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

Started Apr 30, 2013 | Discussions
latestart
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Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
Apr 30, 2013

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

Nikon D7100
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slimandy
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to latestart, Apr 30, 2013

If you want a portrait lens I'd get an 85mm (assuming you mean head & shoulder portrait). If you want a lens that can do portrait and macro the 60 has some merit, but I'd want a longer lens for both so I'd probably prefer a Tamron 90.

My favourite 85 is the Sigma 85mm f1.4. The Nikon 85mm f1.8G is also a lovely lens, and whilst I prefer the Sigma the Nikon is much smaller, lighter, and easier to carry.

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paulski66
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to latestart, Apr 30, 2013

If it's the G, yes, it makes a great portrait lens on DX. In many ways, I think it's better than the 85mm f/1.8g, and that's saying something, since I love the 85mm.

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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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tyyreaun
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to MarkJH, Apr 30, 2013

The 60mm has a very short focus throw once you get past 1 meter.  It can make manual focusing difficult, and I found it affected autofocus accuracy as well - I tended to have a lot of "misses" when playing with it on my D7000, especially on non-static targets (e.g., a person who will move a little bit, even when standing still).  The 85mm is much more accurate in that aspect, at least in my experience.

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latestart
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to paulski66, Apr 30, 2013

paulski66 wrote:

If it's the G, yes, it makes a great portrait lens on DX. In many ways, I think it's better than the 85mm f/1.8g, and that's saying something, since I love the 85mm.

Appreciate that. I keep a look out for your opinions, plus admire the support you give sometimes in divisive threads.

Thanks and best

Greg

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

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.

Had done that (though not until a week or two ago); excellent stuff but long on macro short on other uses. There are a lot of good nature shots where background is important; a lot of shots showing the 60's tight DOF and great resolution and overall image quality. Very little 'street' (look at me talking about street :-); nobody seems to want to capture action with it (though I've probably forgotten some good ones - haven't had the time I could have spent).

But a bunch of macro is obviously the huge part of what the 60 is about, and a reason I'd want it (though I've almost never tried any macro).

Flickr was great though and I need to go back very soon. Truthfully I won't buy for a while; but still I love to know cause some time I will buy and use.

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

Functional versatility is the big one: not that it can do many things (the versatility per se) but the many things it can DO.

  • 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.)

Just all great substantial reasons.

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.

Question is do I want clear first/most or dreamy!  (Have a 35mm 1.8G and truth is I could be happy with that for a year).

  • 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.

I haven't learned to use a flash yet (and kind of don't much want to yet), so the relative slowness is an issue.

  • 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.")

Yow! Makes me WANT to see it :~)

  • 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.

Thank you so much. Every bit of that is reassuringly clear, meaningful and even-handed. Refreshing and confidence-building.

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!

Good ideas, good engineers, good jobs, good government.

Hope this helps

M.

A great deal. Was a pleasure to read.

I did't say that I've sprung for one other lens, refurb 18-105G for $209 from Adorama. Haven't told my wife yet though; only took a few practice shots for clarity, put it back in the bag, and have stuck with my 35. But I know I need some reach sometimes beyond 35mm (just for practicality! some kid's going to be on stage! right!? :~), and that one will probably do nice portraits when I can get light for around f/8.0.

Pleasure.

Greg

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

I tended to have a lot of "misses" when playing with it on my D7000, especially on non-static targets (e.g., a person who will move a little bit, even when standing still).  The 85mm is much more accurate in that aspect, at least in my experience.

That's very interesting. I had read what you wrote here when I mentioned to Mark in post above that Flickr photos using the 60 were almost all still lifes... though I really should go back and look again before I say that quite so categorically.

But I appreciate the insight... and wonder why it would be. Coatings? Optical construction? Just interesting; I believe when people say that all lens design/manufacture (including costs) is trade-offs, so I don't mind having to decide. Hooray for freedom, choice, discovered value.

Greg

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Cytokine
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to latestart, May 1, 2013

If you want a macro lens go for the AFS 105 and if you want an 85 go for a used 85 1.4D although this could be hard to find, then go for the 85 1.8g, I would skip the Macro 60 and the sigma 85, which looks good on paper spec's but disappointing in the real world.

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Stacey_K
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to latestart, May 1, 2013

I can't comment on the 60mm but I do have the 85mm F1.8G and every time I shoot portraits with it, I get some great images. It's almost a "you can't fail using this" portrait lens. I mainly use it wide open or F2ish so not sure the 60 F2.8 would pull off the same kind of look? I also have the tamron 90mm F2.8 macro and it's not even the same sport as far as being a portrait lens.

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Leonard Shepherd
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to latestart, May 1, 2013

The 60mm G was the lens Nikon chose for the portraits in the D3x brochure when 24 MP was the top sensor resolution in 35mm format.

60mm is about right for natural perspective in a portrait using DX.

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Leonard Shepherd
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latestart
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Re: Advice on pick for DX - 60mm Micro or 85 1.8G
In reply to Leonard Shepherd, May 1, 2013

Leonard Shepherd wrote:

The 60mm G was the lens Nikon chose for the portraits in the D3x brochure when 24 MP was the top sensor resolution in 35mm format.

60mm is about right for natural perspective in a portrait using DX.

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Leonard Shepherd
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That says a lot! Found the brochure here:

http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/dslr/d3x/pdf/d3x_24p.pdf

The portrait designed to look like Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring seems to suggest the difference the 60mm G makes compared to the 'soft/romantic' possibility/tendency of the 85G. It's got detail that not every subject would prefer, but very clear and precise even on a romantically prepared subject (made up and lighted for a studio). I like it.

Thanks Leonard. Appreciate it.

Greg

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