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Old Sep 14, 2007, 2:30 AM   #1
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Buying lenses, sounded like a simple idea when it first entered my mind the other day. Until I started thinking about it and the more I thought the more questions came to mind. In the pass it was pretty much a given that if you buy a Leica lens you will get the top of the line, highest quality lens on the market or at least that is the way it use to work. Now it seems that not only are there different lens manufactures on the market but each manufacture make the same lens at different quality also. So how do you tell what the quality of the lens you're looking, is there a scale or rating marked on the lens? Some secret code stamp on the lens or do you just take the word the salesperson behind the counter, the person that sold you the double dip ice cream cone last week? I can tell the speed and the focal length of the lens but not its quality. Is the lens I'm looking at going to give me noise (grain) free pictures or will I go broke (really mean broker) buying the same size lens over and over again until I get lucky?

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Craig
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Old Sep 14, 2007, 6:57 AM   #2
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That's what popphoto.com, photodo.com, slrgear.com and photozone.de (among others) are for.

There are 4 companies that make the best lenses in the world: Canon, Nikon, Leica, and Zeiss. But Nikon and Canon also make some, shall we say, lower quality lenses for the mass market.

This part is tougher than shopping for cameras, but it allows you to tailor your camera for exactly what you want to do. P&S and superzoom digicams may be able to do most things adequately, but this is why dSLRs can do everything superbly (with the right lens.)
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Old Sep 14, 2007, 7:02 AM   #3
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Calicajun wrote:
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So how do you tell what the quality of the lens you're looking, is there a scale or rating marked on the lens? Some secret code stamp on the lens . . . ?
Well, yes, sort of. It's called the "price."
You basically get what you pay for, so the $200 price of the Sigma 55-200mm f4-5.6 should be a clear indicator that it's not going to be in the same league as the $800 Zuiko Digital 50-200mm f2.8-3.5.

--I would also add Olympus to the list that TCav gives; their digital optics are at least in the same league as Nikon and Canon, if not in quantity, then quality. N & C actually make some pretty mediocre lenses that go on digital cameras.




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Old Sep 14, 2007, 7:33 AM   #4
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I wouldn't discount the 3rd party either - For example the Sigma has their EX series which are their 'PRO' line which in some cases are better than the C & N equivalent. One of the most notable Sigma lenses in this EX series are their macros which are probably the best on the market at this time:
http://www.popphoto.com/cameralenses...cro-af.html%5D
"SQF numbers showed sharpness and contrast in the Excellent range, with noticeably better performance, especially at higher magnification, than, for example, Canon's recently tested (and superb) 60mm EF-S 1:1 lens. In fact, the Sigma is one of only a handful of lenses today that pulls down SQF numbers within the 90th percentile all the way out to our maximum magnification (20x24 inches)."

-> Also check here at the end of the review on the "competitions": http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showp...uct/180/cat/30
"The Competition
The Sigma 150mm f/2.8 competes in a tough arena, there are a lot of very high quality lenses in this focal length range on the market, but this Sigma seems to compete very strongly.

In the Canon line, its closest competitor is probably the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM, which we haven't tested as yet. Readers report this lens is very good optically, but very heavy and relatively slow to focus. It's also slower by about 2/3 of a stop, and sells for twice the cost of the Sigma.
In the Nikon lineup, we recently tested the Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF, which proved to be an excellent lens, albeit not quite as prickly sharp as the Sigma 150, and with slightly higher CA and distortion numbers. The Nikon lens sells online for $100-200 more than the Sigma.
Nikon also makes a 200mm f/4 ED-IF AF that we haven't tested yet. Readers report that this lens is very sharp, but also heavy and somewhat slow to focus. It sells for more than twice the price of the Sigma 180 f/2.8.
For the Sony/Konica-Minolta platform, there's the Sony 135mm f/2.8 (T4.5) STF, that we haven't tested nor have our readers reviewed. It sells for about twice the price of the Sigma 150 f/2.8.
Conclusion
At the end of the day, the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro seems to offer the best bang of just about anything in its focal length/aperture range. If you're interested in shooting really close-up macro, yet with a reasonable working range, the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 looks to be a really excellent choice.
"


Another example is the Sigma 100-300 f/4 EX, a zoom which is also as sharp if not sharper than a Canon prime of the same F-stop based on the measured MTF's @ Photodo, and it comes with the same ultrasonic drive with full-time manual overide too:
http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/len...00_4/index.htm
http://www.photozone.de/8Reviews/len..._4is/index.htm


Both Tamron and Tokina also has their "PRO" version as well so give them a try - Especially Tokina who happens to make only metal barrel (a rarity today) lens
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Old Sep 14, 2007, 8:30 AM   #5
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TCav wrote:
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That's what popphoto.com, photodo.com, slrgear.com and photozone.de (among others) are for.
I agree with photodo and slrgear and photozone - popphoto is a joke though - as are most US magazines for rating gear. Every piece of equipment released is made to sound as if it's the greatest invention ever in photography. That's what you get when their main revenue stream is advertisement $$ from the very companies whose products they review.

The other site are a very good starting point. But I find forums to be VERY beneficial. The key for me is to find individuals who are using the lens(es) I'm iinterested in - IN THE MANNER IN WHICH I WANT TO USE THEM. This is critical for me. For example I'm a sports shooter. So, someone who uses a given lens to shoot portraits or stationary objects isn't going to be a very valuable resource to me. The other important factor is to find said people who are producing a level of quality I want to produce given my budget. This is important. For instance, what good does it do you to get advice from someone saying a lens is great if the photos they're taking with it are not great? By the same token, a working pro whose been working in the given field for a number of years may only have used the most expensive high-end gear. For example, ask a professional football photog what lenses you need - 400mm 2.8 ($7000) or you can "get by" with a 300mm 2.8 ($4000). They've not used any of the other "lesser" lenses on the market - and why should they?.

I'm a firm believer that charts are only a small part of it. As are pictures of brick walls and bottles and so forth. I want REAL reviews of lenses tested in the field by people shooting what I want to shoot. That's how you find out nuances regarding gear - strange bokeh, poor color, slow focusing. And, in the end it's about taking photographs - so if the people suggesting a given lens are showing good results using it for the subjects you want to shoot - to me that's better than 1000 pictures of labels or some generic test.
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Old Sep 14, 2007, 10:40 AM   #6
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Norm in Fujino wrote:
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I would also add Olympus to the list that TCav gives ...
I wouldn't. The list is of the manufacturers of the best lenses in the world.

What follows is a list of Olympus 'High Grade' and 'Super High Grade' lenses, with the PhotoDo.com User Ratings in parentheses.

Super High Grade
Olympus Zuiko 7-14mm f/4.0 (4.25)
Olympus Zuiko 35-100mm f/2 (4.00)
Olympus Zuiko 90-250mm f/2.8 (3.50)
Olympus Zuiko 150mm f/2.0 (3.25)

High Grade
Olympus Zuiko 11-22mm f/2.8-3.5 (4.17)
Olympus Zuiko 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 (4.53)
Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (4.54)
Olympus Zuiko 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye (4.13)
Olympus 50mm f/2.0 Macro (4.00)

What follows is a list of Nikon lenses that I believe are equivalent to the Olympus lenses above, with the PhotoDo.com User Ratings in parentheses, and which Olympus lens they might be an equivalent of.

Nikon AFS DX 12-24mm f/4G (4.50) (Closest equiv to 7-14)
Nikon AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8 IF-ED (5.00) (Closest equiv to 90-250)
Nikon AF-S VR 200mm f/2 (5.00) (Equiv to 150)
Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 (4.89) (Closest equiv to 11-22)
Nikon AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8 (4.75) (Closest equiv to 14-54)
Nikon AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED (4.83) (Closest equiv to 50-200)
Nikon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye (4.75) (Closest equiv to 8 )
Nikon AF 60mm f/2.8D (4.84) (Closest equiv to 50 Macro)

I took some liberties with the focal lengths, but in every case but one, the maximum apertures of the Nikon lenses are at least equal to the Olympus lenses. The one exception is the Nikon 60mm f/2.8D which is a full f-stop smaller than the Olympus 50mm f/2.0 Macro.

As you can see, the PhotoDo User Ratings for the Nikon lenses are higher than the User Ratings for the Olympus lenses, sometimes much higher. The flaw in this analysis is that Nikon users rate their lenses while Olympus users rate their lenses, so it's hard to judge the relative quality of products across brands. But what this does show is that, compared to Nikon users, Olympus users don't think very highly of their own lenses.
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Old Sep 14, 2007, 11:35 AM   #7
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Great responses from everyone, they should be a big help to all (me) that read this thread. To sum up what was posted it is still largely a matter of reading reviews, word of mouth and personal opinionof the printed photograph when buying lenses. There is no set scale for judging lens quality which is not a big surprise. Just a very good thing that we forums like this one and sites such as Steve's (thanks Steve) and the others mention in this thread to help us make an inform decision.

Thanks for all the information,as Christmas is coming soon andthe new cameras are being released, mixed with myfalling lack of willpower.All of this should be very helpful in upgrading to a new (newer) camera system soon (God and the wife bewilling).

Thanks again,

Craig
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