So once I’ve decided what type of lens I want to get, one of the next steps is to do some research. I normally group review sites into 2 types – the ones where an individual does a detailed review, sometimes quite scientific; and the community sites where people can contribute their own personal reviews, often a mixed bag with some praises but often reporting faults and problems.
One thing to remember is that there can often be a range in quality of lenses that come out from the manufacturer. Sometimes I come across quite opposing reviews, related to lens quality. Like any community review site, it’s hard to know whether it’s the expectations or expertise of the person reviewing it, or whether they just got a bad sample.
But as a general rule of thumb, more “reputable” brands, like Nikon and Canon, probably have better quality control than some of the “cheaper” brands. So if you do buy a lens made by Tokina, Tamron, Sigma, etc. it’s worth trying the lens out yourself in a shop before buying it. If that’s not possible, ensure that they have a returns policy that you can use if you think the lens is not up to scratch.
Photozone.de – http://www.photozone.de/all-tests – The reviews at Photozone are good if you’re into scientific analysis of the lenses themselves. They publish results of tests on distortion, vignetting, MTF (resolution) and CA (chromatic aberration) that other sites don’t get into. Many people look for “bargains” in Sigma, Tamron and Tokina lenses by comparing the numbers from this site. If you’re a professional who wants quality down to the numeric level, then this site is for you.
KenRockwell.com – Ken is a Nikon enthusiast and US photographer who runs his own personal website with lots of photography information and reviews. His reviews are very personal, candid and he tells it as it is. His experience with a wide range of lenses means he gives good comparisons and alternative suggestions. http://www.kenrockwell.com/index.htm
ByThom – http://www.bythom.com/index.htm – Thomas Hogan is a nature photographer who has published many books, including many photography ones. He has written an amazing number of articles on his website including many reviews on lenses too. His reviews on Nikno lenses have a personal feel with good practical comments, drawbacks and positives on each lens, and again Thomas is able to draw on experience with other lenses in the Nikon range to compare them.
DPReview.com – http://www.dpreview.com/ – I find DPReview a good site to use to keep in touch with the latest photography news. They have good functional reviews on camera bodies, but their lens review section is fairly small. Of the reviews that they do have, they cover the functional and physical elements of each lens, as well as tests on Sharpness, Chromatic Aberation, Distortion and Falloff.
Community Review Sites
FredMiranda – http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/index.php – Fred has built up a great site with many good community reviews. This is one of the ones I usually go to when I start researching lenses.
PhotographyReview – http://www.photographyreview.com/reviewscrx.aspx – This site doesn’t just have lens review sections. It covers nearly everything photography related! They have a good number of consumer reviews on lenses.