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Upgraded lens – Nikon 55-300mm VR

January 30, 2012

A late Christmas present to myself was the Nikon 55-300mm VR lens as an upgrade to the 55-200mm VR I owned, and the kicker was that it ended up with a net cost of zero.

The new lens lists for $399.95 from the company and sells for that price at Target and for $399 at Amazon. Between Christmas and the New Year, I found it at the Target store for $249.99. The first store was out of them by the time I decided to pounce, but another nearby outlet had one. I went the next day and bought it.

In the meantime, I listed my 55-200mm VR, which I had bought for $125 on Craigslist for the same price and it sold that day. I also sold a 70-300mm older Nikon lens that doesn’t have AF-S and thus wouldn’t autofocus on my D5000; I had bought that lens for $80 years earlier to use on film, where it worked perfectly well. That too sold the very same day. I guess when you figure in tax, the new lens cost me a little bit, but less than $20 net out of pocket.

There are a couple of downsides to the new lens. It doesn’t have a wide aperture, ranging from f 4.5 to f 5.6. If I had unlimited money, I’d like a big fat f 2.8 zoom for shooting at the state Capitol, which is actually pretty dark, and for shooting birds. Getting more light in would give me a faster shutter speed in those conditions, and when shooting things like the super frisbee dog.

The 300mm range at the long end really comes in handy for photographing birds, something I didn’t anticipate when I first bought my camera. I’ve never been a big bird watcher, but we’ve got a great park in our neighborhood and I’ve developed a fascination with photographing them.

But that range comes at the price of slower autofocusing, and I lose a lot of shots of birds when they’re flying, or fast-moving frisbee dogs. I recognize that part of this is skill-related, so I won’t pine for a faster lens with better autofocus until I’ve eliminated the operator shortcomings and am truly limited by the equipment. At least I keep telling myself that.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed having a better perspective for my bird shots; almost as much as I enjoyed figuring out that I could get a brand-new zoom lens for close to free.

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