Advice for portrait lenses

Started 9 months ago | Discussions
sapralot
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Advice for portrait lenses
9 months ago

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

I really appreciate your help!

Cheers,
Johannes

Nikon D610 Nikon D90
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leopardskin
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

Manual Nikkor 85/2 AIs

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BobVell
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

I really appreciate your help!

Cheers,
Johannes

When I switched from DX to FX, I opted for the 85 f/1.8 G. It is much cheaper than the 1.4 and the difference between the two wasn't worth the cost for me.

I also found I liked the images better (this was on a D800) with the newer G versions than older versions (of course, I didn't test every possible combination, just the 85 f/1.8G and 50 f/1.8G and a couple of others). Could be the coatings, could be just what I like in IQ. Several other sites have noted quite different performance on the D800 than other bodies, though, and I've not seen the same discussion for the D610, so try them for yourself.

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Hugo First
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

sapralot wrote:

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

using the legacy glass on modern DSLRs is actually kind of the best of both worlds, in that you can obtain some of the most highly regarded optics for seriously little money. your consideration of the 105/2.5, for example: you can make really top-quality images with that lens, without the expense of, say, the zeiss. and many people are very enthusiastic about the discipline that one develops shooting manual focus, as it slows down the process and makes one more deliberate in composing.

in short, no you would not lose value -- at least not any value worth having to begin with.

i also like some other MF lenses, which are perhaps not as well known but are gems in their own right. there are many choices out there, so i'll just mention one of my favorites: the 50/2 AI. very, very sharp even wide open, focuses very closely, has beautiful rendering of portraits.

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sapralot
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to Hugo First, 9 months ago

Hugo,

Many thanks for your feedback!

Is there a huge difference between the 105/2.5 and the 105/2.8?

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Jogger
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Zeiss 100/2
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

Have you considered the 100/2 makro?? Its great.. love the way it renders microcontrast and colours. Also doubles as a macro lens. A bit less expensive than the 135/2.

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

I really appreciate your help!

Cheers,
Johannes

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9ck
9ck
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

Be happy that you didn't get spoiled with the 51-point AF-system in the D7100 - the only thing I'm missing since my upgrade - but the D610 is great

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

I would not sugest the 50mm as your primary portrait lens. It's a nice focal length for walk around but a bit short for portraits. I would get the 50mm 1.8 G and save the money. Note that the 1.8 has ED glas.

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

You haven't specified whether it's the D or G version. I have the G and as you I love that focal length on DX (now and then just a tiny bit to long though). Again I would save my money and keep the 85mm 1.8 you have.

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

This is where I wuold spend my money. As you, I also have considered my options for this focal length and right now I'm leaning towards the 105mm f/2.8 macro. It should have almost as great bokeh as the 105mm f/2.0 DC, it's cheeper a tad sharper and faster AF and you get the macro as bonus. But if those +++ is of no important for you and you have the money maybe you should get one of the f/2.0 DC's

I've recently got the 70-200mm f/4 which I guess I'll use for portraits also - but I havent tested it for that purpose yet.

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

I really appreciate your help!

Cheers,
Johannes

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Regards 9ck

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Dodi73
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

Sapralot

in order of expense (from low to high)

1) Nikon 105/2.5 (AI is better because of the larger and more accurate focusing ring, AIS has an integrated hood, though)

105/2.5 = wonderful portrait lens, a class apart

105/2.8 (micro?) = not as suited and creamier as the 2.5 and obviously harsher in rendition.

2) Tamron 90 - the right balance between focal length, crispness and bokeh.

3) Nikon 85/1.8 ( I still prefer the Tamron, but it is undoubtedly a good stop faster and even shallower dof while not renouncing to detail)

4) Zeiss 100/2 - A step above everything. (135 is even better but also more expensive and less versatile than the 100)

Side note: 135 on D610 might lose their "charme" probably because no longer able to resolve everything (Zeiss aside) as they were on lower MP cameras. If this is your intention, however, everything is good and others will advice you about it. The only lens I'd consider longer than 100 mm is the 180 f/2.8 ED (AIS I have or AF) but it might fall too long for you.

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HowardChernin
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

Tokina 100 f2.8, if you can afford it. Great for portraits and macro.

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raymondg
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Re: My Experience
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

The 4 lenses that I own that I use for FX portraits are Nikon 85 f1.4D, Nikon 28-70 f2.8, Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VRI and the Zeiss 135 f2 Sonar APO. I use these on my D3, D800E and D700 and these comments are purely my personal opinions.

All work well but each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The 85 f1.4 is my 'GOTO' lens in most studio or controlled situations. I know the G version is supposed to be superb but I still find the rendering of the D very pleasing to my eye and not worth the update. Great in the studio, outdoors and event work. It is also an awesome low light lens.

The 70-200 f2.8 I use when the shoot is less controlled and I can choose the focal length to suit. It is also great for concerts and to get a bit further away from the subject to eliminate facial distortion. Compared with the VRII version I don't mind the vignetting at all, in fact I like it. I also prefer to have the greater reach (VRII Breathing issue) at closer distances for portraits. This lens is also great for candids and street portraits but not very subtle.

The 28-70 f2.8 is tack sharp and great for event style work, group portraits or full body shoots. Again the 24-70 would be superior but I just don't see the value when this lens still produces the goods for me. Vignetting again is not an issue for me. Of the set, this is probably my least used lens.

Finally, the Zeiss 135 f2.0 APO Sonar. I absolutely love this lens. It is a dream to use. Very smooth manual focus and extraordinarily sharp. It also renders beautifully. BUT… I use this lens a lot for baby/infant photos and the number of keepers is low. This is due to the fact that while the focus is smooth and precise when you are working with large apertures you need to be spot on with the focus  and kids have a habit of never staying still. If you are using it for general portraiture, no problems. If you use it on kids it will provide outstanding results if you have the time and patience or the gift of prescience. Personally, I find it worth the perseverance.

While I also have the Zeiss 50mm Makro Planar and the Nikon 105 f2.8 VR Micro I do not like using these for portraits. The 50mm introduces facial distortion (50mm produces distortion like wide angles but less so) and I just don't like the 'feel' and handling of the 105mm in portraits.

Trust this helps a little.

Cheers

Ray

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Stacey_K
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80-200 f2.8
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

I'm shocked no one mentioned this yet.. I have the two ring version and it does a nice job with portraits. IMHO 85mm is a bit short on FX to me.

I also got the 105mm f2 DC, it's a really amazing portrait lens.

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Stacey

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Al Giordano
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70-200
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

I shoot with both the 85 F/1.8G and the 70-200 F/4 and I find the compression/contrast/clarity  on the 70-200 to be much more pleasing on the 70-200.

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TQGroup
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Re: 70-200
In reply to Al Giordano, 9 months ago

+ 1

Like the OP, I stepped up from a D90 to a FX D600 when they first came out so went through a similar decision process. The real question for OP to consider is his /her portrait shooting style. For example, do you prefer more "formal" portraits with tripods and studio lighting or more informal, hand held environmental portraits, or a mixture or something else.

I find the 70-200 F4 VR a very good all-round lens for portraiture but it is not the best. There are better lenses but, unless you have a particular shooting style you will have to buy many to cover your likely different scenarios.

My favourites are: 58 F1.4G - beautiful gentle rendering wide open; 85 F1.8G - crazy sharp with excellent length; 105 F2.8 micro - pleasing all-rounder; my mate's 200 F2 VRII - super sharp and the creamiest bokeh (when I can hold it for long enough)!

Overall, if I had to take just one lens to an unknown location it would be the 70-200 F4 VR as it will do the job just about anywhere. To this I would add a good 35mm to cover those wider shots.

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Nexu1
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Re: 80-200 f2.8
In reply to Stacey_K, 9 months ago

Stacey_K wrote:

I'm shocked no one mentioned this yet.. I have the two ring version and it does a nice job with portraits. IMHO 85mm is a bit short on FX to me.

I also got the 105mm f2 DC, it's a really amazing portrait lens.

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Stacey

How do you like the bokeh on this 80-200 shot? http://www.flickr.com/photos/karstenmay/13134534065/sizes/c/in/explore-2014-03-13/

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Rich Rosen
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Change to 85 1.8G or 105Vr
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

Either lens will give you excellent image quality. Both are very sharp. You have to decide which focal length is a better fit for you.

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Stacey_K
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Re: 80-200 f2.8
In reply to Nexu1, 9 months ago

Nexu1 wrote:

Stacey_K wrote:

I'm shocked no one mentioned this yet.. I have the two ring version and it does a nice job with portraits. IMHO 85mm is a bit short on FX to me.

I also got the 105mm f2 DC, it's a really amazing portrait lens.

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Stacey

How do you like the bokeh on this 80-200 shot? http://www.flickr.com/photos/karstenmay/13134534065/sizes/c/in/explore-2014-03-13/

Considering the background (sun glistening off the ripples on a lake?), it looks fine. I don't see any dizzy/swirly/double line nonsense like some lenses would have created from that.

Here is a sample of what the 80-200 does to a more normal background, some sun lit bushes. Many lenses, like the 50mm f1.8G, would have rendered this a busy, double line mess, which would destroy the 3D effect.

And since you really can't seem to get over I don't like your "favorite" 50mm f1.8G, does this mean you are going to stalk my every post now?

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Stacey

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Rservello
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

I really appreciate your help!

Cheers,
Johannes

50mm 1.4g isn't worth the extra expense. If you want a G lens in 50, get a 1.8g since it haa an aspherical element and 1.4 is basically useless since it's so vignetted it loses almost an entire stop, negating your half stop gain. I shoot a 1.8d and use f2 as my highest setting and get amazingly narrow dof. If you can afford zeiss or sigma art, I would say that's a much better optical purchase that will retain its value if well maintained. As for ai-s lenses. I think the are better than af-s. Optics are cleaner, and they aren't cheap plastic barrels. I personally don't care for current nikkor lenses. 1.8d is the exception because it's small, light, and sharp as a tack.

I have a rokinon 85mm f/1.4 lens that I love to death. Well recommended, and very reasonably priced. I have a voigtlander 58mm f1/4 on its way to me. I'll report back once I get to shoot it, but im excited!

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Michael Benveniste
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

sapralot wrote:

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

Hi. My name is Mike and I'm a portrait lens addict. Here are a few brief comments in addition to the advise you've received so far.

  • Nikon never made an 85mm f/1.2 AI. I suggest sticking with your 85mm f/1.8 until you see what it can and can't do on your new body. Personally, I've never felt the need for an f/1.4 portrait lens, but your style and preferences may be different.
  • A legacy lens which no one has mentioned yet in this thread is the 75-150 f/3.5 Series E. While it was sold as a consumer lens, it's been a cult favorite as a portrait zoom for a long time and with good reason. While it doesn't allow you to limit depth of field as much as a prime, and it will develop zoom creep with wear, it's an inexpensive way to explore various portrait lengths and still get great results.
  • You'll often read that a macro lens is "too sharp for portraiture." Personally, I don't agree, but because macro lenses use so much of their focus throw in the close-focus range, focus can be "twitchy" in the portrait range. This makes them slower to work with than a non-macro portrait lens. Also, while I feel both my Tokina 90mm f/2.5 and Nikon 105mm VR macro lenses have pretty nice bokeh, I was less impressed with my results on film from the 105mm f/2.8 AI-s Micro.
  • The 80-200mm f/2.8 can produce great results, as can the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR-II. But I prefer to avoid using them in that role due to their weight/inertia and overall handling. I've also had a few subjects seem to get intimidated by the sheer size of this thing pointing at them, resulting in visible tension in the shot.
  • When it comes to improving one's portraiture, lighting, make-up and rapport with the subject is more important than MTF charts or other measures of lens "IQ."
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chris102
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to sapralot, 9 months ago

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

I really appreciate your help!

Cheers,
Johannes

I really like the 105mm f/2 DC lens for head and shoulder pics.  You can shoot at f/4 and adjust the DC to make the background look like f/2.8, but with their entire head in focus.

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sapralot
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Re: Advice for portrait lenses
In reply to BobVell, 9 months ago

BobVell wrote:

I also found I liked the images better (this was on a D800) with the newer G versions than older versions (of course, I didn't test every possible combination, just the 85 f/1.8G and 50 f/1.8G and a couple of others). Could be the coatings, could be just what I like in IQ. Several other sites have noted quite different performance on the D800 than other bodies, though, and I've not seen the same discussion for the D610, so try them for yourself.

Bob, thanks for your reply! The 85 f/1.8G is relatively inexpensive, so I'll definitely give it a try. I'm sure I'd love the shallow DOF of the 85 f/1.4 G but I cannot afford it (now).

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