Nikon 24mm F1.4G
An absolutely stunning lens. This lens is capable of producing some of the best images at this focal length of any lens in the Nikon lineup. It’s optically very fast and has excellent contrast and colour. It’s small size and weight make it easy to carry as a two lens kit alongside the 85mm F1.4D. The common 77mm filter thread makes life easier too.
Nikon 85mm F1.4D
The Nikon 85mm F1.4D is my favorite portrait lens. It is sharp in the center from F1.4 and very sharp from F2. From F5.6 this lens is as sharp as you could ever wish for across the frame. Rendering of out of focus highlights (Bokeh) is superb and probably this lenses most endearing feature. The F1.4 aperture, combined with the D700s superb high ISO performance allows quality images to be taken in very poor light.
It’s compact size and useful focal length often have this lens traveling beside the 16-35mm as a lightweight kit that will cover most bases. In the small Lowepro Slingshot 102AW that I use, this combo leaves room to spare and is not lacking in image quality. The 77mm filter thread provides compatibility with most of my other lenses. I have a shorter metal lens hood that I sometimes use to allow me to pack this lens with its hood into a smaller pocket in my bag. I leave either this hood, or the large standard one on the lens at all times. I don’t bother with a lens cap with this lens. The front element is well protected by the hood and lens caps just slow down lens changes.
With this lens having been optimised for portraiture, I decided against doing my usual brick wall comparisons with other lenses at a similar focal length. Instead I grabbed one of my beautiful daughters, opened the lens right up, nailed focus on her eyes and took a shot. Opening that photo on the computer confirmed I had a keeper. The wide open performance of this lens is superb in the center of the frame and it probably out resolves the D700 sensor at F2.
The 180mm F2.8D lens is a classic from Nikon. It’s superb image quality, fast aperture and very compact dimensions make it an easy lens to like. Sharp from F2.8 and very sharp from F4.0, this lens renders stunning images with vibrant colour and beautiful out of focus blur. It’s small size guarantees a place in my travel kit when I think I will need a focal length longer than 85mm. It will fit in the Lowepro Slingshot 102AW alongside the 16-35mm and 85mm F1.4D. At right around 4Kg this kit is small and very portable, image quality from 16 through 180mm is excellent.
Nikon 16-35mm F4 VR
The Nikon 16-36mm lens has become one of my favourites and is the mainstay of my lens collection. It is the only lens that is always with the camera. When I was shooting DX, I was limited to 17 or 18mm on the wide end, which is a 27 or 28mm effective focal length. 16mm on FX has given my photos a completely new look which I am really enjoying. Ultra wide lenses have a bit of a learning curve and are not really suitable for photographers who just want to get more in, that approach just leads to cluttered compositions.
Whenever I purchase a new lens, I compare it with the other lens I already own that share similar focal lengths. I compared the 16-35mm lens with my 20mm F2.8D and the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 at 20, 28 and 35mm at both F4 and F8. I was shocked to see how bad the 20mm lens is in the corners at F4 when compared to this new zoom lens. The 20mm prime has much more complex distortion than the zoom as well. The Tamron was only just bettered by the 16-35mm lens at 28 and 35mm. The resolution across the frame was very good for both lenses and so was the contrast. Distortion is slightly higher on the Tamron, but this won’t be visible in most photos taken with this lens. Without disciplined testing of the same object (A large brick wall) it would not be possible to tell these two lenses apart.
My real world experience with this lens has confirmed my test results and the excellent VR system has allowed me to take photos down to one second hand held!
When I need a midrange zoom, the Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 is the one I carry. It has superb optical quality, and is probably the best midrange zoom available for any camera platform. This lens is sharp in the center wide open at all focal lengths and across the frame above 28mm. Colour and contrast are both excellent. Focus speed is very fast with superb accuracy. In this regard it is a match for the 70-200mm.
Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VR
What can I say, this lens is a legend. Very versatile, fast aperture and the fastest focusing lens I own. On the D700 this lens has been able to focus track anything I tried it on. The 70-200 is sharp wide open in the center from 70-180mm and sharp across the range at F4. At 200mm it needs to be stopped down some more.
The only negatives of this lens are it’s size and weight. To take this one out I need to use my Lowepro Mini Trekker AW. There’s just not enough room in my Slingshot to squeeze this one in.