Lenses: The Prime Accessory; Fast, Wide, And Wondrous Page 2

Pentax’s smc Pentax-DA 15mm F4 ED AL Limited lens ($649) is designed for exclusive use with this company’s D-SLRs. Equivalent to 23mm in 35mm parlance, this wide angle makes a great landscape lens, although you shouldn’t limit yourself to landscapes: a wide world awaits. The lens was not simply designed to deliver optimum performance with minimal image distortion, but to look good doing it. It is compact and lightweight, lacking that oft-seen dome protrusion, which means you’re free to attach a circular polarizer (thin mount preferable: 49mm) for even more dramatic shots. Add to that a retractable petal-shaped lens hood, minimum focusing to just over a half foot, instant switching to manual-focus override, and Pentax’s proprietary multi-coating and you have one sweet lens.

Sakar has brought back the venerable Vivitar Series 1 name. And here we have several Series 1 lenses ($149-$399 MSRP), although the majority of them are designed as T-mount optics (including 500mm and 800mm mirror lenses and a super-zoom 650-1300mm). The one dedicated lens (for Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax) is an 85mm F1.4 lens for portraits. Minimum focusing is 3.3 ft and the lens weighs just over 1 lb. Of course we will have to see whether the new generation of Series 1 products lives up to the name.

Sigma 10-20mm
Sigma 18-50mm

Sigma showcased an impressive array of lenses this year. The 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM (82mm filter size; minimum focus: 9.4”) stands out owing to its fixed maximum aperture. The 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 DC OS HSM (67mm filter size; minimum focus: 11.8”; 13.9 oz) employs Optical Image Stabilization. If you want something with a little reach and which won’t bust the bank when you go out to buy filters (55mm front thread), there is the 50-200mm f/4-5.6 DC OS HSM (minimum focus: 43.3”). All these lenses are highly corrected, come with a lens hood, and are available in Sigma, Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax dedicated mounts (may cause vignetting with full-size sensors and 35mm SLRs).

Sony and Pentax maintain the Anti-Shake function in the camera body and viewfinder, although you still retain the option of overriding that with the lens’ own Image Stabilization function (for instance, in order to provide a blur-free image in the viewfinder).

Sigma 50-200mm
Tamron SP AF60mm

Sony gave us just a hint of six new D-SLR lenses to come, but at press time was still keeping them under the table. All we know for now is that they include a super telephoto lens, 28-75mm f/2.8 (both for full frame), 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DT, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DT, 50mm f/1.8 DT, and 30mm f/2.8 DT (DT = suitable for smaller sensor cameras).

Tamron announced the development of the SP AF60mm F/2.0 Di II LD (IF) MACRO 1:1 for D-SLRs with APS-C-size sensors. What stands out is the unusually fast f/2 maximum aperture, making it expressly suitable for available-light macro shooting, even down to life-size—or simply to blur out backgrounds using selective focus. That focal length roughly translates into an effective 90mm (varying with sensor), which makes it an ideal lens for skittish small wildlife, notably insects, lizards, and frogs—you need that extra breathing room. The lens employs low-dispersion glass elements and new BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) multilayered coatings, along with internal surface coatings, for improved performance. Measuring only 2.9” and weighing just over 14 oz, this macro features internal focusing to help you maintain that buffer zone that makes animals more comfy, with full-time manual override. The lens will be available in mounts for Canon, Nikon (with built-in AF motor), and Sony, with prices and launch dates to be announced.

Tokina AT-X 124 PRO DX II
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/21

THK Photo Products debuted the Tokina AT-X 124 PRO DX II, a rectilinear wide zoom ($1099 MSRP). Not to be confused with the older AT-X 124 PRO DX, this AF lens was designed exclusively for D-SLRs with APS-C sensors. But more than that, the Nikon version has a built-in AF motor, which means it can be used with any D-series Nikon that requires a Silent Wave Motor lens. The Canon version of the lens already has a built-in AF motor and will benefit from improved multi-coating. The AT-X 124 PRO DX II features the one-touch focus clutch mechanism for quick one-handed shift to manual, or auto, focusing. This 12-24mm f/4 lens accepts 77mm filters, measures 3.46x3.5” (DxL), and weighs 19 oz. Hopefully this lens is a herald to more Nikon Silent Wave Motor-compatible lenses from this company.

The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/21 will be available by mid-2009 or sooner in ZF (F bayonet), ZE (EF bayonet), and ZK (K bayonet) versions. This super wide angle optic was designed to deliver exceptional color control, producing high-contrast images without any color fringes even at maximum aperture, with Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflection coating further enhancing the picture—and all by using environmentally-friendly glass. This 21mm lens focuses down to .72 ft, letting you capture dramatic landscapes. The Distagon T* 2,8/21 with F bayonet (ZF), EF bayonet (ZE), and K bayonet (ZK) is suitable for analog 35mm or digital full-frame SLR cameras.