50mm Nikkor for Nikon f6

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by rexmarriott, Nov 17, 2016.

  1. I've just bought a Nikon F6 body. Which Nikkor 50mm lens would you recommend for image quality and compatibility with the functions of the F6?
  2. I don't believe there's a recent 50mm lens that's incompatible with the F6 (I don't think any use electronic aperture, which is the main technology the F6 lacks compared to the latest DSLRs when it comes to driving a lens). Unless you find an old, manual, pre-AI lens (which you could only use if you had your F6's aperture ring adapted to let the aperture tab fold back or if you had the lens adapted to be "AI-converted") you should be able to use anything.

    So ignoring compatibility, it depends what you want:
    • For absolute best sharpness at the cost of the lens being enormous, manual focus and very expensive, get a 55mm Zeiss Otus f/1.4.
    • For extremely good sharpness at wide apertures with a fairly big and expensive lens, get the 50mm Sigma "Art".
    • For nice bokeh and general rendering at the cost of absolute sharpness, get the 58mm Nikkor AF-S (or possibly the Zeiss Milvus).
    • For good sharpness especially stopped down a little and a moderate price and size, get the 50mm Nikkor AF-S f/1.4.
    • For good sharpness with a much smaller and cheaper lens, get the 50mm Nikkor f/1.8 AF-S (especially if you don't need f/1.4).
    • For soft bokeh and subject separation at a cheaper price at the cost of poor wide-open softness, get the 50mm Nikkor f/1.4 AF-D.
    • For a cheap and small lens that's very sharp stopped down (but has poor bokeh and wide-open sharpness) get the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D.
    • For the same optics as the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D in an almost "pancake" package (the front element of the AF f/1.8 lenses is deeply inset, so the lens is deeper than it needs to be optically), look at the manual-focus E-series.
    • For an expensive true "pancake" lens with an old optical formula and a smaller aperture (that's not as sharp at wider apertures but has arguably nicer rendering), look at the manual-focus 45mm f/2.8 AI-P.
    • For weird swirly bokeh, look at the Petzval 58mm f/1.9.
    • For macro shooting, any of the 55mm-65mm Nikkors are very sharp (although they don't all go to 1:1 without an adaptor); the Tamron 60mm f/2 is also decent. There's also the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4, which is exceptional but very specialist.
    For what it's worth, of these, I own the 50mm f/1.8 E-series, AF-D and AF-S (for different reasons) and the Sigma Art. I hope that gives you something to chew on without being excessively confusing.

    Without knowing more about your needs, my first recommendation would be the 50mm f/1.8 AF-S - or possibly the f/1.4 if you're willing to spend more, on the basis that film might benefit more from the extra aperture. But those are a balanced choice with compromises, and you may have different priorities. Good luck.
    Jean-Claude likes this.
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Either one of the current AF-S versions can work fine with the F6, which is fully compatible with G lenses. Unless you
    must have f1.4, the f1.8 version is quite good.
  4. the Tamron 60mm f/2 is also decent​
    I don't think you will be happy with that lens on an F6; it's made for the smaller DX (APS-C) format and not for FX (35mm).
  5. I don't think you will be happy with that lens on an F6; it's made for the smaller DX (APS-C) format and not for FX (35mm).​
    Oops - sorry for the misinformation. It's been a while since I looked at the Tamron and I'd forgotten it was DX only. (I think I've done that before - something about this lens makes me forget.) I'm actually mildly curious how close it gets, though - a 35mm film frame, especially once mounted in a slide, is typically a little smaller than an FX sensor. That's not to say Rex should buy one to find out, though!
  6. I don't have an F6 (yet!!) but my buddy swears by the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AIS lens on his F6.
  7. Oh damn. I forgot about the 50mm f/1.2 (even the current one) - there's a history here. I suppose we should also bring up the 58mm f/1.2 Noct-Nikkor, if you want to give a lot of money to eBay! (And I can't speak for the Voigtlanders.)
  8. In the first place, what was the reason, can you explain why you bought the Nikon F6? And why do you need a 50 mm focal range, what kinda photography do you desire to do with a film camera, like the Nikon F6 and the 50 mm lens?
  9. I'm actually mildly curious how close it gets,​
  10. A Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.8 are fine choices.

    If you have some range in your budget consider the Zeiss Planar T*
    50mm F/1.4 ZF.2 or 50mm f2 Makro as they are optically and mechanically excellent but do not have autofocus.

    The Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art is outstanding, bettered but only
    slightly and only when wide open, by the $4000.00 Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 OTUS.

    Unless you are sure you absolutely the 1/3rd of a stop greater speed of an f/1.2 lens don't waste your money on one.
  11. I'm fascinated by these responses and appreciate the time you spent on your list, Andrew. I've researched your suggestions and, at the moment, am leaning towards the f1.8 AF-S.
    Also, I can't resist answering your questions, Bela. My brother Bruce, who died in 2012, was a photojournalist who mostly employed a Nikon FM2 with a Nikkor 50mm AI-S f1.4 lens. After Bruce's death I started researching his story, with special focus on his photography. I realised that if I wanted to get under the skin of my subject I'd need to learn 35mm film photography. I bought the same camera and lens and set up a darkroom to understand Bruce's processes. Then I asked myself why Bruce limited himself to a semi-pro camera body, and what he might have missed by not going for the F2, 3 or 4, each of which would have been an option at points in his career. Out of curiosity I bought an F3. I couldn't stop there, and got an F and an F4. It may not be the prettiest camera, but I love using the F4, and have been told that the F6 is a great camera. Finally, I have the funds to buy this camera. In a way, I feel I'm taking a journey through the last days of film photography. Why film? Of course, there is a sentimental aspect as well as the practical one of researching my story. Mostly, though, I use film because I enjoy the process and love the particular quality of the results. Why a 50mm lens? It's where I want to start with the F6. I may consider other lenses down the line.
  12. Dieter: Thanks! (From the look of that, I'd actually risk it for macro distances on film, at least for slides, but probably not at infinity.)

    Rex: Sorry to give you quite so much to research! But yes, the f/1.8 AF-S is a decent lens, and far more usable at wider apertures than the AF-D version. (I actually bought mine when trying to work out whether my D800 had the manufacturing issue with misaligned autofocus - the AF-D version was so soft wide-open that I couldn't tell whether focus was missing.) It's surprisingly bigger than the AF-D version, and they're both way deeper than they need to be optically (the front element is inset, so the front of the lens provides a partial hood); the AF-S version comes with an additional hood.

    It's nothing like the size of the Zeiss or Sigma, though, and it won't be unbalanced on an F6. I'm sure you'll be at least moderately happy with the f/1.8 AF-S, and at least it's not silly money if you find you actually want something else. I keep mine (and the other f/1.8 50mm lenses) because I don't always want to carry the Sigma with me - the 50mm is far easier to fit in a pocket if you've got something else on the camera. For a while, I tended to carry a small toploader bag with my D700 in it, with a 28-200 attached (probably no longer a good option, though it wouldn't be terrible on film - it helps if you can post-process it, and it doesn't hold up to my D810), with a 135mm f/2.8 AI in the front pocket in case I felt obliged to take a portrait, and with a 50mm f/1.8 AF-D in a bag tied to the strap in case I needed a wider view in the dark. While the AF-S is bigger, it's still light enough to carry around "just in case". Except in a backpack, the Sigma isn't.

    Silly question, what lenses were you using on your F3, F and F4? Unless they're all pre-AI (and haven't been adapted, and your F6 hasn't had the aperture following tab adjustment), they'll work just fine on the F6, including the 50mm AI-S f/1.4 (if you inherited it) - although obviously you need an autofocus lens if you want autofocus! Film is film - the camera won't start showing up lens issues like the digital cameras, although newer lenses may make the film images look (incrementally) better.

    The big warning I'd have is that both 50mm AF-S lenses are "G": there's no aperture ring around the lens to let you set the aperture, you have to do it from the camera. They'll be fine on the F6 (the dials let you control aperture), but you'll only be able to adjust the aperture on the F4 in program or shutter priority mode (it has no dial that lets you set the aperture manually). I believe you'll be stuck at minimum aperture on the F3 and F. The AF-D has an aperture ring, so it should work properly on everything (though you'll have to do stop-down metering on the F because it doesn't have bunny ears to interface with the meter).

    Oh, and the f/1.8 AF-S has a little more distortion than the AF-D, in case you like shooting architecture or something similar that's full of straight lines. Even then, it's not a problem if you're scanning and digitally processing the images, might be if you're printing optically.

    Enjoy your F6. I've never played with one (mostly because they're still quite expensive, last I looked), but I have an F5, and my impression is that the F6 is the D810 to the F5's D3: newer, nicer, lighter, slower, a few things have changed and technology has moved on. The F6 is a way behind the latest DSLR in metering and autofocus, but even the F5 was pretty familiar to someone whose Nikon experience started with the D700. The F6 and F5 are very different from the F4: easier to use when held to your eye, keeping your finger on the shutter, but less convenient for the "get your settings ready before you lift the camera up" style of shooting - Nikon has revisited offering that approach with the Df, but for most users (including me) the approach used by the F5/F6 and most modern DSLRs is better. Have fun getting used to it!
  13. From the look of that, I'd actually risk it for macro distances on film​
    The image circle indeed (almost) covers the 35mm film area but I expect image quality to be rather poor the farther outside on moves from the DX area. Similar to the DX Nikkor 35/1.8 that (almost) covers the FX format - but with rather poor results in the corners.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art is outstanding, bettered but only slightly and only when wide open, by the $4000.00 Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 OTUS.​
    Don't bother with those cheap Zeiss Otus lenses. Get the Leica 50mm/f2 Summicron. The red version is $8950, and it is f2 vs. f1.4 on the Otus: https://www.dpreview.com/news/1602548413/leica-introduces-red-version-of-its-world-s-sharpest-50mm-apo-summicron :)
    Apologies to the OP. Fortunately the Leica Summicron has a mount that is not compatible with the F6.
  15. Apologies to the OP. Fortunately the Leica Summicron has a mount that is not compatible with the F6.​
    Pshaw. Nothing you couldn't fix with a hacksaw and permanent removal of the mirror. (Sadly the F6, I believe, lacks the F5's permanent mirror lock-up, which I'm sure would be the biggest problem!) Last I looked the Noctilux was even more expensive, although nothing like as sharp. More seriously, I'm not sure how the Milvus behaves in this range. I believe the Otus, if not the Milvus, is "G", so you'll still have problems controlling aperture on anything but the the F6.

    I think I'd start with the 50mm f/1.8 AF-S, though.

    Dieter: Yes, I believe you. But if i wanted bad full-frame corners on a 50mm lens, I'd choose the pre-Art Sigma 50mm!
  16. I'm intrigued by 'Leitax' conversions, which allow you to convert Leica R lenses to Nikon bayonet without the hacksaw, e.g.:
    Unfortunately the 50 Summicron Rs aren't available in exotic Apo formulations or the red anodised finish!
  17. Get the Leica 50mm/f2 Summicron. The red version is $8950​
    Quite hideous to look at. Chrome already takes a bit getting used to - but red? What's next - a red Leica camera with a black dot?
    Last I looked the Noctilux was even more expensive.​
    It is - almost $11K.
    There's now the new Leica SL 50/1.4 - only $5300! Doesn't fit the F6 either, I'm afraid. Just add the SL for $7500 - then you can enjoy that lens, the M-Summicron and the M-Noctilux all on the same body. All for about $32K. You'll get shallow DOF (and a lot of LoCA) with one, arguably the sharpest 50mm with a quite modest aperture, and one of the biggest ones around (not sure how it compares to the Otus though).
    I think I'd start with the 50mm f/1.8 AF-S, though.​
    I owned one, works OK (definitely better than the AF-D). Sold it though as 50mm isn't something I am comfortable with.
  18. Richard: Weird. The Leica R mount (unlike the M) is about half a mm deeper than the F mount, so I guess it's a simple matter of removing the sticky-outy bits - at least nothing should whack the mirror. Life is easier in mirrorless...

    For what it's worth, this is roughly what I had to do to my Hartblei super-rotator in order to switch it from Canon to Nikon mount. Unlike the R-mount lens shown, though, the shiny innards of the mount is exposed to the light path, which means it's a bit flare prone. At least, I think - I can't say I've used it for a while. I should experiment again.

    Not that this helps Rex much! There are plenty of natively F-mount lenses (some with autofocus and metering - oooh) to work through before going to these lengths.
  19. Sold it though as 50mm isn't something I am comfortable with.​
    The real reason I have lots of f/1.8 50mm lenses is that they're so cheap there was no point in selling them (except the E, which I bought relatively recently for its pancakeness). I've still got my Canon 50mm f/1.8 for the same reason. 50mm isn't my favourite length either, but I'd rather have them as options, and my 35mm Sigma and the 85mm Nikkor are appreciably bigger. I have the 50mm Sigma for its optical strengths rather than its focal length, although it and the 35mm Art do plug the gap between the 14-24 and the 70-200 nicely. I only recently added a 24-70, but it can't lose the background like the primes and it's as big as the 50mm Art. No 50mm is ever going to be my most-used lens, but it's nice to have one.

    Henri Cartier-Bresson almost exclusively used a 50mm, of course, and I'm in no position to claim there's anything wrong with the focal length (although the joke is that he probably couldn't afford more than one Leica lens...) Personally I find it a little boringly between telephoto portrait and immersive wide-angle, but I suspect I'm just bad at using normal focal lengths.
  20. "with an old optical formula"
    its a Tessar, isnt it? A very proven formula,
  21. its a Tessar, isnt it? A very proven formula,​
    Yes, I believe so - 4 elements, compared with the 6+-element double-Gauss/Planar designs used for most 50mms and the retrofocal designs used by the 12-element Otus (distagon) and 13-element Sigma. With a vast over-simplification, more elements means more corrections. Tessars have historically been popular at smaller apertures, but I'd not expect the off-axis performance from one at f/2.8 that you'd get from the cheaper f/1.8 50mms. Of course, if you don't want sharpness or autofocus and like the size, there are many who like the rendering. I'd have been tempted if they were a lot cheaper...

    There are lots of "proven" optical formulae. That makes them good - it doesn't mean that modern lens design can't improve on them! (I recently had a "trimagon" advertised to me; that's a Cooke Triplet - three elements - and I'd be astonished if it could keep aberrations at the levels of more modern designs, even at the price they were trying to charge.) Lensbaby manage to sell even simpler optics; if you like the rendering, there's nothing wrong with old - or I wouldn't have bought my Petzval.
  22. Andrew
    Up to now I've tried to match lenses contemporary with the cameras. I got a 24-70mm Zoom Nikkor for the F4, have a pre-AI lens for the F and use the AI-S on the F3. I'm not intending to use this new lens on the F3 or F4 so am not troubled by the lack of aperture ring.
    I'm intrigued by talk of taking a hacksaw to a lens to convert it. No way am I ready for that sort of thing. Down the line, maybe.
  23. That makes sense, Rex. Technically "contemporary" with the F6 in the sense of "available at launch" would be the AF-D lenses (though since the F6 is still allegedly "current" you're authentic with the AF-S).

    I'm confused about the 24-70, though. Is there a non-G (non-f/2.8?) version I'm failing to think of? The 28-70 f/3.5-4.5 AF-D would have crossed over with the F4. (Not picking on you, just trying to work out my confusion!)

    For the 'cron I was actually thinking of taking the hacksaw to the camera (which would be cheaper). But please don't do that to your F6! I agree with Dieter about bright red lenses, though - the only use I can think of is trying to match reflections if you're standing in the middle of a flower bed. Of course, this is Leica we're talking about - some people use them, for the rest it just has to look nice on a shelf.
  24. Yes, the one I've got is an f3.5-4.5. I believe that it was released in 1991. Definitely no hacksawing the F6.
  25. Ah, phew. My faith in my sanity is restored to its normal
    low levels!
  26. Richard: Weird. The Leica R mount (unlike the M) is about half a mm deeper than the F mount, so I guess it's a simple matter of removing the sticky-outy bits - at least nothing should whack the mirror. Life is easier in mirrorless...​

    Yes, this guy has gone to quite heroic lengths to figure out a relatively straightforward way of entirely replacing the Leica R (or Contax/Yashica, or OM) bayonet with a Nikon (or Pentax, etc.) bayonet to get infinity focus. Many lenses can be made to fit, though a few extend too far back to clear the mirror. Seems a reasonable solution for lenses that have been orphaned by their manufacturers, though as you say mirrorless (or EOS) users have it much easier with simple adapters. It's reversible, too, if you keep the original bits, and you can even fit a 'Dandelion' chip.
  27. The real reason I have lots of f/1.8 50mm lenses is that they're so cheap there was no point in selling them​
    Or buying them in the first place. I shunned 50mm from the very beginning. Got one eventually (50/1.4 AiS) for use on an F4 for low-light photography. Horrible wide open. Replaced with the 50/1.8 AF-D - never used much. Traded for the 50/1.8G AF-S that was eventually sold too as it was just sitting unused.
    Leitax is the way to go to convert a Leica R-lens to Nikon F-mount. Have done the conversion for the Leica Apo-Telyt 180/3.4. Easy as pie. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't know about it and sold my Leica-R Macro-Elmarit 100/2.8. When I did the conversion of the 180, a dandelion chip wasn't offered. otherwise I would have gone that route too.
  28. Leica R-lens on Nikon DSLR:
    For some R-lenses, the conversion is a bit more involved (like shaving of bits and pieces) or simply not possible.
  29. As Andrew mentions, any AFS G (non "E") lens can be considered as "contemporary" to the F6. I`d say AF-D lenses are contemporary to the F5, while "plain" AF lenses to the F4.
    My choice would be the 50/1.4AFS. It is not that expensive, althought the f1.8 version is certainly more affordable. I don`t see the point of using a MF lens on an AF camera, unless maybe you were planning to use it mostly for macro... if so, as an exception I`d probably get the ZF Zeiss Makro planar 50/2 instead of a Nikkor.
    About lens conversion, and specially if we are talking about film use, I don`t even consider it. Sometimes I`d like to have a Nikon quality body to use my Pentax lenses, but sincerely, it`s a couple shots` kind of wish. I just use a Pentax body and run.
  30. The weak link in the imaging chain will be the film
    used. I doubt you'll detest any difference in IQ
    between a Zeiss Otus and a cheap f/1.8 AF Nikkor.
    Just decide what maximum aperture you
    want/need and the choice is narrowed
  31. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The weak link in the imaging chain will be the film used.​
    Not necessarily in general. Again, I am making a very general statement: I would say typically the weakest link is what is behind the viewfinder.
  32. I purchased a F6 in January and find the meter to be very useful. I use the ais 50 f1.8 and the Zeiss 2/50 is a little sharper and better overall. I am now testing a Zeiss Milvus 1.4/50 that I just purchased. I use the ais 50f1.8 when I want less weight especially when using the FM2n. If you don't want to go Zeiss, the ais 50f1.8 is a good choice and is the best of my ais Nikkors.
  33. Glad to help, Albin - sorry again for my misinformation about the Tamron!

    Many moons ago I found a web site on which photographers were studiously comparing lenses and reporting which ones were the best at different apertures - which I read at the time as suggesting you should physically change lens when you want to stop down (now I think about it, not much more of a faff than changing aperture stops on my Petzval...) and ridiculously nit-picking. In retrospect, I've turned into them. Sigh.
  34. I have an f1.4 G but I don't like the bokeh (not sure how to describe it - I'm no expert on that) and would have been happier, I think, with a plain old f1.8 G. I think the Nikon f1.8 G is massively underrated - it doesn't cost enough to satisfy some people!

Share This Page