Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nikkor AIS 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 Review

Preparing the next article for the Wedding Photography Tips, I take a break to review the Nikkor AIS 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5.
Part 5 of the Wedding Photography series will be ready at some point next week. If you haven't done so yet, you can subscribe to the Amateur Nikon newsletter and get an email notification every time there is a new article on Amateur Nikon (~ once per week; you can unsubscribe any time)

This is a pretty interesting lens, as it was in production for only a year before being replaced by an AF version. It's not particularly rare, nor does it have any great collector's value, but it's still not very easy to find. It's pretty cheap in the used market, so perhaps many people wonder how it compares to a modern AF midrange zoom.

Midrange zooms are excellent options for a casual day near the nature.
As long as the light is plenty, you'll enjoy yourself

+ optically quite good, no real complaints. About the same as the AF-S 24-85, which is a very good lens.
+ superb manual focus ring, unlike the AF versions
+ it has a macro function...

- only to when the lens is set at 28mm
- wide-open it has a rather low contrast for landscapes (then again, how often do you shoot landscapes at f/3.5?)
- value considerations. It's cheap, but there are plenty of AF versions that are also cheap.

Intended Users
Great for:
  • FX users looking for a dirt-cheap midrange zoom and don't mind manual focus
  • manual film cameras. It has an aperture ring and a very good focus ring
  • for the same reasons, a good lens for adapting to mirrorless.

Not for:
  • manual focus means it's pretty difficult to use with moving subjects
  • Realistically, any AF modern lens is a more balanced option
  • I don't recommend for entry-level cameras. Having to guess the exposure, combined with small viewfinder (hence, hard to see focus) makes this less attractive compared to an AF version.

Final Verdict
This is a pretty OK lens. Optically, it's not bad at all - it's at least as good as the AF versions, probably a bit better too, in some aspects. Mechanically is far superior - the focus ring feel alone would be worth at least trying this lens. But manual focus will always increase the workload - and for entry-level cameras you'll have to guess the exposure, too. Ultimately, this is a lens that makes sense as a temporary or emergency solution for FX or film users who look for a very cheap but decent midrange zoom to use as a travel/landscape lens. If your budget allows it, something like the Nikkor AF-S VR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 is a far better option (albeit, more expensive, too).

Get is used here

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