Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G

Started Apr 30, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to latestart, Apr 30, 2013

latestart wrote:

Got a D7100. I mostly want a portrait lens - but would also love to have (virtually) no limit on how small a subject I can resolve.

Will I probably be satisfied with the 60mm for a portrait lens?

I know that what would be a head with the 85 will be more of a head and torso with the 60, but assuming I'm ok with that, will the 60 be as nice (or nearly) for portrait?

Any thoughts would be welcome.

Thanks in advance.

Greg

latestart wrote:

Got a D7100. I mostly want a portrait lens - but would also love to have (virtually) no limit on how small a subject I can resolve.

Will I probably be satisfied with the 60mm for a portrait lens?

I know that what would be a head with the 85 will be more of a head and torso with the 60, but assuming I'm ok with that, will the 60 be as nice (or nearly) for portrait?

Any thoughts would be welcome.

Thanks in advance.

Greg

Greg,

One effective way to get an answer is to search Flickr and look at images.  Plug in "60 Nikon Portrait" and "85 1.8G Portrait" and see, for yourself, what people are doing with these lenses.

Once you're looking at images, then, the opinions you've solicited here can be helpful notes on what you're actually seeing.

In that spirit, here a few from me:

(1) on the 60G:

Pros:

  • Truly excellent technical performance--sharpness, flare resistance, CA correction, lack of distortion, relatively little falloff--at every aperture, from wide open to diffraction-limited.
  • Lightning fast and silent AF-S autofocusing, top-notch mechanical build.
  • Gorgeous rendering: crisp "microcontrast," vibrant color.  Often compared with the "Zeiss" look.   
  • Nikon uses it to shoot many of their own "catalog" product images; it's the "normal" lens on their D800 Technical Guide "preferred" list (which may just be marketing hoopla, or it may tell you what their own experts think).
  • versatile focal length, especially for DX: perfect for all kinds of portraits, good for macro.  (Focal length may be a little short many macro subjects on FX.)
  • Functional versatility in one lens: portraits + general shallow telephoto + real 1:1 macro capability
  • The cheapest way to get most of Nikon's latest and greatest lens technology all in one place--nano crystal coating, ED glass, hybrid aspherics, the fastest AF-S implementation, etc.
  • Made in Japan.  (Depends, of course, on your personal / political / ethical views regarding Nikon's off-shoring.  From what I see: Nikon's gear doesn't seem to be less expensive for it, nor does the quality seem to have improved.)

Cons:

  • f/2.8 is too slow on DX to shoot especially "dreamy" short tele / shallow depth-of-field portraits.   If that's the style you're after, a better tool on DX might be the 50mm f/1.2 AI-S.
  • Defocus "bokeh" at portrait distance-to-subject shooting, wide open, can be choppy and just kind of bad: ringed highlights, onion-ring patterns, etc.   Stopping down helps, but of course, then you're already at f/4.  
  • Highly resistant to veiling and ghosting flare, but when it happens, the pattern is horrendous.  Like a giant, rainbow-tinged eyelash stamped across the frame.  The ugliest I've ever seen--and it gives you an indication of how complex this lens really is inside.  It's not the lens you want if you're after a gently flared-out, sunwashed look.

(2) on the 85 f/1.8G:

Pros:

  • Also excellent technical performance over much of its range.  In terms of raw MTF measurement, maybe the sharpest lens Nikon now makes at f/5.6 or f/8.
  • Very well-regarded rendering
  • Excellent defocus "bokeh."  Smooth wide-open, great at other apertures.
  • Also cheap!

Cons:

  • Technical performance varies substantially over aperture range.  Not unexpected for a truly fast prime, and results are good wide open, but not great--some uncorrected CA, veiling, etc.
  • Render quality lacks the vibrance and microcontrast "snap" of the 60G, even when the lens is performing at its best.  People don't often compare this one to the "zeiss" look.
  • Not particularly resistant to flare.  (But the flare "character" is actually quite appealing if you like that look--much better than the 60G's "rainbow eyelash.")
  • Not on Nikon's D800 Technical Guide "preferred list."  Read into this what you will.
  • Focal length on DX may not be as versatile: 85mm is already a somewhat "long" DX telephoto--it'd be about like shooting a 135mm prime on 35mm/FX.
  • AF-S focusing isn't very fast
  • Build quality feels waaaay cheap.  "Feeling cheap" doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't objectively durable, but if "feel" matters to you, you may not like it.
  • Made in China.

Between these, I chose the 60G.  Mostly because I just love the 60G's render quality and zippy AF-S.  It's such a pleasure to use.  The 85 f/1.8G was, for me, less so.

Also, I really don't want to support Nikon's off-shoring to China.  If you're listening, Nikon, what gets my money: "Made in Japan" by democratically-represented, free-speaking, free-thinking people earning a living wage in a safe, clean, regulated work environment.  You can afford to do it, Nikon, and we can afford to buy it.

YMMV!

Hope this helps

M.

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