Wide angle prime?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by paul hart, Oct 3, 2008.

  1. I'm a(nother) convert from Canon - just bought a D700 and enjoying it.

    I prefer prime lenses.

    It doesn't seem difficult to identify the best standard/tele primes in the Nikon range. However, I'm struggling a little with the wider angles,
    by which I mean 20-35mm.

    I'd appreciate any pointers to the best performers in that range.

    Many thanks.
  2. ..not sure if the 700 is a full frame, but the Sigma 10-20 is very sharp edge to edge. It has some aspherical problems at the edges,
    however, that require about a -2.5 distortion correction.
  3. Nikon makes an 20mm, 24mm and 28mm prime in their current portfolio of lenses. I have a 20mm F2.8, which I think produces fine images. I felt the 24mm/28mm on a D2X was not wide enough. Have your read this page being a new nikon convert? http://www.photo.net/equipment/nikon/
  4. See here for ratings - http://www.naturfotograf.com/index2_PC.html ... no finer website than Bjorn's for accurate data.

    Jim (I have the 28mm 2.8 AIS (0.2m focuser) and the 35mm 1.4 AIS which I like very much, the latter esp. stopped down to 4 or 5.6 and the former at about 5.6 are so sharp that I cut my fingers on the images, along with great color and fine contrast.) (they're manual focus ones tho)
  5. >> "..not sure if the 700 is a full frame, but the Sigma 10-20 is very sharp edge to edge."

    You can't use the Sigma 10-20 on the D700. The lens is a DX lens, but the camera is a FX camera.

    >> "However, I'm struggling a little with the wider angles, by which I mean 20-35mm."

    Nikon makes a 20 2.8, 24 2.8, and a 28 2.8 prime. But theses are relatuvely old screw-driver AF primes from the early 90s. They also makes a 14 2.8, which is wider than what you're asking for, and not cheap (so if you want to buy it, either the 14-24 or 17-35 would be the better alternatives). Nikon used to make a 28 1.4, which has become an expensive cult classic.

    I think if you want to go for the modern wide angle lenses, the 14-24 2.8 (spectacular lens) and the 17-35 2.8 are the best choices. They are good choices not really because they are zooms but because they perform on par with if not better than the primes. The 14-24 2.8 is said to be superior than the 14 2.8.

    One of the biggest shortcomings of today's Nikon system is their lack of modern fast primes.
  6. Paul the "old" AIS manual focus lenses 24mm f2.8, 28mm f2.0 and 35mm f1.4 are all great lenses and some come very
    cheap. The 28mm f1.4 MF and AF versions are great but at a higher price. The 17-35mm f2.8 zoom is almost as good
    as primes (besides speed only inferior in respect to flare and direct shooting into the light). The recent 24-70
    and 14-24 are amazingly good. In a different price class but these offer IQ that seemed impossible for a zoom a
    few years back. Yes check the above link.
  7. zeiss is producing manual primes... I have a 50mm/1.4 Planar on my F6 and love it. Tight tolerances, sharp, and outstanding boke. I hear they took the designs for Contax and adapted them to Nikon mount. Except for the 50mm Planar ($450), the wides are on the pricey AFAIK ($800>).
  8. Walter nailed it.

    I'd get:

    20 2.8 AIS
    28 2.0 or 1.4 (I have the 1.4 but it's ridiculously expensive now)
  9. Depends on whether you want AF or not -- most Nikon AF wide primes are a bit long in the tooth and the zooms are generally better in this range. Depends also on the focal lengths and if you want fast ones or slow ones, the MF 28 and 35 should be quite good. The Zeiss 35 is reputedly very good and the the Zeiss 21 reputedly stellar. It's so stellar that Canon users used to buy the old ones made for Contax to put on their 5Ds and 1Ds's for quite inflated prices. I'm trying to get a chance to test those. At 24 mm, my preference is for the new 24/3.5 PC Nikkor, but it's mainly a tripod lens in the sense that it is slow and not fast to use.
  10. Nikon wide-angle primes may be getting long in the tooth, but they were designed in an era when nearly all lenses were of professional quality. There is an excellent 18/2.8 in addition to the 14, 20, 24, 28 (several flavors) and 35 (several flavors). You can buy a used 20-35/2.8 zoom for just a little more than a new 20/2.8 alone, and get the same or better image quality, or a 17-35/2.8 for the price of an 18/2.8 or 28/1.4.
  11. ">> "..not sure if the 700 is a full frame, but the Sigma 10-20 is very sharp edge to edge."

    You can't use the Sigma 10-20 on the D700. The lens is a DX lens, but the camera is a FX camera. "

    Slightly incorrect. You can use that lens on a FF camera. The camera will go into crop mode which will produce a lower resolution, 5mp image. The image will not appear as good as it would if the image were taken by a DX camera, but if you're not blowing the image up to large sizes it is still quite serviceable.

    Just want to clear that up. Nikon has a few primes in the 20 - 30mm range. I have seen 20 and 24mm primes for under $400. I think the 24mm 2.0 (Or is it a 2.8) got a bad rap for distortion and poor sharpness while the 20mm is considered a good lens.
  12. Many thanks for these helpful responses. I'll take my time building up a few lenses, and draw on your answers as I do. In
    the meantime, I've got my name down for the new 50/1.4 when it arrives later in the year.
  13. This "long in the tooth" crap for Nikon's primes is gibberish... Sounds like too many people are being affected by upgrade-itis....typical these days.

    My 20mm 2.8 AF-D is a fine lens. One of my favorites on my F100 (bought it oh so long ago...5 years...I shudder). There MIGHT be issues with digital cameras..and their light-wells (light is better if it comes straight into them as I understand it), but I seriously doubt it.

    Screwdriver lens? On a 20mm lens that takes about a 1/10th of a second to focus.... AF-S would be worthless for such a small amount of glass.
  14. This "long in the tooth" crap for Nikon's primes is gibberish
    I have tested my 24/2.8 AF-D against the Zeiss, the 24 PC and the 24-70. It is clear that the only advantages of the 24/2.8 are the price, the size and the performance in super-closeups. For anything else, you can choose any of those other lenses for better results. The tests were done on a D3 and a D300. I have several reliable sources having found the 20/2.8 to be good but not excellent. In contrast, the tests I've seen of the Zeiss 21/3.5 would put it into a league of its own. For 28's, it's best to choose the AI(S) ones as per my experience, perfectly good lenses but they could be better. If you have some results to show us then go ahead.
  15. Oskar I agree with your second post except that the 24mm AFD may be a bad example to generalize "old" lenses
    because it gets mixed reports. Some samples seem quite ok but some seem to produce poor IQ - I observed the
    latter. My own 24mm f2.8 AIS version is excellent, my AFD version was poor. It is my impression that the 24mm and
    28mm AFD versions suffer from quality control issues. The 28mm AFD f2.8 is a very cheap lens and I have yet to
    see one that is on par with the older AIS versions, both f2.0 and f2.8. One special characteristic of the 28mm
    f2.0 AIS is that it is a great lens when you need to shoot into the sun. Very resistant to flare. It is also a
    very nice lens if you like a bit softer contrast but at high resolution of detail.

    Yes Zeiss produces a few gems including the 21mm and 25mm Distagons. I keep saying that one day I will own a
    Makro-Planar 100 just for the bokeh^^ but this is of topic.
  16. This "long in the tooth" crap for Nikon's primes is gibberish... Sounds like too many people are being affected by upgrade-itis....typical these days.
    Many of Nikon's wide angle prime designs are indeed optically a poor match with modern digital sensors. 50mm and longer are great, all the current autofocus wide angle primes are in my "avoid" list; not for a lack of trying (I've had 14mm, 20mm, 24mm, two 28mm's, and two 35mm autofocus primes; none of them would be worth keeping for use with current digital cameras IMO). I now use a 24mm PC-E which is excellent, a 28mm f/2 Ai-S which is good but soft in the corners, and two ZF prime wide angles: the 25mm which is good stopped down and the 35mm ZF which is great at all apertures. I could list the flaws of each of the autofocus Nikon primes above - they're seriously out of date unless you shoot 35mm film.
    I wanted so much to use prime lenses that I went through all of the above lenses (with huge financial loss) before finally realizing that only the manual focus versions of certain primes (e.g. the 28) are good and reasonably in line with what one would expect from decent glass and behave well on digital. I do use 50mm and longer autofocus primes and they're all very good to excellent with both DX and FX.
    If you don't like manual focus on your wide angles, I would just go with the flow of the massesand get the 14-24 and 24-70 which are good lenses and far better than the AF primes at wide apertures with respect to sharpness and CA. I don't like these large zooms much because, well, they're so large, so I usually just use MF primes - after a while it becomes second nature.
  17. I would like to add that the 14mm and 20mm I tested only with DX (D70 and D200) and 35mm film; I sold them before getting into FX. The 20mm was perfect on 35mm film, but on the D200 the left 1/3 of the image area was soft; it was adjusted by Nikon but I wasn't happy with what I got; it was still soft in the edges (this time more symmetrical) albeit a little less; autofocus was inaccurate at close distances . Maybe it would have been better on FX. The 14mm didn't draw very well outside of the DX frame (on 35mm film) and had a lot of moustache distortion; it was not very sharp on the D200; the 12-24 mm DX I tried was much better.
    The 28mm AF-D is not a bad lens, I think it produces higher contrast and more saturated colors than the Ai-S version; but the latter is sharper. I haven't owned the f/2 and f/2.8 Ai-S at the same time so I can't compare them directly; but they're both good. The 24mm autofocus has a lot of CA at the edges of the FX frame and the 35mm f/2 AF-D is very good on DX but the edges aren't very sharp until you stop down to f/4 or f/5.6. I felt that manual focusing was difficult with these AF lenses as the turn is so quick, and this was a problem when shooting wide open, so I went all manual focus with wide angle primes and am very satisfied with what I got. I do plan on getting any new modern AF-S wide angle primes that Nikon may be introducing; especially I would like a 35 f/2 and a 28 f/2, for those times when autofocus is needed, i.e. when it is so dark that I can't see well enough to focus.
    There MIGHT be issues with digital cameras..and their light-wells (light is better if it comes straight into them as I understand it), but I seriously doubt it.
    There are indeed serious issues.
  18. Walter, I don't wish to generalize based on the 24, but I used that focal length a lot back when using film, so it was the most interesting for me and that's why I was interested to compare it to other offering. I have since sold it, but did not feel that the Zeiss 25 currently offers enough for me to upgrade (I shoot DX, BTW, but the focal length is very useful on DX also). The 24 could be quite interesting for closeups on FX, but for that application the AIS version would be better anyway. I own two 35's, the PC and the 35/1.4, these are among the best of wide Nikkors. I use a 28/3.5, but tend to use it mainly for IR and night photo work; for more general photography I would consider other choices very carefully (and the AF 28 is not one of them). For superwide work I just went with a zoom. Bottom line is that in general, I would prefer MF primes over AF in the Nikkor line-up, but new zooms and primes from other companies seem to indicate that primes could deliver a lot more than the 20, 24, 28 and 35 Nikkors currently do. The numbers at photozone.de are pretty much in line with this.

    Incidentally, the Nikkor primes are fairly small, it would be nice to have better optics with roughly the same size.
  19. Extensive testing in controlled cirumstances revealed that my sample of the 20mm f/2.8D is great on film and good on DX digital. On my D200, the center of the image frame is tack sharp even wide-open with slightly soft corners, which I think is also due to the lens' field curvature. Stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond, the borders are much better, although still not what I'd call tack-sharp. Perfectly usable in everyday photography though.

    I think the 20/2.8's corner softness isn't really a big problem since most users would tend to stop down wide angle lenses in order to get some DOF to work with. Indoors and at lower light levels, the corner softness wide-open isn't really noticeable - at least not in my images. On film (and FX digital) there's visible light fall-off wide-open, although on FX this can be corrected in the camera.

    The 20mm's contrast is high, CAs are absent and it's very resistant against flare. It's much smaller and lighter than something like the 17-35mm f/2.8, which is a great lens but which does not seem to be entirely without problems either. There's no such thing as a perfect lens after all, but for me, the 20/2.8 does a remarkably good job.

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