Nikkor 50/1.2 AIS (#383097)

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by willscarlett, Apr 6, 2008.

  1. One of my friends let me borrow his Nikkor 50/1.2 lens and I was playing around with it on my parents' D80. After messing around for a bit at 1.2, I have to say this lens isn't as much fun as I thought it would be. I found it hard to get good focus and sharpness. Is the point of buying this lens to shoot at 1.2, or is it sharper than other 50mm lenses at their respective apertures? The depth of field at 1.2 seems to be around 1/2" or so. 1.2 obviously gives a great edge to low light photography, but I imagine it would be tough to focus in such low light and your depth of field would be so narrow. The bokeh is beautiful tho, but seems to be very similar to my Nikkor 50/1.4 - I have an older version that was AI'd and I did a few side-by-side shots of the 50/1.2 and 50/1.4. Maybe the D80 wasn't the best camera to use this lens on, but things looked sharp and in focus thru the viewfinder - and the green focusing dot was solid - but when I put them on my computer, they didn't look quite as good. Anyways, the D80 was the only camera I could see instant results with. I got some better results with my friend's D300, but even then it was pretty tough. Stopped down tho, the 50/1.2 looks great, even with the D80. Would have an autofocus 1.2 lens make things any easier, like the Canon 50/1.2 or 85/1.2? I'll post a few of my results below, just for fun. The first two were taken on a D300 and the rest on a D80.
  2. Kodak ad...
  3. one of my dogs... everything is shot at 1.2 btw
  4. my sister
  5. oops... again
  6. It's like I focus and shoot, but then when I look at what I shot, a different part of the image is in focus... crazy
  7. Is it true that lenses that open wider are higher quality lenses? It seems to me that people tend to say that at least for 50/1.4 vs 50/1.8, that the 1.8 lenses are the sharper lens, but the advantage of the 1.4 is its low light capability.

    I've shot a lot with a 50/1.4 on my Canon AE-1 P and have found it much easier to focus and get good shots at 1.4, but I also really like how the AE-1 P has that rangefinder that helps focus... really nice.
  8. The focus confirmation dot on dSLRs isn't always the best indicator for accurate manual focusing. The eye is a better judge. Unfortunately most autofocus SLRs lack a suitable screen for critical manual focusing. The same error occurs with other lenses. But DOF compensates for minor focus errors, so it's less noticeable.

    Faster lenses aren't necessarily sharper wide open than their slower counterparts. That isn't the main advantage to all fast lenses. Simply being able to shoot in dim available light is often the primary advantage. The brighter viewfinder image also helps, altho' the very shallow DOF can make critical focus challenging, as you've discovered.

    Faster lenses were mostly designed for fairly specialized applications, such as photojournalism and astrophotography. They aren't necessarily the best choices or cost effective for most photographers.

    A few lenses are very sharp or well corrected wide open for the usual flaws that require stopping down in other lenses. These tend to be specialized designs and some are very expensive.
  9. Is your sister single?

  10. Well, shooting with wide open with a fast lens requires a few tricks, and a bit of
    Like you said, perhaps the D80 isn't the best camera for it, I believe the screen/prism is
    darker. Perhaps as well you are focussing in the middle of the screen and then
    recomposing, causing a very slight focus shift.
    I have the 50 1.2 as well as many 1.4's, 1.8 and 2's, and wide open performance requires
    diligent and accurate focus. I do tend to use finders with a higher eyepoint, and as well use
    a slight diopter correction to help. I find that the 1.8 is the most useful, and the 1.2 for
    specific 'looks'.
    I shot this with the Nikkor 50mm 1.2 Ai.
  11. Used to have one way back when - before all my Nikon gear was stolen. I was never over-
    impressed with the f1.2, which seemed to me to be the softest of the 50mms. Useful once in
    a blue moon, but it was probably the least used lens in my armoury in those days (using an
    F4 as the main body, to give some historical context).
  12. The 50/1.2 is great, I love it. Bjorn rates it a 5 on the D3.

    But as the samples posted above shows, you can't shoot that close at f/1.2 because there isn't enough dof for the subject - basically everything is out of focus. Then there is also the technical part of getting the focus right of course.

    Looking at the MTF results from photodo one can see that the 50/1.2 beats the 50/1.8 and 50/1.4 at down to f/2, are equal f/2.8-f/4 and is a looser at f/8 and down.

    Weighted MTF for 50/1.2 are:

    Weighted MTF for AF 50/1.4D are:

    Weighted MTF for AF 50/1.8 are:

  13. John-Paul,

    You should try the 50/1.2 and your older 50/1.4 on your FE body. I forgot whether your FE body had the E or B screen (grid or plain matte) but either is better than the K screen with these lenses for wide open shooting. I think and FE with an E or B screen will allow better manual focusing than any auto focus DSLR.

    There are many factors to consider when shooting wide open and they all affect the final result. The camera must have all parts of the mirror box and viewfinder in perfact alignment. The focusing screen and condenser have to be lined up, the mirror must fall back after each exposure to the exact correct location and the pressure plate and film rails must be holding the film in exactly the right place. If any of these is off by even a little bit, you will not get the results you want wide open. You will be sure that you focused on a particular point but some other point will actually be the one in focus. My f/1.2 standard lenses include two 57/1.2 Konica Hexanons and a 55/1.2 Canon FL so I can't compare them directly to the 50/1.2 Nikkors. For me, the selective focus effect for subjects like portraits is overdone. If I am shooting distant subjects in low light then the speed of the lens allows me to get a shot I might not get with a slower lens. If I am closer to the subject I won't be using the lens wide open but I might be able to focus more easily.

    I have a suggestion to make about lens serial numbers. I don't think photo.netters would try to buy a stolen lens. The fact is that some stolen equipment does wind up on auction sites and at retail stores. There are various lists of these stolen items floating around. For this reason, if you have a lens with 6 serial numbers you might use numbers for the first 4 digits and then XX for the last 2. The first 4 digits will let others know what type of lens you have and the XX after that might prevent you from drawing unwanted attention.
  14. Lex - what I was wondering about faster lenses being sharper was, not are they sharper wide open,
    but would the 50/1.2 be sharper at f/4 than the 50/1.4 or 50/1.8. One of my friends mentioned
    that faster lenses are made from higher quality glass.

    Chris - my sister is single... but don't get any ideas, haha

    Christiaan - I was focusing manually on the D80 and then recomposing, but I wasn't changing the
    point of focus and I wasn't moving at all... but since the DOF is so shallow, who knows. The pic you
    linked to tho, the focus is on her eyes?

    Peter - what are MTF results?

    Jeff - I'll try it on my FE and see how that goes. Didn't know that many factors influenced the
    focusing of a shot. Thanks for the serial # info, but this lens was not stolen and I will be returning it
    to my friend tomorrow morning.
  15. Faster lenses are not necessarily made to higher standards from higher quality materials. *Some* are. Not all.

    Some are simply faster, made from similar quality materials comparable to slower lenses. The 50/1.4D AF Nikkor is a good example. Overall it's made to about the same standards as the 50/1.8D AF Nikkor. It's slightly faster, that's all.

    The 58mm f/1.2 Noct Nikkor was made using significantly costlier glass and optics that required a lot of hand work, which raised the price. But that doesn't mean that *all* f/1.2 Nikkors (or f/1.2 lenses from other makers) are necessarily made to higher standards. Some are, some aren't.

    There's one main reason why faster lenses appear to be built to higher standards. Faster lenses are typically bought by pros, who may subject the equipment to harder use: lots of travel; adverse conditions; lots of knocking around; lots of use. The heavy duty lens barrels are designed to help ensure the optical elements remain centered and, especially with electronic lenses, the electronic components don't fail. That doesn't *necessarily* mean the optical elements are superior. They usually are, but Nikon, Canon, etc., could put the same elements from cheaper lenses into heavier duty lenses and still have a market among some pros and serious amateurs.

    That's why there's a market for both the 18-70/3.5-4.5 DX Nikkor and 17-55/2.8 DX Nikkor. According to tests are user reports, the 17-55/2.8 isn't head and shoulders above the cheaper lens in terms of optical quality. It's better, but still suffers from some barrel distortion, etc. Where the more expensive lens shines is in terms of durability. Some users have reported failure of their 18-70 DX Nikkors in normal usage. Owners of the 17-55/2.8 DX Nikkor have reported dropping the lens, which could then be repaired and provide many more years of satisfactory service.

    So in some cases a fast maximum aperture is more an indication of heavy duty construction than of significant optical superiority.

    That's why the MTF results Peter mentioned are significant. While MTF results can be tricky to interpret, there are plenty of lens tests online that are relatively easy to understand and informative about the differences in optical performance. I like the site for such tests since they tend to use standardized testing methods rather than entirely subjective opinions. Be sure to look for the actual reviews using their standardized methodology - photozone also offers a large section based entirely on subjective user reviews, which aren't always accurate because you don't know whether the opinions are based on any methodology, purely subjective opinions such as "Well, I like it" or even "I heard lots of people tell me it's good so I guess it's good."
  16. The 50/1.2 has a lot of internal flare at f1.2 and the DOF is really shallow. I haven't found the focus indicator to be reliable at that aperture. At f2-f5.6 my lens performs exceptionally, at large apertures it does indeed outperform other 50's in terms of resolution. The contrast is always a bit low with this lens, though. It's also reasonably resistant to flare and well built.

    In the end, it's a bit of a specialty lens, but I like it. Definitely not for everyone, though.
  17. Yeh, most fast lenses suffer from internal flare. A lotta folks don't realize it because it's not visible as ghosting or iris shapes. It's just the kind of flare that robs contrast and color saturation, which to the untrained eye can appear to also affect apparent sharpness since many folks lump together resolution, contrast and saturation into the category of "sharpness."

    My 105/2.5 AI Nikkor doesn't demonstrate significantly better resolution at f/2.8 than wide open. But internal flare is reduced enough to improve contrast and saturation, so apparent sharpness *seems* better, even tho' it's not.

    Ditto the excellent 35-70/2.8D AF Nikkor and most others with an f/2.8 or faster maximum aperture. Stopping down just a little reduces flare, so they seem sharper.

    Another of John-Paul's questions, regarding the comparative sharpness between faster lenses stopped down: the answer is, maybe. I don't think you'd see a huge difference between f/1.2, f/1.4 and f/1.8 versions of a 50mm lens with all stopped down to f/4. They'd all be very good between f/4-f/11. But you would see a major difference between any of those lenses stopped down to f/4 and a slowish variable aperture zoom at f/4, which is effectively wide open for such a lens.

    Another Nikonista and forum member recently posted some photos comparing the Sigma 30/1.4 against various other lenses around that focal length, including a Leica (35/2 I think). Only the Leica was clearly better wide open. The others were all better stopped down a bit, usually acceptable by f/2-f/2.8. In the case of the Leica you definitely get what you pay for. But the Sigma also offers excellent value, not so much in terms of sharpness wide open, but in terms of offering a relative bargain in a fast autofocus lens that will enable even a consumer grade dSLR to autofocus better in dim lighting.
  18. John-Paul, you are correct, her eyelashes are in the very small plane of focus, and perhaps
    the scan does not reveal it, but within that zone its very sharp.

    The recomposing is what is throwing off your focussing, you need to focus on the screen as
    you compose the shot. Close up, there is enough of a difference wide open that any and all
    shifts will change that narrow plane of focus. Thats why I use either an F3Hp or F4 to shoot
    this lens, the finder size and brightness makes it helpful.
  19. Christiaan, good to know that the recomposition is what's throwing off the focus. I'll try
    some without doing that and I have some film in my FE that I can do some tests with.

    Lex, thanks for all the in-depth answers... def very helpful and interesting. What is MTF

    Oskar, thanks for your input as well.

    I was wondering, since DOF gets shallower with longer lenses, is there an longer lens with
    maybe a slower aperture that gives similar DOF compared to a 50/1.2, like maybe a
  20. John-Paul, more on MTF here:

  21. Use this lens with film (and a film SLR's superior viewfinder), the HS-12 lens shade, and in low light. At f/2, it's a stunning lens.

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