The Nikon 58/1.4G is a worthy member of Nikon’s f1.4 lens line-up. It’s a step-up in performance compared to the Nikon AF-S 50/1.4G in almost every aspect: sharpness, contrast, coma, light fall-off and bokeh. You can produce shots with an impressive image quality even at a wide open aperture of f1.4. So a “Recommended” rating is clearly in order.
But would I highly recommend this lens? Well, with an asking price that is five times higher than that of its smaller 50/1.4G sibling the question naturally arises whether the improvements are good enough to justify the mark-up. This really boils down to a personal decision, but from four weeks of extensive testing this lens three issues keep me from upgrading my recommendation. I’ll detail them below.
– Longitudinal CAs show up too often and is too obvious to be simply ignored. And they seem worse than with the Nikon 50/1.4G. Some of my test-images might seem drastic and you might talk yourself into denial: that this will not happen in your way of shooting. Well, if you’re going to use this lens with apertures larger than f2.8 I’m pretty sure that you will encounter loCA – and not in an unobtrusive way.
– Rendering of out-of-focus details has a certain characteristic that I would not call “creamy” although the blur-circles are very large indeed: bright contrasty details near the plane of sharpest focus shine through the Bokeh and give it some “edge” that can make the Bokeh fuzzy or nervous – depending on your subject. This lens is definitely not the ultimate “cream-machine”.
– The Zeiss 55/1.4 Otus proves what type of benchmark performance can be achieved even at f1.4 and it clearly shows that the Nikon AF-S 58mm f1.4G is a good but not an excellent performer. To put it bluntly: the Zeiss’ optical performance will justify paying double the price of the Nikon 58/1.4G for quality fanatics – but the performance of the Nikon 58/1.4G does not justify five times the price of the Nikon 50/1.4G.
So yes, the new lens is a step-up from the 50/1.4G and if you need the best f1.4 normal lens with AF this should be your preferred choice. But if you know how to manually focus and simply need the best optical performance at f1.4, aim for the Zeiss Otus instead.