A New Lens

But Mike gets to use it first!

I’d treated myself to a new camera lens late last month. When I returned from Washington last week, it was waiting for me at home.

Product ImageThe lens is a Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR Nikkor Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom Lens. It’ll replace the 18-55mm lens I bought on eBay last year — the same lens that crapped out on me about two months ago. (Another reason not to buy used camera equipment on eBay.) That lens was cheap and it felt cheap — lightweight and plasticky. This lens was costly and it has a weighty, quality feel to it.

But that’s not why I bought it. It was the Amazon reviews that convinced me. Although I’ll never rely on reviews there to buy a book — I’ve been burned before, in more ways than one — I find that reviews of camera equipment are generally fair and reliable. It’s easy to identify fanboys and people with a gripe against the company. Weed those out and you can get some solid opinions of the products. In this case, just about all owners liked the lens.

But it was comments like these that sold me:

I have both the 18-135 and the 18-200, yet this lens has become my everyday go to lens for most of my photography. …Given the great sharpness (especially in the 16-50mm range), VR, and almost total lack of noticeable CAs, I can highly recommend the 16-85 for a general purpose, on-the-camera-all-the-time lens. – D80Shooter

I think 16-85mm VR and 70-300 VR lenses is probably all amateur like me needs, with light and compact 16-85mm VR lens mounted on camera most of the time. – Alex

This is how I was using the 18-55mm lens — as an everyday lens. This one promised more flexibility with better optics.

Of course, when I got back to Wickenburg, I had just 3 days to do a ton of stuff. I didn’t have time to play with the lens other than to snap a few photos in the kitchen to check the focal length range. Photography would have to wait.

New Bryce CanyonWhen we flew to Seattle on Friday, the new lens was in my camera bag with the rest of the camera equipment I take on the road. But with the back problems that have been slowing me down, I didn’t have time to do anything fun in Seattle, despite the fact that we had the whole day there. (I spent much of it sleeping off some painkillers.) The next morning, we began our helicopter flight from Seattle to Page. I was sitting up front, handling navigation while Louis flew. I had my hands full with directions for our scud-run south. I didn’t realize it at first, but Mike was sitting in back, snapping photos with the new lens. He continued to do so on both days of the flight and got quite a few good shots from the air. This photo, taken just outside of the Bryce Canyon area, is especially attractive to me because of the shadow created by the big, puffy, low clouds.

N630MLat Spanish ForkMy photography was limited to shots taken on the ground, like this photo of my helicopter at the Spanish Fork, UT airport. Although the photo doesn’t seem too interesting in this low-res shot, it’s really impressive in full-resolution, with clear detail of the clouds — enhanced with the use of a circular polarizing filter on the camera (not in Photoshop) — and dramatic mountains in the background. I think it’s my new favorite picture of my helicopter.

I’ll be uploading the best photos from the flight to my gallery at Flying M Photos.

I’m in Page, AZ now, planning to spend the next month and a half flying tours around Lake Powell and Monument Valley. (You can learn more about my summer flying gigs on the Flying M Air Web site.) I’m also working hard this month to complete my 72nd book, which, unfortunately, I can’t talk about here. So while I’ll be very busy through August, I should have free time in September to go exploring. Antelope Canyon is less than 5 miles away and I expect to spend several mid-day sessions in Lower Antelope Canyon. There’s also an interesting rock formation called The Wave within 50 miles of here — not sure where yet — and if my back heals up, I’ll take a hike there. This new lens should be perfect for these tight locations, since it offers a really wide view without much distortion. (My fisheye lens can take some cool photos, but its a limited use lens.) I might also charter an airplane for some aerial photo work. Airplanes are extremely limited for this kind of work — helicopters are so much better — but it might be worthwhile to give it a try.

If you have a lens like this, I’d love to hear from you. Use the Comments link or form for this post to share your thoughts.

One thought on “A New Lens

  1. I used to shoot with F1 and F1N Canon film cameras. And Pentax before that. I now use Nikons, both film and digital bodies. Not because they are the best, but because i can rent more Nikon system parts here in Manhattan. I have been asked so many times which brand is best and I always say “all are & none are” to which I am given weird looks and uneasy silence. I feel that one can never tell by looking at the final picture which was taken with a Canon or Nikon or Pentax for that matter. Its really a matter of personal taste and boils down to how the body feels in your hands. Then there is the one incident that makes you a loyal user. I had a Nikon F100 on a fully-extended tripod fall on its back with a sickening crack onto a heaving ship’s steel deck. All it needed was a power reset. No broken parts, everything in focus. It’s still working after 10 years of hard labor.

    I actually like the way Canon lenses feel. More solid and viscous controls. Sometimes Nikons seem loose and tend to have a slight rattle like a wheel needing some oil. But I still use Nikons anyway.

    Then last year Sigma gave me a whole slew of lenses to use for an advertising campaign. The 18-200 with vibration control has become my favorite. Great range, small, light, solid and great for those on a budget.

    Not very fast but it does not really matter with the kind of work I normally do. It is permanently attached to a D200, reducing hassles of changing lenses. Plus I can work faster with less chance of getting dust on the sensor.

    My other favorite lens is the Nikon 16mm full-frame fisheye which was used to take my self-portrait while in a Robbie at a hover over lower Manhattan. 180 degree coverage. See it at work on the first page of my website http://www.globalairtogroubnd.com volume-1.

    I have recently acquired a D700/24-120mm but have not shot much with it yet. The range should be close to your 16-85. Great for tight spaces like caves and cockpits. I do like the way the combination feels specially with the extra battery pack.

    I once agonized over focusing and aperture ring-twist directions ( Canons and Nikons go opposite )

    and first bought Canons because I felt they were more intuitive. Sigmas are a mix of both. But i have gotten over such deliberations and will use anything specially if given to me free.

What do you think?