The most exciting announcement of the week for me personally, is the new Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, a lens that I have been waiting for many years now. This is a specialized, one of a kind lens that is basically the modern version of the Noct NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2, a legendary manual focus lens with extreme performance that still sells for over $3000 used today. Although Nikon currently offers two f/1.4 and f/1.8 modern 50mm primes with autofocus capability in its lens lineup, the 58mm f/1.4G is a lens at a whole different level that is specifically designed to yield maximum sharpness and microcontrast, along with beautiful bokeh at the maximum aperture of f/1.4.
But why is the aperture limited to f/1.4 instead of f/1.2 like on the 58mm Noct? Many Nikonians have been waiting for f/1.2 lenses with autofocus capability for a while and the only lens with such fast aperture that is still manufactured today is the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S. Since Nikon has done it in the past, why not do it again? Canon has had f/1.2 primes with AF capabilities for a while now.
The problem with developing such a fast lens primarily lies in the limitations of the Nikon F mount. Compared to the Canon EF mount, which has a large diameter of 54mm, the Nikon F mount is only 44mm. That’s a big difference in size! If you look at the rear of the Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens, you will see that even the 54mm diameter was not large enough to accommodate such a large aperture – Canon literally had to place the lens contacts right inside the lens mount. Since CPU contacts take additional space, it would be extremely difficult for Nikon to accommodate them, given how large the rear element would have to be. In addition, designing such a large aperture lens with precise autofocus is quite challenging – even slight variances in phase detection sensors would cause focus errors.
Here are some of the lens specifications:
- Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
- Focal Length: 58mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Format: FX/35mm, DX
- Maximum Angle of View (DX-format): 27°20’
- Maximum Angle of View (FX-format): 40°50’
- Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.13x
- Lens Elements: 9
- Lens Groups: 6
- Diaphragm Blades: 9
- Super Integrated Coating: Yes
- Autofocus: Yes
- AF-S (Silent Wave Motor): Yes
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.58m
- Focus Mode: Auto, Manual
- G-type: Yes
- Filter Size: 72mm
- Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
- Dimensions (Approx.): 3.3 in. (85 mm) x 2.7 in. (70 mm)
- Weight (Approx.): 13.6 oz. (385g)
Here is the MTF Chart of the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens:
A quick analysis:
The lens has very good contrast from center to corners. Extreme corners get a little weaker, but not by much. Resolution is also very good for f/1.4, with a slight drop in the mid-frame and weaker corners. Since sagittal and meridional lines are so close to each other, the bokeh of the lens should be phenomenal. Check out my article on reading lens MTF charts if you have any questions.
Compared to Nikon 50mm f/1.4G
Many of our readers are probably wondering how the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G would compare to the older Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, which is more than 3 times cheaper. Let’s compare the MTF charts between the two lenses:
The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G definitely has more contrast and resolution wide open, but not by a huge margin. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G’s performance falls off from the center pretty quickly, while the 58mm f/1.4G seems to be more balanced. However, note how the dotted lines on the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G separate from the straight lines – that’s an indication of average to poor bokeh performance. And now take a look at the 58mm, which has both lines staying very close to each other.
Hence, while we might only see a marginal improvement in sharpness at f/1.4, the bokeh of the 58mm f/1.4G should be the highlight of the lens. Expect to see more “3D-like” images produced by the 58mm! It surely will be another lens to create dreamy pictures. Wedding and portrait photographers will love this lens (Lola has already convinced me to buy one!).
Here is a link to see and download high resolution files from the lens using the Nikon D800 and D4.
What about the price? Well, at $1699, this is no cheap lens. But remember, this is a specialized tool and it is not for everyone. If you do not know why you should be getting it, then you would probably be much better off with the super affordable Nikon 50mm f/1.8G (see our review and wedding photography image samples).
Here is the official press release:
MELVILLE, N.Y. (October 17, 2013) – Today, Nikon Inc. introduced the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G, a professional grade prime lens offering a versatile 58mm perspective and excellent low-light shooting capabilities for FX and DX-format shooters. Designed to excel at night and in extreme low-light situations, this new NIKKOR lens sports a diverse feature set and optical design that make it a dependable and versatile option for daytime portraits, nighttime cityscapes or sharp HD video with a dramatic depth of field. Paying homage to the acclaimed original Noct NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 lens, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens is capable of capturing stunning photos and videos while achieving beautiful bokeh effects.
“With the development of every NIKKOR lens, Nikon aims to provide photographers with the powerful and versatile lensing options needed to capture stunning images and HD video in a variety of difficult shooting scenarios,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “Combining Nikon’s storied NIKKOR legacy with renowned optical technologies, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens presents the premier prime lensing option for FX and DX-format shooters who expect the best in low-light performance.”
Optimized for elite performance in even the most challenging low-light scenarios, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G sports a unique 58mm (87mm DX-format equivalent) fixed focal length, making it ideal for shooting both flattering portraits, landscapes and street photography. Both FX-format and DX-format shooters will appreciate a wide and fast f/1.4 aperture that helps to ensure professional-grade photos and edge-to-edge sharpness, combined with overwhelming rendering performance. Even while focusing at infinity, the lens’ high resolving power has the ability to process distant subjects with amazing clarity. Whether shooting dynamic nighttime cityscapes or astrophotography, top-class low-light performance is ensured with minimal sagittal coma, while light falloff is controlled to retain brightness and reduce vignetting, even while wide open.
The AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens is also powered by core NIKKOR technologies designed to provide the user with the ultimate in clarity and control, and the capability to capture beautiful photos and HD video even in extreme low-light. The lens sports a rounded nine-blade diaphragm, providing both FX and DX-format shooters with a circular bokeh, allowing for dramatic sense of natural depth in landscapes and beautiful image blur. Additionally, the lens features a Nano Crystal Coat to prevent ghost and flare, as well as a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to help ensure quiet AF operation, even when shooting HD video. For users who want the utmost control of every frame, two focus modes are available, including M/A (AF with manual override) and M (manual).
Price and Availability
The AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens will be available in late October 2013 for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $1,699.95*. For more information on NIKKOR lenses and accessories as well as other Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.