Review of AF-S 17-35mm 2,8D ED added

A review of the AF-S 17-35mm 2,8D ED has been added to the AF wide angle page.

Nikon prices in USA 1967

Official Nikon price list for the US in 1967:

Fix focal lenses – Fisheye

8mm 8,0 with finder – 459,50 $

Fix focal lenses

21mm 4,0 – 199,50 $, finder 12 $

28mm 3,5 – 159,50 $

35mm 2,8 – 149,50 $

35mm 3,5 PC – 239,50 $

50mm 1,4 – 149,95 $

50mm 2,0 – 87,95 $

55mm 3,5 Micro with extension ring M – 179,50 $

85mm 1,8 – 189,50 $

105mm 2,5 – 175,00 $

135mm 3,5 – 169,50 $

200mm 4,0 – 210,00 $

Medical 200mm 5,6 with AC & battery outfit – 599,50 $

300mm 4,5 non-ED – 279,00 $

500mm 5,0 Reflex – 530,00 $

1000mm 6,3 Reflex – 1750 $

Tele heads

400mm 4,5 – not listed

600mm 5,6 – 650,00 $

800mm 8,0 – 750,00 $

1200mm 11,0 – 950,00 $

Focus unit CU-1 – 199,50 $

Zoom

43-86mm 3,5 – 179,50 $

50-300mm 4,5 non-ED – not listed

85-250 4,0-4,5 – 515,00 $

200-600mm 9,5-10,5 – 515,00 $

Cameras (Body only)

Nikkormat FT Chrome – 183,50 $

F Chrome – 220,00 $

F Black – 239,50 $

F Photomic Chrome – 255,00 $

F Photomic Black – 274,50 $

List of AF-S lenses with ring and micro motor SWM

Nikon utilizes Silent Wave Motors (SWM) since 1996 after a short attempt with regular electric motors in the AF-I lenses from 1992. The Af-S 200mm 3,8 was the first lens to make use of the SWM motors.

In the first decade of AF-S motors only expensive lenses like long teles and professional zooms were equipped with this very silent and quick focus mechanism. In 2005 the first budget lens was released in the form of the DX 18-55mm 3,5-5,6.

Reason for this will most likely be the exclusive use of SWM ring motors up until then. This type motor requires space inside the lens due to the fact that it encloses the lens elements in a ring form. Also the manufacturing costs are rather high, what also can be seen having a look at the repair part prices.

The 18-55mm DX kit lens uses a SWM micro motor for the first time. This motor looks like a regular electric motor, but works also on the basis of ultrasonic waves. The torque is then transferred to the lens group via a gear mechanism. This gear mechanism can be easily heard when focusing with a micro motor AF-S lens.

Some of the very cheap micro motor lenses can also be identified by having a look at the focus switch on the lens barrel. They only provide an A/M switch instead of an AM/M switch and therefore do not provide permanent manual focus due to the gear mechanism. More expensive lenses with micro motor are equipped with a clutch that simulates the behavior of a ring type AF-S and provides permanent manual focus.

During the years micro motors have been used across the lens portfolio, even in more expensive lenses. Almost all AF-S fix focal lenses below 105mm only have micro motors, regardless of pricing.

For many users only the ring type provides the real AF-S experience. They are usually faster, quieter and provide the better manual focus feeling.
This was the reason for me to compile the below list of AF-S lenses, split by ring SWM or micro SWM. For some lenses I am not completely sure, they are marked with a question mark. If you can provide additional information on those, you are free to mail me at „info@”

The list also contains some surprises. The first DX kit lens, the 18-70mm 3,5-4,5 DX IF-ED also made use of a ring type motor. The two years older AF-S 24-85mm 3,5-4,5 G IF-ED without VR is a close cousin and also uses a ring SWM. The 18-70mm is most likely the lens with the highest production volume of any ring type AF-S Nikkor.
The second surprise is the AF-S 50mm 1,4 G. As only lens below 105mm it also features an ring SWM. Supposedly the development of this lens began before Nikon was able to build micro motor AF-S lenses with clutch.

Recently a new type of focus motor appeared with the AF-P lenses. All AF-P lenses are not listed below, since they can be recognized by the model name.

AF-S ring motor: SWM

50mm 1,4 G
105mm 2,8 G IF-ED VR Micro
200mm 2,0 G IF-ED VR and successor
300mm 4,0 D IF-ED and successor
300mm 2,8 D IF-ED and successor
400mm 2,8 D IF-ED and successor
500mm 4,0 D IF-ED and successor
600mm 4,0 D IF-ED and successor
800mm 5,6 E FL ED VR
8-15mm 3,5-4,5 E
14-24mm 2,8 G IF-ED
16-35mm 4,0 G IF-ED VR
17-35mm 2,8 D IF-ED
24-70mm 2,8 G ED and successor
24-85mm 3,5-4,5 G IF-ED
24-120mm 3,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR
28-70mm 2,8 D IF-ED
70-200mm 4,0 G IF-ED VR
80-200mm 2,8 D IF-ED
70-200mm 2,8 G IF-ED VR and successor
70-300mm 4,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR
80-400mm 4,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR and successor
200-400mm 4,0 G IF-ED VR and successor
(?) 10-24mm 3,5-4,5 G IF-ED DX
12-24mm 4,0 G IF-ED DX
17-55mm 2,8 G IF-ED DX
18-70mm 3,5-4,5 G IF-ED DX

AF-S micro motor: Micro SWM

20mm 1,8 G ED
24mm 1,4 G ED
24mm 1,8 G ED
28mm 1,8 G
28mm 1,4 E (?)
35mm 1,4 G
35mm 1,8 G ED
35mm 1,8 G DX
40mm 2,8 G Micro DX
50mm 1,8 G
(?) 58mm 1,4 G IF-ED
60mm 2,8 G IF-ED Micro
85mm 1,4 G
85mm 1,8 G
85mm 3,5 G Micro DX
105mm 1,4 E ED
24-85mm 3,5-4,5 G IF-ED VR
24-120mm 4,0 G IF-ED VR
28-300mm 3,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR
16-85mm 3,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR DX
16-80mm 2,8-4,0 E IF-ED VR DX
18-55mm 3,5-5,6 G ED DX and successor
18-105mm 3,5-4,5 G IF-ED VR DX
18-135mm 3,5-5,6 G IF-ED DX
18-140mm 3,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR DX
18-200mm 3,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR DX and successor (?: 1st version also micro SWM?)
18-300mm 3,5-5,6 G IF-ED VR DX
55-200mm 4,0-5,6 G ED DX and successor
55-300mm 4,5-5,6 G IF-ED DX

D500 – advantages, disadvantages and target audience

For many people a central question for the selection of the next camera is: FX or DX? Especially the current situation, where a D750 costs less than a D500 creates a lot of debate which to pick.

The advantages of the D500 are:

  • Autofocus: Without a doubt this is the main feature of the camera, which differentiates it from the direct competition. Especially tracking of moving subjects has been improved by a big margin, even compared to the D4/D4s generation. The huge spread of AF sensors across the frame, caused by the DX sensor size, is also a big plus for sports and wildlife photographers.
  • Frame rate and huge buffer (especially with XQD cards)
  • Camera body equipped with the button layout of the pro class (AF-on, 10 pin connector, round viewfinder). I did not write pro-body for a reason. The build quality is by far the best within the DX class, but compared to FX the D500 sits between the D750 and the D810. Time will tell if this is the new “pro” build quality level below the single digit bodies (D4, D5,…). The D500 has no bad build quality, far from that, but it is less massive and solid compared to a D810 or D300/D300s.

Absolute image quality and high ISO shooting are not the strong points of the D500. For DX the D500 represents for sure the optimum right now, but the FX competition cannot be denied. If you want the best image quality, there is no alternative to a FX camera. D810 and even D750 are better overall with cleaner images at all ISO levels.

So, what is the audience for the D500? People, who:

  • Need high continuous frame rate
  • Want to have the best AF right now and do not want to spend 7.000 € for a D5 or are not willing to wait for the next mid-class FX body generation.
  • Need a wide spread of AF sensors across the frame. In this regard the D500 will be in the lead within the Nikon system for quite some time.
  • Need the effect of the “DX tele converter”.

All of this puts the D500 in some sort of niche. Sports and wildlife photographers seem to be the main target group of the D500. High ISO enthusiasts better choose a used D4/D4s or Df, people in need of high resolution and the best overall picture quality the D810 (with some impact to the AF performance).

Nevertheless it is understandable that many photographers outside of the above mentioned groups are longing for a D500. She combines the best AF system to date with slight compromises in picture quality and high ISO performance. The pro control layout also might be a main factor for many people, especially compared to the D750. This also makes the D500 attractive as an additional body besides a D800/D810 or D4/D5.

The D500 has some issues, much like the D750 had at the start. The battery problem is currently solved by Nikon in a very customer friendly way by exchanging old EN-EL15 batteries with new ones. Three four year old batteries that I sent in were exchanged in less than one week by the Nikon service here in Germany without any issues.

Regarding SD cards the situation looks a bit different. The available firmware update is a workaround, which just diminishes the issues with UHS-II cards.

The D750 ha overcome those teething issues, which might be a factor for decision. In the end the individual preferences compared to the strengths and weaknesses of the different camera bodies are important. For me, the D500 is the ideal companion for a D800 and D4. Photographers, who might want to use only one camera body might favor a D750.

D500 – first impressions

After three days of intensive shooting with the D500 it is possible for me to draw the first conclusions. Regarding high ISO quality, focus performance, memory cards, battery lifetime and build quality a few topics are worth mentioning.

  • Image quality with high ISO values

The big revolution did not happen. The D500 is an evolution, for sure. However, the usable ISO values at the high end are not that higher than that of the D7200, despite the fact that the sensor packs 3,1 MP less pixel on the same area.

The high ISO performance of the D500 is about half a stop better than with the FX D700 of 2008. ISO 3200 looks a bit better on the D500 than it does on the D700. Die In comparison to its direct DX predecessor D300s, a huge gain of about 2 stops can be seen.

The often used comparison with FX is not entirely legit. The new DX sensor does not show that much noise at high ISO values compared to an 8 year old FX body, however uniform areas like blue sky show a little bit more noise (luminance grain) than with an FX sensor. At about ISO 400 the grain can be seen on the D400, which would start to appear on a D4 at ISO 1600.

DX is therefore no direct competitor to FX when it comes to noise performance, which should not come as a surprise. A D4/D4s wins easily against the D500 across the entire ISO range in the noise department.

My maximum setting for the Auto-ISO is 3200, above that the increasing noise does not satisfy my needs for image quality. Als maximalen Wert für die Auto-IOS Funktion habe ich derzeit ISO 3200 gesetzt. ISO 6400 and 12800 are usable with the help of post processing. Especially the increased color accuracy at higher ISO values helps.

  • Autofocus

The new focus module in combination with the 10 frames per second shooting is by far the biggest selling point for the D500. The increased number of cross-type sensors and the coverage of the frame in horizontal direction put the 500 in front of many other cameras.

In my opinion a camera has to be used extensively and for a longer period of time to draw valid conclusions. Therefore, I am not able to tell where the focus module stands in regard to speed, accuracy and tracking yet.

Compared to all other DX cameras, the D500 should be clearly in the lead, also in competition to the FX cameras up the D3 and D800. From personal experience I am comfortable to say that the D500 is at least on the D4 when it comes to focus speed and tracking performance. It is not possible for me to say if she is actually better, yet.

  • Memory Cards

Shortly after the first cameras shipped, the first problems regarding UHS-II SD cards surfaced. The main focus currently lies on Lexar cards of the latest 1000x and 2000x generation. The D500 suddenly displays a message, that the card is damaged and can not be used.

Not only Lexar UHS-II cards are affected. Also a Transcend 64 GB card with the write speed specification of 180 MB/s showed the same error. Shutting the camera off and on cures the problem most of the time.

In my opinion Nikon made an error during UHS-II implementation or interpreted tolerances too tightly. UHS-II cards of SanDisk or Toshiba seem to work fine currently. Nevertheless I would only buy fast UHS-I cards for the time being until a solution for this issue is identified.

This leaves the usage of a single XQD card as the only option to utilize the full speed of the camera.

  • Battery lifetime

A rather not welcome change is related to the power management. D300 and D300s needed the bigger EN-EL4 battery or 8 AA cells in the battery grip to achieve 8 fps. For the D500 the target of the Nikon engineers seems to have been the achievement of 10 fps with the help of a single EN-El15 battery.

The D500 is very sensitive when it comes to the reported voltage of the battery and obviously has a much earlier voltage cutoff than older cameras. Additionally, most of the 3rd party EN-El15 clones do not work.

The theory floats around in the Internet that there are two different variants of genuine Nikon EN-EL15 batteries marked with Li-Ion01 and Li-ion20. The latter are shipping with the D500. If Nikon should really have changed the batteries internally, this would be a rather unusual step.

Spec-wise changed batteries were always introduced as a revision of the old: EN-EL4/En-EL4a, EN-EL18/EN-EL18a. Nikon should have introduced – if the theory is true – a new revision like an EN-EL15a and make this the recommended battery for the D500. This will stay under close observation for the time being.

The battery grip MB-D17 behaves different. All my third party EN-El18 worked fine, even the DSTE ones with included battery cover which were purchased for the MB-D12 of the D800.

  • Build quality

On the positive side, Nikon does all they can to reduce the weight of its equipment. The combination of D500 + MB-D17 weighs 100g less than the D300 + MB-D10. The major part of approx. 75g is contributed by the D500 despite the fact that a swiveling monitor has been included.

On the negative side it can be said that camera and battery grip make a less solid impression than the D300 generation. The difference is bigger than with the migration from D700 to D800. Nevertheless, the D500 has a very high build quality and can be called solid.

The MB-D17 is a bit of a disappointment. A much higher cost than a MB-D12 or MB-D10 at the time of introduction and a weight saving of just 20g gives you a grip that feels less solid than the before mentioned models.

A more subtle change is affecting the grip rubber of D500 and MB-D17. The material is a bit harder than with D300, D700, D800 and the single digit bodies. Nikon started this with the D750 and time will tell if bent and loose rubbers are now a thing of the past.

  • Conclusion

All in all the D500 is a very good camera and can be recommended. All the main aspects of the three digit model series are being taken forward. In light of the D750 and reduced prices on the D810 the decision for the D500 might be a bit hard. If you are looking for speed, the D500 is the choice unless you spend much more for a single digit body.

Users of D4 and D4s – if AF coverage is not a topic- do not need to consider a switch. AF is sufficient on the former pro models and only the D5 is leaping forward in regard to high ISO performance.

© 2017 Dennis Saßmannshausen Photography

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