Saturday, December 13, 2008
AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Review
I finally got my hands on the new highly anticipated AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G. So far I'm pleased with the performance of this lens.
At first glance you can tell this lens has been completely redesigned. It's much bigger than the old 1.4D, with a 3 inch diameter and 2 inch length, but surprisingly enough it weighs only about 1 0z. more so it's not going to change the balance or feel of your camera if you've gotten used to using the old one.
On the inside the lens has gotten a major overhaul. Nikon has redesigned the lens giving it 8 lens elements in 7 groups as opposed to the old one with 7 lens elements in 6 groups. Of course the biggest change is the welcome addition of Nikon's venerable Silent Wave Motor. This allows the lens to focus almost silently and much faster than the old "screw type" autofocus of the previous model.
Other than these changes the general specs stay pretty much the same with the exception of the increasing the size of the filter thread from 52mm to 58mm. This isn't much of problem for me since I always used 58mm filters with a reducing ring, but may be an issue to some people who may have quite a lot invested in their filter collection. The minimum focus distance is the same at 1.5 feet, the minimum aperture f/16 and it has a Super Integrated Coating to reduce ghosting and flare.
As far as performance goes, as expected, the Silent Wave Motor definitely increases the focusing speed noticeably. The redesigned lens elements seem to add some sharpness. It's not obviously noticeable, but it's there if you look close enough. Considering Nikon's 50mm lenses are considered some of the sharpest that they make adding even a little sharpness to images taken with this lens is pretty impressive.
There's some vignetting at the widest aperture settings, but it's pretty much gone by f/2.8. This new model has rounded aperture blades to give the bokeh a more pleasing look.
There's not much you can really say about this lens. It is what it is. Even with the complete redesign of this lens it's not groundbreaking. It's a great normal focal length lens on a FX camera such as the D3, D3X or the D700 for everyday and low-light shooting. I prefer this lens on a DX camera such as the D90 or D300 which gives it an equivalent focal length of 75mm making this a perfect portrait lens.
Bottom line, is it worth the $439 price tag? Maybe not. The AF-S motor is nice, but I wouldn't say it's an absolute necessity, unless you're using a D40/X or D60.
Should you run out and trade in your f/1.4D? Nah... hold onto it. For all practical purposes these lenses are pretty close in quality.
That being said, I'm keeping mine. I happen to really like the quiet focus. I would prefer an internally focusing lens though...