Year End Wrap Up 2001
New Lenses For 35mm SLR And Rangefinder Cameras

Minolta's New "D" Series
Minolta introduced a new series of D-type lenses, with an Advanced Distance Integration (ADI) distance encoder chip for superior results in flash photography with the Maxxum 7 and Maxxum 5. By adding distance information to the equation, they produce more accurate flash exposures even with subjects of very high reflectance. Of course, the D-series lenses work perfectly with older Maxxum cameras, though not with ADI.

Compact and lightweight (2.8x 2.7", 62mm filter size, 14 oz), the new AF 24-105mm f/3.5-4.5(D) zoom incorporates two aspherical elements to counter aberrations for excellent performance. A small/lightweight zoom, the new AF 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6(D) APO tele-zoom includes two low dispersion elements to help correct chromatic aberration. At a much lower ($200) street price, there's the new 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 (D) with conventional optics, suitable for first time SLR buyers. The new AF Macro 100mm f/2.8 (D) is well corrected for curvature of field, curvilinear distortion, and various aberrations. An extremely "fast" portrait lens, the pro-model AF 85mm f/1.4 G(D) inherits the high quality optics of the previous G model; maximum sharpness at all apertures and focused distances is assured by a floating element focusing design.

Expanding Contax AF Line
Last year, Contax introduced their sophisticated new autofocus camera, the N1, and this year, the company expanded the series of AF-N lenses. All are said to provide the usual superb quality in definition, clarity, and color rendition that are the hallmark of Carl Zeiss T* optics. Most incorporate Ultrasonic Focus Motors (USM) for very fast and nearly silent AF operation. The Planar T* N-50mm f/1.4 USM includes elements that are highly effective in eliminating aberrations for exceptional image quality. For extreme close-up work, the Makro-Planar T* N-100mm f/2.8 (with conventional focus motor) allows continuous focus from infinity to a mere 1.2 ft for 1:1 macro.

The Vario Sonnar T* N-24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM zoom features two aspherical elements plus two of anomalous dispersion glass for exceptional performance at all focal lengths. The telephoto zoom Vario-Sonnar T* 70-300mm f/4 USM includes an element of anomalous dispersion glass to control chromatic aberration plus close focusing to 3.28 ft. Other AF T* lenses that were announced include a Planar 85mm f/1.4 and a Vario-Sonnar 17-35mm f/2.8 zoom.

New Sigma Ultra Wides
In late 2000, Sigma announced that many of their new lenses would be available in the new D-type mount for Minolta, including the AF 100-300mm f/4 EX IS HSM (reviewed October, 2001 issue), the 20mm, 24mm, and 28mm f/1.8 trio plus all others announced since then. That includes a zoom with the widest angle of view, the Sigma AF 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG Aspherical with two non-spherical elements and inner focusing down to 11.8". A 15mm focal length is certainly impressive in a zoom lens and may particularly appeal to those who own a digital SLR camera that multiplies focal length by about 1.5x; this lens will still produce a true wide angle effect. Also, check out the new Sigma AF 20-40mm f/2.8 EX DG Aspherical with a wide maximum aperture, close focusing to 11.8", plus two aspherical elements that minimize distortion, astigmatism, and spherical aberration.

High Tech Canon Lenses
A truly unique lens, Canon's EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM prototype includes a Multi-Layer Diffrac-tive Optical Element (DO) with a diffraction grating that alters the path light travels through diffraction. Said to correct chromatic aberration more effectively than fluorite elements, it also includes aspherical elements to correct spherical and other aberrations. The greatest benefit? High resolution and contrast at any focal length plus 26 percent shorter length and 36 percent less weight (the lens weighs 4.3 lbs). In fact, the sample reminded me of the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens but with a much smaller diameter (5"). Though not yet available, this DO lens offers a hint as to the future, when all Canon super telephotos will be substantially smaller and lighter than today.

In response to overwhelming demand, Canon has added Image Stabilization to another pro zoom. The new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM includes the renowned optical and super (including four Ultra-Low Dispersion glass elements) of the original f/2.8L USM model and offers even better autofocus performance. As a bonus, it focuses closer (4.6 ft) and is more moisture and dust-resistant. Of course, the stabilizer makes it more useful in low light with slow film. An improved vibration sensor maintains compact lens size, provides smoother IS operation plus a full three stop advantage for sharp pictures at much longer shutter speeds. The stabilizer also works well when the lens is mounted on a tripod, overcoming vibrations from reflex mirror bounce and wind.

Since digital camera owners want short lenses for true wide angle effects, Canon also introduced the weather-resistant EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM with close focusing to 11" plus a drop-in gel filter holder. The first EF-series lens to incorporate three types of aspherical elements, for even higher image quality than the EF 17-35mm model, this one also includes two UD elements to correct chromatic aberration for high contrast and resolution. An ideal companion for the new EOS-1D (digital SLR), this zoom is equally useful with conventional EOS cameras.

Wide Angle To Telephoto Zooms
We're seeing more zooms that start at 24mm, instead of 28mm for a more dramatic wide angle effect. For example, the Pentax FA 24-90mm f/3.5-4.5 AL [IF] is more versatile than the typical 28-80mm model. This one also includes more features: internal focusing, two aspherical elements, and one anomalous dispersion element to correct all types of aberrations for images of high contrast and resolution. Nikon's new AF 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF includes both ED and aspherical elements for superior performance plus internal focusing with an incredibly short minimum focus distance: 7.7" for a full 1:2 maximum reproduction ratio at the 85mm end.

One manufacturer released a professional zoom in this category. The Sigma AF 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG (Aspherical) is truly impressive, because it incorporates three aspherical plus two Super Low Dispersion elements (reviewed October, 2001 issue). This rugged, large, and hefty zoom delivers a very high level of performance and promises long-term durability. If you need a very affordable lightweight model, check out the new Sigma AF 24-70mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspherical with one aspherical element, probably adequate for a lens without very wide apertures.

When testing Tamron's SP AF 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AD zoom (reviewed June, 2001 issue), I found it highly versatile for travel photography, and capable of producing excellent image quality. It's very rugged, reasonably compact, and lightweight (18.5 oz) and features four hybrid aspherical elements plus an unusual anomalous dispersion element; the combination corrects all types of optical aberrations and distortion.

Although it starts at 28mm, the new Tamron AF 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6 Aspherical XR [IF] Macro--the smallest and lightest in its class--will be a best seller, just like its Super II predecessor. For information as to its other advantages--and the high tech optical and mechanical components employed--see my review in this issue.

Tokina's long-awaited AT-X 24-200mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom reached stores this year. This lens has two aspherical plus two Super Low Dispersion elements. The first zoom including this range of focal lengths, it's reasonably small (3.5x 3.2") and not too heavy (24 oz). Es-pecially for family vacation trips, hiking, cycling, and other activities, it may be the only lens you'll ever need to carry.

Special Lenses
At a time when manual focus lenses are becoming scarce, we did not expect to see Nikon release such a model. However, the AI-S 45mm f/2.8P Special Edit-ion--an ultra compact lens with metal barrel--will be an ideal companion for the new FM3A camera. Because it includes a built-in CPU, the lens is fully compatible with the high tech features of current Nikon cameras, except for autofocus, of course. The short physical size of the barrel was achieved through the use of a Tessar-type design: four elements in three groups.

Also manual focus, the new Voigtlnder 12mm f/5.6-R Heliar Aspherical is the shortest rectilinear (non-fisheye) lens on the market, with an amazingly wide 121 angle of view. Designed for the Bessa L camera, it will fit any rangefinder model that has the L screwmount with TTL light metering. This is a compact (1.5x2") and lightweight lens (3.2 oz plus 12mm viewfinder, included) and it will accept 72mm filters with an optional adapter. Now distributed by Schneider Optics, all Voigtlnder lenses are beautifully made and finished, and available in silver and black. This one also incorporates a high quality optical formula with an aspherical element.

Pentax also released a special model, the FA 31mm f/1.8AL Limited with gorgeous satin aluminum finish and ultra-wide aperture, great for low-light photography. This AF model is also compatible with manual focus K-mount cameras, and is reminiscent of lenses made three decades ago. It incorporates a glass molded aspherical lens and floating element mechanism to correct aberrations at all focused distances down to a mere 12". Yes, it's expensive as you'd guess from the metal construction and superb optical formula confirmed in my tests but it offers high prestige value, excellent build quality, and an elegant retro look.

Lighter Weight/Closer Focusing
Nikon's AF-S super telephoto lenses--with nearly silent, super-fast Silent Wave focusing motor--were already popular with sports, wildlife, and fashion photographers. Now, the company offers all models in a new ED IF II series, boasting two significant advantages: greatly reduced weight thanks to the use of magnesium alloy parts and much shorter minimum focusing distance. All feature Extra Low Disper-sion glass elements for superb image quality, circular aperture, and internal focusing. This new AF-S ED IF II series includes the 300mm f/2.8, 400mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4, and 600mm f/4. The last three are available by special order.

Far more affordable, Nikon's new AF-S 300mm f/4 ED IF has similar features: Silent Wave focus motor, instant switching from AF to manual focus at any time, plus compatibility with the tele-converter TC-14E that maintains autofocus. A built-in lens hood, two large ED glass elements, removable tripod collar, and dust/water-resistance make this a highly desirable lens.

Note: For full specifications on these and other new lenses, check out Shutterbug's Photography Buyer's Guide 2001 or visit the distributors' web sites.

Manufacturers/Distributors

Canon U.S.A., Inc.
(516) 328-5000
www.usa.canon.com

Contax Division of Kyocera Optics Inc.
(800) 526-0266
(732) 560-9221
www.contaxcameras.com

Minolta Corporation
(201) 825-4000
fax: (201) 423-0590
www.minoltausa.com

Nikon Inc.
(631) 547-8500
fax: (631) 547-8518
www.nikonusa.com

Pentax Corporation
(303) 728-0212
fax: (303) 790-1131
www.pentaxusa.com

Schneider Optics, Inc. (Voigtlnder)
(631) 761-5000
fax: (631) 761-5090
www.schneideroptics.com

Sigma Corporation
(631) 585-1144
fax: (631) 585-1895
www.sigmaphoto.com

Tamron USA, Inc. (Bronica)
(800) 827-8880
fax: (800) 767-5550
www.tamron.com

THK Photo Products Inc. (Tokina)
(562) 494-9575
fax: (562) 494-3375
www.thkphoto.com

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