GEAR REVIEW - NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
Another gem from yesteryear comes in the form of the Nikon Nikkor 70-210mm f/4-5.6D. For what essentially would be regarded as a kit lens today, this is definitely something of a sleeper and the focal range makes it ideal for studio and outdoor use.
Don't be fooled or deterred by the slow aperture. Unlike a lot of modern day counterparts, wide open this thing is very sharp and as I tend to shoot around f/8 in the studio anyway, a shallow depth of field isn't essential to me. Accompanying the surprisingly good optics is the focusing speed. Even on the somewhat paltry focus motor of the Nikon D90, infinity to closest focusing distance is about 0.8 seconds! This improves to 0.5 seconds on the D800. Compare that to the 55-200mm VR and its like warp speed. This performance is due to the excellent gearing, with just over a quarter turn of the focus barrel to go from one extreme to the other. If you were to use this on an entry level camera body, achieving critical focus will be much more difficult as a result.
Do not confuse this lens with the "non D" version or the even older f/4 lens, both of which take considerably longer to focus. When Nikon added the distance information to the 70-210mm, they rehashed the mechanics too which accounts for this superior focusing speed. Granted, this isn't a fast aperture lens and in low ambient light conditions, its not going to be your best buddy, absent a tripod. An f/2.8 pro optic of similar zoom range is going to give you 2 stops advantage in shutter speed, which is nothing to be sneezed at. Add to that fact there is no image stabilization either. In nominal lighting conditions and when flash is deployed, the humdrum aperture limitation is a non entity and for around £100 this is superb value.
100% crop. Unsharpened. Wide open @ f/5.6. Impressive!!
Construction quality is absolutely top notch, with full metal body, mount and highly durable focus grips. Drop it on your foot and you'll probably have a broken toe - not a broken lens, put it that way. This comes from the same stable as the 35-70mm f/2.8D which is another belter of a lens from a time when Nikon didn't shrimp on materials or compromise on image quality. Not that they don't still make excellent glass today, just that things are now built with composite plastics and aperture rings have been cast into obscurity.
Life spans are also significantly diminished too with modern lenses. It kind of chaps my arse that my 105mm Micro-Nikkor only has a 10 year life expectancy before the electronics crap out, whereas some of my AF-D lenses are over twice that age already and still performing as well as they ever did. They sure don't build 'em like they used to!
I've used this for a couple of shoots now and have to say, I really like it. Fast, accurate focusing and very good image quality for the money. While I'd love a 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, this old lens is certainly going to do the business in the meantime.
If you're in the market for a telephoto zoom that won't break the bank, then try and hunt this lens down. Its about the same price as a secondhand 55-200mm VR and will work on FX and DX camera bodies to boot. Its far superior optically and mechanically that's for sure and if you can live without the image stabilization because it won't affect your photography (you're tripod mounted or use flash) then this lens offers great value for money.