Advice on Wide Primes

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by aaron_yeo, Dec 27, 2010.

  1. So I'm in the market for a wide prime. On DX, my current lineup is the 11-16, 35 1.8, and the 50 1.4D. Tele stuff is not a problem, and so I'm looking for something that'll fill the gap between the 16 and the 35. Oftentimes the 16's too short, and the 35 not wide enough.
    I've always been playing with the fast midrange zooms; the 17-55, Tamron's 17-50, Sigma's 18-50, Tokina's 16-50, etc. The problems for me, however, is the 17-55 is awkward (big and the damn zoom ring is tiny and so close to the body), the Tamron has loud AF and VR, the Sigma has slow AF, and so far I haven't found a sharp Tokina.
    So I look to the primes. However, I've always thought that if you can't get a faster-than-2.8 prime, why not get the convenience of a zoom? Marginal sharpness performance is the only benefit I see here....
    But I'm looking at the 20, 24, and 28 2.8s from Nikon anyway. The 24 1.4 is out of my price range for now (and when I go FX I'll pickup a 17-35) so I'm not even going to bother with that. But the 2.8s are cheap, look well-built and have the classic AF-D construction. I'd like to hear your success/failure stories with them, as well as which you think I may be happier with. Are there any reliable 3rd-party primes in this range as well?
  2. Aaron,
    There's a whole range of Sigma 1.8 wide primes ( 20, 24, 28 ) and the Sigma, 30 1.4 also out there.
    Y ou could compare them at the website.. ( I only played with the 20mm and was rather impresed by its performance from f2.8 to f8....)
  3. Aaron, I use a 24 f/2.8 on my D300 very regularly (a MF version, but should be optically identical to the current AF-D version). I like the lens a lot, because it is small, simple and light. It's quite good in the center at f/2.8, but needs stopping down to be sharp across the frame. Bought it for little money.
    But is it sharper than my 16-85VR at f/4? No, don't think it is. At f/5.6, my Tokina 12-24 seems to beat them both (judging from photos, not test shots or anything more scientific). So, fair to say, sharpness to me is not the reason why this prime is my second or third most used lens.
    You might consider adding a zoom like the 16-85VR or Sigma 17-70 for the convenience, and use primes for the speed, rather than f/2.8 zooms (to me, the main issue is their rather limited range which to me was too limiting for the moments I use a zoom, but of course your experiences and way of working may be different).
  4. I guess I should mention I like to shoot wide-open or as close to it as possible. Therefore I must feel confident in the sharpness at those apertures. With the 11-16, 35, and 50, any of them at 2.8 is amazing, and the primes are almost as good at f/2.
    The variable aperture zooms are out of the question for me, though.
    The Sigmas look interesting... but I've had lots of up and down experiences with Sigma but maybe these are different.
  5. Aaron,
    +1 for Sigma primes. I was using for about two years Sigma 24/1.8 (I think is the best from the three FX wide primes) both on D700 and D300 and I was very happy. I used it mostly in low light events before to acquire the new 24/1.4 G. You must know that they are quite bulky in comparison with Nikon f2.8 AF-D primes.
    Could you provide a link to those reviews on photozone, please? I'm unable to find there these Sigma primes...

  6. Why not pick up a 17-35 now then? It'll fill your 16-35 gap almost perfectly, and if/when you go to FX you've got your ultrawide already in your bag...
    Btw, I'm very happy with my Nikon 24/2.8, but I must admit I'm not a pixel-/sharpness peeper. It's a very nice walkaround lens though, and I like the moderate wide view on my D300.
  7. Hi, i used the 24 2,8 nikon, 28 2,8 nikon and tested the 20 2,8. my oppinion is that they're not worth it. the 17-35 is better then either of them.
    the 20 suffers from heavy CA, the 24 has very soft corners on FF at the wide apertures and the 28 was just plain bad (heavy distortion, inconsistent focus, not very sharp, might have been a bad copy but still..)
    i suggest a zoom, make an effort and get the 24-70.
  8. My Tamron 17-50 doesn't have a loud AF, it has a not silent AF what is something completely different and no AF-motor and that makes it nearly AFS fast.
  9. I prefer smaller lighter primes with my D700. The 20mm f2.8, 24mm f2.8, 28mm f2 and 35mm f2. They may not be the sharpest but not that far from my 17-35mm f2.8. I might upgrade when and if Nikon releases new primes. I have no need for the f1.4 new releases, to large and heavy and I don't need the speed.
  10. I tried the single focal lens route you are suggesting a few years ago. I was quite disappointed. The newer zooms such as Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 are sharper. The older lenses such as 20mm f2.8D also suffer from CA MUCH more because their coatings weren't designed for digital. That makes them appear less sharp than the modern lenses. I went back to first class, modern f2.8 zooms and have been entirely happier. I do have the Sigma 30mm f1.4 for times I really am in low light (I shoot at night a lot.) It is a good lens. The older Sigmas I tried such as 20mm f1.8, 28mm f1.8, not so much. Soft until stopped down to f2.8 or more. Why buy an f1.8 lens you then have to stop down when the Nikon 17-55mm is still going to be sharper? I have looked but have not found anything sharper than the Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 at focal lengths under 30mm, or that gives better overall image quality. I have not tried the 24mm f1.4G, obviously. I really can't justify buying it for as few times as I'd need f1.4 rather than f2.8. As for sharpness, I think we sometimes get way too hung up on just that one factor. If we always shoot with tripod and cable release, that's one thing. Often I find people who worry most about small improvements in sharpness aren't even using a tripod.
    Kent in SD
  11. Not all older lenses suffer CA problems. It also depends on the body used. Using a good tripod correctly will get the most out of a lense as far as sharpness goes. You may want to see what Bjorn has to say about older Nikkors. They may or may not work for you depending on the use.
  12. Kent, a minor point: Coatings are much too thin to have any effect on any focusing property of a lens, including chromatic aberration. In contrast, coatings have a profound effect on the reflections at each air-glass interface, and hence impact aspects of performance such as veiling glare, hot spots, contrast, internal reflections, flare, etc.
    Some of the reasons the older designs were not as sharp as the more modern versions include computer design (ie, ray-tracing programs), the more common use of lens materials with different dispersion curves than the older glasses, the use of aspheric surfaces, etc.
    That being said, I agree completely with your statement that the older fast wide Sigmas were disappointing (to say the least). In contrast, the Sigma 30/1.4 is a very nice lens.
    Tom M
  13. I've looked into the Siggies, and apart from the 30 1.4 (which is too close to my 35 anyway) it seems like they have sub-par image quality and they are quite bulky compared to the Nikon primes.
    I'm looking at the primes because they're nice and small but hopefully tack sharp.
    For those who have asked if I "really need X," I don't, but as a journalist I often shoot in very extreme circumstances and if I have the option of X, I'd much rather use it. My beef with 17-50 is that the AF and VR is loud - louder than screwdriven primes, anyway. The 17-35 would fit the focal lengths but it's not a compact lens. I have nothing against big lenses, in fact I use 'em all the time, but what I'm looking for right now is a small light lens I won't hesitate to bring with me everywhere.
    So out of the Nikkors, I see a lot of disappointment with the 28, not-so-great on the 20, so it looks like the 24. I shoot on a combination of CA-handling-cameras (D200/D7000), but if it's fixed in the D7000 then no problem.
  14. aaron you've kind of indirectly answered your own question. the classic nikkor 2.8 primes are designed for landscape use, they dont really get sharp until 5.6 or so. so the tamron 17-50 is sharper at 2.8. if you already have the 35/1.8, you can cross off the sigma 30, unless you want better bokeh. that leaves the sigma 1.8 primes. there's just nothing else out there, except for the nikon 1.4 24 and 35, which may be cost-prohibitive. the 24 Mihai mentions is said to be the best optically of the three.
  15. I'm in the process of procuring a Sigma 24 1.8. There's a lack of reviews out there for this stuff, but if I get my hands on one I'll report my impressions.
  16. be prepared to send it to sigma for calibration. i have a 20 1.8 and it's very good, but i was really lucky with it. sigmas are notorious for autofocus problems.
  17. sigmas are notorious for autofocus problems.
    you know, nicolaie, i'm not sure this is really the case. maybe i'm just really really lucky, but i currently have a bunch of sigma glass, both zooms and primes, with and without HSM motor, and i've never had to send any of them in for recalibration. i'm sure that sample variation does happen. but out of seven sigma lenses i have owned, five of which i still have and two of which i bought used, you'd think the law of averages would mean at least 1 in 7 would have this "notorious" AF issue you mention.
    i am curious about the 20/1.8, though. how sharp do you find it wide open to say, f/2.5?
  18. Eric, I also have several Sigmas and no complaint at all... At least 50/1.4 and 150/2.8 are close to the top of my own preferences. What I've learned discussing on a different forum with the man behind is that the bad reputation of Sigma regarding AF issues is related 90% to their tele zooms and not to wide, standard and normal primes. This is what he found working with at least 10 copies of each lens.
  19. michael, the only problem i've had with sigma zooms and focus is that the 50-150's HSM is jittery in AF-C on a d300 and d300s, if you use AF-On to focus and shutter for release. with the d300's powerful focus motor, it's almost too fast, keeps making micro-adjustments if you press AF-On but dont press the shutter immediately. a simple workaround was switching to AF-S. still pretty fast, a little bit more accurate. but all camera+lens combos have some niggles. even with the 24-70/D3s combo, it's slower to acquire initial focus IMO than the d300s--the lens will lock-on immediately but it takes a moment for the shutter to release after the button has been pressed. then once it does, the speed is blazing. the bottom line i think is know your equipment.
  20. It's probably worth noting that the latest lensrentals survey shows Sony at the bottom of the pile, lots of expensive Nikon lenes, and only one Sigma lens (50-500). Either Sigma's improved or customers are simply not renting Sigma lenses like they used to.
    And, Eric, if one of your 30s is noticeably sharper than the other, that's a pretty significant sample variation that should not occur in a lens that's not competing on price alone, IMO.
  21. i wouldn't say significantly sharper, more like within acceptable margin of tolerance. in other words, maybe a smidgen. i dont have the other 30 anymore so can't test head to head. certainly when i had it i got sharp pix out of it. but that could also be body variation. the first one i used on d80 and then d300. second one, d90 and d300s. all i know is, i'm happy with my current copy.

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