First, here’s an overview of the results and the tech specs:
|Weight w/ caps||982 g||838 g||411 g||302 g||208 g|
|Weight of hood||66 g||43 g||30 g||23 g||23 g|
|Filter thread||77 mm||77 mm||72 mm||58 mm||58 mm|
|Gasket at bajonet||no||no||yes||yes||yes|
|Internal focusing||yes||yes||yes||no (but...)||no (but...)|
|0.5 m||0.4 m||0.58 m||0.45 m||0.45 m|
|AF Speed||infinitely slow (MF)||good||good||good||good|
|MF turn from |
close to infinity
|12:00 to 8:30||12:00 to 3:30||12:00 to 4:00||12:00 to 5:30||12:00 to 3:30|
|quite some||quite some||very strong||very strong||very strong|
|strong, with |
very dark corners
see page 2
see page 2
see page 2
see page 2
see page 2
|Bokeh Light Balls||soft |
outside the frame
|Sensitivity to |
within the frame
the sun, though)
|Hood, caps||Hood, caps, |
soft lens case
|Hood, caps, pouch||Hood, caps, pouch||Hood, caps, pouch|
|Street price||€ 3,499|
Please note: The images on this page do not resemble the size relations between the lenses. The arrangement on the first page of this review does.
Zeiss Otus 55mm/1.4
The choice is simple: If you care about fast and reliable focusing, forget the Zeiss. Otherwise it’s the best, but very heavy and with strong vignetting wide open that you will notice especially when you take studio-style shots composed across the full frame. The bokeh is creamy, the sharpness allows you to capture incredible detail even wide open – if the detail is in focus, of course. There is no focus shift, and since you’re on manual focus, this is a feature you need even more than with AF. In case you care, it also doesn’t have any coma. Summing this lens up would surely be a good opportunity to righteously use the attribute “flawless” – if you put aside the slight onion ring issue with bokeh light balls and the sunstar average-ness, there are no optical mistakes, really. This optical flawlessness comes at the price of… a high price, high weight and size, and, most annoyingly, the missing AF. Aesthetically, this lens is a bit of an I’m-not-so-sure-about-it item for me: The trumpet-style (conical) shape of the end ensures that the edges will most likely be worn very quickly, and the sheer size of it lets your camera look more paparazzo than fine art. Then again, I guess many people enjoy this.
Sigma 50mm/1.4 Art
Aesthetically, this lens is pretty much the exact opposite of the Zeiss: a very clear and reduced “linear” design instead of the loud honking with fat yellow markings. The Sigma produces (almost) the same outstanding results but for less than a third of the price, and with added autofocus. The sharpness is as great as that of the Zeiss, simply stunning, the longitudinal CA is *slightly* more visible than with the Zeiss. But it’s also slightly more compact and not as heavy, although still not an accessory for travelling light. Focus shift, however, is as bad as with “average” 50s, so you need to calibrate or “fine-tune” your autofocus for f/2.8 in order not to have out-of-focus results at f/4, especially. This means, in turn, that you’ll be sacrificing a tad of perfect focusing wide open. However, results in practice are not as bad as chart testing suggests, so this shouldn’t turn you down. The bokeh wide open is beautiful – just like that of the other lenses. The hood offers the best protection of all lenses against light sources even close to the frame. Haptical quality is excellent, although it’s not true for all parts of the barrel that they feel like metal. If you want a near-perfect 50, here it is. Or, put differently: This is simply the best 50mm/1.4 lens available with autofocus.
The Nikon 58/1.4G is a joke. It’s light, but big and clunky, although the not-big lens elements inside don’t really tell you why. I’m suspecting it’s for the looks, so it can be marketed for 1,600 Euros or 1,700 USD. There are only two good things about this lens: There is virtually no focus shift, and the bokeh is very slightly more creamy wide open – but you might also call it “blurry”. Because that’s what the things in focus are with this lens. And of what use is a lens that won’t let you distinguish bokeh from those things in focus? Seriously, though: The main point of an f/1.4 lens is to be able to shoot it wide open, and this is exactly where this product is a spectacular fail for anyone who needs to use the photos for something, say: clients. Usable results start only at f/2.8 – which is unfortunately exactly the point where the bokeh starts looking the same as that of the other Nikkors. No matter how many people see “magic” in this lens, the most magical thing about it is that someone would actually pay the insane price for this “Oh-shit-we-need-something-expensive-in-the-50-mm-range-too-can-we-quickly-design-something” lens. Excuse my sarcasm, I’m exaggerating a little – but after all, Nikon started it. Oh, I forgot: The hood does an excellent job.
Don’t agree? Good! Please read this.
The Nikkor 50/1.4G is a classic, and you will find 500 zillion reviews of this lens. Sharpness wide open is, well, not very sharp, which is normal for this lens design, but it’s absolutely sufficient. In “normal” photography, i.e. if you don’t look at your photos at 100% on screen, you won’t notice this very much. But if your camera plays in the resolution league of the D800 and friends, you may. One sad issue is that there seems to be a lot of sample variation with this lens: I’ve used many different ones already, and many were blurrier wide open than the one I tested now. Also, in the past, two out of three 1.4Gs were very sensitive to bright light within or slightly outside the frame, producing ugly and strong haze. The one I tested now wasn’t. One thing that seems to be constant, though, is the strong longitudinal chromatic aberration (purple and green fringing of out-of-focus areas). It is also very prone to coma. The bokeh of the 1.4 is often portrayed to be smoother than that of its little cousin, brother or whatever you wanna call it. However, this is only true up to f/2.0, and the difference is indeed marginal, and I’d doubt you’d be able to identify the lens from the bokeh without any meticulous A-B comparison. Do decide for your own, check out page 2 for a side-by-side comparison.
The Nikkor 50/1.8G fixes most of the aberration issues of the 50/1.4G, meaning: longitudinal CA is reduced dramatically, so is coma, and the focus shift is only very moderate. At the same time, it is cheaper, and very light, which is not cool for people who need heavy equipment in order to feel like they know about quality, but very good for people who care about not hauling around tons of stuff. It is sharper than the average sample of a 1.4G, but if you’re lucky and have a good sample of the 1.4G, both lenses will be just as sharp. If you don’t want to waste any time ordering and returning bad samples of the 1.4G, get this one, it’s excellent. And light. And cheap. Or did I already say that? The bokeh is a little (and I really mean: a little) clearer than the other lenses until f/2.0, but at f/2.8, it’s smoother. In any case, it’s pretty. The bokeh, I mean. Both classic Nikkors have in common that the focussing happens outside the lens but within the lens barrel, meaning the lens doesn’t get longer and shorter when focusing, but there’s still something moving in and out. Just get a high-quality neutral filter (B+W 007) as a front cover, and you will have “internal focusing”, too. You need to calculate something like 50 Euros/USD for this, but you wouldn’t wanna ruin the high quality of this lens with a flare-y filter.
If you’re living in Germany and consider getting the Zeiss or the Sigma Art, check out AC-Foto, this dealer is absolutely the bomb. It’s one of the, if not the cheapest, the shop is great and they have very fast delivery and excellent service.
Speaking of delivery, Calumet is extremely fast, too. They process your order within nothing. My order was shipped within an hour! WTF!
That’s it, thanks for reading! Maybe this helps someone.