Nikon Lenses

Nikon lenses are some of the finest available to the photographer.  I have lenses covering focal lengths from 14mm through to 800mm but for most assignments I like to 'travel light' and carry no more than half a dozen lenses.  I keep the more extreme focal lengths and 'special' lenses (for example, PC-shift and macro lenses) for specific situations. 

 

I always work with two identical camera bodies (with a third in reserve) and I 'pair' my lenses depending on the event or subject that is being photographed.  For most news and general editorial work, I will pair a 16-35mm f/4 on one body with a 70-200mm f/2.8 on the other, and I'll have the 58mm f/1.4 on my 'reserve' body. 

 

Where I am looking for images with quite 'shallow' depth of field, I'll pair something like a 24mm f/1.4 or 35mm f/1.4 on one body, with an 85mm f/1.4, a 200mm f/2 (which is heavy!) or a 300mm f/2.8 (just as heavy!) on the other, but I'll still keep the 58mm f/1.4 on my reserve camera, with a couple of other lenses in a small (and very worn) Billingham bag.  

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Nikon 16-35mm f/4

Probably one of the sharpest Nikon wide angle zoom lenses ever made.  I much prefer this lens to the larger and heavier 14-24mm f/2.8 and, for news work, the built-in Vibration Reduction (VR) makes it preferable to the 17-35mm f/2.8 lens.  The 16mm focal length is perfect for illustrating the context of any action while 35mm provides the 'classic' reportage lens.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

For news and reportage, this lens is the perfect 'partner' to the 16-35mm zoom.  The wide maximum aperture and built-in VR allows it to be used in any lighting conditions, however dim.  Despite its focal length range and wide maximum aperture, the lens is very easy to use hand-held and the short twist of the zoom ring make it quick and accurate for fast framing.

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Nikon 24mm f/1.4

This is the perfect lens for getting you in close to the action yet is still wide enough to provide context.  The lens comes into its own when the light is low or when you want to shoot with shallow depth of field.  Two aspherical lens elements and two extra-low dispersion elements allows this lens to deliver outstandingly sharp images every time.

Nikon 35mm f/1.4

Together with the 85mm f/1.4 this lens is half of the perfect prime-lens pairing when shooting with minimum equipment for news and reportage.  Nikon have put a huge effort into making this version of the 'classic' focal length so much better than its predecessors.  This lens is fantastically sharp and its physical size means it 'holds' beautifully on a pro body - film or digital.

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Nikon 58mm f/1.4

This lens is not optimised for maximum sharpness (for that, you need the 50mm f/1.4) but instead is designed for use in low light situations (with light sources 'in shot') and to deliver a superb aesthetic - it has a bokeh that I feel is as good (and with better sharpness) than the Leica Noctilux which I used on my M7 and M9 rangefinders before moving exclusively to Nikon.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4

The 85mm focal length is great for separating the subject from the background and for 'closing-in' on details.  The 1980s Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-S manual focus was my standard short tele lens for film work and I loved it.  When I moved to digital, the 85mm f/1.4 'G' series lens provided bokeh, colour fidelity and sharpness that exceeds every expectation.

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Nikon 200mm f/2

This is a very front-heavy lens and quite awkward to hand-hold but worth the effort.  The shallow depth of field, incredible sharpness and complete lack of colour aberrations - even when used wide open - makes this one of my favourite Nikon lenses of all time.  Combine these qualities with the almost instantaneous autofocus speed and you can see why this is such an iconic lens.

Nikon 300mm f/2.8

At around the same weight as the 200mm f/2, this lens is much easier to hand-hold; the balance is so much better.  This is a great focal length for event or sports photography (unless you are way back from the action) and is also immensely useful for a very distinctive portrait style using a very shallow depth of field and flattened perspective.

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Simon Hill HonFRPS   Editorial Photographer