Photographer field-tests Santa’s gift — a new digital lens

Example of telephoto blur, left, as a surfer attempts to catch a wave at San Clemente Beach. Above, example of sharp detail of leading lines with new lens.

Example of telephoto blur, left, as a surfer attempts to catch a wave at San Clemente Beach. Above, example of sharp detail of leading lines with new lens. Photo by Don Fleming.

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Santa was good to me this year! As my wife handed me a package from under the Christmas tree she said, “Be careful, it’s fragile.”

Gingerly unwrapping the gift, I was thrilled to see the traditional gold Nikon box with “Nikon Lens AF-S DX 18-300mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR” embossed on the side.

It’s been eight years since I bought my Nikon 18-200mm lens and I have used it extensively all over the world as my go-to lens. A newer version was introduced in 2009 with minor modifications and was not worth the upgrade.

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Don Fleming’s new digital telephoto Nikon lens captures granddaughter Colette in action. He field-tested it while visiting with family over the holidays in Southern California.

In mid-2012, the first Nikon 18-300mm lens was introduced and I have been reading the reviews of this amazing wide-angle and super telephoto compact lens, and now it was in my lap!

For spring quarter 2014 at Walla Walla Community College, I need a telephoto lens with great flexibility as I will once again photograph action in the Wine Country Culinary Institute commercial kitchen.

At WWCC, I am rapidly transitioning from food preparation to closeups of plated foods, to more distant instructional kitchen scenes of the chefs working with students.

One of the features I look for in a lens is the speed in which it focuses and this new lens offers what I have been looking for: a silent wave motor that uses inaudible ultrasonic vibrations — rather than a gear system to focus the lens that provides a smooth, silent and very precise auto focus operation; a zoom-lock switch to prevent the lens from extending during transport; a manual auto-focus switch; internal focus that allows for a more compact, lightweight construction as well as a closer focusing distance; and image stabilization (Nikon VR II) that enables handheld shooting for sharper images when scenes are rapidly changing.

Having listed some of the wonderful features of this lens I should note that it is longer by one inch than the 18-200mm and one pound heavier!

I field-tested the new lens when we visited our sons over the holidays in Southern California. San Clemente beach provided a great vista of scenes to illustrate the telephoto capabilities of the new 18-300 lens. While walking the beach I zoomed in on a few action scenes of seagulls flying; caught surfers testing their skills against an extreme high tide and found a few high-contrast scenes under the pier.

I tested how the lens handles portrait and skin texture in closeup scenes through candid shots of granddaughter Colette — a natural — with great results!

Upon returning to Walla Walla the cold weather gave me the opportunity to test the lens on some ice-encrusted leaves and frozen vineyard tendrils.

After testing this lens with my Nikon D7000 I am extremely pleased with the results. If you are looking to purchase a new versatile lens for your new camera, ask yourself what you will be photographing then look at the lens specifications so you make the right choice.

Don Fleming can be reached at don512@me.com. He will demonstrate this lens during his spring Quest class.

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