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Nikon 50mm f1.4 : which one ?
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

keyser1884 wrote:
My father in law lent me his non-Ai Nikkor-S.C. f/1.4 and I have to say I was a little dissapointed with the quality compared to the Pentax-M 1.4 that I have as a comparison. The Pentax was smaller, lighter and sharper. I'm aware that the 'M' lens wasn't the best 50mm f/1.4 Pentax produced either.


I had the Nikkor S.C. and want another one. It is not sharp at f1.4 but is very usable at f2, very sharp beyond that. Always maintains good contrast with neutral colours, very good greens and terracottas. Similar to the Super Tak 1.4, which is also not too sharp wide open but without the same character wide open, the Nikkor is not dreamy. Really snaps into focus easily as Arninetyes says. Have not tried the later Pentax 50s yet.


PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

William wrote:
I had the Nikkor S.C. and want another one. It is not sharp at f1.4 but is very usable at f2, very sharp beyond that. Always maintains good contrast with neutral colours, very good greens and terracottas. Similar to the Super Tak 1.4, which is also not too sharp wide open but without the same character wide open, the Nikkor is not dreamy. Really snaps into focus easily as Arninetyes says. Have not tried the later Pentax 50s yet.


I can come up with reasons why I like using the 1.4 S.C., but it doesn't really matter. I just like using it. While I have some interest in "sharp" lenses, and I really don't want an overly soft one, I don't get terribly worked up over which ones are best suited for pixel peeping. I'm more interested in the whole image. On the other hand, I'm no fan of lenses with excessive field curvature.

As for regretting switching from M42 to Nikon, I don't. However, I do miss my Super Tak 1.4--maybe that's why I prefer working with the S.C.: it isn't the same, but it does remind me of the Super Tak.

After my Pentax broke, I could have continued using the Super Tak on my Yashica TL Electro, but after using the Yashica as my only camera for over 15 years, I can't come up with any reason to ever use it again.


PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have tried the Nikkor-S which was beatuifully built, dreamy and nicely saturated, but not overly sharp.

Then I bought a 50mm F2 Ai, which is one of the best lenses I know. Often overlooked, but very sharp, great colours, wonderful Bokeh. I will never sell it.

As an addition, I bought a AF 50mm F1,4D, which is a good lens, and comes in handy for many snapshot purposes, but for slow photography I prefer the F2.


PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My first post here... I stumbled across this forum while searching for info on an older Kalimar(?) lens that is currently on a FedEx truck headed my way...

My main application for a fast fifty these days is on a DX body shooting live music. I happen to own the manual focus Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI, and it is now my favorite of all the normal lenses I've ever used in 25 years of photography (supplanting the 50mm f/1.8 AI). I just got it a few months ago to replace my battered AF-D version which I didn't like that much; I don't care for the feel of AF lens focus rings and for what I do manual focus is more accurate. However, I must say that the AF version held up very well to two weeks of abuse in the Costa Rican rainforest, including drying out under a heat lamp on one occasion! Both are a little soft wide-open.

Other normal-range lenses I've used:
Nikkor-S non-AI 55/1.2 (OK when you need the speed, not great)
Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8 (OK, didn't like the build quality - supposedly the AF version has the same optics but my AF 1.8 seemed sharper)
Nikkor-H non-AI 50mm f/2 (very good overall, my first lens)
Nikkor AI 50mm f/1.8 (a very nice lens even wide open)
Pentax Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 (love it, I've owned two... I've never used the older 55mm f/2 version I also have, it came with my S2 Super)


PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rthomas wrote:
My main application for a fast fifty these days is on a DX body shooting live music. I happen to own the manual focus Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI, and it is now my favorite of all the normal lenses I've ever used in 25 years of photography (supplanting the 50mm f/1.8 AI). I just got it a few months ago to replace my battered AF-D version which I didn't like that much; I don't care for the feel of AF lens focus rings and for what I do manual focus is more accurate. However, I must say that the AF version held up very well to two weeks of abuse in the Costa Rican rainforest, including drying out under a heat lamp on one occasion! Both are a little soft wide-open.

Both are also optically identical. The 'old' 50mm f/1.4 has used the same optics since 1976.

Personally, I believe the 50mm f/1.8 Ai/Ai-S is the best of the bunch.


PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esox lucius wrote:
...For what it's worth, above you'll find my view on how the different versions compare to each other. The oldest version Nikkor F 50/1.4 is not that great a performer wide open, to be polite.


I owned one for over 15 years that dated from the early to mid 90's. Would it qualify as one of the better/best or simply average. I think I remember you writing that a model introduced in ~2001 probably performed the best of them all. Personally, I was never overwhelmed with the 50/1,4 AIS and over time, began to use it infrequently. This changed when I bought the 50/1.2 on a whim...


PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

james wrote:
I think I remember you writing that a model introduced in ~2001 probably performed the best of them all. Personally, I was never overwhelmed with the 50/1,4 AIS and over time, began to use it infrequently. This changed when I bought the 50/1.2 on a whim...


You are referring to this comment, I presume?
http://forum.mflenses.com/viewtopic,p,1037171.html#1037171

Yes, I rank the 50/1.4 Ai-S version high, but not the best. Since I have nearly every 50mm lens ever made for Nikon F mount, I have over the years learned to distinguish them from each other. For full frame DSLR, my personal opinion of "the best" is narrowed down to the following four:

Nokton 58/1.4 has least geometric distortion and CA of them all, 50/1.2 Ai-S best bokeh (not only due to f/1.2 but rounded diaphragm and lens construction as well), 50/1.4G AF-S best useability in near darkness and 50/1.4 Ai-S for dimensionality in images.

esox lucius wrote:

Nikkor 50/1.4 Ai-S - top position if detail and 3D is the preference. My copy is the Japan only -version made after it was discontinued globally (in Dec 2005). Lens version has serial range 600xxxx

Nikkor 50/1.4G AF-S - top position if usability in low light is the preference. Very very nice bokeh, if not the best then at least in the top 3 bokeh 50-so lenses (50/1.2 Ai-S, 50/1.4G AF-S, Nokton 58/1.4)

Voigtlnder SL II 58/1.4 Nokton - enjoys the benefit of being narrower perspective, but nevertheless: well corrected, beautiful bokeh followed up with exquisite build quality and handling feel.

Nikkor 50/1.2 Ai-S - top position if bokeh and fingerprint is the preference. Performance declines close-up though, and wide open is modest but useable - saved by the fact that immediately at f/2 it is excellent. My copy is Japan only version, manufactured after it was officially discontinued (lens serial range is 400xxx )


PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, that's the one. The 50mm FL never excited me though Barnack thought it ideal. At 50, my 24-70 works rather well and the 50/1.2 works rather provocatively, in other words, artistically. The bokeh and sharpness is stellar at f/2, to my eye superior to my old 50/1.4 but again, your sample may be a newer version than I had..


PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2011 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stop them down to f/4 and f/5.6 and differences are mathematically very small.

Wide open to f/2 you will see differences, and at f/2.8 dimensionality in images decides which lens I favor. The 50mm lenses are so many, and mostly so inexpensive that one needs to find out by oneself which best suits your preferences. Best of all, they're always in high demand so if you buy one used you can always get rid of it without loss of money.


PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Esox lucius wrote:
Stop them down to f/4 and f/5.6 and differences are mathematically very small.

Wide open to f/2 you will see differences, and at f/2.8 dimensionality in images decides which lens I favor. The 50mm lenses are so many, and mostly so inexpensive that one needs to find out by oneself which best suits your preferences. Best of all, they're always in high demand so if you buy one used you can always get rid of it without loss of money.


Have you shot with the NOCT?


PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I did my Big 50mm Side By Side Comparison Laughing I didn't have access to a Noct 58/1.2, all those other lenses I shot with comparable test sequence. I later tested one Noct that I at the time was considering buying.

I decided against buying the Noct because I could not find performance justifying the price. It suffers less from coma wide open than the other 50 1.2/1.4 lenses lenses, but regardless of what Ken Rockwell claims it's not sharpest at f/1.2 and it certainly is not even a lot better wide open than other fifties. Biggest surprise to me was Noct didn't improve as much as the others when stopped down to f/2. Detail was in fact clearly less at f/2 than for instance Nikkor 50/1.2, and it was slightly behind in detail also at f/2.8. Stopped down to f/4 and f/5.6 they're all very very close to each other in an lpm test.

Sample variation? No, I ruled that out after testing another Noct a colleague of mine owns. Disappointing? Yes, as much as the Leitax-converted Summilux-R 50/1.4 that I tried, definitely not worth its price.

Biggest justification (if such exists) for overpaying for a Noct is in my opinion the bokeh which is very nice (not just the bokeh balls ie. highlights but the generally pleasing and smooth drawing of out-of-focus areas). It's as beautiful as the bokeh of the 58/1.4 Nokton and 50/1.2 Ai-S Nikkor. Other than that, the cult of the Noct-Nikkor and rarity are responsible for the inflated price it sells for.

I think I have four Nikkor 50/1.8's, I know I have two 50/1.4's, and I have three Nikkor 50/1.2 Ai & Ai-S lenses. Some photographers complain about dud samples, which certainly may be true with old lenses that require CLA. The copies I have are so identical in comparisons that I've decided not to waste more time with boring and time-consuming test chart shoots. Besides, the type of work I do with 50mm lenses makes lpm tests useless, clients never complain about too little skin detail in images but they regularly praise the beautiful look and fingerprint in photos. The Nikkor 50/1.4 Ai-S for instance has some of the nicest 3D one can hope for.

edited/updated This by the way may be interesting to anyone considering buying a Noct 58/1.2 (not my test, but these results seem very accurate when I compare to my own experience with these lenses)



Last edited by Esox lucius on Wed Feb 20, 2013 7:04 pm; edited 2 times in total


PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice review Vilhelm. Do you have some real life samples? Last week I saw one thread on dpreview with Noct picture and I thought it was amazing. Maybe it's because it's B&W.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1030&message=38304701&q=noct&qf=m

By that chart you posted, things aren't looking good for Noct Laughing


PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't own the Noct-Nikkor so I have no samples to share of "real use". There's plenty available on Flickr though: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=%2258mm%20f/1.2%22

No superfast (f/1.2 or brighter) lens looks excellent wide open, and they all improve stopped down (some more, some less). It doesn't really matter that they don't draw as many lines per millimeter as other lenses, because if replicating charts is the task then the choice is distortion-free macro lens which paints superb detail in close-ups. The Noct Nikkor 58/1.2 was created in the mid 1970s so that one could use slow film (ISO 100) to shoot at night. It features an aspherical element to reduce sagittal coma flare at widest aperture.

For technical image quality at f/1.2 the Noct is slightly better (but still better) than any other f/1.2 lens in Nikon mount. Wide open, center detail is acceptable (or good, but not very good or excellent).

For shooting at f/2 or f/2.8 there are several F-mount 50mm lenses which give better detail than the Noct, and while the bokeh and fingerprint is very nice there are cheaper F-mount fifties which paint just as nice images. This is exactly the reason why I have long ago decided that I won't pay more for a Noct-Nikkor 58/1.2 than I would pay for a Nikkor 50/1.2 Ai-S... making it quite likely I will never own a Noct Laughing


PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your extraordinarily comprehensive response!

I have been debating about getting the CV 58/1,4 which I know you particularly like. I already have a Nikkor 50/1.2 AIS; besides the obvious differences in FL and speed, how do you feel they differ most? And is the difference significant enough to warrant the addition? I was also tempted by the CV40/2 and am debating...


PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No effort, 50mm F-mount lenses is my favorite subject Very Happy

The Voigtlnder 40/2 pancake I shot a pre-production version long time ago, it was scaringly sharp and outresolved the sensor already at f/4. It is a refreshing lens as opposed to the 20/3.5 which was a disappointment in many areas.

How does the Voigtlnder SL II 58/1.4 Nokton differ from the Nikkor 50/1.2 Ai-S?

- Nokton gives more detail and is better corrected for CA, both thanks to longer focal length and smaller aperture (and 30 years of progress in lens production)
- Nokton has less geometric distortion than Nikkor
- the Nokton is a modern child with more microcontrast and vividness in RAW files
- build quality on both is excellent (same quality feel as that of my Planar 85/1.4 ZF)
- both have very nice bokeh and are favorites of mine, lens choice would depend on task at hand

I can send some RAW files with the Nokton for you if you're interested, here's a bunch of JPEGs in original size
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mureena/sets/72157623909265409/with/5514871533/

Difference to 50/1.2 Ai/Ai-S significant enough to warrant adding the Nokton to your bag? Only you yourself can answer that question Smile


PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2011 1:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

hey Vilhelm, what about for film? i am happy with the nikkor 50/2 that came with my F2a but i do wonder about a little more speed in a 50 ...


PostPosted: Sat Jul 16, 2011 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fish4570 wrote:
hey Vilhelm, what about for film? i am happy with the nikkor 50/2 that came with my F2a but i do wonder about a little more speed in a 50 ...


I would jump on the Voigtlnder 58/1.4 Nokton. It's a newer design, it benefits both from computer design as well as new coating (not to forget longer focal length). It is also mechanically better than its 10-20 year older competitors.

If you are shooting black & white film you can effectively neglect all of this discussion, because neither LoCA or LaCA will show in your exposures. For B&W shooters, any fast 50mm will be a joy in use.


PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vilhelm--

You write that you were impressed with the CV 40 but never bought one. Was it simply a FL not useful for you?


PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yup! Those ALL follow my findings as well. The only difference is that I would alter your top 4 list by eliminating the the 50/1.2 Ai-S from the bottom and add the Noct-Nikkor 58/1.2 to the top of the list. (I can mix a 58 with your 50s right? Smile )

EDIT: Heh, and when I got to this page I see it's already being discussed. :p

EDIT: EDIT: And I see you decided against it. I guess you were really pixel peeping the heck out of it. I found the noct to be just about on par with the 1.4 Ai-S in terms of sharpness over the first few stops but with a much better bokeh as you describe - not to mention the superb handling of street lights at night and other such high contrast fine definition hot-spots. But in the end I have to admit that I didn't pay the usual price. I found a copy with a chipped filter thread-ring for only $200 ;D So in my case there wasn't anything to justify. Anyway I would still put it at the top of your list of four - even after reading your thoughts. The aspects where it excels it really really excels! But I'm bokeh-freak too. :p


Esox lucius wrote:
Since 50mm is my favorite focal length and I'm a Nikon system user, I thought I'd share my view on how I rate all the 50mm lenses that I own (or have owned). Feel free to agree or disagree, this is a heated subject and everyone has a personal favorite.

Top 4 I have bought (and use a lot because I like what I see)

Nikkor 50/1.4 Ai-S - top position if detail and 3D is the preference. My copy is the Japan only -version made after it was discontinued globally. Lens version has serial range 600xxxx

Nikkor 50/1.4G AF-S - top position if usability in low light is the preference. Very very nice bokeh, if not the best then at least in the top 3 bokeh 50-so lenses (50/1.2 Ai-S, 50/1.4G AF-S, Nokton 58/1.4)

Voigtlnder SL II 58/1.4 Nokton - enjoys the benefit of being narrower perspective, but nevertheless: well corrected, beautiful bokeh followed up with exquisite build quality and handling feel.

Nikkor 50/1.2 Ai-S - top position if bokeh and fingerprint is the preference. Performance declines close-up though, and wide open is modest but useable - saved by the fact that immediately at f/2 it is excellent. My copy is Japan only version, manufactured after it was officially discontinued (lens serial range is 400xxx )

Bubbling below the Top 4

Nikkor 50/1.4D AF - great overall performer but wide open or f/2 not as good as 50/1.4 Ai-S or 50/1.4G AF-S. Bokeh highlights are polygons, G-series makes bokeh balls out of highlights.

Zeiss Planar T* 50/1.4 ZF - so sad that razor-sharp detail is ruined by restless harsh-edged bokeh and optics which are unsatisfyingly corrected for CA. I'm a big ZF fan and thus biased, which makes the disappointment even harder to take.

Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50/2 ZF - At the loss of one f-stop you get better detail and no CA, as compared to the Planar T* 50/1.4 ZF. Top performer, I would place it in Top 5 if it were not one f-stop slower.

Nikkor 50/1.4F - Ai-converted. f/1.4 to f/2 good only for web pics (if lucky), then suddenly at f/2.8 it is a top performer? Don't buy if you're shooting wide open or f/2.

Nikkor 50/2 Ai - unsatisfying corner performance when compared with other choices. Not a bad lens, but just not as good as the other Nikkor 50's available (discontinued or new).

Nikon 50/1.8E "pancake" flat. Tried it a few times, never felt a need to buy it. Worse build quality than Nikkors, kind of kills the idea of buying it when same (or better) performing better built 50's available at almost same price. Nikon-E users swear to its image quality, likely because low price = lower expectations.

Nikkor 50/1.8 Ai-S - for shooting only wide open this is a good choice, but the dimensionality in images as well as bokeh (especially highlights) is not au par with other versions available.

Nikkor 50/1.8D AF - flimsy plastic thing which never has appealed to me, build quality worse than cheap kit lens.

Nikkor 55/1.2 F - down right awful CA and most geometric distortion of any Nikkor 50-so I have used. Not a bad lens when compared to many but in this competition you need at least some area to shine in.


PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

james wrote:
Vilhelm--

You write that you were impressed with the CV 40 but never bought one. Was it simply a FL not useful for you?


I tested and ghostwrote a 40/2 SL II review for a magazine. I didn't buy it at the time because A) my evaluation copy had to be returned (contract rules) and B) at the time it wasn't on my "lenses to buy" -list. Later, in 2012, I added the Voigtlnder 40/2 SL (first version) to complete a line-up of all the original SL series Voigtlnders in Nikon Ai-S mount. (edit: I actually have two copies of the 40/2 SL, I thought my bids on two separate auctions were way too low but apparently everyone else on eBay slept during Easter...)

Tesselator wrote:
Yup! Those ALL follow my findings as well. The only difference is that I would alter your top 4 list by eliminating the the 50/1.2 Ai-S from the bottom and add the Noct-Nikkor 58/1.2 to the top of the list. (I can mix a 58 with your 50s right?


If I too had acquired a Noct 58/1.2 with dented filter thread for EUR 200 then I would for sure have it bump the 50/1.2 Ai/Ai-S out of my Top 4. I have tried two copies of the Noct, and the IQ was certainly not worth more than EUR 400. I do admit I enjoyed the Noct bokeh a lot - just as the Voigtlnder 58/1.4, the extra focal length gives it bokeh benefits over it's slightly wider cousins.