Nikon’s third standard prime lens for their Z system combines a bright f1.2 focal ratio with a pretty fast autofocus drive. With very good optics and a good Bokeh it is a viable step-up over the Z 50mm f1.8 S for those seeking more light gathering power and better background isolation. And it’s (almost) fully featured like the best of the Z-Nikkors: hardened well against the elements, sporting a nifty OLED display, an additional function button, and a clever multi-function ring assignable to aperture or exposure compensation. Plus, the marginal focus breathing should please videographers.
The down-sides of this lens? Mount the lens hood (as you should) and the lens is ridiculously long for a 50mm and at over 1kg / 2.5lb very heavy. Canon sets the expectations here with their RF 50mm f1.2 L USM being 42mm shorter and 140g lighter. Other small(er) issues include the autofocus drive which can clearly be heard, and the missing fluorine coating against moist and dust. And did I mention that the lens pouch is a bit of a disappointment – especially considering the not insubstantial asking price for the lens of 2436 EUR / 2100 USD / 2300 GBP?
Let’s have a closer look at how the Z 50mm f1.2 S compares to some alternatives.
Compared to Nikon 58mm f1.4G
The Nikon AF-S 58mm f1.4G from 2013 is a good lens but it “only” got a Recommended in my review: It is less sharp towards the corners, has lower contrast, less resistance against flare and glare plus stronger loCA and coma. And although it has an f1.4 focal ratio, its Bokeh is not the most pleasing. If you already have this lens in your collection, you can continue using it via FTZ adapter but I would not recommend buying it for a Nikon Z body.
For more details see my Nikon 58mm f1.4G review.
Compared to Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S
The Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S is a very good standard prime lens for owners of Z-series mirrorless bodies: its optical performance is right up there with the best. And its size and weight makes it a much, much better match for the compact Z-series bodies than the Z 50mm f1.2 S. The Z 50mm f1.8 S also focuses reliably and even a bit faster than the Z 50mm f1.2 S. It misses out on a dedicated focus ring, an AF-Lock button and an OLED display. But then it only costs less than a quarter of the new lens. And finally the Z 50mm f1.8 S produces quite pleasing Bokeh that’s almost indistinguishable from the Z 50mm f1.2 S at identical apertures. This overall performance deserves a Highly Recommended and makes the little lens a great alternative if you don’t absolutely need a focal ratio of f1.2.
For more details see my Nikon Z 50mm f1.8 S review.
Compared to Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 S Noct
The Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 S Noct is an extraordinary lens: It combines an extra large f0.95 focal ratio with excellent optical performance, surpassing the Z 50mm f1.2 S in sharpness and delivering the best Bokeh I’ve seen so far in a prime lens up to 85mm focal length. When you use this lens you can produce images that are hard to duplicate with any other model. But it’s manual focus only, weighs 2 kg, and has an eye-watering price-tag of over 8000 EUR/USD/GBP.
For more details see my Nikon Z 58mm f0.95 S Noct review.
Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S final verdict
Nikon’s Z 50mm f1.2 S is a big step-up over their existing 50/58mm DSLR lenses – literally: It is excessively big and quite heavy but for that it offers a bright f1.2 focal ratio, very good optics with a good Bokeh, and has all of the features of Nikon’s best Z-Nikkors – except for fluorine coating. Plus, the marginal focus breathing should please videographers. Optically it may not be better than Nikon’s very good Z 50mm f1.8 S which can be had for a quarter of the price, but if you need the one stop brighter focal ratio the Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S comes Highly Recommended!
- Very good resolution and contrast.
- Only little longitudinal CA and coma.
- Very good resistance against flare, glare, and ghosting.
- Good Bokeh.
- Very little focus breathing.
- Minimal distortions (through lens profile).
- Extensive weather sealing.
- Multi-function ring assignable to aperture or exposure compensation.
- OLED display, function button.
- Large and heavy lens.
- No fluorine coating against moist and dust.
- Audible focus noise.
- Flimsy lens pouch.