Review Nikon 40 mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro Nikkor (N APS-C)
Mid-2011, Nikon announced a new DX-format Nikon 40 mm macro lens for close-up and macro photography: the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G. With a minimal focal length of 16 cm, it offers a 1:1 reproduction ratio, where the subjects' size on the sensor equals the original. In terms of value for money, macro lenses are very attractive. Alternatives to this lens include the macro Tokina 35 mm, which has been taken out of production, and the Sigma 50 mm macro.
We tested this macro lens, but not specifically in the macro range. Nevertheless, this lightweight, whose optical qualities in combination with the Nikon D3200 prove to be heavyweight, has a lot to offer.
Click on the right image for a larger version.
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro Nikkor
A focal length of 40 mm on a camera with a DX sensor corresponds to a focal length of 60 mm (for example the Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8) on a camera with a full frame / FX sensor. This lens is a bargain if you own a camera with a DX sensor: for a few hundred dollars, the Nikon 40 mm macro offers both a standard lens and a macro lens in one. Many dedicated macro nature photographers will probably opt for a macro lens with a longer focal length; making a full-size photo of an insect with a 40 mm lens on a camera with a DX sensor is not easy. You will come so close to the subject that it is very likely that the subject will flee. The use of the hood makes it even worse, because you quickly cast a shadow on the subject. Tabletop photographers might appreciate the relatively short focal length of this lens for being close to their subject. In addition, there is a snag. Perspective depends on the focal length. The longer this is, the more 'flat' an object appears in the picture. Using a longer focal length will often make your subject look much more pleasant. In short, you often prefer to work with longer focal lengths in macro photography, and for good reason. Therefore, Nikon also offers a Nikon 85 mm macro and a Nikon 105 mm macro lens.
Construction and autofocus
The lens is solidly built, as we are used to from Nikon. The body is made of reinforced plastic and the lens mount is metal. Those using a macro lens for the first time might find it a surprise how much the lens extends if you focus at the closest focusing distance. In addition, the maximum aperture becomes less than f/2.8. This is not typical for this lens, but rather a phenomenon that you come across with all macro lenses.
The lens is equipped with a "Silent Wave Motor" (SWM) for quiet and reasonable - not very - fast auto focus.
The M / A Focus Mode enables you to override the autofocus by manually adjusting the focus without the need for using a switch to choose between autofocus and manual focus.
The course of the focus ring is divided in half by limiting the focusing range by means of a switch on the lens to 20 cm - ∞. For focusing from 16 cm to 20 cm, you turn the focusing ring in the same amount as for focusing from 20 cm to infinity.
The Nikon 40 mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor does not have built-in image stabilization. If you wish to take macro shots of insects without the use of a tripod, image stabilization would bring limited relief. The effectiveness of image stabilization in the nearby area is very limited, so it is not a great loss.
The vignetting of jpg files from the Nikon 40 mm macro is almost one stop at f/2.8. This is unexpectedly high, because the in-camera correction of vignetting was selected in the Nikon D3200 menu. We also analyzed the vignetting in (with DC RAW) converted NEF files, using Imatest. The vignetting in the RAW files is a little higher: on average approximately 35%. From f/5.6, you will have no problems of vignetting. Moreover, for macro photography it is quite common to use f/8 or even smaller in order to create some extra depth of field.
The distortion measured in standard jpg files created with the Nikon 40 mm Macro and the Nikon D3200 is 0.15%. That is so low that you will never have to expect visible distortion. For a macro lens, this is extra nice because these lenses are also used to reproduce images.
The Nikon 40 mm macro has a nice bokeh. The nice thing about the bokeh for macro shots is that the blur circles are very large compared to images that you make on a normal distance. Below are two examples that you can enlarge by clicking on the image.
At first, you wonder why Nikon provides a hood with a lens that is so well resistant to flare. When the Nikon 40 mm macro lens is set to infinity, the front lens is hidden deep in the lens and there is no need for a lens hood. Moreover, the Nikon 40 mm macro lens is, even without a hood, highly resistant to flare at close distances. Even if we aimed a bright light source directly into the lens, we observed no ghosting and virtually no flare. This is a very good performance.
In macro photography, however, you will sometimes come very close to a light source with the front lens. It is then that the hood proves its use.
Even at f/2.8, the Nikon 40 mm macro and the Nikon D3200 provide standard jpg files with a very high resolution. At f/8, you will obtain the maximum resolution, after which the resolution decreases because of diffraction. Up to f/8, the sharpness in the center is slightly higher than the sharpness in the corners. Yet this difference is so small, that it cannot be seen with the naked eye. At f/11, the sharpness in the center is equally high as the sharpness in the corners.
The chromatic aberration in standard jpg files created with the Nikon D3200 and the Nikon 40 mm macro is very low. In practice, you will never suffer from chromatic aberration in jpg files. Probably, the Nikon D3200 does some in-camera correction of chromatic aberration. The chromatic aberration in RAW files is higher and increases with aperture. In RAW files, you can encounter visible chromatic aberration. Fortunately, that is easy to correct using photo editing software.
Conclusion Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro Nikkor review
|See our list of tested lenses or the lenses with a Nikon mount tested by us to compare the performance of this lens to other lenses.
||WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Optically, there is very little to criticize about the Nikon 40 mm f/2.8G AF-S VR Micro Nikkor. This small lens delivers sharp images; distortion is very low, the bokeh is beautiful and you do not have to worry about chromatic aberration and vignetting. In addition, because the effectiveness of image stabilization in the near field is very limited, it is - for the macro range - not a major disadvantage that no VR is built in.
Nevertheless, if you were going to take macro photography seriously, why would you do that with a 40 mm macro lens? When using a 40 mm lens, you are very close to your subject. You quickly throw your own shadow over your subject and animals will flee before you take a picture. Using macro lenses with a focal length of 85 mm or 100 mm minimizes that problem. You will also notice that in many cases, the perspective is better and that the background blur of a 105 mm macro lens is beautiful. Apart from that, the Nikon 40 mm 2.8 Micro is a compact lens, which offers you a standard lens and a macro lens in one, which is attractively priced and guarantees very sharp photos.