Monday, November 12, 2012

Definitive List of Recommended Autofocus Lenses for the D800E (and D800)

Everyone has been asking me what lenses they should get for their D800E (and D800).  Unlike in the medium format digital world, where most all of the lenses are superb, even when shot wide open, in the 35mm world you have to pick and choose your lenses very carefully to ensure that they will be good enough on the D800.

If you pick a lens that's just not up to standard of resolution on the D800E, you're needlessly wasting that 36 megapixel goodness.  (In that case, you may as well just shoot with a lower resolution camera like the D600 or even the D700.  Check out my recommended lenses for the D600.)

So I've decided to put this page together to help D800E and prospective D800E buyers select the very best lenses for their camera.  Now keep in mind that most lenses, if you know how to shoot them with exquisite technique, can give you great results, even on the D800.  But here I'm going to focus on lenses that you can shoot at most any aperture and get stellar results from.

Also, I've decided to limit the selection to autofocus lenses only.  If you're shooting still life or landscapes and don't need autofocus, that's just fine.  But for most people, one of the main reasons to get a DSLR is for their fast and accurate autofocus.  So I'll only be highlighting autofocus lenses.

The Best Normal Lenses:
  • If you want the absolute best and sharpest: Nikon 60mm f/2.8G Micro
  • If you want the sharpest but don't mind the previous generation to save a few bucks: Nikon 60mm f/2.8D AF Micro
  • I have a hard time recommending any of the AF 50mm lenses as they are really soft wide open.  Don't bother with the Sigma 1.4 either.
  • My secret weapon normal lens is this one: (coming soon, stay tuned)
The Best Mid-Range Zoom (if you must have a mid-range zoom):
  • If you must have the absolute best and sharpest, then there is no question:Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G.
  • I'm reluctant to list this, but if you can't afford the 24-70, then this is the next best thing.  You'll need to shoot it at f/5.6 or f/8 for the sharpest photos though: Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR
  • I can't recommend the 24-120 f/4, it's not really up to the standards of the D800.
The Best Portrait Lens:
You don't need the less sharp, much heavier and more expensive 85mm f1.4G unless you really want that extra 2/3 stop for some reason.
The Best Telephoto Lens (a few good choices here):
The Best Wide Angle Lens:
The Best Telephoto Zoom Lens:
The Best Ultra-wide Angle Lenses:
This is more difficult as the venerable 14-24mm shows its corner deficiencies with the resolution of the D800.  This is where you'll want to compromise on the autofocus and go with the Zeiss 15mm when it starts shipping.
The Best Macro Lens:
The lenses above should cover everything that 99% of general users of the D800E will encounter.  If you want to put together a zoom kit that covers everything, I would get the 24-70 and the 70-200 and be done with it (add the ultra wide if you need it).  If you want the utmost in image quality, go with the primes.

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