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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Two Exciting New Lenses

Two really exciting new lenses for reduced-sensor-size cameras have been introduced within the past couple of weeks. Canon's EF-S 17-55mm ƒ/2.8 IS USM (right) is just exactly the lens a number of XT/350 and 20D shooters have been waiting for, at least since Nikon introduced its extremely popular 17-55mm ƒ/2.8 two and a half years ago. For guys like me who shoot portraits and some product shots but otherwise don't have a lot of need for telephotos, the range of these lenses is ideal, and the speed and constant aperture strike a great compromise with the lenses' size and weight. That Canon's offering includes its extremely useful (and, for me, must-have) Image Stabilization (IS) capability is a plus that vaults it ahead of the established Nikon offering.

Tamron's new SP AF17-50mm ƒ/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical [IF] (top) is a poor(er) man's version of the Nikon lens. I've been shooting with Tamron's 28-75mm lens for some time now (actually the K-M branded version), and even as a zoomaphobic lens snob I have to say I've been very impressed with it. It's a truly good lens, even a great one. I can home in on the optical flaws of lenses like a truffle-snuffling pig in the woods, but even I have a hard time making that Tamron look bad.

Nikon and Canon shooters won't get IS with the Tamron lens. But therein lies a tale. Ideal though the Canon lens may be, its anticipated sale price of $1150 is a possible Achilles' heel. Now, I've always hated it when camera reviewers and product news blips tell us how to feel about prices. Let's face it: how any of us see prices is up to us as individuals. For some people, $1150 for a camera lens is out of the question; for others, it's no more of a concern than paying for a meal; and a lot of others fall somewhere in between. But for those DSLR buyers looking for a bargain and willing to take a flier on what is admittedly a second-tier brand with some (albeit slight) uncertainties attached to its future, the Konica-Minolta 5D body at $570 and 7D body at $935 are hundreds of dollars less than their Canon XT/350 and 20D counterparts—yet both have Anti-Shake (AS, K-M's version of IS) built into the bodies. The price of the new Tamron lens has not been announced or listed yet as far as I know, but it is highly likely to be somewhere between 1/3rd and 1/2 of the price of the Canon EF-S—for virtually the same functionality if you use it on one of the K-Ms. Might be something to think about.

In any event, assuming the performance of Canon's 17-55mm can match its Nikon competition, and Tamron's 17-50mm is in the same league with its own 28-75mm, then both these lenses will usefully expand consumers' options for this highly useful lens specification.



Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

You have a very good point about the Konica-Minolta. I'll indeed think about it.

I don't get why neither Canon nor Nikon have yet introduced a body with built in stabilization.

I may get the new Nikon Coolpix S3, it has it. And I find to my surprise that I make better pictures when I compose on an LCD screen than in an SLR viewfinder! (See my post on

1:11 PM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Oooh, ooh: How effective would you say the KM stabilization is? Two stops?

1:14 PM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Oops, I meant "Nikon Coolpix P3".
(Is there a way to edit these comments?)

2:01 PM  
Blogger wheatridger said...

Back when Canon introduced, it made sense to do it in the lens. That allowed film cameras to share the feature. Now that digital is on top, it matters less that AntiShake will never be usable on a film Maxxum. But I'm sure I prefer KM's approach. Acting on Mike's testimony as much as any other resource, I purchased a 7d recently. It took surprising little time and money to assemble a set of lenses, incl 28-85 and 70-210 (the good one) and a fast 50, for under $200 for the bunch. (Here's a secret- pawn shop dealers have no idea of what's happened to Minolta AF lens prices lately.)

11:52 PM  

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