What is your favorite lens?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by renee_shipley, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. I ask partly out of curiosity, and partly so that as I learn, (hopefully) improve and develop my own style, I'll have a list built to help me should NAS strike. So I hope this isn't too silly a question (or been asked before - I did search but could have missed it).
    What is your favorite lens, and why? Nikon/third party/DX/FX/fixed focal length/zoom/use - doesn't matter. Please do however include the "why." If you have more than one, perhaps one for DX and one for FX, list both.
    I myself cannot start the answers; I've only got two lenses and as a beginner, I'm still figuring things out.
  2. This week?

    Still having a great time with Sigma's new 35/1.4, used on an FX body. Results are just glorious, and sharp enough for any use to which that format lends itself. The lens is solid, responsive, and the output looks terrific.

    On DX, the time is usually split between Nikon's venerable 17-55/2.8 and the 70-200/2.8. Can get a lot done with those to workhorse lenses.
  3. Like Matt I love the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. Probably one of the nicest lenses I have ever used. I am also a huge fan of the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 it is the one I use the most to pay the bills. Closely followed by my 135mm f/2.0 DC. For fun I run around with my 1959 vintage 58mm f/1.4 or my 55mm f/1.2.
  4. pge


    I would say my 50mm F1.8G. Its not the most expensive of my lenses, obviously, and is not the sharpest or fastest, yet it is pretty sharp and pretty fast. But I really like the focal length on FX, second would be 28mm. I really like how light it is, I think it focuses really well and I can take it anywhere because of its size.
    MB, I have that 55mm F1.2 also. Back in 2006 it was my main lense on my D200. I didn't own an AF lens for the first 8 months I owned that camera.
  5. 200 f/2 AF-S VR (I have a mk 1). Shoots in the dark from far enough away not to be intrusive (except in the "what the hell's that lens?" sense), very sharp, and it loses the background in lovely smooth bokeh without visible chromatic aberrations. It's just about small enough to hand-hold, too. The biggest problem I have is that it doesn't focus very close, so my 150mm OS Sigma macro is a back-up.

    Back on my D700, my 28-200 lump of silver plastic did very well for me, but the optics aren't quite up to a D800.
  6. On my D700, right now maybe the 50/1.4AFS.
    Small and light enough to take it when I don`t know what to take... also because I have my mind suited to this lens.
    Very sharp at f5.6, soft looking at f1.4. Like the light construction, the hood is great, it balances perfectly on the camera.
    I like standard focal length lenses.
  7. Another vote for Sigma 35/1.4. From Nikon camp I'm in love for 24/1.4 but I use with great joy my old Nikon 105/2.5 AI'd P (Sonnar design).
  8. Nikkor AiS 35mm f/1.4. It will also be my favourite next week. Yes, I know most people feel that modern lenses are improved by a lot, are sharper, have less flaws and so on. And all that is true. But for me, I feel familiar with all the funny optical treats that the 35 f/1.4 has (Jekyll and Hyde: hazy and fuzzy at wide apertures, incredibly sharp at f/4 and f/5.6), and most of all I like the way the older lenses render (gentler, in my view). So, close behind in the line of favourites are all oldies: 105mm f/2.5 (epic lens), 20mm f/3.5 (small, flare-less and really quite sharp) and the 50mm f/1.2 (the somewhat less gifted but easier going little brother of the 35 f/1.4).
    All these mainly on FX, though the 35 f/1.4 on DX was also big fun. But the 35 f/1.8DX just makes too much sense to not use that instead; I really liked the 35 f/1.8DX though I did not own it very long - simple, small, sharp, light and cheap. Good stuff.

    Out of more modern lenses that can actually autofocus and such luxuries, I'd say it's the AF-S 300mm f/4. I don't use it a lot for the last few years, but it's a joy to use it, and it's capable of stunning results. It's a bit slowish to AF maybe, but well, my bankaccount and back won't cope with a 300 f/2.8, and this surely is the next best thing. On DX or FX.
  9. My favorite is my 105mm f2.5 AI, wide open or at f4. LOVE it... but I have to manually guess exposure with it, so I don't use it a lot. But when I do, I just really enjoy it and love the images. I also love my 55mm f3.5 micro for similar reasons.
    I also love working with my Tokina 11-16 because I LOVE an ultra-wide perspective.
    I shoot virtually everything with my 18-70, though, on my D90. So, no, I rarely use my favorites.
  10. Presently I'm liking my Voigtlander 28mm f2.8. Very sharp and very contrasty. It's a fx lens that I use on my d800 a lot. Small and a joy to focus.
  11. My FAVORITE lens? Of all time? Any maker? Dang, that's hard to choose! I'm going with my Andrew Ross Petzval, made for quarter plate. It's a 5 inch focal length and an astonishing f2.8! The serial number of 1351 dates this lens to about 1845 (eighteen fortyfive,) i.e. just five years after the invention of photography! It was made in London. It still looks smashing mounted on my Chamonix 045n 4x5! The lens was designed around 1840 by Austrian mathmatics professor Josef Petzval--it's quite a story! It's estimated that about 80% of all photos taken between 1840 and 1890 were taken with a Petzval. They were still making them in the 1940s. Lomo has a project where they're making them again, this time in Nikon & Canon mount.
    As for the "why" it's my favorite, well I just think it's SO COOL that I, a regular guy living out in South Dakota, can own and use a fantastic lens like this. Many photography museums don't even have something this early or in this good a shape. It's a very nice lens to use.
    Kent in SD
  12. Currently my favorite is the new 80-400mm AFS lens. I am using it for everything (landscape, macro, some wildlife, portrait) - really!
  13. 35 f1.4; 45 f2.8P; 50 f1.2
  14. Ofey--
    By any chance, are you a resident of Toronto? :)
    Kent in SD
  15. jti


    For me Nikkor AF-S 300mm f4 is the normal lens :)
  16. I go along with Peter. The 105mm lens in all its forms, non-AI, AI, and AF is just a marvelous lens on both film and digital
    Nikon SLRs. The newer 18-55mm is also very handy.
  17. In order; Sigma 50-150mm f2.8 OS, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 (before the USB version), Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.
  18. Another vote for the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. I can't seem to remove that lens from my D3s when out for personal shooting. Second, my Sigma 150mm f/2.8 for portraits. Plan to get the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 someday too!
    Sigma 150mm f/2.8
  19. Sorry, forgot about the "Why?" part . . .
    1. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 [on an FX body]: It's beautiful--it looks, feels gorgeous. It shoots in the dark; it's razor-sharp; its focal length is "just right" for so many things, especially for people/environment shots, PJ-style shots, etc. Since getting the Sigma, I rarely mount my uber-expensive AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G anymore (but that's partly because I bought two more ultra-wide zooms).
    2. Sigma 150mm f/2.8: I bought this specifically for portraits; it has the "perfect" amount of compression, and is far more balanced for handheld shooting, compared with the long, heavy AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G VR I, which I also own. It's ridiculously sharp--it may be the sharpest lens I own. Since getting the Sigma 150mm, I hardly ever shoot my pricey AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G.
    3. Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8: Reportedly not quite as sharp as the Nikkor 300mm f/2.8, but still respectable. Boy, what a range--unique in the market. I played with one at a recent photo show, and just loved its compression and shallow-focus.
  20. Favorite FX "work" lens: AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4.0G ED VR. Excellent all-around performance. Does everything I need for flash-fired event shooting.
    AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4.0G ED VR
  21. Renee said:
    I ask partly out of curiosity, and partly so that as I learn, (hopefully) improve and develop my own style, I'll have a list built to help me should NAS strike.
    I just read your profile, and since you own a DX body, I think recommending DX lenses, specifically, would be more helpful to you. If I were still a DX-only shooter, I would be running to buy the new Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 wide-angle zoom. It's literally the fastest zoom on the planet. Mount this baby on your D7000, and you would amp-up your available-light game considerably. Even shallow-focus shots are possible with a lens like this. A bit pricey ($799), but it's a unique lens with unique capabilities. Someday, add an 85mm f/1.8 for casual (or, formal) portraiture, and you'd be all set!
  22. Thanks for the recommendations, Ralph! I do have a running "wish list" on Adorama and the 85mm is already on it, as is the 300 f/4. I'll add the Sigma that you mention as well. I'm still working on the basics and getting my tripod situated (so I can do verticals with my grip) so as a beginner, it's fruitless for me to purchase lenses right now - though I couldn't resist the 35mm. Don't worry, when I figure out what I want to do that I can't accomplish with what I have, I'll be here asking the question! I've enjoyed reading the responses; I thought I would only get two or three. It's just like owning horses: ask 100 horse owners a question and you'll get as many different answers/opinions. But it's all helpful to me - it helps me know what is out there and why people use it. For example, I've been reading about portraiture (I recently did some outdoor shots for the neighbor high-school senior) and I've learned that you use certain lenses for this because of their compression abilities. I didn't know this!
    Kent - what a wonderful piece of history you have there. If only we could see the things that lens has seen!
  23. I'd have to say my 1.8 trio, the 35/50/85 f/1.8 AFS lenses. on Dx. All are really sharp and very usable for portraiture from f/2. And the cost of the 3 is not bad. Just missing a good 24mm to round out the kit, but nothing decent at a decent price. If I wasn't looking at changing systems I'd seriously look at the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8.
  24. It was my Sigma 10-20 (on my D7000), but I fallen in love with my Nikkor 10.5 f2.8. I do like the wide viewpoint. Both tend to push my imagination.
  25. The Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR I. I've had two copies of this lens for years, and it's just amazing. Always sharp, always reliable.
  26. First, I would like to have Nikon, better quality, both in sensor output as well as bodies.
    Second, for camera, I would like to have a full frame, but not d4, it is too big to carry around and maneuver, the camera at the size of d800 or d600 with the characteristics of d4. Let's say a 24 MP full frame like d600 with faster af and speed.
    As far as lenses, I would like to cover the entire focal band with the fastest and sharpest lenses, for wide angle, say af-s 18-35mm the new one, for normal range, 50mm f/1.8 af-s, and for normal zoom af-s 70-200 f/4, and for telefoto 500mm f/4 vr with tc-14-e.
    Note that my selection also optimizes price to performance, and I do not take specific photography, I'm just an amateur photographer taking bird photos mostly.
  27. Nikon doesn't make what would be my favorite lens: a fast midrange zoom with VR. They don't even make one for the Nikon 1 System, even though an f/2.8 midrange zoom with VR should be reasonably lightweight and compact.
    So I don't have a favorite lens. Just a bunch of compromises that deliver acceptable results.
  28. Voigtländer Apo-Lanthar f:3.5 90 mm SL II:
    very compact, optics near perfect on a D800, ideal focal length, close focus capable, high quality construction
  29. hbs


    My 24-120 mm Nikkor AF-S VR f/4 resides on my D600 95% of the time. It has a great zoom range, it's sharp, the VR works very well, and what distortion it has can easily be fixed in software.
  30. 25-50mm f4,0 AIS, sharp and flexible.
  31. My most used lens is the 60/2.8D Micro.
    My favorite lens (today) is my 18/2.8D-AF.
  32. My most used lens is the AFS 300 f/4 . Why - Sharp, quick auto focus, can handhold. You can add a 1.4TC for extra length with little to no loss of sharpness. Or, you can add extension tubes and use for closer work.
  33. I recently changed my philosophy about lenses. When I started out years ago I had a Tamron 28-200 which I got for travel. I thought this lens was great, huge range and small. When I get a little more experience I realized all it's short comings and sold it in exchange for the Nikon 24-120 VR (the old one). I thought this lens was great until I realized all it's short comings. Looking at all my old slides I wish I had purchased something sharper with less range. I later switched to digital and got the 18-200, which I thought was great. I still think the 18-200 is great but the range comes at a cost. The one thing that made the 18-200 so good was it was sharp at most of it's focal range (not so much in the corners). I used it happily for years. Now I've opted for the smaller 16-85. I find it makes less compromises than the 18-200 and is a little sharper, especially in the corners. I really like that it is smaller and lighter. This is something I care about much more these days. With travel or as a street lens around town it is a perfect size and range. I have a number of primes I use when I require high quality. I also have a wide angle lens which I always take along on trips.
  34. I'm really enjoying this thread; thanks to all who have responded. It's a bonus that the Voigtlanders were mentioned; I never heard of that company so naturally I googled it and got to learn a little bit more.
    I'm looking forward to the day when I can answer this question for myself.
  35. Sigma 30mm f/1.4
    For me, this is a perfect all-purpose focal length on DX. I think this lens has great character and it is sharp enough for my purposes. I just wish it focused a bit closer (i.e. I want the new version!).
  36. I wandered here from the front page, but when I can use it I really like the Olympus 45mm f 1.8. But I often don't have the space or an appropriate subject for it; otherwise I'm often using the Olympus 17mm f 1.8.
  37. Another vote for Voigtlander, mine is 58mm f/1.4. Sweet bokeh, silk smooth focus ring, and very sharp. Excellent build.
  38. Dan said:
    My favorite lens (today) is my 18/2.8D-AF.
    Wow! Another 18mm f/2.8D owner! I was excited when I first bought mine (used, off of Ebay), until I found out it was Nikon's second-worst lens ever (according to some guy named, "Ken."). Unfortunately, I think it is a bit on the not-so-sharp side. How's yours? That said, it does have "character." I do love the AF Nikkor 18mm f/2.8D on a film body, however.
  39. Toss up between Zeiss 35mm/2 Distagon ZF.2 and Nikkor 28mm/1.8G AFS Nikkor.
  40. ON my D700 the redoubtable and under-appreciated Nikkor AF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5D. It was the kit lens sold with the F100, it's not expensive, it has a very good (though technically misnamed) macro function that I use quite a bit, and it's sharp throughout the range with excellent color and tone. I'd love to see some careful work done by someone using that lens on a D800 to see how it holds up.
    Dx-- a tie between the 16-85 which really is shockingly good; and the 35 f/1.8 which is also shockingly good.
    All that said I do 90 percent of my shooting on B&W film. I have two F's, an F2, an F3, F100, FM2n, FE, and FA. Favorites among the pre-Ai's are the 58/1.4 mentioned above, the early 5cm f/2 S, the 85/1.8 HC and the 105/2.5P (Sonnar). For the F3 and later, the 20/3.5 AI-s, the AI 50/2 (so great), the 105/2.5 AI-s (even greater than you've heard...), and perhaps the most beautiful of all, the AI-s 180/2.8 ED. And EVEN BETTER than all these, for the Nikon S2 Rangefinder I have the 50/1.4 SC; I also have one in Leica LTM mount: and they are just stunning. One shoots with such confidence using that lens.
    Indeed this is THE WHY: with all these manual focus film lenses, one shoots knowing that the tool in the hand is the best: and this knowledge helps me both to see and to take the photograph. When people say a great photographer can take a great picture with an utterly mediocre lens they are quite right; but excellent, beautiful lenses help you approach that place where the great photographers already live.
  41. I "re-discovered" the 28mm focal length after getting a 28mm/f2 AIS to shoot basketball with a different prospective.
    That lens now lives on the front of my D600. It seems to have more "room" in an image vs. a 35mm, but the shots don't the "look I shot this with a wide angle" wow factor that is too common.
    It is sharp enough stopped down a little that I can crop on the D600 (enough MP) to achieve a 35mm or almost 50mm prospective, if need be. Low distortion of people's faces (for a WA) leave a natural look to the images(yes, I could fix this with other lenses in PS, but no fun).
    The 28/1.8G might be better, have not tried one out yet.
  42. I've got a few favourites - the 105 AF-S VR macro lens, I bought this lens to do macro work and discovered that I really like to shoot at this focal length. Also, my 300mm f4 af-d, I bought a barely used version for 700 dollars, I just can't believe the value in this lens. Great tele, well built, fairly light and small for its focal length...
    I also have a Zenza PS 110 macro for my Bronica that I love, and don't use often enough.
  43. That 300mm sure is getting a lot of attention here. Daniel, you got a great deal on yours!
  44. The AI (in my case) 28mm f/2 is another lens I should have mentioned, as per Robert above. Twenty eight is a great focal length for city streets and buildings and the like and my 28/2 is very sharp. That said, if you are looking for affordable 28mm, the AI-s (NOT the AI, only the AI-s) 28/2.8 is justly famous; no sharper (except in very close) than the 28/2 it nevertheless has a look -- as the 105/2.5 has a look -- that can often just take your breath away.
  45. Since everyone's so fond of the 35mm Sigma and I've already got behind the 200 f/2 and 150mm Sigma, I should sound supportive of the 35mm Sigma as well. I have one, and it seems pretty impressive - but the reason I've not yet grown fond of it is that I've yet to get around to tuning it so the AF isn't a mile off. I have several blurry wedding snaps (fortunately only as a guest) before I noticed how far out it was. I'm fond of the 14-24 too, but I'm a little unimpressed by the field curvature on mine. My budget performer is probably a 135 f/2.8 AI-S.

    Just to take a second for the wish list: 6mm f/2.8, 21mm Zeiss, 55mm Zeiss Otus, 60mm Coastal Optics, 125mm Voigtlander APO-Lanthar, 300 f/2, 400 f/2.8 VR and possibly the 1200-1700. Though I might get an 85 f/1.8 first. :) (I also have 17mm f/4 tilt-shift envy from the Canon mount.)
  46. Andrew said:
    I have several blurry wedding snaps (fortunately only as a guest) before I noticed how far out it was. I'm fond of the 14-24 too, but I'm a little unimpressed by the field curvature on mine.​
    My Sigma 35mm f/1.4 focused fine on both of my D3s bodies, but was waaaay out on my D800E. I mean waaay off. However, once my Sigma USB-dock finally arrived, I updated the Sigma lens' firmware, and then the focus on the D800E was spot-on. Have you tried the dock yet?
  47. In order decending: Voigtlander 40mm F2 Ultron, Nikkor 105mm 2.5, Nikkor 85mm 1.4. This week.
  48. My favorite is on the Rolleiflex. 75mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss Planar. There is a porcelain smoothness to tones with this lens. It's ability to add a touch of magic to images has allowed me to work in a New Topographic fashion ( what some mistakenly call banal ) and discover surprising beauty in the play of graphics and light.
    But that is only because of traditional black and white fiber printing. The digital for all it's great abilities has yet to seem charming. Or at least I can't see it on a computer screen or inkjet print. I therefor only look for sharpness. Older Nikon AIS lenses are usually not as sharp as moderns, and I can't make out their special qualities. I have 55 Micros and 105 P, but if they are imparting anything unique to digital capture I'm missing it.
    So I shoot with a Nikon AF 35mm F/1.8 G DX, and it does a fine job in a matter of fact way. Period. Oh and that little 18-55 is sharper than most all my older Nikkors, as long as you stop it to F/5.6 for the corners. I'm not one to dismiss the kit lens. It's a real performer.
  49. My personal favorite is the Sigma 8-16mm HSM. It is super sharp, and is an insanely wide angle for getting really creative with perspective. For more normal shooting, it's tough to beat the 50mm f1.8G Nikkor as well.
  50. Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G. That lens is my money-maker!
  51. I use film and like the M-series 35mm Summicron (pre-ASPH), sometimes the CV 21/4. On an SLR, the 24/2.8 Nikkor.
  52. My Sigma 35mm f/1.4 focused fine on both of my D3s bodies, but was waaaay out on my D800E. I mean waaay off. However, once my Sigma USB-dock finally arrived, I updated the Sigma lens' firmware, and then the focus on the D800E was spot-on. Have you tried the dock yet?​
    Sorry for the delay, Ralph: No, I've not tried my dock yet. I'd be very critical of the lens if I couldn't fix it, but since I've not tried yet, I'm putting it down to user error. :) Someday, I'll have time to do stuff (like take photos).
  53. 135 2.0 dc. I love the images from that lens. What I use if I can. 35 2.0, lightens my bag for street, wonderful for environmental portraits. 85 1.4 because it just cranks out wonderful images effortlessly. It stays on the camera because I can step in for torso / hs portraits or out for environmental with it. These are my walk around, street kit.

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