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Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by kivis, Aug 11, 2011.
Just want the raw truth on the best manual focus 50mm lens I could get for my MF Nikons.
The plain vanilla 50/2 AI punches way above its weight on film(or<<gasp>>digital)bodies. For the money, probably at or near the top of the Nikon 50mm heap.
Bjørn Rørslett likes this batch:
50 mm f/2 Nikkor-H (AI)
50 mm f/1.8 Nikkor
58 mm f/1.2 Noct-Nikkor
50 mm f/1.4 Nikkor (latest versions, including AF-D)
As usual "best" is very subjective. Most weenies want the sharpest, most contrasty, fastest lens they can get so they can take photos of their Corvettes using TechPan film stand-developed with Rodinal diluted 1:10,000 for the best acutance. Personally I like the older ones like the 50 mm f/2 Nikkor-H (AI) because of it's moderate contrast because that's what I want in my B&W work.
FWIW, some Apug'ers were discussing the virtues of the Nikon f 1.2 recently, although it doest answer your question directly, you might find some benefits of this thread...
I have a few older 50 and 55mm lenses for manual focus bodies.
50 /1.4 AI, 1977, Dreamy at 1.4, sharpness increases after f/4, very sharp at f/8 and 11.
50/2 AI, 1979, Sharpness increases when closed down but it is sharp from corner to corner from f/2 to f/11, but never sharp as 50/1.4 AI at f/8.
50/1.8 AF-D, 2009, plastic made in China, basically this is an AIS lens, dreamy at f/1.8, sharp at f/2 to f/4, very sharp at f/8, this is the sharpest lens I have, however sharpness decreases at the corners compared to 50/2 AI.
55/3.5 compensating micro Nikkor, non-AI, 1967, extremely sharp macro lens, even not worse than 50/2 at distance. Mine is AId by #63 kit.
55/3.5 PC, micro Nikkor, non-AI, 1974, Very sharp macro lens, can be used as an overall standard lens, and very good at distance.
Micro-Nikkors (55mm's) are razor sharp if that what constitutes "best" to you.
If price is what's best, overall quality is just great on a standard 1.8
1.2 or 1.4's are best if speed is what's "best" to you.
al5256's comments above are pretty spot on, from my observations.
Best in what way?
I have a 2.8cm F/3.5 Nikkor-H with most of the coating "cleaned" off the rear element. It is an excellent performer, gives great tones with proper development and is fun to shoot. I get the OP's take on <performance=resolution> but you can always compensate for that, work against it, if that's what you want. But it's nice to have the lp/mm when you really need them. When is that? Who knows. Film choice is a bigger factor here. That and camera shake. And atmospheric turbulence.
If OP wants manual focus lens, I'd exclude the current 50mm f/1.8D. I have one and focusing this thing manually is not pleasurable. It's focus ring is not dampened so it feels loose and somewhat twitchy. It doesn't have the oily smooth feel of the lens made for manual focusing. It works but not something I enjoy doing.
We had a rush of what is the "best" <insert product here> threads. I really wish people define what they mean by best and the parameters associated with it. A lot of things in photography is subjective. Price and availability varies quite a bit, too. Without knowing what OP is looking for, it's rather difficult to make recommendations.
A fine lens, to be sure. My issue with it is that it is several stops slower than the other offerings, which can make manual focusing a real challenge for some.
...particularly on the some of the dark- or small- viewfinder dslrs that we won't discuss here ....
For ease of focus, I would argue for the 1.2, though I realize that it is beyond many budgets, and I will also admit that it is more of an available-light trick lens than an all 'round value.
I frequently lament the lack of a normal pancake on my manual focus Nikons. A high quality pancake should be possible now with all the whizbang optical technology out there. There should be a good dslr market for a good pancake too. What's up, Nikon???!
My issue with it is that it is several stops slower than the other offerings.
Er, the difference between f1.4/1.8 and f2 isn't "several" stops...Brightness really isn't an issue at that margin. Those poxy coalpit-dark penta-mirror finders wouldn't brighten much with faster lenses anyway--it's the mag factor that's just as nasty.
Pancakes? There's always the chipped Nikon 45/2.8 Ai-P for film and FF. They're out there for micro 4/3s but not for Nikon.
I've had a 50/1.2 and thought it was tough to focus, but that was on a f4s with the standard non-split viewfinder. A split viewfinder center would make things a little easier. I mostly relied on the focus indicator LED which was sorta a slow way and not as accurate for close distances at 1.2
I've also had the 55/3.5 micro, 50/1.4d-af, and 50/1.8d-af.
The 1.4 and 1.8's that I have flare easily with internal reflections if there are very intense bright spots in the image (like car headlights or floodlights in night photos) Otherwise they are very nice and have smooth bokeh when widish open.
The 55/3.5 micro is a nice to focus manual lens. It focuses quick and in a short distance as most of the focus scale is for macro use, not normal distance stuff. It doesn't flare as bad, but isn't bright for existing light night/indoor use like the others. It has a very impressionist bokeh (not buttery like a 105/2dc or portrait lens, and not all crazy cubist looking like the 60/2.8d macro) at modest stops like 5.6-11.
Someone was asking about a pancake.... I have the voigtlander 40/2 sl2 and it's almost a pancake and is fantastic in construction and image quality.
Anyone tried the Voigtlander 58/1.4? I heard the optics are awesome.
[snip] ...ah never mind
Someone thanks you for this nice tip
I did a bit of reading up on the 50's awhile back and from what i remember the 50 1.4 Ai was the lens to have. It and the AIS go for the same money in the same condition at KEH which is $275 in Ex condition. The optical formula should be the same with a little investigation confirming any differences in case of changes.
I have a number of standard Nikkors in the f/2 to f/1.4 range. Where coating is concerned anything from a C lens onward is very good. As the 50/1.4 manual focus Nikkor line advanced, image quality closer to f/1.4 improved. At f/8 or f/11 I would rather have a 50/1.4 SC or first K version than the later versions. High sharpness at or near wide open is a function of many factors. Is your mirror angle adjusted properly? Is your focusing screen sitting in exactly the right place? Is the infintiy focus of your lens set properly? How is your eyesight? Is your shutter speed high enough? You now have to also contend with sample variation and condition. I respect the 50/1.8 Nikkors and have three of them. Still, I prefer the 50/2 AI, the 50/2 K or even the 50/2 HC. The 55/3.5 Compensating lens is not know for high performance outside of the close-up range. All 55/3.5 Nikkors from the P to the AI perform well at distance and the 55/2.8 manual focus Nikkors are very sharp at all distances. Any of the later 50/2, 50/1.8 or 50/1.4 will give good results if it is in good condition and if it is used properly. When it comes to the 50/1.8 I prefer the first AI version to the later versions. Excellent results can also be obtained from the 45/2.8 GN Nikkors. My GN is a C model.
It's better not to obsess over the slight differences.
They are all good.
If you need 1.4 and have the chong, go for it.
I have 2 -f/2 "H"s and they are damn good.
I also have 3 versions of the 1.4
I settled on a 50/1.8 AIS (the nicer one, with the front element recessed rather deeply within the barrel). I had bought a 50/2 AI from Grey's of Westminster and immediately afterward my local shop (the deceptively named High Street Radio in Croydon) got in a mint 1.8, and the proprietor kindly loaned it to me for a comparison with the F2 version.
I found the 1.8 slightly but definitely sharper than the F2. It might come down to sample variation--the F2 has a reputation for being quite sharp, and there is some opinion online that it has slightly better bokeh (not something that's terrifically important to me in a fast 50, really). So I swapped the F2 and a bit of cash for the 1.8.
It's killer sharp, if that's what you're looking for.
and speaking of contrast I want the latest, newest lens I can find so it has the most advanced coating on the optics and best manufacture quality.So that means AIS or at least factory AI.
also means I'm a weenie although I don't shoot B&W anymore, B&W is for luddites
If you like less contrast and flare on teles then get older lenses, I have a 50mm 1.4 Nikkor S that produces good results under controlled lighting.
Suffice it to say, there's really not a "dog" among 50mm Nikkors, at least none of the ones I have(and that's too many)embarrasses me.
buy them all, and sell the ones you don't like.
50mm is the FL I dislike most. Maybe because I'm not capable of making interest pictures with the lens:-/
Any Nikkor 50mm that you can get your hands on will produce great photos, the best one for you is another story.
I would get the 50 1.8f again without thinking about it, I have that and the 50 1.4f and I only use the 1.4 because the 1.8 is an Auto Focus lens as far as I'm concerned both are excellent lenses that can take far better photos than I can. There are differences in the way the photos from these lenses look, but for me it does not matter. You may prefer the look of one of these lenses over another.
I have multiple Nikon 50's- 1.8 versions, 1.4 versions ai and af, but I always seem to reach for the 50 f/2 that I learned on. Nice contrast and sharp. And they can be found cheap.