The Nikkor 50 mm 1.4G is a lens from the Nikon professional series. High brightness, sturdy construction and a metal housing and mount characterize these lenses. This lens is designed for the full-frame format (Nikon D700, D800, and D3), has a built-in focus motor. It works on the consumer bodies with the DX format such as the D3200 too.
The Nikon F mount dates from the middle of the last century, and the beautiful thing is that, excluding the electronic contacts, nothing has changed. Old Nikon lenses fit on the newest bodies (although there are restrictions regarding aperture control and autofocus), and conversely this Nikon 50 mm 1.4G fits on old bodies. The F-mount does have one limitation however: the inner diameter is on the small side to the current standards. A greater brightness than f / 1.4 is not possible, and there is some vignetting at full aperture, as evidenced by our Nikon 50mm 1.4G review.
A standard lens with a 50 mm focal length results in an image with approximately the same magnification as the naked eye. The picture therefore looks natural and the lens is versatile.
The Nikon 50mm 1.4G is well built, housing and mount are made of metal, and the connection to the body is sealed with a small rubber washer. For a fixed focal length, it is on the heavy side (300g); the comparable consumer lens weighs 100g less. It comes complete with lens hood in a stylish black bag. The front lens is recessed and rotates when focusing, but the filter mount (58 mm) fortunately does not. You can therefore easily apply orientation-sensitive filters such as polarizers and gradient filters. From the shortest focal length to infinity, you need to rotate the spacer ring over 180 degrees and you can focus manually very accurately. This is necessary because at full aperture, the depth of field is very small of course. There is no aperture ring; you control the aperture using the adjustment ring on the camera. There is a distance scale and a slide switch with the modes M and MA. In the latter mode, you can rotate the lens ‘through the focus’ by hand.
The AF of the Nikon 50 mm 1.4G is quickly and silently, so you actually do not notice that you are focusing. The beauty of a bright lens like this is that the AF just keeps working even though there is little light. On a body like the D800E (maximum ISO 6400 and still expandable by 2 stops) you can photograph by moonlight, and the autofocus works like nothing is wrong. Focusing manually no longer works in so little light.
The Nikon 50 mm 1.4G does not have image stabilization.
Not entirely surprising, at full aperture and in RAW, there is visible vignetting of about 1.9 stops. This is partly due to the somewhat narrow mount, which we already discussed at the introduction. When stopping down 2 stops, meaning f/2.8, it is as good as gone. Looking at vignetting on a full frame sensor body, this lens does not do so well in our scoring system. In the DX format (on the D3200), you do not use the corners and so vignetting is much better: 0.6 at full aperture and an almost invisible 0.1 at f/2.8. If you work in JPG, the camera already applies some correction. This could also be a consequence of the automatic distortion correction that the camera performs.
Modern Nikon bodies have, in contrast to those of Canon, no menu mode to correct vignetting. You will (optionally) have to get help of the computer.
Distortion Nikon 50mm 1.4G
In RAW and on the D800E, the lens gives a visible (2%) barrel distortion, which is automatically corrected in JPG. On the D3200, the distortion is obviously lower – you merely use the best part of the image circle after all.
Due to the nine diaphragm blades, the aperture is nearly round, which makes for a beautiful blur. With a lens with a large aperture, this is important, because you have little depth of field. Many users will sometimes use the lens as a portrait lens and at f / 1.4 and the usual portrait distance (about 1 meter), the depth of field is only a few centimeters. If you focus on the eyes, the tip of the nose is already outside the focus area. These portraits are now very fashionable.
Bright lenses can exhibit color bokeh below f/2.8 in the form of green edges behind the focal plane and purple edges before that. This is also true for this lens as you can see in the example below, as evidenced by our Nikon 50mm 1.4G review.
The Nikon 50 mm 1.4G has very few problems with backlight. You rarely encounter ghosting artifacts, thanks to the included lens hood, using the Nikon 50 mm 1.4G. Only if you are photographing directly into a bright light source, you can encounter flare and ghosting in the form of green diaphragm rings as you can see in the sample image shown here.
Resolution Nikon 50mm 1.4G
Of all the available SLRs, the D800E is probably the body with the highest resolution. On such a camera, weak lenses are directly discovered. Not this 50 mm f / 1.4. At the optimum aperture f / 5.6, we measured nearly 4000 line pairs per picture height in the center for a jpg file. This is an exceptional value! And the resolution of a in DCRAW converted RAW file is even 30% higher. In the corners and at full aperture, the resolution is “only” about 2000. That ‘only’ we put in quotes, because there are not many lenses that do better. On the D3200, we measure lower resolutions. This is because the sensor resolution is the determining factor, and not the lens.
In practice, the lens draws very sharply under all circumstances. When we had blurred images, it was always a case of camera shake. Especially with the D800E, each flaw becomes visible! Unfortunately, this lens does not have built-in image stabilization.
The measured values for chromatic aberration of the Nikon 50mm 1.4G are excellent too. Not only in the jpg file, in which any chromatic aberration is corrected by the camera, but also in uncorrected RAW files you do not encounter lateral chromatic aberration. In practice shots, we saw the dreaded purple / green fringes along tree branches, etc. nowhere.
Something else is the story of the longitudinal chromatic aberration/color bokeh. As with many fast lenses, below f/2.8 color bokeh is observable, identifiable by green and purple stains behind, respectively, in front of the focusing area.
Conclusion Nikon 50mm 1.4G review
- Excellent image quality, very high center resolution
- Absence of lateral chromatic aberration in RAW and JPG files
- Beautiful bokeh
- Corner resolution less than center resolution up to f/4.5
- Relatively high distortion in RAW files
- Color bokeh sometimes visible below f/2.8
- High price
For a non-zoom lens of 50 mm (since generations already the ‘standard’ focal length and therefore very popular), this Nikkor is firmly priced of course. Nevertheless, with its extreme sensitivity, it also lives up to that price. The mechanical and optical qualities are very high. The resolution is exceptionally good, and with the exception of some vignetting at large apertures, there are actually no lens errors. The lens is large enough for you to wrap your hand around when shooting. On our wish list for the Nikon 50 mm 1.4G is only vibration reduction.