Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S

Lens Summary

Brand: Nikon

Also Known As: Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AIS

Lens Type: Prime Lens

Format: Full Frame / FX

Focus: Manual Focus

Lens Mount: Nikon F

Release Date: 1981-09-01

MSRP Price: $469.95

Made in: Japan

Infrared Rating: Good

Production Status: In Production

Lens Description: This exceptional low-light manual focus lens is perfect for travel and portrait work and any situation where a extremely limited depth of field is desired.

Photography Life Review Summary: A very good manual focus 50mm f/1.4 prime with impressive performance characteristics. Starts out a little weak wide open, but performs admirably past f/2.0, even on a high-resolution digital SLR like Nikon D800E. Distortion is moderate, but vignetting levels are very high at f/1.4, reaching as many as 3 stops in the extreme corners.

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S Specifications

Lens Specifications
* Supplied accessories may differ depending on country or area 
Lens TypePrime Lens
Focal Length50mm
Mount TypeNikon F
FormatFull Frame / FX
Compatible Format(s)FX, DX, FX in DX Crop Mode, 35mm Film
Compatible with TeleconvertersNo
Vibration Reduction (Image Stabilization)No
Aperture Information
Aperture RingYes
Maximim Aperturef/1.4
Minimum Aperturef/16
Maximum Angle of View (Full frame or larger format)46°
Optical Information
Lens Elements7
Lens Groups6
Diaphragm Blades7
Focus Information
FocusManual Focus
Built-in Focus MotorNo
Minimum Focus Distance1.5 ft.
Filter Information
Filter Size52mm
Accepts Filter TypeScrew-on
Physical Characteristics
Weather / Dust SealingNo
Mount MaterialMetal
Dimensions(Approx.) 2.5x1.6 in. (Diameter x Length), 63.5x40.6mm (Diameter x Length)
Weight(Approx.) 8.8 oz. (246.4g)
Other Information
Available in ColorsBlack
Supplied Accessories52mm front lens cap, Rear lens cap

MTF Performance

Here is how the lens performed according to Imatest:

The NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S is a superb performer – whether mounted on a classic Nikon film camera, or a modern high-resolution DSLR like Nikon D800. Although the lens starts pretty weak at f/1.4, its performance is actually better in the center compared to modern AF-S equivalents. When stopped down to f/2, the lens shows very impressive center performance. Corners are weak due to field curvature, but improve dramatically when stopped down. Peak performance is reached at f/5.6, where the lens has an excellent balance of performance across the image frame. The lens does not suffer from noticeable focus shift issues like many other lenses do, which is good news.


Distortion levels are moderate, in line with other 50mm primes. Imatest measured barrel distortion at -1.10.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is controlled quite well. Imatest measured under 1 pixel of CA at all apertures, which is very good:


Vignetting levels are very high, reaching as much as 3 stops in the corners. Stopping down reduces sharpness significantly, with vignetting levels normalizing at around the f/4 mark:

Here is the worst case scenario, shot at f/1.4:

Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S Vignetting

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Ken Davis

I just purchased a “Mint” copy of the Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S via Ebay and I await its arrival. I don’t currently own a F1.4 lens and thought I would start with one of these before considering purchasing something else down the road. I’ve always heard this particular lens was decent wide open although not perfect. We’ll see soon enough.

Thank you for your review.


Great mini review. I own this and a pre Ai version that I have compared against my 1.4 G and Sigma Art. Wide open the Sigma is a little sharper and has less Vignetting, by F2.8 the manual focus lenses are slightly sharper than the Art. Clearly sharper than the G. And these lenses have a special look and feel to the images.


Whatever mtf said, this still a great lenses

Karl Valentin

Helpful review thank you !
Adds a little bit to my experience with MF lenses in general.
AF versions today are superior in their optical formulars
and are sometimes corrected while opened in Photoshop
with lens profiles.
For me some of the results look boring – so personally I prefer
the character of old manual glass more even wide open !

Clayton Summers

Question about the MTF data. This is clearly not the normal MTF that ranges from 0 to 1. It also does not look like lp/mm. It might be lp/inch, but could also be lp/ph (line pairs per picture height). Can you please lable the vertical axis so we know what units this data is in?


thank you for sharing

Randle P. McMurphy

I own this version of the Nikkor 1,4/50 and also the Pre-AI for my Nikkormat film cameras
they are build many ways better than the AF one.

The optical performance is near to perfect and you can get this lens as a bargain on Ebay !!


Which of the two do you like best? I want to buy the non-ai then convert it for my Nikon FM2

Would love to get your input.

Randle P. McMurphy

Dear Carlos,
for me its a very subjective thing. I love the mechanical perfection of the Nikkor pre-ai lenses.
You can get the Nikkor S.C 1,4/50 which means it has the same multicoating like the AI version
so optical on the same level but better build !