Entry 171 : Review - NIKKOR 17-55 f/2.8G

Hey, there!
I hope the link works out okay because I kind of messed up the sequence.
Anyway, this time I'll be posting my thoughts and experiences on using the NIKKOR 17-55 f/2.8G in the real world, on the job.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Shot using a Nikon D7100 + 35mm f1.8G DX + SB-700

Last April, I was commissioned to shoot a dinner event and I'd brought along all my lenses that I always used.
Another photographer, who also usually photographs these things, was also there but as an attendee and didn't want to shoot.
He offered me his gear and asked if I'd like to use any.
At first I was reluctant but seeing as how I always wanted to try this lens out and because it was requested by a reader, I thought I might as well do a full on real world review.

Now, this is a lens a lot of people want, and for good reason, as well.
On paper, it seems like the logical substitute for a 24-70 f2.8 on a DX body because this lens gives about the same sort of range (approximately 25.5-82.5mm).
It has the same fixed large aperture and a formidable build.
Alas, it was a real piece of ... disappointment.

Feel & Build Quality
Let's not rush into the bad bits.
First of all, I really like how this lens felt in the hands.
It had the kind of weight you'd expect on an almost RM5,000 lens.
It's partially made of magnesium alloy and there are some plastic and rubbery parts.

What I didn't like about this lens, though, is the zoom ring placement.
It's too close to the mount and too small to intuitively rotate.

I found myself spinning the focus ring instead countless times and it was pretty frustrating.
The fact that it's too close to the mount also meant that I had to readjust my handling every time I wanted to zoom because my hand would be closer to the front element when shooting.
This would often cause a slower reaction and might risk losing an important shot.

Other than that, it was a good combo with my D7100 as their weights balanced out.

Focal Range
The focal range of this lens is quite strange, honestly.
It is very similar to the basic 18-55mm kit lens that comes with a DX body; only slightly wider by 1mm.
The only thing that really sets this lens apart is the large maximum aperture, which is constant at f2.8.
Nonetheless, it's a good range and covers a lot of what I would need for stuff like group shots, wide shots, portraits and general usage.

Group photo

Dinner table



There isn't anything special about the focal range but that doesn't mean it's not good.
It serves its purpose as an all-round lens for "professional" use.
It still doesn't quite fill that 55-70mm gap between the 17-55 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 that I use, though.

Also, sometimes I find that 17mm on a DX body isn't enough when I need to take photos of many people with only little space between them and myself, but most times it's okay.
Group photos like the one above could be pulled off since there's a large area to work with and not many people, but if it were for events with hundreds of people to squeeze in one shot, then I would have really run into massive trouble.

Aside from that, I didn't notice any vignetting, but that may also be due to the use of flash and consequent stray shadows.

AF & Back Focus
The scissors in my sheets, the thorn in my side, the killer of my photos.

Back focus like a boss

Back focus 100% crop

Words cannot describe how devastated I was to see close to ALL my photos were back focused.
The awards sessions, the candid moments, the portraits... I just can't even.

Shoutout to Afiq for lending me this lens, but it back focuses like a boss

Like a boss


Now, this is the second time in a row that the lens I review back focuses like Hell.
I wasn't even shooting wide open!
I can assure you that it's not my camera's focusing system since it works perfectly with all other lenses (except the blasted Sigma 10-20 f3.5, of course).

True focus
Shot using a Nikon D7100 + 70-200 f2.8G VRII

True focus 100% crop

So, yeah.
It pretty much sucks that such an expensive and well-built lens would be so horrendous at focusing.
I ended up having to ship these photos that are not up-to-par with my past work.
It's awful to have to deliver photos that are not as great as they should be and I really only have this lens to blame for that.

Is This Lens For You?
Aside from the back focusing, if you're looking to only invest in DX bodies till forever, then this would certainly be an option for you to consider.
It has the standard focal length for all-round coverage and would help you out in low light situations.
I would say even casual shooters would appreciate what this lens has to offer.
As a matter of fact. it was a pleasure to shoot with this lens the whole night since I didn't have to constantly change my primes for the desired focal length.

The lens has a great build that is suitable for all sorts of outdoor or indoor activity, fairly good bokeh at the longest end and has the image quality like most Nikon lenses.
It is a Nikon lens, after all.

If you're willing to fork out almost RM5,000 for a DX lens (which you can't use on full frame bodies) that has a similar focal range with your kit lens but with a better maximum aperture, then what's stopping you?

I really wanted to like this lens.
It had everything necessary; from a versatile focal range to a large fixed aperture.
I knew I would be able to produce great images and worry less about constantly changing lenses.

But back focus is an unforgivable flaw and I can't run the risk of ruining my whole set of photos, especially for a client.
Keep in mind, though, that this may not be a general issue with this model and it could be that only this particular copy wasn't calibrated correctly.

Even so, this model is already more than 10 years old and does not have VR.
There hasn't been any news of a new iteration and I think Nikon should release a new model some time in the future.
Among all DX lenses, the NIKKOR 17-55 f/2.8G was supposed to be king.
I guess it isn't.

Or rather, not this one.

Check out all the photos from this review at my Flickr gallery here.

DISCLAIMER: This review was carried out using a Nikon D7100 body. Results may vary with other bodies as the Nikon D7100 has no OLPF (optical low pass filter), which should make the images sharper than they would be if they were taken using other bodies. I do not represent Nikon or any other brand or organization that might be showcased in this review. This review is written for THE FEAR and is of no significance to any sort of argument that may or may not ensue. I deliver this with utmost honesty and sincerity.