Nikon's Gold Ring Optics

Nikkor AF lenses represent “The Standard” for wildlife and other challenging photography, where one does not have the time to compose and execute with manual focus glass. While I actually prefer to use manual focus lenses for many aspects of nature (landscapes, flowers, certain macro situations, etc.), when it come to capturing active wildlife, where you have minimal time to react, only Nikon’s “Gold Series” AF lenses will do. Nikon is the name I trust to capture the moment, quickly and beautifully, nailing the shot every time. When it comes to selecting focal lengths, I prefer to use prime lenses over zooms, and I operate by “The Rule of Doubles,” selecting successive focal lengths roughly-double to the focal length of the lens before it (e.g., 28mm, 58mm, 105mm, etc.). That said, here is my AF lens line-up:

Nikkor AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR

The Benchmark in Super-Telephoto Optical Quality

This is on my wishlist. For wildlife stills and blind-work, this lens’ sharpness, rendering, and subject isolation remain an industry benchmark.

See @ Nikon: Nikkor AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR

Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

The "Mini-Super Telephoto" Lens for Hikers

While larger super telephoto lenses do have their place, since acquiring the 300 f/4E PF, I no longer have to lug a tripod along when I hike, nor do I need hoist/deploy a “rocket launcher” for a lens, in order to nail quality bird shots . Instead, I can quickly and comfortably aim-and-shoot, in seconds, enjoying virtually the same image quality as larger lenses afford. The value of the 300 PF’s small size and light weight cannot be over-stated. Even better, the 300mm PF has a close minimum focusing distance (4′), with an excellent reproduction ratio (1:4), so it makes a great ‘macro substitute’ also for larger butterflies, hummers, and such. Add to this the fact the 300 PF also enjoys a pro-level in its AF + VR capability, that no macro lens has, and you have a complete wildlife field tool, especially since it takes 1.4 and 2x TCs well for extra reach, as well as added magnification. I honestly consider the 300mm f/4E PF ED VR to be the most-used, most enjoyable, versatile, and important field lens I bring with me for all forms of wildlife. It’s quite possibly Nikon’s greatest invention for the hiking photographer.

See @ Nikon: Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF ED

The Sharpest Long-Range AF Macro in the Shed

For greater than 1:4, a true macro lens is needed. The 200mm focal length of this unique macro lens is its greatest asset, offering a complement of synergistic features: its legendary sharpness, a 1:1 reproduction ratio, its 10.2″ working distance, and a unique FOV, all allow the user to really isolate the subject like no other macro lens can. I’ve shot many other ‘long’ macro lenses during my journey as a macro photographer to form my perspective (including the Canon 100mm f/2.8 … the Canon 100mm f/2.8L … the Nikkor 105mm f/2.6G … the Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 APO… the Canon 180mm f/3.5L… and Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX), so this lens isn’t my first “long-macro rodeo.” That said, none of the aforementioned can match the sharpness + subject-isolation of the venerable Micro-Nikkor 200 f/4D. (Others agree, check here and here, as examples.) The awesome all-metal build quality of this lens is also unmatched. The only drawbacks are its slower, primitive AF system makes it unable to benefit from the D850’s focus-shift feature, and its lack of VR makes it nowhere near as versatile as the 300mm f/4E PF. However, for razor-sharp, single-image macro wildlife portraiture, this timeless lens remains peerless in the industry.

See @ Nikon: Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4D IF ED

Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF ED

Nikon's Portable Macro Gem

For years, I’ve used MF lenses almost exclusively for macro, in particular the Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5-SL APO-Lanthar. Aside from the incredible image quality, the Voigtländer has 630° of focus-throw, which enabled me to stack my images in the field, manually, without the need of a rail. However, with the advent of the D850’s Focus Shift Shooting feature, I can now automate my field stacks, which greatly-increases stacking accuracy. For this, I have added the Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G to my lens portfolio. The amount of detail I can now resolve in my static field macros, by combining the stacking feature of the D850 with the internal-focusing (IF) motor of the Micro-Nikkor 105, has created a jaw-dropping macro-powerhouse combo. Unlike trying to stack with macro rails (or with lenses that extend-out as you focus), stacking in-body with a camera plus an internal-focusing (IF) lens, keeps the end of the lens at the same distance from the subject, allowing for much cleaner stacking accuracy in post. Finally, for live/action macro imagery, the Micro-Nikkor 105mm G’s modern AF + VR make it perfectly capable of handling fast (even airborne) macro opportunities as well … that no MF macro lens can handle.

See @ Nikon: Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF ED

NIKKOR AF-S 58mm f/1.4G

The Portrait Photographer's Dream Lens

This lens is on my wishlist. It is not the sharpest, but its sublime and dreamy rendering make it a special portrait option.

See @ Nikon: Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4G

Nikkor AF-S 28mm f/1.4E ED

This lens is on my wishlist. It is unsurpassed as a low-light, wide portrait & landscape option.

See @ Nikon: Nikkor AF-S 28mm f/1.4E ED