Monday, August 14, 2017

The gem I don't deserve - Nikon 50mm f/1.2 ais

This is the fastest current production Nikon lens in the market and has been around for decades. When I first hold it, I was amaze by its build quality which makes me wonder, why lens nowadays are not like that. My desire to own this lens starts after I got my hands on my Nikon F3, which I do not own any lens that can be use with it. Yes, there are a lot cheaper options, but I want the widest possible aperture to allow me to shoot in low light situation, since the common film speed is around iso400 equivalent. 
9 bladed bokeh monster.
The large front element is rather good looking with its 9 bladed aperture. I stare at it the whole night after I bought it used online. My copy of the lens have smooth focus ring, the aperture clicks firmly and the optics are relatively clean.
I use it to shoot some landscape as well
Besides using the lens on my F3, the lens can be used for my Nikon D600 as well. However, you need to do a setup on non-cpu lens. This is because the lens does not have any electrical contact to transmit lens information such as focal length and maximum aperture to the body. To learn how to setup non-cpu lens on Nikon body, click here to see video from Matt Granger. However, you still need to dial your desired aperture on the lens manually.
Does it keep you going?
Oh, did I tell you this is a manual focus lens ONLY? Who the hell still use manual focus nowadays? At f/1.2, this lens is incredibly hard to focus. At least for me, my successful rate for stationary subject is around 10%, not even considering the amount of time taken. From the camera view finder, it’s very hard to judge if your subject is perfectly in focus. There are possibility the camera body have slightly inaccurate focus confirmation that you normally get away with the smaller aperture lens. Perhaps I have bad eyes.
At 1.2, the contrast is not that good. The bokeh however, is rather creamy.
The sharpness for this lens at 1.2 however is rather poor, the contrast is low, and in combination with the thin depth of field, most of the scene seems not in focus at all. At f/2, I would say it’s sharp enough to my liking. Further down will only increase the sharpness and contrast until eventually the diffraction kicks in.
When is the better time to get it?
The only benefit I could see in this lens is also related to its weakness. With f/1.2, you can get very shallow depth of field with this lens. Since the contrast is low, it may be suitable to create dreamy look portrait shot where you don’t need too much sharpness to emphasize the subject skin complexion. 
My best photo from this lens ever, at f/2 with Nikon F3
The bokeh or quality of blur is smooth, not outline/or edgy to its cheaper counterpart. As a result, the look of the photo can be very pleasant.
The beetle just melted into a pool of bokehness...

I always stop down for better sharpness and hit rate.

Stop down again for sharpness

Shot wide open, the focus off

Another wide open shot, the focus off to the right edge of the glass
This lens is very prone to flare, unless stop down
This is a very good lens if you can justify the cost and know the sweet spot to get great result. Of course, you only have manual focus with this beast. However, I don’t shoot film often and I use my 24-70 on my DSLR most of the time. It just stays in my drybox most of the time. After few months owning it, I have decided to sell it to fund my wide angle. My replacement for it would be a 50mm e-series pancake lens which is significantly cheaper and smaller than this legend. Beside the focal length, they are totally different. That’s all my review with Nikon 50mm 1.2 ais – The gem I don’t deserved.

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