D800 Portrait Lens Battle!

Started 11 months ago | Discussions thread
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Shotcents
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D800 Portrait Lens Battle!
11 months ago

After a shoot on Saturday I had the chance to take some time with the following lenses in my kit:

Tamron 90mm Macro VC 2.8

Nikon 85mm 1.8G

Tamron 70-300 VC

Nikon 70-200 VRII 2.8

I'll start off with the following: ALL of these lenses were very good and produced results one would expect. First up is the Nikon 70-200 VRII and as most know, this is the king of this zoom range. It creates a pop, contrast, sharpness, AF speed, bokeh...basically second to no other zoom. It falters only on the focus breathing, but it's hard to imagine working without this lens in my case.

Next up: The Tamron 90 VC. This is the newest version of the legendary Tamron 90 and it's a total knockout. First of all it's superior to the aging 105vr in sharpness, contrast and I think bokeh as well. It's a stunning lens for portraits, and I've now confirmed that it's sharper than the 85mm 1.8G! It's ALMOST enough to make me dump the 85mm, except that 1.8 is still important at times. Still, if I had to choose just one...I might take the Tammy because it's also a macro, has VC and is beyond sharp.

The Nikon 85 1.8G is a top pick, but this is my second copy and even at the same F stops as the other lenses it somehow nets me the most focus errors. I'm not talking about a lot; just a few. But the other lenses here seemed to never miss. That said the 85mm is wonderful, fast and detailed.

Do I dare to call the Tamron 70-300 VC zoom a portrait lens? I so dare! So shocked am I by this lens that I've called out anyone who might doubt the sharpness, contrast and bokeh all the way to 300mm where my previous Nikon 70-300 VR could not function well. Depending on what/how you shoot, I suggest testing this puppy out before shelling out for expensive slow glass like the 70-200 F4. These are at 300mm.

So if I ended up on a uncharted island with a lot of batteries and memory cards, but only ONE of these lenses for portraits?

Last place: Tamron 70-300 VC. This is not a bad thing! This lens overperforms and is very capable, but F4 and slower does not give the type of flexibility required for portraits in some situations. Bokeh, though good, is not in the same top classes either. Worth owning? Absolutely. I think it's a better lens  (for some) than the 70-200 F4.

3rd place: Nikon 85mm 1.8G. Now this rank is pretty silly because when you get down to it this lens can produce some great bokeh and sharpness. It's not just a steal for the money. They could have charged more and a lot of people who still crave it.

2nd place: Tamron 90 VC Macro. Maybe I ranked it above the 85 because it's my new toy. All the same I LOVE how this lens renders, how close I can get, the never-ending detail possible and the build and handling is petty good too. Now add the excellent VC and this lens really stands tall, even when you don't want the top tier macro functionality.

1st place: The Nikon 70-200 VRII is the king. It's versatile in pretty much every respect. Shooting at 2.8 is needed at times and the flexible zoom range costs very little in IQ compared to the latest primes. This is the lens to own. But you've all read that before. All other lenses try to measure up and come close in some areas, but none of them check off all of the boxes like the VRII. Now if Nikon fixes the focus breathing I'll be even happier!

And finally...the Tokina 16-28 2.8 can also be used for portraits!

Cheers!

Robert

 Shotcents's gear list:Shotcents's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P7700 Nikon D800 Nikon D5200 Nikon Df Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II +10 more
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