Are we / they missing the point?

For the first post of the new year – and we’re already nearly into March – a tiny grumble.

I peruse the photographic web sites fairly frequently – some are just for laughs like Ren Kockwell, others to try to glean info for prospective lens / camera purchases. Sadly, I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that despite some of the highly respected names out there, that alot of ‘photographers’ seem to be missing the point. Obviously, this is all relative to my position – I couldn’t agree more, but I still feel that the comment is justified.

An example – I have two camera bags – one for ‘pro’ work, the other for everything else. I will shortly be travalling to the Highlands of Scotland and for obvious reasons would prefer to have as little to carry as possible (in the ‘everything else’ bag). I’m looking for a lens which would extend the range of my 24-70 f/4 (for which I can’t use a teleconverter…)

I’m not particularly comfortable with any lens longer than 200mm, but I admit I love the compression that this focal length can bring. After a bit of hunting around, I came across the NIKKOR S 24-200 f/4-6.3 VR

This lens checks a whole slew of boxes – light, huge range, really short (physically) barely 1cm longer than the 24-70 f/4 – perhaps a good contender for a travel lens.

So I started checking the reviews…

The people whom I respect (Thom Hogan etc.) have reservations, Ricci (confirmed NIKON nut in the UK – also on their payroll it seems) is head over heels in love with it (and manages to say this three times in as many minutes on one of his videos) and in between singing the praises of Canon, and trying to sell headphones, Ren Kockwell just suggests that it’s the only lens he’ll ever need.

For a brief moment I even considered reading the Nikon Rumors Forum, but as most of the people present on that particular forum wouldn’t know a camera or lens if you hit them over the head with it, much less actually know what to do with one, I ruled that option out. The info that Peter posts is valuable, and for the most part very accurate – it’s the members who create the doubt…

So who to believe? And what criteria do they use to choose or base their observations?

Ironically, the most ‘reasonable’ is Ren Kockwell who simply posts zillions of images taken using the lens – sure they’re sharp and contrasty, but when you check his shooting settings, and the extensive post-production, they should be! But, the lens seems to work as I would expect.

No images from Ricci but a few close ups of a colour swatch card and comparison photos with other NIKON zooms with similar ranges. His choice was more guided by these comparisons than by actually using the lens to make images in the field.

Tom Hogan is the most reserved, which surprised me, as I consider him much more of a real ‘photographer’ who goes out and makes images… visibly he is too busy to actually use the lens and bases much of his comments on MTF charts and comparisons with the NIKON f/2.8 lens which are supposed to be considerably higher quality.

Haven’t you missed the point here? The lens is :

A: considerably cheaper than the 70-200 f/2.8 – lighter and smaller too

B: has a range that means it can effectively replace the 24-70 f/4 meaning I can reduce my kit to 2 lenses instead of three.

C: produces results that are very sharp (before any post processing) and despite the f/6.3 aperture at any focal length from 85mm upwards, focuses rapidly and silently with the in-camera vibration reduction and lens VR to produce excellent results.

The point of my criticism of these people evaluations is based not on the technical merits of the lens, more the use to which it will be put. To me it’s pretty obvious that in a high performance sports environment a ‘rapid’ (f/2.8) and high optical quality lens is essential. This is not the case, or less essential for landscapes or even ‘street’ photography where an increased ISO can often solve the problem of a ‘slower’ lens, and / or low light.

Sure the 24-200 is probably not as good as the 70-200 f/2.8 or the 24-70 f/2.8 but then it’s considerably cheaper, lighter and much easier to carry on holiday… even the fact that it’s a variable aperture doesn’t really phase me, based on the conditions under which I will be using it, and I’m certainly not looking for a portrait lens to take into the field, or wonderful Bokeh (another pet grumble – why oh why has this become so important?) I want a versatile lens that I can leave on the camera pretty much all of the time, which is small and light – this profil works for me!

My choice is made – and made even easier by the fact I was able to purchase a ‘like new’ example from the MPB site in Germany for almost half the price of a new one.