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Summary

The Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S becomes the third standard prime lens for Nikon’s full-frame Z-series mirrorless cameras. A popular focal length for street photography and general-purpose use, it features a bright f1.2 focal ratio gathering two times the light of its smaller sibling the Z 50mm f1.8 S, although still half a stop slower than the famed Z 58mm f0.95 Noct. Find out more in our preview!

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Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S review – preview
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The Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S becomes the third standard prime lens for Nikon’s full-frame Z-series mirrorless cameras. A popular focal length for street photography and general-purpose use, it features a bright f1.2 focal ratio gathering two times the light of its smaller sibling the Z 50mm f1.8 S, although still half a stop slower than the famed Z 58mm f0.95 Noct.  On a cropped body like the Z50 the new lens is equivalent in angle-of-view and depth-of-field to a 75mm f1.7 lens. This is quite attractive for portrait photography and gives good background isolation even on the smaller format sensor.

Physically, the Z 50mm f1.2 S is much larger and heavier than the Z 50mm f1.8 S. It’s almost as long as the Z Noct but with a more accommodating girth. The biggest benefits of the new Z 50mm f1.2 S over the Z Noct are: It is much lighter (1090g vs. 1997g), offers autofocus and costs a quarter of the Z Noct. What the new Z-Nikkor has in common with the Z Noct: an additional function button which can be assigned different functions, plus the OLED display to indicate aperture or focusing distance and depth-of-field.

The Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S is listed at 2436 EUR (incl. 16% VAT) / 2100 USD / 2300 GBP and should become available in December. Ahead of my full review I’ve compared the new lens with the Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S and the Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 Noct based on the information so far available from Nikon. PS – if you’re interested in the other Z prime lenses in Nikon’s line-up check out our in-depth reviews: Nikon Z 20mm f1.8 S review / Nikon Z 24mm f1.8 S review / Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 S review / Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S review / Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 Noct review / Nikon Z 85mm f1.8 S review.

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Facts from the catalog

Let’s compare the Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S to the Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S and Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 Noct (“Z Noct” for short). As usual I’ve rated the features with a [+] (or [++]), when it’s better than average or even state of the art, a [0] if it’s standard or just average, and [-] if there’s a disadvantage.

Size (diameter x length): At 90 x 150mm (3.6 x 6.0in.) plus an estimated 45mm for the lens hood the new Z-Nikkor is as long as the Z Noct at 102 x 153mm + 29mm lens hood. The Z 50mm f1.8 S is only 76 x 87mm + 40mm lens hood. The following images show the section of each lens at a comparable scale. [0]

Weight: 1090g (38.5 oz.) plus an estimated 60g for the lens hood. The Z Noct is 1997g + 58g lens hood, the Z 50mm f1.8 S is 412g + 27g lens hood. [0]

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Above: Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S

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Above: Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 Noct

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Above: Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S

Optics: The Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S is a pretty complex design with 17 elements in 15 groups including 2 special dispersion elements and 3 aspherical elements. This is similar to the Z Noct (17 elements in 10 groups) but much more complex than the Z 50mm f1.8 S (12 elements in 9 groups). 30 glass/air surfaces create a lot of opportunities where reflections can cause problems. To counter this the Z 50mm f1.2 S employs the new “ARNEO” anti-reflective coating (just like the Z Noct) in addition to Nikon’s Nano-coating to reduce flare, glare and ghosting. But it seems to miss the fluorine-coating of the Z Noct on the front element to repel water, dust, and dirt and make cleaning easier. But this may be an omission in the marketing material so far available. [+]

The MTF chart of the new Z 50mm f1.2 S looks pretty astonishing for such a bright focal ratio. But the other lenses shown below also play on a very high level at their respective largest aperture. [+]

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Above: Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S at f1.2 (left), Z 58mm f0.95 S Noct at f0.95 (right)

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Above: Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S at f1.8 (left), Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 at f1.4 (right)

Closest focus distance is 0.45m (1.48ft.) with a magnification of 1:6.7 which is not much. This results in a working distance of 0.28m. The Z Noct goes down to 0.5m with a magnification of 1:4.9, the Z 50mm f1.8 S achieves a magnification of 1:6 at 0.38m object distance in manual focus. [0]

Filter-thread: 82mm, just like the Z Noct. The Z 50mm f1.8 S needs much smaller 62mm filters. [0]

Image stabilization: The lens offers no optical stabilization – like every Z-Nikkor prime lens so far. But the Nikon Z bodies provide built-in sensor-shift stabilization for Z-mount lenses over 5 axis – plus an optional electronic stabilization in video mode. [0]

Auto focus: Yes with built-in AF drive, just like the Z 50mm f1.8 S. Manual-focus override is by simply turning the dedicated focus ring. The focus ring probably has a variable gearing (like all AF Z-Nikkors so far) which allows for very precise manual focus when turned slowly but cannot be switched to linear gearing. Which makes smooth focus pulling for videographers pretty hard. The Z Noct is manual focus only. The Z 50mm f1.2 S like the Z Noct also has an extra button on the lens which can be assigned many different functions e.g. AF-lock. And Nikon claims that focus-breathing is minimized. [+]

Display: The Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S features the same OLED display as the Z Noct indicating aperture or focusing distance (in m or ft.) and depth-of-field. This display is hard to read under sunny conditions in its default setting but it can be made as bright as the top display on the Z7. You can switch through the different display types using the DISP-button. The Z 50mm f1.8 S has no such display. [+]

Lens profile: The new Z-Nikkor comes with a lens profile which can be controlled from the camera. Vignette control offers the usual options of High, Normal, Low and Off. Diffraction compensation and Auto distortion control can be activated or deactivated. That’s the same as with the Z Noct or Z 50mm f1.8 S. [+]

Covers full frame/FX or smaller. Same with the Z Noct and Z 50mm f1.8 S. [+]

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Price: 2436 EUR (incl. 16% VAT) / 2100 USD / 2300 GBP. The Z 50mm f1.8 S currently goes for 489 EUR / 600 USD / 400 GBP and the Z Noct costs a whopping 8500 EUR / 8000 USD / 8300 GBP. The price of the new lens is comparable to Canon’s RF 50mm f1.2 L USM. [0]

The lens comes with a pouch that’s just as flimsy as the pouch of the other Z lenses (except for the Z Noct) and has no strings to pull it close. So if you put the lens in your bag it might easily slip out of its pouch and bang around unprotected. This is simply unacceptable for a lens costing north of 2000 EUR/USD. The lens hood is included and probably locks in place to avoid accidentally falling off plus it is reversible for transport. [0]

Aperture ring: Like the Z Noct the Z 50mm f1.2 S has a slim multi-function control ring at the back of the lens in addition to the dedicated focus ring. The control ring can be assigned to operate the aperture (which probably is the default), exposure compensation, or ISO sensitivity – or simply switched off. The Z 50mm f1.8 S has no dedicated focus ring but its broad function ring automatically falls back to focusing when the lens is switched to MF. [+]

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Sealing: yes, a rubber grommet at the lens-mount plus further special weather-sealing throughout the construction, just like the Z Noct and Z 50mm f1.8 S. [+]

The score in the “features-department” is 0[-]/7[0]/8[+]. The new Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S is pretty large and heavy and comes with a not insubstantial asking price. For that it offers a nifty feature set – and hopefully excellent optical performance.

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From what I can see so far the new lens should be a worthy addition to Nikon’s standard prime lenses. Keep your eyes peeled for my first tests of the optical qualities of Nikon’s Z 50mm f1.2 S once I can get my hands on a copy.

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