What's a "good" lens?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by DScience, Sep 4, 2009.

  1. DScience

    DScience No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I know by the title this may sound trivial, and in reality it may be. However I would like to clear something up and get some advice from the advanced.

    When I first got my D60 in April, I couldn't understand how the quality of the kit lens was poor. However after getting a 50mm 1.8 and then the 50mm 1.4, I automatically realized the difference between the two. The color was more accurate and vivid, images were sharper, and the ability for a thinner DOF was my favorite change.

    Now I am in the process of saving for some new glass, and I've been doing quite a bit of research. The main question I have is sort of general, but i'll give it a shot. When people on the forum talk about great glass and how it's better than the kit glass, would a 85mm f1.8 fall into that category? Or would only a 85mm f1.4 be considered good. Also, are DX lenses considered good glass? Because I've noticed at least from Nikon's line, their BEST lenses are full frame, and they have only a few top of the line DX's (at least for the ones I want).

    I already decided that for me, I would rather save the money and get the fastest I possibly can, but I am just curious. What will be the image quality differences, regardless of DOF, between a 85mm 1.8 and a 1.4?

    Thank you!
     
  2. JustAnEngineer

    JustAnEngineer TPF Noob!

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    My opinion is about the same as yours.
    Look for the range of focal lengths that you need.
    Look for an aperture as wide as you want.
    Look for a maximum magnification ratio (or minimum focus distance) as close as you want.
    Look at the MTF charts to graphically compare image quality.
    Consider image stabilization.
    Consider focus speed and accuracy.
    Consider ruggedness or weather sealing.
     
  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Yes, the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 in either AF (available used, affordably) or the newer AF-D model (available both used,and new) is a "good" lens.

    I looked through your Flickr galleries shot after your dismissive remarks about my experience with FF vs DX cameras last week. It seems you currently have one camera and one lens you use a lot, the 50mm AF-S G Nikkor,and I saw that you are fond of shooting at wide apertures. You'd probably enjoy an 85mm lens,and on some of the types of photos you do, it would probably work pretty well for you.

    The 1.8 versus 1.4 thing has been beaten to death on many forums. I've owned both the 1.8 AF and still own the 1.4 AF-D model. The 1.8 lens is very good, but the 1.4 lens is superb. It has great bokeh and excellent build quality. It's rumored that there will be an 85mm f/1.4 AF-S G coming out soon--perhaps with VR and Nanocrystal AR coating. Think $1899.

    One thing you will find, if you buy an 85mm lens however, is that you will need to stand quite far away from things in order to frame subjects that you can frame with your 50mm lens on your DX body while standing pretty close. A DX Nikon camera must be about 30 feet away to frame a six foot tall person,with a total field of view of 8.5 feet high--room for foot space, and a bit of cropping room. So, the ultra-shallow depth of field effects you like so much with your 50/1.4 and DX body--that type of extremely blown-out background focus is not achievable on larger subjects that must be framed at distance--distance created because the DX sensor is cropping off the edges of your 85mm lens' projected image circle. You can shoot a tight headshot with an 85,and blow the background out, but when you try and shoot something the size of say, a car, or a cafe scene, you will be so far back with the 85 that even at f/1.8, the background will be quite recognizable.

    I'm not trying to offend you or insult you, but I have looked at your images,and I see the types of foreground/background isolation you've been working with,and see how beautiful the bokeh of the 50mm G really is, but the 85mm lens on APS-C will force you to be much farther back to frame larger subjects, so your shallow DOF look will be posible with an 85mm on small,close-in objects, but not so blown out with larger subjects like people. I encourage most young photogs to look into an 85mm/1.8 lens as their first "serious" prime lens,especially if they shoot with Canon (Canon's 1.8 EF has USM and is slightly better than the Nikkor 1.8). Either Nikkor 85mm lens would classify as "good glass" compared to a kit lens.

    After a "new" 85 1.4 AFS-G comes out, prices might drop a bit on used 85/1.4 models as many hurry to sell of 85/1.4s and flood the market.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2009
  4. DScience

    DScience No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Wow, awesome! Thank you for all the great info. And you definitely didn't insult me. Thank you for checking out my stream and giving me lots of great feedback.
     
  5. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I assume you meant to say D90 over D60 in the original post? I was kinda thinking the ability to autofocus at all would be a good selling point, lol.

    A "good" lens is totally relative. There is lots of fast glass out there that can be had for cheap. Primes are a pretty good start, but even some of nikon's kit lenses are really, really sharp. It all depends on the given use. I constantly get torn between the cheaper, sharper and faster primes and the convenience of a zoom. If a fast aperture is your primary concern, then primes are really the only way to go. F2.8 sometimes feels a bit slow after you use a lot of 1.8 and 1.4 glass.

    As far as 85mm's are concerned, both are considered very sharp. You just have to decide if you want to drop the extra thousand bucks for a half a stop of light and a little smoother bokeh. I used to compare my bosses 50 1.2L and my 50 1.4, and the differences weren't remotely enough for me to consider dropping an additional $1100 dollars. Especially after post-processing is applied to both images. And with an 85mm 1.4, your looking at a pretty specialized lens for a DX sensor. You'll get some pretty stunning portraits, but you can get some good ones of a 50mm on a DX sensor as well.

    If I were going to spend that kind of money and I already had the 50, I'd look into a 17-55 F2.8 DX. But, that's just me. 70-200's and the older 80-200's are also wicked sharp lenses and offer you more opportunities to use them than a simple portrait lens at a similar price point.

    Edit: glanced at your flickr and I really like your work. I still think something like a wide-angle zoom might offer you more ability to vary your work. DOF is certainly an awesome way to make stunning images, but shooting at 12mm on a DX sensor is a heck of a lot of fun too.
     
  6. Bigpopa

    Bigpopa TPF Noob!

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    You have to remember that on the crop sensor an 85mm will have the FOV of 127.5mm ............
     
  7. Antithesis

    Antithesis No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    ^^^ yeah, its a portrait lens even on a full frame camera. Money would be wiser spent elsewhere, especially because you have only one lens that already passes for a decent portrait lens.
     
  8. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    All well and good info, but I had a look at his Flickr stream as well. I don't see where the comments about a 6' tall person in full frame or a car with bokeh in the background are particularly pertinent with the shot selections I viewed. It seems that Flowers (54), Bokeh (30) and Most Interesting (31) dominated the stream.

    With that being said, the choice of the Nikkor 85mm is a good one all the same. It was my first entry into "good glass" with a price point North of $200. Although I really wanted the f/1.4, my skill level could not justify the cost. I may one day replace the f/1.8, but I'm still quite happy with it.

    The 85mm f/1.4 is nicknamed the Cream Machine for a reason, but the f/1.8 ain't some schlep coming off the street. Although flowers are not my kind of subject too much, I tried a few to give you an idea of its bokeh at different apertures.

    f/3.5
    I like the buttery smooth bokeh this lens produces from f/2.8 to f/4.
    [​IMG]


    f/2.8
    Even with the blown out sky, notice how smooth the bokeh is, not leaving the circular highlights. (I noticed you have several with blown out skies. Not that it is a bad thing.)
    [​IMG]


    f/1.8
    Heavily cropped. The background of a grass lawn was ~5' to 6' away. Although the 85mm controls CA very well, it's at its worst at f/1.8. You can see the CA around the white spot of the butterfly's wing.
    [​IMG]


    The minimum focusing distance with this lens is .85m (2'-10"), so bear that in mind. And yes, Derrel was very much spot on that with your D90, you will need more space to frame large subjects. These were shot with a D300 (cropped sensor).

    Hope this helps. Good luck.​
     
  9. JamesMason

    JamesMason TPF Noob!

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    If you need to sell a family member in order to afford it, then its good.
     
  10. musicaleCA

    musicaleCA TPF Noob!

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    The only good lens is this lens. Clearly.
     
  11. DScience

    DScience No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    No, sorry I did mean the D60. It's the original camera I got in April.

    Thank you very much for the reply, this helps out a lot. I definitely agree and am now really considering saving for a fast zoom lens, something wider than the 50.
     
  12. DScience

    DScience No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    WOW. This is why I love TPF. I really appreciate you taking all this time to help me out. This is all such great info, and I LOVE the examples. I am pretty impressed with the 85mm 1.8! But you guys have convinced me, it might be a little too 'specific' for my cropped sensor.

    I think i'll just get a macro lens next.
     

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