The Danger Of Really Good Glass

That's a really stupid title - it matches an equally stupid post. I just wanted to get this little nagging thought out of my head so bear with me. You will either be amused at my irrationality or possibly be comforted as knowing you are not the only wing nut out there with some serious quirks. Moving on to the topic that the title refers to… Really good glass - specifically my Nikon 28-70 AFS lens.

I have heard this lens referred to as the beast amongst other nicknames of hmmmm… endearment. I cannot fault this bugger. I am waiting for it to fail. I had to replace the silent wave motor a few years after I bought it new but even that was not a big deal it had more exposures that most people will ever make on it even then. Since then it has another 200K or there about. I bought it new in the late 90's the first year it came out. It was crazy expensive then in 90's money and still brings a decent buck on the used market.

Having used both this big boy and the newer 24-70 that replaces it I would have to declare them about the same in terms of imaging performance - at least for photographers and not scientists. If you are in the market for something like this the smart money has to be to save the cash and get a 28-70 in good shape - one that doesn't make motor noise. Unless you absolutely must must have 24mm instead of 28mm at the wide end. For me it never crossed my mind to upgrade - made no sense and I like the build of my 28-70 a little better.

You see the 28-70 and also the 24-70 Nikkor pro zooms are so freaking good that they have stopped my in my tracks on more than one occasion of buying the lenses I would probably like better in actual use. They are really that good that the lenses that should be "better" really aren't - they may actually be worse in technical terms. Even if they are a smidgin better there really isn't any noticeable difference because these things leave nothing to be desired or quested after.

Remember when I was looking at fast 50mm AF lenses a while back. I was poised to buy either the Sigma 50 or the fast Nikkor 50mm - I ended up getting the 105DC instead for all of the reasons that I stated - one of which is I am a nut. The reason I didn't mention is that I have the beast. I swear that lens consciously and subconsciously has stopped me from buying every single prime in the 28-50 range. Heck it's even stopped me from buying a 24mm in the sense that I didn't feel the need to upgrade to a 24-70 so if follows I don't really need one at all.

So what's the issue? The danger? Well, I really rather have a 24mm prime and a 50mm prime or a 35mm and a 50mm or a 28mm and a 50mm. Any of the above with a fifty would be far more enjoyable in use. I really don't have the need of an event guy to zoom zoom zoom back again zoom from second to second. I am fine with choosing a lens and sticking with it for a particular scene I want to shoot and taking 10 seconds to change it if I want a perspective or framing variation that calls for a different focal length.

Here is the funny part - I could probably have all of those lenses brand new for less than the cost of the zoom. All of them combined probably weigh less to. Of course I couldn't have the brand new G 1.4 versions of all of them but heck the AF-D versions are pretty darn good except for the 28 which is just okay. I was actually going to buy three or maybe four lenses the other day because of how stinking cheap they are brand new at the moment. I didn't - why? I have the beast which is as good or better but quite burdensome compared to a two prime kit or even a three prime kit depending on what I am shooting.

If you think you need a pro Nikon fast mid-range zoom take a look at my budget list of what I would probably buy if I didn't have what I do right now. I know I would enjoy them a whole lot more in terms of my use and wouldn't think twice.

  • First off I have settled in on the 50mm AF-S 1.4 - the Sigma is a strong choice here as well but the Nikkor wins for me on just the fact that I buy Nikon lenses out of habit and it's much smaller. About 400 bucks.
  • Next up I would probably get the 24mm AF-D dirt cheap. Funny yesterday there were new ones on Amazon - now there are only used ones at the same price as the new ones were going for. The new 24mm G is fantastic - to bad it's idiotically expensive and really big. Get the AF-D. Paired with a 50mm you will never miss the 24-70mm. I would actually rather carry two D600 cameras than one with the 24-70 honestly.
  • If you are a 35mm guy/gal go for the AF-D 35mm as well. Faster at f2.0, just as good at 2.8, tiny, light, cheap. Compared to the new 35mm G? Ha - same issue as the 24mm G. Big heavy expensive.
  • The 28mm is where I would choose the G lens over the AF-D. It's not that the 28 AF-D is bad it's just not that good and it's only 2.8. It's cheap and small - that's good but the 28G will run circles around it IQ wise and it's f1.8. In fact this lens and the 50mm would also make a great two lens kit and split the difference of having the 24mm the 35mm or both.

There you have it. I would probably go with the 24 AF-D, 35mm AF-D, and the 50mm 1.4G myself. You may prefer just the two G lenses. Give it some thought you may like the two prime approach a whole lot better than the idiotically good but equally as cumbersome pro mid-range zoom. I know I would but I just cannot seem to part with my old warhorse and it rains on my parade one way or the other every time I go to buy one or two or all of the above. In some ways I wish it was a piece of crap or made horrible images then I would have no issue just getting what I really want.

Maybe I will buy just one of those I mentioned - sort of a trojan horse of shelving the beast.


Ps. Image at the top - me trying to provoke various flair characteristics from the beast wide open. See the X100 on the left. It has all kinds of whacky flare things you can play with. All lenses do some are just provoked more easily than others. The fuji has tons of flare wide open and about half the elements of the beast - and it's more than a decade "more advanced" ha. I am not knocking it - I just wanted to practice using that in specific ways before I try to do it with live subjects. I figured why not do it with the beast as well and see what's what. I never tried it with that lens before. More on that later.

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