Lens Selections for Nikon Full Frame

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truthseekerh Forum Member • Posts: 88
Lens Selections for Nikon Full Frame

Wanted to share my experiences with lens selections for Nikon D600. After about 18 months and some serious cash, I have come up with a few conclusions that may help some others. Please forgive the rambling post here but if you are patient you can probably find something useful here. I am sure some on the forum will disagree with my analysis but here goes.

For those who are  older, you may recall the Sears catalogs with the Good, Better, and Best categories, or the consumer reports "Best Buy" or "budget Buy' so I will use those as a starting point. For Full frame on a budget and a Good buy, I would suggest the Nikon D600 or D610 (still listed by DXO as top 10% bodies), and the Nikon 24-85 VR and the 70-300 4.0/5.6 VR. Both are very good lenses that if you are patient on Ebay you could get the body and both lenses for about 1200 or 1300. A tremendous buy. The 70-300 especially is underated. I found it to be a great lens for the money, and the 24-85 is great with soft edges being its only downfall. Moving up to better class, I highly recommend the Sigma 24-105 but you will need to perform microfocus adjustments. I have owned 2 copies and both need -8 on my D600 and I have a dock now to go with it. The second copy had sharper corners and its middle is stellar. I like its stabilization and rendition. Tends to underexpose just a tad. Careful analysis of on-line reviews including Lenscore, LensTip, PhotoZone, CameraLabs, Photography life, PhotoBlog, DXO and others show it is a very good lens. Paired with this is the Nikon 70-200 F4. A great lens with very good stabilization. A step up here in the Better class would be the Nikon VRII, or Tamron G2 70-200. The best (pro grade) would be the Nikon 810 or 850 and the Nikon 24-70 VR, and Nikon 70-200 FL. But back to the middle class here if I might which is where I am comfortably parked. So the rest of this post is about the comparisons of Sigma, Tamron, and Nikon of full frame.

Before I get there, I evaluated the 35 and 135 offerings from Samyang/Rokinon. The 135 was incredible sharp but as a manual focus, was difficult to nail down. The 35 was a bit soft. I lost money reselling these but did gain an appreciation for the skills of those who are good with manual focus lenses.

So at this time in addition to the Sigma 24-105 and Nikon 70-200 F4 (I let the VRII go due to the size, I believe I can get by for now with the F4 but the VRII is a great lens. If I go back to a 70-200 2.8 it will be the newer FL version but I would have to spend more than what I could justify now.) I have the Sigma 35 1.4 and the 85 1.4 to go with the 2 zooms (a great blended strategy) The 85 is absolutely wonderful and I have had no focus issues and had to make no adjustments on the D600. It is big but absolutely the bomb for portraits. The 35 is still under some tweaking and If I have focus issues I will fall back to the Nikon 35 1.8G. That lens is reasonably sharp but does have some strong chromatic aberations however.

I liked the Tamron 35 and 85 but a few points. Neither has overwhelming stabilization and I suggest that you do not buy based on that. They are sharp and render well but I had to send the 85 back as it required a adjustment of +19 right out of the box. The Sigma primes has them beat but Sigma's also have focus issues so the optional dock is mandatory, and there is a possibility that you would get a bad copy and have to send it in or let it go.

But a few general points. Nikon lenses seem to be very good but not always stellar. The G lenses can be a little soft around the edges. However, they nail focus and work well with the bodies because Nikon has very proprietary formulations for autofocus that Sigma and Tamron cannot always match and therefore you will need to  tweak these sometimes. So just keep that in mind. There is no question that Nikon lens will hit focus more than aftermarkets.

Sigma has some of the best optical formulas around (especially under 100mm) but they are prone to autofocus issues. Tamron has some of the sharpest edges and render a bit differently but are optically very good. Low light, low contrast focus is not as good as Nikon due to the  algorithms. Both the new Tamrons and Sigma arts are built nicely but not are all sealed. Example, the Tamron 70-200 G2 will fog up inside when taking it  quickly from cold to warm (AC to outside) where as the Nikon 70-200 VRII does not. Over time this can degrade the lens if not stored and handled well. Some of the Nikon G's are plastically whereas the new Sigmas and Tamrons feel solid. The stabilization on the Tamron 24-70, 70-200 G2 is best in class. Nikon is very good. I wish my Sigma 85 had stabilization but its optics are so good I will work with it nevertheless.

I could see a scenario where someone buys the Tamron 24-70 G2, 70-200 G2, 35 and 85 and Tap in console and just has a great kit (maybe throw in a macro). I would not recommend the Sigma 24-70 or 70-200 based on reports I have seen, but the primes are wonderful and the 24-105 is  a real sleeper (if you get a good copy). But if you want to play it safe, get the Nikon G lenses (35 1.8, 85 1.8 (a really fine lens) and the 70-200 F4 or F2.8 VRII. For a wide angle zoom, the 24-70 Tamron G2 looks good as well but as I said, I prefer the Sigma 24-105 and like the extra reach. You could also go with the Nikon 24-120 if you wanted to stay all Nikon, or settle back to the 24-85 and supplement with the 35 and 85 1.8 primes to stay on a budget.

So many choices.......

Nikon D600 Nikon D610 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2
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