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Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G Macro Lens

Photographing smaller man-made items at closer range demands a macro lens for good results— a flat field and no distortion.

Lately, I’ve been photographing various biking gear using the Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G macro lens (about $599). I’m using the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G for several reasons—

  • The focal length works well for bikes and wheels and similar mid-size items; it lets me flatten the perspective enough without having to move too far back as with a 100mm lens. Yet I can instantly shoot close-ups up to 1:2 using autofocus, so it gets the job done fast.
  • The Nikon 60/2.8G offers outstanding image quality both close up and at distance (unlike the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G), thus making it a great all-around standard lens.
  • Near zero distortion and a flat field (no field curvature).
  • Autofocus in continuous mode is very efficient for quick shots at close range.
  • The size and weight are comfortable, never a concern.

At about $599, the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G is a bargain for the features and quality it delivers. I now deem it one of my official top-grade lenses, suitable for the most demanding users.

Why not use the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar instead, which readers know is a personal favorite? Well, autofocus is handy, and 60mm is a better working distance, and the Nikon 60/2.8 has a flat field out to the corners, which the Zeiss does not.

I like the Nikon 60/2.8G enough that I’m planning on a report in DAP soon.

Reader Jeff S writes:

I just wanted to thank you for your insightful, very helpful reviews. I have been using the Zeiss 50 f2 MP for a while now, and used it last weekend for a jewellery/fashion shoot (on a D3). The colour, clarity and 'pop' of the shots are worthy of the very best Leicas, at a fraction of the cost.

I read your Nikon AF 60 2.8G preview with interest. I had one, but the manual focus of the Zeiss was actually better (even faster, in a sense) than AF for the weekend's shoot, as I could get the focus exactly where I wanted it without fiddling around with dials, or the D3 'guessing' where focus should be. The Zeiss' focus feel is almost erotic, leagues better than the plastic-barrelled Nikon (I think we often overlook the tactile aspect of photography). The Zeiss can be used on my FM3A, too, not an option with the emasculated G lenses. Thanks once again. — Jeff S

DIGLLOYD: I agree absolutely on the focus issue; for closeup shots autofocus can be problematic, especially on a tripod. The Zeiss lenses offer a manual focusing helicoid which puts to shame any autofocus lens in terms of feel and the no-nonsense usefulness of focus where you want it (some AF lenses even “jump” just touching or releasing the focusing ring— very frustrating). And disabling autofocus on an AF lens yields twitchy, tricky manual focus compared to a good Zeiss focusing helicoid. So like any tool, choose the lens that best suits your working habits, or do as I do, and own both, just as a roofer owns more than one hammer, even though it’s all nails!

Reader Gary Z writes:

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how pleased I was with the Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar (and I still am). I read your Blog comments yesterday about the Nikon 60 mm f/2.8G macro and I couldn't agree with you more. My copy is bitingly sharp corner-to-corner with a flat field, very fast and accurate autofocus, and it is a very usable focal length for many subjects, as you note. The icing on the cake is the price and light weight. For anyone on a tight budget who wants an outstanding macro lens, this might be the ticket. I love mine for a variety of work including use as a "normal" lens.

I can't quite swallow the pricetag yet, but for the other end of my "normal" spectrum I would like to adopt the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4. There is something quite pleasing about a 35 mm focal length on a full-frame camera. I seem to see things either from a 35mm or a 60mm perspective. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool still photographer and I just am not interested in video. Stodgy, maybe; perhaps in three years, I will wonder why I made such a statement.

I value all aspects of your website and have gained measurably from reading your Making Sharp Images.

DIGLLOYD: As a normal lens, the Nikon 60/2.8G is really versatile, so long as a maximum aperture of f/2.8 is acceptable. For a 35mm focal length, the Nikon 35/1.4G is superb, but I autofocus is not reliable. The Zeiss 35/1.4 Distagon is outstanding, and with a superb manual focusing helicoid.

Click image for more images taken with the Nikon 60/2.8G macro, also here and here.

Lightweight Obermayer wheel with Veloflex Record tire on Trek Madone 6.9 SSL bike
Nikon D3s + Nikon 60mm f/2.8G macro

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