Hands on with Nikon 85mm f3.5 Micro - First Thoughts

Started Dec 11, 2009 | Discussions thread
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Hands on with Nikon 85mm f3.5 Micro - First Thoughts

My new Nikon 85mm f3.5 VR Micro arrived yesterday. A few quick thoughts on the lens on my first 24 hours of using it:

1) Build is generally pretty good, not 105mm VR good, but still pretty nice. The lens feels a bit longer in the hand and lighter than my brain was ready for, so kind of wash since I was looking for a nice light compact lens to replace my (old system's) Canon 60mm f2.8.

2) The focus ring has a reasonable amount of travel and while it does not have silky dampened movement (ah, we all miss the old lenses when it comes to manually focusing), it's not bad either. Focus speed and accuracy are both pretty good, but a bit sketchy when close to 1:1 -- then again almost every macro lens seems to be so I always manually focus in that range anyways.

3) The VR system at first glance seems pretty darn good. I'd say an extra 2 stops in any case, at least for reasonable distances (1:2 or farther). I can't speak at all on the usefulness at macro ranges for now... stay tuned.

4) The working distance is fantastic!! This, combined with the AF-S focus system and VR are probably this lenses best features. I measured 105mm from the front of the lens at 1:1. Easily good enough for using the built-in flash even at 1:1 without the lens casting a shadow on the subject. As a matter a fact I could still even use the built in flash with 56mm of extension tubes added!

5) The lens seems very sharp, but it's a macro so what could we expect. Contrast and saturation also seems good, but I've had no good light/subjects/time with which to test this properly.

6) f/3.5 not really an issue for me to loose the 2/3 of a stop for my regular macro shooting. Then again it might have an effect on the accuracy in manually focusing. I would say that the amount of light and ease of manually focusing was noticeably lower than the Tamron 60mm f2 macro that I tried out a while back.

6) CA. Yes and a noticeable amount for a few stops. At very first glance, I would say significantly worse than my Canon 60mm, a bit worse than the Tamron 60mm or the Nikon 105mm VR. This might be a problem for my taste. More later.

On this last point below is a link to a a side-by-side comparison at full resolution of two cropped shots at 100%, both shot in RAW and unadjusted. The first is a Canon 60mm EF-S on a Canon XSi and the second is with the Nikkor 85mm f3.5 VR on a D90. The linked image is VERY large so be patient. Take special notice on the letters closest to the focus point.

Click below to see the 100% comparison between these lenses:

http://www.pbase.com/pyanez/image/120183161/original

FYI - in this an in other similar shots (might post later) shooting as a JPG (ie with Nikons CA removal feature enabled), oddly seemed to make no difference in the amount of CA observed.

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