Hi everyone, I'm among the lucky ones who've managed to get one of these little babies, so I thought I'd tell you guys what I think of it.
I just got it yesterday evening (a friend of my mother was kind enough to bring it to me from the States for about 150 euros!
) so I've just had time to do a quick test at home, more than enough to turn me into a true believer though! Let me tell you, this little one is a must-have for everyone owning a DX camera (and not thinking about switching to FX, of course).
did a great description of the lens a while ago so I won't extend myself much here:
Just for starters, after attaching it for the first time to my D40 I decided I'm definitively NOT buying another lens with a plastic mount (the more after the mount of my 18-55 broke). I really don't know how to describe it, but the feedback a metal mount lens gives you when you attach it to the body is so much more reassuring.
Besides, this lens really feels like a few steps forward in terms of build quality from the 18-55, not just because of the metal mount and weather sealing, it's everything, maybe having less moving parts than a zoom helps, whatever it is, it feels quite a bit more rough. In a somewhat lesser degree, it also beats the 55-200VR.
It's a true AF-S, which means quieter and faster focusing (it takes about a second to go from closest focusing distance to infinity and back) along with permanent manual override, speaking of which, the focusing ring is a joy to use, it's fairly damped and turns about 150 degrees, which gives you plenty of room for fine-tuning, at least when compared to my 18-55 or my 55-200. I know the relatively small viewfinder of the D40 doesn't help much, but manual focusing is a lot more comfortable than with my other lenses, a real joy to use, I reckon it gets even better when attached to a D80/90 or a D200/300 with those bigger and brighter viewfinders.
Also, that f/1.8 aperture does show even on the relatively darker D40's viewfinder, the difference is quite noticeable, particularly indoors or when it starts to get darker.
But enough of look&feel here, let's get to optical performance, granted my D40 is no benchmark for sharpness nowadays, but still, it was quite capable of showing what this lens can do. My tests were focused on sharpness and bokeh, so let's get to it
Allow me to introduce our test model this evening: This is Frika (should be pronounced as 'freakah' in English), an utterly charming lovebird we found lost almost a year ago, the little lass was desperate, starved and very thirsty on the roof in front of our house, she came on her own accord to my sister's hand who happened to be in the garden at that moment, surely, the poor thing got lost from her previous owners. I'd always been reluctant to own birds since I strongly believe their place is in the skies, but we soon found out these particular birds are bred indoors and won't survive on their own so releasing her was out of the question (I guess that's how she ended on my sister's hand in the first place). Back to the point, I thought her fine feathers would do nicely to test sharpness.
All shots were made in aperture priority mode at ISO 200 (base sensitivity of the D40), also, all images were converted from RAW with no PP whatsoever. You may click on all images for a larger size version.
In the first shot here she can bee seen in her cage (F/2.8 - 1/160s). You can see the shallow DOF here and the very pleasing bokeh this lens produces:
As for sharpness, here's a 100% of Frika's body, the areas in focus are absolutely tack sharp and show a great deal of detail:
Here's another 100% crop of the top bars of the cage that, IMHO, shows very nicely how bokeh evolves as objects move further from the focused area:
Here's another test, this shot was taken a few minutes later than the first one, this time with the aperture wide open (F/1.8 - 1/100s). The shot was taken indoors with all natural light (it was rainy outside). Even as some reviews have already pointed out, the bokeh is a bit more nervous than at F/2.8, but it still looks very nice to me, perfectly usable if you need to shoot at F/1.8 for whatever reason:
As for sharpness, here's another 100% crop of Frika, notice that at F/1.8 no even the whole body of the little lass is in focus, however, the lens seems perfectly calibrated, the focus point was on her face and just there you can see it's tack sharp again:
Thumbs up for Frika! Now let's take a look at some outdoor shots. This was taken from our terrace, you can see a small pine we have there on a nicely blurred background (F/2.8 - 1/1000s):
Another 100% crop in which some out of focus highlights created by rain drops can be seen:
Another crop from a similar shot in which I tried to get the rain drop in sharp focus:
Last, but not least, a demonstration on how the lens behaves in a deep DOF situation (F/11 - 1/100s), the setting sun overexposes the western sky a bit, but otherwise very good contrast and very sharp (focus point was at the chimney right behind the pine):
Well, I think this will do for now, let me know what you think!
I'll add some size comparison shots with the 18-55 and 18-70 ASAP and if any of you guys have any suggestion, I'd happily comply if I can!