Which lens for D800 for landscapes

Started Apr 19, 2012 | Discussions thread
gsmith08
Forum MemberPosts: 98
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Re: Which lens for D800 for landscapes
In reply to pinnaclephotos, Jul 9, 2012

Recently got a D800e and been asking the same question as to what is the "best" landscape lens and fortunately have all three being compared; the Zeiss 21mm f2.8, Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, Nikon 16-35mm f4 and in addition recently got Nikon's 24mm f1.4. I have used each WA lens to make comparative landscape images with and without ND and/or polarizing filters on all but the 14-24mm. All images were taken using live view for better focus, f5.6 at or near optimal for each, and 3 sec delay with the D800e on a big Gitzo tripod with RRS head. General impressions so far are:

1. All four lenses are exceptionally sharp in the center 2/3 or more of the image with maybe a slight edge to the Nikon 24mm 1.4 and Zeiss 21m but hard to see differences even viewed at 100%.

2. Edge sharpness however was obviously better with the Zeiss 21mm and Nikon 24mm followed by the two zooms; nothing surprising there. One note is at 24mm the 24-120mm f4 stopped down to f5.6 is surprisingly competitive in all respects and at times as good as any of these and is one reason I sold my 24-70mm f2.8.

3. Colors differed considerably especially of the sky and greens and depended on if the RAW files were processed with Lightroom 4 or Capture NX2. The Zeiss 21mm colors looked very natural and maybe slightly warmer than the Nikon lenses when processed with either LR4 or NX2. However, all of the images taken with the Nikon lenses had what to my eye were more accurate colors processed with NX2 compared to LR4 using just the RAW converters, all adjustments turned off.

4. I like to use ND filters with WA lenses and if there is little or no sky in the image, a circular polarizer. The big 14-24mm is not filter-friendly and I don't have the Lee system; Zeiss 21mm works with two stacked 82mm filters as long as the second is a thin type like B+W makes; same for the 77mm filters on the other Nikon lenses again as long as one on the outside is thin. They all work fine with one filter but with two vignetting is significant on the 16-35mm at about 22mm and wider and on the 24-120mm f4 cutting off of the corners starts at about 45mm limiting its use if you like using more than one filter.

What works for me: Low light like just before sunrise, can not beat the 24mm f1.4 for ease of focus and the extra speed, plus it is super sharp at even f1.4 and across the frame at f4 to f8 or even f11. The Zeiss 21mm is hard to beat in all respects and certainly is an excellent lens for landscapes when something near and far are to be in the same image, with emphasis on the near. However, much of the time it is just too wide with objects in the distance often are too small, so for me this is a must have but special use "landscape" lens. 24mm for me is the most used WA but not my most used lens for landscapes which after many weekend trips, workshops, etc is Nikon's 70-120mm f2.8 VR. This could change now that I have the 24-120mm f/4 and D800e but unlikely.

If I had to choose just one WA lens for landscapes it would be the Zeiss 21mm f2/8 and Nikon 24-120mm f4 and the Nikon 24mm f1.4; I like them all. Would be interested to hear what you finally decide but all of these choices on the D800 are incredible and I feel it is me and not the gear limiting the quality of my images.

Cheers

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