Updated April 2022: added film photo samples!
I have always used Nikon as my go-to gear since the days of D5300 back in 2014. But I rarely talk about Nikon lenses except for that one time I reviewed a Nikon macro lens from the olden days. This year I plan to talk more about some Nikon lenses that I use and own so far.
Without further ado, we’re going to review Nikon ‘s ‘nifty fifty’ line-up, the low-light master 50mm f/1.4 AF-D. Disclaimer: this review is my personal judgment and does not include technical testing.
Build and Handling
Frankly, I kinda like the lenses from AF-D lines. AF-D in Nikon lenses means ‘Auto-Focus with Distance information‘. This is the last generation where the lenses have autofocus while retaining their tactile aperture ring since AF-S lenses that replace them will come ‘gelded’ or without aperture rings.
As with the majority of AF-D lenses, the build is plastic. This makes it lightweight (only 220 grams!) yet still feels comfortable to hold.
I particularly like the focus ring that’s made from rubber, with a long throw that helps in getting precise shots in manual mode.
I let you know the bad news first: this is not a lens with corner-to-corner sharpness wide open. In the age where sharp corners are common and expected, you’d have to be content with the so-so performance at f1.4. It’s not even that sharp in the middle. Stop down to f1.8 though, and the sharpness improves a lot.
Also, chromatic aberration is a quite big problem. This lens tends to display an apparent bluish aberration at the edge of highlights. You’d have to manually fix in post-process for most of the photos.
But that’s all the glaring issues. One could say it’s the compromise for older lenses so I don’t really mind the shortcomings. Now the good thing is, this lens is a decent low-light performer. Discounting the fact of its lack of sharpness, it delivers quite well in dark places. I especially like it for spontaneous portrait sessions.
Bokeh is just pleasant to look at! The lens renders the foreground/background separation smoothly, causing the subject to stand out clearly.
More in this series…
- [Lens Review] Industar 50mm f3.5
- [Lens Review] Helios 44-2 58mm f2
- [Lens Review] Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4
Auto-focus is fast and accurate for its age, provided you can get gather adequate light for it to handle. You’d probably get a few misses in low-light situations, but hey, most of the lenses do struggle in the dark so it’s not really a huge flaw.
Personally I quite like Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens. It performs well with the DSLR that I use at the moment, although from a technical standpoint, this lens might not be the lens for when you expect a perfect well-round 50mm. I have not tested it in Nikon Z series bodies so I have no say on that yet.
It is, however, the kind of lens that you leave mounted on your camera the whole time and forget it’s there since it’s so good. For me, it fits right into the street photography genre due to its small and inconspicuous size. And being a lens from the pre-digital era, it’s of course suitable to use in Nikon film bodies.
For the cheap price it commands (second-hand starting from $150 on eBay or 17,000 yen here in Japan), it’s an affordable lens worth buying and using.
Final score: 7/10