The Nikkor 4mm f/2.8 lens was first developed in 1999 and still today, they sell in the UK for circa £1300. Whilst the lens suffers from complex distortion, it has always performed well on every Nikon I’ve owned from the D80, D2x, D300, D300s, D700 and D3.
There were lots of rumours that the new Nikon D800 would cause issues with most lenses that could not provide the quality of optics needed for the new sensor. With this is mind, I have ran some test shots with the 4mm f/2.8. I’m also testing the Nikon 14-24mm, 16-35mm and Zeiss 21mm so will have a full comparison soon.
The D800 has a lower native ISO of 100 which means you will either have no problems because you use a tripod or you may find a higher frequency of times where if shooting in natural light, you suffer from camera shake even when shooting at f/2.8. Personally, I find that the D800 changes some of the rules that we may have come to rely on, especially gauging shutter speed. I used to work on the principle that shutter speed should be higher than the focal length of the lens, for the D800, I now think it should be at least 1.5x the focal length otherwise when viewing the image at 100%, you may see some shake.
So the good news is, if you like shooting ultra wide, 4mm is a usable handheld focal length that can create some really stunning perspective shots.
Lets talk about the 4mm f/2.8. Its built like a tank, its sharp at f/4 upwards until natural diffraction occurs. The sweet spot of my 4mm is f/9, where everything across the frame is clear.
The downside is that the DOF is not as creamy as I would like (picky as its an ultra wide), f/2.8 is soft around the edges but clears up at f/4, its suffers from complex ‘moustache’ distortion, corners are really pulled in (or stretched out) and sometimes, 4mm is a little too wide but thats just my preference.
After shooting this lens on the D800, take the rumours from the internet and forget about them – they are just noise. The 4mm f/2.8 performs really well on the D800, despite its negative points which would be the same on any DSLR. If you are a digital artist or SOOC, you will get good results. I’ll focus on the former as its my point of interest.
The 4mm f/2.8 has produced the cleanest HDR images I’ve seen – detail across the frame is outstanding. Image IQ (sharpness) is on par with the 14-24mm f/2.8 however I think it lacks a little contrast and sharpness in comparison with the 16-35mm. Whilst you will probably shoot this lens at infinity anyway, AF is quick and accurate. For digital designers or concept artists looking to produce photo realistic art work for computer games etc, the only thing you will have to watch out for when producing work that stitches together into frame mapping or states is the corner distortion, natural on a lens as wide as the 4mm – but if I can do it, then I’m sure you can and a quick photoshop action with around 8% crop will sort out all your corners.
So as usual, what we find the that one person on the internet has an assumption that assumption turns into a million voices and we dont do the things we want because of it. If you want a ultrawide, built like a tank, pro, sharp prime for your D800 then the 4mm f/2.8 is a very good contender.
- Pro built, all metal
- Sharp from f/4
- Great optical quality
- Fast AF
- Far smaller than the 16-35mm and 14-24mm, much better for travel photography
- Complex distortion
- Soft edges at f/2.8
Hope that helps kill some of the myths…