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Using a D700 with prime lenses


luisarguelles
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<p >I’m thinking about buying a D700 as my “digital” camera. Although I’m primarily a b&w film-guy, sometimes I shoot in color and the big pixels in the D700’s detector attract me a lot. I have the following Nikkor lenses: 20mm f/2.8 AF-D, 24mm f/2.8 AF-D, 28mm f/2.8 AF, 35mm f/2.8 AF-D, 50mm f/1.8 AF and 85mm f/1.8 AF. Do these lenses work well with the D700 in terms of results in image quality? Weight is a very important factor for me and while a D700 plus a, let’s say, 24mm prime lens is inside my weight limit, a D700 with a zoom lens mounted on it is too much for my neck. Thank you very much for your welcomed comments.</p>

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<p>The 50, and 85 will work great; the 35 also; the 24mm gets differing opinions depending on the user (at long distances I found the 24 AF D to have softness and lots of CA outside of the very center of the FX frame; but e.g. Bjorn Rorslett uses the Ai-S version and comments highly on it when using the D3X). The 20 and 28 would probably be better replaced with something else such as Nikon's 17-35/2.8, 14-24/2.8, or some manual focus primes.</p>

<p>For manual focus, there are several excellent primes to consider to replace the AF wide angles. The 20mm f/3.5 Voigtländer is very compact (tiny actually) and makes a very nice image on FX at f/8. The 21mm Zeiss has an excellent reputation and I can say that I've been very happy with the 18mm Zeiss although I'd like the aperture to be f/2.8 for easier focusing. Nikon's 28mm f/2 and f/3.5 Ai-S at give excellent results on D700; I use the 28/2. The Zeiss 35/2 better corner-to-corner sharpness than Nikon 35mm primes and it's already excellent at f/2. You may also want to consider the 35/1.4 Ai-S.</p>

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<p>Nikon's 24mm/f2.8 has exactly the same optical formula in the AI, AI-S and AF-D versions. Therefore, it makes no sense to see any major optical differences among those versions. I currently have the AF-D and it works ok on the D700, although the modern zoom seem better. Perhaps the biggest drawback for this lens is flare and ghosting issues. In backlit situations, use your hand or something else in addition to the hood to block stray light.</p>

<p>Lenses that work well on film do not necessarily work well on digital. A major problem is that each photosite on the sensor is like a tiny well, rather than a flat surface as in the case of film. See this description on Olympus' web site: <a href="http://www.olympus-europa.com/consumer/21693_7045.htm">http://www.olympus-europa.com/consumer/21693_7045.htm</a></p>

<p>In any case, since the OP already has those lenses, he can test them out of the D700 and evaluate them himself. In particular, if he doesn't like the modern large zooms, that eliminate some of the choices.</p>

<p>I took the following image on purpose; I had the lens hood on but it did not help at all. Immediately afterwards I took another one while using my left hand to block the stray light entering the 24mm/f2.8 AF-D, and all ghosting problems went away.</p><div>00UKQz-168119584.jpg.e370173adf07d8289a72b213b5c8ad82.jpg</div>

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<p>I use only prime lenses right now with my D700, with plans only to add more primes, rather than zooms.</p>

<p>I have the 50/1.8 and 85/1.8, and plan eventually to have something like this: 24 or 28/1.8 (Sigma), 50/1.8, 85/1.4, and 180/2.8 (which I bought but had to send back because it was defective). No zooms for me. </p>

<p>Also, just as an aside, the 35 is 35/2., not 2.8 (the AF-D version, at least).</p>

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<p>I use mostly AIS primes from 20mm to 500mm with my D700. I agree with what Ilkka has said about the Nikkors. I don't have any Zeiss lenses which seem to be fairly heavy and large. I do have a few older mid range zooms. IMHO Bjorn's site is quite usefull. I suggest you check your lenses after you get a D700 and replace any if they don't meet your needs.</p>
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<p>I have had three of the lenses you mention. The 20mm f2.8 was a disappointment. It wasn't all that sharp until well stopped down, had CA, and some distortion. I don't recall ever seeing a really good review of this lens. The 50mm f1.8 is a consumer level lens and has lots of CA. The 85mm f1.8 was the very worst lens I've ever owned when it comes to flare. For me, it was totally unusuable. Keep in mind the lenses you mention were mostly designed over two decades ago, well before digital. Depending on what you photo, you might run into the same problems I did when I tried them on a DSLR. My decision was to NOT cripple the performance of a modern state of art camera using antique lenses. I just don't see the point of buying a $2,500 camera with blazing fast AF and then putting these kinds of lenses on it. Nikon does have some modern single focal lenses, such as 50mm f1.4G, 105mm VR, 200mm f2 VR, and so on. Really, if image quality is important to you and you still think you want single focal lenses, take a look at the Zeiss ZF line. At any rate, there's absolutely no way I would ever consider using the three lenses I mentioned above on a D700. Don't see the point.<br>

Kent in SD</p>

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<p>My standards are probably lower, but I am quite happy the my 24mm and 35mm, maybe I have good copies. I usually try avoid shooting into the sun.... and my 14-24 flares as well. If you are getting the D700 anyway, and you have those lenses, then why not try them out?</p>
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<p>Kent, I've done just fine by using those "crippled" lenses. I'd like to think my current gallery photos show that. The 85/1.8 has been a terrific lens for me, and flare has rarely been an issue. Yes, if you point it at the sun, flare will be an issue, but you may as well put a neon sign out asking for it by doing so. The 50/1.8 gives up nothing to any lens in sharpness when stopped down, and CA is rarely a problem for me at any f stop with it. I agree about the 20/2.8, which is why I plan to sell my copy soon. I was disappointed with it.</p>

<p>I much prefer primes to zooms and Nikon is mostly lacking in that department right now, save for a couple new updates (35/1.8 DX, 50/1.4, etc.). That's just the state of things. I use what Nikon has, and it has been good enough for me.</p>

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<p>although i don't dispute the IQ and suitability to certain purposes of big zooms like the 24-70/2.8, carrying that weight on one's neck is a definite downside. so i've found myself using a variety of small primes on the D700 much more often that i probably would've guessed. it's not simply a matter of weight/size, of course -- i wouldn't use them if they didn't produce. i use a mix of AF-D and AI primes -- 20/2.8, 28/2.8, 35/2, 50/1.4, 50/1.8, 50/2 -- with my favorite being the 35/2 AI. i personally don't think the OP will have any serious issues using primes on a D700, although it's inevitable that he'll like some lenses better than others.</p>
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<p>Luis<br>

I would be interested to know how you decide which lens to use, do you take the 20,24,28 and 35 together and then decide which to use or just take one with you and make do. I find the best way to save agonizing over which lens to use is to get rid of some them, In my opinion the 20mm and 28mm lenses are marginal performers on digital, and offer to much overlap in focal length, I would stick with the 24,35 and 85 and the 50mm is pretty much redundant but worth keeping for back up. I don't think you need to buy any new lenses untill the ones you have prove to be unusable or unsuitable.<br>

Shun how do you think a 17-55 or a 24-70mm would have handled that shot it would have made an interesting comparison ..<br>

Steve </p>

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<p>Folks, thank you very much for your very useful input. Ikka, no good news if the 20mm AF-D doesn't work well at all on the D700, Shun is very right about the wells in the detector working a lot different as it works on flat film.<br>

Josh, you're right, is a 35mm f/2 AF-D, of course.<br>

Kent, maybe they are antique lenses, but they perform just perfect on my Nikon film cameras, from my FM2 to my two F4.<br>

Steve, when I go out for taking pictures with my Nikon equipment I usually take only two lenses. The more used combo is the 24mm + 35mm, although the 20mm + 35mm comes close. The 28mm almost doesn't see light since several years ago, I do not really know why. I love the 85mm for portraits. A superb lens.<br>

All in all, a D700 is a lot of money. I woul like to have it, but from my point of view, if Nikon asks me more than 2,500 Euros for the body, I should have the right to use all my prime Nikkors with excellent results, and not only a few ones. Since zooms are not an option for me for their weight and their obtrusive character (I love street-photo photography, just see my portfolio), I'm starting to think that the D700 is not for me. I would miss a lot the results I get with my 20mm on film.</p>

<p> </p>

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<blockquote>

<p>Nikon's 24mm/f2.8 has exactly the same optical formula in the AI, AI-S and AF-D versions. Therefore, it makes no sense to see any major optical differences among those versions.</p>

</blockquote>

<p>We don't actually know the extent of sample variations. Furthermore, Nikon has made these much lighter to focus for teh AF versions, which might affect things since the barrel is no longer as tightly aligned. In practice though, a lot of the different opinions come due to differing levels of quality. I find that the 24/2.8 can be quite good up close, so for Luis goal of street shooting the lens might be actually quite decent.<br>

I don't regard flare/ghosting coming from outside the image area as a showstopper. Annoying yes, but it can usually be dealt with. There are very few wide angles that handle difficult light well, the only ones that I can think of are the Voigtländer 20/3.5 (incredible performance in backlit situations) and the Nikkor 28/3.5.<br>

Incidentally, the Voigtländer 20/3.5 can currently be had in Europe for less than 400 euros new.</p>

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<p>The 85mm f1.8 was the very worst lens I've ever owned when it comes to flare.</p>

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<p>Really? Even compared to to the 17-55/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 that have massive ghosting and flare in difficult light. If you want minimal flare, get the 85/2.8 PC and a good hood.</p>

 

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<p><em>All in all, a D700 is a lot of money. I woul like to have it, but from my point of view, if Nikon asks me more than 2,500 Euros for the body, I should have the right to use all my prime Nikkors with excellent results, and not only a few ones.</em></p>

<p>Luis, unfortunately some of the information you're reading is misleading and inaccurate and unfairly discouraging to what you're trying to do. The D700 is very well behaved on old and new lenses designed for FX and 35mm film as well, with a few exceptions. These problem cases are the really wide primes which have issues with the angle of incidence, and a couple of relatively new nominally full frame but in actuality, DX-optimized lenses. If you replace these very wide lenses (the 20 and 24 specifically; the 28 wasn't good with film either so it's not surprising you've not been using it in a while) with e.g. manual focus primes (from Zeiss, Voigtländer, or Nikon's 28 or 35mm Ai-S) or a recent wide angle f/2.8 zoom from Nikon, you'll be all set. For the 35mm and longer lenses, you'll see much better image quality from the D700 than you get with 35mm film. This is why you should get the camera - you won't believe how well it behaves up to ISO 3200, breathing new life into your people photography in situations hand-held photography was just a few years ago unheard of.</p>

<p>I use 20 primes on the F mount and one zoom (it's the 24-70). My cameras are both FX and all my current lenses behave in an exemplary fashion on these cameras. I wasn't so happy with many of the same primes on DX; the smaller format has different requirements on the lenses and it's best to use a sensor of the same size the lenses were designed for in the first place.</p>

<p>It's unfortunate that no really high quality <em>autofocus</em> wide angle primes have appeared yet for FX. I'm sure they're coming though. I don't think there was anything that Nikon could have done in 1970s when they designed the old wide primes to anticipate the different behaviour of digital sensors, nor could they have done the D3/D700 to behave much better when used with the old wide angles. What you can do is adopt as necessary, replace the short glass and keep and enjoy the longer lenses that you have, which I am sure you'll be very happy with on the D700.</p>

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<p>I've owned a D700 for a few months now, and for WA (17mm to 35mm), my preference is to carry 1 bulky f2.8 zoom to cover that FL range rather than 4-5 prime lenses whose IQ may or may not really match up to the 17-35mm/2.8. If you plan to buy the D700, my recommendation would be to sell those WA primes and pony up for a 17-35mm/2.8. That and the 70-200/2.8 really cover the majority of general shooting needs.</p>

<p>The only primes I have are 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 (because I WANT f1.4), the 105/2.5 AI (I've just always been very fond of this lens) and a macro lens.</p>

<p>-Keith</p>

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<p>I'm with Keith L: 17-35 for the wides, 70/80-200 for the teles, a fast 50 in the middle, and maybe an 85 or 135 if the forecast calls for portraits. I know a lot of folks love their primes, and I'm not against that, but for me, the functionality of the two-zoom combo and fast fifty in between is too functional to turn down. Another vote for the D700: you'll love it, so don't let anyone talk you out of one. Enjoy!</p>
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<p>Ikkla--<br>

I sometimes trade equipment back & forth with a local wedding photographer. I have a 4x5 system, Nikon 70-200mm VR, and a TON of lights. He has D700 & lenses 14-24mm f2,8, 24-70mm f2.8, 24mm PCE. I have used the D700 and usually the 24-70mm f2.8 for about three day/night long shoots this summer, plus several other week day sessions earlier this year. (He uses it mainly on weekends.) In hours, I would guess I've used one about 50 hours of actual shooting. My thinking is it gives me about 1-1.5 stops higher ISO than what I get with D300. For me, that just doesn't justify the current price. I will wait until that inevitably goes down. In the meantime, I buy more lights. My goal is to have something like x8 White Lightning X3200, each with a dedicated Vagabond battery pack. I also will keep the x10 Nikon SB-28 units. I now have about 10 (not sure how many--it's a box full) of CyberSync triggers to which I intend to add about x4 Pocket Wizards for long distance (half a mile) use. I just don't get much extra capability from a camera. My money seems to be MUCH better spent on first class lenses, and now lights a "Joe McNally" extensive lighting system as well. I put the camera in last place for my priorities. I liked the D700, but it just didn't seem to make much difference in my shots. I've used one enough to know where it fits in for my niche, and how much one would be worth to me, a niche night photographer. At any rate, I just see no point in putting quarter century old lenses on it, or lenses that can't take advantage of its fast autofocus. My plan is to wait for it to come down in price, which will free up more cash for me to use on nano-coated lenses. Those certainly do make a difference for me. I told my buddy I'd rather have his 24-70mm than his D700, LOL.<br>

We tend to see at least one post per week from someone who runs out and buys a D700, seemingly dumping all their money on just a camera body. They then say, "Oh yeah, I guess I need a lens." The pattern is they then try to go cheap on the most important thing--the lenses. I made that same mistake when I was a beginner, and bought an F5. That camera was the biggest waste of money I ever made with photo gear, and made zero difference in my photo quality. I'm not putting anyone down here--I once did the same thing. I think all the threads here about the D700 are really pointing out a much bigger issue. With the Nikon FX system your choice is to either buy their superb top line f2.8 zooms, hobble along with a slow consumer zoom (e.g. 24-120mm), or try to get by with a hodge podge of lenses designed when Ronald Reagan was president. There's really not much in between. (Maybe the Zeiss ZF.) What Nikon BADLY needs are the f4 VR pro zooms like Canon has. Not everyone needs f2.8. An f4 pro zoom would be smaller, have AFS, probably have VR, would cost less, and seems to be exactly what this poster and most of the others really could use. I talked to a Canon rep in Chicago last April and he said that's been a big surprise to his company too--why no f4 Nikon pro zooms? Surely Nikon is addressing this but we just don't know it.</p>

<p>Kent in SD</p>

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<p>I somehow had a feeling that Kent would pop up in this thread with his sweeping generalisations.</p>

<p>I just can't get over this view of his based on the age of lens design. I certainly see some advancement in the peripheral things like AF-S motors (though I must say even my humble D80 focuses 85, 135 and 180mm AF-D lenses perfectly fast for my needs and I can't imagine a D700 will do worse when I step up to it in a few months) and nano glass for the 0.5% of the time when people shoot in really awful conditions, but to me putting a blanket case that all newer lenses are better is awfully weak. It probably has some validity at FL's of 35mm and below, then up to 85mm the jury is out, and at that point the 85/1.4, the 105/2 and 135/2 DC lenses and the 180/2.8 (all quarter-century old 'hodge podge' designs in Kent's terms) kick in to smash the supposedly 'state-of-the-art' 70-200 out of the park on quality, size, weight and cost.</p>

<p>I also reject the words 'hodge podge' insofar as many people have lens lineups that are carefully considered based on their shooting preferences. My own AF-D lineup of 24/2.8, 35/2, 50/1.4, 85/1.4, 135/2 and 180/2.8 was certainly not some kind of random accident...</p>

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<p>It's interesting, Kent, that I'm making a growing number of shots I take pride in with those same lenses you bemoan. I haven't and won't post all of them, of course, but I've posted a few, and I have to say I'm just fine with what I've gotten out of those lenses. <br>

As a regular street shooter, the D700+ N80 with 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 has been wonderful. Zooms are terrific if you like shooting with them, particularly if you're a Nikon shooter. I look at Canon's primes with some envy, partly because Canon has updated them recently and invested a lot in them, yet at no point do I feel that I somehow have exceeded my lenses' resolution limits, as it were. I have yet to get better than what my lenses can give me. I strongly question how an AF-S nano 85/1.4 would improve my composition in any meaningful way. IQ? Probably a little. But in terms of composition, it would have zero effect on it. </p>

<p>To me, composition is where it all starts and ends. The age of a lens has little to do with it.</p>

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