Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lens Review: AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D

I'm a bargain hunter when it comes to lenses.  My favorite lens right now is the Nikon 50mm f1.8.  Not only is it light, compact, and sharp, but it can also be found for around $100.  Sure, the Nikon 50mm f1.4 is a better lens, but it's also three times as expensive.  So I was pretty excited recently when I found the Nikon 60mm Micro on ebay for less than $300, shipping included!  Can you say "BUY IT NOW."  Click, click, click. 

This lens, it should be noted, sells new for $394.00 (as of 11/07) through Adorama, itself not a bad price.  Nikon's other two fixed focal length Micro lenses, the 105mm and 200mm, sell for 759.95 and 1,339.95 respectively.

The build quality of the 60mm is impressive.  It's about the same size as my 18-70mm zoom, but it’s a little heavier and feels more robust.  It makes the 50mm feel like a kid's toy.  Still, it's definitely not too heavy and fits nicely in my camera bag.

This lens features several switches that you won't find on newer Nikkor lenses.  In addition to the focus ring and aperture dial, there's a dial which allows switching between manual and autofocus, and also a switch that changes the autofocus between "limit" and "full"  (The limit setting is for non-macro uses).  While I realize other lenses don't have these dials and it's an outdated design, I rather like the tactile feel of them.  My only complaint with the lens construction is the 62mm filter size, which doesn’t match any of my other lenses.  Not a big deal.

Here are some early examples (click on any image to see a larger version at flickr):

of chicago


a clean break

As should be obvious, this lens is extremely sharp.  I would say it's the sharpest lens that I own right now.  It has next to no vignetting or distortion that I can see, and is a fine lens for non-macro shooting as well.  I could see the focal length being very useful for portrait work.  Unfortunately the focal length is also very similar to the 50mm that I already own, so it's unlikely that I'll be putting this in my camera bag unless I have specific Macro photos that I plan to shoot.

A couple of additional, minor flaws:
  • The focal length is fairly short for Macro work.  To shoot 1:1 Macro, you have to put the lens extremely close to the subject.  In other words, this isn't the best lens for shooting insects, but for anything stationary, this isn't really an issue.
  • This is an older AF lens, not AF-S, which means the auto focus is dependent on the motor in the camera body.  Something to keep in mind if you own a Nikon D40, since those cameras lack that motor and you would be limited to manual focus. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with this lens.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them?  Although the obvious uses for a macro lens are in nature photography-- flowers, leaves, bugs, etc-- I'm much more interesting in finding ways of incorporating this into my urban work.

UPDATE 1/28/08: Nikon has released an upgrade to this lens, the AF-S Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED.  Looks like they added a Silent Wave Motor, removed the aperture dial, and made a few other changes.  I still recommend the older version for those on a budget, perhaps even more so now because the price will likely drop.

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