Friday, October 2, 2009

Are other Lens Companies able to build a great lens?

I am a huge fan of Nikon lenses. Nothing is wrong with the others, but I primarily shoot Nikon so that is where my loyalty lies. The Nikon lenses in my collection are well built and amazing performers. There are, however, other lenses as well. Of the nine lenses in my collection, three are not Nikon. And I can tell you that all three are great performers and one or two of them will stay in my bag for a very long time.

Here is what confuses me, a number of people think that, in the DSLR world, only Nikon and Canon can make superb lenses? If that were true, what can be said about Pentax, Olympus and others?   One might think that they are simply unable to create lenses that perform at the same high standard as the "Big Two".   Sigma, Tamron and Tokina must be clueless as well.

I know there will be people who will site tests that they claim proves one lens is better than the other. For me however, the proof is what the lens does for a photographer taking photographs in the real world.  There are specific qualities that show the folly of the Nikon/Canon think out there.  Here are three lenses from the aftermarket companies that lay to rest this issue.

The Tokina 12-24 f/4 and Tokina's 11-17 f/2.8 are both top notch.  These lenses are built like tanks.  The Tokina 12-24 was the first lens I owned that I consider high end.  The lens is solid and the build quality is as good or better than the Nikon or Canon counterpart.  It also happens to be a great performer optically giving way to Nikon's equivalent lens only in the area of some minor CA control.  Something that is easily controlled today in camera and post processing. Not bad for a lens that retails for about half the price!

Sharpness/Picture Quality: 
When I look at a lens, I am looking for sharpness where I am in focus.  I am looking for that very nice Boca (out of focus areas of the picture).  And I am looking for color and contrast.  My best example of this is Tamron's 28-75 f/2.8 lens.  Nikon's current 24-70 f/2.8 is an amazing lens and I would compare nothing to it, but it costs nearly $2000.  The Tamron is very sharp, and its color and contrast are simply first tier.  The Boca(pronounced "bow kay") is nicely rendered and very subtle. Everything I could want in a lens! Is the Nikon better by over $1500... maybe to some, but not to me. 

My Tamron cost me used, a mere $275 and new it can be had for under $400.  Even against Nikon's earlier offerings, you can buy the Tamron new for less than the used versions of the Nikon.  But what of a lens that I use less seriously.  I am a very average wildlife photographer, but I love doing it.  Of course, you need a long lens to do that.  Enter Sigma's 120-400 OS lens.  It is very acceptable in all categories, though a bit slow aperture-wise at the long end.  However, I found it used for $525.  Nikon's 80-400 is new at around $1500 and the Sigma focuses faster!

There are other lenses that these manufacturers have that I could use.  Tamron's 180mm macro; Sigma's 8mm-16mm and Tokina's 16.5mm-135mm lens all interest me.  The point is, that For some lenses, you can get a bigger bang for the buck without a drop in image quality. 

There are other issues.  Tamron and Tokina focus a bit slower than Nikon does.  Sigma has had quality control issues in the past.  Sigma seems to have improved their quality issues for the most part.  Tamron's and Tokina's most recent offerings have provided faster and more reliable focus.  As to the others camera brands.  You won't find a better quality series of lenses than Sony's Zeis lenses, Olympus' Zuiko lenses or Pentax's Limited lenses.  They are every bit as top tier as the Big 2. 

I doubt I will ditch the Tamron.  Maybe I will keep the other two, but I know what I want and what I like to do and, for the time being anyway, Tokina, Tamron and Sigma have empowered me to do everything I want to do!  So when it comes to getting a lens that works for you, be sure to check out all the options.  The winner might surprise you.

Best to you all!

1 comment:

  1. Good article. I have seen some of those scientific-like articles that test lenses. But my tests are more subjective -- does the image look good? And that, to me, is more important. That's why I count on the reviews on B&H and Amazon to give me some guidance. Then, of course, it's always good to rent and/or borrow the lens for a shoot to see if it works.

    -- Roy H.