big boy in Nikon's wide angle zoom offerings.
solid replacement for the old 20-35mm; adds faster focusing
and a wider angle of view without sacrificing anything.
elements in 10 groups; 2 glass mold aspherical, 1 compound
aspherical, and 2 ED elements.
focus override, AF-S lens focusing motor, internal focus,
77mm filter size. Comes with HB-23 hood and CL-76 hard
case. Focuses to 1' (0.28m).
106mm long, 26.3 ounces (745g).
(street; sometimes rebate lowers this price)
was one of the first to make wide angle zooms (the 25-50mm f/4 in
1979 was arguably the first of the species). Each generation seems
to go a little wider, leaving us with these three autofocus zooms:
f/2.8D ED. The first truly wide angle zoom Nikon made.
Long resident in a lot of pro bags, this discontinued lens is
a good choice on the used market if you don't need anything wider
f/3.5-4.5D ED. A surprise when it appeared, this is a
very sharp and capable lens at the wide end, a little less so
at the long end (35mm). I consider it the bargain of the bunch,
especially for scenic photographers who don't need f/2.8 or AF-S.
f/2.8D ED IF. The subject of this review.
three of these lenses are universally regarded as being sharp, quality
designs. Which one you pick should be determined by your budget
and needs. Personally, I'm happy shooting with any of the three
(as long as I don't need the extra "wideness" of the 17-35mm
over the 20-35mm). But you probably want to know about the lens
that's the subject of this review, so let's get right to the details.
is a not a very complex lens considering it's focal length range
and other parameters, with only 13 elements in 10 groups. In recent
Nikon designs, that's almost spartan. Three of the elements are
what are known as aspherical--they have an irregular curve in them.
Unlike most aspherical elements in other lenses, only one of the
three is created by using plastic--the other two are ground glass,
which is probably what makes this lens so expensive. Two of the
elements are ED (low dispersion glass), which helps the different
wavelengths of light focus on the same point. The aperture is a
9-blade type (though see my comments about bokeh in the Performance
the new lens is larger and heavier than the one it replaces (the
20-35mm), It retains the two-ring design (near ring is for zooming,
far ring is for focusing). AF-S means that the lens has a built-in
motor for focusing, doesn't rotate the front element during focus,
focuses very fast and reliably, and allows you to override autofocus
by simply grabbing the focus ring and turning it.
the two rings is a focus scale (but with no depth of field or infrared
markings). You know, even if the lens manufacturers don't want to
give us depth of field markings, the least they could do is mark
the hyperfocal point at one focal length and aperture combination.
On the left side of the lens (from the back of the camera) is one
Focus button: In the M/A position the lens
works as usual (autofocus with manual override). In the M
position, the lens focuses only manually.
HB-23 hood supplied with the lens is the bayonet type butterfly
style. It can be reversed onto the lens for carrying, but it adds
diameter to lens when you do so.
a digital body with 1.5x magnification, this lens becomes the equivalent
to a 25.5 to 52.5mm lens (one of my old favorites in the 35mm world
was the 24-50mm, though it had terrible barrel distortion, so the
17-35mm feels like a big step towards the better on my D1x and D100).
not much to say: everything is pretty much where you expect and
works the way you want it to. The zoom ring has a smooth operation,
the focus ring only slightly less so. Both rings give the full range
of options through only a quarter turn; I'd have preferred slightly
more turn, which gives you more subtle control, but it's fine as
is. The lens doesn't extend during zoom or focus, by the way.
the only real complaint might be that this is a lens that could
use the new pinch-type lens cap (update 8/7/2005: Nikon now seems to be supplying the pinch cap with the new versions of the lens). If you have the hood on, it's a
little difficult to get the lens cap on and off.
on a wide angle zoom usually boils down to three things: sharpness,
light falloff, and distortion. So without making you wait for it,
I'll just say this is a sharp lens with relatively low falloff and
is strong throughout the range, with f/5.6 being the point of maximum
sharpness on my sample. But even at f/2.8 in the corners this lens
is an excellent performer. Frankly, at 18mm and f/2.8 this zoom
beats the pants off the 18mm f/2.8D Nikkor in the corners. That's
right, a zoom lens is better than a prime lens!
of the stranger wildlife photos I've taken recently. Wildlife
photo, you say? Yes, look in the lower right corner. These deer
apparently thought they were mountain goats--this is the cliff
below Pt. Reyes Lighthouse. D100, 17-35mm lens at 35mm, f/13
handheld at 1/30 second. The shot below is a 100% crop that
shows, yes, the eyes on the deer are sharp.
used only a bit of sharpening here to counter the anti-aliasing
effect (you shouldn't see any telltale edge effects). Remember,
this is handheld at 1/30 second AND you're looking at small
detail that was well over a hundred feet below me. Sharp enough?
I think so. I don't think the D100 is capable of capturing any
smaller detail, actually.
falloff is reasonably well under control throughout the range, with
visible corner falloff on 35mm cameras, though not objectionable;
with digital bodies, the falloff is nearly invisible, though it's
still there wide open. By f/5.6 the falloff is gone pretty much
throughout the zoom range.
performance is a mixed bag, but good. At 17mm there's evident barrel
distortion--just enough to rule out this lens for architectural
photography but not enough to make most of us worry. At 35mm, the
distortion is virtually gone and straight lines at the edge of the
frame look straight. I don't know of a wide angle zoom that doesn't
have some barrel distortion at the wide end (some have it throughout
their zoom range), and this lens I'd characterize as being one of
the best performers in this regard. Still, if you need straight
lines at 17mm, this isn't the lens to give it to you.
is very fast and hunt-free. Personally, I rarely autofocus a wide
angle zoom, as depth of field is more important to me than focus
speed, but if I were a photojournalist, I'd be very happy with the
me the worst performance factor of this lens is the bokeh (visual
quality of out of focus areas), and even that is something I'd characterize
as good. Near out-of-focus areas tend to have a slight unpleasantness
to them, though far out-of-focus areas seem fine. While the lens
has the 9-blade aperture diaphragm that is usually associated with
better bokeh on the Nikkors, I note that my sample tends to have
one point that has a hard joint in it, making for a round-with-a-small-defect
opening. Perhaps that's what is making the out-of-focus highlights
"pop an edge" and make me like the bokeh less than usual
(I've noticed this defect on other samples, by the way). In short,
I'm not enamored by the bokeh of this lens and am glad that its
rare that you try to isolate focus with a wide angle zoom. Most
of the time I'm using hyperfocal focus or maximizing depth of field,
so bokeh isn't a big issue.
performance seems pretty good. Unless light is hitting directly
on the front element, I've not seen any visible contrast degradation,
and the supplied butterfly type hood is adequate in keeping light
from hitting the front element in most situations. Shooting into
the sun (or a light source) can be problematic in some, but not
all, situations. Curiously, the only time I've ever questioned the
flare performance of this lens is when I was shooting with an infrared
filter into the sun.
This lens is almost triple the price of the 18-35mm Nikkor.
Is it three times a good? Not really. For the extra money you
get slightly better edge performance for 35mm film, better 35mm
focal length performance, and f/2.8 at all focal lengths. You
also get slightly faster focusing, but that's not really an
issue with a wide angle lens.
I've seen (and expect) better.
and Big. I've you're looking for a light lens that takes
reasonable-sized filters, this ain't it.
The best of the wide angle zooms Nikon has produced, no questions
asked, which is saying something. Perhaps the sharpest wide angle
zoom you can buy for a Nikon body.
The usual heavy-duty approach to build quality. Short of the very
exposed front and rear elements, this lens is batter-resistent.
I've bumped and dropped mine more than once in pursuit of a picture,
and not only does it work as before, but there's no evidence of