I have a D700 which I'm not planning to replace at this point in Nikon's product cycle. I'll porbably buy the D800's successor. Not because I don't like the D800 (especially its usability improvements around focus mode switching and Live View, which don't seem to have attracted much attention) but because I can't justify the cost when there are too few things the D800 does that the D700 doesn't.

Anyway, although I'm keeping the D700 for now, I'm planning to buy a wide-angle prime so that I end up with this in my bag: D700, SB-800, 105mm micro, 50mm, wide-angle.

I need to choose a wide-angle lens. The 14-24 is a great lens, but too big for me to routinely carry it. So I'm going to buy a wide-angle prime. However, I don't want to buy a prime now that turns out to be disappointing on the replacement body I eventually buy.

As for focal length, the 35mm is a lens I could like but it's too close to the 50mm for me to seriously consider buying it. Hence I'm looking at the 20mm - 28mm focal length range. Which Nikon primes have sufficient micro-contrast to work well with bodies with a finer pixel pitch at full frame (I'm going to assume for the sake of the discussion that that is what the D800 successor will be like: FX, high resolution)?

I'm going to assume that the 24mm f/1.4 is going to be among the suggestions, and in fact Nikon points it out in the technical guide for the D800 as being suitable for use with the D800E. It's heavy and expensive so I worry that in practice I'd leave it behind with the 14-24. So I'm interested in my other likely options.

Budget is important for recommending the right choice. But I'm pretty flexible for a reason: new lenses will be launched between now and the launch of the D800's successor. So maybe the right approach is to buy something less expensive now and upgrade later to some not-yet-existing lens. The principle I'm going to operate on is that I'm OK with buying a lens now, that's actually not suitable for the D800's successor at up to €400. I'd just sell if that seems like the right thing to do, and not worry about losing some of its value on the re-sale. On the other hand, if I'm going to spend more than €500 I don't want to plan to replace the lens.

My planned uses are principally travel photography, interior shots, architecture, some environmental portraits.

What do you say?

  • A Nikon shooting friend of mine has the Nikkor 24 f/1.4 and I would not call it a big lens? I have the Canon 24 f/1.4L II and they are about the same size, but I have no problems taking it around. The Nikkor 14-24 is a great suggestion, my only concern would be not the size of it but just about the possibility of damaging the bulbous front element. If indeed it is to be used as a walkaround... When it comes to the D800, you're going to want the absolute best optics you can get your hands on.
    – Mike
    Feb 20, 2012 at 12:38
  • 2
    You might want to rethink the 35mm. It's not an extreme focal length, but it is quite a bit different in character from 50mm.
    – mattdm
    Feb 20, 2012 at 14:31
  • Two years later, I'm not sure this question is helping anybody. It was largely based on speculation about a future which is now the past.....
    – mattdm
    Feb 25, 2014 at 21:17

5 Answers 5


My suggestion would be that you hold off on a wide prime if you're buying it for the future. Any of them are okay if you're looking to match them with the D700's sensor, but the D800 (and, one would assume, its successor models) has about the same pixel density on the sensor as the D7000, and the Nikkor full-frame wide angles are showing their age on that model (and not well, either). They're not particularly sharp at the corners, and display significant vignetting already -- and that doesn't account for performance at the edges of a full-frame sensor. If you can, try to get some feedback from people who've tried them on a D3X, but I wouldn't expect any rave reviews.

Since Nikon has decided to step into the miniature medium format world -- using a sensor that's verging on the very edge of even theoretically perfect lens performance -- and their stable of full-frame wide-angle primes is getting a little long in the tooth, I'd expect to see some newer design trickling in over the next few years. So buy for the short term rather than for the future if you're waiting for a successor to a model that isn't actually shipping yet -- something that might show its age on a D800 could be the best thing that ever happened to your D700. And get the focal length you need rather than worrying about which one is "best" -- the best lens is the one that lets you take the pictures you want to take, not the one with the best specs, build quality or handling.

  • This is probably true for ultra-wide but the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G is pretty recently refreshed....
    – mattdm
    Feb 21, 2012 at 3:13
  • @mattdm -- Good point, but I've never really looked at the 35 as a "wide"; it's always been a "short normal" to me. Probably because I came into the 135 film world from 6x6 TLRs, where the normal 80mm just about splits the difference between the 35mm and 50mm in the 135/35mm format. (The Pentax 40s always seemed "more normal" to me than either, but I shot Minolta and Canon after leaving the screw mount behind.)
    – user2719
    Feb 21, 2012 at 3:25

The only Nikon wide prime I've used extensively was the 20mm f2.8D, which I really liked in my film days. The 24mm f2.8D was nice but after borrowing it a few times I decided 20 fit me better. Of course, at the time I never gave a whole lot of consideration to things like distortion, CA, or falloff, so I can't really say how they'd perform on a DSLR.

Something that jumps out at me from your question: architecture and interiors are likely best served by a 24mm PC (tilt/shift) lens. If those are important uses, I'm not sure there's anything else to consider. Getting wider than 28mm or 35mm is going to introduce some more significant distortion requiring (at the minimum) more careful use.

It's also worth pointing out that a lens won't perform worse on a D800 than a D700. It will likely show off more of the lenses limitations but that doesn't mean it won't be acceptable for a higher resolution camera. If you've followed much of the D800 talk you've seen the technical guide Nikon released, which really emphasizes that technique is the most important aspect to getting the best results with the D800. Of course, that's exactly true with any other camera, too.

I'm not sure any of that is actually helpful! :)

  • The 24mm PC lens is about the same size as the 14-24 which I don't usually take anyway. Besides, I think that PC lenses are really only very useful on a tripod. While I do have a tripod, I won't have it with me all the time (for example I normally don't fly with it). Feb 20, 2012 at 15:44

I think your only option is the 20mm F2.8D which is exactly what I got and chose after considering the 3 main factors.

Was it wide enough? Yes

Was it light and easy to carry? Yes

and Was it affordable? Yes

I've only used it on my D90 at present but I will be buying the D800 and the 20mm will be my walkaround lens.

I too have the same ideas as you for the perfect setup 20mm 50mm F1.8D and Tokina 100mm f2.8. I have all 3 lenses now and I'm just waiting for the D800 to spring into action.

This was taken with my D90 + 20mm aperture priority F5.9 shutter speed 13 seconds iso 400

D90 + 20mm F2.8D


i have a 24 1.8 sigma which i think teams nicly with 50 1.4 and my 100 2.8. i also have a 28 2.8 nikon. i have a d800e but i am looking still for something in the 18mm range because i like to 45-90-45 triangle that 18mm makes on full frame...


As a D800 and 14-24mm owner, let me tell you that this is an excellent match. If the 14-24mm is too heavy/big to be your everyday lens, the only prime I would recommend to you is the 24mm f/1.4, which is as sharp as a scalpel. If you consider the 35mm, look for the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. On the contrary, if you're looking towards ultra-wide angles, check the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 which is above the Nikon 20mm in IQ.

Moreover, you want to check Nikon's recommendations for best lenses to match the D800 excellence requirements : any of them are likely to be at least very good on the D800's successor.

Link : list is on the 18th page (number 16).

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