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Nikon 60mm f/2.8d Macro lens

A review of the great Nikon 60mm F/2.8 D micro (or macro) lens. Talks about macro photography in general, and this lens in specific. 

I recently acquired a Nikon 60mm f/2.8 lens to do some close up work. If you’ve never used a macro lens before the performance can be staggering. It lets you get those super close up shots you may want for artsy effect, to show your small items on eBay, or even for scientific work. This lens also will focus out to infinity and is a fairly fast f/2.8, which is good for a zoom but not so great for a prime.  First the technical details:

  • 8 elements in 7 groups
  • Min focus distance is 8.75 inches (At this point the image on the film is 1:1 the item you are photographing)
  • Front end is 62mm
  • Weight is a good feeling 15.5 oz

 I’m not sure how they get 8.75 inches as a minimum focusing distance, it seems that I can focus a little bit closer than that. 

Overall Impressions:

This lens is very sharp thruout it’s focal range. It works great as a portrait prime lens or taking other shots at 60mm. I feel that it is a bit sharper at 60mm than my 28-70 f/2.8 AF-S Nikon lens, and certainly sharper than the 18-70 DX AF-S lens that comes with the D-70 kit. However if you are considering a macro (or micro in Nikon speak) lens you probably care most about it’s close up performance. Lets See what a macro lens can do. The photo on the top is of a Christmas bulb with a 28-70 f/2.8 Nikon lens at 70mm. The one on the bottom is from the 60mm macro. Both are at the closest distance the lens can focus:

Christmas Bulb Taken with 70mm lens

Right away you can see why Nikon calls these “micro” lenses. It’s almost like looking thru a microscope. In the full size image from my D200 you could make out dust and other imperfections that were near invisible to the naked eye. This sort of lens is a godsend if you want to take pictures of anything small and show detail. Coin or button collectors, this lens should be top of your list. Here is a shot a quarter I took hand held with this lens:

Hand held picture of a US Quarter with Macro lens

And another of just the bottom half.

So there is something else here that I’m sure you noticed right away. Only part of the coin is in focus. The physics of optics and focus dictate that the closer you are to an object, the narrower your depth of field. This is noticeable with any lens, but it become acute at these close distances. These pictures were taken at f/5.6 and you can see the DOF (depth of Field) is about 2mm. If you want super sharp pictures with good depth of field you will have to stop down the lens quite a bit. Knowing this Nikon made this lens go to f/32, which is enough for decent depth of field even very close. However this can require a good tripod or lots of light. 

Nikon makes a few other macro lenses and depending on your needs one of them may be better; however, I like the 60mm because it is an excellent macro lens with 1:1 reproduction, it’s a good length for portraits which makes it a multi-tasker. (Like Alton Brown from Good Eats, I only have room for one uni-tasker in my camera bag… okay I don’t have a fire extinguisher in there but I suppose my circular polarizing filter will count : ) ) The 60mm length means you can get most objects you want into your frame as well. The longer lenses can tend to make these set ups more difficult, especially if you are taking pictures from a tripod looking down, you can end up with you tripod all the way extended and teetering trying to get everything in frame. 

Close up photography is one of those things that you can’t cheat on too well. You really need a macro lens. Some smaller point & shoot digitals are starting to come with a macro mode that does pretty good. Often their smaller sensor will help give you greater depth of field. 

As a side note, the picture of the “70” in the right side of the page graphic was taken with this lens and is the 70 from my 28-70 f/2.8 lens. 

Bottom line: If you want a macro lens for your Nikon camera, I think this one is your best bet. If you want a portrait lens this one is pretty good (although I think the 85mm 1.8 would be better at a much lower cost) 

If you are planning to purchase a 60mm f/2.8 lens, please consider using the Amazon link below, I get a small percentage of the sale and it helps maintain this website!