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Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G review

December 2013 | By Andy Westlake
Buy on GearShop$1,696.95

The AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G was announced in October 2013, and designed primarily as a premium 'normal' prime for FX format SLRs. By 'premium' we mean, of course, expensive - the most immediately striking feature about the lens is its $1700 / £1600 price tag, which means it costs more than most of the company's SLR bodies. With the very decent $440 / £290 AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens also in the lineup, the 58mm needs to be pretty special to justify this kind of money.

The 58mm focal length may look like an odd choice, but it's deliberately evocative of a legendary Nikon lens - the manual focus Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 from the late 1970s. Indeed Nikon's marketing material draws a parallel between them, saying the new 58mm's 'design concept' pays homage to the old 'Noct'. Stripped of its marketing-speak, this translates to a lens design which goes to extremes to minimize peripheral aberrations such as coma at large apertures, while also paying specific attention to the rendition of out-of-focus regions of the frame, or 'bokeh'.

To this end, the 58mm employs an optical formula that's more complex than typical 50mm F1.4 primes, with 9 elements in 6 groups including two aspherical elements. The diaphragm is made up of 9 rounded blades to give a circular aperture. The optical unit is located deep in the lens barrel, giving natural shading against peripheral light, and Nikon's Nano Crystal Coat is used to minimize flare and ghosting. Autofocus is driven by a 'Silent Wave' ultrasonic motor which allows manual adjustment at any time.

Intriguingly, Nikon is at some pains to suggest that the lens' imaging qualities can't be fully measured by conventional methods such as MTF measurements. In this review we will, as usual, be looking closely at real-world images alongside lab test measurements, to try to work out what this is supposed to mean. In short, does the 58mm produce pictures which justify that price tag?

Headline features

  • 58mm focal length, F1.4 maximum aperture
  • 'Silent Wave' focus motor with full-time manual override
  • 0.58m closest focus, offering 0.13x magnification
  • Nikon F-mount for DX and FX SLRs (or 1 system mirrorless cameras using FT-1 adapter)

Angle of view

The pictures below illustrate the angle of view on FX and DX SLRs (taken from our usual position). On full frame the 58mm is a somewhat long 'normal' lens; on DX cameras it behaves like a classic 85mm short telephoto 'portrait' prime.

Full frame (FX) 1.5x DX (87mm equivalent)

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G specifications

 Approx Price  • $1700 (US)
 • £1600 (UK)
 Date introduced  October 2013
 Maximum format size  35mm full frame (FX)
 Focal length  58mm
 35mm equivalent focal length (DX)
 87mm
 Diagonal Angle of view  • 49.9º (FX)
 • 27.4º (DX)
 Maximum aperture  F1.4
 Minimum aperture  F16
 Lens Construction  • 9 elements / 6 groups
 • 2 aspherical elements
 Number of diaphragm blades  9, rounded
 Minimum focus  0.58m
 Maximum magnification  0.13x
 AF motor type  • Ring-type ultrasonic 'Silent Wave' motor
 • Full-time manual focus (M/A mode)
 Focus method  Unit
 Image stabilization  No
 Filter thread  • 72mm
 • Does not rotate on focus
 Supplied accessories*  • Front and rear caps
 • HB-68 hood
 • Soft pouch
 Weight  385 g (13.6 oz)
 Dimensions  85 mm diameter x 70 mm length (3.4 x 2.8 in)
 Lens Mount  Nikon F

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area


This lens review uses DxOMark data thanks to a partnership between dpreview.com and DxO Labs (read more about DxOMark and our partnership with DxO Labs). DxOMark is the trusted industry standard for independent image quality measurements and ratings. DxOMark has established this reputation with its rigorous hardware testing, industry-grade laboratory tools, and database of thousands of camera, lens and mobile test results. Full test results for this lens can be found at www.dxomark.com.



If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2013 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 412
1234
Homam
By Homam (9 months ago)

"Produces lovely looking images".... Oh my... 'Lovely' What is this? A new professional term for high quality pics? It's almost as expensive as a 6D!

3 upvotes
olakiril2
By olakiril2 (9 months ago)

Yep, "lovely" will cost you an extra $1200. Who told you it was all about the photographer?

1 upvote
Eleson
By Eleson (9 months ago)

Describe the greatness of Salvador Dali.
Or even better, define a measuring method that proves his greatness.
The lack of measurement method does not mean that it does not exist.

0 upvotes
gerard boulanger
By gerard boulanger (9 months ago)

As good as the 50 mm f/1.4 and yet 4 times the price..! Hmm..

6 upvotes
olakiril2
By olakiril2 (9 months ago)

I guess thats what a 100gr of extra glass and a gold ring costs.

0 upvotes
io_bg
By io_bg (9 months ago)

Maybe you should re-read the review again.

0 upvotes
gerard boulanger
By gerard boulanger (9 months ago)

I did, still too much.

0 upvotes
Der Steppenwolf
By Der Steppenwolf (9 months ago)

What an overpriced joke. Unfortunately there will be a lot of morons out there that will see the price tag and and directly assume it's "greatness". They will then start defending their purchase with crap like "3d effect" "feel" "it" and other words that are used to describe something intangible that is simply not there.

11 upvotes
brendon1000
By brendon1000 (9 months ago)

If I squint my eyes and jump up and down on my chair I can't help feel that the 58mm images have a more 4D feel to them than the 50mm images !

if you are one of those morons who sit still when you look at photos then you won't notice the "fourdness" (as I call it).

4 upvotes
olakiril2
By olakiril2 (9 months ago)

I call it headbanging quality.

2 upvotes
mike kobal
By mike kobal (9 months ago)

looking at the crops wide open the 58mm produces a less hazy and slighter sharper image. Could be the difference between breathtaking and garbage image. Once you stop down to f2 however, you overpay.

But as I have noticed with most 1.2 and 1.4 lenses, the optical quality isn't the real problem but nailing focus during a fast paced shoot is and it appears the 58mm isn't any better then the rest of the bunch /: phase detection just won't cut it on current dslrs

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
olakiril2
By olakiril2 (9 months ago)

It is strange that in the day shot the 58 appears sharper, but in the night shot and the lab test the 50 is sharper. I guess the day shot was misfocused.

0 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (9 months ago)

The 58 f/1.4G has much better color/contrast similar to other high grade Nano coated Nikkors. With that in mind, I don't know how you are arguing that you are overpaying. Especially a talented professional portraitist like you Mike, I'm surprised to read this from you. The 58 f1.4G would sing in your hands.

0 upvotes
Gesture
By Gesture (9 months ago)

Absurd what these lenses cost. Where are the cost-efficiencies of modern design and manufacturing.

3 upvotes
olakiril2
By olakiril2 (9 months ago)

Deep in NIKONs corporate pockets.

1 upvote
Timbukto
By Timbukto (9 months ago)

Requires economy of scale. Hypothetically if it was to be released at the same price as the Nikon 50mm 1.4G, it would be an utter failure in terms of revenue. It would just cause market confusion (price has always been the easiest way to delineate premium products). Nikon has explicitly stated their stance in a tough economy is to make more high margin products...not difficult to see where that goes in which new releases (*cough* df *cough*). It's a tighter 50 with better bokeh and coma and wide open performance...the market is gearheads (and typically gearheads with money). So why would you give away the one way to get high margins (i.e. brighter lenses have always been higher margin goods). Nikon is really not being greedy so much as just trying to *survive* at this point like any camera manufacturer. Only Samsung has the financial strength to be charitable at this point, and they obviously aren't.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Timbukto
By Timbukto (9 months ago)

Sharpness comparison with 50mm 1.4G is somewhat flawed due to sample variation. I took a look at the entire scene for the 50mm 1.4G and it was clear it was somewhat weaker on the right side where the foliage comparison was emphasized in writing. Too much is drawn from something that I think would be accounted for by sample variation. I have never owned a Nikkor 50mm 1.4G however...I do think my Canon 50mm 1.4 would do very well across the frame at f2.8 however. But I also know it would be destroyed in the Coma comparison and lag the bokeh test. Nikkor 58mm 1.4 did well at f2.8 for the infinity shot, but I think the magnification factor + copy to copy variation is a big part of it (at f2.8 leaving out magnification factor I give the 50mm 1.4G 2 out of the 3 crops). Really wish when review sites review 'Fifties' that they put extra effort to compare across brands as well instead of making owners try to figure it out on their own.

Comment edited 56 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Timbukto
By Timbukto (9 months ago)

Nevermind, I took a look at the DxOMark compare widget to compare the Canon 50mm 1.4 and its clear the Canon was always quite a bit sharper than the Nikkor version even with the huge sensor discrepancy between the D800 and 1DsMKIII. So probably the Nikkor 50mm 1.4G always 'looks' like that (which to me immediately looked off from what I'm used to out of my 50).

0 upvotes
Arn
By Arn (9 months ago)

...holy crap this lens is overpriced! Sigma 50/1.4 is looking like quite a deal compared to this. Actually any 50/1.4 is looking good in comparison. Overal score of 84% seems excessive considering the list of cons: soft wide open, bulky, inconsistent autofocus, very expensive. Wide open sharpness and AF are only some of the most important features in a lens like this...

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
15 upvotes
io_bg
By io_bg (9 months ago)

Others would say bokeh, coma and CAs are more important in a fast prime. And that's exactly those who would buy it.

8 upvotes
Arn
By Arn (9 months ago)

Like I said "some of the most important features" and bokéh certainly is among those, you're right about that. It's a good thing they got at least something right for the money. But AF accuracy is absolutely the most important feature - if you don't get the focus right, the rest of those important features won't matter much. Kind of silly to pay all that money for a lens that gives nice bokéh for all those soft, out-of-focus shots... As far as CA goes, it's the longitudinal CA that actually matters in a (fast) lens like this, lateral CA is easily and efficiently corrected in post processing these days, already in import phase.

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (9 months ago)

Thank you, DxO for a another report that can be treated as a rave review or a savage trashing, depending on how much you like Nikon. I did learn something, though. DxO doesn't measure coma. I mean, why would anybody want to know about that on a lens like this?

6 upvotes
KakoW
By KakoW (9 months ago)

No bokeh fringing either, which matters on a fast lens like this.

8 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (9 months ago)

Real-world performance issues like this are discussed in the review (and there's a samples gallery on the final page).

8 upvotes
completelyrandomstuff
By completelyrandomstuff (9 months ago)

You may want to wait for a lenstip review. They are typically very thorough and discuss every detail of optics with ample of examples.

1 upvote
TDong
By TDong (9 months ago)

not worth the money we are talking about an f1.4 lens and only excellent at f4. at $1700 I want it to be excellent at f1.4. forget about special character since many put it that way to justify their purchase. It is no NOCT. if i want nice bokeh i get a longer focal lens :) like 200 f2 now that is a nice bokeh

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
11 upvotes
John Motts
By John Motts (9 months ago)

The 200 f/2 is not an alternative to a 58mm f/1.4 any more than a screwdriver is to a spanner.

19 upvotes
ButterflySkies
By ButterflySkies (9 months ago)

Once you learn that theres more to a lens than sharpness, you might appreciate lenses like this.
Untill then, you can stick you your average glass which produces beautiful images to you, but might look flawed in my eyes.

7 upvotes
Absolutic
By Absolutic (9 months ago)

too bad 58/1.2 Ais is $3K used. That lens IS SHARP wide open AND has great bokeh.

1 upvote
sharkcookie
By sharkcookie (9 months ago)

With your last statement you pretty much showed everyone how qualified your opinion about lens choice is.

1 upvote
Studor13
By Studor13 (9 months ago)

It's truly amazing what non-sense people can come out with on the internet.

Look, Nikon has a bunch of 50-ish lenses that are 10 times cheaper than the 58mm f/1.4.

Don't you think they (Nikon) know this already?

This lens is for people who want what the lens can do. And they will pay for it.

Just as the 85mm f/1.4 AFS G is reportedly not sharper than the f/1.8 doesn't mean that it's overpriced.

1 upvote
TDong
By TDong (8 months ago)

no need to attack me. that is my view about this lens. as stated I wouldn't buy this lens for the life of me. but others can have different view.

0 upvotes
Summit_pg
By Summit_pg (9 months ago)

not-a-noct.

3 upvotes
Total comments: 412
1234