Macro Work

A year or so ago I picked up an old Nikon Micro 60mm f/2.8 AF-D – it was a slight punt and I was actually looking for a workable portrait lens which would equivalize to 90mm on my dx body – pretty much perfect for working distance head and shoulder portraiture. Why not go for a faster lens? Well, I probably will soon, but I wasn’t set on fire by the 35mm 1.8, unlike the rest of the world, so I wanted something a little more exotic to test myself.

And since I’ve had it, it’s turned into my favourite lens – the quality and sharpness is fantastic, and there is absolutely zero distortion – I do a fair bit of lens correction in lightroom, so it’s great to have the confidence when you’re shooting that what you see in the viewfinder is what you’re going to get at the other end of the production process. This means framing decisions are a lot faster and more intuitive. The front¬† lens element is also set deep enough from the front of the lens that I feel confident to shoot without the customary protective UV filter, increasing the quality (IMHO) of the input light. The metal construction and general heft sit very nicely on my d7000 as well, complementing the excellent handling of the camera, even with battery grip. It’s one major issue is focusing – not accuracy (which has always been excellent) but speed and hunting. The general mechanism is frustratingly slow when compared to more modern lenses, and the lens has a slight tendency to hunt – this can be mitigated by using the focus limit switch, which helps a little.

I like using it in various medium telephoto candid portraits – I did an entire shoot with a local orchestra with it and was very happy with the results.

More recently I’ve been getting into the macro side of this lens and it just keeps delivering. There’s a lot of talk that the 60mm isn’t that great for macro work on account of the closeness you have to be to the subject, but I find that this works to great advantage in subject isolation, and the relatively short focal length against more respected lengths (110mm, I’m looking at you) means that handheld shots are very achievable. (Not that I’d turn down a 110 2.8 if a decent one popped up at the right price) – and although I’m unlikely to catch a dragonfly on the wing, it’s great for catching insects on flowers.

I took the shots above on holiday last week – and now my 60mm is keeping my d7000 company at the repair shop as it helped me identify exactly what’s wrong with the workhorse – the aperture control is up the spout. I couldn’t shoot anything except wide open – which explained a lot of my exposure issues, especially when transiting from interior to exterior shots. Not that the camera gave me any clues. The joys of trial and error and the application of experience!