Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro Nikkor
Lab Test Results
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(From Nikon lens literature) The new AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm ƒ/2.8G ED lens can focus at a distance of approximately 0.185m (0.6 ft.) at its closest, and allows photographers to capture breathtaking close-up photography with reproduction ratios up to 1:1 (life-size).
June 19, 2008
by Andrew Alexander
Announced in March of 2008, the Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S macro is a new design on an old favorite - the 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF. The lens bears a completely new look, updated cosmetically to resemble the newer Nikon design. But the update is more than just cosmetic - the lens uses a completely new and different layout of lens elements, which include ED (extra-low dispersion) glass elements and a nano-crystal coating. Both of these technologies are said to reduce chromatic aberration and improve light transmission.
The lens is marked as a constant ƒ/2.8 lens, but in fact the effective aperture will be smaller as you focus at shorter and shorter distances. The following table lists the aperture to distance differences:
|Subject distance||6''||7''||8.5''||9''||10''||1' 3''||3'||infinity|
When mounted on a DX sensor body, the lens will provide an effective field of view of 90mm. The lens is full-frame (35mm) compatible, takes 67mm filters, and is available now for around $550.
Compared to the predecessor Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8, the new AF-S version of the 60mm is much sharper at all apertures. The optimum aperture for sharpness is ƒ/5.6, where the lens provides tack-sharp results across the frame, but the differences in performance for all aperture settings between ƒ/2.8 and ƒ/11 are quite minor.
Wide open at ƒ/2.8, the lens exhibits excellent central sharpness, with traces of corner softness (2 blur units). This corner softness goes away by ƒ/4, and as mentioned, by ƒ/5.6 it's as sharp as sharp gets. Technically, diffraction limiting begins to set in by ƒ/8, but your eyes won't notice it until ƒ/22, where a generalized softness is present in images produced with that aperture (just over 2 blur units). It's possible to stop down to ƒ/32 (or greater, depending on your focus distance), but here you'll get even more softness in your images (4+ blur units).
On the full-frame D3, the 60mm doesn't achieve the tack-sharp quality we saw on the D200, but the results are still very impressive - about 1.5 blur units. The performance trend is the same - your sharpest results will be obtained at ƒ/5.6 - but you'd be hard-pressed to notice a difference between ƒ/5.6 and ƒ/4 or ƒ/8, or even ƒ/2.8.
Curiously, there are some slight differences between the 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S performance on the sub-frame D200 and the full-frame D3. At ƒ/2.8, there is no noticeable corner softening, and at ƒ/32, the lens doesn't exhibit the significant generalized softness we saw on the D200; the sharpness is still not as good as seen at larger apertures, but it's not as bad as found on the D200 (3 blur units instead of 4+).
All in all, excellent performance no matter which body you put it on; you'll get slightly sharper performance on a sub-frame DX sensor body, but on a full-frame body, you get a more even performance. The differences are minor, but if you need critically optimized performance, these differences may matter to you.
The 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S has excellent resistance to chromatic aberration, with its ''worst'' results coming on a sub-frame DX sensor body at ƒ/4. Here we note 3/100ths of a percent of frame height CA generally, and just under 6/100ths in the corners. It's about the same at ƒ/2.8, but there's a little less in the corners. This tolerance improves as you stop down; at ƒ/11, CA is statistically very minor.
On the full-frame D3, we have provided two sets of results, as the D3 automatically removes chromatic aberration from its JPEG files. With this CA removal, images have virtually no CA present: 3/100ths of a percent of frame height, in the corners, and virtually nothing in the rest of the image. When we look at the RAW image processed through Bibble, we see more than acceptable performance, with results in line with what we noted on the D200 sub-frame sensor.
This performance is similar to that seen with the previous 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF, so not much of a gain here.
Corner shading wasn't an issue with the previous incarnation of the 60mm ƒ/2.8. However the new design of the AF-S version does produce some light falloff in the corners if you shoot it wide open, or even stopped down a bit on a full-frame body. On the sub-frame D200, we note that images are a half-stop darker in the corners than the center when shooting at ƒ/2.8, but stopped down to even ƒ/4, this corner shading goes away.
On the full-frame D3, light falloff is more severe, with the lens producing images that are over a full stop (1.25 EV) darker in the corners than the center. This falloff decreases as you stop down, with 3/4 a stop darker at ƒ/4, 1/3 of a stop darker at ƒ/5.6, and finally achieving a reasonably even lighting at ƒ/8 and smaller.
The 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S is nicely optimized to show almost no distortion. Statistically, there is a slight pincushion distortion present in the corners, but less than 0.1%. On a full-frame camera body the corners show this up a bit more: we note 0.25% pincushion in the corners, and 0.1% barrel distortion generally.
The original 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF produced about the same results for distortion.
As with most Nikon AF-S lenses, the lens focuses very quickly, and very silently. I've seen in another online review that the reviewer had an issue with the lens not being able to autofocus correctly if the lens was substantially out of focus, but in our testing, we couldn't replicate this behavior - it focused automatically, as you would expect, in any circumstance.
As a modern AF-S lens, you can override autofocus results at any time by just turning the focus ring. In the previous version of the 60mm ƒ/2.8, you had to switch the lens to manual focus mode with an awkward press-the-button and turn-the-dial system which usually led to you losing your focus point.
The 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S is Nikon's shortest focal-length macro lens - at least, the shortest they still actively produce as of 2008. It features a full-size reproduction ratio of 1.0x (1:1), and a minimum close-focusing distance of 18.5cm (just over 7 inches). When you consider the length of the lens and body, the actual lens-to-subject distance can be as close as 1.5'', at which point you would have to get creative about lighting your subject.
As noted previously, focusing closer than 3 feet will prevent the aperture from opening fully, but then, most macro shooters will probably want to employ a smaller aperture to increase sharpness and depth-of-field, and shoot on a tripod to allow for slower shutter speeds. For a dedicated macro lens, I would have actually liked to see the implementation of a focus locking system, so you can select your focus point and ensure it doesn't get nudged out of position.
Build Quality and Handling
There are a number of functional differences between the original 60mm ƒ/2.8 and the new AF-s version, as well as a new cosmetic look for the lens. Most obviously, the new 60mm shaves off 14g (1/2 oz) from the weight, despite being 15mm longer and adding 4 more glass elements. The lens is now an internal-focus design, so the lens doesn't extend during focusing. The previous version extended a smaller section forward as you focused to shorter subject distances.
The lens has a very solid and well-built feel, common to Nikon lenses of this caliber. It uses a windowed distance scale, which offers scales in both metric and imperial measurements, as well as a magnification ratio. The lens uses an aperture composed of nine curved blades, up from seven in the original design.
The previous version of the 60mm has a focus-limiter switch, to limit the travel of the focus mechanism and improve focusing speed and accuracy. This has been removed in the AF-S version of the lens; the only switch is now the standard AF/MF selector switch to disable autofocus on the lens. As a G-series lens, there is no aperture ring; attaching this lens to an older body that does not allow the user to select apertures will still work, but the lens will operate with its smallest aperture selected (ƒ/32-ƒ/57).
The focus ring is very nicely damped for smooth turning, with just the right amount of resistance to keep your focus point in place when doing critical focus operations. Instead of a hard stop when reaching close-focus and infinity, the focus ring will continue to turn but resistance increases slightly as a tactile indicator that you've hit the focus limit. The 1 1/4'' wide focus ring, composed of a ridged soft rubber, turns 180 degrees across its entire range, allowing for accurate fine-tuning.
The lens includes a bayonet-mount bowl-shaped hood, which adds a further 1 1/2'' to the length of the lens. The lens takes 62mm filters, which won't rotate during focusing.
Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor ~$390
Perhaps the best news about the release of the new AF-S lens is the price reduction that will occur with the older version now that it has been superceded. Sharpness is nowhere near as good as the new AF-S version, but CA tolerance and distortion are about the same; it is much more forgiving with regard to corner shading. For backwards compatibility, the lens has an aperture ring, while the AF-S version, being a G-series lens, doesn't. Focuses slightly further away than the AF-S version; they both take 62mm filters.
Sigma 70mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG Macro ~$430
The Sigma 70mm ƒ/2.8 Macro is one of the sharpest lenses we've ever tested, starting out tack-sharp at ƒ/2.8 and holding it through to about ƒ/11. CA and distortion are also very good, on par with the Nikon, and there are better results for light falloff. The lens has a longer minimum focus distance, giving you a bit more range from your subject, and is slightly cheaper, too.
Sigma 50mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG Macro ~$250
The other Sigma macro in the same range is also very good, about as sharp as the Nikon and comparable in other areas as well.
Tamron 90mm ƒ/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 SP AF ~$460
While significantly longer than the Nikon 60mm, it's worth considering the Tamron. It's not as sharp as the Nikon wide open, but stopped down even to ƒ/4 it offers very good results. Results for CA, corner shading and distortion are also excellent.
In its own right, the Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8 AF-S is an excellent lens, providing excellent results for sharpness, tolerance to CA and almost no distortion. Light falloff is a little noticeable when mounted on a DX body, and very significant on a full-frame body like the D3, but only if you shoot wide open (or at ƒ/5.6 or wider on the D3). The build quality is very good and manual focusing is very nice, but as I mentioned earlier it would have been a nice addition to provide a bit more control for macro operation in the focusing department. As convenient as AF-S is for overriding autofocus results, you can also move the focus ring accidentally.
This isn't the best lens for shooting small moving critters: to get your 1:1 reproduction ratio, you'll be very close indeed. For those, the 105mm ƒ/2.8 VR is a better option. For static objects however, it's an excellent choice and won't let you down. Is it worth the upgrade from the original 60mm? If sharpness is critical to your work, there is a definitive improvement in the AF-S version, if you don't mind the corner shading at wider apertures on full-frame.
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 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro Nikkor
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Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro Nikkor User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Tord (24 reviews)Sharp, very sharpA little on the heavy side; not that cheap!
A very sharp lens, excellent in every way, except a slightly heavy, at times.reviewed November 25th, 2015 (purchased for $500)
Lovely portrait lens, excellent macro, good for landscape (if you're into stitching), actually good for a lot of uses!
Oozes quality, and I got mine at a very friendly price!
10 out of 10 points and recommended by polizonte (2 reviews)low distortion, good contrast, light weight, sufficiently sharp
If I can only carry one camera while on vacation or when weight limit is an issue, this is the lens I most often use with my D800e. Informal people photos, landscapes, and close-ups/copy-work, the 60mm G is a good bargain lens.reviewed July 28th, 2015
10 out of 10 points and recommended by sjkip (21 reviews)Shockingly sharp and distortion/CA free. Can be used with FX or DXNone.
This is the only macro anyone probably needs, whether with FX or DX. You can get in close for bug's eye views and use it handily for ordinary scenery and flower shots. Despite what some reviewers say, you can get plenty of light on the subject even close in.reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $600)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by dhale001 (6 reviews)Sharp, Sharp, Sharp.None.
I have been shooting a Micro Nikkor 55mm 1:2.8 since 1986 on a Nikon F3. When I bought a Nikon D90 three years ago, I bought this lens. I also have the Micro Nikkor 105mm 1:2.8. For flowers, general photography inside and outside, this is an excellent choice. It is sharper than the 55mm, or the 105mm Micro lenses.reviewed April 4th, 2012
If I could have only one lens, it would be this one.
I know all the pros advise to get the 105mm 1:2.8 to increase the working distance to critters, but this lens on an FX camera is very useful for so much more than closeup stuff. I'll am using it on a Nikon D800E as a general purpose lens.
6 out of 10 points and recommended by Toby (6 reviews)Smooth AF, manual focusing possible any time, full frame compatiblechanges focal length at higher magnification, somewhat bulky
I have now tested several samples. Although it seems to be a sharp lens, one should know that the focal length changes considerably at higher magnification ratio. At 1:1, the working distance is only about 5 cm cmpared to the Tamron 60 mm lens in which the working distance is about 10 cm (on a Nikon D300, APS-C sensor).reviewed April 1st, 2010
Therefore the lens will cast its own shadow on the subject to be photographed. For me this is clearly not acceptable. I am still looking for a decent 60 mm macro lens for Nikon (the Tamron 60 mm f/2 having an unpleasant tendency to underexpose).
10 out of 10 points and recommended by doomin5 (2 reviews)
Super obiektyw do makro i portretu.Ostrość - żyleta.reviewed February 12th, 2009
10 out of 10 points and recommended by SolokNikon (3 reviews)Sharpness, Build quality, AF speed!none
Really sharp, very thin DoF.reviewed January 26th, 2009 (purchased for $500)
Build quality is great, autofocus is INCREDIBLY fast, even compared to the 18-55 VR and 55-200mm VR lenses.
Simply a great lens, at a bargain price.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Canon-Nikon-user (14 reviews)Sharpest lens I ever used, fast AF, FTM, very well built lens, great color rendition.none.
I think this is the best Nikon lens .PERIOD.reviewed December 2nd, 2008 (purchased for $560)
This is sharper than anything else , I hope Nikon makes all lenses this good , the new Nikon lenses released in this year were all so good , so they should make the orver priced unsharp 17-55f2.8DX as good as the 16-85Vr or this one with Nano Crystal coating.
I hope Nikon will replace the 85f1.8 with SWM and Nano Crystal coating , the 85f1.8 and 1.4 are both already very good lenses though.
Forgot to tell you this lens works great on the D3 at my work , my personal camera is the D300 and D90 , but I think this lens works better with the D3 with more beautiful bokeh than I can get with DX body.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by umberto (4 reviews)Razor sharpCan't think of any
Excellent image quality! Fine piece of lens. AF is fast.. build and feel is solid.reviewed June 2nd, 2008 (purchased for $540)
This lens is seriously sharp with excellent color rendition.
Worth every penny!
9 out of 10 points and recommended by heavyJ (1 reviews)Lightweight, crisp photosAF can be slow but manual is what I normally use for macro stuff
This is a good 60mm lens. The extra 200USD extra you spend compared to the older 60mm lens is well worth the quality of pictures as well as the IF.reviewed April 18th, 2008 (purchased for $624)