Tuesday, June 23, 2009
This telephoto macro lens is capable of focusing to life-size (1X) without attachments. Although it replaces the EF 100mm f/2.8 MACRO lens marketed in 1991, it is a completely new design. It incorporates a ring type USM giving quiet, high-speed autofocus. The full-time mechanical manual focus gives very smooth manual focusing. For the first time in a 1X focusing telephoto macro lens, Inner focusing is used. The lens length remains constant and a long Working distance of 149mm makes worrying about getting too close to the subject unnecessary. Also, during focusing the front ring does not rotate making use of front-mounting accessories like macro ring lites simple and effective.
Monday, June 22, 2009
IntroductionReleased back in 2000 the Nikkor AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR was the first in a row of new Nikon lenses featuring a Vibration Reduction (VR) mechanism which is certainly one of the key selling arguments besides the very attractive zoom range of the lens. The VR has an efficiency equivalent to 3 f-stops (at cost of slow shutter speeds like all optical image stabilizers). Unlike its Canon counterpart the VR is capable to detect panning so it is not necessary to switch between two different modes for static and action scenes. The VR should be switched off when using the lens on a tripod - otherwise you risk added blur because the lens tries to find non-existing motion.
The AF 80-400mm VR is a gold ring lens indicating a professional grade Nikon lens for F-mount DSLRs. It's a full frame lens and there're no limitations regarding the usage on film and digital SLRs. On current APS-C DSLRs like the Nikon D200 (used for testing) the focal length is equivalent to 120-600mm (5x ratio).
The build quality of the lens is good but don't expect an all-metal tank - many parts are made of good quality plastic. The Nikkor has a conventional zoom ring making it quite convenient to set an exact focal length. The zoom action feels a little on the stiff side. As you can see in the product shots above the lens extends quite a bit when zooming towards the long end of the zoom range but this is typical for zoom lenses in this focal length class. The AF 80-400mm VR features a detachable tripod collar which is certainly needed regarding the weight class of the lens. Unfortunately it isn't exactly the best implementation around because turning the ring between horizontal and vertical layout is imprecise at best. Most users will probably prefer to take it off.
Thanks to an IF (internal focusing) design the front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is no problem. The lens has no internal AF motor and relies on a slotted drive screw operated by the camera. As a result AF operation will generate a moderate degree of noise. The AF speed is quite slow - one of the primary points of criticism with its the user community. Sports photography is not really a strong aspect of the 80-400mm VR but things aren't all that bad on the D200. The lens has a focus limiter which can be useful in low-light situations where the camera's AF may tend to hunt at times. If you deactivate AF on the camera you still need to turn an AF-MF ring on the lens in order to use the focus ring - otherwise it remains detached from the focus gears. Quite awkward compared to the recent AF-S designs.
|Optical construction||17 elements in 11 groups inc. 3 ED elements|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||2.3m @ 400mm (max. magnification ratio 1:4.8)|
|Filter size||77mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Nikon HB-24 (supplied), barrel-shaped|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information to the camera. Tripod collar. Vibration Reduction (VR).|
ens kindly provided for testing purposes by Josef Merk!
IntroductionThe Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4D IF-ED is the longest tele fix-focal length lens in the current line-up that remains within the financial reach (around 1250€/US$) of serious amateurs. Surprisingly Nikon does not offer an AF-S 400mm f/5.6 so for anything longer you either have to add a tele-converter or go for the AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR which has about the same form factor.
Released back in the early 2000 the AF-S 300mm f/4 is obviously a full format lens. In the tested APS-C scope (Nikon D200) the field-of-view is equivalent to classic 450mm. The Nikkor AF-S 1.4x extends the reach to 420mm (630mm equiv.) f/5.6.
The build quality of the lens is exceptionally high. The outer barrel is made of metal with a silky finish. The very broad, rubberized focus ring operates very smooth and slightly damped. A build-in telescope lens hood (lockable) is also supplied. In order to provide a more balanced usage on a tripod or monopod Nikon also implemented a detachable tripod-collar.
The AF-S 300mm f/4 is a true IF (internal focusing) design so its length remains constant regardless of the focus setting and the front element does not rotate. Using a polarizer is therefore no problem unless you extend the lens hood. Thanks to a silent-wave motor the AF is very fast and near-silent.
|Optical construction||10 elements in 6 groups inc. 2 ED elements|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||1.45m (max. magnification ratio 1:3.7)|
|Filter size||77mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||barrel shaped (build-in)|
DistortionsThe naked AF 300mm f/4D IF-ED produces an insignificant degree of distortions only measurable under lab conditions. Adding tele-converters does merely affect this base characteristic.
VignettingThe AF-S 300mm f/4 is a full frame lens so it can take advantage of a sweet spot behavior on the D200. Vignetting is detectable at f/4 (0.4EV) but it shouldn't be overly field-relevant. At f/5.6 vignetting is absolutely negligible. There's even less vignetting at wide-open aperture when adding a Nikkor AF-S 1.4x or a third-party (Soligor) AF 1.7x DG converter.
|Lens provides distance information (D). Tripod collar.|
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Canon's 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS is the latest in its line of inexpensive dSLR kit lenses which began with the original 18-55mm in 2003, as an accompaniment to the groundbreaking EOS Digital Rebel/300D (widely considered to be the camera which started the affordable dSLR revolution). The focal length range was chosen to be equivalent to the popular 28-90mm kit lenses then available for entry-level 35mm SLRs, and lightweight plastic construction was used to keep costs down. The design was slightly refreshed with the introduction of a mk II version to accompany the Digital Rebel XT/350D, however this only really featured subtle cosmetic changes, with no improvement to the optics. And those optics were never the strong point of this lens, which gained a reputation as a somewhat mediocre performer, with many users looking to upgrade fairly rapidly.
But Canon has now produced a major upgrade in the shape of this IS version, which looks destined to become the new standard kit lens for Canon's APS-C dSLRs such as the EOS 450D. IS stands for Image Stabilization, and the new lens features a wholly new, simplified optical image stabilization module, which Canon claim offers similar performance to that offered in their higher end (and hitherto much more expensive) IS lenses. This new lens is a clear response to the competitive threat posed by other manufacturers offering sensor-shift stabilization in relatively inexpensive dSLR bodies, so the big question is whether it can deliver the goods in terms of image quality, in the face of some strong competition at this entry-level point.
Changes compared to the non-IS versions
Side-by-side comparison of the 18-55mm IS to the non-IS mkII version suggests that it offers more than simply the addition of an IS unit. The new lens is slightly longer than its predecessor (70mm vs 66mm), and the front element is substantially larger in diameter (44mm vs 37mm); the optical diagram reveals that the next three elements are also larger, presumably to accommodate the demands of the optical IS unit. The aperture diaphragm has been moved rearwards in the lens assembly, and the lens coatings also appear to have been changed. However the lens remains impressively lightweight and compact; addition of the IS unit adds nothing to its diameter, and just 10g to the weight. As an added bonus, the minimum focus distance has been reduced from 0.28m to 0.25m, offering a welcome increase in maximum magnification from 0.28x to 0.34x. Overall this represents a pretty impressive technical achievement by Canon’s lens designers.
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