Nikon Introduces A Supremely Interesting Portrait Lens

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Nikon’s new 105mm AF-S lens is the first 105mm lens to have an aperture of F1.4.  We were always a fan of Nikon’s previous 105mm DC lens so we have great expectations for this lens.  Yes, it’s big, heavy, and expensive ($2200).  But if you think of this lens as an investment to use over a period of many years it’s really not that bad for what it is.

There are a few sample photos available taken with this lens, but not many.

On Shooting Nikon

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Modern digital camera equipment has improved greatly in the last decade.  What brand you shoot doesn’t matter.  There are benefits to larger sensor sizes, but even if you shoot micro-four-thirds you should be able to make great images.  Thom Hogan is a well known reviewer of Nikon equipment and he recently wrote a an article titled Seven Reasons Why I’m Still a Nikon DSLR User.  It’s an interesting read, especially for those trying to decide which system they should invest into.

About Nikon and Canon’s New Cameras

 

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First the Nikon D5 was released, and now Canon’s EOS-1D X Mark II.  These are both great cameras that will set you back $6000.  With their very fast frame-rates, improved autofocus and their low-light abilities, these are great cameras for shooting runway photography or any other darkly lit venue where your subject is moving around a lot.

These two new cameras are both 20 megapixels each.  You could buy a Canon 6D or a Nikon D610 and have a full frame camera at only a quarter of the price. And you will have the same or more megapixels.  A lot of fashion photography involves a model standing still(ish) and following direction.  The 6D or D610 are more than enough for that scenario.

Alternatively you can buy a Nikon D5500 or Canon T6i and still have more megapixels than either of the $6000 cameras.

Obviously the more expensive cameras have advantages but in good lighting, with a decent lens, and in the hands of a competent photographer it becomes really hard to tell images apart on modern sensors which are mostly all good.

We understand gear lust you can worry about having the best gear when you’re making too much money from your photography.  But in the meanwhile learning the art and skill of photography is far better than sinking money into camera bodies whose value can drop quickly.  And for fashion photography in particular we have one of the strongest use cases to prefer megapixels.  More megapixels is better for print, and a lot of fashion photography is destined for print.  For this reason we prefer the Nikon D810 (36 megapixels) and the Canon 5Ds (50 megapixels) or even the Sony A7r II (42 megapixels) over the D5 or 1D X II.  Remember too, and we will explain this in a later post, to get double the megapixels of about 20 you will need around 80 megapixels.

Nikon AF-S 85MM F1.8 G

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Left: Nikon 85mm 1.8G Right: Nikon 85mm 1.8D

For roughly $480 we are very impressed with the Nikon AF-S 85MM F1.8 G.  On the Nikon D810, Nikon’s highest megapixel body, we prefer it to the much more expensive 1.4 G model (because of lateral chromatic aberration issues with the 1.4G).  We also found the 1.8G to be slightly sharper than the 1.4 G model.

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Some of Our Favorite Photography Products of 2015

As always remember that the person behind the camera is far more important than the camera. A good photographer can produce outstanding results with cheap equipment, even more so in the last few years as the sensors used in digital cameras have gotten quite good all around.

1st Place

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Many people praised the Zeiss Otus 85mm for being one of the best lenses, if not the best lens, available for full frame digital cameras.  And for $4,500 you would expect it to be quite good.  I rented it but did not like it for portrait and fashion photography.  There was just too much contrast.  It’s an amazing lens for many other purposes.

The Zeiss Milvus 85mm is $1,800, available in Canon and Nikon mounts (can be adapted to Sony) and is manual focus like the Otus lens.  For portrait and fashion shots this has become my favorite lens.  It has a special quality to its rendering that I’m addicted to.  The contrast is just right and the bokeh is supreme.  It’s big, heavy, and hard to focus on Canon and Nikon cameras.  But if you’re pushing the limits this is the lens you want.  Otherwise go for something with auto-focus.  It’s like they took the Otus but modified it into a portrait lens.  Great for the studio where you have time and lots of control.

2nd Place

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The Sony A7R II is expensive and has many shortcomings despite being much improved over the first A7R.  For many types of photography it wouldn’t be my first choice.  But for most fashion and portraiture shoots it’s more than adequate.  It’s small, has amazing image quality (42-megapixels) and has some great lenses available for it (like the expensive but wonderful Zeiss Batis 85mm).  Especially with travel restrictions getting smaller and lighter it’s much easier to carry this camera and a few lenses than the equivalent Nikon D810 or Canon 5DSR.

As an added bonus this camera shoots 4K video and lets you adapt older and unique lenses for use.

3rd Place

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The Nikon D5500 can currently be had for $700.  It’s an excellent camera with great image quality, dynamic range, features, and a small size for its class.  It’s not full frame but its images keep up pretty well with full frame.  I use this camera when I need to go small and light and as a back-up but many would be well served with it as their main camera.

We like to see affordable cameras that can produce great images and the D5500 meets that criteria.  Lenses are a better investment than cameras so we recommend buying a cheap as camera as makes sense.  When you’re getting paid for your photographs then you can worry about having the best of the best.

Grab a 35mm and a 50mm to go with this camera and you have two decent portrait lenses to shoot with.