I recently sold my Tamron 70-200 2.8 lens. Optically it was a nice lens, but it was horribly slow at autofocusing, plus on my D700 it would often “freeze” in that I could get no response from it, not be able to shoot at all, so I’d have to turn off the camera, remove the lens, then replace the lens and turn on the camera. This was pretty frequent, which was maddening. That and I became aware of the need to have a telezoom that had image stabilization (“vibration reduction” in Nikon-speak). I often shoot in low-light conditions, including weddings, and the lack of VR became a real drag. So I got rid of the Tamron, which means I’m down to one lens, the Nikkor 24-70 2.8, for the time being as I rent various candidates and try them out.
I’ve been bouncing between whether to get a prime lens for the extra fast aperture, or the convenience of a zoom, fixed aperture or variable. What I’ve rented in the past couple few months includes:
Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR 1: Maybe I got a bad copy, but the VR didn’t seem to work well at all. Very frustrating to shoot with, and effectively no better than the Tamron. UPDATE, October 27th, 2011: I rented this lens again earlier this month and was much more satisfied with my experience. I would definitely be happy to own this lens. Not quite up to the level of the VR2, but for a few hundred dollars less (if found used), definitely a great alternative.
Nikon 85mm 1.8: I briefly owned this lens earlier this year but sold it as I never used it. A desire to revisit that focal length, plus the 1.4 version being out of stock at the local camera rental store, led me back to this for a week’s rental. Adequate, solid, good, cheap…but it’s no 1.4…
Nikon 85mm 1.4: Finally back in stock the following week. However, the autofocus at 1.4 is spotty; many times I’d believe I was locked in on the subject properly, only to see the background in focus instead after I took the shot. I even used the AE-AL button on the back with my thumb to hold the focus in place, which did help, but still not 100%. Very odd.
Sigma 85mm 1.4: I’ve read rave reviews about this third-party lens as a viable alternative to the Nikon versions. Images looked great but…same exact autofocusing problems as the Nikon. What gives? Is it a 85mm 1.4 issue that would be a problem with any such lens, no matter the manufacturer? The Nikon 85mm 1.8 (nor the Canon 85mm 1.8 from when I shot Canon) displayed this issue. I don’t think I can cope with such a huge inconsistency with a lens like that.
Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR II: WOW. This lens is special…and it had better be for being more than $2000. Spot on focus, spot on sharpness, beautiful bokeh…really makes me want to start saving up some $$$$…out of all the lenses listed, this one is clearly the best. But oh so expensive.
Nikon 70-300 4.5-5.6 VR: Trying to convince myself I can settle for giving up a fixed 2.8 aperture for the sake of saving some $$$. It’s a fine lens, and zoomed in it produces outstanding bokeh, as well as good sharpness…and is less than $600…but it’s still not 2.8, and it’s useless for low light shooting. Is it worth it to use exclusively as a portrait lens, instead? I’d still miss that 2.8. Owning this for everyday stuff but renting the 70-200 2.8 VR II for major jobs/events is an option.
So now I may rent the Sigma 70-200 2.8 OS (optic stabilization). Trying to see if that would be an adequate alternative to the Nikon version I loved; about $700 cheaper. Also thinking about renting a 105mm 2.0 and/or a 135mm 2.0. One of my ideas was to buy the 70-300 and a prime…but I guess together they’d add up to one Sigma 70-200 (if I deemed that adequate). Some might suggest the Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR I, but as I wrote above, my experience with it was less than satisfying.
UPDATE, October 27th, 2011: I ultimately opted for a factory demo copy of the old Nikon 80-200 2.8 EF-D (note that there are many different models of this lens; this is the one that is currently still in production and can be found online with ease for about $1100 to $1200 brand new). Since I couldn’t find a copy to rent, I figured that it would be find to outright buy given the reviews I read. Unfortunately it seems to be a bad copy which was sorely soft and hazy at 2.8 at 200mm; moreso than what’s to be expected. I am shipping it to Nikon to have it recalibrated or whatever and will have another update when I get it back and have been able to shoot with it again in a couple weeks.