As the sole news and sports photographer at my newspaper, a lot of disparate duties come my way. I shoot sports action, spot news, feature photos (to go with my stories), head shots, group photos, ribbon cutting photos, illustrations, and, in the next few weeks, a ton of what we call “media days.”
They can be a grind, since I am called upon to make team photos, head shots, and feature photos of hundreds of kids at the high school and college level.
For a while I was working these assignments with a Tamron 18-250mm “super zoom” lens, an optically mediocre but functionally versatile lens. But, since Tamron lenses aren’t the toughest in the world, this one quit on me, specifically, it quit zooming. The tiny plasticky parts in the zoom mechanism broke and seized up, making it a heavy, un-special 18mm.
That left me in my fallback position, a wide angle on one camera and a telephoto on the other; one for teams and groups, the other for head shots and features. It worked pretty well, but that combination slows down my workflow, and, as many older photographers will tell you, make my neck and shoulders pay by the end of each session.
I looked at some options, but none were really right. I have a couple of 18-55mm lenses sitting around, which I can kind of make work, but the 55mm end of the zoom isn’t quite enough. I have a 2005-era 18-70mm that was sold as a kit lens with the Nikon D70S back then. It’s got a bit more reach, but is optically disappointing, and the zoom ring is rough and uneven, so I really don’t like using it.
A third option was pressing my beloved AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm into service, but part of me wants to hold close to it both because it has been one of my favorite travel lenses, but also because it was quite expensive, and I have no desire to watch it get crunched by a pile of football players.
I thought about it for a while, and decided to look into a used (I know, I love used lenses) zoom in the 16-85mm through maybe 18-140mm range. A bit of shopping on Ebay and I found a good-condition AF-S Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G DX at a surprisingly low price, and it arrived today.
I like this lens already, for a couple of huge reasons: it is sharp (so far), it is very lightweight, the zoom ring is huge and smooth, and it fits the “media day” requirements perfectly. And while it lacks the glamour of the D700 with my 20mm f/2.8 on one shoulder, and the D3 with the 70-200mm f/2.8 on the other, I think it might be just the right lens for the job.
I’ll be pressing into service right away.