Lens Lust

Lens Lust strikes hard and fast. I've been on a buying spree lately and expanding my collection with new primes and an upgrade.

If you've spent any time as a photographer using more than a point & shoot camera. you've experienced lens lust. It's that feeling of intense desire when you see a delightful hunk of glass. When you look at a photo and see beautiful bokeh that isolates your subject and you realize that your lens won't do it, you start to feel lens lust. You think of the capabilities, then possibilities, and then you want. It's good to want.

My Lens Lust Story

Lens lust doesn't strike everyone the same way. There are those who start out lusting for primes (foxed focal length lenses) and those who start lusting for zooms. I took the latter path with zooms, as perhaps most people do. They're flexible and work in more situations than primes. The kit lens with my old Nikon D70 was a short zoom, 18-70 if I remember. Not a bad lens, but nothing spectacular. I wanted more.

The first time I truly caught lens lust was for the brand new Nikon 18-200mm VR super zoom lens. It was hard to find and I made a critical mistake. I bought from a disreputable dealer in New York. Nobody else had the lens and I didn't know about all of the scammers in the photo sales business. I wanted and they had it – for a considerable markup. Fortunately, I since learned there are reputable dealers you can trust in New York, like B&H Photo Video.

I paid 150% for the retail price and ended up with an imported model. Didn't know at the time about the lack of warranty on imports – 90 days vs. 5 years for an authorized Nikon USA lens. Once I had it, my heart rang out. All I could think was “I will keep him and love him and call him George.” I took this lens everywhere because I didn't need any other stinking lens. This one did it all!

So I thought, anyway. It was a variable aperture lens and definitely not fast glass. Ultimately, it died in San Francisco on May 5, 2008 at the Cliff House. I sat down in a booth and decided to clean my lenses before dinner arrived. As I turned my lens over to clean the back side, I heard the sound of glass cracking. The front element had quite literally fallen out and hit the hard floor below. It was a heart-wrenching realization when I heard that sound. So much for my favorite lens.

Note: There's a revised version of the 18-200mm lens now.

New and Improved Lens Lust

After that, I learned a few things from using that Nikon 18-200mm lens. First, using a super zoom was putting all my eggs in one basket. If you break the only lens you brought, then you're no longer a photographer. Next, it really didn't have the greatest image quality. There was plenty of distortion and the bokeh was not going to win any prizes. Finally, it sucked at low light images if anything was moving. The VR really worked great if everything was still, but VR does nothing to raise your shutter speed. If I wanted to take low-light photos of something in motion, I needed faster glass.

I started collecting three zoom lenses that become known as The Holy Trinity of Nikon. Starting on the long end and working my way back, I bought:

All of these were fixed aperture zoom lenses, which meant they kept a constant best aperture of f/2.8 through their entire focal length range. Every single one of them is outstanding, too. Great image quality and fast enough for low-light photography. If one of them should break, I'm not out of business because I'd still have the others to use. Unlike the 18-200mm and its plastic body, these lenses are built tough enough to use as a club.

They're professional grade lenses, each capable of creating great results.

Lens Lust

U.S. Capitol building reflected in glass

Alone with Lincoln

Learning to Lens Lust Again

I thought I was happy. My focal lengths were covered, I had f/2.8 glass that was fast enough and all was right with the world. Then Nikon did something I've never known them to do before. They advertised a sale on lenses without the need to buy a camera body to get the discount. You may have seen me mention this before because I bought the Nikon 85mm f/1.4g from that sale. Saved me $200 off the regular list price.  That's an important thing to notice. You don't pay attention to how much you pay, but rather how much you saved. Limited time sale, big discounts – who could resist it?

Two things conspired to make me part with more of my money. First, the Nikon Lens Specials were extended to March 31st, so there was more time to buy more glass. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I was bitten by the shallow DOF bug of shooting at f/1.4. I got bokeh and I wanted more.

Lens Lust must be like being an addict. A little is never enough. I decided it was time to complete Nikon's Prime Trilogy and order the Nikon 24mm f/1.4g and Nikon 35mm f/1.4g lenses. Shooting the 85mm was great, but I wanted wider angles and closer focusing than it allowed. That doesn't mean I no longer love my zooms, but this shallow depth of field is a new arsenal in my toolkit and it must be complete!

Lens Lust

Shooting at f/1.4 with shallow depth of field gives you another tool to isolate your subject. The eye prefers sharpness to fuzziness. Which one of those terra cotta warriors demands your attention?  The one I want. That's right, I just manipulated you. It felt good. I want to do it again. I want to do it in more ways. That's what drives my lens lust. You gotta wanna!

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

I realized there was something else I wanted, too. As much as I loved my Nikon 70-200mm lens, it was revised a couple of years ago to a new version with better VR, less vignetting and more sharpness. It's not a cheap lens by any stretch of the imagination, typically running about $2400. However, it was on sale for a $300 discount until the end of the month. If I ever planned to get the new version, now was the time.

So on Monday evening, I sold my beloved original version of the 70-200mm to a friend who is thrilled to have it (and not pay as much as the new one), and my new version of the lens just arrived on Tuesday. I love that new lens smell.

An Extreme Case of Lens Lust

I've never bought four new lenses in the span of a couple of weeks before, but I just couldn't resist the opportunity to get them with these discounts. Remember, I said that I won't think about how much I paid. Instead, I'm thinking about the $900 I saved (or didn't pay) to buy these lenses during the Nikon Lens Specials period. That's enough savings to buy another lens, too!

There are still a few other lenses on my list.  I want the Nikon 105mm VR for macro and portraits. I also want the Nikon 16mm Fisheye. One of my old DX lenses was the Nikon 10.5mm  fisheye and it was a lot of fun. Those two lenses, sadly, were not on the discount list. I felt it was best to take advantage of the sales while I could, because it's over after the end of this month.

Give in to your lens lust. It's good to want, but it's better to have.

6 thoughts on “Lens Lust”

  1. This is a very timely post as I too am having a hard time with lens lust. For me it’s the Canon 24-70 2.8 II that’s been calling my name for over a year. It is also discounted by $200 until 31 Mar. I’m gonna have to resist though as sequestration furloughs are looming and will take a big bite out of the lens lust fund.

    1. I got “sequestered” out of Lockheed Martin at the end of 2011 by a Presidential Directive, so I can understand your concern. Good luck on the job front.

      For what it’s worth, I’m a lot happier now that I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. As for the 24-70, it’s a great range to have in a lens.

      1. Thank for the well wishes. I’ll be fine on the job front. As a federal civilian, the sequestration furlough (for me) will mean about a 25% pay cut for the next 6 months. Not good by any means, but not catastrophic. But it will dampen my ability to satisfy my lens lust.

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