Nikon describe this lens as being capable of producing stunningly sharp close-up and macro images, is that true?
The Nikon 60mm Macro lens or AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED as it’s properly known, is classed as a special purpose fixed focal length lens. The special purpose of this lens is macro photography, which is basically extreme close up photography, usually of tiny objects, collectables, insects, flowers and other detailed items, utilising macro photography will often allow you to view details not possible with the naked eye, producing stunning and often very interesting results. The majority of camera lenses will not allow you to reproduce small details in such large sizes and will often have a minimum focussing distance of a couple feet, this rule does not apply for macro lenses which are specifically designed to focus up close and produce incredibly detailed images.
The lens itself is a fairly standard size and weight for a prime of it’s type, not much larger or heavier than the 20mm, 50mm or 85mm Nikon lenses. The lettering in the full name gives away some of its core features, it supports silent auto focus, has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and utilises Nikons Extra-Low Dispersion glass to help produce extremely clear images. If you want to view more information about the technical specs of the lens then head over to the Nikon site here.
The lens is compatible with both Nikons FX and DX cameras, if you’re using this on one of the DX bodies then it will give you an equivalent focal length of around 90mm which for Macro photography is arguably better than using it on a FX body where it will offer it’s true focal length of 60mm. I used this lens extensively on my old Nikon D7100 before moving to my D750 and i have to say, i much preferred using it on a DX body as it would seemingly allow me to get much closer to my subject and produce better results. The closest focussing distance of this lens is around 2 inches, which is incredibly close, this is great if you’re working in an area with plenty of light or using a flash but if you’re out and about in the field it can result in you ‘blocking’ out your light source. When working at these close distances you’ll often notice the shadow of the camera or lens hood which can obstruct the light. For this reason, people often prefer to use a macro lens with a longer focal length, allowing you to have a greater ‘working distance’ from your subject.
In terms of the images, this lens is probably the sharpest i own, it performs excellently at all apertures and is very very sharp when being used wide open, if you’re shooting portraits with this lens you can really get close to the subject and pick out an incredible amount of detail, it really is amazing. One thing you might notice when using this lens is that you’ll get some natural vignetting or falloff at the corners of the image when using it at f/2.8, this is usually gone by f/5.6 and can even be corrected easily in Lightroom after so don’t let that bother you too much. Due to the close focussing distance of the lens i also use this as my ‘go-to’ lens for double exposures, if you’re not familiar with this type of photography then head over to my tutorial here.
In order to get the best results out of this lens you need to be a couple inches from your subject, which is fine if you’re shooting collectibles, flowers or textures but when trying to shoot insects which are so often the main subject of macro photography, it becomes very difficult not to disturb or scare off your subject, for this type of use you’ll get better results using the 105mm or 200mm offerings.
As the lens is able to produce very sharp results and has a good maximum aperture of f/2.8 i presumed it would be good to use for live music and low light photography, upon testing this i came to the conclusion that this lens doesn’t focus fast enough in low light to be a good lens for low light portraits or live music. I did manage to get some great results with it but nowhere near as good as my 50mm which is an absolute beast when it comes to low light photography. Even when there is a good amount of available light, i still find this one of my slower focussing lenses, which can be frustrating.
Let’s have a look at some sample photos taken with this lens, as you can see, it has many uses and is a great general purpose lens in addition to it’s macro capabilities.
If you’re looking to add a mid range lens to your kit bag and also enjoy macro photography then this is a great lens for you. It works really well as a general purpose prime lens, i’d say the macro capabilities are better on a DX body and the portrait and general purpose uses are stronger on an FX body. If you’re only looking for a good portrait lens and shoot in low light then i’d recommend the 50mm rather than this one as it’s faster to focus and has a better maximum aperture, for nearly half the price. Overall this is a great lens and well worth the price, you can pick it up from most authorised retailers for around £430, if you plan on shooting a lot of macro and use an FX camera body then i would try this and the 105mm lens to see which of the two you prefer.