Arguably the most versatile zoom, and lens, in the “consumer” Series-E by Nikon, the 70-210 f/4 also weighs in as the biggest and heaviest. At 25 ounces/730 grams, it’s over twice as heavy as the NEX-7. With that weight comes a useful 3x zoom, a fast f/4 constant aperture, and even a macro mode at 70mm (focusing down to 2 feet/.56 meters). With those features it becomes harder to complain about the front-heavy balancing, but it’s still there.
So far, I’m generally pleased with the optical performance. I haven’t had a chance yet to do any critical testing (or, photography in general) yet, but in real-world use, the f/4 aperture provides adequate depth-of-field control, and images appear pretty sharp straight from the start. With some chart shots, we’ll see just how much pixel-level detail gets resolved.
Until then, I took it out for a photowalk recently around town. I’ll finish up these quick impressions with 9 samples.
70mm, ISO 100, f/4, 1/1600
I feel it’s time for me to lay out a guide, of sorts, for how I review my lenses. This way, I can keep commentary centered towards how a lens actually performs, rather than explaining all the technical jargon each time. This post will be updated as new terminology/review sections are added. Currently, the NEX-7 is both my camera and review body of choice for its demanding 24MP APS-C sensor. If a lens performs well on it, it’s almost guaranteed to perform at least as good on less-megapixel-dense sensors. The order below will generally follow that of every review: Continue Reading
The second 2x zoom in the “consumer” rated Series-E lenses by Nikon, the 36-72mm E comes in as the most compact zoom of the three, thanks to its pancake design. When at 72mm (collapsed), the lens is actually about the same size as the 100mm E. Despited my general dissatisfaction with zoom lenses, the convenience they offer to photographers by having multiple focal lengths in one lens makes traveling light easy, and, theoretically, more shots are possible at any given time since composition can be more flexible. In my case, personal habits acquired from shooting prime lenses still carry over even to zooms: I either use this lens at the wide or tele end. Rarely do I zoom to get a shot. As such, I treat it as two prime lenses in one.
As many know, features such as fast maximum apertures, non-distorted lines, and close-focus abilities are often sacrificed to gain convenience, especially in the smaller zooms. The question here then is does the compactness and generally useful focal range (on APS-C) of the 36-72mm E outweigh likely performance drops? Let’s find out! Continue Reading
Accompanying the other 2x zoom in the “consumer” grade Series-E lenses from Nikon, the 36-72mm E is another no-frills, simple optic for general photography. On film/FF sensors, the optical range goes from kinda-sorta-wide to a short telephoto; a useful range for sure. However, on APS-C cameras, the field of view equivalency covers “normal” to medium telephoto: about 54-108mm. Combined with the pretty slow maximum aperture of f/3.5 (less depth-of-field control) and the painfully far close-focus distance of 4 feet/1.2 meters, the usefulness is much less here. Continue Reading
I am not a big fan of zooms. There, I said it. They are bigger and slower than most primes within their focal range. At wide and telephoto ends, distortion can also be a nuisance, but my biggest gripe comes from an artistic standpoint. When you have the option to stand still and zoom into a subject to take a photograph, it’s very easy to become lazy. This can really take the creativity out of a shot and its composition. Zooming speeds up the process leading one to get a quick grab rather than truly thinking about what the picture should look like. Super-zooms (such as the “do-it-all” 18-200 lenses) are my worst enemy because of this, though admittedly, they are okay lenses for traveling light.
That said, I look at the three zoom lenses in the Series-E collection and note how two offer only a 2x magnification (36-72 and 75-150) and the other a 3x magnification (70-210). This is rather interesting, as with the restricted zoom ranges (especially compared to the 11x magnification of an 18-200), these Series-E’s can be treated as two prime lenses in one. For the 75-150, I tend to leave it at either 75mm or 150mm, rarely zooming to the middle of the range. I move forward and backward to frame a shot as I otherwise would with a prime lens—though that may very well be a carried-over habit from only shooting prime lenses. The problems of a relatively slow maximum aperture and unwieldy length are still present, but the shooting process is a bit more enjoyable using this method.
All that aside I’m looking at reviewing the lens here, rather than the methods behind its use, so let’s move on to how this 2x zoom performs! Continue Reading
Kicking off my continuing exploration of the “consumer-rated” Series-E lenses by Nikon, I have had the chance to play around with the small 75-150mm zoom for a little while now. What a change…I haven’t shot with a zoom since I last used my now-sold Tokina 80-200 f/2.8 5 months ago! Instead of needing to move back and forth to get composition just right, I now can just zoom in/out and snap (if I so choose). There are good and bad aspects to this style of shooting, but I won’t really get into detail about that here.
What a monster…
Many have called me a retro pioneer, others, a glutton for punishment. Either way you may feel about my choice on using manual-focus lenses for sports photography (and photography in general), the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED is highly capable of some stunning photographs, even on today’s digital cameras.
Lenses such as this in the “exotic” category have been hyped up enough on their own with their fast apertures and long focal lengths (and cost at the time of release), so instead let’s move onto the main review!
THE BIG ONE
And this is with the hood retracted…
Well, I’ve finally gotten around to taking an in-depth look at my favorite lens, the monstrous Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED. This optic is not one to mess around with. Weighing in at over five and a half pounds, this 10+ inch chunk of metal and glass is NOT a walk-around lens (unless you are an odd body-building photographer). Just as how macro lenses are built to do particularly well up-close and wide-angle lenses do their best with landscapes, the 300mm f/2.8 is a special-purpose lens. If you have just now started following this site, I spent much of this past spring doing sports photography primarily with this 450mm field-of-view super telephoto . The fast (and useable) maximum aperture keeps ISOs down and shutter speeds high, freezing the action with less digital noise. And yes, sports photography with manual-focus equipment is even easier nowadays with great focus-assisting technologies. Other applications of this lens on APS-C could be tight head-shots and even a bit of close-up birding (good luck sneaking up on them). On m4/3, this lens would have a 600mm super telephoto field-of-view, great for birding and other wildlife.
There are 8 lenses total in the “consumer” lineup of Nikon’s Series-E’s. You can take this post as a bit of a guide for help choosing which lens may be right for your photography. Lenses are arranged from wide-angle to telephoto. Links to the full reviews are located in the headings. Also, below two pictures are in a much bigger size than they are displayed here. Click on them to see more detail. First up, the 5 primes in the series:
Left to right: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 100mm, 135mm
Completing my exploration of the prime lenses in Nikon’s “consumer-rated” Series-E’s, the 28mm E fills the last focal length hole: wide angle. When used on a film or full-frame camera, this lens behaves similar to how an 18mm lens would on APS-C, or a 14mm on m4/3. Unfortunately, due to the crop factors of smaller sensors, this lens instead performs like a short normal (42mm FoV on APS-C) or a long normal (56mm on m4/3). This presents a bit of a challenge in use, as on the NEX-7, the 28mm E isn’t wide enough to normally “get everything in”, nor is it long enough to have any reach. However, the 35mm-50mm general FoV is rather useful for a “walk-around” perspective such as in street photography, so there are still applications for an odd-man-out like this.
There is GREAT news for those still wanting to get wide-angle performance out of this lens: when used with the NEX-7′s built in “sweep panorama” feature (or when shots are manually stitched), a noticeably wider view is obtained, both in vertical and horizontal orientation. More on that at the end. Is the 28mm E a lens I can recommend? Let’s find out!