Its unusual that I have difficulty in selecting the next "greatest lens ever " but I am somewhat stumped by the new standard prime lens alternatives for the Nikon DSLR bodies . Let me apologize right up front that my testing methodology isn t rigorous ...but I have been able to take several hundred photographs using my D800E ...so I feel I have enough to draw some conclusions .
The two examples I can provide were the best examples from yesterdays shoot of my grandson Luke (9months old) . They are not exactly the same ..the Otus is at ISO1600 and F1.4 and the N58 is at ISO800 F2.0 ...so I am giving the Nikon a clear advantage . You can still get the idea of how the lenses render and I should get a little sympathy for trying to shoot a 9 month old ,close up at f1.4-2.0 .
First the Nikon lens ....its handles as well as any lens on the D800E body ...to my hand it is plenty small enough ..this is anything but a "huge DSLR" when paired with the 58 . The balance is very nice with the weight near the body . The lens is really short and fat with a 72MM filter . AF is silent and once calibrated very precise ....I use the rear AF button and I actually look closely to see if the image looks sharp . My hit ratio is probably better than with any fast standard lens this close .
The images are of medium contrast (compared to my Zeiss and Leica lenses) but the resolution is excellent . See the LensRental tests for a nice summary . The rendering is quite smooth and at f1.4 its not particularly crisp at close distances . Yet with some reasonable post processing the photographs look plenty sharp and with a nice "glow" . At F2.0 the image looks excellent to my eye . You could be very happy with this lens ..just don t test the OTUS .
The OTUS image quality on a D800E is the very best I ve ever seen on a FF camera . Really its as close to flawless as I have seen . The images are definitely competitive to my S2 with the 70/2.5 shot wide open ...although my guess is that a full test would still show the MF has an advantage in tone separation . What is surprising is that at F1.4 there appears to be no light fall off in the corners and the image is so sharp across the frame that it appears like you were shooting at f8 .
The rendering is different ..its perfect ..the rolloff ,the bokeh ,the correction of aberrations take away the "brush strokes " ... You now have a perfect example of 3D and maybe thats the signature . The color has a clarity that I ve only seen in the new Noctilux ...you may not see it in my example but after looking a 50-60 captures compared to the N58 on the same body ....its the impression I get about the color .
Handling isn t as much of a bear as I expected . The lens size and weight almost exactly matches the 24-70/2.8 AF Nikon lens ..yes its a big lens but certainly not one that requires a tripod . The balance is better than I remembered . The manual focus is just amazing ...a long throw but still very fast with perfect dampening ...as one that prefers manual focus ...as good as it gets . No match for AF with movement but if you can get you subject to hold still for even an instant you can nail the focus .
Either lens would be a great addition to most Nikon DSLR kits . My analytical side tells me the N58 would get more use but my heart says go with the OTUS .