Impressions: Nikon 50mm F/1.2 AI-S

I’d gone back and forth for a little while about trading in my 50mm F/1.8 for the f/1.4 but couldn’t justify twice the cost for only a 1/2 stop of extra aperture…  So, I did some research and found out that Nikon still makes a 50mm F/1.2.  Now that I could justify.  I decided that I’d buy it used since a new copy costs a little more then I wanted to pay.  Now, I never buy used lenses.  If you’ve ever seen the insides of some modern lenses, you’ll know why.  This is not a modern lens.  It was originally released in 1978, and it’s all steel and glass.

That makes it Heavy.  At 12.5oz, it’s a good bit heavier then the f/1.4 (9.8oz).  It has about 180 degrees of auto focus travel.  Compare that to the 24-70mm which is about 80deg.  This means that you can be much more accurate with the focusing on this lens.  And you’ll need to be, as it is manual only, and at f/1.2, your DoF is razor thin.

f/1.2 on the left, and f/16 on the right.

So, the reason you buy a f/1.2 lens is for isolation, and at f/1.2 you can pretty much isolate anything.  I was really nervous that it was going to be very difficult to focus this lens and to be able to achieve critical focus manually, but it’s surprisingly easy with this lens.  My camera’s focus indicator is pretty accurate.  I’ve learned to have my focus leaning toward the back, as the indicator isn’t that accurate.  For me, this is a specialty lens.  I’ll only use it when I know I’ve got the time to setup the shot and IQ isn’t of extreme importance.

That brings us to the compromises you’ll make by getting down to f/1.2.  First and foremost is IQ.  There is a rather large difference between f/1.2 and f/2.  More then I expected there to be, but not in the way you might expect.  F/1.2 isn’t perfect, far from it, but it’s good enough.  F/2 on the other hand is actually extremely sharp!  It’s better then the f/1.8 at f/2.  Specific issues at f/1.2 include Chromatic Abrasion, heavy Vignetting, loss of sharpness and some barrel distortion.

Another big problem with the lens is its lack of modern coatings.  Point this lens toward the sun or any light source and you’ll lose contrast and gain a bunch of flair.  It’s not too bad as long as you’re careful, but I really miss that Nanocrystal coating!  The lack of a lens hood also compounds this problem.  I’m looking into getting one or making on for it…

The Bokeh is also not as nice as i’d like it.  It’s jittery and hard edges look weird.

The next big one is Auto focus.  This really limits what I can use it for.  I’ve definitely gotten better with it in the few weeks that I’ve had it, but there’s no way i’ll be using it to shoot a bride coming down the isle (unless i’m at a friends wedding as a guest… or I get significantly faster and more accurate at it…).  I will use it on detail shots and other special shots where I’ve got the time to make sure i got it right.

Final thoughts:  I’m very happy with it.  I knew what I was getting my self into when I bought it, so I’m pretty happy with the quality of the lens…

More shots below:

The maple kind?!?

Awwww, you gotta be kidding me!

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