At its asking price, the image quality that the Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G ($279.95) delivers is staggering. It’s a macro lens with a slightly longer than standard-angle field of view, life-size magnification at its closest focus distance, and excellent image quality. Its only real downsides are a lack of optical stabilization, and that its APS-C design limits the resolution that it captures when paired with a full-frame Nikon camera, so you may want to think about a different macro lens if you see yourself upgrading to a full-frame camera in the future. But when used with an APS-C Nikon like the D3300 with which we tested it, it’s a winner, and an easy pick for our Editors’ Choice award.
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The lens itself is compact, measuring just 2.7 by 2.5 inches (HD), and light at 9.9 ounces. Its front element accepts 52mm filters, and a reversible bayonet hood is included with the lens. As a macro you’d expect it to focus close, and it doesâlocking onto objects that are just 6.4 inches from the camera’s sensor. The 40mm does a fine job as a longer, but still standard-angle prime; there’s a focus limiter switch that will prevent it from hunting for focus at distances closer than 7.9 inches. The only other switch on the lens barrel toggles between manual focus and autofocus.
There’s no image stabilization, but that’s not a common feature in a lens of this type. Canon’s EF-S 50mm f/2.8 Macro USM ($469.99) doesn’t have it, and the only reason that images shot with the excellent Pentax HD DA 35mm F2.8 Macro Limited are stabilized is because that feature is built into the body of Pentax cameras rather than the lenses.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness and distortion that the 40mm exhibits when paired with the 24-megapixel D3300. There’s no distortion of which to speak, as you would expect from a good macro. It’s also quite sharp; at f/2.8 the lens scores 2,245 lines per picture height on a center-weighted test, which is better than the 1,800 lines we require to call an image sharp. That level of image quality is consistent through most of the frame, with just some drop-off at the edges, which show 1,902 lines. The lens gets progressively sharper as it’s stopped down, showing 2,744 lines at f/4 and 2,832 lines at f/8. Edges do stay a couple hundred lines below the center-weighted average regardless of aperture, but when working at the narrow apertures that go hand-in-hand with macro shooting they are plenty sharp.
I was very impressed with the images that the Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G delivered, especially when its price point is taken into account. When you add in the fact that it’s well-built, but light, and compatible with Nikon’s established camera system, the lens is an easy Editors’ Choice. It’s not quite perfect; the lack of image stabilization is a downer, and if you move to a Nikon full-frame system you’ll want to trade up to a macro lens that covers an FX sensor. But those who are happily shooting away using the Nikon APS-C DX system won’t have to worry about that.
Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G