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Nikon 85mm f/1.4D IF AF Nikkor

1933NAS_180
Review Date: Oct 23, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,000.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Amazing sharpness, build quality, weight, bokeh. Balances perfectly on a D300.
Cons:
Slow to focus in certain situations.

This lens is fan-freaking-tastic for portraits. It throws the backgrounds into a very pleasing blur and keeps the subject super sharp. I've joked with my friends that they need to do a better job of cleaning their pores after retouching portraits of them.

It balances wonderfully on my D300, and I am usually hesitant to take it off.

Only downside is that it is quite slow to focus on quickly moving subjects (I suspect this is due to the older AF-D style focus drive). This is especially true for subjects moving towards you. By the time it focus and snaps the shutter, the subject has moved too much to remain in focus.


 
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor

pic_001-1
Review Date: Oct 23, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Great image quality, sharpness. Great for macros (obviously) and portrait/headshots. No barrel extension.
Cons:
Hunts for focus in dim lighting, even with focus restriction on.

I borrowed this lens from a friend for a few months. I loved using it, and nearly ended up buying it myself (though I went with the 17-55 as a matter of practicality instead). It's still on my list of lenses to eventually get.

The focus distance is really nice and allows for some super tight frames. Additionally, I also used it during weddings as a short telephoto for portraits and headshots.

The biggest issue I saw is that it hunts a lot in low lighting. There is a focus restriction switch you can use when not shooting macro, but it doesn't go far enough in my opinion.


 
Nikon D300

d300
Review Date: Jul 29, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Build, AF, Image quality
Cons:
Weight, learning curve

I don't think you can quite appreciate the quality of the build of the D300 until you're forced to use something worse. I had purchased and used mine for just a few months when it got damaged in a flood. While I was awaiting a replacement I went back to using my old D50.

Don't get me wrong, I have a special place in my heart for the D50 (my first SLR), but it is certainly not a "pro" grade body. In regard to the D300, it felt cheaper and more ungainly to use. The shutter release in particular made me realize how much I missed the D300.

Thus, as many others have said, the D300 get's high marks for its durability and robustness. And I might be gushing here, but operation just feels "smooth" and the mirror/shutter produces such a satisfying "clack" when it fires.

The only catch I can think of is that the complexities of it can be a little daunting for the newcomer. It took me a while to really understand how the AF system works (and I still wonder if I have it down now). There are also tons of menu settings to dig through. Steep learning curves aren't necessarily bad though; once you make it to the top, you've conquered it.

When I realized I was going to have to replace my D300, I briefly considered springing for an FX set, but ended up getting another D300; the quality is still outstanding, and the price is still significantly lower (especially factoring in glass).