Best lenses for the Nikon D810: Part II – Wildlife and Landscape primes and zooms

Introduction

Best Landscape lenses for D810

Best ultra-wide primes: 

Zeiss Distagon 15mm and Samyang 14mm, high end lenses 

The best performing ultra-wide model on the Nikon D810 overall is the beautifully made $2,950 Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/15 ZF.2 , however, it’s not quite the sharpest of those tested. The Samyang 14mm f2.8, in second place with a DxOMark lens score of 27 points, has a higher peak sharpness at 27P-Mpix. Peak sharpness alone isn’t everything though, as uniformity of sharpness across the field is more valued, especially in ultra-wides like this. Both have curvature of field but it’s really only slight in the Zeiss whereas it’s pronounced on the Samyang and particularly so at the maximum aperture.

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZF.2 Nikon 2950 28 23
Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical Nikon 409 27 27
Sigma 20mm F1.8 EX DG ASP RF Nikon 629 27 23
Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D 570 26 20
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 21mm f/2.8 ZF2 Nikon 1732 26 19
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 18mm f/3.5 ZF2 Nikon 1395 23 17
Nikon AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED 1800 22 17
Sigma 14mm F2.8 EX Aspherical HSM Nikon 749 21 13

There are other aberrations as well. High chromatic aberration visible at all apertures also helped put the Samyang behind the Zeiss, but stopped down the 14mm performs well and has very high sharpness levels. 

Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG ASP RF and AF Nikkor 20mm f2.8D: other great altenatives

In joint second place is the high-speed Sigma 20mm f1.8 EX DG ASP RF, followed closely by film-era AF Nikkor 20mm f2.8D, though given Nikon’s current high we expect the recently announced AF-S Nikkor 20mm f1.8G ED to be a far better performer. In fifth place, just behind the AF Nikkor 20mm f2.8D is the legendary Zeiss 21mm f2.8 Distagon. That lens which was upgraded for digital sensors over the earlier Contax mount model is highly regarded for its rendering, low distortion (albeit slight moustache type) and even lower lateral chromatic aberration, but peak sharpness is similar overall to the Nikon.

Best wide-angle lenses 

Perhaps unsurprisingly the highly regarded Art series Sigma 35mm f1.4 HSM A tops the wide-angle category for the best overall optical performance, but the Zeiss 25mm f2 ZF.2 is close behind, particularly with regard to peak sharpness.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Nikon 899 42 30
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZF.2 Nikon 1700 37 29
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED 600 36 27
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED 2200 36 23
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon 1843 36 23
Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Nikon 599 36 20
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G 699 35 28
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1005 35 23
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G 1797 35 22
Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Nikon 600 34 25
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 28mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon 1283 31 25
Sigma 28mm F1.8 EX DG ASP Macro Nikon 449 30 23
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 ZF.2 Nikon 2950 28 23
Nikon AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D 280 28 19
Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical Nikon 409 27 27
Sigma 20mm F1.8 EX DG ASP RF Nikon 629 27 23
Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2D 365 27 21
Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D 570 26 20
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 21mm f/2.8 ZF2 Nikon 1732 26 19
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2.8 ZF2 Nikon 1005 24 21
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 18mm f/3.5 ZF2 Nikon 1395 23 17
Nikon AF Nikkor 14mm f/2.8D ED 1800 22 17
Sigma 14mm F2.8 EX Aspherical HSM Nikon 749 21 13

This is no mean feat given the more complex nature of the wider Zeiss. What may be a surprise to some is that both the AF-S Nikkor 24mm f1.4G ED and its sibling the AF-S 35mm f1.4G struggle a little with sharpness, especially the latter when compared with the more accessibly priced AF-S Nikkor 35mm f1.8G ED. At $600 the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f1.8G ED looks like a bargain, though the faster Sigma at $899 undoubtedly steals the show. Although the 24mm focal length is a solid choice for landscapes, the $699 AF-S Nikkor 28mm f1.8G is a good performer with very high peak sharpness. Not far behind is the Samyang 24mm f1.4ED AS UMC. At $600 it’s accessibly priced and performs very well when stopped down a little, but bear in mind it lacks AF. 

Best wide-angle zooms 

Best performing wide-angle zoom on the Nikon D810 is the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G ED, although if you can’t stretch to the $2,000 asking price the newer 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G ED has similar peak sharpness.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED 2000 30 23
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED 750 28 23
Tokina AT-X 16-28 F2.8 PRO FX Nikon 849 25 19
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f/4G ED VR 1260 25 19
Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF-ED 610 22 15
Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED 1764 22 14
Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM II Nikon 1400 19 12
Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 EX DG Nikon 840 18 11

It’s not in the same league build-wise but it’s a credible alternative for landscape photographers where size and weight are concerns. The 18-35mm also readily accepts filters, which neither the 14-24mm or the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 Pro FX will without some specialized adapters. 

Nikon’s other popular model, the stabilized AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm f4G ED VR, which ranks in third place alongside the Tokina, could be an option. It also takes filters but it lacks the extreme range of the 14-24mm f2.8 and doesn’t quite match that or the 18-35mm in optical performance.

Best wildlife and Best telephoto zooms

As we’ve seen with the D800 models the new Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD tops the list as the best performer optically but lenses like this are generally more popular for sports than wildlife where longer lenses are preferred. Still, anyone looking for high-quality model is rather spoiled for choice.

Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Nikon 1699 33 28
Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM S Nikon 3599 31 29
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II 2699 31 27
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR 1399 30 29
Sigma APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Nikon 2449 28 26
Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED 1850 27 20
Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO Nikon 770 27 20
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM Nikon 1699 27 19
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM II Nikon 949 26 17
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO HSM Nikon 880 25 18
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR 2700 24 18
Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED 669 22 15
Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED 196 22 13
Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM Nikon 1659 21 17
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO Macro Super II Nikon 199 21 15
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO-M DG Macro Nikon 209 21 14
Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS Nikon 359 21 14
Tamron SP 70-300 F/4-5.6 Di VC USD Nikon 449 21 12
Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM Nikon 999 20 14
Nikon AF VR Zoom-Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED 1665 20 12
Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM Nikon 1069 18 12

The two Nikon models are very close in performance, although the f2.8 version is significantly pricier than the Tamron. Those looking for a compact and lightweight model should look no further than the relatively new AF-S 70-200mm f4 ED VR. It has excellent sharpness throughout the zoom range even at the initial aperture and is still compatible with 2x teleconverters thanks to the f8 autofocus compatibility on the Nikon D810. In second place is the Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 DG OS HSM. Like the 70-200mm models this lens is targeting sports photographers in the main. It’s a good performer but at $3599 it’s unlikely to appeal to a wide audience.

 

Models with a longer reach include the recently revised AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm. Like most telephoto zooms this model performs better at the shorter end but it’s still sharp at longer focal lengths and a good performer at 400mm. The stabilized Sigma 50-500mm f4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM performs reasonably well albeit with the usual drop in sharpness where it’s needed most. Although we’ve yet to test it, it may be worth waiting for the new Sigma 150-500mm f5.3-6.3 although at $1,999 it’s a pricier option than the current offerings.

Best prime telephotos

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED VR II 5899 43 33
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm F2.8G ED VR 8999 38 33
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II 5900 36 32
Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4D ED-IF 1425 29 27
Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Nikon 1099 29 23
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR 9999 27 24
Nikon AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED 970 27 14
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR 8030 26 22

With some pretty impressive price tags it’ll come no surprise to learn the best performing telephoto models on the D810 are the Nikkor AF-S 200mm f2G ED VR, 400mm f2.8 and 300mm f2.8. While these models are aimed predominantly at sports photographers, the 500mm f4 has long been a favorite with wildlife photographers. It may not be as fast as the AF-S 600mm f4G ED VR but it’s lighter and more compact and yet maintains an impressive magnification. Image quality is good and sharpness is very high.

If you have a Nikon D810 and a favorite lens, we would very much like to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, stating what lens it is and why you like it.

 

Kevin Carter