Wednesday, December 31, 2008

AFS 50 mm f/1.4 G Nikkor - Latest

This is the latest update to the older 50/1.4 Nikkor which has been around for quite some time. But unlike other recent new Nikkors, there is no nano-coating and no ED glass elements.
Also, this new Nikon lens uses an 8 element design, while every other 50mm f/1.4 SLR lens from Nikon, Canon and Zeiss has only had 7 elements for decades. Although it is equipped with the AFS motor, the autofocus operational speed isn't very spectacular. A 58 mm filter thread is also used in this updated model. This is different to the earlier normal lenses having only 52 mm filters. There is a rubber gasket to provide weather sealing for this model.

Corner fall-off is visible when the lens is set to the widest apertures, but less annoying than seen with the earlier AF-D model. From f/2.8 onwards vignetting is negligible. The barrel distortion, typical for this class of lens, is kept under good control. Image quality is quite good in fact at f/1.4 although some blue fringing can occur at high-contrast transitions, increases to f/2.8 accompanied by a rise in contrast and reduction of fringing, and really gets into its stride in the range f/4 to f/9 or so. The smallest apertures see more softening of the image and a reduction in contrast, so only stop down to f/16 if you desperately need the increased depth of field, or like to shoot into the sun. The aperture opening is nicely rounded and the bokeh is softer and less harsh than seen with the older 50/1.4 AFD model. Even in this respect the new lens does better than the predecessor so this behaviour should be interpreted in its proper context, and many shots will not show this problem at all.

Although nano-coating is missing, the new lens handles awkward backlighting and point light sources better than the model it replaces. Ghosting is usually minimal, but when shooting straight into the sun, you tend to be rewarded by a big blur rather weak blue ghost spot. Flare is also well controlled.

The retail price is SGD $949, as listed on Nikon website. However, it should be available for about SGD $800+. If you already have the 50/1.4 AFD model, there's no need for you to rush to get one. If you do not have one and is thinking of getting a normal lens or can only work with AFS, this is definitely worth it.

I'm not sure about you, but I'm definitely going to wait for the price to go down before I get it.