After much research into three models of Micro (or Macro – Nikon being odd and calling them micro lenses) I finally decided to purchase a mint condition used Nikkor (Nikon) 60mm f/2.8 AF-D Micro lens.
Although I had some success achieving the image I wanted using telephoto and standard zooms, I wanted to get a lens with true 1:1 ration reproduction and, importantly, 0.0 (or close to it) distortion.
The 40mm was favourite for a while due to doubling as a standard lens, being very small and light, amazingly sharp and ridiculously cheap. But, 40mm give a very difficult working distance. Even 60mm on the DX body (resulting in a 90mm:35mm film equivalent) the working distance is minimal. In fact, I bumped the front on the subject a couple of times! Thankfully, the front element is hidden very well inside on the 60mm AF-D version, something that makes it more comforting for the odd knock than the newer AF-S version of the lens.
I also considered the 105mm AF-S micro lens, but at twice the price even when second hang, as well as being heavy and quite large, I decided I didn’t really need the extra features. If I was shooting full-frame, my response may have been different, but with a DX body my 60mm actually achieves closer to 90mm, although, and this is very weird, the focussing can change the magnification of the lens almost like a zoom. This is very disconcerting but I am sure I will get used to it. With a lot of thing, especially primes, you just have to move your body instead of the lens and that often improves the composition, and frequently actually makes you consider it more.
Being the older design of lens the lens is driven by the camera body and the autofocus, like many AF-D lenses, is slow and hunts, a lot. This is easy to get around by manual focussing, which is more commonly used in macro photography anyway. The older AF-D lenses are, in many peoples opinion, sharper than the newer AF-S ones. Because it uses the body to drive it, autofocus will not work at all on bodies that don’t have the ability to drive these older lenses, such as the D3000 series.
I have always found the build of the AF-D lenses very attractive, and I have always found them to be very sharp and a pleasure to use so long as you understand the autofocus limitations. If you shoot sports, forget it, and get the newer AF-S ones before you go mad.
Generally, I feel this lens it will involve something of a learning curve in technique to produce what I see in my minds eye, but I think this will come fairly easily and learning new techniques is what keeps photography fresh.
I am pleased, with the overall handling, the sharpness, and especially with the quality of the image. I don’t actually think I have much in my arsenal that would be sharper although much of sharpness is down to technique.
Extremely shallow depth of field can be achieved even though this is a f/2.8 lens due to the macro 1:1 capability. The black and white shot of the seed pods at the start is actually an f/8 image (1/60 – f8 – ISO140) and the colour one above is f/5.6 (1/1000, ISO400). This shallow depth of field is marvellous but I will need to take it into account for any shots where I require front to back sharpness.
I actually enjoy using very shallow depth of field in my images as our human eyes spend all their time autocorrecting to make as much of our vision as sharp (front to back) as possible and I like to challenge that.
The lens is nice and light, compact, and balances well on the D7100 used here. I can see it becoming a very well used addition to the arsenal indeed.