Nikon AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
I was just about to buy a brand new one here I lucked into a deal that I couldn't pass up from someone dumping all of their DX equipment and to go full frame. If you are as lucky, by all means go for it, but most times these sell used for nearly the price of a new lens with full factory warranty in your name.
I was considering buying from these guys, but at the time they cost more for shipping.
This is Nikon's professional-grade lens which produces the DX-sized equivalent to the popular and useful 35mm film-sized 28-80mm lens.
This lens is very expensive, even used lenses bring well over $1,000 on eBay. So, if you are thinking about getting one of these you should give great consideration to the uses you have for such a lens.
I had been on the fence about getting one of these lenses for a long, long time (due to the cost). I had been trying to make do with another lens until I met with a prospective bride one evening who picked out every photo in a sample wedding album that was shot at f/2.8. It didn't matter if it was from my 80-200mm f/2.8D or my 35-70mm f/2.8D - she just knew she liked it for some reason. Several times I didn't think it was even that great of a shot, but she could tell it was "professional looking" because of the tight Depth of Field (DoF) and pleasing bokeh
I figured if this person, who was as far from being a photographer as possible, thought these pictures were good, then my desires to be able to deliver such photos were being proven right by this customer-to-be.
Within the week I had one of these lenses on order and I have been ecstatic about its performance.
This lens is comprised of 14 elements in 10 groups and is a very hefty 27 ounces (that's over 1.6 pounds!).
Minimum Aperture: f/2.8 (for the entire zoom range)
Maximum Aperture: f/22
Diaphragm: 9 blades producing nice bokeh.
Build: Solid, hefty, rugged, professional, precision-engineered feeling. The numbers are engraved and filled with paint, not just painted-on like most lenses. These will stand up to the use that a professional will put on this lens.
Filter Thread: 77mm. This is a standard size for Nikon lenses.
Close focus: Focuses down to just over a foot meaning that this isn't exactly going to compete with my wonderful 105mm f/2.8D Macro lens for bugs and real macro work, it does mean that when I'm shooting a wedding and I only have mere moments with the rings (because everyone is in a hurry) I can still get great detail shots of them in a pinch without having to take the time to change lenses. This saves me lots of time and hassle when I'm under pressure at a wedding. Do not, however, mistake this lens for a true macro lens.
Zooming: All internal. At the 17mm end the lens does extend. However, in a unique design this extension occurs entirely within the lens hood (if applied) and the overall lens and hood length is unchanged.
Included Accessories: HB-31 lens hood and a soft pouch (aka lens case) are included in the nice Nikon gold box. The lens hood is differs from your standard Nikon hood in that it locks onto the lens and requires a push of a button to be released. I've never had issues with my other hoods just magically popping off, but I do appreciate the engineering that went into the metal button and lever system.
Extras: The lens has a gold band to show everyone that this is a professional lens. No one really cares. All this does is attract the already interested eye of a possible mugger, or worse, an Uncle Bob at a wedding you might be shooting.
This lens is super speedy and bright at f/2.8.
While it does have some optical distortion issues (some pincushion, for example) these are easily correctable on your own in photoshop or in a product like the DxO software. Uncorrected, you aren't likely see any of this distortion unless you are shooting the ocean's horizon or a brick wall.
Operation is a love or hate kind of thing, and I can't say that I have any complaints. Like the Sigma 10-20mm the zoom ring is up tight against the camera itself and with the built-in flash on the camera it can make turning the zoom ring a little annoying. The Sigma lens is more annoying since the zoom ring is closer to the body.
Also, note that the zoom ring is comparatively stiff, but definitely usable. After some time with the super-loose 18-200mm VR lens and it's super annoying lens creep I will take a stiffer lens any day.
Compared to the 18-200mm VR lens this lens is a dream to operate. Speedy aperture, no lens creep, acceptable distortion, and professional feel. I don't know how I ever got along without one.
First, there's the obvious alternative, the 18-55mm kit lens which is almost the exact same length and it is a lot lighter and a lot cheaper. But, the 18-55mm lens is a cheap, barely consumer-level version of this mighty professional-grade lens. If you care about your photos, and you're reading this review, then likely the 18-55mm lens just won't cut it in your routine.
Two other alternative lenses are similar to the 18-55mm lens: the 18-200mm VR and the 18-70mm. These both start at the 18mm range and are widely popular lenses (the 18-70mm being another kit lens from the D70-era) but, like the 18-55mm both of these suffer from being terribly slow lenses that don't measure up to this professional standard.
A self portrait.
A shot of my tripod. As you can see it has a level bubble. I was just testing out some DoF things.
A spider building a web at sunset.
Shot at f/2.8 using the SB-800 flash and a Gary Fong Lightsphere.
Mom and son in studio.
Bridesmaid entering at a wedding. I cropped this a little tighter in post for the actual wedding album but you can see it here as-shot.
Sailboat at Woodloch Restort.
Big show also at Woodloch Restort.