Brainstorming Ideas On Quick Wide Walkabout Lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by whoz_the_man_huh, May 10, 2009.

  1. Hi,
    I've been dissatisfied with my 16-85mm F3.5-5.6 VRII since realizing:

    VR != speed
    speed > VR

    Would anyone care to toss out ideas on a faster, better replacement that can be carried around 14 hours a day, seven days a week, for weeks at a time?
    Speed matters. Price not so much. Landscape, architecture and candids are the primary areas of use. FX over DX. Prime is preferred but zoom also considered.

    P.S.: Please don't mention the mythical 28mm F1.4. I'm crying myself to sleep every night over its discontinuation in 2006.
  2. "FX over DX" - why? If you are using the Nikkor 16-85mm DX then it's a fair assumption to make that you have a DX body??
    17-55mm f/2.8.
    Weighs 270 grams more than your 16-85mm.
    It's performance is undeniable but does lugging an extra 270 grams put you off?
  3. If you will be carrying all day with your camera, other than the lightest lens will be too big and heavy... buy a "dedicated" prime, it could be a 35/1.8AFS for DX or 50/1.4AFS for a FX camera.
  4. If you can deal with a manual focus look at a 28mm f2 AIS or 35mm f1.4 as well as those mentioned above. I consider a 50mm a bit long for walk about with DX. I was real happy with a 20 or 24mm f2.8 AF-D when I had DX.
  5. The best of the single focal lenses is the Sigma 30mm f1.4. It has all the speed you'll likely need plus it has the modern lens coatings & design. However, as a walk around lens I think the Tamron 17-50mm would be king. I have the Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 and it's excellent, but much bigger & heavier than the Tamron. You can't beat a fast zoom for its versatility in fast breaking situations. The f2.8 would give you a shutter speed at least four times as fast as what you are using now. The 17mm wide end is much more useful for most people than is a fixed 35mm or even 50mm. Also, don't forget once you start going wider than f2.8 you quickly start to lose DOF. On my Sigma 30mm f1.4 the DOF is razor thin. Another thought is the excellent Tokina 11-16mm f2.8. It's actually my own favorite, but then I'm an ultrawide guy. Not at all sure why you say "FX over DX" since the 16-85mm is obviously DX. If you are thinking of someday going to a D700, so am I. However, my plan is to buy the best lenses for my current D300, used on E Bay if possible. I will resell them and get what I paid, and apply the cash to different FX lenses. That way I have optimum lenses for whatever I'm using at the moment. As for so-called "prime" over zoom, I tried the former and found them very limiting. I think they're very over hyped. I don't see them as general purpose lenses, myself. I think a fast zoom is exactly what you're looking for, and the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 is the most compact.

    Kent in SD
  6. I missed the point that you`re looking for a wide angle lens... on the D300 I used to have my choice was a 24/2.8AFD.
  7. Matthew, I use the D300 but my next camera will be the D700 or D800 when it arrives.
  8. Calvin, I'm afraid you have a limited selection to choose from, which is one reason the 16-85 is such a winner if speed isn't a big concern. You could look at one of the older versions of Nikon's f/2.8 wide zoom, I'm thinking 20-35mm f/2.8. I'm not familiar with the quality or cost of those lenses but it might be just what you're looking for if 20mm is wide enough for your needs.
    The 17-55 is also an obvious option for DX.
    There aren't a lot of affordable fast primes in focal lengths that would be wide on DX.
    If you have the ability to add Tokina's 11-16mm zoom it is also very good, and it is an f/2.8 lens, but of course it is DX.
    As for VR vs speed, I find VR beats speed hands-down for architecture and landscape. Not for candids, though. With VR not only can you get steady shots in lower light, you aren't forced to use a huge aperture with tiny depth of field and the obvious effects of spherical aberration.
  9. For all day carry, how about a 20/2.8 and a 35/2? I often carry that combo
  10. I have the Sigma 18-50 2.8 on one of my D200's and it just stays there. It's a superb lense in build AND optical quality. Has an HSM motor and focus is the quickest of any of my lenses. Has an added advantage of Macro when it can used. I bought it used and it's like new. Even new they are reasonably priced. It is one of my favorites and I can't recommend it highly enough.
  11. Carl, do you remember how the 20mm and 24mm compared in sharpness? Also should I expect any image curvature on the 20mm?
  12. The best "walk about" lens is one you can use in the most situations without having to change lenses. For most people, that would be a zoom lens. If you need speed, a 17-55/2.8 is nearly ideal on a cropping DSLR. If it gets uncomfortable around your neck, get a wider strap (e.g., Op-Tech) and/or carry it in the crook of your left arm.
    If you think you can get the job done with a prime lens, go for it. That doesn't work for me, so I've walked all day with heavier gear than you describe. If you don't use a tripod, don't even ask which lens is sharper. Camera shake is the great equalizer at any shutter speed.
  13. Glenn, do you find that shutter speeds at which VR makes a difference are generally too low to offer pristine sharpness anyhow? My experience is limited but that seems to be my impression.
  14. TL, anything more you can tell me about the 20mm? The 35mm is probably too long for my purposes.
  15. Bjorn has some reviews of the 20mm and 24mm at:
    They will be of better use than what I can tell you. Quality wise they work better for DX than FX. The corners are soft with the 20mm on FX but of course the Fov is much greater. I used the 20mm as a walk around landscape lens for a few days and enjoyed it.
  16. i think kent pretty much nailed it. i have the 30/1.4 and the 17-50. the 17-50 sees much more use on my d300, though i'm happy with the 30 in low-light situations, not so much with landscape. the nikon 17-55 has AF-S and 2.8, but as a walkaround lens, your shoulders and neck will curse you after only about two hours the first day, which leaves 12 hours of daily pain only your chiropractor will be happy for.
    the thing about the 17-50 is, you get it for the 2.8 and for the useful zoom range (and the price and light weight). it's very sharp wide open and performs well in those situations. but it's fairly underrated for walkaround landscapes; stopped down to f/5.6 and beyond, its extremely sharp. i dont shoot many landscapes with it, but whenever i do, i've been pleasantly surprised.
  17. Edward, I think you're being spartan when it comes to the tripod requirement. At 1 / 2000 second or so surely hand shake starts to become less of a factor?
  18. The 20mm f/2.8 AF-D is wide enough to still be considered a bona fide wide angle lens when used on a DX body (30mm equivalent). It has very good contrast and is quite sharp--the softness in the corners on an FX body is not seen on a DX body. There is, however, some chromatic aberration seen when used on a high resolution digital sensor, but it is easily corrected with software. If you are comfortable with a prime lens, it makes a very nice walk around lens because of its relatively small size and light weight and unobtrusive appearance. This was one of my favorite lenses when I shot film. Now, I am more likely to use the 12-24mm f/4 because of its versatility, but the 20mm f/2.8 is still a very fine lens.
  19. If you can live with MF the new Voigtlander 20mm 3.5 looks promising. Tiny and light.
    Covers FX.
  20. Thanks, Carl.
  21. -Here is a closeup shot using the Tamron 17-50/2.8.
  22. Calvin--
    If you can get 1/2000 sec. shutter, you are correct you don't need a tripod. I'm curious though why you think you need f1.4 if you are getting a shutter speed like that with your current lens? I have the Nikon 20mm f2.8 and used it for a year. Honest, it's just average. I'm dumping it since I bought the 17-55mm f2.8. It's a 17 year old design. It's nowhere near as good as the Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 (although it is lighter.) The Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 is almost as good as the Nikon 17-55mm. The 20mm f2.8 is a step backwards, I think. Nikon has no really good wide angle (on DX) single focal lens that works super on both DX and FX. (There is the great 10.5mm f2.8 fisheye, but it's not very versatile.) The 17-35mm f2.8 is excellent, of course. It's not as wide a range as a 17-50mm though. Honest, the lens you need is the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8. Buy a used one, resell it for what you paid for it. It's a modern design lens. With it, you have a 17mm f2.8, 24mm f2.8, 28mm f2.8, 35mm f2.8, and 50mm f2.8 all very fast to use, light & compact. The image quality from it will beat all of the older lenses you are talking about that I'm familiar with, and the size is similar. I wouldn't even consider an older single focal lens that's only f2.8. What's the point?
    Kent in SD
  23. Kent- Do you by any chance sell these Sigma 30mm lenses?
    Calvin- The 16-85 is one of the sharpest DX lenses. If you're not happy with its performance at 1/2000s you're not going to be happy with anything (even a Sigma 30mm) - unless it's bokeh you want. BTW don't cry about the 28/1.4. It's very nice but it's just a lens.
  24. Thanks for the info on the 20, John.
  25. Kent, sorry for the misunderstanding.
    I never meant to say I get fast shutter speeds consistently with my F3.5-5.6 slowpoke. The only time I would get anything near 1 / 2000 second with the 16-85mm is high noon on a blindingly bright day. I was merely responding to Edward's thought that sharpness differences between lenses cannot be discerned without a tripod, even at blistering shutter speeds.
  26. With a D300 you should be able to get 1/2000s in many lighting conditions, unless you're using small apertures (in which case a fast lens wouldn't perform any better). But really, 1/250s should suffice for most purposes.
    I guess I'm just a bit confused by your harshing the 16-85. Many of us would love to have one of those but make do with less expensive options.
  27. Hi Calvin,
    If your next move is to FX then I'd just alter my suggestion and recommendation to the Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 - same reasons as the 17-55 DX performance and versatility with a weight penalty.
    Cheers M.
  28. Can't help it, Andrew. I'm heartbroken over the fact that Nikon could take such a perfect walkabout thing of beauty off the market forever.
  29. Thanks, Matthew.
    I thought about the 17-35mm F2.8 too, although its age and weight put me off a bit.
  30. Andrew--
    I am a salesrep but not for camera lenses. After using one for about a month in low light/no light situations, I am pretty sold on the 30mm f1.4 though. Note I always recommend buying used. That way you can resell and likely get your money back.
    Kent in SD

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