AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Initial Impressions

Old Glory

If you follow me on Twitter, watch my Flickr stream, read my recent post here, you know that a few days ago I acquired a new camera lens, the just-released AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G. This is the one that just premiered at Photokina a few months ago, and is still only available from a few retailers. I ordered it online from a small retail shop in Muncie, IN that a friend told me about.

By the time you read this, or shortly thereafter, the lens might already be starting to show up in the bigger online shops. Normally, I’d get it from B&H, Adorama, or Amazon (it’s not there yet), but Jack’s was great and got me the lens quickly.

Let me start out by saying that this is most certainly the best prime lens I have ever used in my entire life, from any manufacturer, and on any camera. It’s on the fast track to becoming my favorite lens in my bag. This says a lot, especially because I’m lucky enough to have a 24-70mm f/2.8 in there as well. After using this lens for just a day or so, you start to really appreciate what it has to offer. It’s beautifully sharp and contrasty wide open, and I’m blown away by the bokeh.

50mm + Fast Shutter

Obviously, the lens kicks butt in low light. Even though the Nikon D700 performs very well in this area already, it’s great to see what it can do at f/1.4! The autofocus is faster than I’m used to in poor lighting and with moderate ISO settings. I’ve been taking a ton of pictures chasing through the house after my one-year old, snapping shots in the kind of low-light situations where I wouldn’t have been able to get anything usable before. In good lighting, it’s even better.

As you’d expect from a Nikon lens at this price ($430-$500 USD as I write this), it’s well built from metal as opposed to plastic, like the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF lens, which I was replacing with this new one. The 50mm f/1.8 is a great little lens in its own right, and if you’re looking to get into prime lenses, it’ll only set you back about $100.

Bokeh Raton

Strongly constructed and solid without being heavy or bulky, the f/1.4 is the perfect size. The f/1.8 always struck me as a bit small on larger camera bodies like the D700 or the D3, but the f/1.4 looks like it belongs there. At the same time, it doesn’t seem to overwhelm smaller cameras like the D90. The excellent hood that comes with this lens is a nice addition as well (the f/1.8 lacks a hood). Truth be told, you’d kind of expect a solid hood at this price point, and it’s nice to see that Nikon thinks so too.

I especially love being able to just grab the focus ring to engage manual focus, and switch back to autofocus with a shutter half-push, just like the 24-70mm and the 70-200mm f/2.8. Now I’m really spoiled.

Recommendations

If you can’t tell already, I think this is a great lens. I actually think it’s a bargain at the $430-$500 price range.

I replaced my $100 Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF lens with this one, and there’s a big difference. If you’re totally happy with the f/1.8 you already have, then there’s probably no reason to upgrade to the f1.4. But if you’re looking for better low light performance, better autofocus with easy switching to manual, or if you’re as obsessed with bokeh as I am, you won’t be disappointed with this little beast.

If you don’t already have a 50mm (or other) prime lens, skip the f/1.8 and get this lens straight away.

More articles in the Archive →