Lens Recommendation for my D800

Started Nov 18, 2013 | Discussions thread
Daniel Bliss Senior Member • Posts: 1,836
Re: Lens Recommendation for my D800

I use the 24-120, and would recommend both it and the 24-85 with certain reservations.  The 24-120 vignettes a lot but is impressively sharp across the field, just not quite super-sharp like the 85/1.8.  The 24-85 vignettes less, but isn't as sharp all the way to the edges.

For event shooting and street photography I think the 24-85 should work rather nicely; for landscape you're going to prefer the 24-120.

I tried the Tamron 24-70 and found it too big and chunky, besides which my sample was literally falling apart -- I don't think they had finished screwing it together in assembly.  Physically holding it together produced at least some indication of what it is capable optically, which is a lot; despite the horrible assembly job it was impressive at 24mm.  The Nikkor 24-70 is even worse in size and weight, and optically is better in the range of 28-70; a good sample of the Tamron should do very well 24-50.

I also tried an old Tokina 28-70 2.6-2.8 ATX-Pro on the D800.  This performs excellently from 35 to 70, especially at f5.6 or f8, but the 28mm performance is dismal except in the center.  I sold it, as I tend to use the wide angle end more with a mid-range zoom.  I have to confess, I think selling it was a bit impulsive.  35-70 is still useful for some things.

One other reason I ended up passing on both the aftermarket options here is that they don't tend to play nice with the AF fine tune.  At 36 megapixels, this is a big problem.  The Tokina additionally does not focus at all beyond the infinity mark, which really limits its use in landscape.

The 24-120 is a good all-round solution, good enough for street and event wide open, good enough for even the most edge-to-edge landscape stopped down, with only a few flaws.  The vignetting stands out; you really have to go down to f8 to get rid of it entirely at 24mm in raw, and the other thing I'd add is that the 85-120 range struggles a bit wide open at closer distances (as in, the macro setting on this lens isn't worth much).  Also take note that there is a fair bit of focus breathing on the 24-120; close up, 120 becomes 105, whereas the "24" that is more like 25 at infinity is almost like 23 close up.  I think Nikon sacrificed control over breathing in order to boost other characteristics of the lens.

One other thing, I'd recommend a small good prime lens.  You don't have to break the bank on this; I use my 20-year-old 24/2.8 and 50/1.8 very nicely on this, though will probably add a 28/1.8 as well.  The 24 is sharp corner to corner by f5.6 if you shoot raw and take the opportunity to judiciously adjust the lateral CA controls in post process; the 50 is a very sharp lens overall though you need to stop down to 2.8 or a bit more to get rid of veiling flare and longitudinal CA.

I don't find any of these lenses quite as much of a "go to" as the 17-55 on DX, which is very sharp and contrasty under pretty much any circumstance, but having 36 megapixels to play with ends up giving the FX combination a substantial resolution advantage.

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