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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 7:13 pm 
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Just received my first prime lens for the D80-body! Boy, this is a complete reversal of my old Olympus OM1/2-days, where the standard 50mm/f1.8 was the first SLR-lens ever, that I had...
But some things don't change. The package the lens came in, was minuscule :) I immediately unpacked it just to be sure, that there really is a lens in :wink:
Sooo small! In the days of zooms for everything, this little bugger is even smaller/shorter than my 10.5mm/f2.8 fisheye. When you mount it the D80-body seems HUGE, dwarfing the little glas at the front. I will call this lens "Sam": "Small and mighty" :lol:
For the uninitiated: The Nikon primes are all screw-driven AF, so no play for D40/x-owners :( and they don't come with either a lens-shade :( nor a pouch :( plus they have some lens-cap for the back that is not screw-on, but push-on :? Well, at least you don't have to find on of the three positions, to fit the lens-cap. The front-lens-cap is Nikon-standard 52mm :)
First thing, I fired up my test-pic on the monitor and shot the cam at it. WHAT!?!?! It focussed and beeped at a totally unsharp position - couldn't believe my eyes. Tried again, but the D80-AF-system was content with this and didn't budge. So I had to point somewhere else, focus was ok and come back to my test-screen to get the system to focus right. During the test-shots of the screen, I had 3 out of 19 shots that were clearly out-of-focus. So perhaps the crazy pattern on the screen makes the D80-AF dizzy :? Will see, how this story continues with real-life shots...
Here are some data from the fact-sheet for this lens:
size: 65x43mm = very small :D
weight: 230g = very light :D
optics: 7 elements in 6 groups = low count is always good :D
closest focus distance/max. magnification: 0.45m / 1:6.8 (measured 1:6.4) :? Well, certainly not a macro, but a Canon 500D close-up lens could bring this baby near 1:3.
Filter-thread: 52mm :? Why couldn't they put at least 55mm on it? Or 62mm like my 105mm macro :?:

Now onto the first quick test-shots just to see whether the lens was decentred and how color-fringing and centre-/corner-sharpness was wide open. I'll feed you some Siemens-stars later for fuerther investigation of the finer details of this lens.
I just wanted to be sure I had a valid copy of this lens. If you've read my other tests, you know how many zooms have problems with quality control / decentering. But what I had hoped for, seems to be true: the easiest thing to build perfectly are fixed focus lenses (just like my 10.5mm/f2.8 fisheye and the 105mm/f2.8 macro/micro).
Because the challenge is the IQ at f1.4 the first shot you'll see is a at f1.4 followed by a 100% centre-crop and a 100% crop from the lower left corner. My position towards the monitor was not ideally perpendicular, so don't fret over the results in the lower right corner.
Btw: the smallest "dots" on the monitor are 2x2 monitor-pixel wide, the lines in the centre-squares and the lower-left corner are 1 monitor-pixel size.
Image

Image Image

Now at f2.0
Image Image

at f2.8
Image Image

and finally at f8.0
Image Image

My take on the results so far? I'll keep this lens.
Stay tuned for Siemens-stars and white-dwarfs and some real-life photos in the next few days!

Oh and btw: the aperture ring of this lens is of no value at a D80 (unfortunately). Just keep the ap. locked at f16, otherwise the D80 will display an error message :( I had faint hopes that in aperture priority (a mode that I quite love!) the aperture ring could be functional. That would have been much better than turning that index-finger wheel.

And don't forget, there's also a user-review from Cr4zYH3aD of the f1.8-variant here!

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Last edited by Thomas on Wed Oct 03, 2007 10:36 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 8:04 pm 
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Ah well, there was this tiny little question posted to me: "Why did you buy this lens?".
I know, I have the worlds finest stabilized super-zoom (the Nikon VR 18-200mm) in my collection, covering the 50mm plus/minus some quite comfortably. So what am I after?
Well, this lens offers the smallest dof that you can get! Depth of field depends mostly on two things: magnification and aperture. So if magnification of a given object is equal, the only way to get less dof is a wider aperture (and then there are some specialists that do that in software).
A shallow dof focusses the eye of the beholder on to the main subject without much distraction from other content! And it is linear proportional to the aperture, so a f1.4 aperture is only half of a f2.8 and the dof is also only half with the f1.4 than with the f2.8.
Or the other way around: the "airy disk" of an out-of-focus point is double the diameter at f1.4 than at f2.8. And don't forget: the 18-200mm at 50mm has an aperture of aprox. f4.8, so the airy disk of the f1.4 is 3.4x larger than with the super-zoom!

This is something you cannot get with other lenses, and the only alternatives to achieve a similar effect are the 50mm/f1.8 and both 85mm/f1.4+f1.8. But the latter being quite an investment and of a focal length that I don't need sooo much (because of my 105mm/f2.8).

This prime is also "FF/FX-ready" (wonder when Nikon will coin this slogan? They'll have to pay a fee to me!). So should I ever venture into FX-land, this lens can stay with me!

----------------------
Addendum: See my collection of shots with this lens here (slowly filling up).

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:40 pm 
Two questions.

Why did you shoot that test on a monitor, instead of on an actual paper sheet (it seems to me the paper version would be "sharper")?

To have the exact same result, in terms of perspective, as you would get in the old days, with a film SLR coupled to a 50mm, would you need a 35mm on the D80 (i.e. 1,5 x 50 = 70, but 1,5 x 35 = 52,5)?

*ponders* OK, let's make it three questions.

To get the "old SLR 50mm" look and feel with the 18-200, do you set its focal length at 50mm or at 35mm?


Last edited by luis on Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:02 pm 
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Hi Luis!
1. I found out that the monitor-test reveals a lot about the lens and is very easy to do. I'll come up with Siemens-stars later to measure the resolution in a comparable way to my other tests. See also here.
2. Right! The 50mm on the D40/50/70/80/300-body behaves like a 75mm.film-lens: A nice portrait-lens, or something grabbing the subject in another setting from a moderate distance. 35mm would be the equivalent of a 50mm film-lens. But there is no 35mm/f1.4 from Nikon, only the Sigma 30mm/f1.4 (only for APS-C cameras). That would have been an alternative. But IQ deteriorates quickly as you go to shorter focal lengths...

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:52 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:04 pm 
Just added a third question (while you were typing and posting your answer)... this is becoming a habit. :P


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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:05 pm 
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Well, the "old" look and feel has to do with perspective! And to get the same 50mm-film-perspective you need to go 30-35mm on an APS-C DSLR.

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:15 pm 
My doubt was because, unlike the 50mm prime, the 18-200mm zoom was designed for an APS-C DSLR.

So, it could be the case (in my mind) that, while the 50mm - that was designed for a full frame sensor - gives you a 1,5 factor when used on an APS-C DSLR, the 18-200mm would give you "what you see [on the focal length indicator] is what you get", that is to say, no such factor.

But I understand now that the 1,5 factor depends on the size of the sensor and not on the design of the lens. :)


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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:32 pm 
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Yep, Luis. You are correct!
The focal-lenght of the lens is not dependent on the sensor you capture the image with. A "35mm" is just that: 35mm focal length.

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 9:28 pm 
In its "single focal-length lenses" catalogue for the EF series, Canon claims its EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM to be the "gold standard" for professional portrait work.

Is 85mm the canonical (no pun intended) focal length for portraits?

Does Nikon have something to go against this beast? All I could find was the AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D.

The one from canon would be ideal for indoors sports or even concerts in small rooms, if coupled to a body that handles high ISO well.


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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 9:42 pm 
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There is also the Nikon 85mm/f1.4, a very respectable lens (see test here) and quite expensive!
In my opinion, 85mm are good for portrait at a film (or FX aka FF-body) on a APS-C-body a 50mm can do. But for indoor sports the 85mm/f1.4 is a natural!

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 8:17 pm 
Or the Carl Zeiss 85/1.4 that scores even better than the Nikkor and Canon though only available in MF for Nikon.


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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 8:22 pm 
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Next, on to the more "scientific" test with the famous Siemens-star (it must be famous if it is a star :wink: )
Following is a series of 100% crops (as perpendicular as I can get it) that show the performance of the lens first centre than corner at different apertures. The magnification is approx. 1:50 so doesn't count as "close-up". Addendum: And remember: this is a FF (aka FX) lens, so on an APS-C-body we're not really testing the corners/limits of this lens!
first f1.4 centre+corner:
Image
Image
Grey disk at 7mm centre, 9mm corner

Then f8 centre+corner:
Image
Image
Grey disk at 7mm centre, 8mm corner

This is quite a feat, being almost as sharp centre/corner wide open at f1.4 than at f8! I'm very content :!: Compare this to the other lenses in my tests and you know that this is an excellent behaviour.
Looking at the contrast, it is clear from visual inspection that the f8 shot is more contrasty than the f1.4. But something has to give :D

But if you look closely at my collection here there is a pair of other crops at f1.4 that don't have the same small grey disk, showing (again) clearly, that focus with such a shallow-dof-lens is very much restricted by excellent focussing. And as I already pointed out in my first post: This lens puts some strain on the AF of my D80. So not everything was "roses" in D80-land! But fortunately in real life, you normally don't shoot exactly flat object, so a slight mis-focussing does not mean you lose the shot.
But at least it makes you think of other factors that influence IQ than pure lens-quality!

This weekend I'll finally shoot some real-life subjects and keep you posted!

Oh, and by the way, before you ask: The corner crops look more contrasty/darker than the centre-crops because lighting was unevenly focussed on the centre-crops!

And Rune: I doubt that I could MF such a lens better than AF. So I would be hesitant to buy the Carl Zeiss lens

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Last edited by Thomas on Wed Oct 03, 2007 10:39 am, edited 5 times in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:40 pm 
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Been running around this morning with the new lens at aperture priority set to f1.4 to test (a) dof, (b) sharpness, (c) contrast, (d) focus. Well it turned out quite successful as the limited dof makes shots possible I couldn't have done with any of my other lenses! You'll find the links to some shots below.
My resume: contrast and sharpness (of the in-focus parts) even wide open is satisfactory most of the times. Focus is mostly ok, sometimes hunting and sometimes just slightly off: the last photo shows, that even a well lit wall can post a problem for AF, you can also see some extreme example of color-fringing with this lens.
First off are two pics side by side, the first with f1.4 and the second with f8, clearly showing the difference in dof and contrast. All the other shots are at f1.4. Enjoy!
(All photos clickable for larger versions)
Image Image

Image Image

Image Image

Image

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Last edited by Thomas on Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 1:26 pm 
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While looking closer at the shots I've made with my new 50mm/f1.4 I found some examples for bokeh that were less than pleasing, although at other shots I'd call it "buttery". I think you can immediately see the difference from the following shots (both at f1.4, 1st a 80%-crop, 2nd 40%-crop):
Image Image

Now, normally I'd strongly suggest to compare bokeh only at the same magnification, but you can test for yourself (or believe me) that the 2nd shot doesn't loose it's pleasing bokeh when enlarged another 2x.

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Nikon 50mm/f1.4 D review
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 10:18 pm 
Thomas, you wouldn't happen to have a digital video camera and a brown shirt handy, would you?


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