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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Lens Review

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews this unique 58mm f/1.4G lens from Nikon designed for low light shooting.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G
Price : £1,560
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Nikon Nikkor AF S 58mm F1 4G (3)

This standard lens from Nikon costs around £1560 and sports a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, silent focusing and nano-crystal coatings to help control ghosting and flare. The 58mm focal length is reminiscent of the old AI 'Noct' Nikkor that was designed specifically for shooting in low light with a maximum aperture of f/1.2. The aspheric lens design minimised coma flare towards the edges of the frame, which is common with fast aperture lenses. Although this lens promises similar control over coma, it doesn't carry the Noct name, and the maximum aperture is slower. Is the quality delivered by this lens still enough to justify the extra money over a standard 50mm lens? We'll take a close look at how it performs in this review.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Handling and Features

Nikon Nikkor AF S 58mm F1 4G (4)

Amongst the most striking things about this lens is just how large it is for a standard lens with an f/1.4 maximum aperture having a diameter of 85mm. Even so, the weight of this is kept to a reasonable 365g, thanks to the use of lightweight, yet high quality plastics for much of the lens barrel and the lens balances well on the Nikon D600 used for testing as a result.

Auto focus is powered by a silent wave motor, and auto focus speeds are adequate for slow moving or static subjects. Attempting to focus on erratic or fast moving targets can be hit and miss. Manual adjustments can be applied at any time via the focusing ring, which is smooth and well damped. This helps to make applying fine focus adjustments a pleasure.

Nikon Nikkor AF S 58mm F1 4G (8)

Closest focus distance is 58cm, and the large 72mm filter thread does not rotate, which should make this lens ideal for use with graduated filters and polarisers.

Nikon Nikkor AF S 58mm F1 4G (6)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Performance

Sharpness in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture is already very good. Clarity towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat, only achieving fairly good sharpness, as is typical for standard lenses with a fast f/1.4 maximum aperture. Stopping down improves sharpness across the frame, with peak performance being achieved between f/4 and f/8. Here sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and performance is excellent towards the edges of the frame.

MTF @ 58mm
MTF @ 58mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.

Levels of chromatic aberrations are reasonably well controlled, exceeding half a pixel width towards the edges of the frame at maximum aperture. Fringing is at its strongest at f/1.4, but the level is low enough to cause few issues, even in harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

CA @ 58mm
CA @ 58mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.

As you may expect from a fast aperture lens, falloff of illumination towards the corners is quite pronounced. At maximum aperture the corners are 2.13 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination isn't achieved until stopped down to f/4 or beyond.

Distortion is quite high for a standard lens. Imatest detected 1.6% barrel distortion, which may be noticeable in some circumstances. If straight lines are paramount, you'll be glad to hear that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software relatively straightforward.

Thanks to Nikon's Nano-crystal coating, incidences of flare are very rare indeed. Contrast holds up very well indeed, even when shooting into the light. A petal-shaped hood is supplied with the lens, which does a good job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues. Even so, as the front element is deeply recessed within the lens barrel, the hood can be left at home much of the time.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Sample Photos


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Other sample images


Nikon's major claim regarding the performance of this lens relates to how it can control coma flare at maximum aperture, we thought it will be interesting to do a comparison with a 50mm f/1.4D and 50mm f/1.8D lens we have available to see what differences, if any, are apparent. 

This night scene was shot hand held with all three lenses at maximum aperture. We've compared a section cropped from the bottom left corner | 1/40 sec | f/1.4 | 58.0 mm | ISO 1600   Very little flare can be seen from the street light near the centre of this crop. Contrast is good and sharpness is fairly good. | 1/40 sec | f/1.4 | 58.0 mm | ISO 1600
This night scene was shot hand held with all three lenses at maximum aperture. We've compared a section cropped from the bottom left corner | 1/40 sec | f/1.4 | 58.0 mm | ISO 1600   Very little flare can be seen from the street light near the centre of this crop. Contrast is good and sharpness is fairly good. | 1/40 sec | f/1.4 | 58.0 mm | ISO 1600
The older D-series lens produces a much softer image in the corners with less contrast, although a faster shutter speed has resulted in roughly the same exposure. Coma flare can clearly be seen from the street light, which resembles a bird in flight. | 1/   Contrast is lower still in the image produced by the f/1.8D lens. Although details are marginally clearer than those produced by the 1.4D lens, the corner is still softer than the image produced by the 58mm. Coma can be seen, although it is milder than th
The older D-series lens produces a much softer image in the corners with less contrast, although a faster shutter speed has resulted in roughly the same exposure. Coma flare can clearly be seen from the street light, which resembles a bird in flight. | 1/50 sec | f/1.4 | 50.0 mm | ISO 1600    Contrast is lower still in the image produced by the f/1.8D lens. Although details are marginally clearer than those produced by the 1.4D lens, the corner is still softer than the image produced by the 58mm. Coma can be seen, although it is milder than that produced by the 50mm f/1.4D | 1/30 sec | f/1.8 | 50.0 mm | ISO 1600 

To conclude, the 58mm does exhibit superior control over coma flare when compared to similarly specified, and less expensive optics. This will matter when taking images with point sources of light at maximum aperture, such as hand-held night scenes, or for some astrophotography applications.

Value For Money

There is no denying this is a very specialised lens, that comes with a highly specialised price tag. £1560 does seem a lot to justify, especially when Nikon's 50mm f/1.4G can be picked up for £270, and the 1.8G optic can be had for around £140. Sigma also produce a 50mm f/1.4 lens, which can be picked up for around £320. All of these prices make the 58mm Nikon seem very, very expensive. Even the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 in ZF fitting is only around £600, which makes it seem like a bargain! To put things into perspective Zeiss' new Otus 55mm f/1.4 lens costs around £3175, so the Nikon 58mm still isn't the most expensive standard lens available for their cameras.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Verdict

Unfortunately, those expecting a lens that will slay all comers in a battle of the test charts, may be disappointed by the seemingly 'quite good' performance of this lens. Those simply looking for the highest level of sharpness in the centre of the frame at fast apertures, will do better spending their money on one of the cheaper options available. Even so, this lens will find its niche amongst those who value subtle difference over out and out sharpness. Out of focus backgrounds are rendered beautifully for a standard lens, contrast is very, very good and the excellent control over coma will benefit those who notice these kinds of things.

Overall, it is a truly excellent lens, which does what it is designed to do. Unfortunately, the price will also make this a very exclusive lens, especially as it may be outperformed in some areas by less expensive alternatives.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Pros

Very good sharpness in the centre at f/1.4
Excellent sharpness when stopped down
Beautifully rendered out of focus backgrounds
Good control of coma flare
Very good contrast
Silent focusing

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Cons

Large for a standard lens
Very expensive
Not the fastest focusing lens

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
Lens
Focal Length58mm
Angle of View40.5
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus58cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades9
Elements9
Groups6
Box Contents
Box ContentsHB-68 Hood supplied
Dimensions
Weight385g
Height70mm

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Comments


pcheywood 9 1.3k England
6 Dec 2013 1:29PM
Got to pick a pocket or two, you've got to pick........ You get the idea ! Grin

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7 Dec 2013 9:34AM
I find this a first class review by a photographer who knows how to take pictures.
Comments on distortion, AF speed, photos illustrating light source performance at night and daylight bokeh example mean a lot to photographers as distinct from those who only read somebody else's test chart results.
When the street price falls around 15% to below 1,500 the price will not be far away from the 24 or 85 mm f1.4 optics.
MTF for other much affordable 50 mm f1.4 optics (under 300 street price) imply lens makers have traditionally put price point ahead of corner optical quality. Maybe those who can afford better quality f1.4 corner performance will have to get used to a near 24mm f1.4 price point.
On another topic maybe the review team good at some time explain what their standard is for good and excellent. This information would be useful when comparing reviews from several sources.
josa 2 25 Czech Republic
10 Dec 2013 8:00PM
For this price, it should be razor sharp from corner to corner!
theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
11 Dec 2013 10:19PM

Quote: On another topic maybe the review team good at some time explain what their standard is for good and excellent. This information would be useful when comparing reviews from several sources.

Hi Len. Thanks for you comment. When I first devised the scale, 'Good' was the level where the eyelashes of a person in a full length portrait were clearly resolved when viewed at 100% with no sharpening on a computer screen, with 'Poor', and 'Excellent' etc, being on a linear scale from this value.

As time has gone on, this value has had to be adjusted for higher resolution cameras and novel sensor technology. The reason we did this is because raw numerical values derived from the test chart have little bearing on the quality you'd notice in the real world, so we wanted to devise an scale that was much easier to understand. Generally, most people will be satisfied by 'Good' levels of sharpness, but more demanding photographers may wish for 'Excellent' or greater sharpness if producing large, high quality prints etc. The problem with comparing raw numbers from different sources is that they will vary wildly depending on the testing methodology. Saying that, the general pattern of whether the lens is sharp in the centre/towards the edge and where peak sharpness is achieved should be pretty much the same.

I'm sure there was an article explaining the test procedure and how to read the graphs. It may have gotten lost in the site somewhere as time has gone on. I hope this goes some way to answer your question?
12 Dec 2013 2:47PM
The Sigma 50mm 1.4 looks a much better option at a fraction of the price

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