What's better: a fast lens, or vibration reduction?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by crowdspotting, Jan 22, 2006.

  1. I've been a Nikkor snob for years until I recently - when I bought a Tokina 12-24 ATX Pro lens for my new D50. I love the Tokina.
    Next, needing a longer zoom, I bought a new Nikon 24-120 3.5/5.6 VR lens, slipping back into my snob days. Allow me to add that it cost about $550.
    Today, a friend of mine showed me his Tokina 28-70 (f2.8!) ATX Pro SV zoom, for which he paid about $230. He also shoots with a D50. The lens keeps a constant aperture of 2.8 throughout the zoom range, unlike my Nikon lens. I did some test shots using his Tokina lens vs. my Nikon VR lens, and the Tokina was superior in sharpness across the board. Same exact settings, same camera, careful testing.
    Which is better? A slower lens with vibration reduction, or a faster lens without it? I rarely shoot telephoto, so 70mm max focal length is fine.
    Frankly, I'm seriously bummed out that the Tokina seems to be a better lens for less than half the cost. Can someone verify or dissuade my fear? I'm about 10 minutes away from posting the VR lens on eBay and picking up the Tokina.
  2. If you need to shoot things that DON'T move in low light, VR will be useful. If you need to shoot things that DO move, then you need a faster aperture. Remember that VR enables you to use slower shutter speeds; it can't freeze motion.
  3. Most Super Zooms (24-120mm) decrease optical quality. On the other hand, primes do not sacrifice quality, they produce better images. Usually smaller zooms like 24-70mm produce better results than super zooms.

    VR on the other hand, does not contribute with the glass. Only applies to vibrations.

    So, (Which is better? A slower lens with vibration reduction, or a faster lens without it? ) This depends on your monetary solvency.

    VR lenses are in my opinion, only for static shots or catching motion while panning to create a sens of speed in a photograph.
  4. Well, there are many situations where even a slow shutter speed is ok. The best solution is usually an f/2.8 VR lens :). Of course they only make one such lens: the 70-200/2.8.
  5. For that range, I'd rather have a fast lens, since you can usually shoot around 1/60th without
    issue anyway, and any slower will blur motion. For longer telephoto ranges, if you're going to
    use the lens hand-held, VR can help over a fast lens because you can use slower shutter
    speeds and it will be lighter.
  6. IMO - fast lenses
  7. The best solution is usually an f/2.8 VR lens :). Of course they only make one such lens: the 70-200/2.8.
    ...also the 300mm f/2.8 VR, and the even faster 200mm f/2 VR.
  8. Fast lenses, IMHO.
  9. I'd go for fast lenses. They give you more options in terms of depth of field control.

  10. I vote for fast lenses with an anti-shake SENSOR. Like they have in Monolta dSLR. Following the demise of KM, Sony will hopefully be able to make such sensors for Nikon - soon:)
  11. Oh, I forgot those lenses. Yes, they're out of the price range of things I would even consider. :)
  12. I have shaky hands so unless I shoot relatively motionless subjects in bright light or use a tripod I can't take advantage of the inherent sharpness of some lenses. For me the 24-120 VR gives me a better shot at getting more effectively sharp photos.

    Ideally I'd have a 24-120/2.8 VR that's as sharp as the 28-70/2.8 AF-S. Until Nikon makes such a lens, what I've got is good enough.

    However, when shooting in dim light I still often prefer a faster lens since the faster shutter speed has essentially the same advantage as VR.

    If your hands are steady and you don't do a lot of panning or moving while shooting (I sometimes walk while shooting sports), the 24-120 VR may not be the best lens for you.
  13. Here is something to consider: Nikon and Canon only put VR/IS into short focal lenght, consumer grade zoom lenses. The short pro lenses don't have it.

    In your case, if you shoot in lighting conditions where you can hold the camera steady without VR, then you will probably get sharper pictures using a 3rd party f2.8 zoom lens.
  14. I vote for the faster glass.

    I used to mainly use my 50/1.8 and a Sigma 70-210/2.8 (I don't tend to do a lot of wide angle shooting). Bought the 24-120/VR, and after a number of months using it I've come to the conclusion that my photos have taken two steps back. I've decided to sell it, and get another fast or fast-ish lens in its place. Thinking of either a 105 macro or an 85/1.8, for a more manageable longer option on those occasions when I can't or won't carry the bigger heavier 2.8 zoom.
  15. Fast lenses tend to have superior optics and build quality, as a fairly general rule. So it's not
    just a matter of low-light capability. You'll find that a zoom lens that has a constant aperture
    of 2.8 or less will most often give a sharper pic than one that has a variable aperture, most
    notably when shooting wide open.
  16. What Guy said. VR helps greatly with camera shake but does nothing to stop blur caused by
    subject motion.
  17. For me, the first and foremost 'feature' of a lens would be that it can form decent images.

    Everything else is.. a distraction!
  18. Fast lenses, and tripod for the times when that is not enough. VR gives 2-3 stops. Fast lens can give 1-3 stops as well. Tripod gives unlimited stops.
  19. A Nikon insider friend of mine says that some engineers have gone to independent manufacturers and helped to raise the quality of their lens lines. He also believes, but can't confirm, that some different brands are made at the same plants, ala Cosina/Zeiss Ikon/Rollei/Voightlander/Xpan, etc.

    The quality of some of those lenses makes you wonder. What makes me so testy with Nikon is that the quality of indy manufactured lenses were once spotty--one or two might actually be good while the rest of the line was terrible.

    Conversely, Nikkors were all pretty good with only a few exceptions. With Nikon's introduction of dogs like some of the kit lenses that bare the ED and IF logos, they've mucked up the brand and made it difficult to buy any Nikkor and be assured it lives up to the quality we've come to expect.
  20. Lex, in all my time of shooting sports I don't remember anyone ever walking
    and shooting at the same time! Except for maybe running to celebration and
    shooting wildly while enroute. That totally cracked me up.

    Jeff, there are a few times when faster is better,... lenses are one. I think I'd
    buy and try the Tokina before I put the VR on ebay.
  21. This thread shows a degree of consensus rarely reached in this forum. I'll contribute: I'd much prefer a faster lens over VR.
  22. One more thing to consider: a fast lens typically loses much of its quality when you open it up. VR doesn't have this disadvantage. So if your subject is still enough, you'll get much better quality by shooting at f/5.6 with VR than at f/2 without.
  23. .... assuming that the f/5.6 is like that in the 70-200, not the 24-120.
  24. Fast Lenses!

    Fast lenses also are far more versitale and they allow you a brighter viewfinder image on those cameras that have decent viewfinders
  25. It's quite strange. I bet that the 70-200 probably outsells the fast primes by a factor of 10 or 100... so it seems that the fast lenses crowd has already bought their glass decades ago and the VR crowd are the ones with the money?
  26. The Nikon lens you bought is just a run of the mill consumer grade zoom lens with a $300 option that does not help the actual optics. VR does have it's uses, as mentioned by others, and perhaps your photography would take advantage of that.

    For myself I will always fall on the side of fast glass. Some of the best fast lenses are said to be actually designed to be sharper wide open than when stopped down. My experience with a Canon FD 400mm f2.8 L and Nikon 200mm f2 AI seem to support this idea and the Nikon Noct f1.2 is said to do the same.

    I would also mention that I will take fast used manual glass, like the Nikon 200mm f2 AI that I just bought and shot 200 images with this week-end, over slower similarly priced new autofocus lenses. In the case of this f2 lens I could only have afforded a new 200mm f2.8 EF or 70-200mm f4 L EF instead. Sorry, I am using the Nikon f2 on my Canon 10D...I know, blasphemy!
  27. I don't like the EOS crowd mainly because they buy up all the good (old) Nikon lenses.
  28. No disrespect to LEX who has personal reasons for purchasing a VR lens; but I thinks it's fair to say that when ever Nikon or Canon put VR into a sub $1000 lens & add 'ED' 'L' or 'LD' to a lens model number that is longer than the alphabet it is going to be, at best, a compromise lens. Only Olympus have tried to give the consumer a range of quicker, but not fast, zooms with good lens quality.Only ,the defunct, Minolta tried to give the consumer VR for all lenses; in that it was built into the camera body.Neither of these manufacturers is or was anywhere near N & C for sales.We live in a,camera, world where brand name,megapixels,zoom range & now,more & more,VR sells.
    In short; I think we,photographers,are being overlooked when it comes to good glass at reasonable prices. JEFF go for good fast glass.
  29. "VR lenses are in my opinion, only for static shots or catching motion while panning to create a sens of speed in a photograph."

    The VR mode seems to work with flying aircraft as well. If you can keep the 80-400mm Nikon lens somewhat stable, the aircraft images are sharper using a telephoto lens. Swinging about on a monopod or tripod is not as much 'fun.'
  30. Think of VR as an "electronic tripod".
  31. Dennis, there's a first time for everything. Come watch me shoot high school sports in a crowded gym with almost no distance between the basket and wall. I don't just walk and shoot - sometimes I'm running and shooting to avoid being run over by the players. There are also times when I want to enhance the sensation of player motion while minimizing blur caused by my own movement. Because of the VR I've snagged a few good shots despite being on the move.

    BTW, VR also helps minimize blur due to giggling. Might be helpful next time you crack up.
  32. I would get both--2.8 VR. Unfortunately, Nikon makes nothing in that range 24-120mm.

    I have Tamron 28-75 2.8 also gives sharp pictures, but I wouldn't get rid of my Nikon 35-70 2.8 which gives me superb contrast and nice bokeh (of course Nikon lens costs a lot more). Sharpness is only one of the criteria for lens selection as far as I'm concerned.

    Back to the topic, if I were you, I would get Nikon 18-200 mm VR for my all purpose lens (which I have and it's great) and then save up my money for better 2.8 Nikon lenses rather than getting the Tokina.
  33. Well, CdI lens tests show the Noct to be sharpest at f/4-f/5.6 if I recall correctly. It's sharper at wide apertures (like f/1.4-2.8) than regular Nikkors but like all lenses of its kind, sharpens towards middle apertures. For telephotos, some of them are indeed sharpest between wide open and 1 stop stopped down. In any case these cost a lot of money.
  34. Vladimir - Sony made the sensors for Konica Minolta anyway and now that they have the Minolta technology and want to get into the dSLR market themselves it would not look like they will pass anything on to Nikon. Well maybe at a prohibitive price !
  35. "VR lenses are in my opinion, only for static shots or catching motion while panning to create a sens of speed in a photograph."
    Like Gerald, I don't share that opinion. He gave the example of aircraft in-flight shots. Images of flying birds also greatly benefit from stabilization. Pretty much any work with big teles, especially when you're trying to get sharp images of a moving target and can't lock down your tripod, benefits from stabilization.
  36. It's funny how similar Canon and Nikon are in this area of image stabilization/vibration reduction. Both offer a 70-200 f2.8 stabilized lens.<p>
    But, it's a no brainer, a FAST lens always trumps a similar slower, e-stabilized lens. Always always always. Unless you have shaky hands, go with the fast lens.
  37. Not really. A 70-200/2.8 is usually more practical when you need to hand-hold it wide open than the 105/2. A 85/1.4 now starts to show some advantage from the speed. A fast VR lens is the best.
  38. A 70-200/2.8 is usually more practical when you need to hand-hold it wide open than the 105/2.
    And since VR or IS typically gives you the equivalent of 2 or even 3 'stops' worth in terms of controlling camera shake, you should be comparing between a VR 70-200/2.8 and a 200/1.4 or even a 200/1.0. How much would THAT weigh?
  39. "Here is something to consider: Nikon and Canon only put VR/IS into short focal lenght, consumer grade zoom lenses. The short pro lenses don't have it."

    The "pro" $5100 Nikkor 200-400mm f/4 is a VR lense. The "pro" $4500 Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 is also a VR. The "pro" $4000 Nikkor 200mm f/2.0G is also a VR.

    I don't think you can make a case that VR is "consumerish", just newer. I think most expensive (>$500) Nikkor lenses going forward will most likely have VR, including new pro lenses.

    But to answer the OP's question, if you can't get one with both speed and VR, go with speed over VR.
  40. What he meant was that in short lenses, only consumer ones are with VR. With teles, yes, even high-end lenses have VR.

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