About the Photographer
"Jack" has been a lifetime naturalist and has turned his causal photography hobby into a lifetime passion and mission. Your visit to this site is most appreciated and he hopes you enjoy the experience :)
Nikkor optics are the finest in the world for wildlife photography. For my lens choices, I operate by “The Rule of Doubles,” selecting prime focal lengths roughly-double to the focal length of the lens before it. (E.g., 15mm, 28mm, 50mm, 100mm, etc.) Please note, I do not use zooms. I use primes, only, because they render and perform better than zooms. Others may disagree, but that is my credo.
Regardless, this is an interesting time, as Nikon is currently updating all of its ‘G’ auto-focus lenses (mechanical diaphragm) to ‘E’ versions (electromagnetic diaphragm), with a corresponding upgrade in glass quality. At certain focal lengths, I will be adding/upgrading to the Nikkor E generation over the next 1-2 years, as they come out, where the focal lengths suit me for specific, non-macro use. I will also likely add one or two super-telephoto ‘FL ED’ lenses to my collection as well, as time/finances permit.
For macro, however, I prefer shooting Nikon’s venerated manual-focus “AI-S” lenses which, because of their manual aperture control, allow me to reverse-mount and achieve greater-than-1:1 macro magnification inversely-proportional to their focal lengths. Here is my current lens stable:
This lens is a fantastic instrument. What makes this lens so great is, with my 2 bodies (and a 2x extender), I have the option of shooting at 300mm, 450mm, 600mm, or 900mm, depending on which body I choose (the D810 or D500), and depending on whether or not I want to add the 2x TC III. The lens is very heavy, and it’s not much fun to bring, but the sharpness, color, and bokeh transference are uplifting to witness—and make the effort more than worthwhile, after you come home from a long day in the field. Photography Life wrote a great review on this lens. Although I expect Nikon will upgrade this ‘G’ lens to an ‘E’ FL ED version within the next year, the G 300mm version I have will remain a great tool.
See @ Nikon: Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II
This hefty gem one of the finest short-tele primes ever made, if not the finest. It is the classic old Zeiss design (all-metal/glass), with almost zero plastic components. This Classic Zeiss lens is being replaced by the “Milvus” version, which is ugly IMO, has a rubber focus ring, and a plastic lens hood. Optically, however, the two are identical and the all-metal construction of the Classic design will stand the test of time. I purchased this Classic Zeiss lens as an investment into a great era gone by. Optically, it was the sharpest, cleanest-rendering lens of its time, with 270° of focus-throw for precision, and it still bests anything in its class today with its micro-contrast and fine rendering of detail. Said the late Michael Reichmann, “It’s the finest lens that I’ve ever experienced.” It is a treat to use and I recommend it highly. However, this competes with the lens above (which has the benefit of AF), and the lens below (which has the benefit of a 1:1 macro reproduction ratio), so I don’t actually use the Zeiss that much. Fortunately, I have found that its greatest purpose, for me, to be either dedicated butterfly/flower photography, at greater than 1:4 (mostly for focus stacks @ f/2.0-f/4.0), or for portraiture. The Classic Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* is a truly sublime choice for both.
Find on eBay: Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* ZF.2
This is my go-to macro choice in the field. This lens is over 15 years old, it is a collector’s item, and it is highly-sought-after by macro connoisseurs who desire the very best in macro lens-rendering characteristics. The Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 Apo-Lanthar is coveted for its much more subtle color rendering, its very low chromatic aberration, and for producing a “3D-effect,” etc. Its greatest use is for macro focus-stacking, because it has 620° of focus throw, which is more than triple the precision of today’s AF macro lenses. It also makes a great short-telephoto. This sublime lens, manufactured by Cosina (who also makes Zeiss Otus lenses) has an interesting history behind it. If you’re serious about your macro work, I highly-recommend this lens over today’s plasticky commercial macro options.
Find on Ebay: Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar Macro
The Nikkor AI-S 50mm f/1.2 is a throwback to Nikon’s film days. It’s Nikon’s fastest lens (f/1.2) and is known for being soft in the corners but razor-sharp in the center. It actually out-performs every other modern Nikon 50mm AF lens. While some people complain that it’s soft in the corners, this is actually a desirable characteristic for portrait or (when reversed) macro. Gradual blurring toward the edges is only bad for landscapes; for macro and portraiture this is an enhancement to the bokeh effect. Indeed, the late Michael Reichmann called this lens “Nikon’s Jewell” for this reason and Photography Life did as well. When you implement the BR-2A Adapter, the lens reverses to achieve 1.1x magnification as a macro lens. You can use the BR-3 Adapter acts as a lens hood when doing so. (Check out my blog post on reverse-macro photography.)
See @ Nikon: Nikkor AI-S 50mm f/1.2
There is a lot more to the Nikon AI-S f/2.8 28mm lens than meets the eye. It, too, like its big brother above, is a throwback to Nikon’s film days. What makes this lens so unique is how close you can get with it, properly-oriented, which is why Nikkor lensman, Kouichi Ohshita, wrote a passage about it in Nikon’s Thousand and One Nights series. The MFD is 8.4″ (21 cm) and its reproduction ratio is ~1:4. Its moderately-wide angle, plus its close approach, with the addition of its reproduction ratio create an intimacy that few lenses can rival. Further, at only 8 oz (250 g), the 28mm AI-S is a joy to carry compared to other options at this focal length. Even better, when you implement the BR-2A Adapter, the lens reverses to achieve 2.1x magnification as a macro lens. You can use the BR-3 Adapter acts as a lens hood when doing so. (Check out my blog post on reverse-macro photography for more details.)
See @ Nikon: Nikkor AI-S 28mm f/2.8
It is impossible to describe how valuable this little lens is. As with the above-two lenses, this is also a throwback to Nikon’s film days. It is very similar to the 28mm, but just a little wider (for when I need that), and just a little closer when reverse-mounted as a macro (when I need that). I prefer the landscape images at this focal length to any other. As with the 28mm, above, it too is very light which makes it a great hiking companion compared to some of the behemoth wides out there today. Even better, with the BR-2A Adapter, the lens also reverses to achieve 3.4x magnification as a macro lens. As with the other AI-S primes, the BR-3 Adapter acts as a lens hood when doing so. However, where the above 2 lenses can adapt to reverse-macro imagery with just these two adapters, this one (because of its 62mm front filter) requires the additional BR-5 Adapter to reverse-mount. (Check out my blog post for more details on reverse-macro photography.)
See @ Nikon: Nikkor AI-S 20mm f/2.8
This is also a throwback to Nikon’s film days, but unlike the others Nikon no longer manufactures it. The 18mm f/3.5 is very similar to the 20mm, but opens-up just a little wider (for when I need that), and zooms-in just a little closer when reverse-mounted as a macro (when I need that). I seldom bring this lens with me out into the field, but prefer using it as a macro lens exclusively, reversed. As with the above 3, with the BR-2A Adapter, the lens reverses to achieve 4.1x magnification as a macro lens. As with the other lenses, the BR-3 Adapter acts as a lens hood when doing so. However, where the first 2 lenses can adapt to reverse-macro imagery with just these two adapters, this one (because of its 72mm front filter) requires a SenseiPRO 72-52 Adapter to reverse-mount. (If I need to go beyond 4x macro, then I use my extreme macro setup.)
Find on eBay: Nikkor AI-S 18mm f/3.5
This is one of the finest ultra-wide lenses ever made, if not the finest. It is the classic old Zeiss design (all-metal/glass), with almost zero plastic components. This version is being replaced by the “Milvus” version, which is ugly IMO, has a rubber focus ring, and a plastic lens hood. I purchased this Classic Zeiss lens as an investment into a great era gone by. Optically, it was the sharpest, cleanest-rendering wide-angle lens, for years, and it still bests most lenses today. The 15mm focal length is wider than I normally prefer to go, but I do use it for my work a lot, photographing interior/exterior scenes of accidents and/or crimes. It also offers the occasional advantage as a landscape lens, esp. since it offers a 9.9″ close-focusing distance. The quality of rendering and the incredible resistance to flare (for a lens this wide) put this lens in a league of its own.
Find on eBay: Zeiss 15mm f/2.5 Distagon T* ZF.2