Product Review: Nikkor 50mm 1.2 AIS

Let's start this one with a fact: image quality comes from:
  1. The photographer / Scene / Light
  2. The lens
  3. ... (other stuff)...
  4. The camera body (the sensor mostly for digital)
With this absolute truth in mind, and knowing that you can't buy point 1, the first thing you should spend your money on is a great classic lens. The Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS is one of them.

It wil allow you that kind of result...
The Nikon 50mm f/1.2 is a manual focus only tank-like built premium prime lens (it costs 650$ in the States, up to 800€ on the old continent). It is know online as the "king of bokeh", which is to be honest a very well deserved title. 

I works with a D7000 or anything above for digital, and anything from and after the 70ies for film. I use it with a Nikon FE, F5 and D80. 
Keep in mind that with a D80, you get no metering, so you have to guesstimate light. I personally use it on the FE mostly so I don't really care.

  • 9 blades diagram
  • 52mm diameter glass
  • Minimum focus distance 50cm
  • 350 grams
  • 50mm or 76 on a DX.

Sweeet. If you shoot non moving subjects in 35mm and own a Nikon, that is the one lens you should own.

Sharpness: I can use it with a D80 at F1.2 & iso 400 and get a result that I would exhibit. From F2.0,  and up, it keeps getting better and better. It outperforms my 85mm 1.8 and 35 F2 FX lenses

Blur / Bokeh: see for yourselves, terrific.

Built quality: Nikon from the past, as good as it gets, full metal.

  • As mentioned before, performance according to standard measurement is just rock solid. It just doesn't get better with 35mm. Only Zeiss and Leica are a match, for a lot more money when it comes to the later.
  • This plus a 100$ Nikon FE2 and you have a nice machine, simple to operate for a true photographer. With a D700 you have a winning cocktail for 35mm digital when it comes to shooting steady subjects.
  • The bokeh can get close to what you'll obtain with a medium format 6x7 camera at 2.8. Not the same, but close enough to tempt you to shoot 35mm.
  • IF YOU LIKE IT: wide open it adds a bit of vignetting (see examples below)

  • No autofocus, and you'll need to change the screen on your D7000 or D700 to focus manually. On an older FE, such screens are built in, on more recent camera it'll cake you a bit of screw driving. 
  • At 1.2, it can be tricky to manually focus, especially on DX.
  • Sort of expensive for 35mm gear (yet cheap against bad quality zooms)
  • IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT: wide open it adds a bit of vignetting

And because samples are worth a thousand words, see for yourselves. No need to take pictures of newspapers, that's retarded, every lens is sharp in the right conditions. Let's start with a bit of corner sharpness.

Nikon D80 ISO 200, 1/160s, f5.6, consider the crop factor

And now what this lens is famous for, it's superb bokeh:

With an old D80, 1/50s, ISO 400 (on a D80 it's like ISO1600 on a D7000), bad office light at 6pm, wide open @ F1.2.

Courtesy of that guy on Flickr, D700 1/5000s, ISO 200, F1.2

With a D7000, courtesy of that guy.

With a D700, courtesy of LEFTY

Nikon FE, Superia 200 (shit film, grain at 200 ???WTF) here at f2.8. Don't they look like a Law and Order commercial?

Nikon FE, Superia 200, f2.0

I kept this shot to show there is a tiny bit of distortion (I was 2 feet away from the door). This is full frame. 

 My friend Yann (and a bit of Sofia's finger)

1/10s very low light, ISO 200, F1.2. On Superia cheap film: still sharp, beautiful blur. 

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