Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

Started Mar 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Sudo Nimh
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Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror
Mar 16, 2013

I'd heard the pre-Ai 50mm/1.4 was "soft" wide open, but I wasn't expecting it to be unusable. It actually seems to focus sharply at all apertures, but at f/1.4 it seems to scatter light so that contrast is reduced and everything looks soft. It might be a desirable effect for portraits of aging actresses or other special subjects, but it's not optically good.

I took sample photos with an Olympus E-PL2. The sensor has a 2x crop factor, and I cropped the raw files further to get the central 1024x768 portion, on which I had focused. This is the top of a brush pile outdoors with overcast sunlight at the lens's 3 widest f-stops. These shots were taken on a tripod with a 2 second shutter delay and image stabilization turned off.

f/1.4

f/2

f/2.8

As you see, the milky distortion at f/1.4 is much reduced at f/2 and unnoticeable at f/2.8.

This is a mid-70s vintage, pre-Ai Nikkor 50mm/1.4. Do I have a bad copy of this lens? If this type of aberration is typical, does it have a name? Can anyone suggest any way to ameliorate it?

Olympus PEN E-PL2
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