Nikon NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 Ai Review

We are back again at reviewing some of the lens classics and this time we have the Nikon NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 (Ai modified), which was first manufactured way back in 1962. One of our readers, Joe Ridley, was kind enough to send a number of Nikkor classics, and this lens is the second one that we are reviewing. Nikon has made so many different 50mm lenses its in 80 years of optical history, that the list of just 50mm lenses can get quite overwhelming. Many of us look at the modern 50mm primes without realizing that among all manufacturers, Nikon has the longest history of making these lenses. In fact, the very first Nikkor 5cm lens was made in 1937 specifically for Canon rangefinder cameras! And it is also worth pointing out that Nikon invented the very first 50mm f/1.4 lens after the World War II. This particular NIKKOR-S classic was designed for Nikon’s rangefinder cameras. Today, it is hard to find a converted version that works on modern DSLRs (mostly non-Ai versions), but you can snatch one for about $50 and get it converted for another $20-30. Or if you bought the new Nikon Df, you will be able to use this lens without having to convert it!

Nikon NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4

1) Overview and Specifications

The NIKKOR-S Auto 50mm f/1.4 is one of the early, Pre-Ai Nikkor manual focus wide angle lenses for the F mount. With its standard focal length of 50mm, the lens was designed as a general-purpose lens on early manual focus rangefinder cameras like Nikon S2 and S3, although its fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 also made it very suitable for low-light situations (especially on B/W film). With 7 optical elements in 5 groups, the NIKKOR-H 50mm f/1.4 has a simpler optical design than the new Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. However, similar to some of the old Nikkor classics, this lens is not about top notch sharpness and rich features. Its corner vignetting, beautiful bokeh and a boatload of optical imperfections is what gives the lens a certain “character” that is so hard to find on modern lenses. As one of our readers pointed out, it is interesting that some people try to imitate such imperfections in post-processing today, because their lenses are so sharp and corrected. Still, despite all its flaws, the lens can produce excellent sharpness results even on some of the best DSLRs like Nikon D800E, once stopped down to f/2.8 and smaller, as demonstrated further down in the review.

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Mirrorless Camera Comparison

A number of our readers have been asking our team about our recommendations on different mirrorless cameras. With so many different options on the market today, choosing a mirrorless camera can get very confusing. In the new series of articles, we will compare all the options on the market today starting from entry-level, mid-level to high-end. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing mirrorless camera systems that are available today from different manufacturers. This below charts will be updated periodically with new / updated information. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Discontinued systems such as Pentax K-01 and Ricoh GXR are not included. The list is sorted alphabetically and had to be split into two parts to fit. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras.

Mirrorless Systems #1Canon EOS MFujifilm XFLeica MNikon 1Olympus M43
* Denotes PL Subjective Rating
Lens MountCanon EF-MFuji XLeica MNikon 1Micro 4/3
Announcement DateOct 2012Jan 2012Mar 2004Oct 2011Jun 2009
Mount Diameter58mm42mm44mm40mm38mm
Sensor Size (Diagonal)26.8mm28.3mm43.0mm15.9mm21.7mm
Flange Distance18mm17.7mm27.80mm17mm20mm
Image StabilizationLensLensN/ALensBody
AutofocusYesYesNoYesYes
Autofocus SystemHybridHybridN/AHybridHybrid
Autofocus Speed *34N/A55
Native Lenses Available312261116
Third Party Lenses3839033
Total Lenses Available620651149
System Compactness *44345
Image Quality *45534
Top Model (Manuf. Link)Canon EOS MFuji X-Pro1Leica MNikon 1 V2OM-D E-M1
Top Model Price (B&H)$339$1,199$6,950$796$1,399

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Nikon Df vs the Mythical D400

No, I don’t have the specs for the D400 (should it ever be more than a vapor-camera) but after reading many “Df compared to” articles, I was thinking about what Nikon’s sales would be if they produced a D400 instead of the Df. I am going to go against Nasim and Roman’s love affair with the new Nikon Df and say that I don’t care much for it. Sure, it is cool looking, but otherwise? I made the comment to Nasim and later to Bob (who might feel as I do) that it doesn’t do much for me. Roman concluded in summary of his Df vs D610 article that you buy the Df with your heart and so it may be that I am heartless. When it comes to the Nikon Df vs the mythical D400, which would Nikon be better off producing?

Owl at a crossroads

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Mirrorless vs DSLR

DSLR cameras by design have some inherent flaws and limitations. Part of it has to do with the fact that SLR cameras were initially developed for film. When digital evolved, it was treated just like film and was housed in the same mechanical body. Aside from the circuitry required for a digital sensor and other electronics, new digital film media and the back LCD, the rest of the SLR components did not change. Same mechanical mirror, same pentaprism / optical viewfinder, same phase detection system for autofocus operation. While new technological advances eventually led to extending of features of these cameras (In-camera editing, HDR, GPS, WiFi, etc), DSLRs continued to stay bulky for a couple of reasons. First, the mirror inside DSLR cameras had to be the same in size as the digital sensor, taking up plenty of space. Second, the pentaprism that converts vertical rays to horizontal in the viewfinder also had to match the size of the mirror, making the top portion of DSLRs bulky.

Mirrorless vs DSLR

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Nikon NIKKOR-H Auto 28mm f/3.5 Ai Review

Thanks to your support, we will be publishing a lot more reviews of the old Nikkor classics that we either purchased on auction sites, or loaned from our readers. This is a review of a true classic, the Nikon NIKKOR-H Auto 28mm f/3.5 (Ai modified), which was manufactured way back in 1959. One of our readers, Joe Ridley, was kind enough to send a number of Nikkor classics, and this lens is the first one that we are reviewing. Please note that such reviews of classic lenses will be limited to one page, with a small number of image samples. Still, full lab measurements will be performed on each lens for thorough analysis and comparisons.

Nikon NIKKOR-H Auto 28mm f/3.5

1) Overview and Specifications

The NIKKOR-H Auto 28mm f/3.5 is one of the earliest, Pre-Ai Nikkor manual focus wide angle lenses for the F mount. Initially launched in 1959, this lens went through several iterations overtime with slightly different optical designs. The lens is available in various auction sites including eBay, but an Ai-converted version is really hard to come by. If you do decide to purchase one, you have to get the lens Ai-converted to properly mount on modern DSLRs. If you do not do this, you risk damaging your DSLR, since the non-Ai version could either break the metering tab / lever on the lens mount, or could get stuck on the mount and potentially cause other damage.

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Nikon Df vs D800

There is no doubt that the new Nikon Df camera is very similar to the D600/D610 duo, as we’ve already seen from the comparison. From a price stand-point, however, Df is dangerously close to the popular and extremely capable Nikon D800 model (see our very detailed review). Can the Nikon Df back up its price premium when compared to its bigger brother? Analyzing on-paper specifications of both cameras should give a pretty good idea, although you might find the ISO performance comparisons in this article quite useful to make your own conclusions.

Nikon Df vs D800

Keep in mind, please, that this comparison is based strictly on specifications and image quality. A camera is often more than a sum of its parts, and that stands true for both Nikon Df and D800.

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Nikon Df vs D610

It has been a while since Nikon last caused so much controversy. Even before Df was announced, and, naturally, as soon as all of its specifications were leaked, crowds gathered and the battle was on. Not even D600 or D800 issues caused so much racket. This sort of comparison – Nikon Df versus D610 – is likely to be the most popular among the fans and those who just can’t justify the new camera. We, too, will take a closer look at how these two full-frame DSLRs stack-up against each other. Before you jump to conclusions though, make sure to read the summary – you will find that there is nothing to be so perplexed by. And be sure to pay attention to ISO comparisons between the Nikon Df and the D610 that are posted below.

Nikon Df vs D610

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Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition Lens Overview

Along with the highly anticipated Nikon Df camera, Nikon has also introduced the restyled Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G Special Edition lens. Such a move might be slightly confusing at first, because Nikon already has a new AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens in its line-up. So, are there any improvements with this new lens? In short – no. At least not from the optical performance stand-point.

Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.8G Special Edition lens

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Nikon Df vs D700

Many Nikon D700 owners are probably wondering how the Nikon Df differs from their beloved cameras in terms of features and image quality. As we have said several times in different posts, the Nikon Df could be considered the D700 replacement, depending on one’s needs. While sports and wildlife photographers (or anyone else that relies on fast fps and high-end AF) will certainly disagree, portrait photographers have been longing for a camera with the D4 sensor for a while now. In this article, I will compare the new Nikon Df to the D700 not only in terms of specifications, but also in terms of image quality / ISO performance. Of most interest, our readers might find high ISO comparisons between the two, especially above ISO 800.

Nikon Df vs D700

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Nikon Full-Frame DSLR Size Comparison

I am working on a couple of articles related to the new Nikon Df camera (see the announcement / overview and pre-order options) and I decided to post a size comparison between Nikon’s most current line of full-frame DSLR cameras. Starting from the left, we have the flagship Nikon D4, then the Nikon D800, followed by the Nikon D610 and finally, the new Nikon Df (click on the image for a much larger version):

Nikon full-frame DSLR Size Comparison

As you can see, the Nikon Df has a similar size as the Nikon D600 / D610 in terms of height. When looked at the top, it is thinner due to a smaller grip and less protruding pentaprism / flash area. Weight-wise, it is about 50 grams lighter.