(news & commentary)
It’s that time of year again, when Nikon is trying to clear out inventory prior to their fiscal year end. As always when Nikon offers lens-only rebates, I provide a lens by lens analysis of whether these are deals you should be interested in or not. The new rebates are in effect already and last until April 2nd. I do not expect them to continue after that, as Nikon is starting a new fiscal year and has a lot of new product in the pipeline that should give them the sales they seek for the next quarter.
Coincidentally, my reviews of some of these lenses will appear very soon, too. Still trying to get images done for them.
Bold items are what I consider to be true bargains; italics indicate lenses whose reviews should appear shortly; underlines to lens reviews already available:
- 20mm f/1.8G US$50 rebate — A very nice lens, definitely one of two you’ll want to consider if you’re looking for a very wide prime (the 24mm f/1.8G isn’t on rebate, though).
- 28mm f/1.8G US$100 rebate — At US$600 now this becomes a lens that’s more desirable. My problem with it is that it just isn’t wide enough for the indoor work I do, ditto outdoors. But some will appreciate the 28mm over the 35mm, and if so, they should pick this up at the new—for Nikon—reasonable price.
- 35mm f/1.4G US$100 rebate — Meh. It’s a nice lens, sure, but you really have to need the f/1.4 to choose this over the f/1.8, and even then I don’t think you choose it. I didn’t. Since the f/1.8 isn’t also on
Instant Rebate, one has to conclude that it’s selling well, thus many of you made the same choice as I.
- 35mm f/1.8G DX US$20 rebate — If you’re a DX shooter and don’t have this in your bag, I’m questioning your sanity. A small, sharp, reasonably-priced lens that has a fast aperture is not exactly something you find in the DX lineup. When you do, snap it up.
- 40mm f/2.8 DX Micro Nikkor US$30 rebate — I’m not a fan of this lens. Oh, it’s small and sharp and now at US$250 very inexpensive. But it’s not fast enough to be a short portrait lens, and it’s too short to be a useful 1:1 macro lens. Maybe if you’re troubled at getting a little closer to subjects like flowers in the normal focal range it’ll work for you, but it’s not the goto macro lens for a DX user, IMHO.
- 50mm f/1.4G US$50 rebate — With the new rebates you'll pay twice as much for the f/1.4 over the f/1.8 and get very little more. At f/2.8 the lenses are nearly identical, and at f/2 they've very close. So you really have to need that extra fraction of a stop to warrant paying extra money. Low light shooters might want to opt for it, others should just get the f/1.8G.
- 50mm f/1.8G US$20 rebate — And whoop, there it is. Another US$20 clipped of its price puts it just at the US$200 mark. A worthwhile lens in the FX kit, especially for Df, D610, D750 users (e.g. smaller bodies that benefit from smaller lens).
- 58mm f/1.4G US$100 rebate — My brain is failing me at the moment: is this the first time we’ve seen rebates on this? Even if there was a past rebate I don’t remember, it’s rare Nikon has pushed this lens much, yet, they probably should. This is best corrected Nikon prime for astigmatism and coma, and the rest of its attributes are pretty darned good, too. While it’s not a focal length that FX users get a lot of excitement about, it makes a perfect portrait lens for the DX user, and the D500 user ought to consider that.
- 60mm f/2.8G Micro-Nikkor US$100 rebate — Like the 40mm DX, this is just a little short of the mark you really want for 1:1 work. Why? Because the working distance gets too tight. I wish Nikon would pay a little more attention to the field macro shooter and stop making these copy stand lenses.
- 85mm f/1.4G US$100 rebate — Sorry, but I just don’t find the f/1.4G worth the money. At f/2.8 the f/1.8G easily matches it. You’re basically paying almost US$1000 for that last stop of gain. Moreover, the 85mm f/1.4G has a reputation for small focus misses. I’d rather put that money into a newer, better body at this point.
- 85mm f/1.8G US$50 rebate — At under US$430, this is almost a no-brainer. This is one heck of a good lens for that price, and I’ve never had focus issues with it (other than a slightly slow initial focus acquisition). I like it better than the f/1.4G, especially given the price differential.
- 105mm f/2.8G US$100 — This is a classic lens, and quite a good one, at that. It's probably Nikon's best macro lens in modern form at the moment, and with the price now down to US$800, it's definitely on sale. Well worth considering.
- 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DX US$100 — Seems like a number of the few DX lenses Nikon makes are on sale just in time for the D500 user. Well, they would have originally been on time. Now they’re early ;~). I’m fine with this lens, but all the wide angle zooms for DX have small issues, just different small issues. This one is as well rounded as most, but a little slow when you compare it to the Tokina offerings, which I think fit the D500 user profile better.
- 14-24mm f/2.8G US$200 rebate — Not normally a lens Nikon discounts, and a classic optic that many pros love. If you need it, this is now a very good price.
- 16-35mm f/4G US$100 rebate — a more modest post price change rebate than previously. Sharpness is very good, and so are most of the other characteristics except for one: linear distortion is highly visible if you don't correct for it. Still, I find myself using this lens more than my 14-24mm these days because it takes filters and is smaller. The VR is just another small plus, as is the lower price.
- 16-80mm f/2.8-4 DX US$70 rebate — Okay, Nikon has priced this just so it now gets just under the US$1000 mark, and just in time for new D500 owners to consider it. This lens is better than the 16-85mm it replaces, but awkwardly more expensive than the sharpness differential might suggest. Personally, I like this new lens, and I look forward to using it on the D500.
- 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 US$100 — D610 and D750 (and maybe even D4/D5) users take note. This lens is better than most people realize, and is very appropriately sized for the smaller FX bodies. Not a great bargain, but definitely a less expensive way to pick up a good wide angle zoom for FX. I don’t tend to recommend this lens for D8xx users because the edge performance is clearly lower and the higher resolution of the 36mp sensors will clearly record that. Still, the central area is very sharp and well behaved. So if you’re looking for a wide angle for events or more casual shooting, this might be the one.
- 24-70mm f/2.8G old US$100 rebate — Let’s start with this: I sold my 24-70mm f/2.8 and the replacement for this lens isn’t thrilling me, either, though it’s clearly better. I just don’t think the old version lives well in the modern world. Yes, it’s optically decent, but there are plenty of lenses that beat it on the D810 in this focal range, so it’s showing age in the optics. No it doesn’t have VR, while most of its competitors, even from Nikon, do. It’s big, heavy, and the lens has been prone to a number of issues over the years (e.g. light leaks around the focus distance scale). While the rebate is okay, it just seems like a lot of money to pay for a lens with so many small issues.
- 24-70mm f/2.8G new US$100 — Oh so tempting, especially for all those D5 users about to come on board. I wish this lens weren’t so darned big, and I wish that the optical advances went even further, but if you need a fast midrange FX zoom, this is the beast. Yes, the corners are better. Yes, the lens performs a bit better in most everything than its predecessor. Yes, it doesn’t seem to score well on flat test charts. But proof is in the shooting: you should notice a difference, even though it isn’t a huge one.
- 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G US$100 rebate — Bargain alert. Small body FX users (Df, D610, D750) take note: this is a darned good lens and worth more than the new US$400 price. I like this lens a lot, though the corners aren’t quite up to close inspection, especially on the 36mp bodies. But for a long time, this was the lens in my bag instead of the 24-70mm f/2.8, which should tell you something.
- 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G US$150 rebate — Yes, I know there was a very famous person who swore by this lens and wrote that it was all you needed for travel. I disagree. There’s a lot of compromise in this lens, and it shows. Moreover, I don’t know how you travel without 24mm, and if you’re going to carry two lenses, I’d suggest that the 24-85mm just above and maybe a 300mm f/4 would be a far, far better choice. Still, now that the lens is US$800, I’m sure that a lot of folk are considering it. Don’t. Get the 24-85mm instead and save some money.
- 70-200mm f/4G US$100 — If you don’t need f/2.8, get this lens for your moderate telephoto zoom. It’s just really well behaved optically, gives up nothing in focus performance, and is smaller and lighter so makes for a better travel companion.
- 70-200mm f/2.8G II US$200 — I really like the f/4 version, as I just noted. Smaller and lighter, very accomplished optics with no real issues, and easier to AF Fine Tune than the f/2.8 optic. The f/2.8 version, however, has a lot of warts to it (focal length breathing, for one), and really needs redesign. Even with the discount I don’t consider it a bargain. If you need it, obviously such a large discount is nothing to scoff at. But I rarely shoot with this lens now that the f/4 is out unless I absolutely need f/2.8.
Interestingly, the lenses on sale are basically most of the primes and most of the pro critical zooms. Obviously, Nikon is trying to entice those new D5 and D500 to pick up an optic or two, too.
I’ll also point out that I don’t expect these rebates to repeat soon. This is the traditional inventory clearance prior to the fiscal year end, though it comes a little late this year. Once April 3rd rolls around, I think you’re going to find Nikon reluctant to discount the pro and prosumer bodies, as well as the pro and prosumer lenses. Of course, further decline in camera/lens sales might change that, but I believe that Nikon feels confident in their offerings starting the new fiscal year (D5, D500, DLs, a couple of other things that haven’t been announced yet). I suspect they’ll try to hold the line on the high-end pricing as long as they can in the April to August time frame.
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