My precious "uptight" lens
By Richard Seah
12 Jul 2009
Should I sell my precious "uptight" lens?
The thought of it made me feel oh so ungrateful. For this Nikkor 75-300 zoom has given me more than 90 percent of my images, including many of my best.
I shoot predominantly with this lens because it fits my "uptight" - close up / tight cropping - style.
At concerts, it allows me to reach up close to the drummer at the back of the stage. Or, in more intimate concert settings, it allows me to reveal the full details of the artiste's expression.
At the lotus pond, well, my precious makes it unnecessary for me to wade into the muddy waters for a close-up. At the bird park, it allows me to create abstracts from mere feathers.
And wherever I am, my precious lets me zoom in on my favorite subject - photographs of hands.
This is a great lens. Actually, I did not know how great it was when I first bought it, used, in 2004 for just over S$300 (approx US$215). At that time, it was simply a good zoom lens that I could afford, my first original Nikon telephoto zoom instead of those cheap, third party lenses.
But I soon discovered that when things go right, the lens is incredibly sharp. I saw this again recently when I photographed a beautiful violist, but ended up noticing how beautiful the wood grain of her viola was.
The bokeh is beautiful too, as revealed in a recent shot of a cattle egret, shot against a bright background.
Then I read reviewer Ken Rockwell heap praises on it, proclaiming it to be "by far the better lens" compared with later versions of equivalent lenses from Nikon. Some of the newer lenses, Rockwell said, "have awful distortion".
From the viewpoint of affordability and usefulness, this is truly one great lens. So why did I seriously consider selling it?
Ironically, it was because three images taken with this lens, together with a fourth taken with my cheapo Nikon 18-55 zoom, recently won me the Photographer of the Year award in a contest organised by the Ngee Ann Cultural Centre in Singapore. That win - the prize money that came with it - made me seriously think about "upgrading" it. Because for all its greatness, my precious Nikkor 75-300 zoom lacks one thing: VR, vibration reduction.
My photography buddy Larry - who owns the same, equally precious Fuji S5 Pro body as I - recently bought the Nikkor 70-300 VR zoom. We were having our usual teh halia (ginger tea) one evening when I decided to try out his new toy.
I took a shot of a lock on the door about 15 metres across the road from us. The light was dim and I needed a shutter speed of 1/15 second. The lock shot with my precious lens was a messy blur. The one with my buddy's VR lens... I could read the lettering on the it!
Wow! What had I been missing?
And so for the next few weeks, I struggled with my guilt feelings. I really felt so ungrateful for my precious. I half toyed with the idea of keeping it just for sentimental reasons, knowing full well that once I buy the VR lens, I will never want to use my precious lens again.
But if I sell, I don't think I can get much money from it. Around that time, someone advertised on the local photography forum exactly the same lens, asking for a mere S$150! I wrote to the person to inform that the lens is worth a lot more!
"Thanks. I am just selling on behalf of a friend," the advertiser replied. "She finds it slow in focusing and just wants to get rid of it quick."
Sheesh! Some people just don't appreciate how precious this lens is. Still, I wrestled with the thought. Should I also sell it?
For now, the situation has resolved itself. After paying various bills, I have all but spent my prize money. So I won't be buying the VR yet. I am still keeping my precious.