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Reader Question: Best Autofocus Lenses for Nikon D850

The lenses referenced below are in my Nikon wish list.

Michael E writes:

I have the new Nikon D850 on order, and I would like to check out the AF, something I seldom use. It turns out that I have almost no AF lenses left in my collection. I have the first Nikkor 70-200 and the Nikon 105mm Macro VR. That’s about it.

Is there one lens that is AF that you would recommend that is the best corrected, sharpest, etc. lens? I might buy one just to play with it. I take it the later VR2 70-200 is not that great.

The D850 looks like Nikon pulled out all the stops. Unless there is a problem with it, this should be just what I need and much less expensive than trying to outfit a MF mirrorless. I would imagine that you can do quite a write-up on this because everyone is interested. The most important question to me is if the ISO 64 is as good as the D810. I can see that the new LiveView screen will be much better.

DIGLLOYD: I intend to do a very thorough writeup of the Nikon D850 as I expect it to be a workhorse camera for years.

All of the lenses discussed below are ones I’d be delighted to own and shoot, if only my budget allowed me to buy them all.

I distinguish them sharply from two other categories of lenses: (a) lenses that if I purchased I’d use for autofocus but not necessarily be excited about using, and (b) lenses that if given to me, I’d be averse to shooting because of performance.

The list that follows is autofocus only lenses; there are many superb manual focus Zeiss lenses also.

The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR is the best tele zoom ever produced, far superior to its predecessors. It is the only Nikon zoom that I have an interest in acquiring. See my in-depth review of the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR in Advanced DSLR.

About $2799.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

The Nikon 105mm f/1.4E ED is an outstanding performer. See my review of the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E. Emil B asks:

If one always shoots between f5.6 and f11, are there any image quality advantages to Nikkor 105mm f1.4 if one already has the latest 70-200mm that you recommend so highly?

There is the practical issue of the 70-200 being far more vulnerable to any sort of wind or vibration, which is why I do not like it much as a field-use lens. The 105/1.4E is two stops faster and delivers a significantly better image at f/2.8. At f/4 and beyond the differences will diminish, and by f/5.6 and f/8 distortion might be a distinguishing factor more than resolution. Plus by f/8 diffraction is taking a toll, particularly with the new Nikon D850.

About $2196.

Nikon 105mm f/1.4E ED

The Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART is outrageously good. See my review of the Sigma 135mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART. The other Sigma DG HSM Art lenses are good candidates also, but the 135mm is a particular standout.

About $1399.

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART

On the wide end, the Nikon 28mm f/1.4E ED is extremely sharp in central areas with very pleasing bokeh, and with some stopping down, superb corner to corner. See my review of the Nikon 28mm f/1.4E ED.

About $1996.

Nikon 28mm f/1.4E ED
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