Small, affordable and with a minimum focus of 16.3cm, Nikon’s 40mm f/2.8 micro lens may be suitable for more than just macro images. Richard Sibley finds out what it can do
Why a 40mm focal length?
A focal length of 40mm is a strange length for a macro lens. As we have already discussed, at the closest 1:1 focus distance the subject is around 5cm away from the front of the lens. This can cause problems when lighting the subject, and also make taking pictures of bugs and insects more challenging than it need be.
Most macro photographers shoot using 105mm, 150mm and even 200mm lenses. These focal lengths allow the photographer to be much further away from the subject, making it easier to place lights between the camera and subject. At this distance it is also less likely that insects will be scared away. So why would a 40mm macro lens be a good idea?
First, having a wider angle of view gives images a more natural perspective, making us feel closer to the subject.. While the narrower view of a longer focal length may allow the photographer to stand further away, less of the subject’s surroundings will be captured in the image, making us feel more distant.
The lens offers the equivalent field of view of a 60mm lens on a 35mm, full-frame camera. In the past, Nikon has produced 55mm macro lenses and currently has a 60mm macro lens in its line up. The 40mm optic therefore provides a DX equivalent to these lenses.
Another factor is that not everyone who enjoys macro photography takes pictures of insects that will be scared away if they get too close. Although lighting may still be a little awkward, for those who photograph documents, stamps and textures, the close-focus distance is less of a concern. The
relatively simple design of the lens also allows distortions to be kept to a minimum – something that is crucial for those photographing flat subjects for archival purposes.
The autofocus range lock on the side of the lens also hints at why Nikon has introduced the optic. By not using the macro range of the lens, it becomes a ‘standard’ model. For those Nikon users with DX-format cameras who are considering buying a 50mm focal-length optic, but who also would like the ability to photograph macro subjects, the Nikkor 40mm f/2.8 lens could fulfil both these requirements, albeit with compromises, such as the close-focus distance and the slightly larger f/2.8, rather than f/1.8, aperture of a standard 50mm lens.
Another reason why Nikon has introduced this lens is its affordability. At around £250, the Nikkor 40mm f/2.8 is aimed squarely at those who may otherwise feel that a Micro Nikkor macro lens is out of their price range. Virtually doubling up as both a macro and standard lens, the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G looks to be a good-quality, affordable macro optic for enthusiast photographers.