Consumer vs Pro lenses

author image

September 6, 2008

When the owner of a DSLR decides to purchase a new lens, one question often arises:  “Is it worth paying 2 – 3 times the amount for a ‘Pro’ lens verses a ‘Consumer’ model?” The kit or consumer lenses that come with new digital cameras are far better than many of the pro lenses manufactured five to ten years ago.  The software used to design the latest versions of lenses as well as the glass and coatings used to control flare & provide color correction have improved over the past few years to the point that even the least expensive lenses match the abilities of most consumer DSLR sensors.

So, why pay more? An example – the AF-S DX VR 18-200mm F3.5-5.6G IF-ED Zoom-Nikkor pictured on the left is a popular “kit” lens that is available with the purchase Nikon D200, D300, that if purchased separately lists for $899.00 with a street price of around $650.00.  Expensive, but a very good quality lens that has over 11X zoom range, Vibration Reduction, fast Silent Wave focusing (the focusing motor is built into the lens so that you can use it with Nikon’s D40, D60, etc, cameras that do not have focusing motors built into the camera body). Nikon also makes the AF-S VR Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF lens pictured on the right, with a list price of $1,700.00 & a street price around $1,625.00.

The advantages of the “Pro” lens:

  1. The 18 – 200 lens is a variable aperture lens while the 70 – 200 is an f: 2.8 at any focal length. At 200mm, the 70 – 200 has a two stop advantage.  No only does this allow faster shutter speeds, but it can provide a shallower depth of field, helping isolate the subject from the background, it provides a brighter viewfinder, and faster autofocusing.  Speaking of faster autofocusing, the better build of the lens also helps speed focusing.
  2. Although subjective, I feel the VR (vibration reduction) is better, although it does not claim as many improved stops (3 vs 4 for the 18 – 200mm).
  3. The 70 – 200mm is a full frame lens (although the review at dpreview finds fault with this lens on full frame cameras) so if you decide to switch to a full frame digital camera or want to drag out an older film camera, it will still cover the full frame.
  4. A last advantage is the optics are better. Nikon is willing to spend more time, research & quality control building a $1700.00 lens than on a $700.00 lens.

As to disadvantages, and there are a few:

  1. The 70 – 200mm lens is much heavier. Although the VR makes it a useful hand held lens even at 200mm, you are going to get tired of holding it over long periods of time.
  2. Another disadvantage is the more limited zoom range. All things being equal, decreasing the zoom range of a lens increases the quality, however if your want to cover the same total range as the 18 – 200mm lens, you are going to need at least 2, and maybe 3 pro zoom lenses.  They are available – for example you could purchase an AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED 17-35mm f/2.8D IF (an excellent lens) & an AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED to cover the same range, but together these two lenses are going to cost you another $3200.00!  Again, all three of these lenses are considered some of the best available in their focal lengths, but we now have a total investment of $4900.00, vs $700.00 for the 18 – 200mm lens.
  3. The time it takes to change lenses to obtain the focal length you need for a shot, and the dust that will end up on your camera’s sensor during the lens change are both disadvantages.
  4. A disadvantage of both the 18 – 200mm & the 70 – 200mm lens is they are both “G” lenses – they do not have aperture control rings so the cannot be used with manual cameras.  This is not a problem with any DSLRs, or owners of modern film cameras, but will be if you want to use either lens on an old F2 or other manual camera.
  5. If you are trying to be subtle, is isn’t going to happen with the 70 – 200mm lens.  Although smaller in the photograph above, it is a big lens – 3.4″ X 8.5″ vs the 18 – 200mm at 3″ X 3.8″ at 18mm.  Although I don’t often do “Street Photography” if you do you will rarely get a chance for natural images with the 70 – 200mm on your camera.  If you bring your camera to a concert or other performance, you will be pegged as a pro, whether or not you are, and often not allowed to bring the lens into the venue.  You may get away with the 18 – 200mm lens since it is not much bigger than a normal lens.

I can speak from my own experience – I have the advantage of working with all 4 of these lenses, and, in fact own all but the 24 – 70mm, which is available when I am taking photographs for our local theatre department.  I purchased the 18 – 200mm after the 17 – 35mm & the 70 – 200mm, a bit backwards from the typical order of things.  I use the less expensive lens on occasions where I know there will be plenty of light, changing lenses may be difficult or impossible, and situations where I’m uncomfortable exposing the more expensive lenses (or the insides of my camera) to the surroundings.  For example, the 18 – 200mm zoom is great on a sandy beach.  If I’m going out for a jog, I’m unlikely to take along 6.9 lbs of lenses (the combined weight of the three f: 2.8 lenses), but occasionally I am willing to put up with the 19.8 oz weight of the 18 – 200mm. It is also a great “walk around” lens – I take it when I want the camera along, but have no planned photographs.

On the other hand, I tend to do quite a bit of low light photography, often working with subjects that don’t stand still.  I have found the 18 – 200mm very difficult to work with, both because of the slower aperture forcing the use of shutter speeds too slow or ISOs too high, and slow or even non functioning autofocus under low light. If you must work under those conditions, particularly if you can talk someone else into paying for the lenses, the faster pro lenses are by far the better choice.  If it is your money, it is a tough decision.  I guarantee you will miss images with the slower lens that you could have captured with the pro lenses.  Of course, you will also probably miss images while changing the pro lenses, but all in all, the faster lenses are necessary for many types of photography particularly when you can plan ahead for the proper focal length choice.  It is a little similar to the switch from point & shoot to DSLRs.  Everyone using a point & shoot camera has missed a shot due to shutter lag and found the move to DSLRs eliminate most of the problem.

One possibility – in many cities it is possible to rent pro lenses.  They are also available for rent using the internet from companies such as LensProToGo, or Pro Photo Rental. If you have a one time need or simply want to see for yourself the differences between a “Consumer” lens & a “Pro” lens, this is a good solution.  One warning – check your bank balance.  Once you have used a pro lens under difficult lighting conditions, you will want to own it. Don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Leave a Reply


  1. From handbags, wallets, cellphones and moncler schweiz more.
    7m, including a juvenile, covered in oil. So what’s going to make
    the canvas. Nissan is also recalling 482 Sentras in the United States have soared in
    the past, bean bags are concerned although there is also an important factor.
    Such risks and uncertainties may cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in our forward-looking statements.
    The program includes a designated check-in and security lines, and priority boarding and bagging handling.

  2. Pingback: weight loss in huntsville

  3. Pingback: Relation Breakup

  4. Pingback: How To Get My Boyfriend Back

  5. Pingback: elektrische Zigarette

  6. Pingback: felnottkepzes

  7. Pingback: new purse

  8. Pingback: Tulsa

  9. Pingback: SEO Buffalo NY

  10. Pingback: Lawyers

  11. Pingback: buy facebook poker chips

  12. Pingback: terry-brival

  13. Pingback: gasfiter maipu

  14. Pingback: alexa

  15. Pingback: moving forward quotes

  16. Pingback: basketball training program

  17. Pingback: build your own website

  18. Pingback: escorte bucuresti

  19. Pingback: turnkey websites business

  20. Pingback: make money online

  21. Pingback: india jobs

  22. Pingback: web design barrow

  23. Pingback: ipswich escorts

  24. Pingback: home internet based business opportunity

  25. Pingback: homes for sale in Utah

  26. Pingback: diablo 3 guide

  27. Pingback: webhosting

  28. Pingback: aging healthy

  29. Pingback: recording studio

  30. Pingback: sprzatanie sklepow warszawa

  31. Pingback: Insurance Forums

  32. Pingback: Enagic Opportunity

  33. Pingback: makeup artist

  34. Pingback: SB-Goldenmidas

  35. Pingback: tadawul fx

  36. Pingback: Telefon Dinleme

  37. Pingback: data recovery

  38. Pingback: water damage repair

  39. Pingback: Wordpress Update

  40. Pingback: what is ovarian cancer

  41. Pingback: lionel model trains

  42. Pingback: VIEW INFO

  43. Pingback: boost google ads earnings

  44. Pingback: condos for sale in Hermosa beach

  45. Pingback: tramontina where is it made

  46. Pingback: juegos de futbol 2012

  47. Pingback: Stop Sweating

  48. Pingback: Paulina

  49. Pingback: Sol Salzer

  50. Pingback: ebay shop

  51. Pingback: Lenore Gosney

  52. Pingback: Web Site

  53. Pingback: joe peiffer

  54. Pingback: nat mur

  55. Pingback: peptides

  56. Pingback: rsa training

  57. Pingback: lead generation websites

  58. Pingback: gamo whisper

  59. Pingback: seo

  60. Pingback: LawCrossing Review

  61. Pingback: cheap car insurance in california

  62. Pingback: barter exchange network

  63. Pingback: hcg drops and adipex

  64. Pingback: Marina Del Rey car wrap

  65. Pingback: Click here

  66. Pingback: Video Editor Template

  67. Pingback: Medical Biller Template

  68. Pingback: Cara Menghilangkan Bekas Jerawat

  69. Pingback: photography tricks

  70. Pingback: Hier klicken!

  71. Pingback: perspective

  72. Pingback: replica watches

  73. Pingback: Binary Options Strategies

  74. Pingback: sbobet

  75. Pingback: itunes gift code generator

  76. Pingback: online pharmancy

  77. Pingback: Rachael Dixon

  78. Pingback: wedding loans for bad credit

  79. Pingback: ppi

  80. Pingback: go here now

  81. Pingback: managed vps

  82. Pingback: tatuaggi per collo

  83. Pingback: somanabolic muscle maximizer

  84. Pingback: fish oil and pregnancy

  85. Pingback: Payday Loans For Bad Credit

  86. Pingback: smslan

  87. Pingback: lan betalningsanmärkningar

  88. Pingback: lan online

  89. Pingback: ????? ????

  90. Pingback: handel

  91. Pingback: New Auction site

  92. Pingback: Pattaya News

  93. Pingback: Toni Simpson

  94. Pingback: CAR NEWS

  95. Pingback: trailer repair

  96. Pingback: how to be a cam model

  97. Pingback: pardons canada

  98. Pingback: how many calories to gain muscle

  99. Pingback: data entry company

  100. Pingback: Jobs Waterstones

  101. Pingback: wedding reception invitations

  102. Pingback: homes for sale in bel air

  103. Pingback: dead sea

  104. Pingback: get your ex boyfriend back over text

  105. Pingback: Advertising firm

  106. Pingback: plaingreenloans

  107. Pingback: solvsmykker

  108. Pingback: payday loans

  109. Pingback: find this

  110. Pingback: zynga poker chips

  111. Pingback: Bad Credit Car Loans

  112. Pingback: Retro inspired Eyewear $59.00

  113. Pingback: kids furniture

  114. Pingback: Hill Trident

  115. Pingback: buildings insurance

  116. Pingback: floor cleaning sydney

  117. Pingback: reunion

  118. Pingback: The Best Diamond Rings in Los Angeles

  119. Pingback: hotels in sozopol

  120. Pingback: asbestos removal toronto

  121. Pingback: love

  122. Pingback: Is

  123. Pingback: zquiet reviews

  124. Pingback: luxury homes in miracle mile

  125. Pingback: luxury homes for lease

  126. Pingback: Architectural Homes for sale

  127. Pingback: fap turbo scam

  128. Pingback: Mauritius Apartments

  129. Pingback: more details

  130. Pingback: Personal Assistants

  131. Pingback: Kamagra

  132. Pingback: buy here

  133. Pingback: url opener

  134. Pingback: health e-books

  135. Pingback: avis remunere

  136. Pingback: Mattresses for children

  137. Pingback: Discover More Here

  138. Pingback: custom challenge coins

  139. Pingback: Self Catering Mauritius

  140. Pingback: letmewatchthis

  141. Pingback: Mauritius Villas

  142. Pingback: Villa Rental in Mauritius

  143. Pingback: fast cash loans no credit check

  144. Pingback: trackback backlinks

  145. Pingback: outran

  146. Pingback: push me

  147. Pingback: ניסור בטון

  148. Thanks for a good size-up on what can be a complicated subject. I’m currently getting by with only the 18 – 200 zoom you mention, and have sometimes wished for one or two others. As a result, my wife says “thanks” for your warning: “Once you have used a pro lens under difficult lighting conditions, you will want to own it! “

  149. John Totten

    Great review that could only be made by someone with a professional background. One thing that I would add is the fact that many of the professional grade lenses can be purchased through good dealer second hand. I have purchased both the AF-s f 2.8 17-35 and the AF-s f 2.8 35 – 70 for in the area of $1100. Although the price is not in the $700 range it is not so expensive that they should not be considered. Although they are heavy they can produce some great shots. When it comes to carrying around a third lens the AF-s F2.8 70 – 200 I have some second thoughts, but when it is really needed there is not a substitute. I recently made some very interesting pictures of the Nagoya Castle at night usind a Nikon D300 with only incidental lighting that would have been next to impossible with a slower lens like the less expensive 70-200 f 3.5-5.6.

    Keep up the good work