"Better" Lenses (for Nikon)

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by wjastrow, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. wjastrow

    wjastrow TPF Noob!

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    Gang,

    I've just sent my Nikon 18-200mm VR lense in for (under extended warranty) repair and am considering alternative lenses.

    I keep returning to my hi-fi experiences where more money really does result in better equipment and after 6 years of (digital) SLR photography, I'm at a point where I'd like to consider buying better lenses.

    That 18-200mm VR has proven to be extremely versatile and effectively the only lense I use, so much so that I keep it mounted at all times.

    After initiatiing the repair, I immediately asked about other lenses. There's a very hefty 18-55mm VR 2.8 lense (that's about >double< the price of the 18-200mm; $1600?) that looks very promising in terms of construction and focusing speed but I don't know that I'm ready for that, especially since I'd lose so much distance. (I tend to rely on the telephoto ability and have few opportunities for portraits.)

    My question is really this: Are other brands better than Nikon? For example, I thought Tamron was a "better" brand? Am I mistaken?? I only cite Tamron for the 18-270mm lense they offer, however, I've seen some unfavorable reviews of it.

    Is it really simply time to make the "hyperleap" and accept the reality of the "over $1000" realm of lenses?

    I appreciate that there could be several orders of magnitude of improvement in a lense, however, the cost would be equivalent. My own rule of thumb is more along the lines of a 20% cost difference that results in a >noticable< improvement. Again, using the hi-fi analogy, the difference between a $500 and $5000 component should be dramatic but the "entry level" component from that same $5000 manufacturer should distinguish itself from the $500 "top of the line" offering for an incremental cost.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. GeneralBenson

    GeneralBenson TPF Noob!

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    Consider third party lenses. Tamron and Sigma make lots of options that would provide you a step up from the 18-200, while still keeping the budget low. The quality of most modern sigma/tamron lenses is very high.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You can't really compare too many lenses strictly by brand name. Nikon has plenty of great lenses...but they also have some terrible lenses as well. Same thing with Canon, Sigma, Tamron etc. You really have to compare them on a lens by lens basis.

    When it comes to top end, professional level lenses...the Nikons are very good. Very likely better than a similar top end lens from Sigma or Tamron. The issue is that a top end Nikon lens is going to be twice the price of a similar top end Sigma/Tamron. As an example, I like to say that the top end Nikon (or Canon) is maybe 10% better than the top end Sigma/Tamron. So is it really worth that extra 10% in quality for double the price? To some people it is, to some people it isn't.
    I would think that the hi-fi analogy fits here too.

    Another thing to consider, is that top end lenses are rarely more than 3x zoom lenses. For example, some of the best Nikon lenses are the 17-55mm F2.8, the 24-70m F2.8 and the 70-200mm F2.8.
    Sure, the 18-200mm lens is convenient, but to design a lens like that, there are compromises made to the image quality. So you really need to decide which is more important to you....convenience or quality.
     
  4. T-town photographer

    T-town photographer TPF Noob!

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    :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:

    Michael
     
  5. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I used to own 18-200 3.5-6.3 Tamron. The great thing about that lens was the focal length and outdoors it performed VERY well. I didn't mind much images being a bit soft either. But the moment I was indoors, it used to take longer for it to focus, the softness was more pronounced and overall it was just not of the best quality I could have pulled from the camera. I heard of some promising results from new Sigma 18-250 but can't say anything personal about it. I googled this interesting page, didn't read it though Juza Nature Photography comparison b/n these big guns :).
    My primary glass now is nikon 28-105 3.5-4.5. It is an older model but its optics are amongst best of Nikon (and yes, I am subjective here:) ) I'd recommend looking into used/older lenses.
    that obviously depends on you & your budget. Number of hobbyists-friends of mine, walk around with 3 primes and 3zooms. Personally, I don't have the budget to upgrade to a $2000 2.8 lens nor do I need to - it isn't the lens or the camera that makes an image spectacular, it is the person behind the (used to be film) LCD screen :D
     
  6. Heck

    Heck TPF Noob!

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    Also a better high end lens will hold value better and can be sold easy for a good price down the road if you feel you don't need it anymore.
     
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The hi-fi analogy isn't quite applicable, since that is a field filled with bogus claims, and otherworldly prices for rather mundane, interchangeable components that are not much better than generic, but which people willingly play thousands of dollars for; things like $5,000 gold-plated connectors on speaker cables, and so on. Mike Johnston, a former hi-fi junkie writes the daily blog The Online Photographer and just celebrated the blog's fourth anniversary--he frequently uses his longtime audiophile experiences as examples, mostly of an industry with a corrupt industry press comprised of a mere handful of reviewers who get expensive speakers and systems "on-loan" [basically at sub-market, bribe-like prices] and where the entire industry press does little more than condition customers to be ravaged by over-priced manufacturers. So, as Johnston so often writes about, the similarities to hi-fi and photographic industry offerings are not applicable.

    What you'll find if you buy a higher-end lens is that instead of minute, almost imperceptible differences that you have to tell yourself you think you hear, you will get measurable, large, substantial differences in optical performance once you get into the higher-end lenses from Nikon. Sigma makes only a few lenses that are "tops" in their field--very few lenses. Here is a list of the top 16 most-frequently repaired lenses; Sigma has 7 of the 16 most-frequently repaired lenses. And the top four, meaning the worst four as far as reliability, has one Sigma lens that costs over $2,300.

    LensRentals.com - Lens Repair Data 2.0

    If you're happy with the 18-200 VR, you could probably keep using it after it comes back from repair. It is, or was likely when you bought it, the "top of the heap" as far as superzoom lenses go--it was not a cheapie, but an expensive, top-line superzoom. But it's also kind of like a mini office stereo system--it does not have any one single area where is is even remotely near the "top" in performance. To get the top quality performance of $5,000 hi-fi components, you'll probably find yourself spending $1,000 on photographic equipment, or more. If you want to move into high-performance lenses, you'll have to settle for more task-appropriate lenses, rather than an 18-200, so the 17-55 f/2.8 VR DX-Nikkor would cover the short to middle focal length ranges, and then from 55 on up, you'd need another lens, like a 70-200 VR. If you want good-performing lenses in zooms, Sigma and Tamron have some good-performing zoom lenses in affordable price ranges, but they also have shall we say, the reputation of Pioneer, not Harmon-Kardon. And they are priced for what they offer....80 to 90 percent of the performance of the camera-brand products in most cases.

    In prime lenses, Sigma and Tamron make better quality offerings which are of extremely good optical performance--their macro lenses specifically, are excellent optical performers.
     
  8. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    What Lens Rental's chart could also prove is that more people rent those lenses more often so they tend to get beaten around more and those lenses are also large telephotos which are heavier and could also be beaten around in shipping.

    It's not a very accurate chart to use to gauge quality unless they have a chart showing how often those lenses repaired are rented. Plus it's only data from one company. Borrow Lenses could have a chart that looks completely opposite to that.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The fact remains--Sigma is the most-repaired lens brand that they carry. And, counter to your comment that it might be that the large lenses get "beaten around in shipping", Lensrentals SPECIFICALLY states :

    "Just because we get asked it a lot, I’ll add that the Supertelephoto primes (300 f2.8, 400 f2.8, 500f4, 600 f4 from both Canon and Nikon) are our lowest repair rate lenses. Basically we’ve only had damage repairs for any of them."

    Hmmm....so Nikon and Canon supertelephotos, all larger, all bigger than the top-four Siggys, are their "lowest repair rate lenses." Kind of shoots down the theory you've put forth

    I've been involved with 35mm lenses since the early 1980's,and Sigma has earned its reputation. Did you see that neat-o post from a while back where the fellow's 70-200 Sigma just snapped at the lens mounting ring? No offense to Sigma, but their lens-building reputation is known far and wide as an "affordable" brand, not as a mission-critical brand. For light-duty use, and for bang-for-buck, Sigma offers good value. And yet, out of the lenses listed above, Sigma has 7 of the 16 most-repaired lenses...
     
  10. CWN

    CWN TPF Noob!

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    Just curious, but I'd imagine a lot more Sigma's are sold and rented due to their reduced cost. Could this factor in on the numbers?

    I've had wonderful experiences with all my Sigmas.
     
  11. Wolverinepwnes

    Wolverinepwnes TPF Noob!

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    :thumbup:



    :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
     
  12. Eco

    Eco TPF Noob!

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    After spending the last couple of weeks on Ebay shopping for a couple lenses I found:

    Nikon lenses hold their value and in some cases increase in value. <--One of the only items I can think of that you can use for 1-30 years and then sell it for around what you paid!

    Sigma, while I can't recall seeing broken ones for sale it seems that more than a few people are selling them to get Nikons.

    My two cents
     

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