Nikon 50 1.4 AIS

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by radu_diaconu, May 2, 2006.

  1. Hi,

    I've recently shot a baptism with this lens mounted on my F3 and when
    I printed the shots (BW at home on Omega B22 with Schneider
    Componon)they were very soft wide open until f.4. I had difficulty
    making prints larger than 4x6, because they appeared so soft.

    I've shot with this lens before but always around 5.6 or 8, in which
    case every lens performs reasonably well.

    I'd appreciate your comments on the performance wide open.

    Thank you.


    Radu D.
  2. Depends what you mean by "soft". Is the whole image soft or are there limited zones which are crisp? At wider apertures the depth of field is very small - only a small zone around the focus plane will appear sharp, anything in front or behind will be out of focus and appear soft. That's the most likely explanation. The only solution is to focus very carefully so the critical part of the image is sharp. When shooting portraits the trick is to focus on the eyes. Shooting at wide aperture for selective focus this way can really give your images impact.
  3. These fast lenses do have less contrast wide open. However, they can do very well if the light is contrasty.<p>The most critical aspect is probably that the focusing was not accurate. There is curvature of field with these lenses. If you focus using the center aids on the typical F3 "K" screen, then recompose (for rule of thirds, or whatever is pleasing to you), the focus will not be accurate. You need to focus the lens wide open with the composition that you want, right onto the subject's eyes. To prevent unwanted central attention, a lot of us use the plain groundglass grid lined "E" screen.<p>I've had some slides from my 35 1.4 which I thought were acceptable. Now that I'm scanning, the scanner reveals that often the focus was just a little off. I have to focus bracket when I'm in the dark, shooting wide open with a fast lens.
  4. With a 16mm or 8mm cine movie cameras; I have used the non Ai and AIS 50mm F1.4; and even the ancient 5.8cm F1.4. Wide open they are not up to cine standards, at F2 there is some decnt improvement. At F2.8 in the center the AIS is great, plus the older non AI too. At F4 to F5.6 to F8 theses lenses are great for cine work, where the sharpness criteria is better than 35mm still work. A small focus error will totally drop the sharpness wide open, and even if stopped down abit. Any camera motion also degrade imagery, but usually this has some direction, so examine your negatives. In older lenses the old 50mm F2 is decent too wide open. <BR><BR>Ok I'll start the riot and say I get better low light "tighter grouping , ie tighter more consistant" focusing in dim light with a rangefinder, than an manual slr. That be said, you might want to try focusing real rapidly, slowly, and try different screens with an slr to see if you can get your average up. Like shooting arrows or a gun, or darts, there is a spread when aiming for true center. With my old Nikon F and 5.8cm F1.4, or my Nikkormat FTn and 50mm F1.4's I seem to get a heck of alot less "winners" wide open in dim light, than brighter light. <BR><BR>Try some tripod shots using a steel tape for focus to the film plane, then try your screen too. You want to separate the variables. You have camera shake, lens focus error, lens quality. Many times the first two swamp out the last sterile lab bench performance, camera mounted on a granite boulder, with high contrast lighting.<BR><BR>t
  5. IMHO, it depends on the vintage and maybe the sample. I've had a brand new 50mm f/1.4 from the early '70s that I never liked. A later one from the '80s is just excellent, both wide open. OTOH, any 50mm f/1.4 that isn't damaged should produce excellent 4x6 prints if you focus correctly. The differences I'm talking about wouldn't even be visible until 8x10 or so.
  6. I have to agree with Kelly - if you really want accurate focusing in dim light, use a rangefinder. Your eye can judge a line break from the RF easier than judging variations in contrast on a groundglass screen in dim lighting. With the F3, you need a tripod, a C or M screen (aerial focusing), and the DW-4 6x finder to get accuracy.
    All of this is moot if the subject is not stationary. Here's a scan of a violinist friend back in 2003. Almost nothing of the subject is without motion blur, except parts of the violin, and the walls in the background. Yet, you can still figure out what it is. Lens was the 50 1.8 AI, wide open or at f/2. Shutter speed 1/8 or 1/15, hand-held.
  7. Radu,

    I have a clarification issue I'd like to pose: what f stop are you using on your Schneider lens in the darkroom.?
    Also, what is the serial number of your lens? Mine is in the 3xx's, it was manufactured between '81 and '84, and it performs stellar from F4 - 8. At f 2.8 and lower, there is apparent softness on the edges, but it is really not that critical unless I was photographing a newspaper on a brick wall... otherwise it is hardly noticeable.

    This lens receives rave reviews by those who spend countless hours testing lenses, so I'm curious as to why you are obtaining the results you are. Hopefully, in figuring out your problem you will provide us all with some valuable insight.
  8. Roland Vink -When shooting portraits the trick is to focus on the eyes.-

    Just a little rectification: On the closest eye from the camera
  9. Hi everyone,

    First of all, thank you for your replies, they are greatly appreciated.

    For clarification, I use an F3 with MD-4 and E screen, so it's very bright, even in dim light.

    Kelly, I have a rangefinder, but it's a Yashica Electro GSN, so I'm afraid to use it when doing commercial photography, because even though the lens is good, it can't compare to my Nikons (28/2.8 AIS, 50/1.4 AIS and 135/2.8 AiS).

    John, I usually use the lens around f.11 because my enlarger is a condenser and produces so much ligth, that even at f.11 my times are around 3secs for slightly underexposed prints. I cant really try it at f.4 to f.8 because of this, but for well exposed negs, it gives brilliant results (sort of a 3D effect).

    Robert, nice picture, I like it.

    I'll see what gives in the future (Leicas are too expensive for now...hehe).

    But thank you everyone for your comments.

    If you have any more questions, please post them.

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