AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G Lens


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    AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G Lens

      In summary

      The relatively low price tag makes this lens an attractive proposition for cash-strapped enthusiasts who want a lightweight and relatively compact macro lens. But, being designed specifically for DX cameras, it won't suit photographers with Nikon's 'full frame (FX) camera bodies.

      Its light weight will suit travellers, while near-silent operation will make this lens attractive for photographers who want to create movies of small subjects. As a portrait lens, it also offers some advantages, largely because of its f/2.8 speed, which can produce attractive bokeh.

      However, there are some limitations potential purchasers should understand, the first being the relatively short working distance for macro work. At 16.3 cm, it is too close to photograph easily-spooked subjects. It's also a little short for situations when artificial lighting is required, either in the form of flash or LED lights.

       

      Full review

      The AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G was released in mid-2011 as an affordable macro lens for Nikon's DX format cameras. This is a true macro lens, which supports a maximum reproduction ration of 1:1 and provides a focal length equivalent to 60mm in 35mm format. This lens is compatible with all current Nikon DX-format DSLRs, including the entry-level models. 

      Side view of the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G lens without lens hood and end caps. (Source: Nikon.)

      With a maximum aperture of f/2.8, this lens is fast enough for everyday shooting. Its minimum focusing distance is 16.3 cm for close-ups, but there's a focus limiter switch that enables the lens to be set to focus between 20 cm and infinity for other subjects, such as portrait shots.

      Like most macro lenses, the optical design is straightforward, with nine standard spherical elements in seven groups. No exotic glass is included, although the lens is multi-coated with Nikon's Super Integrated Coating.
       

      The diagram above shows the position of the elements in the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G lens. (Source: Nikon.)

      There's no built-in stabilisation and, being a G-type lens, there's no aperture ring. Instead, the lens supplies distance information to the camera via contacts in the mounting plate. This lens is supplied with front and rear caps plus a dedicated HB-61 lens hood and the CL-0915 flexible lens pouch.

      Who's it For?
       The relatively low price tag makes this lens an attractive proposition for cash-strapped enthusiasts who want a lightweight and relatively compact macro lens. But, being designed specifically for DX cameras, it won't suit photographers with Nikon's 'full frame (FX) camera bodies.

      Its light weight will suit travellers, while near-silent operation will make this lens attractive for photographers who want to create movies of small subjects. As a portrait lens, it also offers some advantages, largely because of its f/2.8 speed, which can produce attractive bokeh.

      However, there are some limitations potential purchasers should understand, the first being the relatively short working distance for macro work. At 16.3 cm, it is too close to photograph easily-spooked subjects. It's also a little short for situations when artificial lighting is required, either in the form of flash or LED lights.

      Build and Ergonomics
       Despite being made mainly of black polycarbonate (plastic), the overall build quality of this lens is very good for its price. Its mounting plate is metal and the front element is recessed by about 1.5 cm, which makes the lens hood unnecessary for general shooting.

      For macro work, however, the hood will help to shield the front of the lens from side lighting. However, it can cast a shadow across the subject at high magnifications and will block the light from flashguns and ring flashes.

      The front element doesn't rotate, allowing easy use of angle-critical attachments. But  the inner barrel extends up to 20 mm as the front groups of elements move forward to focus when you shift to closer focusing distances. (The rear groups remain fixed in place.)

      The focusing ring is an 18 mm wide band just behind the leading edge of the outer barrel. It has a ridged rubber coating that provides a secure grip.  The ring turns through roughly 120 degrees. There's no aperture ring, a feature indicated by the G designation.

      A distance scale is located just behind the focusing ring, with distances in metres and feet plus reproduction ratios. Aside from the infinity setting, the longest distance marking is 0.4 metres and the shortest is 0.163 metres. Neither a depth-of-field scale nor an infrared focus index is provided.

      Closer to the camera and around the left hand side of the outer barrel are two slider switches. The top one is the M/A and M focus mode switch, while the lower one sets  the focus limits. There are two positions: Full and Infinity to 0.2 metres, the latter reducing the focus travel distance by half. There's no way to set the lens manually to focus at infinity; you must rely on the camera's AF system.

      Performance
      Overall performance on the D7100 was very good. Autofocusing was reasonably fast and accurate but we found a small amount of 'play' in the manual focus mode, which could make it difficult to fine-tune focus, particularly when the image was magnified in Live View mode.

      Focusing with macro subjects was challenging, particularly at 1:1 magnification and the maximum aperture is reduced at macro distances, to the degree shown in the table below.

      Reproduction ratio

      Maximum aperture

      1:1

      f/4.2

      1:3

      f/3.2

      1:10

      f/3

      Greater than 1:10

      f/2.8

      Centre-of-field sharpness was excellent at wide apertures and edge sharpness was also very good improving to excellent when slightly stopped down. Imatest confirmed our subjective assessments and showed the review lens to be capable of matching expectations for the D7100's 24-megapixel sensor with JPEG files and slightly exceeding expectations with NEF.RAW files. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
       

       
       Lateral chromatic aberration was mostly in the ‘low’ band, dipping into the 'negligible' band at wider apertures. In the graph of our Imatest results below, the red line marks the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.

       
       Distortion was also effectively negligible. Some vignetting was evident at the widest apertures, as you would expect from a fast prime lens, although it had vanished by f/5.6. In-camera corrections for both defects are available in the latest Nikon camera bodies.

      Bokeh was generally attractive. Backgrounds were rendered very smoothly in the main, although bright out-of-focus highlights showed some signs of outlining. However, the overall effect was not unpleasant.

      The main issue with this lens is the short working distance and the problems it can create. At 1:1 magnification, there's approximately three centimetres between the front of the lens and the subject. This makes it almost impossible to photograph active invertebrates, although passive ones can be photographed relatively easily and you usually have time to set up the camera on a tripod and utilise small apertures to provide the necessary depth of field.

      If you're on a tight budget and want an affordable macro lens, this lens will fill the bill and we can recommend it to photographers making their first steps into true macro photography. Compact, lightweight and optically competent, it also doubles and a normal prime lens on a Nikon DX camera.

       

      SPECS

       

       Picture angle: 38 degrees 50 minutes
       Minimum aperture: f/22
       Lens construction: 9 elements in 7 groups
       Lens mounts: Nikon F
       Diaphragm Blades: 7 (rounded)
       Focus drive: Silent Wave AF motor
       Stabilisation: No
       Minimum focus: 16.3 cm
       Maximum magnification: 1:1
       Filter size:  52 mm
       Dimensions (Diameter x L): Approx. 68.5 x 64.5 mm
       Weight: Approx. 235 grams

       

      TESTS

       (Based on JPEG files from the Nikon D7100.)

       

      SAMPLES

       

       

       Vignetting at f/2.8.
       
       

      Rectilinear distortion.

      1/200 second at f/7.1; ISO 400.
       
       

      1/100 second at f/6.3; ISO 400.
       
       

      1/100 second at f/7.1; ISO 400.
       
       

      1/200 second at f/8; ISO 800.
       
       

      1/400 second at f/3.2; ISO 800.
       
       

      1/160 second at f/4.5; ISO 800.
       
       

      1/80 second at f/4.5; ISO 200.
       

      1/60 second at f/11; ISO 1600.
       
       

      1/60 second at f/5; ISO 640.
       
       

      1/80 second at f/5; ISO 800. 1:1  reproduction ratio.
       
       

      1/60 second at f/6.3; ISO 1000.
       

      1/40 second at f/8; ISO 1600.

      Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Nikon D7100

       

      Rating

      RRP: n/a.  ASP: AU$340; US$300

      • Build: 8.5
      • Handling: 8.8
      • Image quality: 9.0
      • Versatility: 8.3

       

       

      BUY

        No