A lot of our readers have been asking me about the new Nikon 18-35mm AF-S lens that was recently announced. I had a chance to use this lens a while ago for over a month and I never got a chance to fully review it. Ahead of the upcoming Nikon 18-35mm review (posted on 07/27/2013), I would like to provide some data for our readers and compare the lens performance to the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G VR. The below information only contains sharpness numbers and does not include all other optical tests such as vignetting, distortion, chromatic aberration, etc. – I will only provide a summary of my findings for now. The full data with illustrations and sample images will be provided in the full review.
On March 5 of 2013, Nikon released the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, the long awaited update to the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR that was released over 13 years ago as Nikon’s first lens to sport image stabilization (Vibration Reduction) technology. I have been impatiently waiting for this lens update for quite some time now for a number of reasons. First, it is the only Nikon budget lens that can reach 400mm focal length without teleconverters. Second, it is a very versatile lens with a huge zoom range, which can be quite useful for outdoor sports and wildlife photography. Third, it is a relatively lightweight lens one could hand-hold for extended periods of time, especially when compared to any of the Nikon super telephoto lenses. And lastly, the old Nikon 80-400mm VR had a very slow autofocus motor and it was almost unusable for anything that moves, making the Nikon 300mm f/4D pretty much the only “budget” telephoto choice. So this much-needed, long overdue update was certainly welcomed by many of us Nikon shooters.
Let’s pick up where we left after the first installment of food photography, shall we? This blog post will cover Nikon lenses that you can successfully use for the purpose of photographing food. Please keep in mind that the information I present below is a personal opinion based on my experience so far, which I do not think is subject to change anytime soon, as I like my set-up very much.
Some of our readers are probably wondering what our team has been up to lately, so I wanted to give a quick update on our activities. I apologize for not being able to post articles lately – I have been extremely busy with a number of projects, so I asked Lola to fill in for me. I have been working hard on expanding the lens database (which has been enhanced with even more useful information) for the past few months and this past week I was able to migrate our previous comments system to “Disqus” – a robust commenting system used by some of the most popular websites on the Internet. If you have tried commenting on some of the reviews with over a few hundred comments lately, you probably noticed how slow those pages respond, sometimes taking up to several minutes to load. All those subscription options and other comment features we implemented in the past took their toll on load speeds, so I pretty much was forced to migrate to a better commenting system. I am sure most of you will appreciate this change, but I do want to let you know that there are some drawbacks to the new system. There was no way for me to migrate previous post subscriptions, so if you used to receive updates whenever someone posted a comment in a particular article, you will have to re-subscribe to those posts via Disqus (please note that your general subscription to receive email notifications when we post articles is unaffected, this is only for comment subscriptions). Aside from this, you will love the new commenting system. And for those that hate Facebook and other social media, there is no need to register for an account at any of those sites, so you can still post as a “guest”. In addition, many of our readers reported site performance issues, so I was also able to migrate most of our content to better and faster hosting. The pages and images should now load extremely quickly in comparison. On top of that, I have been evaluating options for more social interaction between our readers via forum and other means (no, we will not be integrating our site with Facebook or Twitter, this will be completely separate). But this is not something I want to roll out immediately – integration and testing will take some time to complete. I am hoping to do this sometime before the end of the year.
We have been working hard on building the lens database during the last few weeks, so I would like to apologize for not being able to provide updates, reviews and new articles on the site. We want to make the lens database as comprehensive and as useful as possible for our readers, which is why we have been putting a lot of our effort into it. Thanks to your valuable feedback from our announcement, we have made significant changes to the database and added a few great features:
- We added close to 100 new lenses to the database (Leica, Samyang, Kenko, Voigtlander, Zeiss)
- We now have a separate rating for infrared performance of many brand and third party lenses (Nikon, Canon, Sigma, Olympus, Panasonic, Tamron, Tokina and Zeiss). When looking at most of these lenses, you will now see a separate line that says “Infrared Rating”. For now, we only have three rating categories: Good, Mixed and Poor. We might expand on this in the future, if we start testing for IR performance of lenses. Big thanks to Bob Vishneski for this idea. Many of the lens ratings are based on Bob’s feedback and research.
- The main “Lens Database” page now has some filtering options. You can filter lenses by Brand, Mount, Lens Type, Format, Price, Title, Focal Length and Release Date. We do not have advanced search capabilities yet, but that will be coming soon.
- Lenses are now listed by focal length instead of title.
- We created a comprehensive “Lens Index” that shows a listing of all lenses in the database.
- Our lens reviews have not been fully integrated into the database yet, but a number of lenses have been changed with sample images and our rating. Once we complete this, we will enable the feature to sort by lens rating.
- We had some issues with data on a number of lenses. Thanks to your feedback, we were able to fix them all.
A much more exciting news today is for Canon shooters – the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L with a built-in 1.4x teleconverter has finally been announced. The Canon 200-400mm f/4 was released in response to the highly regarded Nikon 200-400mm f/4G VR, which Nikon has been making for a decade now. Many Canon enthusiasts and pros have been craving badly for such a lens, because it can be invaluable for photographing wildlife. Instead of creating the same lens, Canon took optical design a step further and designed the lens with a built-in 1.4x teleconverter, making it a versatile lens with 200-400mm or 280-560mm focal lengths.
I remember not that long ago there were two types of lenses. Brand lenses, those designed by known manufacturers for their own cameras, such as Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus, and the cheapskate third party lenses you’d buy if you couldn’t afford the first type. Brand lenses were more expensive, but well worth the extra price. Better build quality, better optical capability, better dependability, better compatibility, better autofocus and fewer quality control and manufacturing issues were what you got for your hard-earned cash. Not to mention respectful nods from anyone spotting letters Nikkor or a red ring around the front of that lens barrel. A few years have gone by now and situation seems to be changing, however. Third party manufacturers have moved the game up and started producing some serious alternatives. Sigma is very keen to prove the point with the launch of its latest lens, the new 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM for APS-C DSLR cameras. In this article, I will introduce you to this new lens and give insight as to why it is such an important step forward in current smaller-format lens market.
What is it About This Lens?
In a nutshell, this new lens sports a useful wide-to-normal focal length range of 18-35mm on an APS-C sensor camera (27-52.5mm full-frame equivalent), for which it is designed. It also has Sigma’s fast HSM AF motor, which is similar to Nikon’s SWM and Canon’s USM technology. Zooming and focusing are internal, so length remains constant. The new Sigma also has 17 elements in 12 groups and sports 9 rounded diaphragm blades for smooth out of focus highlights. Some of the optical elements are aspherical while minimum focus distance is 0.28m. The lens accepts 72mm filters and is, unfortunately, not protected against dust and moisture. It’s also quite hefty at around 810g. The lens sits in Sigma’s Art lineup alongside Sigma 35mm f/1.4 HSM and is designed with aesthetic flexibility in mind. But the spotlight is the f/1.8 aperture throughout the zoom range. Oh yes. This is the first ever f/1.8 zoom lens for DSLRs.
We have been incredibly busy during the last few months, working on building our very own Lens Database. As of today, the database contains 400 lenses and we are continuously working on adding more lenses from different manufacturers. You might be wondering about why there is a need to have our own database at Photography Life, when there are plenty of them on the Internet. After I went through a dozen different sites about a year ago, I realized that most sites contain very little information about lenses. While manufacturer specifications are mostly there, such important data as lens construction and MTF charts is typically missing. On top of that, very few sites provide image samples from lenses – images are often too small to look at even on a mobile device.
I have received a number of emails from our readers that were not able to purchase Nikon lenses on time, before the rebate program ended. Thankfully, looks like the rebate program deadline was too short, so Nikon decided to extend it further until March 30, 2013. Since March 31 is Nikon’s financial year end, the goal is obviously to continue to push lens sales as much as possible. I seriously doubt that this specific lens rebate program will be available later this year. Unless Nikon is in serious financial trouble, rebate programs will probably only include DSLR + lens discounts like we have seen in the past.
Once again, if you are wondering about which lenses I personally recommend, see my previous article on the rebate program.
In this article, I will compare the new Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR and its predecessor, the Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR. Since the lens has just been announced, I have not had the chance to use it and compare it with the older 80-400mm lens. I am planning to expand this comparison further, once I have both lenses in my hands later this year. For now, I will go over specifications and compare both lenses side by side using information provided by Nikon, as well as MTF charts. First, we’ll get started with specifications:
Lens Specifications and Comparison
|Feature||Nikon 80-400mm AF-S||Nikon 80-400mm AF-D|
|Mount Type||Nikon F-Bayonet||Nikon F-Bayonet|
|Focal Length Range||80-400mm||80-400mm|
|Maximum Angle of View (DX)||20°||20°|
|Minimum Angle of View (DX)||4°||4°|
|Maximum Angle of View (FX)||30°10′||30°10′|
|Minimum Angle of View (FX)||6°10′||6°10′|
|Maximum Reproduction Ratio||1/5.7x (1/5.1x in MF)||1/4.8x|
|Compatible Format(s)||FX, DX, 35mm Film||FX, DX, 35mm Film|
|VR (Vibration Reduction)||Yes||Yes|
|VR Technology||2nd Generation||1st Generation|
|Nano Crystal Coat||Yes||No|
|ED Glass Elements||4||3|
|Super ED Glass Elements||1||N/A|
|Super Integrated Coating||Yes||Yes|
|AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)||Yes||No|
|Minimum Focus Distance||5.74 ft. (1.75m)||7.5 ft. (2.3m)|
|Focus Mode||Auto, Manual, Auto/Manual||Auto, Manual, Auto/Manual|
|Accepts Filter Type||Screw-on||Screw-on|
|Dimensions||3.8 x 8.0 in. (Diameter x Length), 95.5 x 203mm (Diameter x Length)||3.6 x 6.7 in. (Diameter x Length), 91 x 171mm (Diameter x Length)|
|Weight||56 oz. (1570g)||47 oz. (1360g)|
|Supplied Accessories||HB-65 Lens Hood, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap, LC-77 Snap-On Front Lens Cap, CL-M2 Ballistic Nylon Lens Case||HB-24 Hood, CL-M1 case, 77mm lens cap, Rear lens cap|
Let’s go over the differences between the two now. The very first major difference between the two lenses is obviously the optical lens design. The new 80-400mm lens has a completely new optical formula, with 20 elements in 12 groups, while the older version has 17 elements in 11 groups. So we are not just talking about new tweaks to the lens – this is a whole new design. Here is the comparison of lens construction on both lenses: