What does 'better glass' actually mean?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Hair Bear, Oct 15, 2006.

  1. Hair Bear
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    Hair Bear New Member

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    I've seen it on a couple of threads about camera purchase and the like.

    I have been lusting after the D80 with 18-135 are you saying the lens is not good? Its nikons own?

    Surely they don't put bad lenses on their gear, if you are suggesting the lens will not show the cameras potential how is this good for Nikon?

    If you get 'better glass' how much more are we talking about and who makes 'better glass'?

    What do I look for?
  2. Alex_B
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    Alex_B New Member

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    Well, I do not wone any Nikon, but still I can help a bit here ... how much more are we talking about .. well I think you can almost spend any amount of money on glass for your camera, starting from things cheaper than what comes with the kit up to what you would pay for a car ;)

    Who makes better glass .. well Nikon themselves do! Just some of the Nikon shooters here have to give advice which particular lens might be good for you.
    Also there are some pretty good lenses by other companies on the market I suppose.

    Certainly the kit lens is not a "bad" lens, it will work well for many situations. But at some point you will probably get to its limits and then you want to buy a more expensive lens. And this is good for Nikon (and all other companies do it in the same way): They sell the kit lens, and later ou upgrade ... hence you bought at least two lenses! Also, it is more leikly you will buy the camera if it comes in a kit with a cheaper lens than as if you pay 400 USD more in a more expensive kit.
  3. fmw
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    fmw New Member

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    You may want to go back and read my post again. I, for one, didn't say anything about bad lenses. I just explained what makes better ones better. It is what you asked.
  4. Hair Bear
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    Hair Bear New Member

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    Sorry Fred, I started this thread as I didn't want to hijack somebody eleses but the way I read your post on there you appeared to say not to get the kit lens with the camera but to get a cheaper camera and better glass. And I didn't see anywhere that I said you said etc.

    The question 'are you saying..' wasn't specifically aimed at you. Its a general question to any body willing to input and explain 'better glass' to me.

    I was always told 'buy the best you can' I have used this and it works for me, ofetn buying the best i can't afford. LOL

    So if you belive there is better glass than the kit lens glass, what is it?

    If I then go on to buy a Nikon lens, whats the difference?

    Should I be looking at other makes if so what ones?

    What budget?
  5. DocFrankenstein
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    DocFrankenstein Clinically Insane?

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    Nikon makes some consumer lenses and some professional.

    A 200 dollar lens will not perform the same way as a 1500 lens. And there is a reason to buy a 1500 lens too - you get better quality, better build, faster autofocus... etc.

    I shoot canon myself, but I know THIS is a good lens for sure.

    If I were to start, my first lens would be a non-zoom 35mm f/2 lens. It's very good optically and for many reasons you'll want to learn with it. Probably you'll never gonna sell it either.
  6. JIP
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    JIP New Member

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    I have that lens and I can agree it is awesome I got iit directly from Nikon but for some reason the said I couldn't get the white one
  7. Hair Bear
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    Hair Bear New Member

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    Ok I need to wrap this up now.

    I went into the local sho to ask about lenses and the D80 kit lens.

    He seemed to think there was range lenses or prime. Prime being better in quality as its fixed and has a better fstop range.

    But unless you want to carry around a shed load of prime then the 18-135 is an acceptable compromsie and a good lens. He did agree that at the out range of the lens there would be some problems but these would be unseen by all but the most anal user.

    So I'm still non the wiser really.

    Does better glass mean prime? and what short of budget should be allocated to them in order to get the most from the back?
  8. Digital Matt
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    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    I'm not sure what your experience level is with photography, but if you are stressing this much about what lens to purchase for your camera, you are missing out on just having fun and taking pictures, which is what it's for!

    Yes, there are good lenses, and great lenses, and so so lenses, and really bad ones. Any of them will produce an image, and it's up to you to make that image interesting.

    Get the kit lens and the camera, and start shooting, and later on you'll know what better glass is when you are ready to see a technical improvement in your images.
  9. Hair Bear
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    Hair Bear New Member

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    Couldn' agree more and currently having great fun with my Nikon SLR 35-70.

    But the point of the question was to learn what better glass is, or is it just one of those terms that is banded around without being understood.

    Clearly nobody has actually explained it in simple terms on this thread.

    If the D80 with kit lens is £899 and with out £799 the difference is £100 (est figures for exmaple only)

    With that £100 + some extra, what can you buy thats better glass?

    If its another £1000 then its just not worth it, buy the kit and use it and have some fun etc.

    BTW the gy in the shop thought the kit 18-135 would be better in terms of quality then my current nikkor 35-70 and therefore image quality would be increased in terms of final picture.
  10. Digital Matt
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    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    It's really a subjective and personal experience. No two people will see all the same details. If you want scientific data, then read lens MTF charts, and compare that way.

    http://luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/understanding-mtf.shtml

    The truth is, you won't know the difference in "better" glass, until you do your OWN comparison, which means buying that better lens, or renting it, and comparing sharpness, distorition, color rendition, and contrast, to your other glass.
  11. fmw
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    fmw New Member

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    I think this is a really good answer. The differences between good lenses and great lenses is actually fairly subtle. The important differences are the speed of the great lenses and that speed requires much more design and precision than the slower lenses. Like Matt says, get a camera and go shoot.
  12. Don Simon
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    Don Simon New Member

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    Just hit the nail on the head of this particular can of worms... metaphors mixed enough for ya? :lol: It is subjective. Tests and charts claim to be objective, and even if they are then they're not all that much help. Sometimes you want a sharper image, but sometimes you don't. Some people like vignetting. Some people don't like using zooms, and some people swear by them. Personally I like primes for the larger maximum aperture and (depending on the lens) the bokeh - and nice bokeh or not is about a subjective a factor as they come. Zoom or prime? I don't think you need to carry a shedload of primes... just enough to cover a couple of very useful focal lengths, and then as they say zoom with your feet. But I do agree zooms can be more convenient (for example if you can only carry one or two lenses)... unless of course you get into low-light situations, where you might want a prime for the larger max aperture.

    For £100, go for a kit lens. Use it, and if you don't like using it or like the results then look at spending the money on a better zoom or a prime. You may not feel the need to.
  13. mysteryscribe
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    mysteryscribe New Member

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    I hear this kind of thing all the time... my suggestion is to buy all the lense you really need, and not waste your money on the whiz bang you don't need.

    Actually MOST people do not buy better lenses they buy a longer than kit lense maybe. Most people don't need long lenses that will stop down to 2.8.... MOST cameras are sold to people who wouldn't know the difference anyway and don't plan to waste the time to learn the difference. Sometimes we tend to forget that WE are not MOST people and that's why average quality lenses come on cameras.

    lol.... now you can beat up on me.
  14. TJPhotoGuy
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    TJPhotoGuy New Member

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    I think it means "Primes"
  15. Tiberius
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    Tiberius New Member

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    That's flamebait right there. And quite often not true. Both Nikon and Canon make zoom lenses every bit as good as their primes; they just cost more as a matter of tradeoff.

    Better Glass just means faster and sharper.
  16. Hair Bear
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    Hair Bear New Member

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    I still dont htink I know what to look for in order to get better glass.


    Simply stating get 'better glass' or they are sharper and faster doesn't cut it with me.

    Better than what, sharper and faster than what?

    Name lenses and makes so I can compair and learn
  17. Digital Matt
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    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    A 70-300 vs a 70-200. Don't ask me why, but 70-200's are always made better. Canon and Nikon both make a cheap consumer 70-300, and a much better 70-200. The 70-300's are usually 3.5-5.6, and the 70-200's are 2.8 with VR or IS. Sigma and Tamron also make 70-300s, and while I don't know about Tamron, Sigma makes a 70-200 2.8 which is very good.

    Read lens reviews. You start to hear about the "usual suspects" ie. the lenses that are good in every manufacturer's lineup.

    In general, if you see two lenses, and one costs $180, and the other is $1800, you know which one is "better" glass.
  18. LWW
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    LWW New Member

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    "BETTER" needs a definition if it is to have meaning, I think that may be what is confusing you Hair Bear.

    As an example...if you want a lightweight lens for shooting relatively slow objects in sunlight/flash, such as family picnics, then the 18-135 kit lens actually is better than many expensive alternatives.

    Now, OTOH if you are shooting sporting events, planes, auto racing and such then the 18-135 will come up short to other choices. It won't have the reach of an 80-200 F2.8 to get you up close. You will also lose 2 stops of light. This means that under the exact same conditions I can shoot the same moving object at 4 times as fast a shutter speed as the 18-135. IOW I can shoot at 1/1000 under the same light that you shoot at 1/250. The shallower depth of field from 2 stops more aperture will also give my photos more pop. As a trade off the "BETTER" lens will cost more and by nature weigh more, largely because the front element has to be much larger.

    At the same time if you were wanting to take wide angle panorama views your 18-135 would again be "BETTER" than the 80-200. An even "BETTER" choice would be a 12-24 F4.

    As to brands, I don't believe that anyone makes "BETTER" glass than Nikon...but all glass is not equal. Here are some things to look for, and why.

    WIDE APERTURE: If everything else is equal then a lens with a larger aperture (smaller F number) will be the "BETTER" lens. Why? It can work at faster shutter speeds in the same light. It can work in lower light. It gives your photos more pop from shallow DOF.

    APOCHROMATIC GLASS: This is the big one. Apochromatic glass is known under several names. Canon calls it L glass. Sigma calls it APO. Nikon calls it ED (Extra low dispersion). This type of glass is much harder than regular glass which makes it more abuse resistant and heavier. The mfring process requires that impurities and bubbles are as absent as modern tech allows. It also solves a huge problem in photography. Not all colors of light focus at the exact same point on the film/CCD plane. This leads to color fringing. The longer the telephoto the more obvious it becomes. Apochromatic glass is pure and it focuses all the colors of the spectrum at the same point on the film/CCD plane.

    My main lenses and their use:

    Nikon 300MM F4 ED. Great lens for wildlife, planes, etcetera. 5%.
    Nikon 80-200 F2.8 ED. Great for sporting events. 20%.
    Nikon 50MM F1.8. Dazzling performance and extremely fast. 10%.
    Nikon 28-105. Great walking around all purpose lens. 35%.
    Nikon 18-55 ED. Same as above but a little wider and shorter. 30%.

    I hope this has helped instead of confused the issue.

    LWW
  19. fmw
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    fmw New Member

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    The reason a 70-200 would be optically superior to a 70-300 is simply that the longer the zoom range, the more compromises required in the lens design. It's harder to correct mountains than molehills. Zooms with modest zoom ranges are always optically superior to zooms with wide zoom ranges. Every time. Single focal length lenses are always superior to zooms. Every time. View camera lenses are always superior to lenses that have to focus themselves. Every time. Laws of physics.

    LWW makes a good point about your application. My wife and I shoot together from time to time. She has a tiny, credit card sized Sony digicam and I carry about 25 lbs. of stuff or more. We have different requirements of our equipment. Also, as an example, I usually carry my 12-24 zoom on my Nikon as a "normal" lens because I really like working with wide angles. I shoot up close and personal most of the time and enjoy the wide angle perspective. LWW doesn't even have anything other than a modest wide angle so our shooting styles are obviously quite different. A 12-24 isn't important to him but, for me, it is the most used lens I have. My 300 f4 rarely leaves the house and my 80-200 f2.8 usually stays in the car unless I need it specifically for some purpose but my 12-24 is with me all the time. So what is better for one photographer may not be better for another.
  20. Tiberius
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    Tiberius New Member

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    fmw - Not really true. I doubt you'll find anyone saying the 70-300 has better optics than the Nikon 80-400VR, which has a bigger zoom range. You'll find plenty of people who consider the 17-55f/2.8 and 28-70f/2.8 every bit as good as a 50f/1.8 at 50mm. Etc.

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