(news & commentary)
You'll find lots of sites hyping Nikon's latest rebates in order to collect affiliate fees, but none really tell you whether you should be excited about these lenses or not. As usual, before I present an affiliate link you can use to help this site, I'm going to tell you what you should think of each of the deals. None of these lens rebates require that you purchase a camera.
- 28mm f/1.8G US$100 rebate — This is a fine lens with no real issues other than perhaps some field curvature you need to be aware of. It's one of my recommended FX prime trio (28, 50, 85 f/1.8) for those on a budget, and the discount is substantial here, almost 15% off. Definitely pick one of these up if you need the optic.
- 35mm f/1.8G US$100 rebate — Another fine lens with no real issues, though you can find slightly sharper 35mm’s out there. Many people don’t like to go as wide as my 24/28mm prime suggestion; this is the lens for them. The discount is also substantial here, 17% off. Pick one of these up if you need the optic.
- 35mm f/1.8G DX US$20 rebate — No questions asked: if you’re a DX owner and don’t have this lens in your shooting arsenal, shame on you. Yes, I know you’ve got 35mm (about “normal” for DX) covered with your kit lens, but you’re giving up at least two stops and some sharpness, all to save less than US$200. If you ever go above ISO 1600 at near normal focal lengths, you need this lens. Not a large discount, but still approaching 10%.
- 40mm f/2.8G DX US$30 rebate — A lot of folk buy this lens, but be aware that macro 1:1 with this lens has virtually no working space in front of the lens. Consider it a close focusing 40mm more than a macro lens. If you really want a more useful macro lens for DX, the 85mm f/3.5 probably what you want. Skip.
- 50mm f/1.8G US$20 rebate — Not a large rebate, but not an expensive lens to start with. Frankly, I tend to like the f/1.8 better than all the other choices at FX normal. You pay a lot more for very little more optical performance when you opt for one of the f/1.4 lenses, especially the 58mm. If you don't have a fast FX normal, this is a cheap enough lens you can fill that gap with something pretty darned good.
- 50mm f/1.4G US$100 rebate — See what I just wrote about with the f/1.8G. With the rebates you'll pay twice as much for the f/1.4 and get very little more. At f/2.8 these lenses are nearly identical, and at f/2 they've very close. So you really have to need that extra fraction of a stop to warrant paying extra money. Low light shooters might want to opt for it, others should get the f/1.8G.
- 85mm f/1.8G US$50 rebate — Yep, all three of my budget prime recommendations are on sale. At US$450, this is almost a no-brainer. This is one heck of a good lens for that price.
- 85mm f/1.4G US$200 rebate — Same thing as with the 50mm pair: if you’re shooting at f/2.8 and smaller, buy the cheaper f/1.8 lens because you’re really not going to notice a difference. At f/2, small difference. Plus, of course, you can go to f/1.4. Low light shooters might want to opt for it, others should get the f/1.8G.
- 105mm f/2.8G US$185 — This is a classic lens, and quite a good one, at that. It's probably Nikon's best macro lens in modern form at the moment, and with the price now down under US$800, it's definitely on sale (about 20% off). Well worth considering.
- 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DX US$100 rebate — Over time I moved away from the Sigma wide angle zooms to this one, simply because it's reasonably well-behaved. All the wide angle zooms for DX have weaknesses, especially in the corners, but this was my go-to landscape lens for DX for quite some time. If you need a wide angle for indoor use, consider the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 instead. Otherwise, this is probably the lens that should be in your kit.
- 14-24mm f/2.8G US$200 rebate — Not normally a lens Nikon discounts, and a classic optic that many pros love. If you need it, this is the best price we’ve seen recently.
- 16-35mm f/4G US$260 rebate — The discount moves this lens under the US$1000 mark. Sharpness is very good, and so are most of the other characteristics except for one: linear distortion is highly visible if you don't correct for it. Still, I find myself using this lens far more than my 14-24mm these days because it takes filters and is smaller. The VR is just another small plus.
- 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 DX US$100 rebate** — Still the mid-range zoom of choice for DX bodies, at least from Nikon. Another 15% off lens, it's worth considering even if you have the pretty good 18-105mm. Personally, I find the extra 2mm at the wide end much more useful than the missing 20mm at the long end. Moreover, the 16-85mm is a bit sharper and better behaved overall. Note: this is a lens that is rumored to be replaced soon. My guess is that any replacement would be far more costly than the US$600 price now on this lens. Far more.
- 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 DX US$100 rebate — If you're still back on the 12mp or lower count DSLRs and need a convenience lens, maybe. But if you're on the 16mp or 24mp DSLRs, this lens is showing its warts now. You just won't get the snap in the results that the cameras are capable of. Also, a far lower rebate than last year. Skip.
- 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 DX US$100 rebate — I’m not a fan of the supersuperzooms. Yes, you never change lenses. No, they don’t go very wide. Yes, they have optical issues that show up with the higher megapixel counts. Skip.
- 24-70mm f/2.8G US$200 rebate — Let’s start with this: I sold my 24-70mm f/2.8. I just don’t think it lives well in the modern world. Yes, it’s optically decent, but there are plenty of lenses that beat it on the D810 in this focal range, so it’s showing age in the optics. No it doesn’t have VR, while most of its competitors, even from Nikon, do. It’s big, heavy, and the lens has been prone to a number of issues over the years (e.g. light leaks around the focus distance scale). While the rebate is a decent 10%+, it just seems like a lot of money to pay for a lens we’re all expecting to be replaced soon.
- Multiple 70-200mm zooms: 70-200mm f/4G (US$200 rebate), 70-200mm f/2.8G (US$300 rebate) — I really like the f/4 version. Smaller and lighter, very accomplished optics with no real issues, and easier to AF Fine Tune than the f/2.8 optic. At this price it’s getting close to “no brainer” decision time. The f/2.8 version, however, has a lot of warts to it (focal length breathing, for one), and really needs redesign. Even with the discount I don’t consider it a bargain. If you need it, obviously a 12%+ discount is nothing to scoff at. But I rarely shoot with this lens now that the f/4 is out unless I absolutely need f/2.8.
- 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 US$400 rebate — When I saw this pop up on the list year, I thought it had to be the older, non AF-S version. But no, it's the latest and greatest. This is a really good lens, far better than the original, and actually functionally good at 400mm on cameras with high pixel densities such as the D7100 and D810. No, it doesn't match the 400mm f/2.8, and not even the 200-400mm f/4, but that said it's actually quite good at 400mm. Strongly consider this lens at this price.
Some observations about this year’s rebates:
- None of them are higher than last year’s. Say what? Didn’t the yen decline against the dollar? Nikon is playing the US market once again with pricing. They seem reluctant to establish any lower-than-before price.
- The Pro Zoom Trio is on sale. All three f/2.8 zooms have discounts for the first time in a long time. At least one, and probably two, are in need to of redesigns, too. Given this is a pro-body intro year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of these lenses replaced/updated within 12 months.
- Some lenses are missing. The FX mid-range zooms other than the 24-70mm aren’t present this time. Nikon’s still hawking discounts with them bundled with a body, but not individually. Yeah, that’s not subtle. The 80-200mm disappearing off the rebate list tells me this lens probably isn’t long for the world; once supplies run out, it’ll probably be discontinued.
- February lens sales seem the norm. This makes at least four years running that NikonUSA has had lens-only rebates in the after-Christmas period. Thus, watch me declare that to be established practice only for NikonUSA to abandon it next year ;~).
- These rebates don’t last long. All rebates expire at the end of February. At least if Nikon manages to sell enough to make their quarterly numbers ;~).
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