Update: I added at the end of my review that this lens of mine had to go in for repair. Five weeks later (at least a week was spent as I had put a ceiling of £200 on it; the quote Nikon UK made was £240, which I accepted), I've now been re-united with my favourite lens and instantly fell back in love with it - and got superb results once more. On my Amazon 'Listmania' titled 'A semi-pro snapper's most used stuff', this 17-35 comes in at no.2, after my D700 DSLR. I used the lens with my (film) F100 prior to the D700.
I might as well give a full countdown of the costs, so anyone with such a lens, maybe ten years plus old, in daily, semi pro use can expect and what they should do with theirs if something similar happens to theirs.
The problem was a sticking zoom ring, which eventually jammed. I went for a complete overhaul and service too, as the main cost is usually the skilled labour costs and so whilst it is in the hands of a Nikon appointed expert, I'd add to the value of the lens as well as the life expectancy of it and they would test it to full spec. I did it through my local, friendly, independent camera shop, as I want to support them too and the carriage costs etc would all be taken care of and should further problems arise.
Here's what they did: 'Dismantle lens to un-jam; service as necessary; replace outer tube, bayonet mount, two rubber rings (the focus and zoom on outside). Re-assemble and test.' Labour charges £124; Parts £78; VAT £26
The zoom action now is well-weighted, v. slightly stiff but SO smooth. No mention of the AF which I've never had a problem with. The optics are also fine but no problems of mould or aperture blades etc. So, a well used secondhand lens that cost me £695 five years ago, from LCE has now cost £935 in total. An excellent S/H model can still go for as much as £1300 (Grays of Westminster) and new RRP is £1800. Consider how much a complete replacement in the form of a new/different model would have been.
My Previous Points:
Having owned two ultrawide zooms before this (Sirius 18-28, when I was an enthusiast) the Nikkor 18-35 f3.5-4.5 (see my separate review on this), this 17-35mm f2.8 lens was held in very high esteem by all. A constant, fast aperture, good close focus and quite handsome, it is also the widest lens that a polariser filter could be fitted onto. It has a decent lenshood, which is often essential as that largish front element (due to the large aperture) can more susceptable to flare. I used it a great deal on my F100, before I went digital.
The guys on the paper I sometimes work with still use one. They use DX Nikon DSLRs, so it's less wideangle for them. I use a FX full frame D700, so get its full range. It's absolutely great in confined situations and spaces and a cinch to use with flash, due to the constant aperture. It can be relied on to give the sharpest results of any lens of such, or similar design, whether f2.8, or f22. Get a bad picture and chances are, it won't be down to the lens.
I prefer not to use AF anyway, but in any case, I've never had any noise problems. It's built like Nikon used to make 'em, so chunky and tough. It handles perfectly with the D700 and a Nikon speedlight and while that's a fair bit of kit, it looks the part and does the job. I back it up with a 70-200mm f2.8 when on a news photoshoot. I also love using it for both industrial and natural landscapes.
In my review of the Nikkor 18-35, I wrote how marked barrel distortion in that lens moved me to this one. Whilst not being totally eradicated, this ugly distortion is just evident but doesn't jump out at you.
Unlike some other reviewers, I'm happy to use this for as long as, well...This remains an honest, unpretentious lens that is known and trusted all over. It's taken me over 30 years as a photographer to afford one and remains an essential piece of kit to me.
I'm adding this some months after my main review. I should now add that the zoom ring has jammed and that it's now been shipped back to Nikon UK for repair. Has this potentially costly fault clouded my feelings toward this lens? On the contrary - the fact that financially it makes good sense to do so is testament enough. Especially for a ten year old lens that will have its S/H price potential reflected by the service that Nikon are also carrying out. I have every confidence that it'll soon be back to being one of my most used - and best quality lenses.