Reviews or thoughts are subjective. Technical sheets are fact though. But how does a lens shoot in the ‘real’ world?
Well these are my experiences.
On my pages, I won’t bore you with technicalities, just my thoughts and usage through over 200,000 captures in the last couple of years.
1. Nikkor 24mm f1.4 AFS
This lens reignited my desire to obtain the top end of Nikkor Glass. Up until this point, the Trinity of Zooms was in my stable and the semi ok 50mm f1.4 AFS.
Little did I know that Nikon had a road map that would lead to some incredible primes in the near future…
Coming in as the most expensive Nikkor Prime, south of Telephotos… it comes as no surprise that Nikon threw everything they had at this gem.
As a 24mm on a 35mm format, it is a true wide. To make a fast wide prime work of this focal length, between1-5 metres is your ‘effective’ working space.
At infinity this lens is superb but given it’s wideness, extra care must be exerted to avoid garbage entering the frame.
On the ‘smaller’ megapixel FX sensors (D700/D3/D3s) this lens really sings. On the D800/800E, not so much.
Certainly not from an IQ perspective, but from an AF module that, although one of the best out there, seemed to be a bit ‘jumpy’ with the 24mm f1.4 on it.
If you were after a fast wide prime from a Nikkor, this is it. There is no alternative. Swallow the somewhat high price and enjoy!
For portraiture… it CAN be done, but not really recommended as the perspective will yield distorted figures. But for a one lens travel/walkabout lens, this does very nicely.
The Nikkor AFS prime family are a little slower to attain focus, not slow, but certainly slower than the zooms. This was by design, as f1.4 on the wides is very difficult to nail focus.
I would rather a slower AF but a higher hit rate thank you!
The 24mm f1.4 has more barrel distortion than the 14-24 @ 24 (surprisingly) but doesn’t detract from the image and is easily correctable.
Chromatic Aberrations are negliable given this lens’ performance. Overall, a 9/10 for optical brilliance.
This lens was permanently stuck on my D700 for the majority of 2010.
It will remain my all time favourite wide I suspect (although the Leica 24mm f1.4 asph might have a big say in that last statement).
‘Best Fast Wide-angle that Nikon has made’. Period.
2. Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AFS
The 35mm f1.4 AFS came late to the party. The 24 and 85 had been upgraded to the latest design and coatings from Nikon for sometime.
I was rather surprised that it was a 35mm that Nikon choose to upgrade first (should have been a 50!), but a welcomed addition.
The 35mm focal length gets a bad rap from creative types sometimes. In a way it is warranted, but not for want of being a pretty damn fine piece of glass.
35mm is more of an ‘everything’ lens. It isn’t wide enough to ‘pull’ in a cool perspective but it gives a lot of context to your content.
Story telling is much easier with this lens. If it were a 35mm f2.8 prime, I wouldn’t touch it. I believe the wider you go, the faster the lens should be.
Given my thoughts and style, using a fast prime, you are not only able to tell a story, but isolation becomes key now… your option to choose it or not.
It renders very smoothly, does lack the ‘bite’ of the 24 but given I shoot people 80% of the time, 35mm is much preferred over the 24 for this.
The 35mm AFS works wonderfully well on the D800/E combo.
It’s lighter and slightly smaller (although chubbier) than the 24. Oddly it doesn’t take 77mm filters which was annoying, but nothing a step up filter couldn’t fix.
As a general all round lens, which most people view the 35, it is wonderful.
I COULD shoot with this and the 85 for an entire Wedding if pushed.
If going wider than 35 scares you, then this is the lens for you in Nikon’s lineup.
Wide-ish, but none of the funny stuff from Wide Angle junkies.
3. Nikkor 85mm f1.4 AFS
Now if your a Nikon user, a Nikonian to be exact… If you are on Full Frame goodness… there is NO excuse for you not to have the updated 85 in your bag.
Wonderful, wonderful lens.
Sharp where it needs to be, smooth smooth bokeh and awesome micro detail and contrast.
There is CA, but that is a small slight and easily corrected in PP. Since I’m in the Business of capturing people, this is a perfect lens on full frame sensors.
The worst thing I can say about it is that because I’m calibrated inside the 1-10 metre working range, at infinity, it is off.
Not a big deal, slightly annoying, but I don’t use this focal length ever at infinity.
On FX, this is the most perfect portraiture lens. Not short enough to be ho hum, not long enough to be too intimate.
The compression of 85 on a human is sublime. There’s just the right amount of ‘perspective’. On DX sensors, this would be slightly longish.
If your on a budget, the f1.8 version is fantastic. You lose 3/4 of stop of light transmission and of course can’t shoot f1.4, but for 1/3 of the price, it is a bargain.
The 85 has accounted for approximately 40% of my shots. That says ALOT considering the other gear I carry. It truly is a workhorse.
There is no need to reach for manual focus on these 3 lenses. Looking through the D4/D800/E viewfinders is an approximation of f2.8 anyway.
The AF system (extraordinary) ‘predicts’ larger apertures for you, although a ‘guess’ 90% of the time it is correct.
The manual focus rings are smooth, maybe too smooth. They are silent though which helps a lot when pulling focus on video (review elsewhere).
At the end of the day, all the gear are just tools.
Exquisite tools, but just tools.
Creatively they help me enormously by producing what I want for my clients, not what I am limited to.
Sure I can stop down, but that is an option available to me.
Telling a story through captures, succinctly involves a lot more than Depth of Field.
Composition and framing, coupled with the right focal length and then judicious use of razor thin depth of field gives you images that will last our lifetime.
Thanks for reading this non-technical review. I hope it helps in accessing which focal length you may purchase for your needs.
All 3 are vastly different.
The journey for the photographer is shooting, acquiring, learning, practicing, PP’ing, printing and doing all this for Wedding Photography under the gun?… I love it!
Slowly I’ll get to my other reviews, Nikon D4/D800/E, Noctilux, M9-P, Canon Mark III, 85mm f1.2 L, Trinity of Zooms…
If you want to ask me technical questions on anything, please don’t hesitate to message me… the geek in me loves it. V