Recommended lenses for the Nikon D800E

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Not quite summer at the Lac du Joux. Nikon D800E, Zeiss ZF.2 2.8/21 Distagon

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.)

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Grain silo. Nikon D800E, AFS 28/1.8

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

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Pears. Nikon D800E, Zeiss ZF.2 2/100 Makro-Planar

Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G
Carl Zeiss ZF.2 2/100 Makro-Planar
Any of the Nikon superteles

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Maitres du Temps Chapter 3 Prototype. Nikon D800E, AFS 60/2.8 G

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

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Sushi. Nikon D800E, PCE 85/2.8

Special purpose
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…

For more detail on any of the lenses mentioned here, visit the CAMERAPEDIA! MT.


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  1. felix augusto says:

    wich one its better lens between zeiss distagon 15mm f2.8 and nikon 24mm f/1.4

  2. did you get a chance to test the nikkor 17-35 2.8 on either of the D800/e. this is the sharpest lens in my stable and use all the time for landscape on my d700

  3. What 35mm lens do your recommend?

    • I’ve said this a zillion times in various places, but I just don’t shoot 35mm. The only two I really liked were the 35/2 ASPH and 35/1.4 ASPH FLE for Leica M. Nothing for Nikon.

  4. tedyedsen says:

    if you have Nikon d800/e dont use Sigma lenses like 24-70 2.8 or 150-500.70-200 2.8 the onley lens from sigma i find good is 150/180 2.8 macros the high res sensor on d800e requires high end glas like Nikon 14-24 24-70 70-200 or the 300mm 2.8

    • Jaz Yes says:

      Any opinion on SIgma 300 mm 2.8 or new Sigma 120-300 mm 2.8? Yes i wish to use also 2.0 teleconverter :)


      • No idea, I don’t have access to those lenses…plus I wouldn’t be the best person to review them as they don’t suit the kinds of things I photograph.

        • Jaz Yes says:

          Messed Up On my ooooold Canon D60 (6,52 Mp, 35 mm equivalent 1,6x the lens focal lenght)) +CANON 100 mm 2.8 L IS USM i get almost the same size of a fly as on nikon d800E+nikkor 105 mm 2.8 micro. When i cropped from nikon i get 6-7 mb px. Yes nikon d800 e is full frame but…. 36 Mp vs. 6.5??? If I want to get a similar cut (percentage) than i must use all keno rings. This of course mean less DOF. What is the problem? It is possible DX mode solution??? Yes i used minimum distance.


          • Firstly, I don’t really understand what you’re asking or saying. Please re-read your text carefully before sending it. Secondly, both lenses deliver 1:1 magnification at minimum focusing distance. That’s 16x24mm subject area on the Canon and 36x24mm on the Nikon. The Nikon in DX crop – to the same 16×24 area as the Canon – will give 15mp. It is not the best camera for this kind of high magnification work anyway; it seems that if the number of pixels is your primary concern you’d be better off with one of the 24mp Nikon DX bodies.

  5. Have you ever had the opportunity to try the zeiss 135mm f/2 apo sonar?

  6. Did you ever try nikon 135 f 2 dc and afd 85 f 1.8 with d800e ? i am considering both of lenses with afa 85 2.8 and afs 85 f 1.8.

  7. The AFS 85/1.8 G is one of the recommended lenses. Not used the other two.


  1. [...] Understanding Focal Length in PhotographyA Closer Look at DSLR LensesCanon EF Lens 135mm f2.0L USMRecommended lenses for the Nikon D800E – Ming Thein [...]

  2. [...] going on what exactly allows to get anything near the real resolution of that camera, for example: Recommended lenses for the Nikon D800E Nikon D5100 + AF-S DX Nikkor 35m f/1.8G + AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED [...]

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