Monday, November 12, 2012

Definitive List of Recommended Autofocus Lenses for the D600

The Nikon D600 is the camera that probably 95% of those who bought the D800 should have bought in the first place.  It has superbly high resolution (more than any enthusiast or even professional is ever going to need) and is packed with almost every feature anyone needs.  You also partially avoid the high requirements of computer storage/memory/speed to support the huge files of the D800 (I say partially because the D600's files are darn big too).

Now that it's been released, I'm starting to get questions from people about lens choice.  I could point them to my list of recommended lenses for the D800E, but since a lot of these folks are enthusiast photographers and some are just stepping up to the FX (full-frame) format, I understand that they may not want to shell out for the best lenses.

So, I present my list of recommended lenses for the D600.  These are top performing lenses, but selected with an eye towards affordability and flexibility.  Therefore, I won't be listing some of the exotics, like the amazing 200mm f/2.  For those lenses, check out the recommendations for the D800E.  Again, I am highlighting autofocus lenses only.

The Best Normal Lenses:
  • If you want the absolute best and sharpest: Nikon 60mm f/2.8G Micro
  • If you want to save money, get the previous generation: 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, but if you must have one, I would get the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G and make sure you shoot it at its optimum apertures (meaning 4, 5.6, 8, or 11).
  • Don't bother with the Sigma 1.4.
The Best Mid-Range Zoom (if you must have a mid-range zoom):
  • The best, even for the D600, is still this one: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
  • If you can't afford the 24-70, then this is a decent compromise.  Just be sure to shoot it at f/5.6 or f/8 for the sharpest photos.  Wide open, you will be disappointed: Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G VR
  • I can't recommend the 24-120mm f/4G because you have to use it at optimum apertures for it to be decent; it's not really up to the standards of the D600 or the D800.
The Best Portrait Lens:
Again, don't bother with the heavier, less sharp, more expensive 85mm f1.4G unless you really want that extra 2/3 stop for some reason.
The Best Telephoto Lens (the same list as for the D800):
The Best Wide Angle Lens:
The Best Telephoto Zoom Lens:
  • If you've got the cash, you will never regret this: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II
  • The budget option is this, if you don't need VR: Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D
  • I'm tempted to list the new f/4 zoom, but I've always ended up needing f2.8, so you'll really have to know yourself as a photographer to make this decision: Nikon 70-200 f/4G
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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