Lens

Best Travel Lens For Nikon DX Format DSLRs

If you have to carry only one lens, which lens would you choose? After purchasing a DSLR, it can be an overwhelming experience to select the right lens for the camera, specially if it is your first time purchase. There are so many camera brands to select from and they all have their own set of lenses. My first DSLR, Nikon D60, came with the kit lenses (18-55mm and 55-200mm) which removed my confusion on lens selection. Since then, I have owned two DX format DSLRs, two FX format DSLRs and various lenses from Nikon. Even though my first lenses were not my choice, it worked pretty well for me in all kinds of shooting scenarios. Later, when I upgraded my camera to D90, I bought it in a combo package which came with a 18-200mm lens along with other accessories including the memory card and the cleaning kit. Later, I sold all of my lenses and purchased a 18-300mm lens. All of these lenses are designed for different purposes and different shooting environments. Some of them are designed for all purpose shooting, some of them are for indoor shooting only and others are designed to reach long distance subjects. Some of the lenses are heavier and hard to carry around all day and some of them are light weight and made for traveling purposes. It’s hard to cover all of them in one blog post, but today, I am going to discuss one particular lens that might be an ideal for traveling purpose and specially if you want to carry only one lens that covers the variety of ranges.

When I purchased 18-300mm, I got AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens which seems to be discontinued now and replaced by the newer model, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 G ED VR, which I am going to discuss in today’s post. Let me briefly summarize the technical details and then we can go to the practical aspects of the lens.

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Nikon's Telephoto Lenses Under $2,500 - Which One Is Your Best Option?

If you are interested or just getting into wildlife photography, you have to keep in mind that it's not always possible to reach to your subject physically closer most of the time. And in that case, you have two options; you can either get a mid-range telephoto lens and add a teleconverter to get an extra reach or get a long-range telephoto lens. Unless you are a pro wildlife photographer and making your living out of it, it's very hard to justify the cost of expensive telephoto lenses. In my previous blog, I wrote about should you buy a telephoto lens or get a teleconverter where I talked about the best possible route you can go. In short, if the budget is not an issue, get a telephoto lens by all means but if the budget will be an issue, you can get a mid-range telephoto lens and a teleconverter. In this blog, I am trying to discuss about two Nikon mid-range telephoto lenses under $2,500 and onto which you can attach a teleconverter to extend your reach. When you are shopping for the lenses, usually, you encounter with the two choices; whether to get a prime lens or a zoom lens. Most of the time, the deciding factor would be what is more important to you; speed of the prime or the flexibility of the zoom? Today, we are going to take a look at two lenses which are in similar price and focal range but one is prime and another one is zoom lens. Let's take a look at them one by one.

Prime Lens: AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

This lens has an effective focal length of 300mm on FX Model and 450mm on DX Model DSLR. Since it is a prime lens, the widest aperture is also constant at f/4 with the smallest aperture of f/32. This lens is made up of 16 elements grouped into 10 groups with the minimum focus distance of 4.6 ft. This lens has an aperture with 9 blades diaphragm, with the lens diameter of 77mm (takes 77mm filter) and weigh 755g and comes with the price tag of $1,999.95.

AF-S NIKKOR 300mm F4E PF ED VR

AF-S NIKKOR 300mm F4E PF ED VR

Nikkor 300mm f/4E has an electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism (E) in the barrel which provides highly accurate electronic diaphragm or aperture blade control, whereas in conventional D/G type lenses, the diaphragm blades are operated by mechanical linkage levers. But this lens is most famous for a Nikon-designed Phase Fresnel (PF) lens element, a first for the Nikkor DSLR lens lineup. It helps to get sharper and clear image with virtually no chromatic aberration or ghosting. Due to it's revolutionary PF technology, this lens is relatively compact and lightweight.

It also includes one ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass element and the Nano Crystal coat (N) combined with the Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to deliver clear and accurate images with an ultra-quiet and ultra-fast auto-focusing system. It is weather sealed and the front element is coated with fluorine to repel dust, water, grease or dirt and ensures easy cleaning.

This lens comes with 4.5-stop of Vibration Reduction (VR) which provides an image stabilizing effect equivalent to a shutter speed increase of 4.5-stop in a Normal mode. It helps to capture sharp and clear handheld images in low light, Sports and Action. Image sharpness and contrast are fabulous from f/4 all the way through to f/16, and they don't drop off much at f/22-32. Color fringing and distortion are negligible, while resistance to ghosting and flare is very good and the overall image quality is superb.

Zoom Lens: AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

This lens has an effective focal length of 80-400mm on FX Model and 120-600mm on DX Model DSLR. Since it is a zoom lens with a variable aperture, the widest aperture is f/4.5 at 80mm and f/5.6 at 400mm with the smallest aperture of f/32-f/40. This lens is made up of 20 elements grouped into 12 groups with the minimum focus distance of 5.74 ft. This lens has an aperture with 9 blades diaphragm, with the lens diameter of 77mm (takes 77mm filter) and weight 1570g and comes with the price tag of $2,299.95.

AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 G ED VR

AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm F4.5-5.6 G ED VR

Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G doesn't come with a Fresnel element but it does have four ED elements and one super ED element. There is no fluorine coating and only the mount is weather sealed, but as with the 300mm lens, the Nano Crystal Coating helps to combat ghosting and flare. With a minimum length of 203mm, this lens is at least a third longer than the 300mm and it extends considerably at longer zoom settings. It also weigh about twice as much as the prime lens, but comes complete with a tripod/monopod collar which is an optional purchase on 300mm prime. The 80-400mm has the same triple-mode focusing system as the 300mm, and there's also an autofocus range limiter and a zoom lock switch, but AF speed is slightly slower. It comes with the Nikon's second-generation Vibration Reduction (VR) technology which is rated at up-to 4-stop, and has a conventional normal and "active" modes.

Because of it's weight, it makes hard to shoot handheld for a longer period of time but you can get the versatility of the zoom range. This lens comes with the mechanically controlled aperture (G) which is less accurate in high-speed continuous shooting. The image quality of this lens is not as consistent as that of 300mm. It has an impressive sharpness throughout most of the zoom range but drops off quality little bit near 400mm. This lens is not as sharp as 300mm prime even at 300mm and the color fringing and the distortions are slightly more noticeable, but they're still pretty negligible.

Conclusion

I think based on the price, size, manageability and the overall image quality, Nikkor 300mm prime is easily a winner. It's also good value for a Nikon telephoto prime, and standout features include an electromagnetically-controlled diaphragm and a more effective VR system. However, if you can put up with the extra size and weight, the 80-400mm is almost as good, has a greater reach, and is much more versatile lens.

Preventing Fungus From Destroying Your Lenses

This post is written by Guest Contributor, Janet Ochs Lowenbach. If you are also interested in writing a guest blog, please reach out using the form in the Contact page.

When you think about your favorite Nikon or Canon or any other DSLR brands, you don’t think about fungus — those spore-producing organisms like mildews, rusts, yeast, and mushrooms. I certainly didn’t think about them until the day I decided to sell ALL of my old cameras including the workhorses, lenses, and cases that I had used for 25 years. I had hoped to use the proceeds to buy some new equipment for my Nikon D80.

I remember it like yesterday. With a mixture of sadness at losing my old friends and delight  at the prospect of earning cash, I trotted off to Penn Camera in Rockville, MD. My equipment took up four bags.

Duane Heaton, the sales manager at Penn lined up all my gear on the counter and then pulled out a magnifying glass. “Let’s see how clean they are,” he said. Then he put down the glass and shook his head.

I began to worry. Duane opened the lenses wide and told me to look inside. It was unmistakable. The lens opening was lined with a fuzzy grey growth. The same growth lined every single lens and the two bodies. “That is a fungus,” he said. “It is contagious. It will eventually cover all the equipment, the bags, and even the cabinet you stored your equipment in.”

I soon learned that fungus grows in the lens and under the lens coating; it etches the glass. Fungus thrives in dark humid places where there is little or no movement of the air. Once fungus starts to grow; it is difficult to eradicate, and it causes soft spots in photographs that look like there is a fingerprint on the lens.

“Could I clean the equipment?” I asked

“I don’t advise it; it’s prohibitively expensive.”

“Can I sell the cameras?”

“Absolutely not. The fungus is contagious.  You’ll have to dispose of the cameras and scrub the closet with Lysol or bleach.”

I never knew cameras were sensitive to moisture in the air.

“It's not your fault,” Duane said. “Whenever you swoop down from the mountains to the DC area, you are entering a moist place. The district was built on a swamp and that moisture fosters the growth of fungus.”

What was Duane’s advice? Don’t store cameras in the basement. Keep them in a bright area upstairs. In your camera bag, a closet; keep silica gel packs in the bags. They are desiccants -- something that dehumidifies the area around your equipment -- and include a humidity indicator strip. Humidity should be between 35 % and 45 %. If the humidity gets too low – say below 30 percent -- you might dry out the lens and the components. If it gets too high, you run the risk of fungus forming.

Ultimately you can help prevent fungus by providing movement and exposing the lenses and cameras to light and air.

Just for the sake of memory, I photographed the cameras and lenses before they were trashed. Twenty-five years of equipment would generate dust instead of cash.

I have since learned that there are people who can clean fungus from lens. They are listed on the web, but it is important to ascertain the quality and cost of their work before making any commitment. It is hard to remove fungus and it can come back. But you might want to check out the options.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor Lens

Nikon is a very well known brand in photo industry for it's high quality Digital SLR cameras to both amateur and professional photographers. Nikon is popular among many photographers not only because of it's well designed camera body but also wide variety of lenses it offers. Nikon is probably the best brand to use wide variety of the lenses for the older body as well as the newly designed body. They offer wide angle lens, telephoto lens, macro lens, prime lens and few other types to reach out the varieties of users all over the world. I will continue to write about their other types of lenses in the future but today lets talk about the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens. Among many other prime lenses Nikon offers, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is one of the best prime lens and the favorite of many photographers. It is very well designed and built from the high quality materials. It got the metal lens mount and the high quality plastic to protect the internal lens glasses. It has a smooth rubber ring with a very nice grip for the manual focus.

Nikon-50mm-f1.4G-AF-S-Nikkor-Lens.jpg

It works perfectly on both FX format and DX format DSLR cameras. This lens has an Autofocus (AF-S) feature which works brilliantly on Nikon's entry level DSLRs like D40, D40x and D60 as well as high end professional camera like D3 or D3X. It is built with an Exclusive Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM) which enables fast, accurate, and quiet Autofocus. This prime lens is perfect for the low-light conditions because of it's wide open aperture. Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC) on the glass enhances the light transmission efficiency, offers superior color consistency and also reduces the flare. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is the ideal lens for travel, event, environmental and general photography in a wide variety of conditions, with superb optical formula and an ultra-fast f/1.4 maximum aperture. It is an ideal portrait lens when used on a Nikon DX-format digital SLR, approximating the angle of view similar to that of a 75mm lens on a Nikon FX-format digital SLR. This lens can focus close up to 1.5 feet and can also be used to produce nice bokeh as well.

Despite of being very fast and high quality lens, it doesn't offer few common features that you might be looking for. If you are used to with the zoom lenses and composing the shots sitting in one position, this lens might disappoint you. Since, this lens doesn’t have a zoom feature, you might need to move front and back time to time to adjust the frame and compose your photograph. It's focal length is fixed and that's why it is called the prime lens as well. And also, this lens doesn't have an aperture ring (denoted by G letter) and will not work on manual focus camera where you need to set the aperture from the lens barrel. This lens doesn't have a Vibration Reduction (VR) feature which may be useful for taking handheld shots in a low light condition, specially, if the subject is moving or the photographer is not using a tripod. As of writing this blog, it was priced at $434.95 on amazon which could attract some of the buyers as well.

It may be an expensive piece of glass but when compared to the other wide-angle lenses or the zoom lenses, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens might be the most affordable and yet more versatile lens. It's build quality and the small size also makes it an ideal lens for the travel.