Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?

Started Sep 15, 2013 | Discussions
Stilograph
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Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
Sep 15, 2013

Hello to all.

I'm considering purchasing this fine lens, but was wondering if you good folks have any experiences on using it for portraits wide open? I've red it's semi-useless because of the lack of contrast at 1.2, but would like to stand corrected. Any samples or such? Horrible user experiences?

Regards

Heikki

leighton w
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 15, 2013

Stilograph wrote:

Hello to all.

I'm considering purchasing this fine lens, but was wondering if you good folks have any experiences on using it for portraits wide open? I've red it's semi-useless because of the lack of contrast at 1.2, but would like to stand corrected. Any samples or such? Horrible user experiences?

Regards

Heikki

The 50mm FL doesn't make for that good of a portrait lens to begin with, but shooting at 1.2 is hard to get all the subject's features into focus. So it's not the contrast you have to worry about, but the DOF.

Having said that, it does make a wonderful lens for full body portraits or group portraits as long as it's stopped down. Here's a sample at f/11.

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larrywilson
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to leighton w, Sep 15, 2013

Using any lens at an f1.2 or even an f1.4 will have almost no dof, best to use at say an f2.0 or smaller f stop.  The focal length for portraits is a little short on an ff camera, but not bad on a cropped sensor.  It is one beautiful lens, beautifully constructed, smooth as silk focus ring and is small, I got it just for looks ha ha!!!!  No actually it is an excellent lens optically.  Just darn fun to use.

Larry

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unknown member
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 15, 2013

I'm considering purchasing this fine lens,

LoL.

but was wondering if you good folks have any experiences on using it for portraits wide open?

The Lens is useless wide open for sharp Portraits, if You want a soft Focus around F/1.2-F/1.4 buy this Lens.
The Lens is OK at F/2 on a APS-C Sensor.

I've red it's semi-useless because of the lack of contrast at 1.2,

Yepp, that can i Confirm.
When You reduce the Resolution to 1/3 from the Original and put alot sharping, the Result is fair.

but would like to stand corrected. Any samples or such?

Here some from my Sold NIKKOR AI:

Horrible user experiences?

Just buy it, You don't lose much Money when You Sold this Lens again...

Regards: Carsten

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kiirokurisu
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 15, 2013

Allow me to present a totally opposite opinion to the previous posters: I bought a new (i.e. not used) 50mm 1.2 two weeks ago and in that short time I have absolutely fallen in love with it. The lens has a unique rendering and wonderful contrast that is not present in any of the newer 50mm Nikon lenses. Stopped down to f8 for landscapes it is the sharpest 50mm lens I've ever used, and sharper for example than my 70-200 f/4 at 70mm (which I consider a superb lens).

In my experience the lens is definitely not soft at f/1.2. The DOF is of course razor thin, but where the focus hits it is perfectly sharp (but perhaps slightly lower in contrast). Away from the focal plane, wide open you will see a bit of coma which can give everything a bit of a soft veil, but this depends highly on the subject matter you're photographing. It is actually extremely flattering to people's skin.

So yes, it is a challenge to use wide open, but that should really not be unexpected. If you employ a bit of patience then you can get superb results. It particularly excels in low light (as you might imagine) - I've gotten very good results in a dim restaurant at 1/50th f/1.2 ISO6400. The massive aperture allows shutter speeds that still freeze your subject reasonably well. Generally you will get better results if you are at least 4 feet from your subject, as this gives sufficient DOF for a successful portrait (e.g. upper body in portrait orientation, or head and shoulders in landscape). Closer than this you will find that a person's iris will be in focus but their eyebrow won't be! There is also a bit of field curvature wide open (but much less than e.g. the Sigma 35mm 1.4)

The only other thing I've noticed is that the substantial vignetting wide open seems to somehow throw off matrix metering, often yielding shots underexposed by nearly a full stop. I found that spot or centre weighted worked far better when not stopping the lens down.

My experience using this lens is on a D600, so full frame. I think it would be a much more difficult lens to work with on a crop sensor body. But if you're shooting full frame, I would say just get it. I dithered for months about buying this lens, and now that I've gone ahead I have absolutely no regrets. Superb lens.

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paulski66
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Any samples you'd be willing to share, kiirokurisu?
In reply to kiirokurisu, Sep 15, 2013
No text.
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kiirokurisu
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Re: Any samples you'd be willing to share, kiirokurisu?
In reply to paulski66, Sep 15, 2013

Sure, I'll get some together when I'm back home tonight.

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larrywilson
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to kiirokurisu, Sep 16, 2013

I totally agree that the Nikon 50mm f1.2 is optically an excellent lens.  Yes at an f1.2 and 1.4 the dof is really small and a person has to be really careful to pin point where you want the sharp focus to be.  Its the best 50mm lens I have had and if used carefully is sharp at wide apertures.

Larry

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stevo23
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 16, 2013

Stilograph wrote:

Hello to all.

I'm considering purchasing this fine lens, but was wondering if you good folks have any experiences on using it for portraits wide open? I've red it's semi-useless because of the lack of contrast at 1.2, but would like to stand corrected. Any samples or such? Horrible user experiences?

Regards

Heikki

It's a waste if you plan to stop it down. It's strength is that it's the sharpest lens Nikon makes at f2.0 which is reportedly it's peak sharpness. So I guess that would be a nice portrait feature. At f1.4, it's the same as the others. Stopped down, it's not any better. So if you need to or plan to stop it down past 2.8 or so, you're wasting money.

And I'm not ashamed to say I read all this on the internet...

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kiirokurisu
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to stevo23, Sep 16, 2013

stevo23 wrote:

It's a waste if you plan to stop it down. It's strength is that it's the sharpest lens Nikon makes at f2.0 which is reportedly it's peak sharpness. So I guess that would be a nice portrait feature. At f1.4, it's the same as the others. Stopped down, it's not any better. So if you need to or plan to stop it down past 2.8 or so, you're wasting money.

And I'm not ashamed to say I read all this on the internet...

Let me guess, the person who wrote this has the initials KR?

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TWHook
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to kiirokurisu, Sep 16, 2013

I too recently bought this lens and have been playing around it with for the last two weeks. I think there is the potential to so some interesting things and I look forward to learning better how to use it.

For discussions sake, here are a variety of shots: the first two are at 1.2 handheld, the third is at 1.2 with a tripod and the fourth is handheld at 2.0.

Handheld 50 1.2 1/640 iso 200 D800

Handheld 50 1.2 1/640 iso 200 D800


Tripod 50 1.2 1/60 iso 200 D800

Handheld at 2.0 1/400 iso 200 nikon d700

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windsprite
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 16, 2013

I have the Ai version, and to cut to the chase, I like my Sigma 50/1.4 a lot better for wide aperture shooting.  Much nicer bokeh.  Of course, it depends on what kind of look you're after.  You might enjoy the more "edgy" bokeh of the f/1.2.  I like the creamy Sigma bokeh, myself.

As far as contrast, yes, you can get a veil effect at f/1.2.  Some people might like the dreamy look.  If you don't, you can mostly get rid of it by adding some contrast and clarity in post, or large-radius USM.  I find that works better on close-up shots, though.  As the focus gets farther away, for better or worse, you're kind of stuck with the look.

I will say that the lens is sharp even wide open, though some people might be fooled by the shallow DOF and low contrast.  As others have said, it's super sharp and contrasty from f/2.

The lens is a beauty to hold and behold.  I love the solid metal construction and smooth manual focus.  If this is something that appeals to you but you prefer smoother bokeh, you might look into the Voigtlander 58/1.4.  I haven't seen any direct image comparisons, so I could be wrong, but from viewing online samples, I really wish I had bought that lens instead.

Julie

Stilograph wrote:

Hello to all.

I'm considering purchasing this fine lens, but was wondering if you good folks have any experiences on using it for portraits wide open? I've red it's semi-useless because of the lack of contrast at 1.2, but would like to stand corrected. Any samples or such? Horrible user experiences?

Regards

Heikki

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kiirokurisu
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to windsprite, Sep 16, 2013

Your comments match my experiences exactly. I previously owned a Sigma 50mm 1.4 and did like the bokeh, but I wanted a lens that would be sharper stopped down for landscapes (which the Sigma does OK but the Nikon 50/1.2 is superb at). The Sigma does also have way, way less vignetting wide open, due to its truly massive front element.

The 50/1.2 has unique bokeh which might be regarded as ugly by some. You shouldn't rely on it to smooth a busy background with lots of fine detail into a smooth creamy mush. However, used well it can be very effective.

Following are some samples demonstrating sharpness at wide and narrow apertures. I don't have any bokeh samples right now that I have permission to publish, but there are plenty of those to be found on flickr for example.

Wide open at f/1.2, focus is on the large branch near the centre of the frame

100% crop from focused area

Landscape at f/8, focus on infinity

100% crop from near centre of frame

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Stilograph
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to kiirokurisu, Sep 16, 2013

Thank you all for the answers. I should have clarified that I would be using it on D600 and also on my OMD-EM5, because why not.

The practical application for it would be enviromental porrtraits, and propably stopped down to f4-f8. But the wide open performance interests me, why would anyone buy this if they werent using it wide open?

Anyway, I'm glad to hear it's a sharp cookie. And thank you for the image samples and user experiences. It's always a diffrent story to hear things from someone actually using the lens, then to read someones opinion who had it on test drive for 2 days.

Judging the tree branch here only, it does seem a well behaved lens wide open. I mean, you can't expect it to be void of a little softness, and I don't care about that. Not a pixel peeper. Might as well get it now, since my store has it second hand for 449 euros with a guarantee.

Thank you all for the friendly answers.

Regards

Heikki

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Boris
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 16, 2013

At f1.2 not very sharp and lacks contrast, f1.4 is usable if you hit focus. By f2 the lens is very sharp. Very well built lens.

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unknown member
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 16, 2013

Might as well get it now, since my store has it second hand for 449 euros with a guarantee.

For a used one, You should not more pay as € 200-250 for this Lens.
I have paid € 120 for a used one...

Regards: Carsten

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stevo23
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to kiirokurisu, Sep 16, 2013

kiirokurisu wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

It's a waste if you plan to stop it down. It's strength is that it's the sharpest lens Nikon makes at f2.0 which is reportedly it's peak sharpness. So I guess that would be a nice portrait feature. At f1.4, it's the same as the others. Stopped down, it's not any better. So if you need to or plan to stop it down past 2.8 or so, you're wasting money.

And I'm not ashamed to say I read all this on the internet...

Let me guess, the person who wrote this has the initials KR?

He's one of them...

That was all to say, take my comments with a grain of salt. I see that actual owners (to my surprise) of the lens have commented in. Their comments make me want one!

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MisterHairy
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 16, 2013

It is a very lovely lens indeed with far smoother out of focus rendering than pretty much all of the other options that you have available, including the Zeiss 50/1.4. It is not so bad wide open, and indeed, a slightly more gentle drawing style at the largest aperture settings can be much more pleasing than poke-your-eyes-out sharpness when you are looking for that sort of shot.

Portraits at f/1.2 can be a challenge to master but are ultimately unrewarding. A single sharp eyelash with everything else swimming around out of focus is more of an internet meme than a useful style, but thankfully, your original post shows that you aren't planning to use it that way.

Then there is the aspect of actually getting precise focus with these fast lenses. If you're using an unmodified modern DSLR then you can't see the shallow DOF in the viewfinder (you'll see something roughly equivalent to a couple of stops down from the 1.2 max) so you have to be adept at hitting the middle of the "in focus" zone. This can be a tad tricky if you're not well practised at it.

Fit and finish is every bit as good as the Zeiss lenses and the focus ring is just as smooth and perfectly damped.

These are still being manufactured today and a grey market one can be had for a very nice price, and as someone else has said, if you decide to sell it on, you can do so at relatively little loss. It's not a lens for everyone, but I would always recommend that people give one a try

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Rexgig0
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 16, 2013

Most lenses perform better when stopped-down a bit; the 50mm 1.2 AI-S is no exception. Moreover, I do not always want a razor-thin depth-of-field. Much of my love for this lens is, quite simply, due to its pleasing build quality. The ability to open the aperture in low light, or when I do want extremely shallow DOF, is a bonus. I wish I had owned this lens when my eyes were younger, and could see much more clearly!

This lens seems sharper at f/2 than either my 50mm 1.8D or 50mm 1.4G. This, alone, makes it worth having, for low-light shooting.

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heulwen
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Re: Nikon 50mm f1.2 user experiences?
In reply to Stilograph, Sep 16, 2013

Stilograph wrote:

Hello to all.

I'm considering purchasing this fine lens, but was wondering if you good folks have any experiences on using it for portraits wide open? I've red it's semi-useless because of the lack of contrast at 1.2, but would like to stand corrected. Any samples or such? Horrible user experiences?

Regards

Heikki

I don't have the lens anymore, but I usually chime in when I find a thread abobut it, as I truly loved it. Planning on getting a new one as soon as possible.
Anyway, I don't have many samples I'm keen on sharing, as I took them a couple of years ago and one could say my photography has evolved a bit since then, but this is one picture I still love:

It is difficult to nail focus wide open, but when you do, the lens is sharp enough. As someone else already said, the dof is extremely thin and there is usually some veiling and lack of contrast, which one can easily mistake for softness.

This is not a lens you just strap on the camera and right away get great pictures with. It takes practice. But when you do find that tune, this lens truly sings. Yes.

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