Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites

Started Jul 17, 2013 | Discussions
EyesHigh
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Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
Jul 17, 2013

Hi there,

I made a post around a week ago asking for advice on a new lens and got some very useful information. From that post I decided to look for 1 new zoom lens and 1 or (possibly) 2 prime lenses for my D7000.

What I'd like to ask in this post is:

Firstly, can prime lenses be used for landscape / nature photography and if so how well suited are they? (I have read primes lenses, depending on focal lengths, make great portrait lenses but I am unsure of how they will cope in outdoor/mountain terrain).

Secondly, in researching prime lens options across a small number of sites (namely DxO Mark/Lab, Photozone, and, of course, DPReview) I have found very in-depth, almost statistical, information regarding the sharpness, distortion, vignetting, aberrations, bokeh/bokeh fringing, and light transmission of each of the lenses I am considering; based on these stats., some lenses, apparently, should be avoided and others be researched further. But, how well do these review sites correlate with one another and how accurate are their testing methods and findings (trust-able)?

Thirdly, the prime lenses I am considering at this stage are the Nikon 50mm 1.4D, 1.8G, or 1.8D, and the Nikon 35mm 1.8 G; opinions and experiences with any of these? (Any other, perhaps wider, prime lens options?)

And finally, are there any additional websites that conduct in-depth lens reviews I could search for before purchasing a new lens?

Any information on any of these questions would be very much appreciated,

Thank you in advance.

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Daisy AU
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to EyesHigh, Jul 17, 2013

You could also have a look at:

http://www.pixel-peeper.com

For landscapes, I personally like an ultra-wide lens.  I have the Tokina 11-16, which is great, for my D7000. Considering the crop factor of the camera, the 50 f/1.8G would be suitable for portraits.

There are better options, but it comes at a price!

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Daisy AU - Brisbane
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anotherMike
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to EyesHigh, Jul 17, 2013

I wish I had the time to write a better answer, but this is going to have to do for the moment...

First off, yes, prime lenses are fine for any task of photography. In early days (for us old school shooters), prime lenses are pretty much what we used, and learning to shoot with primes is advantageous because it makes us think about our compositions and also to "learn" (visually remember and process) what certain basic focal lengths looked like. Zooms since then have gotten quite a bit better optically; some rival primes, and these days both are used; many of us have a collection of both types in our kits. Prime lenses are often "faster" (wider aperture) which helps with isolating a clear subject in front of a out of focus background (because they are shot at the wider aperture) and to get this look, one really generally needs a faster telephoto prime (a fast 50 isn't really ideal for portraits)

Lens sites and lens testing. I could write a book here, but there is no time. Some quick commentary:

a) Most people are concerned with how sharp a lens is, but there is more to lens performance than sharpness.

b) Most any modern lens is reasonably sharp. So the differences generally aren't of a magnitude where "this lens blows the other away" although we all are guilty of using such language. Remember that in real life there are gradations of quality in everything - it's not strictly a "bad" vs "good", but rather a scale that I might say goes from bad (rare), below average, slightly below average, average, slightly above average and so on. MOST of the time when lenses are discussed, we are discussing differences between slightly above average and excellent. Often the discussions might be about lenses that are between very good and excellent. Just because one shoots with a lens that is "very good" instead of "excellent" doesn't mean the shots won't be good. The lens is still "very good".

c) When we discuss lens performance, we must remember that in the context of real life shooting, there are quite a few things that influence sharpness in an image. We start with the photographer (who is not 100% perfectly steady unless camera is on tripod), and we look at the subject (if it's moving, there will be some blur, just perhaps not enough to notice), and we look at potential  mis-focus (even slight, very slight, can reduce the potential sharpness). All of those things can make a "super sharp best lens ever" lens into a piece of junk from a sharpness point of view. So someone shooting stage shows in low light of people moving, hand held, at ISO 3200; well, to be honest, lens sharpness isn't going to be so much a concern here as someone who runs tripod mounted shooting landscape on a non windy day.

d) Lens test sites can mislead. The biggest problem is that all of the traditional "objective" sites test at one general distance from the test chart, and the test chart is flat (two dimensional) and lit well, without flare. Problem is, real life (the things we shoot), are at varying subject distances, are three dimensional, and light is bouncing everywhere. In the very finest level of granularity of lens quality discussions, lens performance varies often by distance in terms of sharpness. So a lens that tests amazingly (because the lens test site tests at the closer to moderate distance usually used for test charts) may NOT be the best one for someone who shoots things at long distance. Also, lens tests generally are looking at sharpness more than any other aspect. My opinion - as someone who tests for a living in addition to 35 years experience shooting - is that while the lens test sites are helpful, they can NOT be relied upon as the sole determination of the quality of a lens. Better yet is to look at the various sites (photozone probably first - I don't happen to trust DXO as much) and then read as many subjective opinions in the various forums and determine what the CONSENSUS view of the lens is as opposed to looking for the "one solo true answer". Takes more time, but it will give you better info. For example, if you look at the current consensus of the Sigma 35/1.4 "A" lens, it's pretty much agreed this is an extremely good lens. The only slight variance in opinion on this lens comes to whether it's "amazingly excellent" or just "almost excellent" at landscape distances. There isn't a lot of disagreement. But then take the 16-35/4 zoom. Consensus is much wider. Some love it, some don't like it, some (like me) think it's good at a few things but not at others and could have been better. In these latter cases you need to look at what YOU shoot and if it matches up to what the consensus thinks are the lenses strengths. In the 16-35's case, if you loved 35mm focal length, the 16-35 would be a bad lens for you because 35mm is it's weakest (as an exammple)

e) The more complex a lens is (wide angles, wide angle zooms, fast (wide aperture) lenses), the more tradeoffs the lens designer has to navigate. NO lens is perfect - physically impossible. The question often becomes are the tradeoffs those that might impact how a lens TESTS versus how a lens SHOOTS in real life.

As for your 50mm question. There are optical issues with the older 50mm AFD lenses that can lead to a reflection of aperture blades into the sensor - because the lenses were designed prior to digital sensors. Only occurs intermittently at F/11 and beyond, but it happens (it has happened to me). Thus, I recommend one of the modern 50 "G" lenses, and in my own testing, the 50/1.8G was the best, and after owning the 50/1.8 and 50/1.4 AFD and the 50/1.4G and 50/1.8G, I ended up selling all except the 50/1.8G. For 200 bucks, it's a steal.  For a D7000 user, the 35/1.8 DX lens is absolutely worth looking at.

One thing to remember; at the affordable level, you're not getting the "very excellent" lens quality, you're getting "pretty good" and that's good, but don't get too caught up in trying to decide which 300$ lens to buy by over analyzing. Most of the discussions in these forums are about the more granular, smaller magnitude differences between very expensive lenses.

-m

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Cytokine
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to EyesHigh, Jul 17, 2013

I think as Mike says in his excellent post, it is wise not to take any review site too seriously, these sites increasingly link to a retail-outlet. Sites like DXO mark may understand some technical-aspects, but don't seem to know-much about photography.

They all seem to use different testing-methodology, and worst of all is the complete lack of traceability of the lens samples they test; A lens could have been dismantled, damaged in transit, a bad sample etc. Some lenses with long production runs may have been updated but are not regularly tested.

I think photo-zone which is better than some, could do allot more to give a better summation of a lens and where it came from, date of manufacture, and how it will perform in the field of its intended use.

The manufacturers could also help themselves by providing more information and samples for testing.

Lastly they don't explain what the differences mean in real life situations, especially after processing.

John

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PSCL1
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to Cytokine, Jul 17, 2013

To the OP:  anotherMike gave you a great reply.  As you learn more about photography, keep it around.

"Landscapes" include a broad territory.  It all depends on the field of view you want to include.  No lens is really a 'landscape" lens per se and any lens can be a landscape lens.   The most common landscapes take in a wider or more sweeping field of view, so you would use an ultra wide angle or wide angle lens or zoom to capture these vistas. It is usually recommended to stop down the lens to f8 or so, to increase the zone of sharpness (depth of field).   However, 'normal'' and telephoto primes and zooms are often utilized to pick out dramatic details or compress perspective (e.g. taking pictures of successive peaks in a mountain range).

Normal lenses:  The newest are generally the sharpest.  But 50mm focal lengths are historically easy to manufacture and of very good quality.  If you want a 50mm, the 50 1.8G might be the way to go.  But I find it too short for portraits and too long for other uses on DX.  I agree with the other posters that the 35 1.8 DX is a terrific DX format normal lens, relatively cheap.

Hope this helps and does not confuse you further.   Have a good time with whatever equipment you select!

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Guidenet
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to EyesHigh, Jul 17, 2013

EyesHigh wrote:

Firstly, can prime lenses be used for landscape / nature photography and if so how well suited are they?

Absolutely they can and are used for landscape. All else being equal, the 24mm setting on a zoom lens is also equal to a 24mm prime lens.

Any focal length can be used as a landscape lens. Generally wide angles are more popular for wide vistas, but you might need a telephoto. For example, I had a series of buttes out in Navajo country I wanted the full moon rising as the sun set. I knew from where to where I wanted the image. The problem was to get that perspective with a wide angle, I"d be shooting up from the valley floor which I didn't' want.

I knew I had to move back about a mile or so and be at around 2/3rds as high as the main butte. I also wanted a little foreground framing. Fortunately, there was a small mountain back there and a Navajo guide who claimed he could get me and my gear up to this flat area I pointed out.

Once up there, I realized that only a telephoto could get the framing I now needed. I used a Sigma 150 APO Macro lens for an over a mile landscape shot. So you can see how atypical that can be. You have to match the focal length to the job at hand. That telephoto was the only possible type lens which could have captured what I wanted without seriously cropping the capture. Oh, and this is not an HDR.

Secondly, in researching prime lens options across a small number of sites

Like everyone, I like to go look at testing sites. One big problem I have is the lack of sample size. The first thing you learn in High School statistics is the danger of using a small sample size. The smaller you use, the more unreliable the conclusions. Most of the ones I've seen only test one lens and report based on that. If that lens is an outlier, oh well.

Thirdly, the prime lenses I am considering at this stage are the Nikon 50mm 1.4D, 1.8G, or 1.8D, and the Nikon 35mm 1.8 G; opinions and experiences with any of these? (Any other, perhaps wider, prime lens options?)

Nikon 50 f/1.8G

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Entropius
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to EyesHigh, Jul 18, 2013

Sure, you can use primes for landscapes. They tend to be sharper than zooms, in general, so why not?

There are two problems, though, with looking to primes to improve your landscape photography:

1) One of the main strengths of prime lenses is their fast aperture. You can get a f/1.8 prime for $200; a f/2.8 zoom will cost you several times that. But for landscape photography you don't need all that speed unless you are shooting specialized things (stars, etc.)

2) Nikon, for whatever reason, has dropped the ball in making useful wide-angle DX primes, which would be awfully handy as landscape lenses -- something like the 12mm f/2 for Micro 4/3 mount, or the new Sigma 35 f/1.4 for FX format. But there are few comparable lenses for DX. Sure, you can use the longer primes for landscape work, and take good pictures with them... but often you'll want a wider thing. There is this new Samyang 16 f/2, which looks like it could be great for low-light landscapes.

Since you won't really need the fast apertures that primes give you, and since it'll be hard to find primes in the right focal lengths for landscape work, if you're looking for a dedicated landscape lens I'd look first to some of the better zooms, if only because you're not getting something you don't really need (fast aperture), and because you'll have an easier time getting the focal lengths that will be most useful.

As for lens review sites: I go by the general principle that a good review means a lens is good, since you can't get sharp results with a bad lens. Nobody is going to be able to take tack sharp pictures with a lens that is not sharp. But bad reviews don't necessarily mean a lens is bad; the SLRGear review of the 80-400G is an example. I don't know what they did, but I know that my copy is a heck of a lot better at 400 that their test results indicate. A bad testing protocol (easy to do with telephotos, where every little problem is magnified) can give bad results with a good lens, but there's no way to get good results out of a bad lens.

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CFynn
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to EyesHigh, Jul 18, 2013

For landscape get a tripod - almost any modern lens is pretty good at f/8

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slimandy
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Re: Quick opinions on Nikon prime lens for D7000, and reliability of lens review websites
In reply to EyesHigh, Jul 18, 2013

EyesHigh wrote:

Firstly, can prime lenses be used for landscape / nature photography and if so how well suited are they? (I have read primes lenses, depending on focal lengths, make great portrait lenses but I am unsure of how they will cope in outdoor/mountain terrain).

There are some excellent prime lenses for landscape. The Zeiss 21mm for example. Simply being a prime lens does not make it the best choice for portrait as such - you need the right focal length for the best perspective; it could be prime or zoom.

Secondly, in researching prime lens options across a small number of sites (namely DxO Mark/Lab, Photozone, and, of course, DPReview) I have found very in-depth, almost statistical, information regarding the sharpness, distortion, vignetting, aberrations, bokeh/bokeh fringing, and light transmission of each of the lenses I am considering; based on these stats., some lenses, apparently, should be avoided and others be researched further. But, how well do these review sites correlate with one another and how accurate are their testing methods and findings (trust-able)?

There are a lot of these sites now, but bear in mind these are lab tests. Take care that you understand what the results are telling you. One lens having a bit more resolution than another does not make it a better lens. I look at the resuilts from SLR Gear and DXO and the like, but I much prefer real-world user reviews with actual images as opposed to test charts. Depending on what you want to shoot different factors come into play. Test charts won't tell you anything about focus speed or bokeh for example.

Thirdly, the prime lenses I am considering at this stage are the Nikon 50mm 1.4D, 1.8G, or 1.8D, and the Nikon 35mm 1.8 G; opinions and experiences with any of these? (Any other, perhaps wider, prime lens options?)

I like 35mm or wider as a standard lens on DX. I had a Nikon 35mm f1.8 and a Sigma 24mm f1.8, both of which I really liked. I find 50mm a bit useless on DX, a bit long as a standard lens, often too long in tight space e.g. indoors, yet not long enough for portrait. Other users do like it though so it's up to you.

And finally, are there any additional websites that conduct in-depth lens reviews I could search for before purchasing a new lens?

I like Thom Hogan. My favourite reviwer was Bjorn Rorslett but I don't think he keeps his web site up to date. You could look for him on Nikongear but he's not that active..

http://www.naturfotograf.com/lens_surv.html#top

http://nikongear.com/live/index.php/page/about_us

Any information on any of these questions would be very much appreciated,

Thank you in advance.

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