Having had a solid couple of months to use the Nikon D800E and a variety of lenses, I’ve now compiled my recommended list of recommended lenses for the camera; some of the entries might or might not surprise you. These are lenses which I would not hesitate to use wide open, and will give you outstanding acuity, color and resolution providing you manage to nail the focus, of course. I’ve tested multiple samples of these lenses, as it seems that these days, consistency is hugely important and not always guaranteed. This list is also not exhaustive, because I’m sure there are exceptional copies of lenses I’ve ruled off the list, and there are almost certainly other obscure optics which I haven’t had the chance to try (and probably won’t ever manage to, either.)
Nikon AFS 28/1.8 G
Carl Zeiss ZF.2 2/21 Distagon T*
Carl Zeiss ZF.2 2/28 Distagon T*
Nikon AI 45/2.8 P
Nikon AFS 60/2.8 G Micro
Carl Zeiss ZF.2 2/50 Makro-Planar
Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G
Carl Zeiss ZF.2 2/100 Makro-Planar
Any of the Nikon superteles
Nikon AFS 16-35/4 VR N
Nikon AFS 24-70/2.8 G N
Nikon AFS 70-200/2.8 II VR G N
Nikon PCE 85/2.8 Micro
Near misses (close, but not quite in the awesome league).
Nikon AFS 14-24/2.8 G – performance at 14mm lets it down, in my mind.
Nikon AFS 24/1.4 G N – I think this one is very, very borderline: if you get a good sample that focuses properly, it can probably be added to the list. However, I’ve used many of these lenses and there seems to be a lot of sample variation and focusing issues even on D700/D3 bodies; it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence.
Nikon PCE 24/1.4 – I’ve used one excellent one, and one that was merely so-so. Mixed reports on the web don’t suggest that the so-so one is a rare anomaly, and there just aren’t any more of them for me to test.
You’ll probably have noticed that the 28-300VR didn’t make the list; it’s because the lens just didn’t perform on the D800E to anywhere near the same extent it did on the regular D800. Just one of those inexplicable anomalies…
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