Any digital photographer looking for a fixed focal-length macro lens that is compatible with both FX- and DX-format cameras will want to examine the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Macro Nikkor closely. It’s a versatile lens for many types of photography, including close-ups and copy projects, with virtually all upside and very little downside. This lens is not without competition, as the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro can be paired with FX and DX bodies, and Tamron's 60mm f/2.0 Di II LD (IF) Macro is also DX format compatible. The Tamron is a faster lens at f/2.0 and has internal focusing, but both it and the Sigma lack the primary feature that sets the Nikon 60mm apart.
Read real customer reviews of the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Macro Nikkor here.
What the Nikon 60mm Macro brings to the table is the company’s proprietary Silent Wave Motor (SWM) that provides precise, high-speed and silent auto-focus operation and Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat technology that stops virtually all internal reflections at many wavelengths, which results in excellent image quality. This lens’ macro capability is from infinity to life-size (1:1 reproduction ratio) with constant auto-focus.
The Nikon 60mm Macro is also a winner in terms of its design components. Much of the lens is made from high quality plastics, with a metal lens mount. The mount assembly also includes a rubber gasket, presumably to protect the interior of the lens from dust and
moisture, although Nikon doesn’t state unequivocally that the lens is sealed against all weather or other foreign objects. The focus ring is sufficiently wide for the hand and is covered in rubber. In addition, the front element does not rotate, so graduated and polarizing filters, macro ring flashes and Nikon's Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System can easily be used. The lens also includes a deep, circular hood.
Lens operation is smooth and free, but fine adjustments can be easily made, and hold their positions, because the rotation is firm. Even with all this functionality, the Nikon 60mm Macro weighs just less than a pound (425g) and is extremely stable on a Nikon D700 camera, whether or not you use the MB-D10 battery grip.
Image sharpness from the Nikon 60mm Macro is, of course, a function of the aperture setting. At f/2.8, the center of the frame can be graded “very good,” while the edges are in the “good” range. As you move towards smaller apertures, image quality continues to be better, with f/5.6 producing the sharpest picture in the center and the edges of the frame. Diffraction starts to affect resolution beyond f/5.6, but, even at f/22, sharpness is very satisfactory.
An ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass element significantly reduces chromatic aberration at any f-stop and throughout the image, producing ultra sharpness and accurate color. You’ll have to look very closely to see any fringing and it may be totally undetectable, as it is only 0.4 pixel in width at the center of the frame below f/11.
Fixed focal-length lenses tend to control barrel distortion very well; and what little of it in the Nikon 60mm Macro is easily corrected in editing software. As well as Nikon’s Nano Crystal coating, this lens also includes Super Integrated Coating (SIC), which aids in reducing ghosting and flare and adding punch to color rendition.
The downsides of the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Macro Nikkor Lens are not major obstacles. Falloff into the corners is very evident on full frame, with the corners at 3.3 stops darker than the center. You must select an aperture between f/5.6 and f/8 before consistent illumination is produced.
Although the lens focuses rather quickly, a focus-limiter switch would have been nice, so the lens wouldn’t run through the full focus range when contrast or light levels are low.
The Nikon 60mm f/2.8G Macro lens is a superior competitor in its features and capabilities, excellent performance parameters and an affordable price at $550 to $600. If macro photography is one of your favorites, or a new field that you want to take seriously, then this is the lens for you.