL up.

BJ stepped up to the plate, or I should say, stepped back. One of the great advantages of the 800mm is its 18-foot minimum focusing distance. With GPL I had to kneel in the sharp cinders to get the shot. With BJ I just trekked back a ways, meticulously set up my tripod, wiggling the legs back and forth until they sunk far enough in the cinders to stay put, then got the supplementary weights attached to stabilize the setup in the wind, readjusted the legs, locked down the gimbal pan and tilt knobs, bumped up the ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed, then busted off this masterpiece.

Verm-cinder-lichen-800-Sunset-Crater-3085

You can just feel the way that lichen spattered cinder has persevered through the ages, the arrival of Columbus, the Emancipation Proclamation, Pearl Harbor, The Brady Bunch… This is deep. This is what you get when you don’t have to work around the limitations of a superzoom lens.

GPL tried to distract my attention from critical pixel-level sharpness with a mix of showy colors and fun composition.

Verm-puffy-sunset-Sunset-Crater-0717

Really now. You think I’m that unsophisticated? BJ yawned, then revealed the true essence of the subject.

Verm-800-peak-top-Sunset-Crater-3244

When you look at this you are first struck by the Zen-like simplicity, then the parallels with The Pieta strike you, followed by a hint of The Scream and a long smooth finish of Nude Descending a Staircase. True art as only a real lens can deliver.

GPL then tried to plead its case as so many photographers do these days, by playing the “if Ansel Adams were still alive, he’d like me” card.

Verm-Aspens-lava-Sunset-Crater-0656

Pathetic. I could never print this bigger than 11”x17” and keep a proper 300 dpi resolution so I could soak it in from my standard 7.4 inch viewing distance.

That’s it. It’s the dumpster for you GPL.

“No, no,” pleaded GPL. “Give me one last chance. Tomorrow morning I’ll take on BJ at the very thing he does best – shooting lens charts. If I can’t take a better lens chart shot than BJ, then throw me in the dumpster. But if I take a lens chart shot that makes you happier than BJ’s shot, then you have to promise to never throw me away or sell me. Deal?”

Trash pickup wasn’t for a couple days so what the hell, I’d have one last laugh at GPL’s expense. The next morning I let BJ go first. The results would be enough GPL would probably jump in the dumpster without my help.

Screen Shot 2014-04-13

Oh, now this brings tears to my eyes. Especially when I squint to see the 800 lines. Okay GPL, it’s your last click, make it good. Oh my goodness!

Warning, the link to the image is tagged as “not safe for work” (NSFW). Link to open the image.

Dear dear GPL, you always were my favorite. No prime lens could ever do all the things you do. I was so silly buying all that expensive glass thinking I’d be busting out loads of 20”x30” prints. Heck, my printer only accepts 8.5”x11” paper anyway. Remember that raft trip down Desolation Canyon when I could only bring one lens? You were the perfect companion. And the shots were plenty good for the Blurb book we did afterwards. Sure I have to learn to shoot around your limitations, but guess what, all lenses have limitations one must learn to shoot around, even BJ and Otis. You might be a tad heavy Baby, but that’s just more of you to love (and rumor has it you’re on a new diet). You know GPL, if I had to spend the rest of my life on a desert island with only one lens, it would be you.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Bruce
    April 17, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Haha, great article. The superzoom lenses often get berated, but it’s face it, if you spent your whole day lugging around the 3/4 lenses you thought you needed and constantly changed them, you’d be very tired and miss half the shots. I recently took an 18-200 and 50/1.4 to Italy on my D300. When i came back i realised 98% of the shots were on my zoom. I took some great shots, i even got more great pics on my iphone that when i hooked up the 50. There’s much to be said for convenience.

    • 4
      ) vegard fjalestad pedersen
      April 17, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      I went to Amsterdam last week, used my 50mm 1.4G 90% of the time, guess it depends on the person.

      • 9
        ) Tomas
        April 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm

        I went to New York a month ago with my 11-16 f/2.8, my 35 f/1.8 and my 55-200 f/4-5.6 (all DX). 70% of the shots I took with my 11-16, 25% with my 35 f/1.8 and the rest with the telephoto zoom. Become an UWA lover…I guess :D

    • April 18, 2014 at 12:34 am

      I’m in a remote corner of Arizona stalking hawks and Gila Monsters and just got back to this slew of positive comments. Any day now this town hopes to step up to dial-up internet. I want to thank everyone who has left such kind comments. I wish I had the time and connectivity to answer them all personally right now. I’ll try my best to hit a few pertinent points tonight, then address stuff more fully after the weekend.

      f/6.3 and be there,
      Verm

  2. 2
    ) SteveB
    April 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Great post, John. Just goes to show great photography doesn’t rely on the fanciest equipment, but a good eye and facile mind.

  3. 3
    ) Steve Z
    April 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Awesome article, John. Best laugh I’ve had all week and still very true. Might make a few Very Serious Photographers’ heads explode (probably not on this site), but your points are all well taken.

    Thanks for helping keep it all in perspective!

    Steve Z

  4. 5
    ) drew
    April 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Verm,
    Best article, and thanks for the laugh.
    You’ve said it better than anyone, supported by documentary evidence, plus way better test chart.
    Salut.

  5. 6
    ) RobHu
    April 17, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Hilarious :D

  6. 7
    ) FrancoisR
    April 17, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Great pictures!

    thanks

  7. 8
    ) Tiny L
    April 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    I loved your article John, had a nice laugh as well. I don’t have the 18-300 , but the 28-300, and I Luuuv this lens.If I don’t do portraits or close -ups, this is on my camera most of the time. Please give us some more stories

    • 56
      ) Tal
      April 18, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      I’ve got this on my D610 and find I have to stop it down to atleast F8 to get sharpish photos at the longer end, is this something you have too, even the 55-300 on my D5200 seems to produce sharper photos at its minimum apterture.

  8. 10
    ) Muhammad Omer
    April 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Great article John. I often visit Web pages that show pictures that took part in artistic photography competitions. Most of those very artistic pictures are taken by novice photographers on the very basic cameras. The ability to take pictures with a photographic device is a huge blessing. You only need a camera, any camera and then the world is your canvas.

  9. Profile photo of Deborah
    11
    ) Deborah
    April 17, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Absolutely love your article – both informative and humorous at the same time! It also makes me want to try the 18-300mm… Thanks for the article!

  10. Profile photo of Mike Banks
    12
    ) Mike Banks
    April 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    John, love the way you make a point. I don’t shoot with the 18-300 but do use the 28-300 and I still have my 18-200. I get laughed at a lot doing events as a pool photographer. But then I make more money than most of the other photographers.

    It’s not always the equipment that makes the picture…but it is always the photographer.

  11. Profile photo of Clarence
    13
    ) Clarence
    April 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Great article!!

  12. 14
    ) Steve Z
    April 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I picked up a clean 18-200 not so long ago and it’s a sweet little lens. Perhaps not the equal on paper of many of its newer Nikon cousins, but it certainly doesn’t embarrass itself either. It’s a great walk-around lens as I’m sure the 18-300 is too.

    Pictures get made with the lens on the camera, not the one in the bag or on the shelf because they’re too heavy, cumbersome, or just not available when a transient opportunity comes our way. It’s great to have a purpose-built tool for every specific job, but there is still a place for the Swiss Army knife, too.

    Steve Z

  13. 15
    ) Don B
    April 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Loved the “test chart” photo, and the article.

    As much fun as it would be to have my wife pack 282 primes to get the same range as a 18 – 300 lens, plus a 300, 500, and 800 mm prime lens, I think I’ll settle with my GPL lens. You never know when you might have to photograph a test chart ;-)

    • 22
      ) Peter G
      April 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      Don B,

      Nothing like having a 300mm f2.8 AF-S , 500mm f4 AF-I and 800mm f5.6. Must admit my 800mm f5.6 is only MANUAL focus…..

      The results that you can obtain with these lenses are unreal.

      I have the TC14E , TC17E and TC20E ( TC20E …. first version which, unfortunately is useless )

  14. 16
    ) David Colton
    April 17, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Thank you John for keeping my dream alive.

    My best lens for my passion of photographing birds is the Nikon 70-300 on a D7000 body. But, I also like to take closeups, photos of interesting buildings and houses, trees, etc. I also love hiking, like every day, so a super-zoom is almost a necessity given my age (71). My dream was to buy the 18-300 for a trip next month to beautiful Portland Oregon. No sarcasm here, I used to live there and love that city. But the Dpreview review of the 80-300 is mainly negative, as are several others. I even started looking at Sigma and Tamron super-zooms, although I dislike my Tamron 18-270 for all but bright light, middle zoom photos.

    Thanks to this writeup, I intend to buy a Nikon 18-300 as soon as I can get a deal, hopefully on a factory refurbished.

    • April 18, 2014 at 12:40 am

      I’d imagine there will be deep discounts on this with the new version coming out, though “rebate season” seems to be coming to an end. I got started with the birds with the 70-300 and a D90, then a D7000. Watch out for that 70-300 – it’s a gateway lens that leads to harder stuff like the 500mm.

  15. 17
    ) Matt Stanich
    April 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Wow, the Verms posting here! Never thought I’d see that. Amazing photos on your site John. Great stuff. I like how you’ve adapted your writing style to photography. You may not remember me but we’ve met before… climbing in secret spots with Jeff Johnson and the rest of the crew… drinking enough that the dogs may outrun us. Hope to see you at the swimming hole soon (lol)! Cheers-

    Matt

    • April 18, 2014 at 12:43 am

      Hey Matt,

      I was looking at pics of the Swimming Hole the other day while assembling a slideshow. I heard The Wave flipped over. I’m guessing Tarface is gone. Those were some crazy climbs.

  16. 18
    ) Thomas Stirr
    April 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Verm,

    I loved your post! It really brings it home that there’s no such thing as a perfect lens….or a perfect camera body for that matter. Everything has its place. I have some primes that I use, mainly for video, when I’m in poor light or when I need shallow depth of field. For most client work and everyday shooting I pick up a zoom lens most of the time. I love the portability and flexibility.

    Regardless of what I’m shooting I always try to fill the frame with every image…every time…with no initial thought of cropping my images. Obviously I can’t always avoid cropping based on specific subject matter, but that is always my goal when I press the shutter release. And….there is nothing better than a zoom lens to accomplish that task.

    Thanks again for your lively and informative post!

    Tom

  17. Profile photo of Brian Gaschler
    19
    ) Brian Gaschler
    April 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Hilarious post, John. Really great stuff!

    Curiously, I was just having a similar conversation with my partner yesterday (who is just getting into photography and uses an inexpensive, entry-level camera with the not-so inexpensive Nikon 18mm-200mm DX) about the ‘need’ to have really expensive gear to get interesting, but moreover ‘sharp’ shots. For some background, we had just been packing for a trip from Maui to Oahu, where her daughter was to be competing in a cheer competition, and there was some questioning about my lens choice for the trip.

    For a change, I opted to bring one lens only on our trip, a tried and true lens I just can’t get rid of: a Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D NIKKOR with a scratched front element and broken filter threads, that I picked up years ago used for about $80.00. One can find this lens used today, in excellent condition, for under $150.00.

    What did I leave behind?

    1) AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED
    2) AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
    3) AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED
    4) AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    5) AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

    (Thankfully left behind!)

    Here is a link to four images from the trip (two images each, one full-size and one at 100% crop), shot with this ‘cheap zoom lens.’ Both are totally unedited and straight-from-camera (except for export conversion from RAW to JPEG)–no sharpening or tinkering whatsoever:

    http://www.briangaschler.com/p433046312

    Neither are great images in and of themselves, but my point to my partner was made yesterday after viewing pics from the trip: sometimes it’s better to just have one lens (and not an expensive lens, at that) with you on a trip where you don’t want to deal with the hassle of many (and large) lenses. I think the old, busted zoom lens, as it’s referred to in our house, rendered images that are plenty sharp enough. Eyes and nose-ring boogers (respectively) are very well resolved, and as I explained to her, had more to do with a faster shutter speed than with VR or expensive glass. And as a bonus, I had 28mm to 105mm to play around with on the fly. My partner is once again super excited to put the 18mm-200mm back on her kit.

    Again, thanks for the laughs, John!

    ~Brian

    • 23
      ) David Colton
      April 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      Point well made, that there are other superb lenses out there. But I wonder how well the 28-105mm would work for a Phainopepla*, at about 200 ft., the closest I’ve ever gotten to one.

      * A rare and beautiful crested smallish bird that is usually high up in mistletoe infested trees here in San Diego. They are quite shy. The closest I’ve ever gotten to one was about 250 feet.

      • Profile photo of Brian Gaschler
        26
        ) Brian Gaschler
        April 17, 2014 at 8:16 pm

        David, I can tell you for certain how well the 28-105mm would work for a Phainopepla at 200 feet: Not well at all ;)

        (unless it somehow landed on the lens’ broken filer threads, in which case… still not well at all)

        ~Brian

        • 29
          ) David Colton
          April 17, 2014 at 9:11 pm

          The point is that I and others interested in photographing birds need a lot more reach than 105mm.

          Sorry that great lens is broken. In the case of the nose, it caught too much detail than I cared to see! If it’s just a matter of stripped threads a machine shop could probably repair it.

          • Profile photo of Brian Gaschler
            30
            ) Brian Gaschler
            April 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm

            Oh I certainly agree, David: 28-105mm is at best a decent travel or even ‘street’ lens, but then, street is the genre I primarily shoot. I’ve gotten some OK bird shots with my 70-200mm, but on full-frame even 200mm feels so far away. Add to that the ultra-shallow DOF at f/2.8 needed to isolate the bird from it’s surrounds at 20mm, and it’s always left me wanting something with way more reach and better bokeh at f/5.6.

            Please know I only included my (long) vacation narrative to illustrate that my partner, who has previously been rather displeased with her kit mega-zoom lens (again, 18-200mm), thinking it took only so-so shots, found she could still make it sing in a variety of shooting circumstances. Sure, it won’t do macro. Sure, the bokeh looks pretty terrible unless the shooter-subject-background distance is just right (even then, it’s not too pleasing). It has loads of distortion. It is not especially fast. In short, it has a long list of ‘bad’ qualities. But what it does have is versatility, and she is loath to carry around more than two lenses at any one time (really, she favors the 50mm most of the time, anyway).

            Those shots I posted a link to (at least the nose shot) are indeed a bit much. These were posted for her, actually, so she could see the results of my lens choice and the ‘proof’ that even an old, noisy, inexpensive and broken zoom lens that was never highly rated to begin with (on MTF curves, bokeh, etc. etc.) can nevertheless capture some sharp images with pleasing enough bokeh, if used within its limits. And it can be plenty versatile. I had no desire to lug around my kit of lenses for the day, and just tried to make due with the 28-10mm. I have a a decent selection of ‘pro’ lenses, but, aside from the 50mm, I can honestly say I love this lens the most—and it’s because of its versatility.

            PS: the filter thread itself is broken/missing for a large chunk around the lens, due to a drop a boulder in Peru six years ago. The scratch on the front element was there when I bought it (and that’s why it was only $80.00 when I bought it). I’ve seen more or less perfect-condition 28-105mms for under $150.00. I’ll certainly be buying a used one again in the future, once this one bites the dust. The fact that it’s still kicking out good images after all these years (and bumps/drops/rain/snow) tells me that day may not come for a while still.

            Happy shooting, David!

            ~Brian

      • April 18, 2014 at 12:52 am

        My favorite Phainopepla shot is with the 18-300 – not a tight shot, but cool in-the-environment shot of one in a willow. Now’s the time to get close to them (at least here in AZ) as they are mating and have better things to think of than a nosy photographer (same is true of many birds in spring). Also if you just sit still and be patient, Phainopeplas generally have a limited territory and will defend a certain mistletoe-laden tree. So if you just camp out close to a tree you saw them in and go about non-threatening business (get on all fours and graze) they will likely come back.

  18. April 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Post Of The Year (So Far) on Photography Life.

  19. 21
    ) SDavies
    April 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks for a fun and well-written piece – very nicely illustrated, too.
    And I think you made your point beautifully . . .

  20. 24
    ) Thomas Kappel
    April 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Great writing! The photographs speak for themselves. Write more about photography–Please!

  21. 25
    ) UtopianHeir
    April 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Love your article! Had much pleasure reading.
    After finishing, i’ve now set 18-300 as my next target to aquire.
    Please continue your splendid work!

  22. 27
    ) Lori Ryerson
    April 17, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    I had one of those dreaded 18-200 lenses. Then, when I upgraded to the D7000, I felt compelled to upgrade my lens. So I bought the 18-300. Vast improvement over its predecessor. Like many others who have commented before me, I have all kinds of fancy@$$ lenses now, but, like the expensive stove that cooks great meals, the shot is only as good as the camera operator. I love my walkabout buddy, she has served me well. And the people who have purchased the images taken with the 18-300 don’t seem to be unhappy with their purchases. Truth to tell, not one of them has ever even asked what lens I used. I guess we better educate them, fast, before we create an epidemic of bad taste and useless wall hangings. Thanks for the wonderful laugh.

  23. Profile photo of Brian Gaschler
    28
    ) Brian Gaschler
    April 17, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    PS: John, I wasn’t going to mention it in my earlier post, but I want you to know I’ve really enjoyed your writings for years now (in Climbing, mostly). Please keep it up.

    Oh, and you’ll be underwhelmed to know I finally sent V5

  24. Profile photo of Rick Keller
    31
    ) Rick Keller
    April 17, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    John,

    I really enjoyed your article. Brilliant, facetious, and spot-on. Thank you!

    Personally, I don’t always photograph with a zoom lens, but when I do, I prefer the Nikkor 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5D, which is an inexpensive, compact, light weight, and well-performing lens – both on film and digital, and on AF and manual focus cameras.

    Then I pop open a bottle of Dos Equis at the end of the photo shoot. ;-)

    Cheers!

    Rick

  25. 36
    ) Alan
    April 18, 2014 at 4:07 am

    Wonderful. The NSFW link brought the entire article into focus for me.

  26. 37
    ) Gordon
    April 18, 2014 at 7:09 am

    That’s what I like, a photographer with more brains than money. I shoot 99% of my pics with the Nikon 24 to 120 f4, even though i have a lot of other lens that cost a lot more. Todays mid priced lenses are so much improved you would find it difficult to identify the lens from viewing an image. Not even a magnifying glass will help.

    • April 18, 2014 at 9:53 am

      The only reason I have more brains than money is because I blew all my cash on that 800mm.

      • 48
        ) Rolf Eriksson
        April 18, 2014 at 10:36 am

        Blew my money on Canon 200-400 mm with 1.4x ext. I’m not sure if I have more or less brains after that, but I love the lens and the shots from it (no lens charts though!).

    • 52
      ) David
      April 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      Gordon,

      Did you choose the 24-120mm f4 over the 28-300mm? I am curious to know the rationale.

      I made such comparisons between the two and leaned toward the 24-120mm f4 because of the aperture and 24mm (over 28mm). I held off buying it since I have the first version and don’t want a duplicate (even the 3rd generation is a vast improvement).

      Thanks,
      David

      • 63
        ) Gordon
        April 20, 2014 at 9:08 am

        Hi David,
        It a long story. My first FX camera was a D700 and I bought a 14 to 24 f2.8 lens and a 24 to 120 f3.5 to 5.6 to get started. My intention was to later get the 24 to 70 F2.8 and 70 to 200 F2.8. I had the d300 with a series of lenses 11to16 DX up to 500 f8. Anyway, I became so happy with the 24 to 120 that I got the f4 version and use it constantly now with my D800. I shoot landscape, architecture, and closeups. I have macro lens, a fisheye, 70 to 300 (which is a very sharp lens}, a 80 to 400, and the 500 f8. Last summer I spent a month out west staring in Yellowstone, then along the Pacific coast, Utah and finally Colorado. Only twice did I feel the need to use a lens other than my 24 to 120, and I had everything with me. Sometimes I will use my tele {80 to 400} on my D300 camera and if the rumors of a D9300 materializes, I will retire my D300. Would I get a 28 to 300? probably not. If I were starting out out and had just gotten an FX camera? maybe. But remember when I started, the 24 to 120 was an interim lens until i got the f2.8 trinity of pro lenses.

  27. 38
    ) Chris zeller
    April 18, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Best Photographylife post ever! Honestly, I love Nasim’s test charts, but I bought my trusty 28-300 because of Nasim’s article here despite his poor recommendation. In that article, Nasim showed what the lens was capable of in the hands of a skilled photographer, and the results were impressive. I use mine in the same situations the author here states-rafting trips, backpacking and backcountry skiing. These are all places I’m glad not to be humping my holy trinity around.

  28. 39
    ) Rolf Eriksson
    April 18, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Thank’s a lot! This was a real/practical review of a lens from someone who is not only an excellent photographer but also dito writer. I can’t remember when I last (or never before?) read such an amusing review. Your pieces of evidenses are stunning – and that for a lens rated 2.5!!!
    I’d love to se more lens reviews from you.

    • April 18, 2014 at 10:05 am

      It was fun putting the worst-rated Nikkor up against the best (as well the top 16mp DX vs the top 16mp FX). Just goes to show that pretty much all lenses these days are real good for what most people shoot.

  29. 40
    ) David
    April 18, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Great article (as always from Nasim’s site)!

    I bought the D200 along with 18-200mm DX years ago as my DSLR entry. I really had no use for the FX lenses from my F body days so I didn’t bother using them. Loved the simple combo for many years while other DX bodies became more abundant. I stayed with it until the fantastic D800 came on the market. Time for an upgrade.

    For casual walkaround, I still use the 18-200mm cropped on my D800 – essentially as a 27-300 equivalent with 16MPs sensor. It’s still great! For serious events, I still use the latest 2.8 versions of 24-70 and 70-200 and 1.8 versions of 50mm & 85mm lenses (although I get most use out of the 24-70; can’t move far away enough to use the 70-200).

    When I traveled last year, I brought along 3 lenses: 16-35 f4, 24-120mm (first version for film), and 70-300mm (first version for film) [yes, I finally had some use for my original OLD film FX lenses], I used the 24-120mm 90% of the time, 70-300mm 8%, and 2% on 16-35mm out of nearly 10,000 shots! My bag was HEAVY!

    Next time, I am really thinking of just the 16-35mm F4 and (yet to buy) 28-300mm to keep my bag light and lenses versatile. Anyone has good experience with the 28-200mm G (the later model; not the first D version)? The newer 24-120mm F4 is really tempting but doesn’t have the range. (Nasim – I would love to have your valuable opinion/recomendation on this!)

    This again validates that, while 24-120mm lenses is known to be distorted (software correctable on post), it has found the most usage on time limited events. Try changing lenses in a very crowded tourist attraction area. I did! What a painful event. Or bring 2 bodies.

    • April 18, 2014 at 9:44 am

      David,

      I have the 16-35 and the new 24-120 (and of course a slew of other lenses to make up for the insecurity of being a superzoom owner). I haven’t shot the 28-300, but it seems like it might be a good choice for what you do. If you have time to change lenses then the following combo would be quite light and sharp – 16-35, 50mm f/1.8, and the new 70-300 (plastic which makes it light). The latter two are quite affordable. I shoot all those with good success and the 50 comes in handy if I need something faster than f/4. If you don’t need the reach of 300 mm, the new 70-200 f/4 is light, but a lot more $$$. When I shot my book Stone Crusade back in the film days I took 95% of the shots with 24, 50, and 105 primes on an FM2 – the whole kit fit in a small camera bag.

      • 51
        ) David
        April 18, 2014 at 3:45 pm

        John,

        Thanks for the insights! I actually have the 3 lenses you cited. However, is the 2nd generation 70-300mm a significantly better lens than the first? I know it has VR and it’s very affordable. (I don’t get much money for selling old lenses so I still have them.)

        BTW, I enjoy your great sense of humor!

        • April 19, 2014 at 8:04 am

          I have only shot the newer 70-300 so can’t compare. I’ve got some fine shots with that – only beef is it’s a bit slow to focus on moving wildlife, but if you’re subjects stay still it’s a good choice.

  30. April 18, 2014 at 9:29 am

    My biggest beef with my GPL is that I can never find it because my girlfriend Dawn Kish is constantly borrowing it. She loves how fun it is to shoot with. Oh and did I mention she’s a professional photographer – like a REAL professional who pays for all her food, mortgage and other expenses wholly through photography – no other source of income. She’s had more covers of Arizona Highways in the last two years than any other photographer including last year’s photo issue, which by the way she shot with a Diana (a $40 plastic camera from the ’60s) medium format camera loaded with 35mm film so she could expose right over the sprocket holes. She reminds me all the time that it’s not the gear that makes the photographer.

    • Profile photo of Rick Keller
      44
      ) Rick Keller
      April 18, 2014 at 9:48 am

      Well said, John. I am relatively new to photography, and I am only now starting to fathom the historical truths and wonders of the art of photography. And when I refer to history, I mean *history* dating back over 100 years of making photographs; and in the teachings I have read, studied, and from my own young experiences, I have yet to find once instance where a singular piece of photo gear ever made a difference in making a work of art – or a great photographer. You and your girlfriend get it. Thank you! In my mind, there’s only three things that make a work of art and a good photographer: artistic vision, the light, and the skill. That is where it all begins and ends.

      BTW, I love your photos! :-)

      Cheers!

      Rick

    • 50
      ) Jim-
      April 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Perhaps she could write an article detailing her approach. I think you’ve struck a nerve and further discussion would be fun and useful.

  31. 42
    ) Bob
    April 18, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Great post! Too funny!

    This article just goes to show you that professional laboratory and armchair ‘photographers’ like Nasim and his side-kick Romanas should break away from their tungsten-illuminated test charts once in a while and get out to take real photographs. C’mon, guys, you can do it! :-)

    • 62
      ) Patrick O'Connor
      April 19, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      I agree about the post; disagree about your comments regarding Nasim and Romanas. They were harsh and unwarranted. They’re both excellent photographers as well as deserving of respect for the time and effort they put in to their articles.
      If you were joking, I apologize. I tend to be a little naïve.

      • 68
        ) Bob
        April 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

        Patrick, we can agree to disagree. My comment about lab photographers and test charts is spot-on, actually. :-D

        • 69
          ) Patrick O'Connor
          April 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

          I don’t agree or disagree about lab photographers since: 1. I don’t know any and, 2. I don’t like to make sweeping generalizations that are illogical. Of course, we can disagree on what is logical. :-)

          My point was that, while Nasim performs tests for the benefit of his audience, he as well as Romanas, are “real” photographers and, in fact, earn money taking actual photos.

  32. Profile photo of Keith R. Starkey
    49
    ) Keith R. Starkey
    April 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Best body / lens combination ever, period, hands down: D3200 / 18-55mm. Why? Because that’s all I could afford. (And now I can’t even afford a free lunch.)

  33. April 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    :D Epic style and photos that illustrate very well your points, John. Remarkable article. :))

    Eyes up here! :D

  34. 55
    ) asheesh
    April 18, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Interestingly written…makes me desire for trying out a super zoom which I never thought was worth till now!
    You have changed my perception!
    Thanks!

  35. April 18, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    John,
    I had the chance to read this before it was published. Excellent!!! I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the value of a versatile lens – even if it is not perfect. Love your sense of humor and sarcastic wit!
    Bob

    • April 19, 2014 at 8:06 am

      I can’t wait to try the new version on the Burberry Df in Dx mode and pit it against the Hasselblad Lunar with wooly mammoth tusk grip.

      • April 19, 2014 at 8:21 am

        John,

        No doubt that the new version will be a good match for the Burberry DF, although I am hoping that Nikon will start adding more colors to their lens line-up. The standard black lens is so passe.
        The Lunar put quite a bit of pressure on Nikon to up their “style” game. Rumors abound that Nikon’s major R&D efforts are shifting from the introduction of technological and optical improvements to style and coloring. The DF was the first of many stylistic improvements we will see.
        Nasim is working on an article, “Can the color of your camera equipment improve your photography?”

        Thanks again for submitting this article. I feel the same way about my Nikon 28-300mm as you do regarding the 18-300mm – not perfect but damn useful when you can’t load your entire lens collection in a backpack and/or have time to switch lenses. BTW, I have experimented with different noise and sharpening tools and found that the Topaz Define and InFocus do a great job of improving my 28-300mm’s images, particularly on those taken at the longer focal lengths.

        Keep shooting with that “crummy” 18-300mm lens! :)

        Bob

        • April 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

          Which other noise and sharpening tools did you try and how do you feel each compares?

          • April 20, 2014 at 11:47 am

            John,
            I have the Nik Define, Imagenomics Noiseware and Topaz DeNoise. The Topaz suite of noise reduction and sharpening are tops in my book. The micro contrast tool in InFocus seems to do a great job of exploiting the details while leaving the blurred backgrounds alone.
            Bob

  36. 61
    ) Nick C
    April 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Fabulous – well said and said well….

    I thought much of the commentary from the previous 18-300 posting amounted to debating whether or not a Happy Meal picked up in the drive through lane tastes better than the inside counter Happy Meal. Well folks, it’s still a Happy Meal (and at times there is nothing wrong with that, but no one should confuse 1000 calories delivered in a paper bag in less than 90 seconds with fine dining – if fine dining is called for then Happy ain’t so happy…..)

    As an aside, I notice that this article is tagged super zoom and super telephoto. How about a SZST? If Nikon is looking for answers to a struggling legacy camera market, then it’s time to think outside the box. (Surely they are already doing that since conventional wisdom would dictate making cameras that don’t spatter oil…..). Anyway SZST. We live in the land of BIG. What’s bigger than an 800 SZST? Buy one and then throw in a free V1. Now we have BIG and FREE. How can that not work? Give me 50 MP and a 0.0002 km focal length and all my photography problems will be solved!

    Nick

  37. 67
    ) Liz
    April 21, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I loved this article. Great laughs! Maybe there should be a rebuttal article like this from a photographer like John for every lens/camera review on here?

  38. 70
    ) Alexander Dela Cruz Jr
    April 28, 2014 at 6:40 am

    A lighter taking on the issue about “Gear is Greatness…”! Great article, sir. Was able to loosen up a little bit with the pressures of acquiring flagship equipment…xD (By the way, I’m still a DX user at the moment…)

    The conception that “Gear = Greatness” will never be taken out of the equation, whoever you may ask…but like we always say here in the Philippines: “Wala yan sa pana, nasa indian yan!” (Direct translation: It’s not with the type of bow and arrow you use, it’s in the indian’s archery skills…in our world, it’s not in the gear we use, it’s in the way we use our equipment that brings the greatness in what we are doing)

  39. Profile photo of Ashiyawolf
    71
    ) Ashiyawolf
    June 13, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    This is a great response to Romanas’ article. I also love the picture of the Golden Eagle, it is beautifully surreal.

    I am a big fan of superzooms, and the new 18-300 is an ideal lens for me. However, I hate the idea that I as I carry it around, hardcore photographers are sneering at me. Why is there need for hate? I never claimed to be a pro, I’m just an amateur, trying to enjoy the scenery and find an excuse to get away from my xbox.

    I have a D7100 which you can find in stacks at Costco next to competing 70Ds; I’m already aware that this is a mainstream device. Still, I read and study books and info from Scott Kelby, Ken Rockwell, and Trey Ratcliff to further myself as the prosumer that I try to be. I just want to enjoy this camera and lens, and your article helps me to do so. It reminds me, that at the end of the day, it is the photo that matters, not how you got it or what equipment was utilized.

  40. Profile photo of Romano Giannetti
    72
    ) Romano Giannetti
    June 24, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Great and funny article. Please write more of these!
    I really think that the photo-world would really benefit from a bit of self-humor; too often we are seriously bickering around small things…
    I have to say that this article prompted me to buy a superzoom. Now my set is a 18-250 and a couple of primes (35 and 105/macro) — and I think I am perfectly covered as an hobbyst.
    Thanks again.

Comment Policy: Although our team at Photography Life encourages all readers to actively participate in discussions, we reserve the right to delete / modify any content that does not comply with our Code of Conduct, or do not meet the high editorial standards of the published material.

Leave a Comment