Nikkor AF-S DX Micro 40mm f/2.8G: A Tiny Wonderland


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

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

Ambarin Afsar gets up close and personal with the Nikkor AF-S DX Micro 40mm f/2.8G to see whether it performs well despite its low price.

The Nikkor AF-S DX Micro 40mm f/2.8G is an entry-level addition to Nikon’s lineup of macro lenses. Since it is an AF-S model, it is capable of autofocus on any entry-level DX body including the D40, D3100 and D5100. It is also cheaper than any third party lens offering 1:1 magnification. Mounted on a DX body, the Nikkor 40mm delivers an equivalent focal length of 60mm (in 35mm parlance), making it slightly longer than a normal lens.

Short macro lenses are compact, lightweight, priced attractively, and can work just as well as everyday normal primes. What I intended to find out was whether the Nikkor 40mm provided anything exceptional to the macro photographer on a budget.

Nikon states that the lens has a working distance of about 6 inches from the sensor plane to achieve life-size magnification. This is, indeed true, and makes 1:1 macro work challenging, as there is not enough room to work.

This also means that quite often, the light between the lens and the subject will be blocked. So, shooting extremely tiny insects becomes very difficult. For true macro work, the other lenses in Nikon’s macro lineup, such as the 105mm f/2.8 VR and the 200mm f/4 are much better options.

Typical for any G-type lens, the lens does not offer an aperture ring. However, it does offer a decent focus scale, which comes in quite handy and is a must for macro photography. The lens also features a focus limiter switch that limits the focus from infinity to 0.2m. This can come in quite handy when not shooting 1:1 photos.

At the closest focusing distance, the widest aperture available is f/4.2 or whereabouts. This is expected since all macro lenses get slower when focused closely. The 40mm features a 7-bladed diaphragm unit that offers soft, pleasant bokeh.

The ergonomics and the build quality of the Nikkor 40mm are in line with Nikon’s newer prime offerings. Though the lens is built out of plastic based on a metal mount, it feels quite sturdy. The focus ring is large and feels quite snug. It is also quite accurate and is a pleasure to use while doing macro work. However, fine tuning focus while in the magnified Live View mode can be a little challenging.

On the upside, the ring can be easily accessed to use manual override without disengaging the M/A switch. While you can use the onboard flash to fill light, in certain cases, the flash can cause deep shadows at the corners.

Despite being an entry-level macro lens, the Nikkor 40mm is superbly sharp even at f/2.8. When stopped down, the centre gets even sharper and the lens remains sharp at narrower apertures, which is quite critical for macro photography. The sweet spot of the lens is around f/8.

Vignetting is probably at its worst when the lens is focused at infinity and gradually disappears as magnification increases. At 1:1, vignetting is virtually nonexistent. I did not perceive any fringing even while shooting wide open. Ghosting and flaring, too, were incredibly controlled, even while pointing the lens directly at the sun.

As for autofocus, the Nikkor 40mm’s Silent Motor Wave is quite precise, but also somewhat sluggish. While shooting macros, a slower AF means that it is less likely to hunt and more likely to be accurate. However, while making portraits or doing any general shooting, the sluggish AF can be annoying. Here is also where the focus limiter switch comes into play. As long as you know when to employ it, you will be satisfied with the AF speed.

Priced at an affordable amount of Rs. 16,850, the Nikkor 40mm f/2.8 is a fantastic normal lens with extreme close-up capabilities. It has great optics in a compact, lightweight yet sturdy package. However, it might not be the best idea for dedicated macro photography. For that, you would do better to get a 105mm or 200mm macro lens. 

The lens offers great sharpness and contrast even at narrow apertures. Exposure: 1/400sec at f/14 (ISO 1600). Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

The lens offers great sharpness and contrast even at narrow apertures. Exposure: 1/400sec at f/14 (ISO 1600). Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Final Ratings
1:1 macro, offers manual override

Incredibly sharp, not prone to fringing or flare

Build Quality
Metal mount, good build quality

Focus limiter switch, snug manual focus ring

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, six master service centres

Value For Money: 3.5/5 stars

Who Should Buy It?
Anyone who is looking for a cost-effective normal lens that shoots macros.

While primarily a macro lens, the working distance is too close for comfortable macro shooting. However, as a normal lens, it offers great value for money.

Tags: Ambarin Afsar, nikon, Normal Lens, Macro Lens, Macro Photography, april 2012, Nikkor AF-S DX Micro 40mm f/2.8G, Arpil 2012, DX lens, 1:1 magnification