55mm, 58mm or 60mm short portrait lens (DX)

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by agnosticnixie, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. So I recently tallied my pictures' exif data and I came to the realization that I hardly ever used my 85mm on digital. After giving it some thought I realized why: its virtue as a short portrait lens is mostly on 35mm film/sensors, and I haven't used them since my teens. However the kneejerk "this focal length is X" is still present because that's what I first learned on, even if I had to relearn eventually.
    So to cut short on the intro; I'm looking for a lens that would be between 55mm and 60mm. I have the nifty fifty but there's a je ne sais quoi missing with the angle it gives.
    So I'm wondering
    - the pre-AI 58mm f1.4: Does it mount at all on DSLR? I can't seem to find much info on the lens except something indicating it might not mount on anything newer than the original F...
    - How is focus on Micro-Nikkors beyond "you can sneeze on it" range?
    - Voigtlander Nokton: is it worth it on a budget? I can't seem to find it used (can be a good or bad sign but given the raving of some people about Voigtlander, I guess good)
    - Maybe I might consider a 70 or 75mm lens; it's longer than I'm used to and I feel I'd probably pack four lenses though; a three piece bag with only 20, 28 and something from 50 to 60 would be my ideal for day to day and academic field work.
  2. Pre-Ai Nikkors will cause damage on any Nikon DSLR except the D40/D40x/D60/D3000/D3100 & D5000...You won't however, have any metering as well as auto focus. Depending on what you shoot, that isn't as much of a problem as it may seem. You can either use a handheld meter or use the Sunny 16/ LCD/Histogram to get proper exposure. That isn't so good for sports & fast changing scenes though. 3rd Party Pre-Ai lenses however, will safely mount & can be used on any Nikon DSLR...Still no metering though...The Micro Nikkors are optimised for macro & do a decent job at longer distances (love their color rendition though). Voightlander I'm not familiar with other than what I've read but it's too pricey for me...
  3. For portrait on DX CV 58/1.4 Nokton is one of the best options. Apart of the great IQ this lens has one of the most pleasant to use build quality.
  4. I used the 55/2.8 AIS Micro, 60/2.8D and 60/2.8 AF-S, my experience is the 55/2.8 focuses well from 1:2 to infinity, the other two seem mostly optimized for close up work; infinity was quite soft on both of my copies. Both are sold. I did not test portrait ranges for the last two, but I've done portraits with the 55/2.8 and it's delicious, ignoring the difficulty of MF on a dx camera.
  5. I'm looking for a lens that would be between 55mm and 60mm​
    I hope you are kidding. There isn't much of a difference considering you can crop a bit or it is being cropped already by your less than 100% VF anyway. Maybe concentrate on the subject, light, background instead...I shoot portraits anywhere from 24mm to 85mm depending what's available...
    So I'm wondering
    - the pre-AI 58mm f1.4: Does it mount at all on DSLR? I can't seem to find much info on the lens except something indicating it might not mount on anything newer than the original F...​
    I doubt you can afford the 58mm f1.2 noct or the 58mm 1.4 (~$400) nokton if you are on a budget.

    - How is focus on Micro-Nikkors beyond "you can sneeze on it" range?​
    Very good, they can double for portrait lens as well.
    - Voigtlander Nokton: is it worth it on a budget? I can't seem to find it used (can be a good or bad sign but given the raving of some people about Voigtlander, I guess good)​
    Only you can answer that, I heard nothing but good reviews though there are other cheaper nice options...like the tamron 60mm macro
    Maybe I might consider a 70 or 75mm lens; it's longer than I'm used to and I feel...​
    85 and 105 are classic portrait FL. 70mm on DX = 105mm on FF with FOV...Lastly, you can't always get what you want in life. Learn to deal with the less than ideal...
  6. Scott: Pre-AI doesn't have AF, period. I don't use it anyway. But thanks for the info; I figure it has to do with the AF screw or something.
    Mihai: cool
    Alvin: thanks for the info, I wondered.
    Leslie: there's a difference between losing 8% of the image with the viewfinder and cropping away easily 3/4 of it. I can tolerate A in the circumstances, if I can avoid B, all the better.
    The 58mm f1.4 is not the noct, it's a very early F lens from the mid 60s. The noct is from the 80s and has a f/1.2 aperture; I am also aware I can't afford it, I could pay tuition for the semester and then some with its price. The Voigtlander is closer to my budget especially as I'm selling off a lens that costs about as much for lack of use.
    Thanks about the macros and the alternatives. I'd be content to judge but I find it annoyingly hard to find people to borrow these apparently rare-ish third party lenses from.
    I can deal with less than ideal, but I bother asking because there might be a slightly more ideal less-than-ideal than the one I'm running on. And I mentioned 70mm specifically because I know it has the same FOV as a 105mm.
  7. Sometimes I use my Micro Nikkor 60mm F2,8 as a portrait lens with nice results. It has a sweet bokeh (F2,8) and is usable. For portraits works (seriously) I use my 70-200 F2,8, it has more chances.
  8. Lauren, If your budget lets you buy the CV 58/1.4 Nokton I encourage you to do so. Apart of my own experience with this lens on D300 and D700, I can tell you that I never saw a negative review of this lens. It seems that first lenses produced were constantly overexposing with about 2/3 EV but this was corrected in the meantime, my copy which is one year old showing no such as behavior. Apart of this, the lens has a quite unique character... wide open (f1.4... f2.8) is very sharp in the center of the frame and quite soft on the border, similar with the magic portrait lens Nikon 85/1.4 AF-D... This makes the lens very pleasing for portraiture... and the bokeh is very nice too. Stopped down at f5.6 or f8 this lens is crazy sharp across the frame making it a very good lens for landscapes. Being beautifully crafted the only disadvantage of this lens is the lack of AF. If you can deal with this you will not have other reasons to be unhappy or to consider it less than ideal.
  9. Lauren, since you are on a budget, a Nikkor 58/1.4 converted to AI by Robert White (for very little) would do, provided you know and like its optical signature.
    If you can live with the increased DOF of an f/3.5 lens, for someone on a budget, an E-series 75-150 is hard to beat as a companion to that 55-60mm lens.
  10. The voigtlander is sure a great lens but I'll recommend the 60mm tamron f2 macro. I think it's better for you on the budget. It can takes great portraits, awesome bokeh, ultra sharp stop down, etc...basically same as the voigtlander...And double as a 1:1 macro lens, one stop slower but its AF...If you are not planning on FF anytime soon, the tamron makes more sense to me. There's a rebate going on but it's still ~$400 like the voigtlander...
    That said...The Voigtlander f1.4 is probably cooler to own for fondlers but the tamron is certainly more practical. I'm so glad I'm done with fondling, ooops I mean "cool" phase...Between these two, whatever one you end up buying, you can't really lose...
  11. Thanks for the link. Admittedly the f/3.5 DOF is a bit too little for some of what I did (I've had a few times where I let the 85mm at f/2.8 and was disappointed by the lack of isolation).
    Also I admit I mentioned the Nikkor 58mm f1.4 (actually it seems to be known better as 5,8cm f/1.4) in part because I have no idea what it looks like apart from spotting that keh had a few (and that I'd never even heard of the lens until this week)
  12. Oooh yeah...the 75-150 3.5 E is awesome! I agree with Luis totally and they are cheap...but the range isn't quite as nice as in FX imo.
  13. Lauren, nice to see mention of the seemingly forgotten Nikon 5.8cm f1.4. I can empathize with the 50’s ‘not quite doing it’, so to speak. I have several 50’s and 55 macro's but wanted ‘narrower’ (without jumping to 85) with a reasonably fast ap for low-light and isolation. I use mine primarily for enviro-type portraits around f2. My environment is sometimes rough so the heavy-metal construction and relatively modest price is welcomed. ‘Wide-open’ images are distinctly soft. Yet I don’t live and die by sharpness…in which case I'd die at 1.4. So much more to a pleasing image than sharpness. The lens yields a signature of its’ own; depth and ‘roundness’ come to mind, along with more pronounced center sharpness…which is a nice way of saying ‘peripheral softness’. Not a terrible quality for a portrait-type lens. I find these qualities especially conducive to grainy, black and white images. The temp is cooler, sometimes calling for an 81A (warming filter). The 5.8cm/1.4 isn’t for everyone. For refined portraiture I use 85/1.4 or 105/2 or 2.5.
    The 5.8cm harkens back to 1960-61. It was Nikon’s first foray into ‘fast, normal’ for F mount but quickly replaced by the 50/1.4. See what Nikon, or at least one Nikon engineer, has to say about it in an historical and performance context here.
    In deference to your isolation needs I’d steer clear of any lens with a max ap of 2.8. You may also want to consider the Nikon 55mm f1.2, though I've not used it. For all around/high-end, fast ap performance the Voigtlander Nokton 58/1.4 likely takes the cake.
  14. leslie makes a good suggestion for the tamron 60/2 and has some good reasoning behind it but...the "cool" factor of the 58/1.4 is much higher, plus it takes pretty good pictures from what i hear. also, the current price of the tamron is closer to $500, which is $100 more than the VL, so if budget is a concern...
  15. the current price of the tamron is closer to $500, which is $100 more than the VL, so if budget is a concern...​
    There's a $100 rebate until April on the tamron making it $400 fwiw...
  16. I'm not quite sure I get the Leslie's hate for the CV 58. Cool factor? Lens fondlers? Yeesh. Lauren mentioned a few manual focus, fast, 50ish primes. The Tamron 60/2 is, quite simply, not that. I don't particularly like the 58mm focal length as a "stay on my camera at all times" focal length, but the CV manages to stay on my camera most of the time. I couldn't care less about 'fondling' it, but the CV simply takes beautiful pictures. It has its faults (color fringing, overexposure, screw-in hood), but in that range of focal lengths, it's a great buy.
    Lauren, as far as 70ish lenses go, how invested in Nikon are you? Pentax has their legendary 77mm lens (as well as a bunch of 50ish primes to choose from) that might give you what you're looking for. While CV discontinued their Pentax mount lenses, it looks like you can still find some new ones.
  17. FWIW, I have the AF-Micro-Nikkor 55/2.8 and find it perfect for portraits on DX. And bitingly sharp wide open, too. I almost never use my 85/1.8 anymore.

  18. @Alex: I am actually probably less invested than I used to think, except maybe by habit: my 3 years old body replaces an older manual body I used to borrow from my mother years ago, the only lens I bought new was the nifty fifty (which I'd be replacing by a faster 50 or 55 or 60 most likely) and I have otherwise only kept 4 lenses, all used, including a kit I never use. Chances are I could probably resell and replace everything in a pinch if I could find my set of desired focal lengths/apertures for a tolerable price ;) - but apart from a rollei I played with a bit, I admit I've never held another brand apart from nikon :p
  19. Lauren: Are you looking at MF lenses to save a buck? Or because you want an MF lens? It's a good distinction to make, because if you really want an autofocus lens but are trying to cheap out with an MF one, the Tamron (or another AF lens) may be a GOOD choice. Do you want a super fast lens? Or would you be happy with an ƒ/2 or ƒ/2.8? Being okay with (or renting) a ƒ/2.8 lens means you could check out some zooms that would give you a 55mm and 70mm lens.
    You can rent all sorts of stuff online (if not in person, depending on where you live). Lensrentals.com looks interesting to me because they publish regularly updated reliability ratings (ex: Sigma had some major problems with QC and service a few years ago, Sony's stuff looks really bad as of last year, and Canon's legendary 85/1.2L doesn't seem to hold up well to rental abuse…). There's been lots of equipment mentioned, might as well try to rent some. Finding old manual focus primes for rent is probably not too easy but LR has the Voigtlander and Nikon 50/1.2 (MF), Sigma 50 and Nikon 60 (AF). FWIW, I haven't picked up a Pentax camera in a few decades…
    BTW, I'm firmly in the "manually focusing on a DX camera is a pain in the ass" camp. But… I took my CV 58 to the park today and got more keepers than I would have if I had used my (2nd copy even) AF Sigma. I didn't get /many/, but I /was/ shooting some jugglers…
  20. The CV is, IMO, fantastic for people. Here's a good idea of what not to do. Shot wide open and as a result you can see the bokeh getting a bit funky and some glow (does that count as halation?).
    D200 • ISO 100 • Voigtlander 58/1.4 • ƒ/1.4 • 1/1000th • B+W CPL • -2/3 EV exposure compensation
  21. Alex, that's a great shot!
    I'm not familiar with the CV lens. Was CV a manufacturer or Nikkor-compatible lenses at one time?
  22. Dan,
    CV is the usual abbreviation for Cosina Voigtlander lenses... you know Cosina aquired the german Voigtlander brand and they are producing several lenses in F mount... one being the 58/1.4 Nokton we talk about obverhere.
  23. Was CV a manufacturer or Nikkor-compatible lenses at one time?​
    CV = Cosina Voightlander. They make high end optic at an affordable price...Lot of LTM and M lenses and they make Canon/Nikon/Sony mount slr stuff as well. IMO still, the CV has a slightly better built quality and 1 stop advantage over the Tamron. But the Tamron can macro, can AF, has fulltime manual focus, doesn't extend while close focusing, maybe slightly sharper and has better bokeh...
    Alex, I don't hate the CV nor said the CV was bad, it's a rather great lens (go read my posts again) but the Tamron, in this case, is just too good. IMO this very Tamron, the 60mm F2 macro, is their best lens ever. It takes after the wonderful legendary 90mm 2.5/2.8 macro that put Tamron, the company on the map way back when...
    Don't believe me? Look it up at photozone.de
  24. Nice shot Alex.
    Also I'll take a look at the tamron then.
    Are you looking at MF lenses to save a buck? Or because you want an MF lens?​
    Yes ;) - the truth is I only ever use MF. I went from an old body with screw to a newer body without and only one of my five lenses is AF-S and I can't say I miss it much. I'd probably prefer a Katz-Eye, or the 100% viewfinder of the D7000, or hell, both, but yeah, I still do MF reasonably fine even if the vewfinder loses almost 10% of the picture.
  25. only one of my five lenses is AF-S and I can't say I miss it much.
    if you're used to MF, and are comfortable with it, then the 58/1.4 makes sense. the one knock on the Tamron 60 is the manual-focussing is not at all smooth, with makes it somewhat more of a portrait lens with 1:1 macro than a macro lens with portrait capabilities. also it's DX-only, unlike the Voigtlander. Tamron is not known for their build quality, unlike Voigtlander, which isn't a purely aesthetic consideration, as a metal body is sure to be more durable in the long run. also if you ever upgrade to FF, etc. the good news is that both the 58 and the 60 would seem to be excellent choices for what you want to do. the bad news is that deciding between the two isn't an easy call.

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