Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX AF-S Micro Nikkor
Lab Test Results
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September 6, 2011
by Andrew Alexander
The Nikon 40mm ƒ/2.8 macro lens was announced in July 2011. As an APS-C compatible lens, it is designed for Nikon's line of consumer dSLR cameras such as the D3100, D5100 and D7000. The lens will provide an effective field of view of 60mm when mounted on these cameras, and will vignette when used on a full-frame camera.
The lens takes 52mm filters, comes with a round lens hood and is available now for around $300.
Results for sharpness were excellent - the lens is almost tack-sharp at ƒ/2.8, showing just a touch of corner softness; however, stop down to just ƒ/4 and the lens provides its sharpest performance. Stopping down further to ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/8 provides no further gains in sharpness. Our testing showed signs of diffraction limiting at ƒ/11, impacting slightly on overall sharpness, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any practical impact. It's only at ƒ/16 there is any significant reduction in sharpness, and even then it's slight; fully stopped-down at ƒ/22, results are somewhat soft across the frame.
Overall CA is low, and our sample images bear this out; I'm hard-pressed to see any color fringing in areas of high contrast. However according to the test results there is some increase in the prevalence of CA as the lens is stopped down, reaching an apex at ƒ/11 or smaller.
Corner shading is only noteworthy when the lens is fully wide open at ƒ/2.8, at which point the extreme corners are around 1/3 EV darker than the center. At any other setting, the is no corner shading to speak of.
Distortion is well-controlled by the lens; technically there is a very small amount of pincushion distortion, but otherwise distortion is effectively negligible.
As a macro lens, the Nikon 40mm ƒ/2.8 micro has a lot of extension built into it, and thus it takes a significant amount of time to move through its focusing range. It took slightly more than one and a half seconds to focus from close-up to infinity. However, small changes in focusing are quick. The lens features a Silent Wave Motor so there is no noise from the lens, and attached 52mm filters won't rotate.
Designed specifically for macro use, the 40mm ƒ/2.8 micro offers full 1:1 macro resolution with a minimum close-focusing distance of 16.3 cm (just over six inches). It's worth noting that this distance is calculated from the sensor, and taking into account the length of the lens (64.5mm) you end up with a working distance of around 4 cm from the end of the lens to the macro subject. This isn't a huge amount of room, and that's without the lens hood in place.
It's also worth noting that our testing isn't done at macro distance, so our test results show the lens in regular use, not in macro use. Focused on a subject on macro distance, you should expect to see much more corner shading. Also, the lens literature indicates that if the camera is set to Aperture-priority (A) or Manual (M) modes the aperture will adjust automatically for different focusing distances up to 1.2 stops; so, the lens will produce up to 1.2 stops of light loss due to the barrel extension.
Build Quality and Handling
The Nikon 40mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S Micro is nicely finished in Nikon's standard black wrinkle texture. The body mount is metal, and the 52mm filter threads are plastic. As well, the lens features a rubber gasket on the metal lens mount to keep dust and moisture out. There are two switches on the lens, one to enable or disable autofocus (M/A or M settings), and the second as a focus limiter. The limiter will allow for the full range of focusing, or to focus from Infinity to 0.2m (just under eight inches). The lens features a distance scale labelled in feet and metres, as well as a reproduction scale, all in place under a plastic window. There is no depth of field scale, neither is there an infrared index.
Optically the lens is fairly simple, using just nine elements in seven groups, however the focusing system employs CRC (close-range correction) which no doubt aids in macro photography. Finally, the lens employs SIC (Super Integrated Coating) to reduce ghosting and flare.
The focus ring, a rubber ring 1/2'' wide with deep rubber ribs, is mounted near the front of the lens. The ring is a quite stiff, but will not change positions once it is set. Given the precise focusing occasionally required in macro photography this will be quite welcome. When focusing this lens at infinity the front lens element retracts deeply into the barrel; when focusing at close distances the front lens element extends a full inch beyond the end of the lens housing. There's quite a lot of fidelity in manual focusing, as well: the ring will turn a full 180 degrees from infinity to closest focus, but it ends at soft stops, with just an increase in resistance to let you know you've reached the end of the focusing range.
The included HB-61 lens hood is a round model that attaches via a bayonet mount, and can be reversed and stored on the lens. When attached, the hood adds just over an inch to the length of the lens.
Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8G ED AF-S Micro ~$560
Full frame camera users would need this equivalent lens from Nikon, which offers very similar performance.
Nikon 85mm ƒ/3.5G ED AF-S VR DX Micro ~$500
The Nikon 85mm offers an effective field of view of 127mm, and our testing found that you had to stop it down considerably to obtain maximum sharpness. That said, it offers a substantial advantage in the form of Vibration Reduction (VR), meaning you could theoretically leave the tripod at home. The working distance is also significantly longer than the 40mm, meaning you don't have to get quite so close to the flower or bug you're photographing.
Sigma 105mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro ~$1,400
Sigma offers 50mm and 70mm macro lenses, but at the time of writing neither of these have been implemented with an HSM motor to enable autofocus on consumer ''screw-less'' bodies. The 105mm does have an HSM motor, though we have not as yet tested this lens.
Tamron 60mm ƒ/2 Di II LD IF Macro 1:1 SP AF ~$500
Tamron offers a 60mm lens which is compatible with Nikon's consumer bodies, allowing autofocus. We haven't yet tested this lens.
Carl Zeiss 50mm ƒ/2 Makro-Planar T* ~$1,000
If you're unconcerned with autofocus, the Carl Zeiss lineup removes it altogether, offering a lens with exquisite build quality at a significantly higher cost. The lens is full-frame compatible, but did quite well on our APS-C body; however, we found you needed to stop down considerably to obtain maximum sharpness.
Small, economical and excellent performance - there's a lot to like here. Nikon markets this lens as an introduction to macro photography, and I think they've done very well here to make that happen. Macro enthusiasts may want a bit more working room to accommodate lights and modifiers, but for a small lens that's easy to work with, you can't go wrong for the price.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX AF-S Micro Nikkor
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Nikon 40mm f/2.8G DX AF-S Micro Nikkor User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by squidge (1 reviews)Very sharp!7-blade iris makes for 'busy' bokeh. Auto-focus not the quickest.
Bought this one second-hand some years ago and it has proved itself to be an extremely useful lens - doubling as a 'standard 60mm (equiv)' and a fast macro. Sharpness is excellent but bokeh can be rather 'busy' in some lighting - especially dappled woodland sunlight. Auto-focus isn't as quick as we've come to expect from AF-S lenses, but the range limiting switch helps somewhat.reviewed July 3rd, 2016
I can't recall how much I paid for it but I do remember thinking I'd got a bargain once I'd tried it out!
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Tord (24 reviews)Very small, sharp, and fairly fast focusing!No VR
Fantastic small lens, excellent for macro, of course, but I love to use it as a portrait lens on my Nikon 1 cameras.reviewed November 15th, 2014 (purchased for $300)
Quite a lot of the time I use it on my FX cameras, needing just a slight cropping (if you use FX mode).
10 out of 10 points and recommended by sjkip (21 reviews)Small, lightweight, inexpensive and astonishingly sharpFairly light construction, which is as much a pro as a con.
I think this one is sharper on my DX cameras than even the 60mm micro. Also, with the shorter focal length, depth of field increases over the 60 for "in your face" closeups. Between this one and the 60 it's a hard choice. But for bang for buck value, in the DX format, I'd choose this one. And once again, if you look at the direction of impinging light, you can shoot very close to the subject without hiding it in the lens's shadow.reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $276)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by zanxion72 (6 reviews)Great sharpness even from wide open, virtually unlimited range of focus.It gets really close for 1:1 macro, but that's o.k.
First, the 50mm 1.8 D had replaced my 18-105 on my Nikon D90. I was very pleased with it, being fast, sharp, and providing me with better image quality than my 18-105. Then I had tried the 35mm G and this. I was amazed with both of them. The 35mm was a wide enough lens, but for head portraits you had the weird effect of an almost 50mm lens with the distortions of a 35mm lens.reviewed July 13th, 2013 (purchased for $180)
Then I came to the 40mm. It is great! Very sharp, silent, produces contrasty photos with lots of detail, and I can get close to my subject closer than any other lens I have.
All this at a price nobody could resist.
An excellent lens!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Chris2500dk (1 reviews)Sharp, distortion freeFocus speed isn't fantastic, hunts in low light
Very hard to say anything negative about the optical quality of the lens. It's excellent, sharp even at f2.8, bokeh is good too. No field curvature, no distortion to speak of. A bit of vignetting at f2.8, but nothing major.reviewed April 9th, 2012 (purchased for $320)
It does tend to hunt a bit for focus on my D5100 in low light, but in normal light it's fine.
As a macro lens it's a bit limited by the working distance, you need to get really close for full magnification, but when viewed as a general prime lens with the added bonus of being able to get really close it's great.
Construction quality is about as expected, it's a plastic lens with a metal mount. It feels no worse than the Nikkor 35 f1.8, and quite a bit better than the kit 18-55.
I've had the Nikkor 35 f1.8 before and I much prefer this lens, giving up 1 1/3 stop (where the 35 f1.8 isn't super sharp anyway) for close focusing is a good tradeoff for my use.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Vladi Stoimenov (2 reviews)sharp, nice bokeh, very close-up
All around + macro + close-up, nice bokehreviewed September 30th, 2011
9 out of 10 points and recommended by beaum911 (1 reviews)Sharp ++, incredible for the priceslow focus
Perfect for travelling, light, very good copying slides,reviewed September 28th, 2011 (purchased for $267)