Choosing a new lens

With the economy being what it is, we are now offering weddings with one photographer instead of two as a means of saving the couple some money. I still use a non-photographer assistant so it isn’t the same as being all by myself. For the most part, all of the equipment we use for weddings, and everything else for that matter, is mine. What my assistant brings is a versatile wide to normal telephoto lens with a 18mm to 70mm range. This covers a lot of ground for a wedding lens and he rarely has to change lenses to get his shot. So, if there is a shot I need that fits his setup better then mine, I ask him to get the shot and that works out well. But now that I’m shooting some on my own, I need to fill in a gap that I have. I have 12mm to 24mm covered, then jump to 35mm to 70mm. After that, I can cover everything from 80mm to 500mm and then some. But that 25mm to 34mm gap is critical. The solution seems easy enough; Nikon makes a pristine, and very expensive, 17mm – 55mm f/2.8 lens. This lens is specifically designed for camera bodies with the smaller, original size DX image sensors. It will not work on the newer full frame FX sensors. Well, it will work, but at a cost of severe cropping. Logically, my next body upgrades will be to full frame sensors so now I’m in a quandary as to whether or not I should spend a ton of money on a lens that will only be a temporary solution or not. I’d prefer not… Also, I’m quite happy with the camera bodies I am currently using so they will probably serve me well for a few years to come. This means I do not want to skimp on a lens either because it will have to work well for me with my current bodies. This translates into me not wanting a 16mm to 85mm Nikon VR lens because it just isn’t fast enough. I prefer f/2.8 glass as those lenses tend to focus better in low light and most weddings fit into the “low light” group.

So, I do some research on the Internet and seem to find that both Sigma and Tamron make a good lens in that range. Tokina does as well but the reviews are not as good as the other two. This surprises me as I have a Tokina 12mm to 24mm f/4 lens that is sharp as a tack and performs well in any light. Anyway, it seems to be a toss-up between the Sigma and Tamron and I am able to borrow a Tamron 17mm to 50mm f/2.8 lens for a few weeks. It is a pristine lens and is about a third of the cost of the Nikon. It is very sharp, the color rendition is excellent and it performs well wide open. Between the lens I borrowed, and the lens I ultimately purchased, it hasn’t been off the camera since day one.

I guess the moral of this story is that there are excellent third party solutions at times for specific requirements. The first Tamron lens I purchased would not always focus so I had to send it back for another, which works fine. Evidently, the biggest difference between the Nikon’s and Canon’s of the world and their third party counterparts is quality control. But if you get a good copy of a third party lens, you’re good to go!

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