Nikon has officially announced the 50mm f1.2. Here is an overview and a general comparison to what some of the competition has.
Nikon 50mm f1.2 – Adorama / B&H
Add to the list of all Nikon Z lenses.
|Focal Length: 50mm
Aperture: f1.2 – f16
Aperture Blade: 9Rounded
Optical Design: 17 Elements in 15 Groups
Elements: 2 ED and 3 Aspherical Elements
Coatings: ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coats, Super Integrated Coating
Autofocus: 2 stepping motors | Internal Focus IF
Minimum Focus Distance: 1.5′ / 45 cm
Filter Threads: 82 mm (Front)
Weight: 2.4 lb / 1090 g
Official Nikon Z 50mm f1.2 S Page
See the official Nikon page to see all the specs and technology in the lens.
And this is their announcement page.
Here are the highlights.
The NIKKOR Z 50mm f1.2 has a few unique aspects to it that separate it from the competition.
OLED information panel so you can quickly glance to check settings and an L.Fn button which allows you to make exposure adjustments on the lens. While these features don’t seem that useful at first, once you incorporate them into your process and build your muscle memory around them, they can be very useful. Since it’s a large lens you’ll likely always be bracing it with your left hand, so having those controls right there and always available could be convenient.
IF Focusing allows the lens to focus internally so there is no change to the physical dimensions of the lens.
Multi-FS This is technology Nikon has pushed in a few of their lenses. Essentially it’s two focus elements driven by two different focus motors. This allows for faster, and more precise autofocus, but it also improves aberrations. This improves close focusing.
These MTF charts are really good for an f1.2 lens.
The center frame sharpness should be comparable to the Z 50mm f1.8 S, which is a very good lens in terms of sharpness. I’ll still stand by what I say about the NIKKOR Z 50mm f1.8 S being the best 50mm ever made (in terms of overall performance and features). I highly recommend it.
Compared to the Canon RF 50mm f1.2, It performs similarly in the center, slightly better actually, but it should noticably outperform the Canon along the edges.
Canon RF 50mm f1.2 MTF Charts
Compared to the Sony 50mm f1.4 – Midframe sharpness will be better on the Nikon but Sony will outperform along the edges. This is comparing an f1.2 to an f1.4 lens. Keep that in mind. The Sony MTF chart shows you spacial frequencies of only 10mm, 20mm, and 40mm, not 30mm so you can only do a 1 to 1 comparison on 10mm – the red line.
NIKKOR 50mm f1.2 vs Canon 50mm f1.2 vs Sony 50mm f1.4 Price & Spec Comparison
Here is a quick chart showing how this lens compares to the competition with some of the features. I know I should start including Panasonic on this lists as their cameras and lenses are incredible. But for now, we’ll just do the big players.
|Lens||NIKKOR Z 50mm f1.2||Canon 50mm f1.2 R||Sony 50mm f1.4|
|Weight||2.4 lb / 1090 g||2.09 lb / 950 g||27.5 oz / 780 g|
|Elements||17 Elements in 15 Groups||15 Elements in 9 Groups||12 Elements in 9 Groups|
Looking at the breakdown, you can see the NIKKOR is priced very aggressively. Although it has quite a bit more glass than the Canon or Sony. That probably means it’s more expensive to make.
The Sony is a Zeiss design and you know Zeiss, they like to keep their element count down in favor of that signature Zeiss Pop. This usually comes at a performance hit, unless you’re dealing with some of their bigger lenses like the Distagons.
Expect the Nikon 50mm f1.2 to have the least amount of micro-contrast of the three unless they have some glass or coating advantage, which I don’t think they do. Although it’s probably very difficult to distinguish between 17 and 15 elements.
I talk about micro-contrast a lot on this blog, and it often makes some readers buttholes pucker up, and I get it, it’s not always an important characteristic. I personally have high micro-contrast lenses that I use when I want that extra tonal depth for when I’m trying to capture the moment and life the way it is. In these situations I want that extra pop and that grit, then I don’t mind using my lower micro-contrast lenses for more of the art stuff where it’s more about composition and lighting.
It’s just important to pay attention to these things so you can balance out your kit and get the best performance for your style.
The Nikon also uses a 9 bladed aperture vs the Canon at 10 and the Sony at 11. The Sony should technically give you a smoother bokeh shape when stopped down, especially since it’s stoping down from f1.4.
The NIKKOR is also the heaviest of the three, but only slightly heavier than the Canon. This is probably fine too considering the vast majority of Nikon shooters are Grizzled men, not skinny jean wearing hipster kids, so the weight here won’t be of any issue for the Nikon photographer.
My Thoughts On Fast Lenses | Who They Are For
I have some opinions about ultra-fast lenses like this that aren’t really in-line with the rest of the community, so I will share what I think.
First off, these lenses are tools designed for low light or a certain look. Fast lenses, although more expensive don’t automatically mean you’re getting a better image or even a better lens. It’s up to the lens designers to decide how good they want to make a certain lens at a certain aperture. Traditionally with DLSR lenses, f1.8 lenses were built cheaper and considered entry-level primes. Today, lens designers are throwing the kitchen sink at even f1.8 lenses so you can find incredible performance and builds like with the NIKKOR Z f1.8 lenses and some of the Sony f1.8 lenses.
Now that our systems are aimed at hybrid shooters, having higher quality slower lenses is a must for videographers that can’t shoot everything wide open all the time. They need lighter, slower lenses so they don’t have to have a 4-inch stack of ND filters over the front glass.
In terms of image quality and capabilities, while having f1.2 is useful, overusing shallow depth of field, in my opinion, can make the image worst, not better, and is one of the telltale signs of an amateur – especially with filmmaking.
My favorite reference for how to do it right is Ex Machina. This film was shot using a super 35mm Sony camera ( similar to APS-C ), at f2.8 – f4 for the entire film. In full-frame comparisons, this would be closer to f4 to f5.6. Of course, it’s not exactly the same because of the anamorphic lenses. Generally having a beautiful background and production design is important to a film and the storytelling and professional cinematographers are careful to preserve this in their shots. Controlling the depth of field and the look of the background is an important part of the craft.
Professionals should be careful about buying ultra-fast lenses and using them wide open for everything. Almost always you get more tonal depth with a slower lens with fewer elements and the bokeh often looks significantly worst when stopping down these ultra-fast lenses compared to slower lenses. Sure, a 50mm f1.2 is often sharper at f1.8 then a 50mm f1.8 but usually at the cost of some pop and bokeh smoothness. Sometimes even contrast.
Unless you need that extra stop in low light performance or often shoot in situations where you need to calm the background with shallow depth of field, you’ll almost be better off with a slower lens, like an f1.8, which in my opinion is the sweet spot in terms of versatility for a 50mm.
That being said, f1.2 is incredibly useful for the wedding photographer that has little control of the scene, the large aperture gives them a tool that can solve more problems. The shallow depth will allow you to hide busy backgrounds, plus it will expand the low light capabilities when shooting in poorly lit cathedrals, or receptions.
I personally don’t always like the ultra-shallow look on headshots, but I think for full body shots, the f1.2 will produce a really nice subject separation and f1.2 on a 50mm is great for this.
My favorite part about the NIKKOR 50mm f1.2 is that it’s only $2,100 which is cheaper than the Canon 50mm f1.2 R which lists with a non-sales price of $2300.
Why No Marketing?
It seems Nikon has spent zero money advertising or pushing this lens or the 14-24mm which also looks incredible, which is a shame. I’m hoping they have a big announcement or launch lined up for the next generation of cameras where these new lenses are included.
I really like where Nikon is going here, the reasons I’ve been investing in Nikon as my full-frame system is their product line up is just so focused. Everything feels like it’s part of a giant family. I can’t say the same for Sony, Canon or Fujifilm who release random lenses that all look different and have no relationship to the other products.
Although the family of Fujifilm F2 lenses is very nice. I like them a lot, except the 35mm f2 has that swirling bokeh so it feels a little bit out of place with its artistic aesthetics compared to the other f2 lenses.
You pick up any Z lens and they all feel familiar. I really like that about the Z system.
Here is a little movie Nikon put together. You can tell the micro-contrast is low, but it nails that dreamy portrait look.
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Your perspective on these types of lenses is quite balanced. When I see this trend of 17-element, 1-kilogram prime lenses, I see utter insanity, but then again I’m admittedly more hipster than Grizzled Nikon man with utility belt and safari hat. I do see the value for wedding shooters and the like. Still, it would be nice to see the manufacturers release more native lenses with lighter, simpler, lower-element-count designs to cater to the non-pros, but the industry as a whole doesn’t seem interested in that.
lol. I’m about to turn 40, so I probably be picking up a safari hat soon. I have a sudden a strange urge to start shooting bird photography too.
I think I might even go double camera full leather suspender straps. 🙂
Nikon has some compact lenses coming that should do that, but yes, I want more smaller lighter, f2.8 or f2 lenses, kinda like Fujifilm did with their f2. Then again, this is kinda why I stick with Fujifilm for a lot of what I shoot, because they do exactly this and they don’t disappoint.
One of the problem when these companies start catering to the non-pros is they often go too far and just make the lenses suck. I went down this route with Sony and got the 50mm f1.8. While the 50mm has some nice pop ( probably the best pop of any Sony lens ), the CA and focusing on it just suck, so it’s not fun to use or your left with all these problems with image quality. I don’t get why Meike and 7Artisans can make a low element 50mm without crazy CA, but Sony can’t. It almost seems like they intentionally design the lenses with some flaws. Then again, I think it’s only like a 5 element lens.
The Canon RF 35mm f1.8 with IS is great, but the coma is literally the worst coma I’ve ever seen in a lens, so you have to be careful shooting with it at night, otherwise it’s a great lens which is cool. It just never got much attention back when it was announced because that was back when single card slot cameras were unusable so Canon products were mostly dismissed by the online community. Thank god Sony released the A7c, because now single card slot cameras are totally fine again. 🙂
Lol on the Sony single card slot. It has really hurt Nikon for sure.
Hey I appreciate the reply. We have been looking at the Sony A7sii , several of them and two Sony fx9’s to replace the Nikons . But then we have seen Nikon is supposed to be coming out with the Z6 and 7s cameras and possibly a Z8 or Z9 model . We were hoping maybe they’d have something that was compatible in codecs and performance to the A7sii . Then we would pick up the fx9’s or something similar. We have struggled to make Canon footage to look similar to Nikon . But Sony is close except for the Harder look . Blacker blacks and harder edges and yes Nikons highlight roll off looks smoother . Color transitions are smoother too for sure .
I was looking at how the BlackMagic 12k image looked and it seemed very close to the Z6 and 7s image . I didn’t know how that would work shooting 10bit 4:2:2 ProRes out to Atomos recorders and 4k BRAW with the 12k .
I do really like the BlackMagic image it looks a bit more cinematic than the Sony . I like the Canon R5 image too but Canon is out . Also I like the Sigma fp look too but haven’t compared it to the Nikon .
We can use our F mount lenses with the Sony and BlackMagic also . So there is where I’m at and have been looking for some advice.
If anyone wants to add their advice I’ll take it . Thanks to all !
I shoot live music photography and videography. Also Nature, macro stuff .
I shoot Nikon DSLRs and film cameras and own many old Nikkor lenses dating back to a 200mm f/4 from 1961 . I’ve chosen different lenses dating through the years to present depending upon different characteristics. Some for maybe a lens design beginning. Some for microcontrast or maybe how it renders. Others for the throw of the focus ring or maybe the speed of the autofocus.
Just recently I purchased the 400mm f/3.5 ais . I’ve been looking at this lens for some time now . I’m wanting for my Nature (Wildflower) photography and videography. It seems to have great microcontrast, a very smooth transition from infocus to out and the bokeh balls are very smooth without hard edged rings .
I have a Sigma 180mm macro and it’s one of my favorite lenses and I like it for its hard edged bokeh ball rings . There is more than one way to skin a cat . But optics are tools and we can use their different characteristics to their advantages .
As with much of my live music photography it’s in low light or crazy lighting conditions. I use many very sharp Sigma art lenses with low microcontrast or innertonal detail . Shooting wide open happens quite often and still at some very high ISO’s. So the sharp optics are very helpful to define edges when the iso is up so high and you’re fight low resolution to grain . I’ll use the bright brights and dark darks without many shades in between to create its own unique look.
Now I run into some of those issues with the live music video. But our goal is too give our Live Music a more cinematic look . This is one reason we like the Nikon Look . It’s not as harsh as the Sony digital image it seems Panasonic has a digital look too but Sonys seems harder edged . This is my personal opinion of course.
Ok enough rambling. I really enjoyed you insight in this article. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7059a372a4306289df594a1e6caa49e68b30a9d1f41cfbbb2b51511a87204a64.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0f1061312a00c24004d02885ad1167e0c5b179c5ae4ab44430956fc4757bc63c.jpg
Thanks Troy. The Sony look is just a bit more poppy it seems. A bit harsher tonal curves with the colors. Sometimes you just have to use those other profiles built into the cameras. I do that a lot with landscape shooting.
The A9 got a late firmware that supposedly pulled that back some.
At the core I think Nikon blends colors and tones just better, underneath the actual profiles. I know people say, “you can just shoot RAW so you can make the colors whatever you want.” You actually can’t. You’re a little stuck with the tonality of the camera.
All these cameras have their own way of adjusting the tonality in the analog to digital conversation process. Like I could never completely get my Nikon looking like a Canon, or a Canon looking like a Fujifilm. And new and different sensors will inherently have different looks. Like the Z7 looks slightly different from the D850. Nikon has easily the best highlight rolloff of any camera for a very organic feel.
The stigma with Sony bad colors though started with their early adaptation to mirrorless where their cameras just sucked as AWB compared to the competition. So things were always shifted slightly off. They’ve improved it dramatically but it’s not perfect. On the A7sIII they added an external sensor to help with AWB which hopefully Nikon includes in their future cameras, so AWB isn’t pulled from behind a UV filter and AA filter on the CMOS sensor. Now the Nikon Z6 I feels struggles a little with AWB and I have to make sure I always adjust the WB settings to better match the scene.
It’s also nice to see people chasing the f1.2 lenses not just for the bokeh. Professionals actually using the right tool for the job. 🙂 It’s funny, the real professional photography world, and the Youtube blogger photography world, are two completely different realities of what people want and need.