Lens review: The Nikon AFS 60/2.8 G Micro

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In what appears to be a hideously enormous oversight on my part, I seem to have neglected to review what is ostensibly my most used lens: the Nikon AFS 60mm f2.8 G Micro-Nikkor. As you might expect, I use this lens for the majority of my commercial watch photography. I prefer it over the 85 PCE for images that require high magnification, as this lens natively reaches 1:1 magnification on its own; thus requiring fewer extension tubes to reach even smaller levels of frame coverage.

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Nitro Experiment One

Before we start talking about the lens specifically, I would like to debunk some myths about macro vs micro photography: both have to do with the reproduction ratio created by the lens on the imaging medium; it is format independent. Simply, macro refers to 1:1 or greater magnification (i.e. a 20mm wide object in reality would be 20mm or wider when projected on the sensor plane); whereas micro refers to magnification slightly less than this but more than would be encountered during normal photography – ‘close focus’ might perhaps be a more accurate term. Almost nobody seems to get this right online, even the manufacturers; ‘macro’ mode almost never yields 1:1 magnification, and there aren’t that many lenses that achieve this natively. (I suppose Carl Zeiss gets away with it by sounding German and putting a ‘k’ in Makro-Planar – these are 1:2 lenses.)

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Water on slate

The 60/2.8 G replaces its predecessor, the 60/2.8 D, both of which are 1:1 lenses; unlike its predecessor, it reaches 1:1 through internal focusing alone, and the lens doesn’t extend – the front element on the G is a lot closer to the front of the barrel, and as a result, offers greater working distance at a given magnification than the D (which has a very heavily recessed front element). The lens has been completely redesigned with a new optical formula; it’s a 12/9 design with aspherical and ED elements, as well as Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coating. It also has a silent wave motor, but no focus distance limiter (oddly, the older version did have this). Focusing is fast and silent, but occasionally the lens does get ‘lost’ – if you’re say at the near focus limit and point it a subject at infinity, then sometimes it can hunt and fail to find focus. A quick tweak of the focusing ring solves this. One thing I have noticed with all of the Nikon SWM macro lenses is that they appear to be very ‘nervous’ when focusing at close distances; they’ll chatter and hunt and rack back and forth slightly. This could be because I’ve got the camera in AF-C most of the time, but it doesn’t really make sense given that everything is static – camera on tripod, inanimate subject. Still, I haven’t noticed any focusing errors, even on the D800E; in fact, this lens is the only one I’ve got that doesn’t require AF fine tune correction on any of my cameras.

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I also owned the previous version of this lens, and the difference mechanically is night and day; optically, somewhat less so, but the newer version is clearly better. (I suspect part of the reason why the G appears sharper is simply because it can focus more accurately without any of the backlash inherent to screwdriver-focusing lenses.) The biggest difference in optics between the two version are seen in off-center performance – specifically to do with CA – and bokeh. The new lens has very little lateral chromatic aberration; you have to be shooting something very, very contrasty and bright to excite it. For most subjects and shooting conditions, you probably won’t see any lateral CA at all. Longitudinal CA is a different matter – whilst again better than the old lens (and much better than the 105/2.8 VR), longitudinal chromatic aberration is still visible, as are traces of spherochromatism. It’s not a disaster, but it does mean that some work has to be done in postprocessing to remove traces of this – especially on say, white metal watches. On the bokeh front, the new lens has a 9-bladed, perfectly round aperture diaphragm that makes for very smooth out of focus areas; amongst the best I’ve seen, actually – though at normal distances, a 60/2.8 will not yield a huge amount of separation.

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Alphabet pasta

It’s worth noting that the lens’ maximum effective aperture at 1:1 is about f4.8; this isn’t because it’s a variable-aperture lens, but rather because additional magnification always results in some light loss. The Nikon lenses and bodies are the only combination that reports this correctly – not that it matters, because the meter takes care of any necessary exposure adjustments anyway. I suppose it might be important if you were to calculate flash exposure with guide numbers, but I can’t think of anybody who still does that.

On the subject of flash, shooting into the light yields no problems at all; the Nano-coated element is clearly doing its job when it comes to suppressing flare. (I use partial backlight quite often to clean out backgrounds or help define the texture in watch dials.) Macro-and micro-contrast are both very good, improving slightly on stopping down. I feel this lens has a bit more microcontrast ‘bite’ than overall global macro-contrast; this isn’t a bad thing at all as it helps to extend dynamic range somewhat.

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Breguet La Tradition

I actually don’t have much to say about resolution and optics: what do you expect? It’s a macro lens. There’s almost zero distortion or field curvature, and nothing funny going on with the focal plane. Sharpness is already excellent at f2.8, though with the D800E you’ll probably have to go to f4 or f5.6 to hit peak resolving power across the frame. Note that diffraction softening will set in by around f13 or so with the D800E; I try not to go past f16 unless I absolutely have no choice. That said, you can get away with f22 on the 12MP FX cameras if you need to.

Something I’ve been asked in the past is why I don’t use the 105/2.8 VR instead for greater working distance; the answer is that for the kind of work I do, the 60 actually holds several advantages. Firstly, I don’t need as many extension tubes to achieve higher magnifications*; secondly, the lens itself has much lower chromatic aberration than the 105 – lateral is fairly well controlled on both, but longitudinal is ugly on the 105 – and requires a lot of work to fix afterwards. Finally, there’s the issue of depth of field: for any given aperture, you’ll get more with the shorter focal length**. And given that you’re already challenged to find enough as it is, I’ll take any advantage I can get.

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Who could resist a steak like that?

*The more mounts you put between your optics and your camera, the higher the chance of something going out of plane.

**A longer focal length does not mean that you can stop down more before diffraction sets in; that’s a property of the sensor’s pixel pitch, not the lens.

Of course, for those situations when I really need to manipulate depth of field, there’s the 85/2.8 PCE Micro – note it’s a Micro lens, because it only reaches 1:2 – and its full array of movements. That – and an accompanying piece on the Scheimpflug effect and how to properly use a tilt-shift lens – will be the subject of another article.

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Girard-Perregaux F1-047

For the work I typically do with macro lenses – watches and food – the pairing of 60/2.8 G and 85/2.8 PCE is usually more than sufficient to deal with any possible scenario. If you shoot bugs, or want the lens to do double-duty for portraits, the 105 is probably a better choice; that’s not to say that the 60 can’t do the job; it just won’t give you the working distance or depth of field control you’d like to have. (The optics remain similarly excellent at longer distances – you could quite happily use this as a long normal lens if you didn’t mind the slowish f2.8 aperture; it out resolves all of the ‘regular’ 50 1.4s and 1.8s I’ve used, especially in the corners.) Perhaps the most telling fact I can leave you with is that of all of the lenses I own, it’s the one that’s been with me the longest. MT

The Nikon AFS 60/2.8 G Micro is available here from B&H and Amazon.


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  1. Gabriel N says:

    Hi Ming! I just discovered you, thanks for the great articles.
    I am upgrading my gear and focusing on engagement rings. I have the 105 mm Micro and was going to get the 85 mm Tilt Shift until I read this article. I want to maximize DOF and sharpness, so which lens would your recommend for ring photography?
    The 60mm has to be very close to subject so not sure how I would manage the lighting. Looking forward to your guidance. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for this excellent review of the Nikon 60mm 2.8G Micro lens! While researching a variety of Nikon lenses, this review has assured me that this lens does indeed have the features that are tops on my “must have” list …and better yet, Black Friday is approaching. 🙂

  3. Hi Ming,

    Given the choice between the two, would you pay twice as much for the 60 mm f/2.8 G as the older 60 mm f/2.8 D? The prices have collapsed on the older 2.8 D in Canada such that you can pick one up for $200 (used), whereas the cheapest 2.8 G is $450.



  4. Ranjan Kumar Mandal says:

    I have been seeking your advice as I really like the way you simplify your reviews. I am searching for a DUAL Purpose Lens- Micro & Portraiture , (without much compromise on any). Will the AF-S-VR Micro Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8 G IF ED be a good choice? As you have quoted ” It’s worth noting that the lens’ maximum effective aperture at 1:1 is about f4.8; this isn’t because it’s a variable-aperture lens, but rather because additional magnification always results in some light loss. “…will this affect the portraits much, in terms of shallow depth of field, smooth bokeh in the images ?

    • The 105 VR is f2.8 at normal distances. You’ll get better bokeh off that than the 60G because the focal length is longer, though honestly – you can use anything to make a portrait.

  5. Luis Cunha says:

    “I don’t need as many extension tubes to achieve higher magnifications*”
    (read the note ,-) too)
    And if I really need to go beyond 1:1 from time to time (lets say 3:1 or 5:1 máx.)? What tubes (brand/model) do you suggest or use?

    • The Kenkos DGs work quite well – you don’t really have any other options if you want to retain full electronic communication (necessary for flash metering since the Nikon macros send effective aperture with bellows compensation factor to the camera body).

  6. “Finally, there’s the issue of depth of field: for any given aperture, you’ll get more with the shorter focal length”
    I regret to inform you that this is a completely wrong statement. Actually, due to pupil factor and mathematics, at a given magnification (i.e. framing) and aperture, a telephoto lens has MORE dof than a normal (50-60 mm) macro lens. More info here: http://toothwalker.org/optics/dof.html

    • At the same subject distance and aperture and focal length – all lenses will have the same DOF. These are fundamental laws of optics.

      • You were comparing 105 VR vs 60 AF-S. They do not have the same focal length. You were comparing two macro lenses with “different” focal lengths and you drew a wrong conclusion, stating that a shorter FL (-lens 60 vs 105 mm) does provide more DOF for same framing and aperture (and sensor size, of course).

        • Hold on a minute – I think there may be a misunderstanding or miscommunication somewhere here, and if that’s my fault, I apologize. For a fixed sensor size, aperture and subject magnification, then the 60 should have the same DOF as the 105. But for the same aperture, subject magnification and angle of view but different sensor size, the 60 will have more DOF.

          • “… But for the same aperture, subject magnification and angle of view but different sensor size, the 60 will have more DOF.”
            It’s not possible to have same subject magnification (according to its definition) and angle of view on different sensor sizes. If you have same framing (which is different from magnification: magnification is written on the lens …) then the image on the smaller sensor size has more DOF. In other words, the same image (framing) taken with a 60 macro on DX has more “theoretical” DOF than the same image taken, at the same distance, using a 90 mm lens on FX, IF YOU USE THE SAME APERTURE. But you didn’t write this in the review. I have written “theoretical” because we should consider diffraction, which enlarges the CoC on the focal plane. And diffraction is more prone to show itself on DX (due to smaller pixel size for a given pixel count).
            I’d suggest you to modify the text accordingly.

            • We aren’t saying the same thing.

              • I know. You say that watch pictures taken with 60 AF-S have more DOF than same pictures taken with 105 VR because the former has a shorter focal length. Moreover, you tend to confuse the concept of framing with the concept of magnification. Pictures taken at a given magnification on DX and on FX have different framing (i.e. different framed area) and – consequently – different AoV. For example, at 1:1 the framed areas on DX and FX are 24×16 mm and 36×24 mm, respectively. I would encourage you to modify the text of the review when you describes the advantages of a 60 macro over a 105. Good luck.

  7. Found your review very informative. But I have need of very fast focusing and was wondering if the new Nikon 60mm focuses faster than the previous version.

    • The AFS is much faster than the AFD. There are only two versions. I assume this is what you were referring to?

      • Yes, I presently have the older f/2.8D and was wondering if I should upgrade to the latest f/2.8G AF-S. Since I shoot at AF-C, the faster the autofocus, the better. Thanks for your feedback.

  8. Hi Ming,

    I just recently scooped up this lens along with the D500. Wow! Thanks for this review, it made me narrow down my choices for primes…dual purpose too, from far to near! But I ran out of budget so I paired this lens with the 35/1.8 G DX instead of the Sigma 18-35. I have the GR for wides anyways. I think I’m good for now but I will get the 50-100 of Sigma later.

  9. Dear Ming,

    We have chatted before. You are always knowledgeable and walk the fine line between perfection and practicality better than most.

    Thus hopefully you are still responding to this post as would inquire of you your thoughts on most beloved or at least used lens. The 60mm Micro G.

    One of my old 60mm AF-D finally flew apart. ( usually have at least 3 copies of each lens in a working rotation ). One of the finest lenses I have ever used, to include many Leica glass products I took a risk and bought the new G version to try out.

    It is dramatically different. Most noticeable is the lack of color bite and depth of the new lens compared to the old. Same could be said of contrast too. And the new one vingettes (sp) like nothing I have ever seen before – well maybe like the 35mm F/1.4 AF-s or the old AIS. Horrendous. On the positive as good as the old AF-D was, the G seems to have even more resolution, if that it is possible. It is the sharpest lens I have ever used, to include Leitz and Zeiss with one exception. The old German made Zeiss 35mm F/1.4 was as good. Both are so sharp images look etched.

    My ambivelance towards this lens ( 60mm G ) is do to the lack of color “punch”, snap and depth compared to the old AF-D and, more importantly, and relative desaturated look compared to most other Nikkors. The image is remanicent of the Old 55mm Micro AIS on digitial. But that lens may more drive to the image. Did try a few samples at the store and could not tell if it was sample variation.

    I just used it to shoot the Grammys and the Oscars and had to really bump up the color either in camera or in post to have it match my standard 50mms and especially the 60mm AF-D which was exceptional in this area. Am not denying the IQ from the 60mm G in terms of resolution and flatness of field ( perhaps more important, if not most important quality ) is beyond stunning.

    I was wondering if this has been your experience? Could be sample variation but it feels like the lens leans this way in general.

    Your thoughts?

    Lary G.

    • Hmm…I can’t say it lacked color punch or contrast, but micro contrast is a bit better defined than with the 60 D which can look ‘blocky’ by comparison – and the 60 G would be relatively ‘flat’. It’s been a very long time since I last used the 60 D though. I’d suggest trying another one.

    • Polizonte says:

      Lary G. the 60mm G is my walk-around and close-up lens used with a D800e; I have owned 3 copies and in my experience the 60mm G had better IQ than a recent copy of the 105mm VR. I tried a Sigma 50mm ART, which although is not a macro lens, appeared to show more edge to edge sharpness in landscape photos. Due to the Sigma’s weight & lack of lens-mount gasket, I soon sold it and went back to the 60mm G. I hope you can try more copies of both 60mm versions, good luck!

      • I agree the 60 seems to be superior to the 105 VR, at least in CA control. Starting to think you might really have a dud sample.

  10. Bruce Steffine says:

    Hi Ming. Hopefully you are still reading comments from this post. You mention the 45/2.8P as an alternative choice for a “normal” lens. What I am finding is this 45 seems to be available in different versions. A check on eBay shows 45 non-AI, 45 AI’d, 45 AI-S, and even a 45 AI converted, whatever that means. What are these differences and, more importantly, which is the one you recommend on a D810? I have always liked the 50mm view, but given the poor performance of the Nikon 50’s and the price of the Zeiss offerings, I’m not sure what might best suit my needs. Thank you for any info.

  11. How would you rate the Nikon 60/2.8G and Zeiss 2/50M for street/urban/landscape/such? I’ve been looking at different options for a high-quality normal lens, and the Sigma 50 Art doesn’t impress (based on flickr samples). Zeiss alternatives seem to produce much crisper images, so I’m probably seeing the famous microcontrast at work. The 60/2.8G is the only AF lens approaching similar quality, but some reviews such as dxomark don’t find it very sharp (even with a 24mp sensor). Fast aperture and macro ability are not very important in this case.

    • The 60G does fine in my experience; there is some sample variation and AF finickiness. My sample will focus to a different distance if approaching from infinity or near limit – and it’s not something you can fine tune out, either. The 2/50M is tricky to use at distance because focus throw from 2m to infinity is very short. But if you can focus it, it’s great. You might also want to consider the 45/2.8P: it isn’t the sharpest of the lot, but by f5.6 you won’t care, and the rendering is really quite nice. I have some samples on flickr here.

      • Thank you for the comments! 45mm is a bit too wide for a 35-owner. I suppose I’ll have to rent a 60mm to see how it works for me. That Milvus 1.4 is too heavy and manual focus would be difficult wide open so there’s no point really…

        • Polizonte says:

          I shoot a D800e and briefly owned a Sigma 50mm ART – it was my best 50mm landscape lens, very sharp, ever owned; my copy did not have any focus issues. I sold it and went back to/bought another Nikon 60mm f2.8 G; I apologize for repeating my post. For my amateur stuff the 60mm G is more useful: it’s close focus capability (I do not take 1:1 ), much more portable, sharp enough for general photography, nice colors/contrast, rendition good for my family photos for my D800e. The 50mm ART was very contrasty and @ it’s closest focus was sharper than my copies of Nikkor.

        • There’s also the Voigt 58/1.4 SL.

      • Thanks again both for comments, I made a decision and I think it will be good. Donation has been sent instead of spending the money on a one-day rental. For some reason I planned to do it later when I actually get some photos out of a new lens, but now I saw all the off-topic questions about the new Otus (which those people will probably never use or need) and decided otherwise.

    • Tarmo, I forgot to mention, I find the 60mm G to be excellent for urban /street photography, low distortion, good auto focus + close focus when you need it. I occasionally switch to manual focus in extreme close-ups or tricky focus situations.

  12. Received mine today and am delighted. Terrific handling and results on the D800e. I strongly suggest using a rubber lens hood instead of the provided hard plastic hood. This allows quick folding back of the hood if you find yourself too close to your subject or need to eliminate the shadow from the hood. Also provides better shock resistance. Could use a protective filter too because of the front element being so close to the front such as when photographing food. I had the front element steam up when doing a closeup of a coffee cup. I do like the new internal focus feature… no eyeblow of air through the camera and lens which can introduce dust.
    Thank you for this review… it helped me decide to get this version instead of the older D model. Definitely worth the extra money.
    Bill G

  13. Georg Kovalcik says:

    Hi, your definition of micro / macro is actually wrong and Zeiss
    is absolutely correct in calling their macro lenses “Makro” (which
    is the german word for “macro”.
    There is a german industrial standard for this (DIN 19040) which
    defines anything between 1:10 and 10:1 as “Makrofotografie” (macro photography).

    Nikon calls their macro lenses “micro” because the optical formula originally
    came from their optics for microphotography (photography on micro film – not
    to be confused with photomicrographs.

    From Wikipedia: “A micrograph, or photomicrograph, is a photograph or digital image taken through a microscope or similar device to show a magnified image of an item. This is opposed to a macrographic image, which is at a scale that is visible to the naked eye.”


    “A macrograph, or a photomacrograph, is an image taken at a scale that is visible to the naked eye, as opposed to a micrographic image. It is sometimes defined more precisely as an image at a scale of less than ten times magnification.”

    EngNet Engineering Dictionary:

    A graphic reproduction of a prepared surface of a specimen at a magnification not exceeding ten diameters.”

    In short: It´s macro, unless you mount your camera on a microscope…

    Kind Regards,

  14. Hi Ming, I’m back, I finally clawed my way into owning a D800e (: I went lens testing for macro work, I read your blog pretty often so I figured I’d start with watches. I realised the CA in 60mm AF-S can get pretty disturbing on chrome/glossy black faces. After trying 50 F2 Makro Planar, 100 F2 Makro Planar and the 105mm AF-S VR, I found the best of the lot to be the 50mm F2, but it still suffers from CA. I tried the Nikkor 50 F1.4 AiS and found it to be surprisingly close to the Zeiss 50 in rendering and much lower in CA.

    I’m wondering if you’ve tried these odd 50mm and whether you’ve found them to be good? I figured if the 50 1.4 AiS is good, the 55 F2.8 Micro AiS should be better and would be testing it soon. Any experience on that?

    Also, have you tried the Otus for macro work? I can’t afford that but I’m waiting patiently for the, supposedly comparable, Sigma 50 F1.4 ART to ship for macro work. Any insights on what might go wrong or is this a start of debunking the macro lenses are needed for macro work myth?

    • I must have gotten lucky with my 60, it’s relatively CA-free. More so than the 105VR or 2/100MP. The 2/50MP is good, but has too little working distance and magnification. Most of the time I’m using the 85PCE anyway.

      The Otus does surprisingly well with extension tubes, but working distance is limited. It isn’t quite as good as the dedicated macros at close distance.

  15. Sample variation? I tried a used 60mm f2.8 G and it was a very good lens on my D800, my only camera (latest firmware), even with AF for general photography beyond 10 feet; the focal length was a plus since my other two Nikkors are 35mm f1.4G and 70-200mm vdii.
    So I bought a new copy 60mm G but it seemed to have more out of focus areas @ f8 in general photography and noticeably less corner sharpness than the used copy or even my wide angle & zoom lenses. I dumped/traded in the new lens but would like to find a good copy.

  16. Those are the best pics I have seen yet! Incredible. Perfect!
    I do have one thing to point out though (I used to be a Materials Scientist):
    “Reproduction ratios much greater than 1:1 are considered to be photomicrography, often achieved with digital microscope (photomicrography should not be confused with microphotography, the art of making very small photographs, such as for microforms).” -Wikipedia

  17. Ming,

    Would this be a good lens for a D7100? I have the sigma 18-35, 8-16, Nikon DX 35 1.8g, and I am looking for a portrait and a macro lens. I am thinking I can kill two birds with one stone. Also, does crop factor affect 1:1 working distance? Could I be farther away with a DX camera?



    • Macro yes, portrait – a bit short, but you could make it work.

      For a given coverage area/ subject size, DX will give you more working distance.

  18. Hey Ming Thein, I was wondering how much difference is this compared to the AF-D version… you mentioned that the older version goes to 1/2 magnification… but the AF-D goes to 1:1. Any insights on the AF-D 1:1 version compared to this? Thank you!

    • No, the older version goes to 1:1 also, but extends in the process, cutting down working distance because of the telescoping front hoods. The newer one is internally focusing, and has even better optics.

      • icic, thanks for the clarification. In what way is the new one better and is it significant enough to make or break an image? e.g. on a D600 or D800E

        Abit of bg info: I’ve been shooting events a long time and I’m moving towards product photography and would prefer not to spend too much for a start. I’ve got a 105mm AF-D which is good for my requirements but always felt abit too long and the DOF too thin.

  19. In 1986 I bought my first SLR, a Nikon F3. The first lens I bought was the Nikkor Micro 55mm f/2.8. I still have both. Today, found on my D800E is the Nikkor Micro 60mm f/2.8 G. The close focus stuff is my passion. I have been reading your stuff for about a year. Keep up the good work.

  20. Ming,

    With around 5 cm working distance, how do you avoid casting shadows over your subject? Do you use ring lights or other fancy tricks to avoid this?

    Thanks again,


  21. felix leyer says:

    Maybe this will horrify you: I am one of the odd species still using guide-numbers and an external flash . . . (Metz CT60, some 30 years old) 🙂


  22. Hello Ming,

    I regularly read this site with great interest, as you quite obviously put in a tremendous amount of thought and care in its creation (and all your work). Thank you!

    I am also a huge fan of mechanical watches (and photography) and would like to do more watch photography, as a hobby, for my friends and I. It looks like the 60 2.8 Micro is the lens to use for photographs of “whole watches”, but what about close-ups of movements (or even parts of movements only)?

    If the working distance with the 60 2.8 is only about 5 cm to reach 1:1, how close would I have to get to a movement part (presumably using an exension tube to compensate) for it to fill a big enough part of the frame? Is it even possible to light the subject when it is this close to the lense’s front element?

    Would another lens be better indicated in these circumstances?

    Thanks for your input!

    Best regards,


    • Actually, I use the 60 for the closeups because less extension tubes are needed to get higher magnification, plus you’ve got more DOF for a given aperture. For whole watches I use the 85 PCE.

      • Ming,

        Thanks for the reply. By saying you need “fewer” extension tubes with the 60, this does imply that you use some. Just to be clear, wouldn’t using extension tubes with the 60 mean that you are getting EVEN CLOSER than than the advertised 5 cm from the subject you are taking a close-up of? If so, how close do you have to get to the movement to take such close-ups?

        • Working distance remains around 5cm. You need a 36mm tube to get to 2:1, with the 105 you need about 80mm of tubes. (The real FLs shorten as you focus closer.)

  23. Thanks for the review Ming. The pictures are beautiful but surely, the way you setup the light is at least as important as the lens. Have you ever written anything on the lighting setup for you watch / product photography? I’d really love to learn more about that.

    I have been using the Tokina 105mm Macro lens for my D800 so far and I am very happy with it for product photography, with the exception that I sometimes have to move to far away to get my entire object in the picture. Hence, I am contemplating getting on of the 60mm Macro lenses as well.
    On the other hand, I currently have a Leica Summicron R 50 f/2 that I converted via a Leitax mount for my D800, and so I was wondering how the Leica 60mm Makro would do on a D800. Have you ever played around with Leica lenses on a D800?

  24. The DoF discussion… For whatever little my knowledge of optics is worth, DamenS is right about that it’s not really the focal lenght but magnification that is the “thing” in DoF. The terms used in camera optics can easily lead to misunderstanding. Try MICROscopy, people. It’s often done on a magnification scale like 40x to 1000x and is good for learning optics.

    But to my real point, discussion between DoF differences from, say, those 60mm & 105mm lenses. When set to same reproduction ratio and f-value they yield same DoF; note that distances from optical center to subject are diffrent and nicely fit into the equation. There is one pitfall though. The longer 105 lens is more far away and thus will have a more narrow perspective, a telephoto effect. That means out-of-focus backgrounds are more narrow and bigger and even when they have the same amount of information than the short 60 lens, the blur is bigger looking. So: same amount of information on the DoF zone, but on a different size. And the foreground? Gggg…. Really, if it works visually, whatever.

    • As we borough down the rabbit hole, it just gets harder. This is to be expected. This is not as easy as the “yeah” or “nay” sayers, who have no real knowledge, will ever acknowledge – or the people who say “focal length MUST determine depth of field – for SO it is written, ra, ra, RA” … this is not a Colosseum (actually it is – it always is – truth is emasculated before opinion). So would it be better to be judged by our peers, if they know nothing … nothing at all ?? Does sheer popularity embolden the abstract aim, and is this JUST ? Is it TRUE – as King Arthur said – is it really “might is right” ? There could be a thousand fallen angels for whom you might cry and rail, but there are certain lores of physics, certain truths which are not subject to woebegotten and ill-advised opinion: Salgado largely used R cameras, not M. Kubrick was a journalist when he was in his 20’s – he was NOT a journalist in the 1920’s (at which stage he would have been 2 years old). All of these inaccuracies have been revised in the relevant articles – upon being pointed out … this is the “hours of research” which were foreshortened and clearly lacking. In some cases, more research may be required – that is all … I am not killing your Grandmother. “Micro vs Macro” – I gave my argument … some understood it, but I acknowledged there is no universal answer – I truly did. You wish to stick up for your heroes – I understand – but I just wish you would engage your brains. I wish you would LEARN, rather than repeating misheard whispers from your heroes. Don’t be sheep and don’t view your stupid complicity as being “entirely just”, simply because there are many who share your stupidity. LEARN to think, if you can’t already …

      Ming was at Oxford at age 16 – it behoves you to at LEAST engage your mental faculties and try to keep up as best you can.

      People ALWAYS think they are right – it is your right to ask them to prove it ? … Absolutely … not by saying “several other people agree” (what does that mean ? It is a weak argument – it is a misdirection from the truth … several people agreed the Earth was flat in the 1500’s – in fact EVERY one did). Yet no-one ever believed 1+1 = anything other than 2 – given that the definitions were the same in any world. When you are talking “necessary truths” or logistic necessities – there is no “opinion”, there is only truth. That is all. When there are not “necessary truths”, there are far better arguments than “a few other people have said”. This is where research becomes important – who said what and why ? No excuses, no obfuscation; no amorphous defences of a shaky position. You name your sources and you CLAIM your position – you justify it … unless “a few people” is all you have – and then you obfuscate like mad !!


  25. The 60G was purchased in the USA. The only Nikon I have from the ‘states. Judging by the poor press, maybe Nikon send all their ‘problems’ there 😉

  26. Another great review Ming. Thanks once more for taking the time to share your experiences with us.
    One thing that I have a little difficulty with is why a macro (micro) lens such as the 60mm should out-perform a standard lens like a 50mm for ‘general photography’ (i.e. non-macro)?
    Theses lenses are are built for different usage and if the micro perofrmed so well why not make all lenses micro (accepted there’d probably be a price differential and a limitation to maximum apperture)?
    Not queerying your findings, just trying to understand 🙂

    • No, it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Most of the time it’s due to cost and maximum aperture. Macro lenses are optimized for close range, flat field performance. Some field curvature and distortion is acceptable with a normal 50mm because most of the time you won’t see it unless doing repro work. To achieve similar optical performance at large apertures, you need only to look at the price of Leica glass – which is designed to be used wide open – to understand that it wouldn’t be very practical to sell a 60/1.4 macro…

      Another comparison is the upcoming Zeiss 55/1.4 Distagon. From the initial samples I’ve seen, performance is on par with the makro planars – except it doesn’t focus as close. Even so, the lens is truly enormous (the size of a 24-70/2.8) and the price will probably push the $3,000 barrier.

      • Thanks Ming!
        I really appreciate your views as I know they can be trusted (simply put your photographs give you ‘street cred’ that many other sites battle to keep up with).
        Reason I was asking was because I’m not completely happy with my 60mm micro. Compared to the Zeiss 35 F2 (my first Zeiss) I prefer the drawing style of the Zeiss in all honesty. Seems somewhat ‘sharper’ (microcontrast?) but then I’m not comparing apples with apples IRO FL. Maybe I’ve got a dud 60mm as I’ve noticed you rate it highly …
        Therefore I’m toying with buying the Zeiss 50mm F2 MP but if it’s not going to be any better (for non-macro) than the 60mm I might as well head in the direction of the Zeiss 100mm MP for portraits and landscapes.
        So many lens possibilities, so little time (and money) 🙂

  27. Great write-up as usual, Ming. My only additional observation in favor of the D would be for underwater macro photography. When you’re underwater, working distance is your enemy. More water = lower IQ. . .

    • Ah yes. Then you’d probably want to use a wide-angle with a narrow tube or something, or one that natively close focuses – the Zeiss Distagons all go down to the 20-25cm range. And that’s a whole branch of photography I’m avoiding because the sheer cost of the gear frightens me…

      • For wide angle underwater, fisheye lenses are your best bet (the Tokina 10-17mm lens is probably the most widely used underwater wide angle lenses). Both the 60mm D and the 105mm VR deserves a place in UW photography; the 105mm is more suitable for the more skittish underwater life. I’ve never thought about the Zeiss as an option and it isn’t mentioned by any of the UW blogs I’ve read, but I’ll have to check that out. there is some minimum distance you still need however, because the port sizes are typically slightly longer than the lenses, and you still want SOME distance for the strobes to be able to reach the subject.

        • Well, they obviously don’t focus to the front element, but they do strike me as being fantastic optically. I suspect it might be because they’re manual focus…

  28. Ming, you really do need to try a leica macro elmarit-r 100/2.8 + elpro 1:1. The image quality is beautiful, and I can guarantee you would fall in love with it. I had one on my previous d3x and had no complaints! I’ve just bought an R9 and can’t wait to develop the rolls I’ve shot so far. Ok, so this lens isn’t cheap, but the step up from my previous 105/2,8 nikon is like night and day. The leica gives as close a representation of the subject as any lens can provide. BTW, Leitaxing this lens is easy.

    • I do. But yes, the price is scary. Ah well…

    • Peter Boender says:

      Nice suggestion, Andy. One question: I’ve never heard of the term “Leitaxing”. I suppose it has something to do with making the Leica lens flange compatible with the Nikon body flange, as you mention having used the lens on a D3X. Would you care to elaborate?

  29. Jorge Balarin says:

    Dear Ming,
    Between the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G and the Nikon AFS 60mm f2.8 G Micro-Nikkor, wich are going to be the differences when using both lenses for portraits ?
    In terms of bokeh I suppose that the biggest f/1.8 aperture is going to help me to isolate the subject, I mean, I will have less depht of field. But by other side I think that the longer focal lenght of the 60mm must counter the bigger aperture of the 50mm. If I add the fact that with the 60mm Micro I can be closer to my subject, I must expect reducing the DOF even more. I think the Micro would be sharper, and that could be an inconvenient with old skins, but not with children. What do you think ? Greetings, Jorge.

    • Not really – the difference in focal length isn’t quite enough to make ip for the difference in aperture. The 50 will render softer/ more ‘gently’ than the 60, which tends to be a very crisp lens indeed for portrait work. It’s not very flattering for older people and ladies 🙂

      That said, you can obviously do double duty with the 60 but not the 50 since it isn’t optimised for close range performance, even if you use it with extension tubes.

  30. I probably will not have cause to buy this exact lens, but I nonetheless got a lot from your review, as my Leica 60mm and ancient Micro-Nikkor 55mm lenses are currently my most-used.
    I was surprised to learn that you use 60mm on full-frame for the watches. That is somewhat contrary to much of what I have read and experienced. (I often prefer the 105mm for my paperweights which are larger – and that’s with a crop sensor!) But your results speak for themselves. (I suppose I mostly now favor my old Micro-Nikkor 105mm for the sun stars it renders – and for blurring the background outdoors.)

    • Thanks Jeff. The reasons I now use the 60 over 105 are partially due to extended depth of field requirements from clients and partially due to the optics of the 105mm options: either I have to use a lot of extension tubes with the Zeiss 2/100, or suffer the horrible longitudinal CA of the Nikon 105VR, which is a complete nightmare to remove in post. It’s also easier to get to higher magnification levels with the 60 since you need fewer extension tubes. Lighting isn’t as much of an issue as you would think as the working distance is still more than sufficient.

  31. “Different DOF for a given aperture for different FLs – anything else is physically impossible”. Why ? DOF is determined by magnification and aperture, NOT focal length (unless the focal length alters the magnification). This is not hard to find out. If you don’t trust my Wikkipedia link, search for any other source which explains how DOF is calculated – and anything other than what they all say is the physical basis for DOF (magnification and aperture) is the only physical reality. It is a common misconception that Focal Length ALWAYS has something to do with DOF, simply because a change of FL usually results in a change in magnification; however this is a simplistic – and often erroneous – understanding of the actual physics involved. Just keep an open mind, and read the research – from whatever source you trust …

  32. Even Nikon themselves (the place from which that ridiculous notion that “micro” is the appropriate nomenclature for a close-up lens with a less than 1:1 macro ratio), seem to understand how arbitrary their own designation is, and use it interchangeable with the term macro – as though there is no difference between their marketing term, “micro” and the more commonly accepted term of “macro”.

    Nikon USA state that: “A true MACRO lens—Nikon’s designation is Micro-NIKKOR—allows you to you take photographs that are 1:2 or 1:1 reproduction, which is ½ life size to life size respectively without the need for any additional accessories.” (http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Article/gnhy8b3m/macro-lenses.html).

    So a macro lens IS a micro lens according to Nikon – and they attribute a TRUE “macro” lens designation as being 1:2 magnification (less than the “life size” you claim). All of which is debatable. Maybe even wrong – but they’ve used as much evidence to support their claims as you have to support ours – none whatsoever. If we look at the TRUE and acknowledged photographic terms of “photomacrography” (of which “macro” is an abbreviation) and “photomicrography” or “photomicroscopy” (from either of which “micro” is an abbreviation) we can see that micro (“small” in Ancient Greek – from “Mikros”) is generally used for photos of much greater than 1:1 ratio (“macro” meaning “large” in Ancient Greek – from “Makros”), such as those taken through a microscope – though any cutoff point will be arbitrary and debatable; it doesn’t exist in as neat a package as you suggest, though it certainly exists in the opposite direction to which you proclaim based upon Nikon’s erroneous product-naming conventions.

    In fact, Nikon still refers to their 1:1 lenses as being “Micro” though you would state they are actually “Macro” and (as though “micro” was an actual defined and correct term for less than 1:1 ratio, rather than a marketing decision) that only the older 1:2 versions should be labelled “Micro”. What extrapolation will we next make from one companies marketing names to the whole of photography … how about stating that all “silent” autofocus lenses from any manufacturer are “AF-S” lenses ?

  33. “I suppose Carl Zeiss gets away with it by sounding German and putting a ‘k’ in Makro-Planar – these are 1:2 lenses.” No, no , NO !! Carl Zeiss (a German company) DON’T “get away with it” by “sounding German” … they ARE German – in fact, “Makro” IS German for macro. Your argument/logic (as presented) is that people can get away with calling a lens “macro” in any language other than English (I mean, really ??). So if this German company used the Swahili word for “macro”, they would also “get away with it” ?? Something either IS what is advertised or it isn’t; regardless of language used. Shakespeare said “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. In semiotic terms; FORGET being fooled by the “Signifier” and look at the “Signified”. Lens manufacturers “get away with it” because people don’t complain, but more importantly, because you are wrong in assuming there is any definable standard for “macro” or “micro” – you are wrong for assuming you have definable and provable answers, when what you offer is (at BEST) merely an arbitrary opinion you have presented as fact (which is exactly what these “lying” lens manufacturers do).

    So Zeiss is LYING (not “getting away with it by putting some unfathomable “K” in the English word for Macro”). As is virtually EVERY manufacturer (and they have been for a long time). However, even THAT sentiment is assuming that we accept a “macro” lens must have a magnification ratio of 1:1 – if you believe that, please produce some evidence … where has this been stated by a reputable authority – how is this common knowledge, or good knowledge, or a supportable argument ? Are you truly not aware that all those “Macro” zooms which have appeared for 20 years do not generally give you better than a 1:4 ratio ? If your definition of “Macro” is 1:1 magnification (and you don’t even understand how arbitrary and non-universal your own assessment is – which is the REAL issue here), then very few lenses EVER claimed as being “Macro” have reached it.

    As for your belief that the term “micro” is in any way related to magnification ratios below 1:1, that has only ever been posited by Nikon, and it is etymologically less correct than using the term “micro” for greater magnifications than 1:1 (which is why it is correct to say “micro-scope” but not to say “macro-scope” … but it will take another email for me to explain why drinking Nikon’s “cool aid” and then proposing it as some Universal Truth, is wrong. Anyone can SAY “God exists” – we require evidence, we require a less than arbitrary or “self derived” assessment to be pronounced at us before we concur. I’ll get into why you regally pronouncing, without support from anyone other than Nikon, that “micro” is accurate and adequate nomenclature for close-up lenses of less than 1:1 ratio and why “macro” should be used for magnifications of greater than 1:1 in a moment … even though none of this is agreed upon, it is all arbitrary – there are no standards – it is all “he said” and “she said”, I can still make a more cogent (and supportable) argument than your specious argument which spouts old Nikon marketing literature (which has now been changed – and was always wrong) rather than anything else. This is nowhere near as simplistic and “cut and dried” as you infer, or as you wish it may be. The problem resides in a lack of definable standards and you saying “these people are wrong and I am right” without any explication or evidence, will not change the uncertainty. You do not set the standards – nor do I, but I can at least explain why “micro” SHOULD refer to greater magnifications, I can’t truly explain why macro SHOULD mean 1:1 magnifications (though I believe it to be the case – it is just my belief) and why anything less than that should be referred to as “close-up” and nothing more … and none of which will change the way lenses are marketed.

    • It appears that sarcasm doesn’t translate well over the internet, either way. Yes, Zeiss is lying; 1:2 is not macro/makro/whatever. I’m only assuming your outburst isn’t personally directed at me.

      I don’t have time to find and cite specific sources now, but in the course of a lot of research – yes, despite what you might think, there is a lot of research and testing involved in these articles – which I appear to waste many hours of my time that could be spent on something far more productive, solely so as to be a target for your rather hostile and rude ranting – I’ve seen the distinction between macro/ micro made by other parties than Nikon more than once.

      Be civil, Damen. If you disagree, say so in a polite way. There’s no need to personally insult me.

    • Jorge Balarin says:

      Damen, go out and take some fresh air.

    • Dear Demon,
      The world is full of opinions and non are ‘proveable facts’ just as much as your’s isn’t.
      The world is not defined by precision but rather by chaos – which is why there is a theory of the same name.
      As opinions go I value those of Ming above many others because he has actually used the equipment, takes time to properly evaluate, and I admire his photography.
      As regards the later, if Ming can make it work it works. If he has ‘issues’ with equipment then most probably others will too.
      Be careful when you dismount from your horse, it’s a long way down from there 😉

  34. Oh, God – not again. Is there a difference in Effective Aperture between the 60mm f2.8 and the 105mm f2.8 at any given “marked” aperture ? There probably is, there MUST be for your statements to be correct, otherwise they would have exactly the same depth of field. CERTAINLY they will have the same depth of field at any given magnification and effective aperture – because they MUST do; unless they break the laws of physics. Depth of field is ONLY determined by magnification and aperture (actual or effective dependent upon distance from subject); if lens focal length or format size actually affect depth of field at all, it is ONLY through changing the magnification (for any given Circle of Confusion). If the 105mm lens and the 60mm lens are used at the same magnification (both go to 1:1 – and in doing so cover exactly the same “field of view” so that is no unaccounted for variable – that which is photographed has a 1:1 ratio to the sensor size with either) and the same effective aperture, the depth of field will be exactly the same (given that DOF is only determined by aperture and magnification). Focal length and sensor size are simple and often misunderstood “proxies” – they don’t even warrant a mention other than the ways in which they actually alter magnification. My guess is that the 60mm must have a larger effective aperture at a marked f2.8 that the 105mm lens at marked f2.8 – otherwise the rules of physics are being contravened (unlikely) or your visual perception is askew.

    • No, they don’t have the same depth of field at a common aperture – one is 60mm, one is 105mm. Different DOF for a given aperture for different FLs – anything else is physically impossible. Effective aperture in this case is what Nikon is reporting as a proxy for transmissive aperture, which reduces as helicoid extension increases; this makes sense because your effectively looking at a smaller portion of the total image circle, but the lens is still delivering the same total amount of light – limited by physical aperture – just that not all of it is reaching the sensor. It’s a holdover from the pre-iTTL days when we had to use guide numbers to calculate flash power – the effective reported aperture is what you should plug into your guide number calculation. It isn’t the same as the physical aperture, which is what influences depth of field. There is simply no way that at 1:1 and f2.8 both the 60mm and 105mm have the same depth of field.

      • Yes they do. What I am saying is that there is no different depth of field for a given aperture for different focal lengths (lets assume perfect transmission – we are comparing T stops, not different F stops here), UNLESS the different focal lengths lead to a different magnification. It is a common misunderstanding of DOF that people try to introduce variables other than Aperture and Magnification to the equation. At F2.8 and 1:1 (same aperture and magnification) the 60mm and the 105mm have the same DOF. They HAVE to – it’s simple physics.

        Here’s a quote from Wkipedia – not always the best source – but checking through their formulas and explanation, this article seems to have been well-vetted for inaccuracies – unfortunately the actual formulas won’t paste here but check the provided link for more information on how DOF works (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depth_of_field) :

        Firstly, “DOF is determined by subject magnification at the film / sensor plane and the selected lens aperture or f-number”.

        Lens focal length makes no difference OTHER than potentially affecting magnification (which does make a difference). In this case, the magnifications between focal lengths are equal at 1:1. As Wikki puts it, “The combination of focal length, subject distance, and format size defines magnification at the film” – but ONLY magnification and aperture (T stop) actually matter.

        They then provide further elucidation specifically for close-up photography, which suggests this theoretical assumption is born out in practice:


        so that for a given magnification, DOF is independent of focal length. Stated otherwise, for the same subject magnification, at the same f-number, all focal lengths used on a given image format give approximately the same DOF. This statement is true only when the subject distance is small in comparison with the hyperfocal distance, however.”

        Therefore, the only way there could be a difference in DOF would be if effective aperture DOES make a difference rather than the physical aperture – and on that point I am uncertain (though I do know that for diffraction concerns when taking macro photos, ones uses the Effective Aperture, rather than the physical aperture).

      • Ming, superb review of the 60mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor! As a D5300 user concerned mostly with maximum sharpness and detail in my stock images (please see totalqualityphoto.com for examples), I am strongly considering either this 60, the 105 f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, or the Sigma 105 f/2.8 EX OS HSM. The Sigma gets great reviews for sharpness (even one review stating better sharpness than the 105 Micro-Nikkor at smaller apertures), however, I am skeptical about mechanical quality, as well as obtaining optimum out-of-the-box sharpness with my D5300, (since it has no AF Microfocus Adjustment!). So, my question is, do you feel that the 60 you reviewed here is “at least” as sharp as any of the other Micro-Nikkors? Thank you sir!

  35. Ho, you have a 85mm PCE. 🙂

    When i bought my first reflex (i have a MFT and a X-Pro 1 too), a nikon D800, i bought a 50mm f/1.4, a 105mm Macro, and i wasn’t sure about the 85mm PCE, i bought a 24mm PCE (which is, of course, awesome).

    I’m glad you talk about the 105’s chromatic aberration. When i complained (on a local photographer facebook group) about the chromatic aberration of the 105 i got flammed to death because : how could someone like me (with less than 1y of experience) complain about that while some pro photographed couldn’t afford that kind of gear (D800, etc) and would be happy with my gear. (that’s why i’m not planning to go pro.., if i were a local pro photographer i would not be able to pay that kind of gear. i don’t need an excuse to buy expensive stuff, i just need the money)

    Would you recommand the 85mm PCE for, well, other than proxiphoto ?

    • Yes, I have one of those two – bread and butter lens for product photography work. It does require some care and setup to use well, and certainly isn’t readily handholdable. I’d recommend it only if you need it, and I think if you’re asking…you don’t need it. 🙂

  36. Thank You for the review Ming! Awesome information. 🙂

  37. Thank you for your review. Do you prefer this setup or the OMD+60/2.8?

    • The Oly 60/2.8 is a better lens, but has insufficient resolution for some clients when it comes to the normal work I do. Plus the flash system isn’t as reliable as Nikon, so I’m almost always using this and the 85PCE. Both lenses are excellent, however, and differences are really splitting hairs…

      • Thank you for your reply. So for your use the limitation is the resolution of OMD then? At the end it all comes down to what is “sufficient” for one’s need I suppose. 🙂 I am sure the Oly 60/2.8 will be sufficient for my occasional use. g
        Looking forward to your future article about tilt shift lens, I have always wanted to learn more about how to properly use it.
        Best Regards,

        PS I was thinking about the DOF issue and tried to plug in some numbers to the DOF calculator, interestingly (to me) at same magnification (6 inch vs 10.5 inch), the 60 and 105 have the same DOF at the same aperture. So unless there is some other issues going on at macro distance that I don’t understand, the choice of focal length would be purely working distance convenience? Am I on the right track?

        Thanks again. 🙂

        • It’s both a resolution limitation and a system limitation. For my own personal use the resolution of the OMD is sufficient; but I have clients that do wall-size enlargements for advertising, promos and events – so I have to use the D800E.

          I still don’t believe the DOF calculator because it contradicts what I see with my own eyes. I suspect it has to do with the definition of circles of confusion – even though they’re the same for both lenses (a medium-dependent property) the in focus to out of focus transition is a lot more abrupt for longer lenses. This gives the impression of more appearing to be out of focus because after resolving power passes the ‘acceptable re soliton’ point, it falls off much faster with the longer lens.

      • DOF seems to be larger with shorter focal length due to the shorter lens will magnify the unsharp area less than the longer one.
        Long lenses compress depth and therefore magnifies the “unsharpness”.

  38. I Would love to see a comparison with the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 on a E-M5… I am impressed with the this Nikon G Macro…,
    I know you have 2 reviews on the Oly. I think it would be a close call. I own a Nikon FE, so a G lens is a no go without an f/stop ring. But, just for fun….

  39. An amazing lens. Great review Ming!


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  8. […] Ilford Pan F 50 film, using the 45/2.8 AI-P and AFS 85/1.8 G lenses, then scanned with a D800E and 60/2.8 G Micro. Enjoy! […]

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