Best lenses for the Nikon D810: Exceptionally high sharpness and detail but no advance over D800E

By Kevin Carter - Wednesday October 15 2014

Lens Recommendations
Introduction | Best Primes on the D810 | Best Zooms on the Nikon D810 | Conclusion

Best Primes on the D810

Carl Zeiss Apo Planar T* Otus 85mm F14 ZF.2 Nikon44904835
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* Otus 1.4/55 ZF.2 Nikon39994833
Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZF.2 Nikon16004335
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED VR II58994333
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G6904326
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G21994230
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Nikon8994230
Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon18403923
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm F2.8G ED VR89993833
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon3283822
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZF.2 Nikon17003729
Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon9693723
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II59003632
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED6003627
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED22003623
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon18433623
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D3293622
Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Nikon5993620
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G6993528
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon4993523
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon10053523
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF12303522
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G17973522
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G4483521
Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD Nikon7493426
Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Nikon6003425
Nikon AF DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2D10993423
Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D4603422
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED8903421
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G2193322

With the introduction of the Otus 85mm f1.4 (1,4/85 in Zeiss nomenclature) it will come as little surprise to learn that the best three lenses on the D810 come from Zeiss; unfortunately for the Nikon faithful, there are no Nikkors in the top three positions in our rankings.

In first place is the new 85mm Otus, which takes the top spot from the firm’s 55mm model in sharpness though overall the two are in fact ranked equally with a DxOMark score of 48 points.

 

Despite the absence of an AA filter, the Nikon D810 doesn’t outperform the earlier Nikon D800E. In some cases, notably with the Otus models, the D810 achieves a slightly lower overall DxOMark score, although the difference of 1-point (or less, as the scores are rounded) is in fact negligible.

top3

However, you’re not likely to choose one over the other based on performance; you either like the focal length (field of view) or not. Despite that it’s worth noting that the 85mm Otus isn’t as sharp as the 55mm Otus or even the Apo Sonnar 135mm at their respective initial apertures – though that is often regarded as a plus for a lens intended for portraiture.

That may even count against the 135mm in some respects as that focal length is often chosen for outdoor portraits (though soft-focus filters are available to help with this, if it’s an issue). 

The Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135mm f2 and the Nikkor 200mm f2 come in third and fourth place respectively, although the Zeiss has similnikar sharpness levels as the 85mm Otus, and just as importantly it has practically negligible CA which accounts for its incredible clarity and realistic rendering. The Nikkor AF-S 200mm f2.0G ED VR II is known for it’s outstanding image quality in Nikon circles and it performs very well indeed on the Nikon D810. It’s a bit niche-y though, given the versatility of the 70-200mm f2.8 and close to $6k it’s not going to appeal to everyone. Much the same can be said about the manual focus Otus models although the Zeiss 135mm looks tempting at $1600. 

Fortunately, Nikon users have a choice of decent 85mm lenses. The more accessible f1.8 model is slightly ahead of the far pricier f1.4 in terms of aberration correction but the latter has higher sharpness levels and users swear by the descriptive properties of the faster model (although in fairness the f1.8 version is close in just about every regard).