Sharpest Zoom Lens?

Started Aug 28, 2012 | Discussions
kcamacho11
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Sharpest Zoom Lens?
Aug 28, 2012

What is the sharpest zoom lens for a Nikon DSLR? (D7000 for example)

I am not one to carry a prime lens with me all the time, I only take it out at night and during low light situations....but I am looking for a zoom lens that can me similar image quality and sharpness like the primes.

I keep hearing the 18-105 and the 16-85. Is this correct?

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Jogger
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

The only zoom that i would consider replacing primes are the holy trinity f2.8 zooms. The lenses you mention are basically kit lenses.

kcamacho11 wrote:

What is the sharpest zoom lens for a Nikon DSLR? (D7000 for example)

I am not one to carry a prime lens with me all the time, I only take it out at night and during low light situations....but I am looking for a zoom lens that can me similar image quality and sharpness like the primes.

I keep hearing the 18-105 and the 16-85. Is this correct?

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Windancer
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

kcamacho11 wrote:

What is the sharpest zoom lens for a Nikon DSLR? (D7000 for example)

IMO the 17-55/2.8 or the 24-70/2.8 but this is my own opinion which is not to be taken as gospel....... LOL

I keep hearing the 18-105 and the 16-85. Is this correct?

Not IMO if that means anything.

Terry

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slimandy
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

The question is a little naive IMO. You only care about sharpness? No care about max aperture, bokeh, sharp at wide end, sharp at long end, distortion, CA, focus speed etc., etc.?

The 16~85 is sharp generally speaking but it won't compete with a decent prime. The f2.8 zooms are the only ones that will come close but with caveats. All have some compromises. One of the fast 3rd party zooms might be a good choice depending on what you need and what your budget is.

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DRode
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

Sharp? At what aperture(s) what focal lengths?

Neither the 18-105 or the 16-85 are anywhere near the "sharpest" zoom lens. However, at f/8 in good light virtually any modern zoom lens is sharp.

Moreover, apparent sharpness is often more a result of solid technique than equipment.

kcamacho11 wrote:

What is the sharpest zoom lens for a Nikon DSLR? (D7000 for example)

I am not one to carry a prime lens with me all the time, I only take it out at night and during low light situations....but I am looking for a zoom lens that can me similar image quality and sharpness like the primes.

I keep hearing the 18-105 and the 16-85. Is this correct?

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GMack
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

It's a numbers game. Try websites like DxOMark or Phtozone.de and compare the sharpness numbers. Generally, the "Gold Ring" editions (trinity zooms) are their better ones, but you pay for those too.

Mack

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Brev00
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

Sharpness depends on two things. #! is cost. You get what you pay for. The 18-105 is relatively inexpensive and will offer good value not ultimate sharpness. The holy trinity are very expensive but not as expensive as a 600mm f 4. If you have an unlimited budget, the world is your oyster. #2 is a combination: your expectations along with your tenacity of perception (if that is a phrase). What I mean is: How much do you need your images to be sharp and how much do you need to enlarge your photos and maintain detail? How much will you pixel peep and compare your shots to those with better gear? How often will you upgrade? Just now or again when the kit is insufficient? What 'sharp like a prime' means to you will be different than what it means to me (almost nothing since I shoot with zooms).

My guess is there is a level of acceptable sharpness that you will be happy with--not ultimate sharpness. Get the best lens that you can afford at this time that will meet your needs now and for the next while. Upgrade when you are ready. The 18-105 is built for this situation, imo (caveat--I have never owned one).

Larry
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JakeB
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

As others have stated, the Nikon trinity will give you the best overall combination of zoom attributes (i.e. not just sharpness, but color rendition, control of CA, contrast, ruggedness, etc.)

You'll see people on here championing other zooms, and there may be specific focal lengths or apertures where other zooms may outperform the trinity. But for overall combination of attributes, go for the trinity.

If you can't afford, or don't want to carry the weight, all three, then work out which focal lengths you most shoot in, and invest in that lens.

By the way, the Nikon 18-105 is a very good zoom lens for the price, though it's slow.

kcamacho11 wrote:

What is the sharpest zoom lens for a Nikon DSLR? (D7000 for example)

I am not one to carry a prime lens with me all the time, I only take it out at night and during low light situations....but I am looking for a zoom lens that can me similar image quality and sharpness like the primes.

I keep hearing the 18-105 and the 16-85. Is this correct?

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Ednaz
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The gold ring trinity
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

Back a long time ago, the three zoom kit that you'd find in almost every travel photographer's bag was the 17-35AFS, 28-70AFS, and 80-200AFS. Some of the best photographers (in my opinion) would drop the middle lens. Those three lenses were also well matched in the look of images shot with them - if you shot film, you didn't get variations in how things looked in color, contrast, or indefinable character simply because you switched lenses. That's how Nikon engineered them.

The trinity now is 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200VR. Sharp, common character to images, common build, and they feel similar in some abstract user experience kind of way.

The only issue with that trinity is that it's hard to learn to use a 14mm focal length really effectively. For a lot of people, that 17-35 was already too wide.

As to sharpness, or perhaps better called resolution, or acuity, or MTF - the trinity outperforms many Nikon primes at some focal lengths, matches them at others.

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anotherMike
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 28, 2012

Nope - you're gonna have to move into the expensive pro zooms to get the really good image quality. Think the 70-200/2.8 VR-II in the close to moderate distance ranges, the 14-24 around 16-20mm, and the 24-70 around 35mm if you want the best in zooms. This isn't to say the 16-85 and all are bad by any means - they are totally usable, decent lenses. But if you want to know which ones are the sharpest and best, from an absolute perspective, it ain't them.

-m

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ffnikclif
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to anotherMike, Aug 28, 2012

I vote for the 70/200 VRII. However, with good shot selection & good technique all will do the job. How many great pictures have we all seen from photographers with lesser equipment using sound techniques?

Fred

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user_name
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to slimandy, Aug 28, 2012

+1

There is much, much more to lens choice than sharpness.

Before the OP begins selecting lenses they may benefit from more knowledge on the subject, but when I first started that was my primary criteria, too.

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Reilly Diefenbach
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 29, 2012

17-55
16-85VR
18-105VR
All excellent on a D7000.

All outresolve the D7000 a lot of the time. You cannot have more resolution than 4928X3264 pixels under any circumstances.

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mario7
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to Brev00, Aug 29, 2012

+1 and I do own one!

Brev00 wrote:

Sharpness depends on two things. #! is cost. You get what you pay for. The 18-105 is relatively inexpensive and will offer good value not ultimate sharpness. The holy trinity are very expensive but not as expensive as a 600mm f 4. If you have an unlimited budget, the world is your oyster. #2 is a combination: your expectations along with your tenacity of perception (if that is a phrase). What I mean is: How much do you need your images to be sharp and how much do you need to enlarge your photos and maintain detail? How much will you pixel peep and compare your shots to those with better gear? How often will you upgrade? Just now or again when the kit is insufficient? What 'sharp like a prime' means to you will be different than what it means to me (almost nothing since I shoot with zooms).

My guess is there is a level of acceptable sharpness that you will be happy with--not ultimate sharpness. Get the best lens that you can afford at this time that will meet your needs now and for the next while. Upgrade when you are ready. The 18-105 is built for this situation, imo (caveat--I have never owned one).

Larry
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wasserball
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 29, 2012

If you buy all the recommended lens, you won't have an inferiority complex. Hey, jus sayin...

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bossa
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 30, 2012

The Sigma 70-200 OS is really nice on APS-C but not so great at the edges on FF. I would recommend that lens if you aren't going to move to Full Frame anytime in the near future. The Tokina 50-135 is based on the Pentax DA*50-135 and while it doesn't have the WR, SDM and coatings of the Pentax it should be very nice optically. My DA*50-135 is a great lens on my K-5 as is my 70-200 VR II on my D800E.

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azguy
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Re: The gold ring trinity
In reply to Ednaz, Aug 30, 2012

Ednaz wrote:

Back a long time ago, the three zoom kit that you'd find in almost every travel photographer's bag was the 17-35AFS, 28-70AFS, and 80-200AFS. Some of the best photographers (in my opinion) would drop the middle lens. Those three lenses were also well matched in the look of images shot with them - if you shot film, you didn't get variations in how things looked in color, contrast, or indefinable character simply because you switched lenses. That's how Nikon engineered them.

The trinity now is 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200VR. Sharp, common character to images, common build, and they feel similar in some abstract user experience kind of way.

The only issue with that trinity is that it's hard to learn to use a 14mm focal length really effectively. For a lot of people, that 17-35 was already too wide.

As to sharpness, or perhaps better called resolution, or acuity, or MTF - the trinity outperforms many Nikon primes at some focal lengths, matches them at others.

Agree. These are the three best zooms, and they do outperform some primes.
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JohnE

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Windancer
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Re: The gold ring trinity
In reply to Ednaz, Aug 30, 2012

Ednaz wrote:

The trinity now is 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200VR.

My Trinity is 17-35/2.8, 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 VR and I am very happy.

Terry

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Disclaimer: This e-mail is intended to impart a sense of humor. Given e-mail's inability to carry inflections, tone and facial expressions it may fail miserably in its intent. The sender acknowledges the limitations of the technology and assigns to the software in which this message was composed any ill feelings that may arise.

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bluenoser23
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 31, 2012

Hello.

While I do have the 17-55 2.8, the 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8 VRII to put on my D7000 and D700, I still think my little 18-105 does a nice job!

Taken at 105mm, f/5.6 with my wee-little D40 and 18-105

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Mundy dot ca
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Re: Sharpest Zoom Lens?
In reply to kcamacho11, Aug 31, 2012

14-24/2.8
24-70/2.8
70-200/2.8

These will last you a lifetime.
Stay away from DX lenses.

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