Sharpest 50mm or 35mm prime for d750?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by dylan_park, Nov 13, 2016.

  1. I am looking to get an opinion on the sharpest 50mm prime, which would be for the d750?
    Also from anyone who has one, have you found that af fine tune was a neccessity when you ended up getting it? If you believe the 35mm to be sharper, id love any opinions as well
  2. Sigma Art series 50mm - which is a bit better than the
    35mm. Yes, I needed fine tune (and sometimes live
    view) to lock focus. The 55mm Otus is slightly better
    wide open if you don't need AF or quite a lot of money;
    the Sigma matches it stopped down slightly.

    This assumes aperture matters to you. By f/8 pretty much any 50mm will out-resolve the sensor.
  3. I have been very happy with the 50mm. 1.4 Nikkor G.
  4. Dylan what is your goal in using a top of the line 35 or 50mm lens? My 50mm f1.8G is very sharp and light weight, I use it for street photography. While I would love to own the aforementioned 55mm Otus, it's manual focus, weights over 2 lbs and cost $4,000. Do you to carry that as part of your Kit?
  5. In truth, sharpest is, of course, a relative term. Moreover it is ambiguous. Accutance, contrast, and other different variables can be chosen to measure things that people call 'sharp'.
    Almost any standard 50mm lens of Gaussian design (and most are) will be sharp enough, in whatever sense, for 99% and 44/100ths of purposes.
    Get one of the standard f/1.8 or so Nikkor 50mm lenses. Every 'faster' lens, even the f//1.4s, will necessarily involve more compromises to achieve that speed, and most lenses will be sharpest in their middle aperture ranges anyhow.
    In my, perhaps arrogant, opinion, more people screw up their focus using fine tuning than improve it. FWIW
  6. Absolutely. The Otus is the class option, but it's silly money, huge, and you have to put up with manual focus while trying to nail the f/1.4 depth of field. Sticking with the AF options, well, take a look. The AF-S f/1.4 is a perfectly decent lens, but for me it has quite a lot of LoCA for its price, and it's still not all that sharp until you stop down a bit (by f/4 it beats the Sigma wide open). The bokeh is arguably not as nice with the AF-S as with the older (and much softer, at wide apertures) AF-D. The 58mm Nikkor has very nice rendering by all accounts, but behaves like the AF-D only more so: soft wide open, sharpens up in the middle on stopping down, the corners take a long time to catch up. Sharpness isn't everything (especially since modern image processing software does a good job of deconvolving leens aberrations), so there's a lot to be said for this; unfortunately, sharpening to get the microcontrast back does tend to make the bokeh worse, so there's a trade-off. I like the Sigma's bokeh, relatively speaking.

    If you want sharpness (and can get it to focus accurately), I'll repeat my claim that the 50mm Sigma is in a different league to the Nikkors, even if it doesn't quite catch the Otus at f/1.4 - and it's a fraction of the Otus's price. However, it does cost a lot more than the Nikkors (especially the 50mm ones) and it's not a small lens - it's closer to a 24-70 than a 50mm in appearance (though to be fair, more the Tamron than the bigger Nikkors). I've got several f/1.8 Nikkors (AF-D, AF-S, E-series) because they're tiny and relatively cheap, and I'm willing to put up with their issues at the price more than I was with the f/1.4 Nikkors. The Sigma is good enough that I didn't mind paying for it.

    Again, this assumes you care about wide-aperture performance. Compared with the cheap f/1.8 lenses, the Sigma has a massive advantage wide open, but the f/1.8 AF-D is sharper at f/5.6 than the Sigma is wide open. The f/1.8 AF-D has mildly ugly bokeh, too; the AF-S is better and appreciably sharper than the AF-D wide open (and behaves much closer to the f/1.4 AF-S), but doesn't sharpen up as much on stopping down, and it's a bit bigger and more expensive than the AF-D. The E-series, in case you wondered, is the same optics as the f/1.8 AF-D (minus coatings) and manual focus, but doesn't have the hugely inset front element which makes it almost a pancake lens.

    Rich person's answer: Otus (and pay someone to carry/focus it). Moderately well-off enthusiast's answer: Sigma (assuming you can pay for it and don't mind the inconvenience of carrying it). Price/performance answer: 50mm f/1.8 AF-S if you want a good all-rounder, or 50mm f/1.8 AF-D if you want a sharp lens but don't care about bokeh or want to shoot at wide apertures. Oh, and if you have any friends with a DX body, throw in the HSM pre-Art Sigma as a decent performer (but the corners on FX are awful). But you'll get better photos with the one you own than the one you're saving up for.

    The sharpest 35mm is probably the Sigma Art as well - it's smaller than the 50mm and I believe not quite as good, but it's certainly decent. Of course, for the money of the 50mm Sigma you can probably get a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.8. For the price of the Otus, you could get the Sigma 35mm/50mm/85mm triumverate. What price sharpness? I'd also say give DxO or something similar a go rather than a simpler raw conversion path, and see how cheaply you can get "good enough" - it's been quite shocking seeing the preview of images from my 24-70 Tamron (which is a decent lens) sharpen up as it goes through enhancements.
  7. I have never been crazy about my Nikon 50mm f1.4 G on my D750, but I love the Nikon 35mm f1.8 on it. Its nice and cheap too at about 1/5 the price of the 35mm f1.4.
  8. The 50mm 1.4 AF-S is noticeably soft to my's not that different to my old 50mm 1.4 AI-S. I'd still prefer it to the 1.8, though, just because it has that very shallow DOF when you want it, Yes, I used Leicas for years...
  9. Agree w/Roger above, my 50/1.4 AIS (sample below) is better than the 1.8D. But, one can spend "yuge" amounts of cash for Schneider or Zeiss and ultimately it's up to the operator's technique and the visual that's chosen....and certainly less about sharpness of the optics.
  10. I've used the Nikon 50mm 1.4 G on both the D810 and the D750. To be frank, after a few thousand shots on each I wish I'd never bought it. Yes it seems to render colour well. But if I want to use it at 1.4 (for portraits?) there is rather ugly distortion and the way it goes out of focus is unattractive. If I take it down to say f4 what's the point in having it? Nikon 1.8 50mms are *so* nice and so inexpensive and seem to me to give much less distortion.
    Re. the 35s - a Sigma 35mm Art is just beautiful for the way it goes out of focus, but of course you can't take portraits from too close or you give your subjects banana noses. No experience with the modern Nikon 35mm prime - I used to like the old ones!
    Just to expand the discussion a little, the Nikon 85mm 1.8 G is amazing value for money if you haven't tried one. Good luck
  11. Here you go, three sharpest lenses 35mm or 50mm, according to DxO lab tests:
    In case the link doesn't work: Sigma 35mm f1.4A rates 39 & scored 22P-mpx resolution. Sigma 50mm f1.4A rates 41 & 24 P-mpx, Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 rates 44 & scores 24 P-mpx.
    From Roger Ciacala's blog:
    I have the Sigmas 35mm f1.4A and 50mm f1.4A. Astonishingly sharp on my D800E. I have a Nikon 24mm PC-E so I don't really need the Sigma 35mm f1.4, but it is just so excellent my heart overcame my head and I kept it.
    Kent in SD
  12. I would stay away from the 50/1.8AFD. I have been happy with the 50/1.8G that replaced my 1.4D (was a good lens, also).
    The Sigma 50 & 35/1.4 Art series are perhaps better. I had the Sigma 35/1.4 art, and it did render really nice images. But, I got what seemed to be a lower percentage of perfect focus with Sigma on the D800 vs Nikon glass, although I did use the Sigma dock to improve things. The D810 I have now probably would work better with the Sigmas, as would a D750.
  13. Yes, I've had focus trouble wide open with the 50mm
    and, especially, 35mm Sigmas - even with the dock. The
    D810 behaves somewhat better than the D800. I chimp
    and if I find I'm missing focus, I use live view. When they
    hit, they're very sharp, though.

    The 50mm f/1.8 AF-D is cheap, small, very sharp at
    f/5.6, and can blur the background at f/1.8 in the way a
    (short) zoom won't. But its bokeh isn't very nice and it's
    extremely soft wide open - if you want sharp and faster
    than f/4, look elsewhere.

    The 85mm f/1.8 AF-S is pleasantly sharp and has much
    nicer bokeh than the AF-D version. My only concern is
    that it has quite strong LoCA (as has the f/1.4) and
    therefore tends to turn backgrounds green. Apparently
    the Tamron 85mm is better behaved (and adds VC)
    though it's a lot more expensive. I'm waiting for the
    reviews of the Sigma 85mm Art - now it has the Nikkor
    105mm to contend with.

    As Leszek warns, I've lost way more images to user error
    than poor optics, through (lack of) sharpness or
    otherwise. Still, it's nice not to hit the limitations of your
  14. Try out, (if you can) a Voightlander 58mm f 1.4 MF but only $599.00
  15. So it seems their is mixed reviews on the focusing of some of these lenses to produce higher quality pictures, versus soft, though the sigmas are rated higher and more consistent with than the nikons. I use the 35mm for full body in which i shoot fashion and the 50mm for portraits. The 85mm takes me to far away from my subject.
  16. Wide aperture lenses often have more issues with focus accuracy - given that the shallow DoF requires them to be more precise than lenses with smaller apertures, they're usually also slower to focus.
    Sharpness is just one aspect of a lens; I wouldn't make it the be-all-and-end-all when choosing a lens. Different lenses render different (and that's not only down to resolution), and often enough it's other rendering qualities than just plain sharpness that make images captivating. So, instead of looking at resolution tests, I would look at images shot with these lenses and see which you like, and which you do not.
    I've got several 50mm lenses. The easiest to recommend is the 50mm f/1.8G - the price is right, it's dependable, light, simple and optically strong. Maybe not the sharpest, maybe not the most pleasant rendering ever, but it does little wrong and most things right. For the money it costs, very hard to beat.
    In my view, 35mm is a distinctly different focal length; it just looks different enough to not be 100% interchangeable with a 50mm.
  17. Indeed - while (especially on the D800) I did have quite extreme issues with the 35mm, the 50mm Art is pretty reliable at f/2, it's only at f/1.4 and/or in dim conditions that I feel it's a bit iffy - and I've not used it that often wide open in daylight. It may well be better with the D750 autofocus (which is considered to be a bit snappier than the D810's), and I have higher hopes for any successor that might get the D5's autofocus module. Still, it does sometimes miss a little, and that may be a concern. Live view has generally been my solution if in doubt.

    I'm reasonably happy with the bokeh of the Sigma too. It's possibly not as nice as the 58mm Nikkor, but it doesn't stand out as iffy like the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D. Still, while I've argued with others here before (and recently) about the merits of sharp lenses for portraiture, are you sure that absolute sharpness and a wide aperture is what you want? The Sigma will give you tack sharp eyelashes and blur everything else, but if you want the whole subject in focus, you may well be at a smaller aperture anyway. And you may not want sharpness if you want to hide skin blemishes (although I prefer to deal with that digitally). So I agree with Wouter, I'd check rendering (but I'd still personally take the Sigma, or possibly the 58mm Nikkor).

    I suppose I should also mention the Coastal Optics 60mm macro, if you don't need aperture and we're talking absolute sharpness...
  18. I can't resist a follow up comment about the Sigma 35 ART. The example I bought front focussed so much I took it back to the shop and had them adjust it on the dock. It's fine now and I just love the lens. But it is a little bit weird to sell lenses and an adjustment dock. All the other lenses I've put on my 810 focus correctly from the first time they are mounted. I wonder what's going on. All of which is not to be negative about the Sigma - I love what it does.
  19. The 35mm does seem particularly prone to focus issues (I don't know whether it's got wildly varying telecentricity or what's going on). Even after using the dock I have a little trouble. I did find everything behaved worse on my D800 than on my D810 - and I tihnk that includes the field curvature on my 14-24; I wonder whether my D800's flange distance was out of spec, even though I got Nikon UK to "check". So long as it hits focus, the 35mm is lovely. The 50mm is, in my experience, slightly sharper and slighty better behaved (but also more expensive and bigger). That said, I've mostly been using these two lenses in fairly dark conditions, and the D810's AF is known to be lagging a bit compared with other current FX bodies (okay, except the D610), so it's probably not the fairest test the lenses could have.

    I don't mind Sigma shipping a way to adjust their lenses (especially if Nikon don't have a multi-point AF fine tune built in). What I object to is that you have to take the lens off the camera to put it on the dock. That's really annoying, especially if you're making a tweak and trying to work out whether it's fixed - if you could plug the lens in via a separate port while it was still on the camera, that would be much better. I'm not 100% sure what the dock actually does - I get that the camera can offset where its AF module thinks the lens is in focus compared with where the sensor thinks its in focus, but unless the dock is adjusting internal optics rather than just firmware, I don't see how the dock can fix a misbehaving lens. I do see that it can improve "open loop" AF photography ("move here and take a photo", rather than "move and see whether you're in focus"), but I'd have thought what the camera sees is what the camera sees - or does Nikon's AF protocol internally talk to the lens? (I guess it might, which could be Nikon's way of dealing with varying telecentricity in their own lenses. Obviously it's not going to do anything for a non-D lens.) Another day, another question about photography that I probably should have asked several years ago...
  20. Nikon's 50/1.8G lens won't disappoint.

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