I have lusted after this wonderful DX lens for a lot of years. By all accounts (and I think I’ve read them all :-), the original version remains the best one. Certainly, the non-stabilized version is the sharpest of the two versions, the one with VC (vibration compensation) being just a bit softer in the center as they were forced to change the formula a bit. Enough so that I am not too interested in the VC version, despite the obvious advantages of stabilization.
The original optical version with the built-in motor -- designed to satisfy Nikon’s smaller cameras’ lack of a focus motor -- is a nice version optically, but I’ve read that focus is even slower than using the screw drive. So I have been on the lookout for a cheap used screw drive original optical formula copy of this lens and one came up on the Henrys site just before I was due to leave for Winnipeg for my vacation. I grabbed it for the very reasonable $299 and took it with me.
Well, what a disappointment. I could not get sharp images at all, and it was ten times worse after the AF got knocked around in the fall of the tripod. Of course, the repairs to the camera further delayed my testing of this lens so that I was pretty certain that I would have to take it back. When the camera came back from Nikon, I tested the lens in the evenings in poor light and was still not satisfied that it was functioning. It seemed to be ghosting at 2.8 and I was getting some really poor results.
So finally today I grabbed the lens and cleaned it thoroughly with my newly arrived ROR solution (residual oil remover … available at BHPhoto.com and you should seriously look into this stuff) and mounted it on the camera and shot a few images around the yard and of the kids. WOW … what a difference! I need to test this further, but the images I am getting now are amazingly detailed at 2.8 …living up fully to the legend.
Here is a screen shot of a 100% crop of Jon’s eye shot at 1/25s indoors. You can see a window reflecting in his eye.
That’s in Lightroom, and here are the settings:
Here’s another shot of Nick’s cheek. The hairs are perfectly defined with no softness and no halos. This is a nice lens!
Update: I never got to post this as it was interrupted by my family emergency in early August. I brought that lens to Winnipeg and I must say that it performed admirably. I shot the primes as well, but this lens held its own with no difficulty. For example, a 100% crop from my niece’s eye shot wide open at 800 ISO … wow …
Anyway, for those who desire more lens than the kit lens, you could do far worse than grabbing up one of these.