FX Ultrawide Zoom -- which to pick?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by bikealps, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. I'm gradually making the DX --> FX transition. I've had the 24-70 and 70-200 for a while now. Apart from a repair issue, I seem to have a D3.
    I have a 12-24 f4 lens I use with my D90. Honestly, I don't use ultra-wide much as it's not useful for bicycle racing which is 90% of what I do, but it IS really nice for architecture, indoors, kitchens, and presumably also for landscape.
    I have held off on buying a FX ultrawide zoom because I have already drained the bank on the D3 and the "right" solution for ultrawide -- a 14-24 -- is such a bank breaker ($2k!).
    I was researching what I can get for my 12-24 -- apparently these sell for something like $600-900 and mine is in really nice shape -- vs. the cost of the various FX ultrawide options. It seems like it might make sense to sell the 12-24 and purchase an 18-35 f3.5-4.5. They sell for $600 new. Having one of these would mean I don't have to carry two bodies and I'd get the 3-stop low-light advantage of the D3.
    Any opinions on the various ultrawide FX choices?
    • 14-24 f2.8 seems like the undisputed best choice but the price is too much ($2k) -- no worries that you can't use filters and I don't care that it is heavy.
    • 16-35 f4 @ $1200 seems reasonable
    • 17-35 f2.8 @ $1800 seems like a dumb idea compared to the 14-24
    • 18-35 f3.5-4.5 @ $600 for a small, light lens seems like the ticket -- any concerns about this lens? I am not a pixel peeper. What's wrong with variable aperture? I could get one of these new for less than I would sell my 12-24 DX lens for.
    Is the 18-35 a reasonable choice? Am I going to regret not having the 14-24? I would be using it for interiors, some architecture, and some outdoor shots, but honestly I will use it MUCH less than my 24-70 and 70-200.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    14-24 f2.8 seems like the undisputed best choice​
    Sorry, not a chance. First of all, I have the 14-24mm/f2.8 and I knew that was a niche lene before I bought it; I had used a test sample from Nikon for a while before I got my own. For what it can do, it is wonderful. However, the zoom range is limited and the bulging front element is a pretty serious limitation. I only use mine infrequently and mostly avoid using it outdoors.
    The 17-35mm/f2.8 AF-S and 16-35mm/f4 AF-S VR should be good choices. I don't have the 16-35, but it seems to be the best choice now if you can live with f4, and from what I can tell, it is somewhat poor at 16mm. When you go up to 18mm, it gets much better. Therefore, consider that a "18-35mm/f4 AF-S VR" with a 16mm extension that is available if you must go wider.
  3. I went with the 17-35 and couldn't be happier. Every now and then I rethink that choice and the other options, and it always goes back to the 17-35. However, I personally have no need for 14-16mm, as that is too wide for anything I do.
    The 16-35 looks somewhat tempting, but when I researched the distortion and corner performance, it comes up short of the 17-35. Add the extra stop and size/weight, and the 17-35 wins for me every time.
  4. I use the Sigma 12-24mm and am very pleased with it. If you want really WIDE and an affordable price, this is an option to consider in addition to the other lenses you list.
    • 17-35 f2.8 @ $1800 seems like a dumb idea compared to the 14-24
    Unless you want to use screw-mount filters.
    I have a 17-35/2.8D and a 14-24/2.8G that I shoot with my D700. Honestly, I use the 17-35 a lot more often. I bought mine used for around $900 when everyone was dumping them last year when the 16-35/4 came out. I mainly shoot it from a tripod and stopped down, so VR is of no consequence to me and I get a brighter viewfinder than f/4. I'm not sure how valuable VR is on a UWA lens anyway, since it won't help with subject blur, and the f/4 would seem to aggravate the shutter speed part of that issue.
    Like its reputation, the IQ on trhe 14-24 is superb, but I'll echo that it's a niche lens. I seldom shoot with it, and find the long end to be a bit short with FX. OTOH, there's no other lens I'm aware of that can do what it does. Now that I've lived with both lenses for over a year, if I had to sell one tomorrow, the 14-24 would go. Good luck with whatever you decide.
  5. pge


    The 20-35mm f2.8 is a beautiful lens that would be a bit less expensive than your other choices. I know 20mm is not as wide as the other lenses you mentioned, but is still very wide.
  6. '17-35 f2.8 @ $1800 seems like a dumb idea compared to the 14-24' Can't imagine why you'd say that. The limited range of the 14-24 is, in a word, limiting and a recipe for frequent lens-changing. I find 17-35 to be an excellent range.
  7. I've been pleased with the 16-35mm f/4.0 VR lens:
    1. The 16mm length is plenty wide for me on an FF camera- at 2mm wider, the 14-24mm didn't entice me on that count.
    2. I really like that the lens takes 77mm filters, and works well with the Cokin X-Pro W960 Graduated ND Kit:
    3. Not that price was a deciding factor, but it didn't hurt that the 16-35mm was about $600 less than the 14-24mm.
    4. I like that the 16-35mm encompases the full range of wide angle I'd use on a FF camera.
    5. The VR is quite handy when shooting stationary subjects hand-held in low light.
  8. BTW, years ago when I was still shooting film, I had 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S lens. Perhaps it was sample variation- a good 16-35mm v. a poor 17-35mm, but my 16-35mm is considerably sharper in the corners than was my 17-35mm.
  9. wow, good points about 14-24 being impractical...
    seems like everybody likes the 16-35 and 17-35.
    what's wrong with the CHEAP 18-35?
  10. the 17-35 has AF-S and can take filters. used, you can find it for around $1200-$1300. i would consider that the best FX UWA choice for sports and PJ stuff. for landscape, the 16-35/4 is a good option, although i would personally rather have 2.8. for $900, though, the tokina 16-28/2.8 looks pretty good too, as far as IQ and performance. certainly a more sensible choice than a 14-24, unless you plan on shooting at 14mm a lot. the 18-35 would be pretty far down on my list, but it's a reasonable choice if, as you said, your main FX lenses are 24-70/70-200 (which is also my situation). you might also want to consider the 14mm MF samyang, which looks pretty good, except for action. and, there's a 17-35 tamron 2.8-4 which can be found used.
    my solution to the FX WA issue cost about $500: a heavily used but optically clean sigma 15-30/3.5-4.5 for $150 and a minty used tokina 17/3.5 for $350. the tokina takes filters and is very compact, the sigma does neither but covers a useful range. i'm still debating upgrading to the 17-35 or 16-28, but in the meantime, i at least have the range covered and have gotten some good pics, especially with the 15-30, which didn't take long to pay for itself.
    my thinking is there's no need to break the bank on an FX UWA, especially if it wont see much use. the important thing is to have the range covered. with a D3 or D3s, the high-ISO capabilities do compensate to some degree for relatively slow or variable aperture lenses.
  11. What's wrong with variable aperture?
    Nothing really but constant aperture in a zoom is sort of a symbol for high quality. In the past, variable aperture used to be a pain since when working in manual mode on an older Nikon body (not G supporting) the exposure would vary as you zoomed whatever aperture you used. Now with modern bodies, the exposure only varies if you're near the maximum aperture.
    The 14-24 is a spectacularly high quality lens. It's a huge lens, weighs like a brick, but it delivers amazing image quality. I use mine mainly for interiors. I like photographing people in contemporary/modern art museums. Those often have white walls and I really appreciate the low vignetting (as well as low distortion) this lens provides, along the high sharpness at wide apertures. Also it's great in some special situations like when taking pictures of aircraft at really close distances, under the wing so to speak. I think the focal length range is a bit of a problem but in my opinion the optical quality is sufficient compensation.
    However, I do not think it's really a "necessary" lens for me and so I would ask why you need an ultrawide angle lens like this. 24mm is plenty wide on FX. I don't normally use the 14-24 at focal lengths wider than about 17mm, as the barrel distortion starts to pick up and the image perspective at 14mm is too strong and unusual for my taste. But still I love it for what it does from 17mm to 24mm.
    The 16-35/4 seems like a more travel-friendly choice, but take a look at its distortion characteristics, and loss of sharpness towards the edges. Vignetting is also quite strong. The optical quality of the 14-24 is not something to be dismissed easily even if you are not a pixel peeper - the images have a very crisp look which is immediately obvious when looking at prints made of the same scene with the 16-35 and 14-24. If you are considering using VR to reduce shutter speed ... that's what I thought the 16-35 was for, interiors at ISO 200-400 hand-held. But really even without VR the 14-24 is just simply better (i.e. 14-24 at f/4 is sharper throughout the frame than the 16-35 at f/8). After long evaluation and thought I decided to get the 14-24.
    When I went to London this spring I took the 24/1.4 for interiors instead of the 14-24 and I'm happy I did. The results from the 24/1.4 are comparable in overall quality with the 14-24; the latter has a bit less distortion and the former better bokeh. And you can use that bokeh to good effect when there is a main subject in the photo that you want to separate from the environment in a subtle way. The 24/1.4 at f/1.4 produces a "dreamy" quality to the image while the 14-24 represents ultimate technical quality in some sense. If I had to choose between the two, I would have some difficulty in deciding to be honest, but I think I'd go for the 24/1.4. It's more difficult to use for sure but I hate "blur trails" of people and in contrasty interiors it is also important to maximize dynamic range (by using a low ISO), and the f/1.4 aperture allows one both at the same time (the cost being depth of field and of course careful focusing is mandatory). If you prefer a more technical rendering with sharpness everywhere in the image then the 14-24 is the ticket for that.
    I have never used the 17-35/2.8 since it hasn't been available new in my country in a long time, and most of the used ones look pretty roughly treated. The 17-35mm range is very appealing though. If you want a wide angle zoom for PJ style shooting I am sure the 17-35 is a great lens. But if you get a chance, do some comparison shots to see how you like its optical quality vs. the 14-24's and 24-70's and let us know what you think. I think the 24-70 is adequate as a documentary people zoom at close distances. I do sometimes think it would be more efficient to use a 17-35 + 70-200 and pack a 50 in between if needed. The 14-24+24-70+70-200 is a heavy kit and you might find yourself switching between 14-24 and 24-70 a lot, or not using the 14-24 much. I basically only pack the 14-24 when I am planning to shoot in special tight quarters. But wow the image quality that results does stand out, every time.
  12. The 18-35 is an "early", consumer-oriented wide angle zoom, showing poor corner sharpness, distortion and colour fringing above current offers... Rorslett also mentions heavy fall-off and pronounced field curvature issues. It`s simply a cheaper, older lens. Other than this, nothing wrong with it. Probably a right value for the money.

    Looks like the lens is a 16/17-35/2.8 G type with Nanocoatings. It isn`t available yet.
  13. Everybody seems agreed that the 14-24/2.8 Nikkor is a great lens.
    Like all lenses and cameras, flashes, user must know the limitations.
    E.g. the 14mm has some noticeable barrel distortion, so, why you know that, shoot the way that you could avoid or minimize this problem. E.g. do not shoot with a door frame on both ends of the picture at 14 on FX, or you will experience some door barrel in the middle of the picture height at the edges. Try this with your lens, to see if your lens has barrel distortion ?
    Also the lens flares easily, perhaps more than others.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Everybody seems agreed that the 14-24/2.8 Nikkor is a great lens.​
    The 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S is a great lens if
    1. The focal lengths you need most fall into that range.
    2. You don't need to use filters. (Please don't tell me about the Lee filter designed for it.)
    3. The vulnerable bulging front element doesn't bother you.
    4. You don't mind its bulk and weight, and price tag.
    To me, the most useful wide-angle range is between 24 to 35mm on FX. That range is covered by the 17-35mm/f2.8 and 16-35mm/f4. Unfortunately, the 14-24 barely touches 24mm. Therefore, IMO, the 14-24 should never be the only wide zoom one has.
    Also the lens flares easily, perhaps more than others.​
    Not really; nano coating works very well on it. See this discussion with plenty of examples from several people: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00RPzn
  15. bms


    Agree with above. Bought the 14-24 when it came out, somehow having convinced myself I needed it that wide. Now I also have a 17-35 ($960 used in pretty good shape), which I use more, and the 14-24 is mainly used for panoramas..... I had repeatedly considered selling it..... BUT then there is the occasional shoot where 17mm is just not wide enough, like a small church.
    My guess is you'll need the 14-16(17) range in < 1% of your shots....
  16. Yeah, but when you've backed all the way up and 17 or 18mm still ain't short enough, that's when you thank yourself for having forked out the extra for the 14 to 24. I have no regrets at having bought the 14-24. Especially since Nikon's 14mm prime costs so much and still doesn't beat the zoom on IQ.
    The Tokina 16-28 looks like it could be a contender for the OP's requirements. I have an older 20-35 f/2.8 ATX-Pro that delivers good results, if that's anything to go by. Supplement it with a cheap Samyang 14mm and you've got all the bases covered.
  17. I'm going to buck the trend here. I have the 14-24 - it's one of the lenses that persuaded me to switch to Nikon from Canon (or at least, it encouraged me) and it remains one of my most-used lenses, mostly for landscapes (I do use it outdoors) and group images in cramped conditions, plus the odd bit of astrophotography. Then again, I also use a 200mm f/2 quite a lot and barely touch my 50mm, so I'm weird (and I never picked up a 24-70 or 70-200, although I'm now considering an old 80-200 f/2.8).

    The 14-24 is certainly very distorted at the 14mm end (much less at the 24mm end) - it's also sharpest at the 14mm end, whereas it's less exceptional as a 24mm optic. Other than wishing I hadn't got Niagara water spots on it, I've never felt the need to filter it, but that may say more about my competence than its utility. I knew I wanted a wide lens; I used an 8mm fish-eye a fair bit on my crop sensor before I switched to Nikon, and I might have been in for a shock if I'd never used wider than (say) 28mm before.

    It is big, and I won't deny that I'm tempted by a 20mm f/4 that would fit in a pocket when I don't want to carry it. At 21mm it's rather shown up by the Zeiss prime, although that's pretty much the only comparison in which I've seen it look bad. It's most useful if you already have another way to cover the 24-and-up range (like the 24-70); I have some slow zooms that start at 28mm, which is close enough for me. I didn't regret buying the 14-24 when the 16-35 came out - VR is nice, but the apparent sharpness of the 16-35 at the wide end doesn't seem appealing, and I can cover the longer end of its range already. I have to say I bought the 14-24 when the D700 came out and I first switched to Nikon - it cost me a lot less money then than it would now, especially with the exchange rate differences.

    Assuming that the 12-24 you mention is the Nikkor, I'd point out that the Sigma 12-24mm full-frame lenses are quite well-respected - they're not as good as the 14-24, but they're no slouches, and they're obviously wider. I guess the question is whether you want wider than the 12-24 gives you on your D90 - the 18-35 would start at the same width, and if you're never using the 14-18mm range then the 14-24 is overkill.

    This may be of interest, or may just make you want to spend money you don't have (so beware before reading).

    Photozone seem blown away by the Samyang 14mm, and measured it as very close to the 14-24 in sharpness. I believe I read, on this forum, someone being less impressed. I'm pretty happy with their 85mm, so I'd be prepared to give one a try - assuming manual focus is okay, of course.

    Good luck with whatever you choose.
  18. I used the 18-35mm on F100. Skip it. Sharp, but lots of barrel distortion, and it doesn't have the newer coatings. If you don't need f2.8, the f4 lens becomes obvious does it not?
    Kent in SD
  19. Allan,
    How is it that you already have a D3, 24-70mm and the 70-200mm but you think the 14-24mm at $2k is too expensive and the 17-35mm is a dumb idea at that price??
    Surely given the standard of your current FX photo equipment, either of these lenses would make perfect sense to you despite being in the same price bracket as all of your other FX equipment.
    Save up, wait and get a top line wide zoom - or better still, rent one now and see what you might be missing.
  20. WRT the Samyang 14mm f/2.8, nobody's denying that it represents excellent value for money, but THIS is what finally put me off buying one. I think the pictures on that site say a lot more than any MTF graph can. Central sharpness and drawing - great! But the corner and edge sharpness at wider apertures - total pants! And not a patch on the 14-24 Nikkor. The Samyang is definitely the poor person's second best.
  21. I have had use an 18-35 for several years and been very happy with it. I choose it for it's low weight (and low cost) and have been happy to have it when I've been out walking all day with a few other lenses. I am disappointed that Dslr photography has become the province of bloated body/lens combinations that rivel the old medium format outfits. Also, in my opinion, with modern auto focus and fx iso's of 400-600 being practical, I think 2.8 lenses are appealing to the prejudices photographers acquired when using slide film in the old days. Maybe wildlife or sports photography needs 2.8 lenses but most other subjects do not - certainly not in the wide focal lengths.
    Light fall off and barrel distortion have not been a problem in most of the images I've taken but when they are, they are two of the most easy defects to fix in post processing. I just don't see the value of tying money up and having to lug around heavy lenses for what you describe as occasional use (and your not being a pixel peeper). If you find you really need wider, with the money you save you can pick up a 14mm lens or even a Bessa L and a 12mm combination and have some real fun with interiors.
  22. What a funky distortion on the Samyang... I`m impressed!
  23. Even on DX I found the Nikon 18-35 disappointing. Barrel distortion made it unusable for architecture. Sharpness was marred by noticeable chromatic distortion and colour fringing. The only positive thing I can say about this lens is that it is compact and reasonably lightweight.
    I replaced it in 2004 with a Sigma 12-24 which has good geometry. Ive not used the SIG 12-24 on FX as I.m still waiting on a D700 or replacement. The Sigma has a large front element; so cannot take filters on FX but has a sleeve with 82 mm filter thread for DX. Vignetting is an issue at its widest, so have to remove the sleeve at 12mm. The Sigma 12-24 needs to be stopped down to F11 for best results. At F5.6 the edges are soft.
    Since buying the DX Sigma 10-20 inn 2007, I hardly ever use the 12-24 as the 10-20 is such a good DX lens and far more usable at wider apertures.
    I'd like to know of anyone's experiences of using the older version of the Sigma 12-24 with a D700 or D3?
  24. that distortion on the samyang is scary, especially since it seems to change depending on distance. other than that, IQ seems pretty good.
    "and how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"
    hmm, that tokina 16-28 is looking better and better...
  25. Just to add: The amount of the 14-24's distortion is pretty scary as well at 14mm. Of course, it's reasonably easy to correct in software (a simpler shape than the Samyang), and you may not care anyway for some subjects, but the Samyang is only slightly worse in this regard.

    As for the corner sharpness. while I've never tried it, I have to say that at least some fo the corners on the sample images on photozone's review of the Samyang were pretty good - but because there's no EXIF data, we can't tell how stopped down the lens is. In the images on the site linked to by Joe, some look fine to me (the barnacles, for example) whereas others (the trees, the house shot at different apertures) look horrible in the corners, as if there's either extreme curvature of field or the lens just isn't optimised for focus at a distance. Or perhaps there's something wrong with the sample.

    It would make me nervous about getting the Samyang - more so for landscapes than close-up group shots. That said, many other 14mm lenses are pretty poor too. Thanks for the warning before I recommend it to people, though!
  26. My experience with the 18-35mm f3.5-4.5 was that it was an annoying lens at close range, soft corners and annoying CA, but as a landscape lens, focused close to infinity and shot at f8 or f11, it cleans up nicely. And it has tricky flare, that room lights often trigger. It's a lens I'd avoid for interior architecture.
    but it IS really nice for architecture, indoors, kitchens, and presumably also for landscape.​
    Have you considered the 24mm PC-E? Seriously, for the type of work you describe, you might find that lens breathes a life into your interior architecture that the UW zooms wouldn't.
    Something to consider, if there's other well equipped photographers in your circle that you trust, is that the 14-24mm and 24mm PC-E are both great "trade lenses". If you've got a friend with the 14-24, get the 24 PC-E, or vice verse.
    That aside, I tend to go for a 17-35mm and 24-70mm for event "missions" (and yes, I don't care that there's "overlap", because one is good for when you're in the "normal mode" and one is good when you're "thinking wide", and each gives a good, versatile range in its corresponding "mode") and the 14-24 for architecture and landscape missions.
    For architecture, I'll typically borrow a 24mm PC-E, pack that and the 14-24, an old 35mm PC, a 40mm Ultron, 50mm f1.4, 60mm f2.8, 105mm f2.5, 135mm f2.0, and 70-200mm f2.8. There's just something about the 24-70 that feels "wrong" for most architectural shots, but I haven't really figured out what. Which bothers me, because I like things that can be quantified and expressed in numbers...
    Landscapes, almost the same bag, except the 200mm f4 micro Nikkor often replaces the 70-200.
    For events, I find that the 17-35, 24-70, 85mm f1.4, 70-200 make a nice, light bag. 60mm f2.8 macro, that's sort of obligatory.

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