This is a semi-formal image quality test of three old Nikkors: the 50/1.4 AI-S, 50/1.8 AI-S and pre-AI 55mm/3.5 Micro. Each lens was exposed at three apertures: wide-open, f/5.6 and f/16. Shutter speeds were within 1/3 stop. A Nikon D1X was set on manual with custom white balance. ISO was set at 125. File format was JPEG-fine at maximum resolution (approx. 5.7Mpx). No sharpening was applied at any stage. The same camera body was used for each lens. There is noticeable dust on the AA filter but this doesn't affect the results. The monitor was a BenQ 22" FP222W (soon to be replaced) and resolution was 1680 x 1050. The test target was a text file composed in TextEdit. Font was VT100 20pt. Text was a block of ampersands. Each ampersand measured 10 x 15px on the monitor. The character was chosen due to its shape. Although the VT100 ampersand is not ideal, the ampersand has a diagonal line, two differently sized loops and two short tails. The VT100 typeface was chosen as it was a bitmap font and could not be smoothed by the OS (one of the few problems I have with Mac OS). There is one problem with the 50/1.4: the diaphragm's sprung lever was not working. At f/1.4 it didn't matter. But at f/5.6 and f/16, I had to manually set the aperture with the lens off the camera, then re-mount it, being careful not to let the aperture lever on the lens touch the one in the camera. Focus had to be set wide-open and great care had to be taken not to allow the focussing ring to move as the lens was taken off and re-mounted. In hindsight I should have found a way to keep the DOF button depressed. With the 55mm lens mounted, the camera was placed slightly further away than were the other two from the monitor (in order to compensate for its slightly longer focal length). This was approximated only. I tried to get the monitor and camera as level and as aligned as reasonably possible. This should not be seen as a conclusive comparison, but I estimate that you can have 85% confidence of the quality of the results. Perhaps less with the 50/1.4, perhaps more with the other two. I expected the Micro, despite its age, to be very sharp wide-open, but it wasn't. The 1.4 was, as expected, poor wide-open, but I like it for portraits. The 1.8 looks worse wide-open than the 1.4. This is odd, considering I did check focus carefully before each shot, and a previous real-world test showed the 1.8 as a better lens in the corners. Perhaps my perception was wrong. So I did another test with each lens, wide-open only. The results were equivalent, therefore I didn't have to re-shoot the lenses wide-open. The reason for this might be that the 1.8 unit I have is an atypical sample. What seems to be light fall-off is probably the monitor's fault, not the lenses'. Just a note, though: photography has always been a mixture of technology and art. This is more than just incidental. Good technology is very important to photographers. That said, you can have a technically perfect lens which doesn't give pleasing images (e.g. unattractive bokeh) or a compromised lens (e.g. the Nikon 50/1.4 I tested) which can give pleasing results in portraits. Considering the cost of these older lenses, you don't have the right to expect Leica-like quality from them. If you want the quality of the Summilux M... buy a Summilux M. Don't expect to get optimal results with these lenses at anything wider than f/8. Otherwise a D2H may give you results no better than a D3X. This experiment didn't take too long. I actually performed it twice. The first results had to be thrown out as I wasn't 100% sure that focus was maintained for each shot. The second time around was easier and even more precise, so it was worth the trouble. In fact the second test was more satisfying and felt less of a chore. Everyone knows how much care can go into simple test. By doing one yourself you can experience it for yourself and really appreciate the work that goes into complex scientific experiments. This was just a lens test. It's hardly a big deal compared to what goes on in the sciences. I was surprised at the difference between the 1.8 and the 1.4. That taught me a lesson and brings the point forward that you should never assume that newer lenses - or 'slower' ones - are better. The results follow. Each image contains 1:1 cropped sections of the centre and top left corner of each shot.