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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Review

Looking to find more information regarding the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G? Read our latest review to learn more about the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, its specifications, and if it’s a good camera lens for you. 

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Overview

The newest member of the AF-S Nikkor 50mm F1.4 G family is a classic ‘standard lens’ that was launched in September 2008. It’s a replacement for the older AF-Nikkor 50mm F1.4D, which we tested last year, with updated optics to better match today’s high-resolution full frame sensors.

The ‘Silent Wave’ motor in the lens is designed to provide fast and quiet autofocusing, as well as full compatibility with Nikon’s entry-level DSLR bodies such as the D60 and D5000.

Another advantage of this ring-shaped motor is the ‘manual priority focus’ mode, which allows you to manually adjust the focus after autofocusing. There’s also a 9-bladed circular aperture for a more natural out-off focus background appearance.

Of course, every upgrade over the previous model comes at a cost, and the AF-S 50mm F1.4G is significantly more costly than its forerunner. It also has to compete with two other newcomers: Sigma’s spectacular (if somewhat more expensive) 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Macro.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Specifications

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G was first announced on 09/01/2008 with a Nikon F FX mount type. Below is a summary of this len’s specifications: 

Indicative Price: $448

Focal Range: 50mm

Aperture: F/ 1.4

Filter Diameter (millimeters): 58

Maximum Diameter (millimeters): 73.5

Number Of Lenses: 8

Length (millimeters): 54.2

AF Motor: SWM

Stabilization: None

Zoom Type: /

Tripod Mount: None

Colors Available: Black

Manual Focus: Yes

Weight (grams): 280

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Performance

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens’ performance is excellent for a standard len’s type. It’s sharpness is quite good at f/1.4, center to edge regions are nice and clear, with low chromatic aberration & vignetting results. This camera lens performs very well across aperture settings, but there is some softness in the corners when it’s used wide open at F 1.4 – this makes sense considering that it’s design is to have an attractive smooth blurred background compared to bokeh tend to be pretty harsh or not great at all on lenses with circular aperture blades because of their nature.

Build and Handling Quality

The lens barrel construction is very solid and sturdy with metal (aluminum alloy) used for much of it’s exterior shell, but a little ‘light’ feeling when compared to Nikon’s other pro-level lenses.. The focus ring has a nice rubber grip surface and turns smoothly, but there are no hard stops at either end of the focus range which can make achieving critical focus a bit more difficult as you turn through the whole range before reaching infinity or minimum focusing distance.

Autofocus Performance

The new built-in Silent Wave autofocus motor in the 50mm F1.4G, as compared to its predecessor, improves accuracy and consistency. However, it does have slower autofocus compared to that of its predecessors, which is a huge disadvantage because it’s considered the slowest out of all the Nikon 50mm lenses in terms of autofocus.

Having said that, its AF motor makes it nearly silent, which is an advantage and can make up for the slowness you’d otherwise experience.

Sharpness

The lens is incredibly sharp when fully opened up. When the aperture is stopped down, however, the image quality improves dramatically. Across the frame, performance is extremely consistent, with only minor fluctuations in contrast. Between F5.6 and F8 (or equivalently between F22 and F32), you’ll get fantastic clarity throughout the frame.

Vignetting

Vignetting is especially visible when the lens is wide open at F1.4, and to a lesser extent in lower light conditions and when used with an APS-C DSLR. On the other hand, the D700 sensor has quite good coverage so stopping down resolves much of this issue.

Chromatic Aberration

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is very resistant to chromatic aberration, so much so that the lens has excellent performance at either end of its aperture range, even wide open.

Distortion

There is a moderate amount of distortion, and stopping down resolves this problem. You can also leverage photo editing tools like Lightroom to take care of distortion in a single click, making this touch point moot.

Image Quality

There is little chromatic aberration or distortion. Vignetting, which is especially visible at F1.4, is also highly resistant to stopping down.

Sharpness and contrast are excellent across the frame even when wide open, and improve as you stop down. Wide open performance is very good in the center of the frame but gradually diminishes towards the edges until F5.6, where it’s ‘acceptable’. Between F5.6 and F8 (or equivalently between F22 and F32), performance is amazing throughout the frame with only minor fluctuations in contrast and bokeh quality.

Bokeh

Bokeh is reasonably smooth wide open, with only minor hints of color fringing. When stopped down to F5.6 bokeh is excellent even in the corners.

Handling

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is solidly built and features a very well dampened focus ring. Most of the weight is near the front, so it’s easy to balance on a Nikon DSLR like Nikon D300 or Nikon D700. The lens doesn’t come with any kind of hood or filter, but this is increasingly common for mid-range lenses these days.

How Does The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Score? 

Below are the lens metric scores we’ve measured for this specific lens: 

  • Performance and Image Quality: 6.5/10
  • Features: 8/10
  • Bokeh: 8/10
  • Build Quality: 8/10
  • AutoFocus Quality: 8.5/10
  • Handling: 10/10
  • Value: 6/10

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Pros and Cons

Below are some of the pros and cons regarding this lens. 

Pros: 

  • Affordable
  • Solid build quality
  • Sharp when opened enough
  • Good auto focus quality
  • Solid bokeh quality

Cons: 

  • Slow autofocus
  • Some vignetting issues
  • Moderate amounts of distortion

Our Verdict

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is a lightweight and compact lens that produces appealing colors, smooth bokeh, and fairly sharp photographs. It’s a solid full-frame lens with excellent resolving power even when stopped down, especially in the extreme corners. However, it is of an antiquated design that was clearly not intended for contemporary high-resolution digital camera sensors. As a result, the lens is rather unsatisfying wide open, leaving it only useable at f/2 and smaller shutters.