Another Trend to Consider

(commentary)

By now you've probably noticed that virtually every photography site and blog has a link farm to Nikon's new lens rebates (18 lenses with instant discounts of US$20 to US$350). That's usually all they have. Indeed, many of those sites are in violation of FTC regulations in not clearly disclosing financial relationships for links in what appears to be a blog posting or news story. In essence, those posts are just ads. 

What you really need is a guide to what lenses make sense at these new prices (my apologies to you outside the US; these are NikonUSA instant rebates). So, without any commercial intent, here's something a bit more useful than just a bunch of affiliate links (regular price is from NikonUSA, B&H price is current as of 2/18/2013):

Lens Regular Price Instant Savings

B&H Price

Thom's Commentary
24mm f/1.4G US$2199 US$200 US$1799 Still a bit pricey, but definitely now in a territory that's going to get some new buyers. I like this lens, but I don't love it. Y
28mm f/1.8G US$699 US$100 ? Well worth it at the old price, definitely a strong choice for most people at the new price. As I've noted before, a set of f/1.8G primes makes a lot of sense for new-to-FX users, and at these prices much easier to get. X
35mm f/1.4G US$1799 US$200 US$1449 Nah. Needs a bigger discount to get me. First, there's the 35mm focal length, which is a bit too weakly wide. But then there's the superb new Sigma f/1.4DG, which is still US$600 cheaper and better optically. Y
50mm f/1.4G US$484 US$100 US$384 A very good price, but you really have to consider whether you need the extra 2/3 stop for double the price. Most people don't, and my sample of the f/1.8G is better than my f/1.4G. See next.
50mm f/1.8G US$219 US$20 US$196 A 50mm for <US$200 that's sharp and reliable? A pretty good bargain. But this lens has always been one of the better prime bargains; it's just gotten a bit better. X
60mm f/2.8G US$599 US$100 US$459 The price is right, but is the lens? At 1:1 the working distance on this lens is ridiculously short. A lot of consumers buy this lens because they never really get to 1:1, they just want a normal lens that focuses closer. Most folk are better off with a 90-105mm macro, IMHO. Pass.
85mm f/1.4G US$1699 US$200 US$1399 Look at the price difference between this and the next lens. Is it worth it for 2/3 of a stop? No. Y
85mm f/1.8G US$499 US$100 US$396 A huge bargain at the new price. Especially compared to the f/1.4G. Most of the optically for very little of the price. This really should be the 85mm prime choice for most shooters. X
85mm f/3.5G DX US$529 US$100 US$426 A better choice than the 60mm for DX users, probably.
16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G DX US$699 US$100 US$549 Get one now. At the moment, this is optically the best of the mid-range zooms for the 16mp and 24mp DX cameras, bar none. If you're buying that kind of body, you want an optically good lens. Z
18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G DX US$849 US$250 US$596 The price looks tempting, but pass. This lens had its day with the 6mp and 10mp cameras, but shows its weaknesses clearly on the 16mp and 24mp cameras Nikon's been putting out recently. See next.
18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G DX US$999 US$300 US$696 Still not a huge fan, but if you're going the convenience route this lens makes a tiny bit more sense.
24-70mm f/2.8G US$1889 US$200 US$1686 A workhorse in the FX bags. It's a very good lens, but it lacks VR and it's weaker than the f/1.8 primes, which is one reason why I tend to suggest new FX buyers pick up something like the 24-120mm for convenience, and the f/1.8G primes for optical quality. Z
24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G US$599 US$100 US$496 On a D3, D3s, D4, D700, or D600, this is a good lens to consider. Optically, it's about right for those cameras, and on a D600 it's nearly the perfect kit lens.
24-120mm f/4G US$1299 US$300 US$996 D800/D800E users would want this over the 24-85mm, I think. It's a step up optically, which that 36mp sensor will greatly appreciate. The more I use this lens, the more impressed I am with it's well rounded performance. X
28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G US$1049 US$250 US$896 I'm not a fan of the superzooms, as most of you know. This is about as good as superzooms get, but on the high pixel count FX bodies these days, you push right into diffraction territory very quickly, amongst other problems. Ironically, I've found this lens works great on a Nikon V1.
70-200mm f/2.8G US$2399 US$300 US$2096 The discount puts this lens back closer to the pricing level of the lens it replaced. The 70-200mm is a stable in most lens kits, so any discount is welcome, and those opting for third party versions now have to take a closer look at Nikon's offering. X
80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D US$1649 US$350 US$1396 Are you a gambler? This is one of the lenses most likely to be replaced (the 16-85mm DX and 24-70mm are others) on Nikon's current discount list. You have to wonder if they're on the list to clear out old stock, or if Nikon is just trying to sell more lenses. Z


The discounts are effective through March 2nd. Whether they'll be extended is unclear at the moment. I suspect it depends upon how many of you start snapping these lenses up and if that runs NikonUSA up to the unit quantities that Japan is hoping for to get their last quarter fiscal numbers in line with projections. If Nikon runs low on stock or the unit volume meets expectations, expect the discounts to disappear. If they don't, expect them to extend. Which opens up the possibility that some lenses fall off the discount platform on March 2nd while others stay.

You may have noticed the X, Y, Z markers in the table. Given what I just wrote, here's what they mean:

  • X — Lens I would consider highest likelihood to see go off discount on March 2nd, or go to a smaller discount.
  • Y — Low volume lenses. Production of these lenses are low and come in waves, so if they start to go out of stock, it's not likely that the discounts on them will continue. On the other hand, if they stay in stock, it's likely the discounts would continue as Nikon doesn't want these to slowly pile up.
  • Z — Lens with a reasonably high likelihood of being replaced in 2013. 


So while those other sites were fast to post lots of affiliate links, the above is what you really wanted to know. Good and useful content sometimes takes a bit longer to produce.

One final comment: with only 4 of the 18 lenses on the list being DX, once again we have Nikon pushing their FX line. They've been doing that pretty heavily for a year now. One reason for this is that even a modest bump in FX sales gets average selling price up (makes up for all those US$99 Coolpix piling up on shelves). I happen to like Nikon's FX offerings at the moment (okay, I'm lukewarm on the D4, but it's still a fine camera). 

But DX owners surely must not be feeling the love at the moment. Given that they're largest DSLR installed base Nikon has, that neglect needs to end soon or it will have disastrous consequences long term. "Here, have a superzoom" doesn't cut it. As I outlined late last year there is so much DX gear missing in action that this has to be intentional. Nikon needs to stop shooting themselves in the foot over and over. At some point, the damage will be permanent.

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