What do you think of Chinese built "plastic" lenses?

niemeyjtniemeyjt Posts: 64Member
edited June 2015 in Nikon DSLR cameras
A photo website has recently said of Nikon gear - "Medium quality. Most gear is made wherever it's cheapest, like China or elsewhere. Almost everything is made of plastic."

So I wondered what others felt - who have actually used them (leaving aside the issues of jobs off-shoring and supporting communist regimes - the topic for a political forum rather than a photo forum).

Is plastic brittle / likely to succumb to UV and become brittle - or are modern plastics every bit as strong as metal and as long-lasting - and with a 10 year lifespan does it matter?

Is metal a better material or does it suffer permanent deformation when hit whilst plastic springs back to shape?

Does the lighter weight of plastic lend itself to steadier photos?

Does it not matter so long as the glass is good?

Would love to hear the thoughts of others . . . those 1.8 lenses are so appealing!

Post edited by niemeyjt on


  • sevencrossingsevencrossing Posts: 2,800Member
    edited June 2015
    Yesterday, people were complaining Nikon gear is too expensive
    Today's "moan" is that it is cheap

    The great thing about Nikon F mount is, that if for some reason, you want a heavy lens, in a metal mount, there are lots of them on ebay

    Does it not matter so long as the glass is good?

    This should read "Does it matter so long as the plastic is good. There are hundreds if not thousands of different types of plastic "
    Post edited by sevencrossing on
  • safyresafyre Posts: 113Member
    That photo website phrase you are referring to can literally be applied to everything mass produced today so I really wouldn't put any credibility in what they say.

    I personally own a few of the newer 1.8 lenses and have had no problems with the quality. In the end, the glass is great, and that's all that matters. And another thing, just because something says made in China, doesn't mean its complete crap. I've dealt with poorly made products from all countries, including stuff that was made in America. The whole made in China argument is outdated by a good ten years now.
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,123Member
    I think all my lenses are made in China except for the 50mm 1.2. My 35mm 1.8 and the 105mm 2.8 both have a metal mount, but the 18-135 has a plastic one. So far so good, I've had it since 2008. Obviously not a plastic mount fast lens, but I'm not sure what fast lenses come in a plastic mount. Even the cheap 35mm 1.8 has a metal mount. I think most of the plastic mount lenses are kit zooms.
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited June 2015
    Technically it should be called "composite" not plastic. Metal has a greater coefficient of thermal expansion than glass, so it is actually a poor choice for lens construction. Modern composite materials can be engineered to be compatible with the types of modern glass, fluorite, borosilicate, etc... as well as minimizing linear thermal expansion to keep everything in focus. It's also significantly lighter. BMW i3 chassis:
    Post edited by Ironheart on
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,337Member
    Many things he writes on that website are written in a deliberately overstated manner to be entertaining. the Chinese "junk" comment is just one example. In reality all that counts is whether or not the lens produces the images you seek and lasts as long as you want it to last. Short answer: they do both so no complaints from me about plastic lenses.
  • CaMeRaQuEsTCaMeRaQuEsT Posts: 335Member
    I always carry with me and use my modern, compact, light weight, plastic, chinese and thai Nikon gear, while all my classic, huge, heavy, all metal, japanese Nikon gear stays put back home in the showcase. Enough said.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 3,187Member
    Hmm.....I own the 50 1.2 AIS and the 50 1.4G. The first one is a solid metal lens that represents the pinnacle of Nikon engineering. It is a joy to use. I love playing with the manual focus - it is a manual focus lens. The 1.4G on the other hand, is that "made in China junk" referred to on Ken's website. Admittedly, it feels like junk compared to the AIS - almost flimsy. I sometimes bump it against something like a door or wall and think "I am not going to worry, it is only a $500 lens."

    Then I compare it to my 85 1.4G, which is also a plastic lens, though made in Japan. It feels pretty solid and I don't worry if I bump it against something.

    So my sense is that metal or composite does not really matter - Ironheart laid out the important factors. However, I do have a sense that Nikon's better stuff is sturdier than their cheaper stuff - ie: 1.4 vs 1.8 (sturdy vs cheaper). That should not come as a surprise though. You are paying double to triple for a reason.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    If we want to discuss lens construction, we can discuss lens construction. There are many countries where optical equipment is constructed and to label one country, China, where many very high quality products are produced, and use the word "plastic" in an apparently derogatory manner, does not serve us well.

    If the OP wants to discuss lens construction I am happy to have this done under a new thread.

    Thread is closed.
    Msmoto, mod
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