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Guest plesbit

The lens question

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On the back of one or two discussions here I was recently thinking about glass. As we all know and discussed on the thread about entry level SLR's, the technology is moving at such a pace that models come and go quite quickly. The one thing that should endure for a decent amount of time is glass. Not only that but it doesn't matter how good your camera is if you don't give it a sharp eye it won't take sharp pictures.

Now lenses tend to come in three primary market sectors - consumer, prosumer and pro. Unlike in Perry's thread about the FF Canon bodies, money definitely is an object. Happily, however, I have managed to replace my kit lens and build up a small number of decent lenses. As I'm not that much of a photographer I've aimed for a small kit - a four lens kit in fact. A focal length of 18-300mm to be covered by two medium range zooms, a macro and a hyperzoom for lightweight travel. For the purpose of this thread we can forget the macro and hyperzoom, I am only interested in the other two as these form my main lenses. My thought had been to upgrade from my (actually pretty good) prosumer lenses to the full top of the range versions. The two lenses are a 24-105mm f3.5-4.5 and a 100-300mm f4.5-5.6 APO.

The logical upgrade path is to replace the 24-105mm with the Carl Zeiss 16-80mm f3.5-4.5 VS DT. This lens has a fabulous reputation and adds the extra wide angle I missed during my recent rail trip. But, of course, it opens up a gap between the wide angle zoom and the telezoom. But no worries, the logical upgrade from the 100-300mm is the SAL "G" 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 SSM. I still get my preferred focal range covered and do so with the best lenses presently available to me. Downside, of course, is the £1200 that goes missing from my pocket. That is way, way, way more than I have ever spent on photographic equipment before and would not normally be considered. The only reason I have considered it this time is because I am getting into photography a bit more seriously now, bodies are coming and going so quickly that the one constant is the glass - and because it's a one off thing, after all once bought the lenses should do me 20 years compared to about 2 with a body. But does it make sense.... really?

I realise it's unlikely anyone here will have any direct experience of any of these lenses so I am not asking for opinions on that, I am more interested in opinions on the thinking behind it. Firstly, I have no complaints about the existing lenses, except perhaps that the 24mm end isn't always wide enough. Secondly, that's a big chunk of money and if I buy the lenses, then something has to be sacrificed for it so I'd need to be sure. But the one real nagging doubt is that the Carl Zeiss, excellent reputation not withstanding, is a DT lens (i.e. for use on APS-C sensors). There will now be 5 full frame cameras on the market - two Nikon, two Canon and one Sony. For the moment these are only for the enthusiasts and the professionals but it stands to reason that as the technology beds in and becomes cheaper to make that they might start to cascade down the body market. One day they might even reach the bottom and APS-C will become extinct, leaving the DT / DX / (whatever Canon calls them) lenses as a relic from "the early days" of digital SLR's. That somewhat undermines my cost justification that it's investing for the future and lots of money up front but 20 years or more of service for that money. It might be as little as 5! :( It would be doubly annoying as the existing 24-105 and 100-300 are both FF lenses but would basically need to be sold to contribute to the cost of their replacements so I'd need to buy again.

Oh what to do....

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Try these.

http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/tu ... frame.html

http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/di ... aps-c.html

Should we avoid buying APS-C DSLRs and lenses because one day they may be "obsolete"?

Certainly not. I have an APS-C sensor DSLR myself and I have one APS-C lens. I might well buy another one. One day I might not be able to fully use them on my full frame DSLR, but I buy lenses to use today, not in 5 years time. I wouldn't buy a $7000 super telephoto lens with APS-C coverage, but them again I don't expect Canon or Nikon will ever sell one! We buy all sorts of things that become "obsolete". How much did you pay for your first computer, and where is it now? How about that 10MB hard drive you paid $500 for in 1990, or that 64Kbyte (yes, kilobyte) S100 memory card that cost you $200 in 1978? How much did you pay for your car, what's it worth today and what will it be worth in another 5 years? Some people seem to look on lenses as investment vehicles that should hold their value and utility forever. I'm not quite sure why they apply this logic to lenses, but not to cars, TVs, VCRs etc. Cameras and lenses are tools. If you use them, you'll get value from them. If you leave them sitting on a shelf, you won't. If you want to invest, buy gold or real estate! Of course it would be nice if every lens and every body worked with every other lens and every other body from now until the end of time. It would be nice if all Canon lenses worked on all Nikon cameras and vice-versa. However neither is likely to happen.

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I take his point but he is looking at the world with very different eyes and his circumstances are not even remotely similar. In fact, if anything he's underlined my concern as he has also put the life expectancy of APS-C at around 5 years as I did.

I need to compelling reason to spend a big chunk of money to replace lenses I am essentially happy with and one of those reasons is that lenses, unlike cameras, will go for a long time. APS-C lenses, however, may well find themselves a relic of an obsolete format rather quicker than the actual useful life of the lens.

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Horses for courses Simon,

Time and technology marches on as with anything.

I am sure many people bouught CRT TV's 5 years ago and now believe those to be 'obsolete' with the advent of flat screens. The reality is they are not you can still recieve TV programmes....... if you take my point.

Only you can decide - I know very few technical items that have stayed the same for the last 20 years.

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I have to say, Simon, if I were you I would keep the current kit and await developments over the next 9-12 months before parting with any cash or deciding which way to jump. Unless you are routinely producing A3+ prints or larger you will not notice the difference between your current lenses and the expensive Zeiss ones, and that is especially true if your main output is for web use. I'm not familiar with the lenses you have, but unless they are producing soft images, now is a good time to wait and a bad time to buy! I think "full frame" will soon trickle down into the mass market, not least because the constant pressure to produce more megapixies militates against the smaller sensor sizes. I would not invest any more money in DX/DT lenses at this stage. I'm not certain whether that format will ever be obsolete, but I am sure that it's not where I want to spend my pennies.

In the past it was easy - my large format lenses (Schneider, Nikkor, Fujinon etc.) and my Hasselblad lenses are classics which will always be ultra sharp and superb for their purpose, and I knew when I bought them that once I had invested I had a fantastic piece of kit that would last me for a lifetime. My Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 is the same - it was made for 35mm film cameras, works on either full frame or DX, and is razor sharp. A pro studio photographer buying H-series Hasselblad lenses knows he is making an investment. In the digital SLR market, however, the goalposts are moving too fast! I would caution against spending money on lenses designed for small sensors.

Bruce

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Yes I think you're right Bruce. I may be getting carried away by my increased interest in photography. Investing in top glass only makes sense on the reasons that I've outlined and you've underlined - that they'd be an investment for the long term. I don't see that APS-C glass necessarily fits that bill, especially as my existing lenses are FF anyway; in some ways it would be a step backwards.

As for the performance of the lenses and whether I could tell the difference - even at pixel peeping level the 24-105mm in its mid range it's razor sharp, outperforming the Canon 50mm f2.5 MACRO I use at work. At either end of the zoom it's not quite so sharp but still pretty good and a big step up from kit stuff. I guess I'd be better going back to looking at its one true shortcoming which is that 24mm isn't really wide enough on an APS-C sensor and finding something to plug that gap, preferably something with FF coverage to add that extra element of future proofing.

The larger 100-300mm APO is a different matter since the upgrade path from that is FF - but I'll wait until the bird feeders are out again before going any further.

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Just as an update to this - I've been being very dim. The limitation at the wide end of my kit with the Minolta 24-105mm f3.5 is that it's just not quite wide enough. I have a number of options for available to get a wider lens for those occasions where I believe the 24mm won't be wide enough. They are the Sigma 18-50mm f2.8, the Tamron 18-50mm f2.8, SAL 16-105mm f3.5 (which would replace the 24-105mm completely) or the Zeiss 16-80mm f3.5 (which would also replace the 24-105mm) but all of them are APS-C lenses, hence this thread and hence my frustration. I couldn't understand why Sony (and the others) simply didn't have any offerings for FF at these lengths. But of course the only reason these lenses even exist is because of the focal length multiplier of the APS-C sensors and all of these lenses have been developed with this in mind so it's no wonder they are only designed for this format.

Mounted on a FF camera you'd be looking at a different range of lenses and a quick glance at the lens catalogue shows that at both prosumer (SAL) and pro level (SAL-G / Zeiss) they've got it covered. Anything wider than 24mm I buy is almost certainly going to be an APS-C design.... so the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 appears to offer the best bang for buck as there seems little point spending more on what might be a format with a limited life span. Looks like that WE showroom might have something to show me after all. :naughty:

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Yes, you're right Simon, the key question is which format the lens is designed for, because that format will give optimum performance with that lens. As you know, a full frame 17-50 lens on an APS-C sensor with (say) 1.5x "magnification" will give you about 25-75mm, but it will work best on a full frame camera at its design focal length of 17-50. So the key is to avoid buying lenses designed for small sensors unless you have made the decision to stay - and invest - in that arena.

I sense an imminent dent in your wallet ...

Bruce

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The Alpha system is still in a state of flux. The transfer of design patents was still taking place well into this year so I dare say a number of Minolta lenses have yet to make it back into the current catalogue. In addition Sony will be wanting to introduce new lenses of their own or update some of the older designs for digital use. Inevitably they have initially concentrated on DT lenses for APS-C sensors, primarily because Minolta (coming from film cameras) didn't have enough options that were truly wide angle with the 1.5x FLM and until a couple of months ago APS-C were the only cameras in the range. So most of what is available to me is born out of that market. They haven't needed to rush out new lenses at longer ranges because it was already covered by re-badged Minoltas so the wider lenses are the newer ones and invariably DT for the reasons outlined. Indeed, a quick glance at the Nikon catalogue shows the situation there is exactly the same with the wider end (less than 24mm) being almost entirely DX lenses.

I think the dented wallet won't be too bad. ;)

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Okay finally took the plunge. Lots of sitting in Warehouse Express (4 visits in just over 2 weeks) testing this and that. Finally decided on the lens which I think best fits my needs - the Tamron 17-50/2.8. It does exactly what I need, it opens up the wider end of the focal range than offered by my 24-105 but without overlapping too much thereby offering me two alternative walkabout lenses for different situations. It is also a constant f2.8 along its zoom range which gives me more scope for shooting in dull situations. But most importantly on test was producing sharp sharp sharp images. I've never owned a Tamron lens before but I'd read heaps of praise for this particular lens before and my experience with it so far appears to underline the experience of others.

I'm hoping to get to use it "in the field" on Sunday morning.

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i am also looking foward to the results as can,t be there,i,ve just got a fixed focal length lens..a 1.8 nikkor,and havn,t had it outside yet but had a go with the dog inside under incandesent lights....post-1-136713453277_thumb.jpg don,t show the kids this! double click it.

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i,ve just got a fixed focal length lens..a 1.8 nikkor

Is that the 50mm f1.8 Nikkor? If so, you've got a real gem - They're considered by many to be one of the sharpest lenses Nikon have ever produced (not quite as sharp as the much more expensive f1.4 50mm, but not far off) and seem to change hands for decent money on Ebay.

Definitely an item on the Jonzo lens list (after the 75-300ED)..

Nice photo by the way, lovely Labradog!

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Yes bought it brand new from hong kong via rbay,76 pounds incl postage,no custom charge .

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