Here I was thinking that either a) all lenses have gotten pretty good, or b) I just can't tell any more, because I've been shooting the Dragoon with the AF-S Nikkor 28mm ƒ/1.8G which I bought, as opposed to the mucho luxe AF-S Nikkor 35mm ƒ/1.4G which I rented, and thinking that I just don't mind the mid-priced lens...it seems fine to me.
I dasn't snitch their image, but here's a picture of the 28mm on the D800. It's a handful.
I'm sure most of you who read Dpreview (which I'm sure is most of you) have seen the recent links to DxO's discussion of lenses for the Dragoon...er, the D800. DxO has considered medium teles and normal lenses so far, mainly because I am interested in wide-angle lenses and the Universe requires that I be frustrated. Sorry, free associating. Anyway, DxO very sensibly considers lenses and sensors together, and the D800 tends to bring the best out of any lens, which tends to bring up the ratings of Nikkor lenses. Still and all, you can go to the Lens Ratings page and see how highly they rank the modest 28mm ƒ/1.8G on the D800...13th overall, with a "score" of 33.
Well, I thought it was good. Little did I know, it's actually good.
Among DxO's other conclusions:
• "The often repeated line that prime lenses are better than zoom lenses is once again borne out here, with prime lenses outperforming zoom lenses by between 20 and 30%." I coulda told you that.
• "The highest scoring lenses tested by the DxOMark labs have all been 85mm primes—certainly something to consider if you’re looking for the' best' lenses on any camera." I coulda told you that, too. I've long known that short teles must be the easiest lenses to design well, as they exhibit the fewest compromises.
• "The Nikon D800 is the current undisputed king of DxOMark, with results that eclipse every other camera from all other manufacturers." I couldn't have told you that, but I believe it, and it's nice to know. Wish mine focused better, but whatever.
• Another thing I thought was interesting is that when confined to DxO's metrics (which aren't the whole story with a lens, of course—nothing is the whole story with a lens), there's not a terribly good correspondence between performance and price.
DxO's series of articles are accessible from this page. Next to be rated for the D800 are super teles and zooms, on the 22nd, and then, finally, on the 25th, they'll be considering wide angles.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Joe: "Mike, you wrote, 'Wish mine focused better, but whatever.' Me, too, until I used the combination of LensAlign and FocusTune (trademarks galore!) to fine-tune the autofocus of each of my prime lenses. At that point, I finally became happy with my D800's autofocus, and I suddenly realized how much I had been spending energy trying to make up for the camera's focus shortcomings. Now I just forget about it and trust the camera to do the job I bought it for. Check out those products—something like $100 all told, but well worth it to get the most of my multi-thousand dollar lens collection.
"I have no co connection to Michael Tapes, who created and sells those products."
Mike replies: You might not, but we do—Michael is an advertiser / supporter / friend of TOP. And yet I've never tried those products. Seems like maybe I ought to make up for lost time sometime soon.
George Purvis: "As a D800E user and owner/user of both LensAlign and FocusTune, I've found FocusTune alone to be a superb tool for fine tuning autofocus and in my hands superior to LensAlign alone. Once I started using FocusTune, I realized that the reproducibility errors in autofocus are often on the order of three to five autofocus adjustment units when the autofocus adjustment is not optimum. The error in reproducibility makes discovery of the optimum fine tune setting almost impossible without software like FocusTune which uses multiple shots. I've also observed that the error in reproducibility is minimized when the optimum fine tune value is used.
"Frankly, I was never really happy with my results from LensAlign. With FocusTune, I understand the source of the problem with LensAlign (auto focus reproducibility) and I have a tool that averages it out in ways that adjusting a single image cannot. I've also used FocusTune to check for the left/right auto focus issue. It found none. The leftmost and rightmost sensors focus the same. As expected, neither focuses quite as well as the cross hair center sensor. After fine tuning my lenses, I am now much happier with the auto focus on all my Nikon cameras including the D800E."
Armand: "Mike, I have been trying to find many reasons not to buy the Nikkor 85mm since I already have few 90mms and couple of Nikon 105mm ƒ/2.5 LTMs. I have my Leitaxed 90mm ƒ/2.8 Elmarit R mounted on the D800E. Your post is not helping fight my GAS :-)"
Mike replies: When I used to participate on the Pentax Discuss Mailing List (PDML), I often signed my messages "Mike, LPE." It stood for "lens purchase enabler." Beware!
Marek Fogiel: "I am not a fan of lens testing, but without any effort whatsoever, I can say, that both the Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 or Nikkor 50mm ƒ/1.4D are light years behind the Zeiss Makro Planar 50mm ƒ/2 in any aspect visible on the print. I own all these lenses, and for me it is a no-brainer. It reminds me of one of these things about hi-fi, which you have also mentioned in the past: the measurement graphs are not the same thing as human perceptual effect."
Ed Richards: "I am curious about your love affair with the D800. I have followed your work since the old old paper and magazine days. None of the work that you have said you admire, or your own work that you have shown, has anything to do with high resolution. Cartier-Bresson more than large format pictures of grocery stores where you can read every label. It is a big, heavy camera, with big lenses, esp. the zooms, and it costs a lot. I would have thought your perfect camera would be the Fuji X-Pro or the OM-D. I just do not see you with your camera on a tripod using Liveview to tweak every shot. When you finally get to your review, I hope you put the D800 into the larger context of the work you do and like."
Mike replies: I believe buying the D800 was a mistake. But one that's on me, not on the camera. I suspect I was the victim of a natural human tendency—overcompensation. I'm most familiar with this with houses—most homebuyers buy so few houses in their lifetimes, and stay in most of their houses so long, that the deficiencies of any particular house become ingrained and the desire to alleviate them builds in pressure over time. When we finally do move—certainly if we build—we tend to overcompensate for the shortcomings of the last house we lived in. If your home is too dark, for instance, your next one will have too many windows and skylights. If your last home was too small, your next one will be too big. If your last home was too old, your next one will be new or close to it. And so on. (Only holds for things you perceive as negatives, though.)
I think I just got sort of tired of dealing with the IQ limitations of smaller and offbeat sensors and with quirky, viewfinderless cameras, and I went too far the other way. The D800 is a magnificent beast, but to be perfectly honest, it's really too much camera for me—too big, too involved. Not that there's anything wrong with that; it's just that it "exceeds requirements" for me personally is all. I still more often grab a Micro 4/3 camera when I want to shoot.