Lenses for D800

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by a_tang|1, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. I've just received my D800 today, i'll get out with it this weekend to try it out. I plan to use my prime lenses which are 24mm F2.8D, 50mm F1.8G and 85mm F1.8D to start but I was wondering if anyone has used older lenses? I have a couple of AIS nikkors in mint condition but have read reviews saying the D800 is unforgiving on older lenses. I also have a sigma 28-70 F2.8ex which gave excellent results with my F100 so was going to try it too.
  2. See this extensive on-going thread over at FM:
    Don't let generalizations fool you - the D800 is unforgiving of any lens that is not the sharpest - it really doesn't matter how old it is.
    I use/have used these manual focus Nikkors on my D800 and they are excellent:
    • 16/3.5 AI - Sharpest Nikkor I own. At f/8 it has more resolving ability than the 36MP of the D800 can record. Excellent flare/ghosting resistance.
    • 45/2.8 AI-P - Sharp center wide open, very sharp across the frame stopped down except for the very far extreme corners which never quite reach great levels. Does not like being pointed into the sun however.
    • 90/3.5 Cosina Voigtlander SL-II - Excellent wide open across the frame and oh so compact
    • 100/2 MP Zeiss - Excellent across the frame wide open, with slight increase in sharpness and contrast stopping down. Amazing at f/4. It's not really a recently designed lens, but it sure acts like one.
    • 105/2.5 AIS - Sharp in the center wide open - not bad across the frame stopped down. Has a bit of CA that cleans up nicely in post. Better at distance than up close.
    • 135/2 AIS - Low contrast wide open, but sharp and very sharp stopped down a bit. Every bit as good as the 135/2DC (in my experience actually better), but without the silly AF consistency problems.
    • 135/3.5 AIS - Very very good wide open and excellent stopped down. Not the greatest for flare/ghosting.
    • 180/3.4 Leica APO Telyt - Excellent wide open across the entire frame and hardly improves as you stop it down.
    • 400/5.6 ED-IF AIS or ED AI - The most compact 400mm Nikkor prime you can buy. Excellent even at f/5.6. A bit of CA is there, but typically this clears up in post. Really excellent closer in, but very very good at distance (assuming you aren't limited by atmospherics, which you typically are). The ED AI is slightly better than the ED-IF AIS.
    Undoubtedly other folks will chime in.
  3. It's not unforgiving, it just makes the best of what the lens can offer.
  4. Dehuan is right - if you are looking for pixel level sharpness from a lens the D800 is unforgiving. But, if you are not looking at the pixel level, unless a lens is really horrid, the extra sampling of the image by the 36MP of the D800 will make the lower resolution image/print be a bit better.
  5. Make sure that with your Nikkor AF lenses that you tune the camera's AF system (auto-focus micro adjust) for each of
    your lenses.

    With your manual focus lenses using the camera on a tripod and using live view to focus with will yield the best results.
  6. I never used the 55/3.5 macro (pre-AI, converted) much on my F, F2, and F3 preferring 35 mm as my standard lens, but on the D800, I found the 55 to be wicked sharp with the edges far surpassing zooms at that focal length. +1 on John's appraisal of the 105, but now that I have the 70-200/4, I'm retiring the primes in that range. The 35/2 is softer than my mid-range zoom (28-105) at that FL. I still use my 20/3.5 but the edges are not as sharp as I would like. My 300/4.5 is comparable to the 70-300 and not as good as the 70-200/4 with a TC14-II.
  7. Note that when you use live view (contrast detection autofocus), micro fine tuning information is not used.
    But when you auto-focus through the viewfinder (phase detection autofocus), accurate micro fine tuning can make a big difference in the sharpness of images.
  8. Your AF-D 24mm f/2.8 is optically identical to my Ai 24mm f/2.8 - so if you're happy with that lens, then you actually already have a good idea how well older designs can work :)
    There is a certain level of truth to the "internet warning"; the D800's high resolution has the capability to show flaws in lenses more clearly. In that sense, it is unforgiving.... if you go looking for lens flaws. But all it does is making whatever flaw there always already was more easy to spot - so it does not make lenses worse. Many people uphold the vision that older lenses have more flaws, so they'll expose their limits more on a D800. Which could very well be true; I prefer older lenses all the same as many of the flaws can render nicer pictorial results than the more clinical, contrasty look of modern lenses.
    If you've always been happy with how your older lenses performed, then they will not disappoint on a high resolution camera. You may find a new thing or two about their performance, but their qualities and capabilities will be the same, and remain the same.
  9. Much also depends on what you are going to do with your D800 images once you have taken them. I too love the details that my D800's 36 megapixels gives me.
    However I then end up either up making prints on A3 art paper (in fact I often standardise on a 22 x 33 cm image size and use paper with a slightly textured surface). Alternatively I often produce projected images for FIAP-sponsored competitions and these are often restricted to 1400 x 1050 pixels or smaller.
    It gets worse: One of my favourite image processing techniques is to use variants of Orton effect, sandwiching an out of focus image with a sharp one. Occasionally too (sin of sins!) I even add artificial grain to my images.
    I can already hear mutterings that a D800 is wasted on the likes of me! However occasionally I do need super-sharp large prints, and then the D800 is unbeatable.
  10. "I was wondering if anyone has used older lenses?" - Wouldn't it be a bit surprising if nobody had used older lenses on their D800?
    I can recommend the Ai-S 105mm f/2.5 and f/1.8 Nikkors without reservation; the 55mm f/3.5 and f/2.8 Micro-Nikkors are also excellent; the 75-150mm f/3.5 Series E I would strongly recommend; the Ai 20mm f/3.5 is quite good and the f/2.8 Ai-S version slightly better; the 400mm f/5.6 IF-ED Nikkor is very good when stopped down a little; 28mm f/2 Ai-S is reasonable (only let down by extreme corners at wider apertures) and performance of the 24mm f/2.8 Ai-S is similar; the 80-200mm Ai-S f/4 Zoom-Nikkor is excellent in the centre but edges leave something to be desired here too; AF 70-210 zoom-Nikkor (early version) is just about 'useable'; the AF, Ai or Ai-S 35mm f/2 Nikkors I'd leave alone except in emergency.
  11. I use an older Nikkor 24-85 f2.8 D on mine as a standard lens, and despite what I said earlier about downgrading my images, this gives me sharp results.(It has some barrel distortion though). I also use an older Micro Nikkor 60mm f2.8 D and this too is sharp. Both were bought secondhand.
  12. First though, why don't you take it out for a spin with the lenses you have and see what results you see. Proceed on findings:)
  13. I enjoy leaving the bag of stuff at home, and going out with just my 28/f2AIS. The 28, along with a 55/3.5, are my most used MF lenses. The 28/2 just renders images very nicely, somehow, when stopped down just a little.
    Also, a good alternate to a large 2.8 tele-zoom is the 135/2.8 AI lens. For whatever reason, I am liking my 135/2.8 a little better right now than my 105/2.5.
    Sort of looking at options for a small good wide (20mm ish) to add to this set.
  14. Robert, the Ai 20mm f/3.5 is extremely compact and delivers quite nice IQ. The 20mm f/2.8 Ai-S Nikkor is a little more bulky but shows slightly less lateral CA IME. Supposedly the AF 20mm uses the same optics and is therefore about the same size and weight as the MF version.
  15. Thanks, RJ, I might try to find a 3.5. I had an older 20/2.8AF pre-D that I did not think was fantastic. Sold it a while back.
    Been sort of looking at the Voigtlander version. Am always trying to "shrink" my Nikon DSLRs after using old rangefinders for a couple of years. The latest UWA zooms are good, I am sure, but they always seem too large.
  16. So for weddings I use 2 d800, one with the 24-70 and the other with a 70-200 both f2.8 and both of these cameras will
    have an sb900 on them if needed. I will carry an extra D700 with a f1.4 85 mm prime on it or a f2.8 14-24. I also carry 2-
    3 SB800 just in case of over heating issues raise their ugly head. Lots of batteries including double AA. I use enelope as
    they hold their charge for long time. If you want to see what can be accomplished visit my website at

    Not sure whether you really need the other stuff. Other things I use are miniTT1 and FlexTT5 for off camera flash and a
    grey card.

    You have to remember or understand that weddings typically are very rapidly moving events and knowing what you can
    achieve with your gear may be more important than lots of gear.
  17. All of my lenses are older than my D800E. But if I had the money, the one lens I would buy specifically for use with the D800E is the Zeiss 55/1.4 Otus.
  18. The Zeiss 135mm/2 Apo Sonnar is also stellar, almost as good as the new 55mm from what I’ve read on DxOmark. The 135mm ZF.2 does demand really good technique to get the most out of it though. The 25mm/2 and 35mm/2 Zeiss lenses are also very good, but the 25mm/2.8 and 28mm/2 Zeiss lenses have corner field curvature toward infinity which is not good for landscapes with close foreground objects, so I am selling mine. The AFS Nikkor 28mm/1.8 G is fantastic optically and a bargain compared to Zeiss lenses. I’ll have more money to buy paper and ink.
  19. I also like my 180mm/2.8 AIS ED Nikkor on my D800E. It’s a bit softer in the corners compared to the best F-mount lenses available now, but the 180mm’s results are quite acceptable for most uses. I used to have a 180mm/2.8 AF ED-IF Nikkor until our apartment was burgled in 2011, and it was good too, but I prefer the manual focus version’s out of focus character (bokeh) to the AF version’s. Thankfully insurance paid for the replacement. But if Zeiss or Nikon were to come out with a newer and better 180mm or 200mm prime, I’d be very tempted to upgrade. I know some of the 70-200mm zooms are supposed to be better than the 180mm Nikkors, but I don’t want to tote a big zoom’s weight.

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