The Lens Conundrum

We'll I've done it. I've gone looking at new gear. I really shouldn't have started looking but I really need a semi-wide lens. Of course I have a fantastic hunk-o-semi-wide glass. Truly astonishing in it's performance. That beast of a lens the Nikon 28-70 AF-S. Too bad it's so stinking big and so ponderous I just don't want to carry it. I won't carry it. Even when I lug the thing with me to a static shoot where I don't have a camera bag on my shoulder I rarely take it out. It's just massive. Now that I've spoiled myself with primes it just seems silly.

I really do hate shopping for gear. I get lost in it. I spend way too much time ogling all of the choices. I can't even keep myself limited to the matter at hand - a semi-wide. I start to go down all sorts of paths looking at all manner of gadgets I might want instead. It's a kind of insanity. I start out with comparing 35mm lens options which leads to TTL flash triggers, light modifiers, crazy expensive glass that's not 35mm or even close, new cameras, laptops, you name it. Some how it ends up with bookmarks and browser screens with hundreds of tabs comparing prices of things so disparate you would have no idea I started with something as simple as a 35mm-ish lens. Some times I end up purchasing something that is so different than what I needed it's crazy. Sometimes it's the same as I planned on spending, other times it more.

The worst part about it is I can never decide. Nothing seems exactly right enough to cause a knee-jerk buy. I end up analyzing and over-thinking and waffling so much it's actually stressful. Case in point – my lowly semi-wide purchase endeavor. It's been going on for days, maybe longer if I'm honest with myself. I started with the Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D. Cheap, small, light, works with all my cameras – even film cameras. What's not to like?

Well, it's actually a very old design with very so-so performance. Not horribly bad just not great. I could probably live with it. I'm really not much at deciding if I like a picture only after examining it at extreme magnification but… truth is wide open that lens is a joke. Well not a joke but won't hold a candle to my 28-70. In fact it probably won't equal or even get near the beast until about f/8. Oh, it also costs half of another reasonable choice, the new 18-35 G lens which by all accounts is fantastic. Probably as good as the 14-24 although slower. Without putting all this into prose just take a look at what's out there at the moment.

  • The 35mm AF-D f/2. Fast but not so great, terrible in the corners, tiny and light. About $350.
  • The new 35 f/1.8G. Far better performance, only works on AF bodies, not terribly heavy but not nearly as compact. About $600. 10oz 2.8in x 2.8in
  • The 35 f/1.4G Holy crap expensive - pretty good. About $1500 21oz 3.3in x 3.5in. Holy crap, twice as heavy.
  • Okay let's look at zooms. The 18-35 3.5-4.5G is interesting. Really good performance according to all sources. Only a hair more money than the 1.8G at around $750. Not too too big. 13.6oz 3.26in x 3.7in. AND look ma - it stays the same size at all focal lengths. Okay we're in $750 territory so that's like a thousand right?
  • Let's look at that Stigma Art thing. Okay about the same price (see how my near a thousand thing works). This thing is a great deal compared to the Nikon any way you want to compare it – let's go with that…. Ooops hold the train. WTF… 23.5oz 3in x 3.7in that's like pro-zoom territory. Oh and every time a new camera comes out there's some sorta won't-work issue.
  • Now that we're at $1000 what about that crazy 16-35 f/4 VR. That's crazy good too and only like $200 more. What 24oz and 3.2in x 4.9in. What happened to my small lens?

You see the dilemma here right? Take a look at this spectrum. I have been sitting on this for days. The fence I'm straddling is what appears to be the logical choice between the 35 f/1.8G and the 18-35 vari-aperture zoom both reasonable. One a bit smaller and lighter but very comparable and not a whole lot different in price. Here's the rub. When I am stuck between two rational choices for this long there's better than 50% odds I will go off and do something completely crazy like grab either of the 1.4 lenses the Stigma or the Nikon for a bunch more money…

Anyone care to vote?


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