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How-to's Lens Reviews

What Nikon lenses to buy – The Three Big Dragons

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)


Keywords: lenses, dragons, kings, nikon, nikkor, jrp

In Japanese culture, dragons are symbols of strength, courage and magic. When traveling through the country, dragons are everywhere, in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, in garments, home ornaments, jewelry, tattoos and more.

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27 comments

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on November 20, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Jiri, short answer: no.

Jiri Vlach (Jivl) on November 19, 2017

Does somebody anticipate when the extraordinary 14-24mm f/2.8G will be upgraded to E version? I intend to buy ithis wide lens but I would prefer the newest version.....possibly with VR?

Michael Hurder (MKHurder) on August 6, 2017

one day...

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on April 3, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Hans, the 3-dragons sets are of course for "general" photography. Macro and super-telephoto are specialty items. I fully agree with you on how far we have advanced. As we get better lenses and better bodies we of course acquire the challenge to make better photographs. A lot of fun indeed.

Hans Kuwert (nikonus) on April 3, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

The 14-24 is Holy but three won't work . Need three primes in the middle a 50 mm , 100 mm macro , or 80 - 200 , with a 300 2.8 AF- ED VR on the end ( favorite of all ) . I schlep the whole set at times . After the shock of purchase on the high priced glass I come to find they are worth every cent for the joy they bring . I spend more time below 50 mm most of the time . I laugh when the onboard D800 mini flash gets blocked on the lower third by the 14-24 lens Stay humble some days and charge up the D200 find a clean CF card with 50 mm 1.8 D shot manual all day . Remember how far we have come . With newer large MP sensors you can crop a good teleshot with 50 - 100 mm lenses . All good fun .

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 21, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Chris, they will continue to perform darn well on your D700, because it has a 12 Mpixels sensor. I just passed on my 35-70mm f/2.8 to my elder granddaughter along with a D2X, also a 12Mpixels body. She loves it.

Chris Poole (Mav52) on March 20, 2017

SO interesting I still have the first generation set of lenses.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 19, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Rick, yes the 28-70mm (The Beast) is darn good. I still have mine too.

Rick Spehn (PSAGuy) on March 19, 2017

I still LOVE my 28-70 f2.8 It is the only variation in my trinity but one I have no intention of trading. It's big and tough and takes superb images....all these years later.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 19, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Mick. The advantage of growing old is that one accumulates a lot of stories ..... to put your grandchildren to sleep ;-)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 19, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Geoff, thanks for you comment. Yes it will a matter to cry about ;-)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 19, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Henry, I'll somehow find a way to include 4 lenses next time. Maybe the 4th specialty dragon would be an adequate name ;-)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 19, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Sunday, 19 March 2017 ) Peter, of course the big guns are dragon killers. More so for us amateurs who don't earn photography money :-(

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 19, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Malcolm, I hear you loud and clear. I am looking forward to be alive for my 50th wedding anniversary with a queen dragon slayer ;-)

Malcolm Berry (mexberry) on March 18, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Thanks for the post JRP. In Christian mythology, Saint George slew the dragon and I afraid that would be my fate if the version of St. Georgina with whom I have lived with for 46 years got wind of a fourth generation of the 'three dragons' .

Henry Schoch (hank970) on March 18, 2017

I think the lineup needs to be expanded to include a fourth dragon, the 200-500mm f/5.6. No it doesn't have the quality of build and the Nano coating of the others, but it extends the range, it performs, and it fills a need.

Peter Geran (gearsau) on March 18, 2017

I thought a Nikon 300mm f2.8, Nikon 500mm f4 and Nikon 800mm f5.6 would be the " Dragon Killers "

Geoff Baylis (GBaylis) on March 18, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Awarded for his generous and continuous sharing of his high level skills with the Nikonians community Writer Ribbon awarded for his contributions to the Nikonians Articles. Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his win at the Best of Nikonians 2107 Annual Photo Contest

Thanks JRP, my knowledge of the first two generations was minimal, so I'm appreciative of your history lesson. I have the 3rd generation midrange and telephoto, and hope that they will not start crying to be replaced when they are eventually joined by a 4th Generation wide angle sibling. Geoff

Mick Klass (mklass) on March 18, 2017

As a semi-professional involved in all manner of photographic genres including portraiture, sports, commercial, and events coverage, Mick is always ready to help Nikonians by sharing his deep knowledge of photography and printing. Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Ribbon awarded for his most generous donation in 2017 Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign

This is a nice history lesson, JRP. I wan't aware of the 2nd and 1sr generations as a similar pack as the 3rd. It's always good to get some perspective.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 18, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Thank you, Marion. The 200-400m f/4G ED IF VR II is a superb lens. I've made a few amazing shots with it. But now that the high ISO performance has been greatly improved in the latest bodies, the 200-500mm f/5.6E ED IF VR AF-S is taking its place with splendid results. So much that it is selling like hot dogs, currently out of stock mostly because of its performance, added reach and that it as at a price of 20% of the 200-400. ($1.4K vs $7K). I think your suggestion to add a 4th dragon on our own is good. As for the MF era, I think that deserves another article.

Marion Pavan (pqtrths) on March 18, 2017

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

JRP: An excellent article covering the "three dragons" of the autofocus era. (I have all three, third generation lenses and they live up to their reputations.) How would the 200-400/f4.0 zoom fit in... possible fourth dragon? This zoom is on my wish/bucket list. Were there ever "three dragons" of the manual focus era? Right now, I can think of one the 80-200/f4.5 "one-touch" zoom. Respectfully, Mp

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 16, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

John, yes I would have loved to do those comparisons. However, it is difficult to gather all the possible lenses and then shoot the same subject under the same controlled conditions. However I could clearly see a difference between the 20-35 and the 17-35. And then a quantum leap to the 14-24, when shooting with a D2X and a D700. But results are more separated, noticeable, when shooting with a D3X and a D800 or D810. The same happened with the 35-70, 28-70 and 24-70. That is why I dared to suggest that for higher pixel count cameras you really need the best possible lenses to see the difference.

John Hernlund (Tokyo_John) on March 16, 2017

this is good stuff JRP, although wondering if the differences are always so clear and distinct in each case? Would be fun to see a more practical comparison in actual shooting.

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 16, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Ken, glad to hear you like it. Not that it matters much but .... I replaced the 70-200 with an 80-400 and sometimes I wake up sweating in the middle of the night. Now I know why. Only f/2.8 lenses qualify to be dragons ;-)

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 16, 2017

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

(Edited by jrp Thursday, 16 March 2017 ) Thank you, Albrecht. On Nikkor lenses and adapters, also interesting is that more than a few Canon pros use the 14-24 with an adapter.

KENNETH JACKSON (f5titan) on March 15, 2017

For my 3rd generation of “The Holy Trinity” of zoom Nikkors I selected the wide angle 16-35mm f/4.0G ED AF-S VR, the mid-range 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S and the telephoto 70-200mm f/2.8G ED AF-S VR II to suit my shooting style and budget. For days when a smaller bag and lighter weight is called for my little dragons are ready to go: the wide angle 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G ED, the 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR and the 70-200mm f4.0G ED VR all providing very good results. I enjoyed your article very much!

Albrecht Granzow (GiantTristan) on March 15, 2017

Very useful and concise summary. Interestingly, there already exist "smart" adapters with AF and EXIF capability for Nikon "E" to mirror less cameras e.g. Sony and Leica. I don't think this will help Nikon DSLR sales.

G