As a group ‘standard’ lenses are versatile and rightly popular and as a result Nikon and third-party rivals offer a very wide choice. Within this group, we’ve looked at 35 models over the range of 40mm to a maximum focal length of 135mm. For the sake of clarity, we’ve divided that group into sections where we have reviewed eight primes between 40 and 50mm, 16 moderate telephotos with a focal length of between 70 to 135mm and then 11 zooms.
|Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon||499||32|
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G||448||32|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D||329||32|
|Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 50mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon||1280||31|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G||219||31|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D||134||28|
|Carl Zeiss Planar T 50mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon||725||25|
If you’re looking for a ‘normal’ lens, one that approximates the field of view of the human eye (although the technical definition describes a lens with a focal length close to that of diagonal of the picture frame) then look no further than the Sigma’s 1.4 EX DG. It is the dearest of the trio at the top and is highly regarded for its image rendering, especially defocused areas. However, Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G scores similarly and is $50 cheaper.
One particularly interesting point to note of is that mounted on the D600, the first five in the list achieved exactly the same DxO Mark score as they did on the higher pixel count D800, and the other two achieve a DxO Mark score of just 1 point less on the D600 than the D800.
If budget is a concern then Nikon’s older f/1.4D (AF-D) model is an option. It lacks the SWM type internal motor of the newer AF-S version but is available for substantially less.
Perhaps the best budget choice is Nikon’s f1.8D model. It also lacks an internal AF motor but at $134 (on average) and a DXO Mark score of 31, it shouldn’t be overlooked.
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G||2199||40|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G||690||40|
|Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon||1840||36|
|Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon||328||36|
|Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon||969||34|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF||1230||32|
|Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED||890||32|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D||460||31|
|Nikon AF DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2D||1099||31|
|Carl Zeiss Planar T 85mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon||1280||29|
|Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Nikon||499||29|
|Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Nikon||969||28|
|Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO Nikon||460||28|
|Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Nikon||640||28|
With the recent updates to the optical design and addition of SWM (ultrasonic type) AF motors, the Nikon AF-S 85mm lenses are very tempting. They also top our database as the highest performing lenses on the D600, both scoring 40 points.
Like the ‘normal’ lenses (above) when mounted on the D600, the first four in the list achieved exactly the same DxO Mark score as they did on the higher pixel count D800, and most of the others achieve a score of just 1 point less.
If the budget can’t extend to Nikon’s $2,199 AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G, then the new f1.8G at a more accessible $690 is a sound choice. Except for the faster maximum aperture and more durable build, it has similar features and is close in performance.
The Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF also stands out for its optical quality and rock-bottom price ($328), but bear in mind this lens is manual focus only.
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED||1800||27|
|Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD Nikon||1299||27|
|Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF||700||23|
|Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM Nikon||899||23|
|Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED||1300||22|
|Tamron SP AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical [IF] Nikon||499||22|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR||599||22|
|Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED||299||21|
|Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED||600||18|
Nikon’s AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8G ED is the best performing of the zoom models tested due its consistent performance throughout the range of focal lengths. But, don’t overlook the new Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 VCD. That model achieves the same score overall and is both cheaper and lighter and boasts image stabilisation, a feature sorely missing off the Nikkor.
Both the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 and Tamron have similar Lens Metric scores with the exception of the Nikon which has high levels of chromatic aberration throughout the range except at 70mm. The upgraded Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED has lower sharpness overall and still quite high levels of CA but the addition of VR (image stabilisation) and smaller size not to mention the $599 ticket makes this attractive.
Also worth considering is the AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f4G ED VR. With a DxOMark score of 22 that lens has good image quality plus VR and a much greater reach for head and shoulder portraits.
With improving sensor performance makers are now concentrating on designing lenses to compliment. It’s quite clear that many of the older mid-range film-era lenses can no longer keep pace that though the higher-end lenses of the same period can still be up to the task.
Choosing newer models will reward the user with the sharpness levels that are expected from a high-resolution sensor such as that adopted by the Nikon D600.
In fact, the results reveal the sensor to be capable of maximising the potential of any lens fitted to it, while in some cases offering the equivalent level of sharpness when using the same lens mounted on the Nikon D800.
This reinforces the fact that if you’re on a budget, and don’t need some of the other features of that model, the Nikon D600 is a superb choice.