I've had my D800 for about a year now, and have paired it most often with the 135mm F2 DC (reviewed on the old forum), and the pro 24-70mm f2.8, for client work and special events. For the latter, there's no denying the versatility of the range, quality of optics and build strength of the mid-range pro zoom. But several client events during the long, dark winter raised a number of issues that, particularly at the wide end of the range, I believe are better addressed by another solution.
After renting and working with the superb 14-24mm f2.8, I decided against purchase (at this time hahaha) based on cost, weight, filters, and an rare need to apply 14mm on the job. I can rent again if that is needed.
So I bought a refurbished Nikkor 24mm f1.4 from Adorama at about $1,750. It is a lot of money, but I am sure it will pay off, based on the versatility and assets it brings to the job.
Here's what I am enjoying about the Nikkor 24mm F1.4 lens vs the Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8:
- Close focusing. The close-focusing capability of the 24mm Prime makes a significant difference to engage the subject and draw the user into the frame. It's a bigger difference than I expected. I don't know the exact numbers, but after using it, it became apparent that some shots and perspectives are simply unavailable with the big mid-zoom at 24mm vs the 24mm Prime. This is very useful in product shots and creative expressions.
- Low Light. The primary benefit. This lens focuses better in low light, and allows for more hand-held shots, more often without flash, because of the 6 stops beyond 2.8, all the way to wide open at 1.4. There were several events that stretched into evening, twilight, and intimate light where the big 2.8, while good, was not great. This lens is great and gives me more confidence that I will get the scene and the shot properly framed and allow the intimately lit moments to be rendered properly.
- Depth of Field qualities: The effortless way this lens captures the subject and throws the rest out with that shallow DOF plane at f1.4 - 2.8 is opening up many more creative applications. Basically, you use this lens almost exclusively at F1.4 (or, depending on whether a sliver is too thin of DOF, down a few clicks), and the results produce images you can pick out of a lineup, and become favorites. The bokeh is quite nice at the rear, with small blue and red LED's rendered as nice round christmas ornament impressions, for example.
- Video: for all the above reasons, the 24mm f1.4 is going to be very useful on video -- for simple interview work to special product/logo placement, to scene setting follow focus use.
And of course, it is smaller and lighter, and also has strong build quality & weather sealing. It is comfortable to use on the D800, and since my perspective is using the larger mid-zoom, I don't have any feeling of "gee this is a big lens for 24mm".
It remains to be seen under what circumstances the 24-70 will end up on the camera, because I do have a 50mm f1.8 prime and prefer the amazing 135mm f2.0 DC for normal and portrait use, and am enjoying the "commitment" you get when you put a Prime lens on your camera and can focus creatively on other decisions. Either of those on the d800, or even on a 2nd body D7000, give fine results in low light as well. Still, the versatility of the zoom is valuable on the job.
But now, I can say this. With the 24mm f1.4, I fear no darkness!
Where will this lead? Probably to 85mm f1.4!