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Thread: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

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    Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    For those of you who have tried out the top options in 25mm, 35mm and/or 50mm, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the following (I do like AF, but I'm open to working with MF):

    25mm:
    I have the Zeiss Distagon 25mm f/2 lens. And it is certainly far better than my Nikon 24-70/2.8 at 24mm. Do you think I would notice a difference between it and:
    - The newer Milvus 25mm f/1.4?
    - The Nikon 24mm f/1.4?

    35mm:
    This is my favorite focal length. I currently have the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2 and the Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G. They're both impressive. Would any of these options represent a true step up?
    - Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4.
    - Nikon 35mm f/1.4G.
    - Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4. Wasn't even aware of this lens until recently. And one person online said (paraphrasing), "The Nikon 35mm 1.4 has the rendering. The Sigma 35mm 1.4 has the sharpness. The Tamron has both."
    - Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art.

    50mm:
    I currently have the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4. How much of a step up do you think these would represent?:
    - Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4.
    - Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art.

    thank you,
    ethan

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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    I have the Otus but I also have a Leica R Summicron 50 which still holds up well on they D850. Having read Tim Ashley's write up, I went and bought one: https://tashley1.zenfolio.com/blog/2...on-nikon-mount

    It is just another option. I only have one Nikon lens, the 105 macro, the rest are Zeiss or Leica R. They are well worth considering.
    Cheers,
    Jeff
    www.jeff-grant.com

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Two key factors that you should base your decisions on :

    1. Subject requirements ...for example in street shooting you can benefit from AF but may prefer manual ,in landscape you may want a flat field and edge to edge sharpness ,for environmental portraits its nice to have a shallow DOF and a smooth bokeh . A lot of movement ..sports ,kids ..you want AF .

    2. Aesthetic Desired ....Mostly B&W or color , strong contrast or natural , saturated color or portrait neutral .

    While not quite current I ve used Zeiss,Nikon and Leica R lenses on the Nikon D810 . I have strong preference for sticking with one vendor when setting up a kit and testing to insure that the aesthetic produced is fairly consistent . The R lenses are exceptional for consistency in contrast and color .....Nikon is good if you have current versions of the lenses that use the same Nano coating . Older Nikon designs can be yellow . The Zeiss Milvus lenses are excellent and the Otus can be easily matched with profiles . Mixing Zeiss,Leica and Nikon lenses can make post processing difficult to create a collection or story .

    Beyond the aesthetic ..the feel of each lens set is different and even within the line can be a factor . A mixed set of lens es can hamper your ability to focus quickly and throw off your rhythm . Even within the line .....some really fast ,terrific lenses have a long throw making fast focusing difficult (you need to read the lens tests ) . How the lens handles is a significant factor ?

    For my use the Leica R lenses where by far the strongest performers ....but its just too difficult and expensive to put together a set . I used the Leitex mounts and had DAG convert and calibrate 6 lenses 19-100 .
    .
    The Zeiss OTUS lenses are near perfect ..I have no doubt they are as good as it gets for fast manual focus primes . I have the 50/1.4 . The downside is they are really large and heavy . They have long throws to aid in precise focusing and are difficult to use outside of a studio . They can cover a 33x44 sensor so they should have long life in almost any system. They are expensive but can be found easily at very good prices used ...always the same reason for selling ...sounded like a good idea until I tried carrying a few .

    So you should be down to either the current Nikon AF 1.4 primes or the Zeiss Milvus primes . In the Nikon line the 24,35,50 are not their strongest lenses .. The 28/1.4 and the 58/1.4 for example are newer designs and better performing . I am not familiar with Nikon s 1.8 lenses so I have no basis other than I know they are good value .
    If you need or if AF will improve you ability to keep things in focus ...the Nikon lenses are terrific . I found to get the best out of them I needed to work more on profiling the lenses and establishing presets for post processing . If I went all Nikon I would move to Capture One for post as the raw conversions are much better .

    In the Milvus line ...the 25/1.4,35/1.4 and 50/1.4 are relatively new designs . Image quality is more than enough for anything I can think of . I would look into the throw ....turns to focus ... For example in the 35 ...the 35/2 has always been a great street lens because its really fast to snap in and out of focus .

    If pure straight out of the camera lens performance is your deciding factor ....the Zeiss 25,35,50 are much stronger than the same 1.4 designs in the Nikkors . But that does t matter if you need AF . My perspective is a lens kit at any price point should be optimized for the desired subject and style ....my requirements will be different and I work without concern for “best value” .

    Your best option is to work with the Zeiss lenses you already have .
    Roger Dunham
    http://rogerdunham.com/
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    Senior Member DougDolde's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    I had a few Zeiss ZF.2 lenses but traded for Nikon G f1.8 lenses in 20mm, 28mm and 85mm focal lengths. I don't think the Nikkors are inferior plus you get autofocus and they are sure a lot cheaper
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    @Jeff Grant: thanks for the reminder about Leica R lenses. I know they're supposed to be excellent, with a unique rendering. I'll see if I can find one to try out.

    @Roger Dunham: thank you; you make some good points here. As for subject matter and lens usage, I do shoot some moving subjects and some static ones -- I shoot editorial portraits (often moving subjects), I shoot commercial / advertising work (usually with people, but often with camera and focus locked down, especially for plates and any necessary compositing), and I shoot personal work (often no people at all). Hence my being open to both AF and MF. I'm also going to be shooting more motion in the coming months, for which the longer focus throw of the Zeiss is handy.

    If I were in the Canon ecosystem, I'd have the 35mm f/1.4 II and be done with it. But I don't think there's an equally good AF lens for Nikon (unless it's the Tamron SP 35/1.4, as I mentioned). This question all started for me because there's currently a nice discount on the Milvus 35/1.4, and I have a little cash burning a hole in my pocket, having just shot a commercial job.

    I do use Capture One, and I find its raw processing to be top-notch. How do you profile your lenses? I've never done this. I've always assumed that, since I typically make significant adjustments to the raws in post, any lens profiles would end up irrelevant. But perhaps I'm missing something here, and they help one squeeze the most out of each lens.

    best,
    Ethan

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    Senior Member DougDolde's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    C1 picks up automatically on the Nikon G lenses and applies the built in profile

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Quote Originally Posted by epforever View Post
    @Jeff Grant: thanks for the reminder about Leica R lenses. I know they're supposed to be excellent, with a unique rendering. I'll see if I can find one to try out.

    @Roger Dunham: thank you; you make some good points here. As for subject matter and lens usage, I do shoot some moving subjects and some static ones -- I shoot editorial portraits (often moving subjects), I shoot commercial / advertising work (usually with people, but often with camera and focus locked down, especially for plates and any necessary compositing), and I shoot personal work (often no people at all). Hence my being open to both AF and MF. I'm also going to be shooting more motion in the coming months, for which the longer focus throw of the Zeiss is handy.

    If I were in the Canon ecosystem, I'd have the 35mm f/1.4 II and be done with it. But I don't think there's an equally good AF lens for Nikon (unless it's the Tamron SP 35/1.4, as I mentioned). This question all started for me because there's currently a nice discount on the Milvus 35/1.4, and I have a little cash burning a hole in my pocket, having just shot a commercial job.

    I do use Capture One, and I find its raw processing to be top-notch. How do you profile your lenses? I've never done this. I've always assumed that, since I typically make significant adjustments to the raws in post, any lens profiles would end up irrelevant. But perhaps I'm missing something here, and they help one squeeze the most out of each lens.

    best,
    Ethan
    Just to be sure we are on the same page :

    1. You would want a “Short Throw “ to shoot any action with a manual lens . Small turn to achieve change in focus . The faster Zeiss lenses often have a “Long Throw “ because it aids in fine tuning your focus point . Its accuracy verse speed . The 35/2 Zeiss is the lens recommended for street work due to its size/weight AND its short throw . The 35/1.4 (I believe ) has a longer throw . Make sure you are looking at the newest version of the 35/1.4 Zeiss ..the older version had a completely different design .

    2. When I speak of profiling ...I am referring to color profiling of your sensor and lens . This is the standard Xrite create a photo in the light you will be using . The auto white balance and std color profiles are so good I hardly ever create a NEW profile . But there is a big difference in the coatings and if I was mixing Zeiss and Nikkors ..I would have a profile for each . I think of it in three stages ..first get WB where you want it , 2nd create a DNG profle with Xrite and third establish a preset to get you where you want with COLOR . Mixing lens families used to drive me nuts in post due to different aesthetics produced .

    The lens profiles Doug refers to are aimed at correcting specific lens aberrations etc . Big debate as to whether you would want to use these as a general rule because they can rob detail from the file . I use them for everything and have never had to turn them off .


    3. We are 100 % in agreement on the 24/35/50 1.4 Nikkors ...they all need new versions to match the best available ..especially the 35/1.4 . Between my wife and I we have all three . I would pick them anytime where movement was expected .....not for landscape but yes for environmental portraits .

    4. My experience with the 1.8 Nikkors is limited to the 28/1.8 which I did not like . Very sharp yet the OOF rendering I found harsh compared to the 1.4 Nikkors . The build quality was also not as robust as the 1.4 lenses which are top notch . This may not matter at all to you depending on your subjects and desired aesthetic . Its not hard to find sample files to make this determination . You could certainly save some money going with a set of 1.8 lenses but being a Zeiss guy that doesn t seem to be your priority .

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    You do not want the R lenses unless you REALLY REALLY WANT A SPECIFIC RENDERING . The set I put together was my dream .....19/2.8;28/2.8;35/1.4;50/1.4 60mm;80/1.4; 100/2.8APO . I bought Leitax mounts and shipped them to DAG for calibration and mounting . They are terrific on a D810 and I am sure better on the D850 . They each cost between $2-3000 . They are amazing as a set and produce a specific rendering that doesn t look like either Zeiss or Nikkor .

    Since then I converted them all back to Leica R mounts to use on the Leica SL ...I think the match is even better .

    The issue is that they are all manual focus and as the cameras get better incorporating technology like “eye auto focus ‘ ...most would prefer the sharpness possible over the rendering differences . They also are really hard to focus accurately off the D850 screen . You would like them a lot more on a Z7 with the EVF and magnified view .

    What I am sure of is that you do not want a mix of Zeiss,Nikkor, Leica ,Sigma etc . Pick one and work thru the entire process .

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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    Just to be sure we are on the same page :

    1. You would want a “Short Throw “ to shoot any action with a manual lens . Small turn to achieve change in focus . The faster Zeiss lenses often have a “Long Throw “ because it aids in fine tuning your focus point . Its accuracy verse speed . The 35/2 Zeiss is the lens recommended for street work due to its size/weight AND its short throw . The 35/1.4 (I believe ) has a longer throw . Make sure you are looking at the newest version of the 35/1.4 Zeiss ..the older version had a completely different design .
    Yes, I understand this. I've been shooting professionally for 20 years. Let me clarify. When I said that I was going to be shooting more motion, by "motion" I mean video. So a long throw is useful for focus pulling.

    I may indeed just keep my Milvus 35/2. It is a nice balance of size, speed and sharpness.

    2. When I speak of profiling ...I am referring to color profiling of your sensor and lens . This is the standard Xrite create a photo in the light you will be using . The auto white balance and std color profiles are so good I hardly ever create a NEW profile . But there is a big difference in the coatings and if I was mixing Zeiss and Nikkors ..I would have a profile for each . I think of it in three stages ..first get WB where you want it , 2nd create a DNG profle with Xrite and third establish a preset to get you where you want with COLOR . Mixing lens families used to drive me nuts in post due to different aesthetics produced .
    This is what I was wondering. Thanks.

    3. We are 100 % in agreement on the 24/35/50 1.4 Nikkors ...they all need new versions to match the best available ..especially the 35/1.4 . Between my wife and I we have all three . I would pick them anytime where movement was expected .....not for landscape but yes for environmental portraits .
    When AF is needed, you would choose the Nikkors over the Sigma Art lenses? I can't stand wading through the endless online opinions, but from the limited amount I've seen, it seems like the best AF 35mm is either the Sigma Art or the new Tamron SP, and the best AF 50mm is the Sigma Art. These are the two focal lengths where I'm most interested in top quality.

    thanks
    Ethan

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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Whats best depends on ...what is important to your craft . The MTF charts can tell us how to rank lenses based on their ability to render fine details . With today s optics there are plenty of great choices including sigma . I have no experience with the Sigma Art lenses but understand that they have a great reputation .

    Since I only really use Leica ,Zeiss and Nikon lenses ....I know they are all great . In my experience they are all great and when we are speaking of prime lenses ..I ve found little sample variation . They are built like tanks and will hold up to a real beating without failure . From an image quality viewpoint they all have strong micro contrast ,decent to great bokeh and lack color casts .

    Some individual lenses are better . I really like the Nikkor 58/1.4 for environmental portraits ..it has slightly lower contrast and doesn t test as high as the Sigma ART BUT it has strong micro contrast and exceptional bokeh . Unfortunately Nikon does not have a “best in class” 35/1.4 ..I go to the older 28/1.4 AF D an exceptional lens and I understand that the new version 28/1.4 bests the D .

    You have a difficult decision picking the 35/50 combination and maybe you just have to rent them to decide .

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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post

    What I am sure of is that you do not want a mix of Zeiss,Nikkor, Leica ,Sigma etc . Pick one and work thru the entire process .
    I beg to humbly disagree. As a landscape guy, I use the Zeiss 135 most because of where I am shooting. Following that, it's either the Leica 28-90 or Leica 180 APO-Telyt. I have never profiled any lens and have never thought 'oh dear, I have produced a funny look through swapping lenses'. Maybe it's because I am not very technical in this area but I have never thought that it was necessary to improve on what C1 delivers.
    Cheers,
    Jeff
    www.jeff-grant.com

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffg53 View Post
    I beg to humbly disagree. As a landscape guy, I use the Zeiss 135 most because of where I am shooting. Following that, it's either the Leica 28-90 or Leica 180 APO-Telyt. I have never profiled any lens and have never thought 'oh dear, I have produced a funny look through swapping lenses'. Maybe it's because I am not very technical in this area but I have never thought that it was necessary to improve on what C1 delivers.
    Apologies as I ve caused some confusion . When I speak of profiling ..its about profiling a camera and set of lenses to produce a neutral color starting point . You don t profile each lens and its not about correcting distortion or Ca. Its about getting the color consistent . The only reason I even mentioned lenses was because ..as an example ..Nikkors compared to Zeiss have a different color tint . Zeiss and Leica are much closer . (check the rendering or grass or sky ).

    The color profiles in C1 and LR/PS are specific to a camera but not a group of lenses . I agree 100% that often the std color profiles are more than adequate . However if you shot a collection of sports on grass ..like baseball ..you would find that nikkors produce a very different green than say Leica R . So a collection of baseball photographs would look quite mixed using a “Best of Bread” or mixed lens set . Individually that could be great but as collection you might question the mixed aesthetic .

    When working on individual photographs you can ..of course ...use the excellent camera profiles in C1 and LR ...and adjust color to taste . Only if you work in collections ..say a book or a wedding album .....would you even care . I know there are plenty of examples of mixing captures from different systems and lenses but it takes extra effort in post processing to get any consistency in color .

    Your experience may be different ..I can only supply a perspective based on my work .

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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Roger, thanks for clarifying. Now I understand where you are coming from. Your requirements would be a lot tighter than mine. I only have to please myself. On the Zeiss/Leica comparison, I would be pushed to say which lens was used but, again, that's just me.
    Cheers,
    Jeff
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    I'd add this comment at this point, that there is also a certain drawing characteristic that families of lenses offer; less obvious than color cast, but also render a similar sibling look. An example is the raft of popular f1.8 Nikkor G lenses as compared to their f1.4G counterparts. Colors are essentially the same, but how they draw differs subtly, but enough to make a difference in the final image.

    Back to the OP's question. End of day, I like (need) AF, so I personally think it's very tough to beat the Sigma ART line in those focals for overall performance. They are however massive for their focal, and that was the ultimate drawback for me. The Nikkor 1.8 line is very good, but not as good as the ART, and frankly draw a little rough as compared to the Nikkor f1.4 line. As such speaking only for myself, I find the Nikkor f1.4 line is a very good compromise. YMMV
    Jack
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    Re: Lenses for Nikon D850 -- the top options, especially at 25, 35 and 50

    Thanks again to everyone who contributed here. Lots of good info; I've used the H5D50 as my workhorse camera for years, so it's helpful to get deeper info on the Nikon system now that I'm in it. @Jack -- that's a useful perspective regarding the Nikkor 1.4 lenses being a good compromise between quality and weight. I'll check them out.

    best,
    ethan

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