This is an in-depth review of the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G lens, which was announced on January 27, 2013 together with the super telephoto Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR. The lens replaces the existing 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D, an old autofocus lens released back in August of 2000. With its rather weak optical design optimized for film cameras, the old version was never quite considered to be among Nikon’s top performing lenses. It suffered from decreased corner performance, strong distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration issues, making it a weak candidate for modern DSLR cameras. After 13 long years, Nikon finally completely revamped the design of the lens and reintroduced it to the market as a budget lens for modern full-frame cameras. The AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED went through drastic changes in optical design and now looks nothing like its predecessor both physically and optically.
This is a part two to my “why are some lenses so expensive?” article that I wrote yesterday. I already explained the difference between consumer and professional-level lenses in the first post, so now it is time to talk about exotic lenses. With so many exotic lenses on the market today, some of which seem to be in relatively high demand (at least judging by their lack of availability), one might wonder about what makes them so special when compared to everything else. This post is not meant to be technical or basic – I think you can get most of that from the first article. Instead, I want to focus on craftsmanship, price, perceived value and niche marketing – the main drivers behind exotic lenses.
Every once in a while, I get asked why some lenses are so much more expensive compared to others. Interestingly, this question comes from both beginners and advanced photographers, but in different contexts. Beginners want to know why pro-level lenses are a lot more expensive than consumer lenses, while knowledgeable photographers wonder about what makes niche/exotic lenses from companies like Zeiss and Leica so much more expensive than modern professional lenses. These are all interesting and valid questions, so I thought writing a couple of articles to attempt to answer these questions would be useful for our readers. In this article, I want to answer the first beginner question on what makes professional lenses expensive.
If you own a Nikon DSLR, this is a good time to perform a firmware update, because Nikon has just released new firmware that contains distortion control data for most of its current and older generation DSLRs, including Nikon D4, D90, D600, D800, D800E, D3100, D3200, D5000, D5100, D5200, D7000 and D7100. The distortion control data is used to correct barrel and pincushion distortion exhibited by Nikkor lenses. Please keep in mind that this data is only useful for correcting JPEG images. Distortion control data is not applied to RAW images (only to JPEG previews stored in RAW images) and if you use external image editors such as Photoshop and Lightroom, they will completely disregard this data when the RAW file is imported.
The original review of the Nikon 300mm f/4D AF-S lens was published back in 2009 and was very short. I decided to completely rewrite it, with all the latest information, MTF data, more feedback and sample images, so you are looking at an updated version. If you are a birder, you have only two budget choices for Nikon – either the Nikon 300mm f/4D IF-ED AF-S or the much more expensive Nikon 80-400mm VR that was introduced in 2013. All other semi-professional lenses by Nikon are not good enough/long enough for birding. The old 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR was too slow to focus and a lot of people including myself expressed their frustration with it for fast moving birds. I have been using the Nikon 300mm f/4D lens for over 6 years now and have been very pleased with the results. I take it with me everywhere I go and have used it more than any other telephoto lens so far. It is relatively light and I primarily use it handheld for shooting birds and other wildlife of Colorado.
Photographers are always looking for something new to invigorate their photography. Sometimes visiting the same old haunts or taking the same types of photographs can get stale. When I mention that I love visiting historic cemeteries, I get quite a few strange looks. Some consider it a bit morbid. Others, uncomfortable with the subject of death, can’t seem to fathom going to a cemetery unless they have no choice! Suffice to say that the notion of visiting a cemetery is not usually at the top of people’s “Things I Would Most LikeTo Do This Weekend” lists!
Today I received the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 lens. Took me a while to unpackage it – almost felt like a Matryoshka, with boxes coming out of boxes! I think there were a total of 3 boxes before I finally got to the beautiful Nikon case. The lens is well protected for sure! Haven’t had a chance to play with it yet, but I will hopefully do it within the next few days – heading out to Yellowstone NP tomorrow. A perfect testing ground for such a lens for sure, since bears and wolves are pretty far at this time of the year.
A quick reminder to those of you who were planning on purchasing new photographic equipment from B&H. Instant rebates from Nikon, Fujifilm and Sony will end tomorrow (06/29/2013). A quick recap on the rebates programs. If you buy a Nikon DSLR body, you have the option of purchasing as many lenses or speedlight units (SB-700 and SB-910) with up to $300 off per each product. While this means that you have to purchase at least one camera to qualify for additional lens rebates, some lens rebates are significant and were not part of any rebates in the past (like the new Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR lens that I reviewed earlier this year). So this will be a great program for those that want to buy a new DSLR or want a backup camera.
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.