Review: Nikon 60mm f2.8G AF-S Micro
byon 01-16-2013 at 02:06 AM (1546 Views)
Few types of lenses are as consistently sharp as macro lenses; there simply seem to be few if any at all that aren't at least pretty good optically.
Nikon has no shortage of macro lenses, which they term micro(-Nikkor), with a 40mm for crop, 55mm (3-4 iterations, only one of which has AF),60mm (AF-D and this AF-S), 85mm also for crop, 105mm (AF-D and AF-S), 200mm, and the only macro zoom in the industry, a 70-180mm. Furthermore, the 45mm and 85mm PC and PC-E lenses provide 1:2 magnification. If there's nothing in that pile to your liking, there's an even more comprehensive and dizzying list of options available from 3rd party manufacturers.
When the new generation of G lenses were released, initial clamors heavily rebuked construction involving plastics instead of expected metals. As we're ever so quick to judge, fingers were pointed, and Nikon was deemed cheap for the cost-cutting circumvention, no matter how good the optics. As the trend became standard though, a second glance allowed us to get used to and slowly embrace the pattern with a well-established track record for the plastic barrel actually standing up to the test of time (or at least four years of it). Fogeys sentimentally attached to their old AF-D lenses are the only ones left still bashing on the build.
In short, I like the build.
A bit odd the front element appears compared to the fast primes and their vast landscape of glass. Almost... alien-like. So small.
Sealing is present, although perhaps not the most necessary lens to have the feature, at least not for my intended usage. In focusing, the rear element doesn't move, meaning one less area for dust to find themselves stuck between lens elements.
A naughty surprise
The lens betrays its the archetype macro lens. In nearly any review of any lens of this type ever made, a point of criticism is to be found in that it takes a significant amount of time to achieve AF, especially those that are screw-driven. In fact, it focuses as fast or even slightly faster than some of the other G-type primes. A revelation then for the macro lens' potential to be used for other applications.
At just under 2" of working distance at 1:1 magnification, it's not the best lens to use for anything that might retaliate, as well as making it difficult to control lighting setups for studio work.
At 1:1, the T-stop (effective minimum aperture) is f/4.8. Only at infinity is this lens really f/2.8, but considering the nature of the lens, this is something I can overlook (I know this has been a make-or-break issue for some).
For macro purposes, maximum aperture may be less of a concern than minimum aperture. Where fast primes stop down to f/16 and most zooms around f/29-f/32, this goes all the way down to f/57. Hopefully you won't have to stop down that slow too often, as diffraction will quickly rob your images of sharpness, noticeably past f/32 on a D800, faster depending on your sensor.
My new reference lens
In a few words, it makes me superbly happy.
There's surprisingly little more to say than that. It performs as well as you'd expect from a macro lens at macro distances, but a standout feature is that it remains outstanding at infinity, a weakness of the older 60mm 2.8D.
Similar to the other N-coated lenses, villains like flare and chromatic aberrations are nearly negligible.
Distortion deserves no attention here.
Overall image quality has expected levels of contrast, both globally and in fine structures.
Every lens I use from now on will be compared optically to this.
Overall the most reliable lens I own
[++]: [+]: : [-]: [--]:
[++]Great image quality at every distance and (reasonable) aperture
[++]Fast focus makes it practical outside of macro use
[++]Negligible optical aberrations
[+]Solid plastic build
[-]Short working distance for 1:1 magnification
[-]Atypical filter thread size (62mm)