Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35 f2.8D ED-IF Lens Review

Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35 f2.8D ED-IF Lens

I got this lens originally used on eBay from a local seller. It was in new condition. Hardly a sign of use other than some dust on the outside and some marks on the lens cap. That sample was stolen and I have since gotten a brand new one to replace the used one I had.

This was "the" lens from Nikon. Used by photojournalists for ages. It's recently been replaced by the 12-24mm f4D DX for digital only bodies to produce the same field of view on digital as it had on film and to some extent the 14-24mm f/2.8G. On digital the 17-35mm lens has the FOV of a 25.5-52.5mm lens.

This lens has amazingly fast Auto Focus. AF-S doesn't always mean fast focusing, but in this case it does. The angle of view is great for general photography on my D70. Here are some photos I have taken with my 17-35mm.

Walk on the beach

I can't really comment on the sharpness because I don't usually worry about it. From what I have seen though this is one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used.

The feel of this lens is second to none. It's exactly what I would expect from a "pro" Nikon lens. It also has the heft of a pro lens. It's a bit annoying to carry around but I find it worth the results. Even the numbers are etched and painted not just "printed" on. My only complaint is the action of the zoom ring. It has a bit more friction than I would like, but I’m really just complaining here.


The main reason I got this lens was for its constant f/2.8 aperture. It allows me to shoot in more places than I was able to before. The only thing that would make this lens better is if it was f2 or even f1.8 :) It also offers a very close focusing distance. Just under 1' or 0.28m from the film plane. The official magnification ratio is 1:4. The wide angle and close focusing distance can make for some interesting shots.


This has quickly become the main lens on my camera. The one that's usually on and the one I enjoy photography with the most. For anybody who is looking at getting a new 17-55mm f/2.8D for the DX body or are looking at the 14-24mm f/2.8D for their FX body but doesn't want to blow that much cash get one of these used on eBay.
I also shoot film, both on my trusty F601 and my favorite camera, the FM3a. I thought this lens was nice on Digital, wow. On film it's amazing. No wonder this lens used to get such high praise. It's sharp, fast and the FOV on film/FX is amazing (bigger and brighter than the 12-24dx on digital).

It was a dark and foggy night.

There has been a lot of talk about the images produced by this lens vs. the new 14-24mm f/2.8G. I have seen the comparisons and I agree the new lens is better in some ways from a purely IQ perspective. However, in my opinion, this lens still performs very well. Not only that but I find the 17-35mm range much better on Full Frame (FX) than the 14-24mm range. That and I'm still a Luddite and prefer the AI ring over the command dial. Backwards compatibility with my FM3a doesn't hurt either. Nor does the acceptance of front mounted filters. I got a chance to analyze a friends detailed side by side comparison of the 17-35mm to the 14-24mm done on a D3 tripod mounted over a full range of stops and focal lengths. . The 17-35mm had less distortion and better edge to edge sharpness than the 14-24mm. Granted at 17mm f/2.8 the 14-24mm had better edge sharpness, but not by much. That and the 17-35mms sharpness improved much quicker than the 14-24mms. I guess it could be argued that you can shoot the 14-24mm at 14mm f/2.8 and then crop to get the same FOV sharper. Contrast and colour rendition went to the 14-24mm. I'm convinced more than ever that the 17-35mm is the lens for me. Yes, the 14-24mm is better in some ways, but the 17-35mm is better in others.

The Fux Deluxe holds Laura

Overall I would say that the 17-35mm is one of Nikons best lenses. I’m assuming once their stock runs out, they will mark this lens discontinued. Still, it’s worth a look weather you are shooting DX, FX or film.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A review of The Karachi Outpost by Crumpler

What I carried around this weekend.

In short, It's a great camera backpack. And an OK notebook backpack.

- looks good / doesn't look like a "camera/notebook bag"
- even fully loaded has proper straps to distribute weight
- re-configurable to just notebook, just camera bag (as pictured) or plain old backpack
- nice colours (this one being black/gray and the other brown/tan)
- extremely well padded, armour like even.
- excellent security for travelling (opens from the inside only requiring you to remove the pack)
- seems to be well made
- water resistant (not tested)

- smaller divider pieces have Velcro at the ends but you can’t Velcro things to them
- excellent security means less convenient to get at your stuff
- curved shape (which make it look good) means space not as usable on the sides
- expensive considering it's made in china like a lot of it's competitors.

I've had this bag for a few years now. It's starting to show it's age slightly in the straps. Overall, considering it's use, it's holding up very well. The stitching and materials look in great shape. I generally use this bag as the hauler bag. When I need to move a lot of stuff (as pictured above). It does not make a good assignment bag due to the way you need to get into the bag.

The Karachi Outpost by Crumpler

Competition: The only other brand I have experience with is Lowe Pro. I have own(ed) a few of their products and have spent many hours in camera shops testing them out (to the dismay of store clerks I'm sure). The packs I specifically looked at are the CompuTrekker AW and the CompuTrekker Plus AW.

Colour: gun metal/black/mid grey
Model: KO-01A (2033)

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Review

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Review

I've had a chance to use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM on and off for a while now. It's been a nice lens to use.

The only lens Nikon made that was close was the 28mm f/1.4D, which was discontinued a few years ago. Used, it now goes for more than it's original high price (over $2k). I have never used the NIkkor but by all accounts it's optically better, built out of metal not plastic [Update: The Sigma does have a mostly metal construction, however it is not as sturdy and solid feeling as the Nikkors of this level] and has full 35mm coverage. It's also much larger, heavier and you could buy 3 to 4 of these sigmas for the price of the Nikkor... if you can find one. I'm sure Nikon wasn't selling a lot of the Nikkors, and with a lens like this in the market, they would sell even less of them.

The Sigma handles well. It's a nice size and weight. It feels great on my D200. A tad large on the D40 pictured here.
Side Note: This is one of the few sub $1k primes you can buy that will auto focus on the D40 [Update: D40x and D60 as well] as it has "HSM" Sigma's brand of electronic in lens focus.

The biggest problem with this Sigma (and is true for a lot of this brands products) is sample variance. You never know exactly what you'll get when you buy a Sigma lens. This particular sample didn't have the AF issues with the D200 that plagued early versions. It did however have the squeaky focus when pointing down or up. No manufacturer is perfect. Every lens made is slightly different to it's brother or sister. However Sigma seems to suffer from this in a more negative way than other manufacturers.

Two Cows

This leads nicely into the failure of the lens pictured above. The lens in the picture above died shortly after this picture was taken. After returning it to it's owner, I recommended they get the squeaking in the focus ring fixed under warranty. They dropped it off with Sigma Canada. After several weeks of waiting, they declared the lens as non-reparable and gave my friend a brand new one. At least their Customer Service is good.

Wide open it's not the sharpest lens I've used. However it's acceptable considering the price. The sharpness degrades sharply near the extreme edges though and doesn't really improve stopped down. The filter size of 62mm is an odd size and you'll find yourself either buying a step up ring or buying new filters. I did not pay particular attention to light falloff as it's not usually a concern for me and rather like it when I do notice it, however it does have some at and near f/1.4.


The included lens hood (not pictured) proved very good. It's made out of a sturdy plastic and locks in better than a lot of Nikon Hoods. It's my preferred method of protection instead of overpriced and detrimental "protective" filters.

Even if Nikon releases an update to their 28mm f/1.4D, it will probably remain expensive, large and heavy. True the Nikkor will also be better quality, but you get what you pay for. The Sigmas focal range on 1.5x cropped digital and overall price/performance make this a lens one I recommend for available light shooting. It also makes a great general purpose prime for walking around.

+ size
+ autofocus
+ price
+ focal length ("normal FOV on 1.5x crop")
+ well balanced on most bodies
+ great available light lens

- Not FF/FX
- quality/sample variance
- sharpness wide open
- slightly heavy on the D40
- edge detail

At the car wash...

I ended up buying this lens as a gift for Lauras Birthday. Check out Lauras stream for photos taken with this lens.
For myself, I've owned a 35mm f/1.4 AI Nikkor for some time now. I purchased it used on eBay in fair condition. The Nikkor is sharper than this lens. However, nailing focus at f/1.4 with the stock focusing screen on the D200 is really really hard. Mostly for this reason, I don't use that lens often.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blinkenlights crew @

The Blinkenlights crew showed up at to give a demo and talk about their Nuit Blanche Stereoscope Stereoscope.

The talk was pretty cool. They talked about their first project, and how each one built upon the last. This latest one at Toronto City Hall was done using wireless technology developed by them and released under the CC License. They even had to get the wireless devices certified here which was an adventure. Really cool guys and the best show of this years Nuit Blance.

Blinkenlight Box

See the rest of the photos from the Blickenlights talk @