Along with the Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, Nikon also introduced its first modern professional-grade f/1.2 lens, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S. Nikon has not been able to make f/1.2 lenses with autofocus capability on the F-Mount due to a small throat size and long flange distance (see my article on lens mounts), so aside from lenses like the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S and the classic Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2, we have not seen an f/1.2 lens for many years. Thanks to the advantages of the Z-mount, we are now able to get much faster lenses.
While the previously-released Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S is a much faster lens, it was made to be a “showcase” lens rather than a practical lens in the field. It lacks autofocus capability, and at $8K, it is a very niche lens for those with very deep pockets.
In comparison, the new Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S is a workhorse, professional-grade lens that is made to be used in the field. And given all the advances in autofocus technology, including Eye AF, being able to use a fast and sharp f/1.2 without having to worry about focus issues is going to be essential for client portraiture work.
Some photographers have been waiting for a proper pro-grade 50mm autofocus lens from Nikon. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is optically weak and in dire need of replacement, while the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is an enthusiast-grade lens, with a relatively slow maximum aperture. The new 50mm f/1.2 S might potentially be the lens that convinces DSLR shooters to switch to mirrorless. I know some people who have been waiting for such a lens, together with a pro-grade body with dual memory card slots. Once Nikon announces new full-frame Z-mount cameras in 2021, we might see a further shift by professionals from DSLR to mirrorless.
So what new innovations has Nikon delivered with the Z 50mm f/1.2 S? Being a pro-grade lens, it obviously has all the bells and whistles of modern Z lenses, including extra function ring, an L-Fn button, weather-sealed construction, as well as all the best coatings Nikon has to offer today (ARNEO, SIC, Nano Crystal Coat). Nikon says that the lens was designed to yield stunning bokeh, which is expected from such a lens.
On the downside, the lens is huge and heavy – with its 89.5x150mm dimensions and 1090g total weight, it is both larger and heavier than the excellent Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM. While Nikon has a completely different design with two extra elements and potentially better sharpness wide open (based on MTF charts), it is still a pretty hefty lens for lightweight mirrorless cameras like the Nikon Z6 – the combo might not be very practical for those who want to keep their gear light. The good news is, Nikon already has a superb lightweight choice in the form of the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S, so one can pick between these two and decide which route to take…
Let’s take a look at the MTF numbers from the new Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S:
To be able to get such sharpness at f/1.2 is absolutely remarkable. Compare the above to the MTF chart of the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S:
Basically, the new Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S is as sharp in the center, and even in the corners compared to its f/1.8 S counterpart. I don’t know how Nikon was able to achieve such results. Here are the MTF numbers that I was able to measure for the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S using Imatest:
This lens was one of the sharpnest lenses I have tested to date, and at f/2.8 it simply reaches astonishing levels. Based on what I see so far, I expect the new Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S to beat these results.
The lens is expected to be available by the end of the year with an MSRP of $2099.95. Obviously, that’s a lot of money to pay for such a lens, but given the price of the Noct 58mm f/0.95 and what this lens is capable of, it will be wanted by many professional portrait photographers out there.
For more technical information on this lens, check out the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S page of our lens database.
Official Press Release
Below is part of the official press release for the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S lens:
NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S: Immense Details. Exceptional Sharpness.
The new NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S is Nikon’s fastest and most optically impressive AF prime lens yet, effortlessly balancing the combination of intense sharpness and dreamy bokeh. For pro-level creators that need powerful performance and versatility, the 50mm f/1.2 delivers a standard focal length with unrivaled sharpness, speed, and life-like clarity. With a bright f/1.2 aperture and premium S-Line engineering, the NIKKOR Z 50mm lens is the definitive and versatile prime for a range of photography styles including portraiture, street photography, landscapes, nightscapes and more.
The NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S lens effortlessly achieves a soft and enchanting bokeh, with a circular background blur that is smooth and gradual when focusing for a natural “fall-off”. The bright f/1.2 aperture affords a dramatically shallow depth of field with beautiful subject isolation for stunning portraiture, while it also offers exceptional low-light performance. Maximizing the capabilities of Z series’ technology, the 50mm f/1.2 lens adopts stepping motors (STM) as well as a multi-focusing system4, enabling multiple lens elements to focus simultaneously for fast and precise autofocusing, even when shooting close-up or wide open. Furthermore, the lens’ ability to maintain stable exposure in changing lighting conditions, combined with its quiet operation and minimal focus breathing, establishes the lens as an appealing tool for video creators.
The NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S lens tells a story of balance in design and functionality, seamlessly harmonizing intense resolution and velvety bokeh. The symmetrical optical design prevents light from being bent or distorted as it passes through the lens, meaning the purest, sharpest image reaches the camera sensor without any added distortion or aberration for true edge-to-edge sharpness. This innovative lens design also includes three aspherical elements to help virtually eliminate distortion, for superior resolution, point light reproduction and superb three-dimensional clarity. Designed for pro-level reliability, the NIKKOR Z 50mm is a superbly balanced lens constructed with robust weather sealing, a customizable control ring and shortcut button, as well as an EL Display panel to enhance workflow. Meanwhile, the lens is engineered with Nikon’s Nano Crystal and ARNEO Coating to minimize flare, ghosting and coma, allowing Z series users to confidently shoot in a variety of lighting scenarios, including harsh backlighting, to capture any scene with incredible sharpness and clarity.
Below are some sample images from the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S lens. All images copyright Kyoko Munakata.
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