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I've used AF-D lenses (with screw drive) on my D40 as a manual focus lens that meters, has focus indication etc. However, I want to know if there are modern lenses that are meant for manual focus (i.e. they have a nice dampened ergonomic focus ring) and have a chip, so that they will meter and give focus indication just fine. I'm looking for both prime and zoom lenses in the normal to short telephoto lens for APS-C (18-135mm). Thanks!

UPDATE (In response to @mattia): My specific interest is low-light candid portraits. I'm looking for cheaper high quality glass and am wondering if manual focus lenses are the ticket to this.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Short answer: no.
Long answer: As of now Nikon is producing and selling some "modern" MF lenses, they're all primes:

20mm f/2.8
24mm f/2.8
28mm f/2.8
35mm f/1.4
50mm f/1.2
50mm f/1.4
55mm f/2.8 Micro

I'm not sure about the 105mm f/2.8 Micro.

Also they make three tilt-shift lenses which they call PC-E, in 24mm, 45mm and 85mm focal lengths. These are MF, with some added feature, like "One-touch preset aperture operation" (I don't know what it means), and some problems, e.g. you can't mount all of them on some cameras, because of the shape of the barrel.

http://www.nikonsupport.eu/europe/Manuals/DrdIaQvRZv/LCC2.6.1En.xls
This chart shows all cameras "below" the D300 don't even meter with MF lenses, while from the D300 "up" you get center metering. Color metering can be done giving the camera some data about the lens. Matrix metering can't be done. Recording focus distance is not even mentioned, but we can take it one such thing doesn't exist on MF lenses, as they supposedly have no electronics involved in focusing.
As for focus indications, you always have that, but in my experience it's just a blinking dot (as opposed to the "electronic rangefinder") if you are in M mode, which is the only way to shoot your camera with MF lenses.

http://www.nikonsupport.eu/europe/Manuals/672348BSSd1pQYo/MFLens_En.pdf
You can have a look at this to a list of Nikon MF lenses (both zooms and primes), maybe some of those will fit your needs.

Also the best AF-S lenses have a good smooth focusing ring, but they're expensive, and it would be overkill to get one of those just for MF work.

Anyway if you work in a controlled environment, or at least you can take your time, it's not hard to live with the limitations of older half-compatible MF lenses. Even nailing the exposure is quite easy (at least, easier than focus, if you don't do still life). I'm curious: what kind of shots do you want to do that make you favour MF lenses?

Update: I just found by chance Voigtländer has some nice CPU equipped F-mount lenses, but they sure don't come cheap, even though they're not very expensive.
Also I saw Paul Pacurar's answer, and it dawned on me that in my answer I had not even considered brands other than Nikon.
Samyang has really good prices for what they do, but if you just want to spend little money and have some nice lens you're better off with old Nikon lenses than with any other brand.
E.g. Tokina makes amazing lenses at good prices, I've been drooling over their 11-16mm/2.8, even thought I'm not a heavy wide-angle user, but it's still some money, and it's getting more expensive and harder to find.
Tamron and Sigma make some great stuff and some sh*tty stuff, still it's all priced accordingly. No "out-of-fashion-still-great" bargains, generally speaking.

One thing you may find interesting, as you were looking for an 85mm/1.8, is Tamron's 90mm 2.8 AF macro, everybody says it's very good, and it's as cheap as it gets for a fast prime lens in that focal length range. Not as fast as 1.8, but quite appealing for portraits, at least to me. Also, I'm looking forward to get an old used 100mm/3.5 macro Cosina rebranded Voigtländer at a local shop. I wouldn't call that a fast lens, but you can get it for really really cheap and it gets nice reviews.

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I have an impure reason :). I have heard rumors that older MF lenses are more sturdily built and can be had for cheap second hand. I'm a rank amateur but I really enjoy taking candid shots of family members in low light situations (you know, I'm the family documentarian). I don't care for flash. So I'm into fast lenses but for cheap(er) that have a decent focal length. I have a 50mm/1.8 AF-D which for all its plastic cosntruction is pretty good and I have a 35mm/1.8 which I really like. I'm looking into an 85mm/1.8 but even second hand they go for like $250 on ebay! –  Kaushik Ghose Sep 19 '13 at 12:52
1  
@KaushikGhose Yep, they're not cheap. But as far as GOOD lenses go, 250 is cheap and really worth it. That said, I think the AF-D lenses are great: built tough, plastic just on the outside, great optics and in most cases they cost less than any other equivalent older or newer nikon lens. However some old MF Nikon lens can be bought (used) for less, say about 100€ (I know prices in euros). Maybe in the end it's cheaper to get a D80 or D90 and buy AF-D lenses... much better quality for the price, compared to new (cheap) stuff, and easier to get than good MF. –  MattiaG Sep 19 '13 at 21:10
1  
@KaushikGhose I have a couple old Nikon lenses that I like a lot, but I always end up shooting with the 35mm/1.8 AF-S DX. I'd like to be able to afford something else, but it really doesn't feel limiting to have just that, and I'm happy to use it all the time. Have you checked it out? –  MattiaG Sep 19 '13 at 21:12
    
Yes, I do have the 35mm/1.8 AF-S DX and I totally use it most of the time. Most of the shots I love come from using that lens. –  Kaushik Ghose Sep 19 '13 at 23:42
    
@KaushikGhose Hope I was of some help and hope you find the right gear, have fun :) –  MattiaG Sep 20 '13 at 12:14

Samyang is doing that. They also have (or have been copied) re branded as Vivitar or others. I had the 85 1.4 for Nikon.

peleng8.com makes chips to help with 'auto' exposure or focus confirmation.

Nikons do not need focus confirmation, but the chip helps if you need some exposure indications for 40d.

To see the market, I recommend you to search on ebay (samyang 85 1.4, 35 1.4 and so on)

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Go to your local camera store, and see what they have in used lenses. I've bought many manual focus Nikon lenses, all F-mount of course. They are much less expensive than modern auto-everything lenses.

I used a Nikkor 50mm F1.4 for years as my only lens. Worked great.

Be warned, that most modern DSLRs have a focus screen that is designed for auto-focus, and you really need a screen designed for manual focus (I like split prism, others like micro-prism). So include the cost of a new focus screen in your budget.

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