Wide-angle with bokeh: AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED
The AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is the successor of the Nikon AF 28mm f/1.4D. That old 28mm f/1.4D was the only bright wide-angle in the Nikkor assortment for years. The new AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED currently fits nicely in a row of equally bright Nikkors with a 24mm on one side and a 35mm on the other. The new lens is optimized for sensors with high resolution. Where the old lens still depended for the autofocus on an AF motor in the camera, the new lens has a built-in motor for fast and quiet focus. It is partly because of that that the lens is a bit bigger and heavier than its predecessor, but in terms of image and build quality it offers everything you could want as an enthusiast photographer or professional. The new lens design combines a great bokeh at f/1.4 with outstanding image quality, certainly if the lens is stopped down a bit.
BUILD AND autofocus
The AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is very solidly built. It is made from a magnesium alloy and clearly intended for professional use. Of the 14 lens elements, two are made of ED glass, and three are aspherical. It is moisture- and dust-proof and fitting with the needed packing. The front lens, next to the modern Nano Crystal coatings, has an extra fluorine coating so that moisture, dirt and grease will not easily attach to the glass and the lens is easy to clean. The autofocus works very quickly, quietly and accurately. The lens does not change length when focusing, and of course the front lens does not turn. It is heavier and bigger than the old 28mm f/1.4D, but still modest compared with the new norm for bright 28mm lenses, the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4. The filter size of the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is 77mm, and the weight is 620 grams. The Otus beats that with a filter size of 95mm and a weight of 1310 gram. It would be going too far to call the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED light or compact, but the lens is nicely in balance with a full-frame Nikon camera like the D810. The lens comes standard with the HB-83 lens hood.
VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
1/800 sec, f/2.8
The AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is a completely new lens design and not a cosmetic upgrade of the old D version. You can see that just from the number of lens elements: 14 in 11. The optical design of the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED ensures outstanding performance that is better than that of the old f/1.4. The slightly less bright AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G also has to acknowledge its better, even at full aperture, in the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED. That is quite good. The sharpness is reasonable in both the middle and the corners at full aperture. The shift to the corners is not big, which contributes to the impression of good image quality. Of course the quality improves when you stop down, but more than two stops, to f/2.8, is not needed to get outstanding image quality. In RAW, the quality even starts to decrease after that, although not much. In jpeg, with all corrections on, the sharpness gradually increases to f/8, and then decreases a bit after that. The lens has trouble with a small amount of barrel-shaped distortion, but it is not much and even in shots with lots of straight lines you will not soon be bothered by it. Chromatic aberrations are well suppressed, but – certainly at full aperture – not completely gone. Dark objects against clear sky can sometimes take on a purple glow, and out-of-focus objects in the foreground can take on a green tint or a magenta tint in the background, which points to the presence of lateral chromatic aberration. It is not serious and only visible in a small percentage of the test shots that we made. Thanks to the new coatings, the lens is very resistant to direct sunlight. Flare and veiling flare will not soon show up with this 28mm f/1.4. the only thing that may stand out is the reasonably strong vignetting of more than two stops at full aperture. That vignetting ensures on the other hand that the center remains lighter, so that it draws more of the attention. You can thus also benefit from that vignetting as a photographer. Those who do not like it will have to turn on the lens corrections or stop down a bit. In RAW, it is no longer a problem at f/2.8; in jpeg it is already reduced at f/2 to just a bit more than 1 stop.
The old 28mm f/1.4D was long the only option from Nikon for getting a somewhat soft background blur with a wide-angle lens. We never formally tested that lens, but we did photograph with it. The bokeh of the old 28mm was good for the time, but in comparison with new stars like the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4, it is still a bit hard and restless. The new AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED does not (quite) achieve the quality of the Zeiss. The Zeiss achieves better sharpness at full aperture in the corners and has practically no trouble with aberrations. That creates a better, more beautiful image and a nicer blur in the background. But the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED comes reasonably close. And it offers a much lower weight, more compact dimensions, a lower price and autofocus as a bonus.
ConclusiON Review Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.4E ED @ FX
- High brightness
- Great bokeh for a wide angle
- Outstanding image quality
- Fluorine coating on front element
- Little distortion
- Bigger and heavier than the old 28mm f/1.4
- No image stabilization
- Chromatic aberration sometimes visible
The quality both optically and mechanically is at a higher level than that of the old 28mm f/1.4.
Click on the product for specifications, prices and test results.
The new AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is a great, bright wide-angle for fans of this focal length. It is not as exaggerated a wide angle as the 24mm, but it offers just a bit more image than a 35mm. At full aperture, the lens offers a beautiful bokeh for a wide-angle lens. As a result, you can nicely isolate your subject from objects in the background. The price seems stiff for a 28mm, but it is about half the price of a Zeiss Otus and –corrected for inflation – even less expensive than the old 28mm f/1.4D when that lens was introduced. The AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is also better than the new 28mm f/1.8G. That lens is still a great alternative for photographers who are looking for a 28mm wide angle with a friendlier price tag. But if you are looking for a really good and bright 28mm with autofocus, then the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is the best option.