The Sharpest Lens in My Bag

The 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro-Nilkkor.
The 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro-Nilkkor.

As any decent photographer knows, there are a lot of factors that go into making a good lens. Handling, color rendition, bokeh, focus speed, flare, build quality, and so on. One significant factor is sharpness, and it’s significant for two reasons.

  1. Sharpness can help you make sharp photos.
  2. Sharpness is one of the most over-emphasized qualities of a lens.

I cite the second reason because lens sharpness is easy to turn into a goal unto itself, which obscures the real goal of our craft, making images. It can also be somewhat misleading, since some of the world’s crappiest lenses are sharp in certain circumstances.

Plum sharp: I made this image in my orchard a couple of days ago with my 60mm.
Plum sharp: I made this image in my orchard a couple of days ago with my 60mm.

With that said, I will add that I have owned some amazing lenses over the decades, many quite sharp, and sharp when I needed them to be, like wide open in low light at marginal shutter speeds.

In my pantheon of imaging, though, the lens with the actual, absolute, “wow this is amazing” sharpness in my bag is the 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro-Nikkor. I didn’t buy it on purpose. It came with a camera I bought on eBay a couple of years ago.

This thing continues to dazzle me every time I pick it up, even though that’s not all that often since it’s not a great focal length. I sometimes have to search for a reason to use it, but when I do, yikes, this thing is good. Another bonus characteristic of this lens is the straight nine-bladed aperture, which creates dazzling 18-point sunstars.

If you happen upon one at a bargain price, I recommend it.

This is a 100% crop of an old camera I photographed yesterday. Notice the fine detail in the chromed steel rings, and even a bit of moiré from the intense resolving power of the 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro Nikkor.
This is a 100% crop of an old camera I photographed yesterday. Notice the fine detail in the chromed steel rings, and even a bit of moiré from the intense resolving power of the 60mm f/2.8 AF Micro Nikkor.
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2 Comments

  1. For what it’s worth, my sharpest lens is the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro, which is the cheapest new 1:1 macro lens I could find at the time.

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  2. I’m wondering what would be an extreme example of “some of the world’s crappiest lenses are sharp in certain circumstances.”

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