Review – Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f2.8G

I thought today would be a good day to give a real world review of a recent addition to the camera bag, the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f2.8G. Now I have to admit this lens was not on my radar, not even a little bit, but the opportunity to acquire it at a really low price made it a no brainer. I have never really used a dedicated macro lens so I had no real idea what to do with it. Now that I’ve used it a few times I can say it is very useful! The lens is really sharp and has a nice wide f2.8 maximum aperture.

First off lets see what is included in the box; it comes with the usual warranty cards, manual, lens bag, rear cap, lens cap, HB-61 lens hood and the lens. The lens is very light weight and feels very much like any other modern Nikon DX lens. There are two switches on the body of the lens, one selects manual or auto focus with instant manual over ride, and the other is a focus distance limiter. The focus limiter is great if you want to use the lens in normal “non macro” photography and will increase focus speed noticeably. Setting the limiter switch to “full” allows the lens to focus from it’s closest focus to infinity, the limit of 0.7 feet to infinity is much better for day to day normal use.

The first outing with the lens was the Essen Motor Show in Germany. The lens is a great all around performer and could be easily used as an everyday normal lens on a DX camera body. During the motor show I used the lens as both a normal lens and as a macro lens to get a few car emblems. The normal shots were fabulous, super sharp, the nice wide aperture let in lots of light and allowed for a shallow depth of field. The macro shots however left me feeling a little disappointed, I obviously needed to figure out why! I’m not even going to show the macro shots from the show, they are that bad.

Military coin photographed with the Nikon 18-105 f3.5-5.6 AF-S DX ED NIKKOR at it's closest focus
Military coin photographed with the Nikon 18-105 f3.5-5.6 AF-S DX ED NIKKOR at it’s closest focus.
Same coin shot at a 1:1 reproduction ratio with the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f2.8G lens. What a difference
Same coin shot at a 1:1 reproduction ratio with the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f2.8G lens. What a difference!

So with the task of getting a handle on macro photography with this lens at hand, let’s get started. Macro photography has special limitations, similar to using a tele-converter actually, that need to be taken into consideration. First off is the aperture; as the reproduction ratio increases the maximum aperture decreases. What this means is at a ratio of 1:1 the aperture is f4.2, not the indicated f2.8. The second limitation is depth of field, as the reproduction ratio increases the depth of field decreases. With normal lenses an aperture of f16 can render everything from 20 feet to infinity in acceptable focus, however, in macro mode f16 may only have a few millimeters in focus! A tripod is a necessity when in macro mode if you want sharp photos.

The 40mm f2.8 AF-S G lens is incredibly sharp edge to edge and does not have to be used exclusively in macro mode. Here I used the lens wide aperture to place the attention where I wanted it, on the companies name
The 40mm f2.8 AF-S G lens is incredibly sharp edge to edge and does not have to be used exclusively in macro mode. Here I used the lens wide aperture to place the attention where I wanted it, on the companies name.

The lens is a very easy to handle in normal use, no different than the 35mm f1.8 or the 50mm f1.8, it just has the added benefit of a macro mode. To use the macro mode is really easy (once you read the manual), there are two ways to get there. The first is to just set the focus limiter on full and get close to something, the camera and lens will do the rest. If by chance you want to make sure you have an exact 1:1 reproduction then there is another way; in the focus distance window you have three rows of numbers: m, ft, and 1:. The 1: indicates the reproduction ratio so all you need to do is put the lens in manual focus, turn the focus ring till the desired reproduction ratio is lined up with the focus indicator and then just move the camera till the subject is in focus. The photos in the blog will give you an idea of how much closer you can get with this lens verses the usual kit lens. I also included some that show just how shallow the depth of field really is.

Here the coin is photographed at a 1:1 ratio. The lens is focused on the "SP" (of the word space) in the center of the image. The camera is at an angle to the coin to exaggerate the depth of field. Settings - f16, 1/60th, ISO 400, no exposure comp, flash was used
Here the coin is photographed at a 1:1 ratio. The lens is focused on the “SP” (of the word space) in the center of the image. The camera is at an angle to the coin to exaggerate the depth of field. Settings – f16, 1/60th, ISO 400, no exposure comp, flash was used.
Here is the coin as photographed before, but the aperture is set to f8. Notice the shallower depth of field. Settings - f8, 1/60th, ISO 400, no exposure comp, flash was used
Here is the coin as photographed before, but the aperture is set to f8. Notice the shallower depth of field. Settings – f8, 1/60th, ISO 400, no exposure comp, flash was used.
Here is the coin as photographed before, but the aperture is set to f4.2. Notice the extremely shallow depth of field. When working at this range your maximum aperture is effectively reduced, in this case the max aperture went from f2.8 to f4.2. Obviously when working in the macro world it is imperative to watch your plane of focus! Settings - f4.2, 1/60th, ISO 400, no exposure comp, flash was used
Here is the coin as photographed before, but the aperture is set to f4.2. Notice the extremely shallow depth of field. When working at this range your maximum aperture is effectively reduced, in this case the max aperture went from f2.8 to f4.2. Obviously when working in the macro world it is imperative to watch your plane of focus! Settings – f4.2, 1/60th, ISO 400, no exposure comp, flash was used.

 

 

 

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