Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

Started Mar 16, 2013 | Discussions
Sudo Nimh Regular Member • Posts: 281
Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

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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jhinkey
jhinkey Senior Member • Posts: 2,814
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror
1

This is typical of old fast Nikkor glass in high contrast situations. They have a lot of residual spherical aberrations and not the best of coatings.

John

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Fave Photog Senior Member • Posts: 1,242
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror
2

Sudo Nimh wrote:

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.

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?

Pick up a copy of the 50/1.8 AI-S with a serial number between 2050340 and 2259472. It's an amazing lens even wide-open. Always use the deepest lens hood you can with every lens without causing vignetting.

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OP Sudo Nimh Regular Member • Posts: 281
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

jhinkey wrote:

This is typical of old fast Nikkor glass in high contrast situations. They have a lot of residual spherical aberrations and not the best of coatings.

Thanks, I'm relieved to hear that my copy is no worse than others.

inasir1971
inasir1971 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,708
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

If you're looking for a really good lens for use on MFT, the AF-S 50 1.8G (not the 1.8D) is one to look at. Very good performance wide open and nice bokeh - much better than my Ais 50/1.2 even on MFT.

The only catch is that you will need one of the adapters that allow operation of the aperture lever as the lens does not have an aperture ring but these can be had very cheaply on Ebay.

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sunhorse Senior Member • Posts: 1,801
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

I never thought the lens was all that sharp. However, it made for a great portrait lens especially in available light.

Here is an old shot from the mid-70's with the 50 f1.4 (non-AI) on a Nikon F2 Photomic.

http://500px.com/photo/13394795

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Ramesh

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Sergey_Green
Sergey_Green Forum Pro • Posts: 12,051
It is not the lens

Like most of the older lenses on a quarter of a sensor, you have way too much light in the chamber that is bouncing around without any real benefit to it. What you need to do is put the wafer on the back of the lens to cut this light of. I have seen the same results (as yours) with my own 50/1.4D on Olympus dSLR, and yet I saw less of it when I used the same lens on D200/300, and almost none on D800.

Look at this, faster lens, older, and many frames are wide open,

Nikkor ais 50mm f1.2 the fastes Nikon lens currently in production

Images by B.Leak.

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Neocon
Neocon Senior Member • Posts: 1,183
Re: It is not the lens

I found my 50mm f1.4 Nikkor (cica 1991) to be problematic shooting wide open.  It was rare for me to nail accurate focus.  Here is a lucky example when it works.  Taken with my D80 -

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/pho

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Neocon
Neocon Senior Member • Posts: 1,183
Re: It is not the lens
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(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 4,624
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror Nikkor-S 50MM 1.4 at 1.4 examples

Here are some quick examples with Nikon D300, SOOC of Nikkor-S 50mm 1.4 all shot at 1.4.

One indoors, without flash, one indoors with flash, one outdoors without flash and last (bag) indoors and flash. Seems sharp enough.



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CFynn Veteran Member • Posts: 5,224
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

Sudo Nimh wrote:

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?

On your MFT camera this is equiuvalent to about a 100mm lens on 35mm. So try using a lens hood for a 105 mm pre-Ai lens on your 50mm lens. That might ameliorate things.

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OP Sudo Nimh Regular Member • Posts: 281
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

sunhorse wrote:

I never thought the lens was all that sharp. However, it made for a great portrait lens especially in available light.

Here is an old shot from the mid-70's with the 50 f1.4 (non-AI) on a Nikon F2 Photomic.

http://500px.com/photo/13394795

That's a nice sample. I agree, the lens seems well suited for portraits. I expect I'll keep it for the deliberate soft focus wide open, and its sharpness at smaller apertures.

OP Sudo Nimh Regular Member • Posts: 281
Re: It is not the lens

Neocon wrote:

https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/PaTWuiINyYI9gNHsFDWfBdMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink

That's a nice shot. The lens will be worth keeping if I can get some portraits like that.

OP Sudo Nimh Regular Member • Posts: 281
Re: It is not the lens

Sergey_Green wrote:

Like most of the older lenses on a quarter of a sensor, you have way too much light in the chamber that is bouncing around without any real benefit to it. What you need to do is put the wafer on the back of the lens to cut this light of. I have seen the same results (as yours) with my own 50/1.4D on Olympus dSLR, and yet I saw less of it when I used the same lens on D200/300, and almost none on D800.

That's interesting. Can you get the "wafer" as an accessory to reduce light that falls outside the MFT sensor? I'm not sure this would help, though, because the softening appears very similar in dimly lit scenes that have less light bouncing around the chamber.

Look at this, faster lens, older, and many frames are wide open,

Nikkor ais 50mm f1.2 the fastes Nikon lens currently in production

The wide-open images do look better than mine, but there's still softening or reduced contrast wide open. Compare the lettering on the baseball with f/2 and f/1.2.

I wonder if the softness seems worse on a crop sensor because it is magnified. It would be interesting to compare an image from a small-sensor camera with the cropped image (so that both images have the same view) of a full-frame camera. If the blurring looked similar, you would know that magnification was to blame, rather than reflections inside the camera.

BobSC Veteran Member • Posts: 4,440
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

That looks about like mine. I think it's mainly loss of contrast and light scatter due to the single coatings (as opposed to multicoating). If you go out and shoot at 1.4 in the full sun and look at the histograms they end up being bunched in the middle.

At 5.6 mine is sharper than the 18-55 kit lens at 5.6; more contrasty too, which is sad.
I recently bought a 50/1.4 AIs and I like it a lot.

Neocon
Neocon Senior Member • Posts: 1,183
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

The point about a good lens shade is important.  I lost my lenshood and substituted a hood from a 135mm Rokkor.  With the cropped sensor of the DX camera, there was no vignetting.

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Sergey_Green
Sergey_Green Forum Pro • Posts: 12,051
Indeed

Sudo Nimh wrote:


That's interesting. Can you get the "wafer" as an accessory to reduce light that falls outside the MFT sensor? I'm not sure this would help, though, because the softening appears very similar in dimly lit scenes that have less light bouncing around the chamber.

There is no such accessory. Someone just made a wafer out of paper on the Olympus forum once, and posted samples. The difference was enormous.


..

I wonder if the softness seems worse on a crop sensor because it is magnified. It would be interesting to compare an image from a small-sensor camera with the cropped image (so that both images have the same view) of a full-frame camera. If the blurring looked similar, you would know that magnification was to blame, rather than reflections inside the camera.

Because it is magnified, good point. But as I said I did try the very same lens on FT, APS-C, and FF, and on FT the results were the worst. I did not pixel-peep, just saw the same what you posted.

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primeshooter
primeshooter Veteran Member • Posts: 6,066
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror
1

Sudo Nimh wrote:

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?

Nope, it's just poorly focused. Try contrast based LV for this, and get the exposure right. Both will help. The f/1.4 is badly over exposed.

Sergey_Green
Sergey_Green Forum Pro • Posts: 12,051
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror

primeshooter wrote:


Nope, it's just poorly focused. Try contrast based LV for this, and get the exposure right. Both will help. The f/1.4 is badly over exposed.

Although you can attach many lenses to Olympus cameras, they can only be used in aperture priority mode, and the cameras tend to over-expose the images from wide open.

Here is Nikon 50/1.4 attached to Olympus @ wide open, notice the exposure compensation,

So it is about 2 stops to compensate. This funny haze is still present, although I do not see it anywhere in these quantities when the same lens is put in front of a larger sensor.

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BobSC Veteran Member • Posts: 4,440
Re: Old Nikkor 50mm/1.4 wide open horror
1

primeshooter wrote:

Nope, it's just poorly focused. Try contrast based LV for this, and get the exposure right. Both will help. The f/1.4 is badly over exposed.

It's not overexposed at all. Drop them into PS and look at the levels. What you see is flare.

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