Best lens for D800??

Started 2 months ago | Questions thread
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 17,050
Re: Best lens for D800??

ColleenOlympus wrote:

Thank you for your advice! From what you have explained I think I will go for an 85mm, and I'll look into both Nikon and Sigma Art. With the Nikon you mentioned the 85mmf/1.8 - would you recommend that over the Nikon 85mmf/1.4? Or did you just use the f1.8 as an example because it's a bit more affordable?

My experience with 85mm lenses has been colored by my income levels.

'Back in the day', meaning around 1993, I had my first Nikon camera, a 50mm f1.8 prime and a 28-85 zoom.   I wanted more, and better, lenses.   One I had my eye on was the Nikon 85F1.8 AF.  I found a used one in a local shop for about $300.   But it took months to save the money for the lens, and in the end I traded my father's old 1951 Nikon rangefinder for the bulk of the trade.   Beautiful lens - still have it - and I got wonderful shots of my kids growing up with it.

Fast forward to the day when I bought a D800e and needed to upgrade a number of lenses as well.   By this time I was self-employed, making a bit of money, and not married to a woman who tried to control my camera spending.   I bought the 85f1.8g for about $400 new, I think.   Loved it, and it was clearly better than the older AF/AF-D lenses wide open.  (Typical, the older designed-for-film lenses usually are much software wide open than their replacements.)

A year later I had the money for another lens, and I bought the 50F1.4g ($100 off sale) just to have my first F1.4 lens.  And I was disappointed with the performance wide open, though I liked it elsewhere.  I still use this lens a lot, but rarely at F1.4.

After getting one F1.4 lens, I wanted more.  Bought the Sigma ART 35 F1.4 - $900 or so, but sharp even at F1.4.    And then I bought the 85F1.4g, after reading a lot of positive comments about it.

And I loved it instantly.  Not as good as the ART wide open, but close, and much better than the 50.   It's entirely usable wide open, so I use it at any aperture from F1.4 to F16.

I have to say that the first time I looked at the 85F1.4g shots on the back of the camera, I liked them enough that I've never mounted the F1.8g again.

The quality that appeals to most people with these fast lenses is the rendering not of the subject, but of the background and out-of-focus areas.    A lens designed for 'bokeh' (like the 58mm f1.4 lens) trades smooth transitions in out-of-focus areas for ultimate sharpness in the focused areas.    This can give the background a rather pleasant creamy effect.

However - if you are going to paint the scene from a picture, your backgrounds are going to be whatever they are going to be.   I can't see painting so accurately that you actually render the differences between the 1.4g and the 1.8g.   In your situation, you could have the harshest backgrounds on the planet, but make up for them when painting them.

Which is an argument in favor of the 1.8g and saving money.   Remember, you could buy two lenses for the price of the f1.4g if you get the f1.8g and another lens.

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Phoenix Arizona Craig
"In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice, they're not."

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