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Review Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 (Nikon 1 / CX)

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In mid-May 2013, Nikon announced the introduction of the Nikon 1 32 mm f/1.2. This super-bright portrait lens, available in a black or silver version, has the classic focal length corresponding to 85 mm on a small-screen equivalent. At this focal length to make with a Nikon 1 camera full-screen portraits with a beautiful background blur.
In terms of depth of field, the f/1.2 of the Nikon 32 mm approximately compares with f/3.2 of a 85 mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor, such as a Nikon D800E. That's perfect, because on a camera with a full-frame sensor, at a larger aperture, the depth of field becomes too small for a portrait that is in focus from nose to ear. Usually you won't want any larger aperture. How does the image quality of the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 compare to the 85 mm f1/4 lenses for SLRs? Amazingly well!

Nikon32mmnikkor

Review Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 & Nikon V2

sampleimage
The Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 is a perfect portrait lens. This is also a good choice for street photography, where the high brightness even in low-light still yields a sufficiently fast shutter speed for sharp pictures. This lens does not have built-in image stabilization.
A nice feature of the Nikon 1 cameras is the silent electronic shutter, which lets you have a fastest shutter speed of 1/16,000 second. Thanks to this fast shutter speed, you can also in sunny situations still use a relatively large aperture.

Construction and auto focus

 

The build quality of the Nikon is very high. The mount is metal, and there is a nice lens hood included. Focusing with the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 silent wave focusing motor is lightning fast. The lens has a ribbed ring at the front that lets you manually focus or overrule the AF. You don't have to set the camera on manual focusing if you don't want use the AF. The focus ring is nicely muted and pleasant to work with. The front lens does not rotate during focusing, meaning you can use this lens with filters.

Specifications
Nikon 1 32mm f/1.2
Image Stabilization:-
lenses/ groups:9/7
length x diameter:47 / 66
filter size:52
Weight:235
Lens hood:+

Vignetting

 

The lens design displays a little over half a stop vignetting at maximum aperture. That is especially good considering the high brightness of the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2. If you shoot jpg files with a Nikon 1, then you will in practice not encounter visible vignetting at any aperture. The little bit of vignetting that was there, can be perfectly corrected by the Nikon V2. If you make a comparison with a portrait lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor, then this bright Nikon rates very highly due to the complete absence of vignetting.

vignet

Distortion

 

In an uncorrected RAW file, there's visible barrel distortion, as you can see in the practice shot on the right. In jpg files, the camera corrects for distortion and you're dealing with a lens that can be used even for the most critical architecture shots.

distortion

Flare

 

The individual elements are treated with Nikon's Nano Crystal Coating, to reduce flare and ghosts. Even so, flare is the Achilles heel of the Nikon 1 32 mm f/1.2. On the right, you'll see a strong purple ghost due to an internal reflection in the lens due to the bright sunlight at the top of image.

flare

Nikon1If you want to play with background blur and a Nikon 1, then the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 is the best choice.

Sharpness

 

Starting at full aperture the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 delivers nice sharp pictures, in which the sharpness is high throughout the frame. In that respect, this lens also scores very well, also compared to many larger and less bright lenses on a camera with an APS-C sensor. In our overview with test results by focal length, you can compare the performance of this lens with other lenses with a field of view that matches an 85 mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor.

Nikon32mmresolution

Chromatic aberration

 

Lateral chromatic aberration is as good as absent at all apertures, and that's just very good. With bright lenses, there's usually longitudinal chromatic aberration. You see that in the form of green edges in front of the focus point and purple edges behind the focus point, as in the image on the right. If you're only used to less bright lenses (f/2.8 or higher), you might get a shock when you encounter this for the first time. Usually it's not terrible. We've shown the worst case (an image crop at 100%) that we found on the right.

colorbokeh

Bokeh

 
In general, the smaller the sensor, the shorter the focal length and the smaller the aperture, the less the chance for beautiful bokeh. Usually, the depth of field of shots made with a Nikon 1, which in comparison with a full-frame SLR camera has a relatively small sensor, is too big to deliver a really beautiful bokeh.
If you're used to a compact camera, then switching to a Nikon 1 is a switch to a larger sensor. In that case, you may be even happy with the increased background blur. In the Nikon 1 system, the Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 is the absolute bokeh king.
bokeh

Conclusion Nikon 32 mm f/1.2 test with Nikon V2

Nikon32mm

See our list of tested lenses or the lenses with a Nikon mount tested by us to compare the performance of this lens to other lenses.

 

 

ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
32
86
8.7
8.2
7.7
9.4
9.3
6
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
32
86
8.4
8.1
9.0
9.3
8.7
6

Pros

  • High image quality; high sharpness, low distortion
  • High brightness
  • After just 1 aperture stop, no vignetting
  • Best bokeh of the Nikon 1 system
  • Including lens hood

Cons

  • Relatively high price
  • Sensitive to flare

The Nikon 1 32 mm f/1.2 is one of the most expensive lenses of Nikon 1 series. This lens is more expensive than the camera. On the other hand, this is maybe the best lens of the Nikon 1 series. Because of a difference in sharpness, you don't need to migrate from another Nikon 1 lens to a Nikon 32 mm. The differences in sharpness are small and that in my eyes justifies such a high investment. The large aperture of f/1.2 delivers, however, many creative possibilities. If you like to shoot without a flash in available light and you would like to play with depth of field, then this is the perfect addition to your Nikon 1 set.

Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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