Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S G Lens Review

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens is truly one of the sharpest Nikkor lenses that you can buy. It is also a very fast lens that will work on both DX and FX bodies. I purchased mine from Amazon but I would also recommend Calumet, Simply Electronics, Jessops or Digital Rev.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4

Sensor Type: Both DX and FX Sensors
Filter Size: 58mm
Aperture Range: f/1.4 - f/16
Construction: 8 elements in 7 groups
Autofocus: Yes
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.5ft
Angle of View: 46° (FX) and 3° (DX)
Weight: 278g

Introduction to the 50mm f/1.4G Prime Lens

View on FlickrThis exceptionally handy lens is referred to as the 'nifty fifty' amongst the photography buffs and rightly so. It's nifty because it can be used in the dimmest light due to it's incredible f/1.4 aperture which will let in crazy amounts of light through the lens! This allows super fast shutter speeds when used indoors or at night especially when using a camera with clean ISO ranges such as the D700 or D3 series cameras.

Not only is it a fast lens, the depth of field at f/1.4 is so narrow that when taking a picture of a person with their head tilted slightly off centre, one eye will be super sharp in focus and the other eye is out of focus. This technique is used in portraiture to isolate the subject from the scene in times when you really want to 'pop' out that subject and send the rest of the scene into pleasant bokeh. (Bokeh is the term for the blur visible in backgrounds when using low apertures)

Build Quality and Handling

Nikkor 50mm PrimeWhen you first hold the 50mm in your hand you realise that it is somewhat light in weight, hitting the scales at 278g. (This is intensified if you are used to carrying 1kg professional lenses all day!) The low weight can be attributed to the plastic construction which helps to reduce manufacturing costs and as a result, this lens is actually quite cheap. It is not as cheap as the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens which can be purchased for under £100 and has almost the same optics as this lens.

Although it is plastic, the look of the lens is great which is why you will often see this lens fitted on the brochure and advertising images of the new Nikons D-SLR's such as the D3s. I find that this lens makes me feel less conspicuous when working in public as an f/2.8 telephoto attracts major attention but this lens fits into a crowd merely appearing as a keen photographer's lens. I also have no qualms about carrying this lens all day, it's actually a pleasure being so light and my back muscles are always glad of it!

Optics and Performance

View on FlickrPrime lenses (Prime means that the lens offers a fixed focal length, ie. no zoom) are the sharpest lenses and this 50mm lens has built up a great reputation as being one of the best. You can check out my sample images to really see for yourself just how amazing this lens is.

Autofocus on the other hand is actually quite slow, not to the point of annoyance but you will notice it if you are used to the instant focus of the 24-70mm lens for example. Despite this, I don't find it too much of a problem as I'm rarely using this lens in situations where lightning fast focus is essential.

Wide open at f/1.4 this lens is very sharp but the sharpness really comes into it's own when stopped down to around f/2 or f/2.8 however I would have no issues going out and shooting wide open with this lens.

The bokeh is wonderful looking and gives a really milky effect to your backgrounds in a way that not even an f/2.8 lens can create as the f/1.4 aperture can blow almost the entire scene out of focus, leaving a small spot of crisp image on your focus point.

Overall impressions of the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

Nikon 50mm LensThis lens when used on a DX sensor gives an effective focal length of 85mm which is believed to be the penultimate focal length for portraiture. It is slightly wider on full frame but is still a lens which will mainly be used for portraits of people and tight group shots.

Due to the amazing light gathering abilities this lens is well suited for when the light dims and the shutter speeds drop, making things a little blurry. Yes, I understand you can raise your ISO but that invites some noise, (grainy pixels seen in high ISO images) by using this lens you can keep your ISO low and still make those tack sharp pictures but be warned that shooting at f/1.4 is not always easy due to the very limited depth of field.

I use this lens mostly when travelling as it's so lightweight and gives great images. It is sometimes a little too zoomed and I sometimes wish I had a 24mm f/1.4 lens for those travel shots but all in all, this lens is a fantastic addition to anyone's camera bag and once you have seen the incredible sharpness it offers you, you'll be glad you bought it!

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This blog is written by Paul Nimmo, a freelance website designer and photographer based in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

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