The Current Issue
Nikon Owner Issue 16
DX DELIGHT by Simon Stafford
Simon Stafford takes a close look at the AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED the mid-range zoom for Nikon’s D-SLR cameras.
The AF-S DX 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED is to a Nikon digital SLR what the venerable AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8D is to a Nikon film camera – a fast, mid-range focal length zoom. I have to say that until recently the moderate wide-angle to short telephoto zoom lens has never been a particular favourite of mine, because I tend to prefer more extreme focal lengths but for many photographers this sort of lens tends to find a near permanent home on their camera, so it is an important addition to the Nikkor stable.
Over the past couple of years a majority of my photography has been done digitally, and during this period my AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8D (often paired with an AF-S DX 12-24mm f/4G) had enjoyed something of a renaissance on the likes of the D1X, D100, D70, and most recently the D2X.
Alas, following an unscheduled collision with a small piece of Mount Norquay during a trip to the Canadian Rockies a few months ago it is now performing sterling service as a paper weight on my desk at home, which, unfortunately, is where it will stay following the sympathetic but none the less forthright words uttered by a Nikon technician who declared it was beyond viable repair!
Presented with an opportunity to replace my damaged AF-S 28-70mm I decided to take a close look at the AF-S DX 17-55mm, as I had been very impressed by it when I first tried this lens near the end of 2003.
In rounded figures 17mm to 55mm represents a focal length range equivalent to 26mm to 85mm on the 135-film format (remember the 1.5x factor usually applied to calculate the effective focal length in terms of the 35mm film format is itself rounded down from 1.54).
To achieve this focal length range Nikon have squeezed in no less than fourteen elements, including three aspherical and three made from Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass, arranged in ten groups. The lens, which has a silent wave motor (SWM) to drive the AF-S focusing action1 can focus down to a very respectable 0.36m (1.2’), and accepts 77mm filters. On the side of the lens barrel is the now familiar focus mode switch that selects either autofocus with manual override (M/A), or full manual focus (M). At its shortest (set to a focal length of 35mm) it is about 110mm long, and weighs 755g (26.5oz).
The iris diaphragm has nine blades, and as a G-type2 Nikkor lens it lacks a conventional aperture ring, so for full compatibility with all exposure modes it has to be used on a camera that allows the aperture value to be selected from the body. If you use it on earlier models such as the F4, F90x (N90s) you are restricted to either Program, or Shutter speed priority exposure modes. Likewise, as a DX-type lens it is intended for digital SLR camera models; if you mount it on a 35mm film camera there will be significant vignetting of the image at any focal length between 17mm and 28mm but above 28mm it can be used this way.
The lens is supplied with a substantial scalloped lens hood, the HB-31, which attaches via a bayonet fitting. The hood, which has a lock button that must be depressed before you can detach it from the lens, can be reverse-mounted for transportation but it does increase the overall diameter, significantly. Due to the depth of the hood it does a very good job of protecting the front of the lens from stray light and fingers!
Nikon state that the smaller image circle projected by lenses in the DX-series allows them to design smaller optics. You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, because this is still a substantial piece of ‘glass’, which is heavier than the AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D. Mounted on the D2X it adds to the considerable mass of the camera and brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “built like a tank”, whilst on the relatively lightweight D70s there is no mistaking its presence, and yet in both cases the lens balances extremely well.