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One Perfect Lens?
  • I was hoping to get some feedback from anyone who's used the Nikon 17-55 lens (with the f 2.8 available all the way through the zoom) or is familiar with it or other zoom lenses. What do you guys think about this lens as a single lens to shoot a narrative feature film. Our cinematographer wants to use one lens with a zoom as we are occasionally in cramped/tight locations, and the perfect shot is often between the fixed focal length lenses we have (18mm, 28, 50). I'm curious to see if anyone has any experience/knowledge of this lens' image quality, particularly when on a GH2 (will be using one of the Apocalypse Now settings. probably Boom - (thank you Driftwood))

    The f 2.8 is pretty good for low light, but for very very low light we'll have ample lights at all time.

    So what do you guys think...could this be one perfect lens?

    (Here's a link to the lens at B@H - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/300490-USA/Nikon_2147_17_55mm_f_2_8G_ED_IF_AF_S.html

  • 47 Replies sorted by
  • @Hilltop1

    I was considering the tokina 28-70 at-x pro 1 but review says the focus ring is too tight.

    The focus ring on my copy of the Tokina 28-70mm ATX Pro is not still at all. While it does have a relatively short focus throw, this can be improved by using a wide-radius gear ring with your follow focus rig. For this purpose, the Tokina is about as video-friendly as it gets, and I far prefer its fixed-barrel fully-manual operation to any Nikon G lens. If you're interested in one, I'd highly recommend buying from a reputable dealer like KEH who thoroughly test and warrant their used lenses.

  • I'd prefer a wide angle zoom or a tele zoom over a standard zoom. Usually a standard zoom isn't known for the best image quality.

  • @Hilltop1 In regards to the Tokina 28-70, from people in this forum, it seems only mine is tight. Not sure why and I might get it checked out but other people have no problem with theirs but the focus throw is really short. It's not made for video stuff at all but nice if you're just shooting people and don't need to rack back and forth. It's not a bad lens to have if you can find one for cheap. Got mine for $150 and someone else did too.

  • Thanks @matt_gh2 for your feedback. Yah I was starting to think the same too. Just stick with my fix primes especially as I have both GH2 and GH3 now. Can just use the two cameras and frame with two different primes.

  • @HillTop1 I rented this lens a few months back, hoping I could find one lens that would do everything. I didn't like the look of the bokeh on some night shots (it had what I thought was an ugly characteristic to it), so that eliminated it for me. I also found this to be the case with the Tamron 17-50 lens I tried.

    (You are correct re adapter and aperture. I used a novoflex adapter and that worked very well. Other than my issue and preference against the bokeh, the lens is fine.)

    My focus is narrative filmmaking, so I'll be using 3 different lenses and just deal with having to change lenses as needed. For me there was no one perfect lens. If your main activity is narrative film...I'd definitely go with fixed primes. You can get ones with lower f stop, which really helps on your night shots. For the price of the nikon, you can get a nice set of primes...and still have money left over.

  • @matt_gh2 can you please report on the nikon 17-55 f2.8. If I understand well you can't control the aperture or this lens except you use an adapter that has aperture rings, correct? Like you I am in the market for zoom lens preferably a constant for narrative and some live event preferably a fixed f-stop. I was considering the tokina 28-70 at-x pro 1 but review says the focus ring is too tight. Then the Nikon 17-35 but covers less focal range. So I am interested to hear you thought about the 17-55 assuming that you still have it and have being using it for a while.

  • Did another, very short test against the evening sky for high contrast: Contax Zeiss zoom against the Tokina with the same range, but two-touch and less weight. The Tokina is not that much apart in resolution (even corners and CA), but the Contax looks far 'punchier' because of higher contrast. Under these conditions, the cheap Tokina is a very good option though, since it gives you about one more stop of DR. Horses for courses…

  • Found some time today to test my recent acquisition, the 28 to 85mm zoom, against some Contax Zeiss primes and thought I should share.

    @ 28 against the slower 28mm 2.8 prime: Center resolution about the same, the zoom is bit less contrasty WO. The 28mm has traces of CA in corners, zoom has obvious CA, which is not improving much @ 5.6. Corner sharpness and contrast when both are @ 5.6 is remarkable, about on par, but @ 5.6 the contrast of the prime in center is definitely better than the zoom. The prime seems to have some minimal field curvature on changing the aperture (which is not rare for a wide that is well-balanced when open).

    @ 35mm against the slower 35mm 2.8 prime (I didn't afford the 1.4): Both WO center is about the same, corner sharpness impressive, nearly the same, but some more CA and less contrast again in the zoom. The prime is not completely free of CA, but it's minimal. Center contrast improved @ 5.6, nearly on par, CA still visible. My 35 seems to be a tad weaker than my 28.

    @ 50mm against the 50mm 1.7 (a very sharp lens!) The zoom is a tad sharper in the corners against the prime @ 1.7, but @ 2.8 the prime overtakes the zoom and kills it at 5.6, but it's my sharpest 50mm of them all, even better than the Planar 1.4 or the Rokkor PG, which are already analytical.

    @ 85mm against the 85mm 2.8 (not the Planar 1.4): WO the zoom is considerably softer, while on par in CA – both minimal, @ 5.6 the zoom is improving considerably and nearly touches the prime.

    General observations on the zoom: The zoom is generally improving regarding CA when going towards the long end, but it's also getting softer in contrast. Bokeh is very nice, no hard edges and minimal deformation in the corners. Go for MM to avoid Ninja blades, though. Zeiss is cheating a bit on both ends, the zoom is neither as long as the 85 nor as wide as the 28 primes. Color not quite the same, zoom seems to be a bit warmer than all my primes (more glass?).

    Verdict (quite personal one): This is a very impressive zoom, I did massive pixel peeping to spot the differences and it's true that it's very close to these primes. I'm sure it leaves many weaker primes in the dust. OTOH it's not constant aperture and has a one-touch zoom. It is parfocal if you manage to keep it straight when zooming, but I'd rather consider it a variable prime in practical use. Even if my zoom tube is still stiff compared to other one-touch constructions I held, it slides if tilted up or down. While the mechanical construction is on excellent Zeiss level, this is caused by massive weight. It weighs a bit more than any three primes I could pick from the above (slower) ones and it needs a huge filter diameter and the filter rotates. I feel like I'm going to sell it again…

  • Sounds like a great lens, but my criteria/goal for "one" perfect lens is a single lens that is a zoom and would allow us various focal lengths (for purposes of shooting narrative feature film). (We had done various tests shots in tight cramped quarters, and the various primes we had didn't work as we needed focal length between the primes used. 18mm, 28, and 50. So, I had identified the Nikon 17-55 as the best quality, "reasonably" priced zoom, that might give us a single lens that covers it all. ). Thanks all for suggestions.

  • my "perfect" lens vote would have to go to the sigma 30mm it has it's pros and cons, but the good outweighs the bad IMO it has a pretty nice balance on the camera (unlike a voightlander) also it is very easy to see when it's in focus without having monitors and what not it's also somewhat affordable. has a great looking flare in sunny shots and a has a nice "cine" look at 1/40

    the only 2 negatives is having to have an adapter with manual aperture ($80 on eBay from china)

  • Well, it is a bit more difficult than that: if flange distance is not correct, a zoom won't be parfocal even if it was meant to be.

  • Tip for the cheap adapters: you can slide a knife into the middle of each of the prongs that hold the lens in and expand them. The adapter will be solid as a rock after that. No need to pay for the expensive one unless you need a reliable tripod mount, or if you can't get proper infinity focus.

  • Got to try the Nikon 17-55 F/2.8 on a GH2 with a cheap adapter at the store the other day. My thoughts: 1) it's not super heavy, but it's a bit heavy in a nice way 2) the lense did move around with the cheap adapter, so I'll be getting the Novoflex which everyone recommends 3) I like the focus and zoom rings because they are nicely stiffer than most and not too loosey-goosey. A little easier to do controlled focus adjustments.

    Once I get my setup I will report back on strength of Novoflex mount, and stability when panning and doing other creative movements. If needed a simple support/rail setup should do.

    (No comments on image quality as adapter at store had no aperture adjustment, so I was really wasn't able to play with lens image.)

  • The camera mount itself will bow with heavy/long lenses and FF. Lens support is a must if you want to work professionally with this combination.

  • @katig For stationery stuff mounted on a tripod, it's fine, but I'd definitely get a support if I was panning around, or using it on some kind of handheld/shoulder rig. It's all metal, so it's pretty hefty, and won't balance at all if the camera is the mounting point. It'll be front heavy and possibly create some unwanted movement.

  • While electronic lenses of today have inherent shift when a FF is pressed against them, older lenses of good build shift the problem to a weak adapter or the camera mount itself.

    Since the Novoflex is the best build money can buy, I'd only be concerned about the camera mount. Not so much it's precision when new, but if it lasts when stressed by a heavy lens. A long one (physically long) in particular, plus whip pans or shaky rides on transportation etc. will truly endanger your camera mount. Don't nail me on it, but anything beyond half a kilogram should be treated with respect.

  • Well, that's what I thought. Is lens support necessary, does it move when using follow focus? I have Novoflex Nikon G>m43 without tripod support, so for the lens this heavy I need some kind of extra lens support on my rig. Or am I wrong? My 600g Canon FD 35-105 with ciecio adapter is good without lens support, but this Nikon is heavier.

  • What do you mean by "too heavy" ?

    You can always get a lens support. Or get an adapter with a tripod support and hang the GH2 on it.

  • @BlueBomberTurbo Is nikon 17-55 too heavy for gh2?

  • I've used Nikkor 18-55 f/3,5-5,6 and it was awfully difficult to focus it manually. For Nikkor 2,8 you need G-Nikkor adapter as well and stop it down a bit for really good IQ, just the same procedure like for any other Nikkor lens (except maybe for the 85mm f/1,4)

  • @katig Not a bad option, but I was looking at Nikon 17-55 because it has f/2.8 all the way through zoom. I think the Oly 12-60 goes from 2.8-4. But that 12-60 focal range is nice.

  • What about Olympus 12-60? I also need good sharp lens for undemanding shooting, and this Oly seems ok, cheaper, than nikon 17-55, lighter, wider range... Does anybody have some experience with this lens and gh2?

  • @BlueBomberTurbo Vid looks great. Thanks for posting.