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Lens Reviews

Nikkor AF-S 17-35mm/2.8D ED IF Review

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

Keywords: wide, angle, lenses, nikon, nikkor, f5, f5a, 17_35mm, 28_70mm, 80_200mm, tokina, at_x, f100, konica, konica_centuria, paris, france, konica_supra, architecture, film


As my partner Bo Stahlbrandt said, "most obviously the F5 is one of the killer SLR 35mm bodies on the market". Now the question was, after the immense pleasure of buying one, with what lenses to arm the killer.



Like Bo, I am too a serious amateur, that means I don't make my living from photography but go at it passionately for the love of it, so I want the best possible camera with the best possible glass on, because life is short and dear moments fleeting.

I waited a long time for the chance to travel again to the US and view, feel, try and buy the lenses I would need for the brand new F5 I had also been longing for.

Since I don't print poster sized or larger mural pictures, I had been arguing with myself on whether to get the Nikkor AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8D ED and the AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8D ED or the corresponding Tokina's AT-X Pro lenses. After all, with the price difference you can get a lot of filters, film and additional gadgets. The wider angle perspective I had cover - or so I thought- with a beautiful Nikkor AF 24mm f/2.8D. With those three lenses, the range from 24mm all the way to 200mm would be complete and I could later get ready to further go to 300mm and even to 420mm with a TC1.4E teleconverter. After all, my Sigma 600mm f/8 had been a disappointment most of the time.

As soon as I arrived to the hotel in Miami, dropped the bag, hooked up my notebook to the high speed ethernet port and started to make phone calls. It was only to discover that none of the local Tokina distributors -within a 50 miles radius- were stocked at all with any AT-X Pro. Destiny had made the choice for me. I ordered a taxi and headed towards the apparently largest Nikon distributor in the area: Pitman Photo Supply.

Forty nine dollars after, the taxi arrived there.

And the adventure began.


So I entered the store, trying not to run, approached the counter and talked to the lady sporting a Nikon Millennium polo shirt. After confirming they did not carry Tokina lenses, I asked her to show me any AF-S lenses she might have. Knowingly, smiled and proceeded to hand me a F100 and a monster lens which she extracted from an elegant Nikon leather case. After saying softly "Careful" as I mounted the lens, she then added, almost innocently, "Just look trough the viewfinder."



It was dangerously instantaneous, love at first sight.  The image through the viewfinder was bright, straight, crisp, without any apparent distortion. I zoomed out and noticed it did not change it's focus, nor the front element rotated!. Wow! 17mm is wide!. Moved the camera's focus mode to "M" and the switch on the lens to "M" for manual focussing and it slided gently, without a sound. The barrel focusing ring also slided effortlessly and silent........ Switching back, auto focus was almost painfully fast, as if I wanted it to last longer to enjoy its soft whirl.

Captivated, with NAS in hyper mode I uttered: "Could you please mount it on a brand new F5?."

Her smile was now wider; showing a set of perfect teeth over her very attractive Cuban face, she mounted the beast on the marvelous F5.

Pretending not to be astonished after seeing through the viewfinder, and as if I had been long acquainted with and accustomed to the F5, with some effort not to stammer I added: "I'll take them both, thank you. Any other AF-S lens in stock?", strangely with the hope to sound casual.

Nevertheless, before I left, a Nikkor AF 35-70mm f/2.8D, a Nikon SB-28 speedlight, several Nikon filters, including a huge polarizer, lens wraps and a new Tamrac 709 Convertible bag were added to my tab.

And then she insisted on helping me pack. The Velcro strips of the Tamrac partitions voluptuously went hooked and unhooked as she tried several two tier configurations.

After a few careful and dedicated attempts she was satisfied. In the process, she confided to be the proud owner of three F3 bodies and several classic MF prime lenses. She finally finished packing, the way she would have wanted it if the long trip back home were hers. And so she said it.

Don't ask me why or how but our last glance at each others eyes almost felt like if we just had great sex, sadly knowing we had to part. Maybe simply because we both are, after all, Nikon lovers.


Well, the price tag makes you wonder whether it is really worth it -even if not for long.



But one can merrily rationalize that it replaces the need for 5 Nikkors: 

However, perhaps more important is that this lens talks about Nikon's interest in the deadly-serious-amateur and professional-user market segments. Nothing amateurish about this lens. The case, the finish, the feel, the mount, the color, the speed, everything ....... impressive!. 

And it might even perform better than any of those also great primes, in terms of contrast, sharpness and straight line rendition as seen below in the splendid picture at night at the Piazza della Signoria, in Florence, Italy, by Nikonian Mike Lastort, with a Nikon D1.

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