Why I Love the Nikon E Series (AKA Really Cheap) Lenses

Nikon E Series Lenses (8)

At a time when the digital photography world was buzzing with new gear announcements, I managed to fall in love with some of Nikon’s very old and cheap lenses, the E Series lenses. My experience with these lenses taught me a great lesson: it is really not about the gear. It is rather about being creative with what gear we already have, despite how limited and incapable we might think of it. This was a great inspiration to me, especially with my nagging habit of lusting after the latest and greatest gear announcements. The fact that I’m writing this article goes to show that I still struggle with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), but for a change, this is a case about some of the cheapest lenses available.

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Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Review

Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD

This is a detailed review of the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, an ultra-telephoto zoom lens that was announced in November of 2013 for enthusiasts and professionals that are looking for a high quality, versatile zoom lens for a variety of needs, including wildlife photography. Although many DSLR lens manufacturers have been making telephoto zoom lenses that cover long ranges, whether looking at Sigma’s 50-500mm / 150-500mm lenses, Canon’s 100-400mm or Nikon’s 80-400mm, none of them can reach the focal length of 600mm natively without teleconverters. And as we have discovered in our Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR review, attaching teleconverters on slower zoom lenses is generally not a good idea, since there is a bit too much of sharpness loss / image degradation, or even potential loss of autofocus capability. Thus, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is a rather unique lens in this group, which is why our team at Photography Life has been anxious to get a hold of the lens for a while now.

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Birds in Flight with the Tamron 150-600mm Lens

Tamron 150-600mm on D800

Many Nikon owners have been chomping at the bit waiting for the F-Mount version of the new Tamron 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VC zoom lens to be available. I recently borrowed a review sample from Tamron’s Canadian distributor. In advance of my full review, I thought that Photography Life readers would like to see some sample images of birds in flight. My full review of this lens will appear later in June or early July.

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Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Review

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art

This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art prime lens that was announced on January 6, 2014 for Sigma SA, Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony A mounts. Ever since Sigma announced its new “Art” lens line, it has been releasing superb new lenses and updates. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art received the highest praise from us at Photography Life, especially after we compared it to the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G and other 35mm lenses in our extensive review. So when I first found out that Sigma had plans to update its existing Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, I got really excited, since I knew that the new Art-series lens would not disappoint. It has been too long since both Nikon and Canon updated their 50mm f/1.4 primes. In the case with Nikon, its newer 50mm f/1.8G yields better sharpness than the bigger and heavier 50mm f/1.4G. In short, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is just not good enough for modern high resolution sensors and its performance at maximum aperture is rather disappointing (and the Canon 50mm f/1.4 is quite similar in that regard). The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art announcement was very timely, because it hits a sweet spot between the sub-par 50mm f/1.4 Nikon and Canon lenses, and the exotic manual focus Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4.

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Tokina 70-200mm f/4 Pro Announcement

Tokina 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S

One of the interesting announcements from last week was Tokina’s AT-X 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S. Being the first Tokina lens to incorporate optical image stabilization, the 70-200mm f/4 Pro is a direct competitor to the excellent Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR lens. The Tokina 70-200mm f/4 seems to be similar to the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G in a number of ways. Its optical design incorporates 19 elements in 14 groups, with 3 ultra-low dispersion lens elements (vs 20 elements in 14 groups and 3 ED elements) and the lens does not come with a tripod collar either (available to be purchased separately). It has the same filter thread size of 67mm and has a slightly shorter barrel. Unfortunately, at 980 grams, it is a 130 grams heavier than the Nikkor, which is a pretty noticeable difference.

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Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Announcement

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

Along with the 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, Canon has also introduced a budget wide-angle lens for its EF-S mount, the Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM. At a very compact size, image stabilization and just 240 grams of weight, the Canon 10-18mm will be an interesting choice for Canon’s APS-C line of cameras like 7D, 70D and Digital Rebel series. With an equivalent field of view of 16–28.8mm relative to full-frame, the lens will offer great ultra wide angle coverage. And with its MSRP price of just $299, it will be a great choice for beginners and enthusiasts interested in landscape, travel, architecture and everyday photography.

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Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Announcement

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

I am finally back in Denver after a three week-long trip to the UK and I am trying to catch up with all the news and announcements that we’ve missed. The first news items are related to Canon lens announcements from last week. Canon announced the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM image-stabilized full-frame lens for enthusiasts and professionals who want something cheaper than the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. Usually, f/4 lenses are lighter and smaller than their f/2.8 counterparts. However, the difference between the 16-35mm f/4L and 16-35mm f/2.8L is not as big – the former is just a tad thinner and weighs 20 grams lighter in comparison. The three biggest differences are obviously the smaller maximum aperture of f/4, $500 price difference and image stabilization. With a very similar optical design featuring the same number of elements and groups, 2 Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) and 3 Aspherical elements, the 16-35mm f/4L IS seems to challenge its big brother in a number of ways, even in optical performance.

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Nikon TC-14E III Announcement

Nikon TC-14E III

Along with the 400mm f/2.8E VR lens, Nikon has also announced the TC-14E III 1.4x teleconverter. The older TC-14E II version has been out since 2001 and Nikon finally decided to update it, most likely to match the performance of the new generation super telephoto lenses like the new Nikon 400mm f/2.8E VR and Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR. The now previous-generation TC-14E II has always been praised by our team at Photography Life, thanks to its superb performance and very little performance degradation that is almost unnoticeable to the eye when using with most super telephoto lenses (see our article on how teleconverters impact image quality). In fact, my copy of the TC-14E II stays glued to my wildlife travel companion, the Nikkor 300mm f/4D AF-S (see my in-depth review) and I only detach it when I need to use the teleconverter with the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR, 200-400mm f/4G VR or other telephoto lenses.

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Not All Lens Filters Are The Same

Filter Comparison

The subject of using or not using protective lenses can invoke heated debates among photographers, with both sides often fiercely defending their choices. I am not going to debate whether it is right or wrong to use protective filters – that’s certainly a personal choice. I have been using them for a number of years now to protect my higher-end lenses and make it easier to clean lenses with recessed front elements (such as on Nikon 50mm f/1.4G / f/1.8G). Having had bad experience with purchasing a low-quality no-name brand filter when I just started photography (it was sold to me as a “must-have” at a local photo store), I learned what such a filter can do to my photos the hard way. Since then, I have only been purchasing multi-coated B+W filters that use high-quality Schott glass. I have been very happy with these filters and have been telling our readers to either use the best they can find, or not use filters at all.

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