Nikon 50 f/1.4 Review

Nikon 50 f/1.4 Review

“One of the best lens for portrait and low light photography”

nikon nikkor 50 f/1.4

I don’t even know where to start. This lens produces sharp pictures and great color and contrast. This lens is perfect for low light and/or action/sport photography (as this lens is famous for being one of the fastest lens together with its brother 50mm f/1.8). This lens is also perfect for portrait and other general purposes (macro etc). This is definitely a very versatile lens.

However, I think you should really consider buying the f/1.8 first before thinking to buy this f/1.4 lens (mainly because it is more than twice the price of the f1/8 and most of the time the f/1.8 version is fast enough in my opinion). Some examples where the faster f/1.4 lens might make a difference: low light wedding/concert or indoor sports photography (where the light is often low from the camera perspective) such as hockey, track and field, skating, gymnastic, basketball etc.

As much as I want to encourage everyone to buy this lens right away, let me mention some of the limitation that you would see (which I think will be helpful to go over before deciding to buy this lens):

First, being a prime lens, you will need to move your feet a lot to compose your picture. If you are used to zoom lens, don’t underestimate this limitation. It takes me a while to get used to it, and sometime I still find people looking at me wondering why I am moving forward and backwards. the good news is that most of the time, they don’t think I’m weird, but they are actually wondering if I’m a professional photographer.

Secondly, the focal range of 50mm, which is considered the normal lens and great for portrait lens. but on a DSLR (which I assume most of you use nowadays), this lens become a 75mm equivalent which is in the border of a short tele lens. I actually like the 75mm equivalent though I often have to move backwards when taking picture of a group of people.

Sharpness increases as you stop down to f/2. I actually prefer to use the widest most of the time and the results are still nice. Personally (when shooting low light action/sport), I’d rather use f/1.4 aperture settings than stopped down (e.g to f/2.8) and compensate with higher ISO setting which often gives me grainy picture. But if your object is not moving (static) then it is better to stop down to f/2 or more.

If you are wondering whether you should get a fast lens or a lens with VR, here’s my take: VR does help a lot (and produce better/sharper picture than equivalent faster lens without VR) if the object is static. If the object is moving (sports/action) then VR feature doesn’t really help and fast lens (like this lens) will be a far better solution. Using tripod (and a remote) will substitute for the need of VR feature. In general I would recommend getting a fast lens with VR feature (and usually it is expensive) such as the 70-200 f/2.8 VR, but if one can only get for one or the other, then find out what do you want to use the lens for and then use the guideline mentioned here.

Here are the summary of pros and cons for this Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF lens:

1. Very fast (f/1.4)
2. Very sharp pictures (especially when stopped down to f/2 or more. very sharp at f/2.8)
3. Great for sport/action photography
4. Great for indoor and low light situation
5. Great for portrait
6. Bokeh is almost as good as many expensive Nikon tele-lens
7. Fast autofocus
8. Perfect for wedding photography (or no-flash event). However, or try the 17-35mm f/2.8 or 28-70mm f/2.8 lens)
9. 75mm equivalent which can be considered a short tele lens (I actually like the fact that it’s 75mm equivalent vs 50mm in DSLR. if you need more zoom, you can get the Nikon 85mm f/1.8, or the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR)
10. Sharper than its 50mm f/1.8 sibling (at equivalent aperture)

1. Being prime lens, you need to move your feet a lot to adjust/compose
2. Some distortion at widest aperture
3. Plasticy build (though it has metal moount and internal part seems to be from metal)
4. Autofocus is not the most silent but very reasonable
5. 75mm equivalent with 1.5x multiplier on DSLR (many people find this is an odd range for normal lens. I actually like it)

Bottom line: This lens is so versatile that I think everyone should own (either the 50mm f/1.4 or the 50mm f/1.8) in addition to all the lenses that they already have. Being a very fast lens, it enables me to take pictures in low light (sport/action photography) that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.

Again, I would recommend everyone to get this lens (or the 50mm f/1.8). In some ways I can say that this lens will make you a better photographer.

Happy Photographing!

More Nikon 50mm f/1.4 Reviews from Amazon:

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Nikon 50 f/1.4 Review by Sidarta Tanu (Richmond, VA USA)
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