18-55 VR vs. sigma 30mm 1.4

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by dave_raines, Jun 6, 2008.

  1. I have a D50, but have been using old lenses from the film days (28-80, 70-300,
    50mm 1.8). What can I say, I'm cheap. The lenses obviously each have their
    limitations, but I've used them a lot, and work around them pretty well.

    But I'm going on a trip, a rather long, large, varied trip. (russia, china, SE
    asia, india, nepal, europe, etc.) I'm packing light, and I'm not going to bring
    a bunch of lenses, and I'm certainly not going to bring a tripod. I've been
    thinking about getting a new lens for the trip, and I've more or less narrowed
    it down to choosing between the 18-55 VR nikon and the sigma 30mm f1.4. There
    are advantages to each 18-55 is cheaper, zoom, much wider. The sigma is faster
    and from what I can tell has better image quality.

    I guess my question is part technical and part philosophical. If you were
    traveling around the world with one lens, would you want the 18-55 VR or the
    30mm f1.4? Will the VR help enough to allow me to shoot at night and indoors
    without a tripod? I feel like I'll want something wider than the 30, but it's
    been 5 years (last foray with film), since I've shot with anything wider, and
    very rarely miss it. Is the image quality going to be that much better on the prime?

    My normal philosophy is to just wait till you feel like you need something to do
    a specific thing before I buy it, but in this case, it would be a bit late to
    buy something when that happens. I can obviously afford to buy both, but I've
    never understood why people set out a budget to buy things, it's always just a
    matter of getting the best product for the money for what I'm going to do with it.

    Any thoughts?
  2. 18-55 hands down! You need wide for a trip.

    I'd get the 18-70 if I could swing it instead, though, or the 16-85 VR.
  3. The 18-55mm will not give you a faster shutter speed so it will not "stop" action in low light. Either would work depending on you. I do favor the 18-70 over the 18-55 because of speed and range.
  4. Indeed, the 16-85VR would be the ideal choice, if it's in the cards, budget-wise.
  5. Ok, so the 16-85 VR costs (on amazon) $428 more than the 18-55 VR.
    Any think they can convince that the 16-85vr is going to be worth $428 more to me than the 18-55vr? Or, to make it more concrete, anyone think they can convince me that I would rather have the 16-85vr than the 18-55vr and enough money to spend an extra month living on a beach in Bali?
  6. What about this 17-50 or 18-50 F/2.8 from sigma or Tamron?

    The 18-55 is a very weak lens that probably won't last long. If you are going to a long trip I would consider something sturdier.
  7. Dave, this is all about tradeoffs. The 18-55 will probably be fine for you, at least during the day and as long as you are willing to give up the tele shots.

    As for the 16-85, you get more range and at least newer technology if not better optics. Is it worth the extra $$$? Only you can decide that.

    If you have time, try out both lenses and see which works best for you.
  8. Myself, I am a wide angle guy, and a 30mm as my "wide" lens would just be pure torture! The only thing it has going for it is the f1.4. The 18-55mm VR is much more versatile and about twice as wide. The VR really works too. If money is an issue, it's an obvious choice. However, the lens that splits the difference between the 30mm f1.4 and 18-55mm VR is the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8. It would give you the wide angle AND good low light performance for the insides of old buildings. I do think that extra performance is worth the money. The Tamron is a fairly compact lens. You will not see any difference in image quality with a single focal lens, especially if not using a tripod.

    Kent in SD
  9. Uhmmm! I'll start by saying that for close to 10 years I only used two lenses, a 50 f1.4 and a 70-210. These were Canon lenses on film cameras. I never used any wider lenses and during those days we didn't do any cropping. The 50 was great. Zooming was not problem, a few steps back and a few steps forward and there was my 28-70. Now we are talking digital, a 30 1.4 would do the same and you get your zoom right on your feet. I would take the speed of the 30 over the convenience of the 18-55. And now we can crop! That is even easier! Just MHO. Rene'
  10. I was looking for a wide fast zoom and didn't want to invest too much money in a DX
    only lens. Two days ago I picked up a second hand Sigma 18-50 f2.8. It's a Sigma
    pro lens (feels pretty robust, which I need, as v.clumsy!), fast, a bit soft at 2.8 and
    quite a lot of light fall off wide open at 18mm. But it was dirt cheap and from
    everything I've read no worse than stuff at three times the price.

    VR doesn't get my juices flowing. It can't stop the subject from moving and if I'm
    taking landscapes I'll always use a tripod or support. I've saved over a thousand $$
    by buying the older, fast, non-vr lenses.
  11. I would go for the third part pro midrange zooms like the tamron 17-50 f2.8 for $420, the sigma 18-50 f2.8 for $450, or the tokina 16-50 f2.8 at $640.

    Honestly, go with the tamron, everyone like the way it performs and it's pretty cheap within your price range. You'll be MUCH more satisfied with the tamron professional zoom then a kit lens or a fixed prime when it comes to travel.
  12. I sure wouldn't pick the 18-55mm Nikon. It is a dismal under-performer. Don't know about the 30mm Sigma, but it couldn't be much worse than the 18-55mm. I would be more interested in speed than zoom capability, so maybe the 30mm is a better option. I'm always an advocate for the 18-35mm because it is optically much better than the 18-55mm and covers full frame, but it is not fast. I think the ideal lens is the 17-55mm if you could swing it, or maybe a used 17-35mm f/2.8.
  13. interesting thread.

    i tend to agree with other folks that a) the 18-55 will be too slow after dark and b) the 30mm could be a bit limiting, if aesthetically sort of noble in a spartan/purist kinda way. if you take just a single prime, that's the focal length to get, and the 1.4 would be great for low-light shooting.

    i can understand the romantic allure of the 30mm--which i own and like a lot, btw--but... a zoom would be more versatile IMO, and a 2.8 zoom would be the best of both worlds. my first choice would be the tamron 17-50, but i'd also take a look at the (discontinued) sigma 24-60.

    that would give you better IQ than the 18-55 plus a bit more wiggle room at the wide end, and much more wiggle room at the long end. and you'd still have a good low-light lens with the ability to throw backgrounds out of focus. IMO a constant 2.8 beats VR, especially at that focal length -- if i was gonna get one VR lens for travel, it would be the 18-200, not the 18-55.

    here's the kicker: last time i checked (yesterday), the 24-60 was under $200 on amazon, which is probably the best deal in quality glass out there right now.

    even traveling light, i'd still try to find room for a small tripod, like the gorillapod or a velbon luxi, for longer exposures.
  14. "30mm could be a bit limiting, if aesthetically sort of noble in a spartan/purist kinda way."

    I think you nailed it exactly, Eric. A part of me just thinks it would be noble and romantic to travel with nothing but a single prime. Like Henri Cartier-Bresson. I know it's silly and I usually scoff at thinking like that, but it's a thought I can't quite shake.
  15. IMHO the best compromise is the Tamron 17-50mm. It still is slow. For me the best option would be a 20mm f2 paired with a 50mm f1.4. The 16-85mm is a great range but just way to slow at f5.6. At 85mm I want f1.8 or better.
  16. If you really want a one lens solution, I would also use the 17-50 Tamron recommended several times above. If you don't mind carrying a second lens like the Sigma 30 or the Nikkor 35 F2(really light) then you can pick any of the variable aperture zooms according to the focal range you want.
  17. i feel you, dave. it's certainly artistic to purposely place limits on oneself in order to work within those limitations. i've been forcing myself to go out shooting with just the 30mm or just the 50/1.8 for just that reason, even though i have a whole bag of zooms.

    i don't know how that would work out over an entire trip, but my thought is, as long as you know what you're getting into, why not? the rewards may be worth the challenges and difficulties. at the very least, you will come to know that lens very well :)
  18. What! Not a single mention of the 18-200 VR? It was supposed to be made for travel and convenience.

    I own one and also a Sigma 30/1.4. If I had to take one lens, I have no doubt which one I would take. The VR really helps. I haven't used the 17-50 or 18-50 f/2.8 lenses, they may be good choices too.
  19. If you don't have an objection to Ken Rockwell you can see a sharpness comparison of the 18-55 and Sigma 30 mm at:


    At f/4 and f/8 he finds the 18-55 to be sharper.

    This is partly supported by www.photozone.de who tried the Canon version of the Sigma and found the edges to be well behind the centre. They say you shouldn't compare Nikon and Canon tests so you can't directly compare the two lenses on this site.

    Of course in available light at wide apertures edge definition doesn't matter much since DOF is so small anyway and it's almost impossible to focus on centre and edge at the same time unless you want to photograph dimly lit brick walls!

    I'd quite like a Sigma myself but here in the UK they do seem so very expensive - more than a Nikon 50 mm f/1.4 for instance. It's hard to justify the expense.
  20. I have tried this in practise. For more than ten years I carried my SLR with 28-80, a 70-200 and a 28. Then I bought a used Konica Hexar AF with a 35mm f 2 (silver with software hack). Within six months I stopped bringing my SLR with me. For five years I only used the Hexar.
    I converted to digital two years ago, first with a G7 and then a Nikon D40.
    The five years I only used the Hexar gave me more keepers each year than I got for each of the 15 years with SLR equipment. I did not get as many keepers with my D40 as with the Hexar. It is probably partly me, but I know that the DOF at f2 and available light ability was the main reason behind a lot of the keepers from my Hexar years.
    I bought the Sigma 30 f1,4 two months ago and my luck changed. The keepers are popping up again.
    At least for me I think that my visualisation of a picture fits perfectly with the field of view between 30-45 mm (film eq). As a consequence it is more easy for me to spot (and take) a good picture with my Sigma(or my Hexar) than with any other focal length. Other people have other perspectives and spot their keepers in other fields of view. Check the exif of your keepers. If they are mainly close to 30mm, get the Sigma.
  21. Gaute,

    That's interesting since I tend to use my zoom rather like you describe. I see a picture as a normal picture and set the zoom to about 33 mm or I see it as long focus and set the zoom to 55 mm etc. Then I look through the viewfinder (and I admit I sometimes adjust the zoom a bit!).

    I think this is probably a result of not having had a zoom for almost 40 years!
  22. "What! Not a single mention of the 18-200 VR? It was supposed to be made for travel and convenience."

    actually, i mentioned it in my earlier post, hashim. but i think dave's point was that convenience can equal laziness; by limiting yourself to a prime you focus more on composition. the queston is, do you want to do that for an entire trip or would all that sneaker zooming drive you mad?

    "At least for me I think that my visualisation of a picture fits perfectly with the field of view between 30-45 mm (film eq)."

    this is true for most people, except the extremely nearsighted and farsighted, which is why a 50mm film lens is considered "normal". in DX land that's the 35/2 or 30/1.4 or thereabouts.

    there'another PN thread where a PJ is talking about how liberating it was for him to be freed from his zooms and have to use the 50mm for an assignment. i think dave was on to something.
  23. "If you don't have an objection to Ken Rockwell you can see a sharpness comparison of the 18-55 and Sigma 30 mm at:


    At f/4 and f/8 he finds the 18-55 to be sharper."

    the f/4 looks about even to me, and you'd expect a fast aperture prime to max out at 5.6 or so, i'd also expect the kit lens to be good at all focal lengths at f/8. so this isnt exactly an earth-shattering revelation. the point is that you can't test the 18-55 at f/2 or 2.8 because it cant do that. anyway, look how much better the 30 is than the 18-200 at f/4.
  24. If you want to stick with a Nikon lens, the 35 f2D is an option.

    I shoot with a normal prime 90% of the time and use my feet for zoom. The mid range zoom is just a step or two in either direction of the feet with a normal prime as Rene' pointed out earlier. But what zoom is faster than 2.8? There's nothing like a fast prime. Even the viewfinder is twice as bright!

    The only zoom I would consider would be the 18-200 VR.

    Sounds like a great trip planned. Carry light. :)
  25. Horses for courses... A "normal" prime is liberating, it eliminates some variables from the equation but has some serious restrictions too.

    As a amateur photographer I've used a FM2+50/1.8 for like 10 years. Those were my high-school and faculty days. I've traveled through Europe and I've done Mountain Hiking only with this camera and this lens. It's simple and uncomplicated BUT. You won't get building pictures, only details from the front, no group pictures in narrow spaces and, of course, not wide landscapes.

    Also, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is quite heavy for a prime... Weights as much as a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 or a Nikon 18-70.

    Choose is yours...
  26. Definitely the 16-85 VR. And you going to have all the range, wide angle, stability (VR)
    you required on the trip. The 18-200 VR is more expensive and not wide enough! And
    you never going to need 200 mm !

    Have a wonderful and safe trip.
  27. Hey Dave,
    "It would be noble and romantic...I know it's silly and I usually scoff..."

    I know what you mean, Dave.
    No scoffing here.

    I'm thinking Paris with a Nikon 24mm 2.8 AI on a D60.

  28. I don't about you guys but 18 - 200 is the way to go. It is a little bit expensive but you can't get any better. I used that lens for quite sometimes and I never have to switch lenses in my D200.
  29. How about the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 AF-D? Wider than the 30mm, faster than the 18-

    I once just took an FM2n and 24mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.4 Nikkors to Paris, Joe. Got
    great shots with minimal fuss. Go for it!
  30. "I guess my question is part technical and part philosophical. If you were traveling around the world with one lens, would you want the 18-55 VR or the 30mm f1.4? "


    I wouldn't travel around the world with one lens. But the 16-85 and the 30/1.4 (or maybe Sigma's 24/1.8 instead of the 30mm) would be a very useful 2-lens combo that would handle the vast majority of travel photography needs.
  31. I agree to the 18-55VR and I also own the 35/2.

    I did some controlled tests indoors and I actually like the 18-55VR more as the overall IQ was better. Sure, the 35/2 is faster and a bit sharper. But, the design is older and so are the coatings and technologies applied. A lot of people won't accept this, but, it is true. The color and contrast was better on the 18-55VR compare to the 35/2.

    The new Nikon lenses, be they prime or zoom, are much more advanced in their design. It's very difficult to get any lens flare and if you do it's so minimal and you almost have to be deliberate about it to get it.

    I recently came back from a trip in the EU: Germany, Spain, and then France. Between walking around town, going to a museum, and then low-light street shots the 18-55VR was the dominant lens. My Tokina 12-24 had its specific applications where I needed to go wide and my Nikor 35/2 had its specific applications where I wanted a controlled DOF. But, other than that, the 18-55VR was the lens.

    Also, the 18-55 VR is light and compact and I don't need a tripod. I used to be "one of those guys with the tripod" but after VR I don't use it unless I have a specific reason. Plus, when you have a tripod, you have to set it up, then WAIT for the moment when everyone is out of the way, then shoot. With the 18-55VR I can frame and shoot.

    I did not see a mention of the camera you have. But, if you have a D300, you can set it to Auto-ISO after 1/8 of a second --or whatever-- and then have a delay after you depress the shutter release. With those two features and the VR lens it's hard to miss a shot.

    Again, 18-55VR hands down for travel.

  32. Thanks a lot everyone for the responses!

    Lots of information and points of view for me to think about and sort through and think about.

    One last question, totally unrelated, is it a reasonable thing to do to order a couple lenses (from amazon, or whomever), try them for a few days and return one or both? I feel like I need to really shoot with them for a bit to decide if it's going to work for me, but is this the best way to do it? practically, ethically, whatever?
  33. "...certainly not going to bring a tripod."

    Why not? Get VR then definitely, but I'd highly recommend at least some sort of extra support (mono pod, bean bag, etc)
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