58mm: The Soft King; Chroma Queen; +/-20 Fine Tuner; Transitional Bokeh Machine

Started Aug 22, 2014 | Discussions thread
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GlobalGuyUSA Senior Member • Posts: 2,016
58mm: The Soft King; Chroma Queen; +/-20 Fine Tuner; Transitional Bokeh Machine

Hi all, this is my review of the 58mm.

Did your 58mm have to have significant in-body fine tuning? Mine is needed over 20 clicks adjustment.. and unfortunately it only goes up to 20 +/-. At minimum focusing distance, its always at least focusing half-an-inch in front of a very-contrasty subject. And then from there, it depends on the distance. I think its so soft wide open Nikon might be struggling to calibrate them out the factory. So be aware, you may need to fine-tune heavily.

Also, at f/1.4 there is no area which is clean at all. I don't mean sharp -- let's forget about sharpness for a moment. No part of this lens produces a clean image (free of some unwanted quality) at f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2. Its chromatic aberration is so thick even on normal contrast subjects in basic evenly spread room light and ordinary situations (which isn't exactly shooting against tree branches and the sun or anything), the entire image is just halo'ed in green goo and magenta mess. I expected chromatic aberration in high contrast or "through the branches against a sky," like the 135/2 DC, which has a heavy helping, but not on ordinary things, where the 135mm is perfectly clean. The 58mm is truly a Chroma Queen.

But let's get back to that softness. This lens is soft. I mean softer than you thought soft. Not, "i'm anal and need everything sharp" soft, but simply, "I have low expectations" soft. I couldn't get a clean line to appear at f/1.4, f/1.8 and maybe even f/2. The Chromatic Aberrations just sorta sludge together in the cross-over region through a Vaseline smeared focus and no part of the image is clean or sharp. It could be cleaned up with a heavy processing hand. And at ordinary photo sizes, you'd really never notice. So, again, this isn't anything to be anal about -- but simply, its soft. Its softer than you expected. Stopped down to f/2.8 its OK. f/4, no issue. And that's NOT bad. Its a sharp lens (relatively to older lenses) in its sweet spot (stopped way down). But its really really bad wide open, and also at f/1.8. This lens will love the D700; but will hate the D810 (and by that, I mean pixel peepers, it will still render beautiful images on the D800-series as long as you don't peep them to death).

I'm not a pixel peeper; I don't care about that.

But I'm just calling it as I see it.

Now the good parts -- I'm not trying to find coma from this lens, and I'm not seeing any coma. So its doing its job. Likewise, the transitional bokeh is amazing. I mean, I really love it. If you only care about one thing -- transitional bokeh, especially from the point of your in-focus subject to mid-range background up until the distant background, then this lens is for you. THIS IS A TRANSITIONAL BOKEH MACHINE. Even my terrible copy, which I knew must be returned immediately, I have already fallen in love with the transitional bokeh and interesting rendering. Can't say why exactly. Its a feeling. Its great. No part of it is choppy. I couldn't even force a choppy subject to look choppy in this lens's golden zone.

Two caveats on the above, the foreground bokeh is not great (anything in front of the lens). I can't find any foreground bokeh that I like. Nearest the subject, not bad, just okay, also good transition. But closer to the camera, the worse. I think Nikon used to have this optical formula reversed, where their backgrounds were terrible, but their foregrounds were great. So, the 58mm totally flips that, whereas other recent primes were sort of an average or balance. I can't tell if its just my lens, because not many 58mm online images showcase the foreground, but the foreground bokeh is not great. Oniony, strong edges, pretty well defined.

The second caveat is that far distance background bokeh is just OK. The 58mm handles it admirably though and as good as other lenses. It just isn't creating a miracle.

This lens isn't the Bokeh Jesus. But its definitely a transitional bokeh cream machine. And every single thing else about it, except its nice light weight, is pretty flawed. Build quality is meh. Its a light weight that literally feels like an empty piece of plastic except in the very rear. And the front the lens is so ridiculously big (without any actual lens being there until half way back in the lens), the filter size seems completely arbitrary and therefore annoyingly inconveniently sized. Nikon, if you're going to mushroom up the size of a lens for no good reason at all, then you might as well just go to 77mm. Otherwise, this would have been a lovely compact lens........ if only the majority of the lens wasn't just a bunch of hollow plastic sticking off the front doubling the lens size. I feel this is a fair criticism and that responses like, "well, i feel secure about the glass" are ridiculous. You wouldn't double the length of your 80-400, and this lens should have been a proper size for its glass and for ease of carry.

Because of that transitional bokeh, I'm already hooked though (just to show you I'm not a hater).

I'll be exchanging this one for another; if there's any difference between the 2, I'll let you know.

I have to return mine, because of the +/- 20 issue (none of my other lenses needed any fine-tuning on my D810). But, frankly, I would have kept it, if it only needed +/- 10 (I like to keep a buffer, in case of swapping between bodies... a +/- 19 lens would be too risky, but +/- 5, 10, maybe even 15, is not a big deal & people should remember that its easy to fine-tune lenses in body, so no reason to sweat it. Simply, my copy needs around 30 or 40. None of my other lenses needed more than 4 or 5, so I'm thinking Nikon is struggling to calibrate these because of how soft they are wide open).

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Nikon D810 Nikon AF Nikkor 135mm f/2D DC Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED +9 more
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