Nikon 58mm f1.4 ‘The better Nikkor Noct’

21 April, 2014

Nostalgic memories… The Legendary Nikkor Noct f1.2.  One of the sweetest lenses I have ever owned and cherished… I let it go years ago.

Sometimes mistakes are funny in a way, over time you get regret.. but then if you don’t learn from it, it would be truly wasted.

Enter Nikon and the 58mm f1.4 AFS G.

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Like the Df, this one certainly has it’s lovers and detractors.  On paper, it elicits a quizzical whimper.. ‘Why oh why Nikon’ we all muttered.

Well it’s a good thing I don’t dismiss Lenses by their stat sheets alone…

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The conundrum here is not whether this 58 beats out the existing 50′s… (yes it does and in some instances markedly so),

but given that it is almost a 60 and encroaching on the 85 which is fast gaining legendary status in the G variation,

I have both and I LOVE the 85, how does it fare against it’s bigger brother?

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The 58 is not what I would call ‘bitingly sharp’, the 85 stomps all over the 58 for that title.

I guess sharpness is relative to your own standard level of what you perceive as ‘sharp’.

I would rate the Zeiss Otus higher that the 85 and the 85 on the same scale, higher that the 58… If you have a 50mm f1.4, I would rate that very low.

But we are only talking wide open performance.

My other Prime reviews are here.  (24,35 and 85).

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Given that I shoot people, it was a given that I would add this lens to the bag, IF and only if it offered me something markedly different from the 35 and 85.

I have 50′s covered on the Leica end already.  On that note, I can say it does…. and it kinda doesn’t.

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The build quality is ‘lesser’ than the other top end Nikkor G primes.

It is lightweight (so balances perfectly on the Df, but feels like there is nothing attached when it is on the D4 body).

For a premium lens, my expectations was that it would be sharp out of the box with stupendous transition from sharp to de-focussed areas.

It does this in a VERY Leica Noctilux way.  The bokeh isn’t ‘uniform’ in that it has field curvature.

To really appreciate and understand what this means you would needed to have shot with a Leica Noctilux pre-asph vs the latest ASPH Nocti 095.

One is ‘cleaner’, aesthetically de-void of anything that remotely resembles a distraction, the other?…  Well in photography speak, they call it ‘character’.

This 58 has ‘character’.

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If it didn’t have this character, there would be no reason for me to mount this over the 85.

It draws vastly different to the 85 and as an obvious blessing to the focal length, doesn’t have the compression of the 85.

What has always been critical with these lenses is what AF system you run.  On the D4, it is bliss…

on the Df, if you stray outside of the centre point and are too cavalier with your approach, it will be a miss.

The focussing speed is similar to the other G primes, maybe a hair slower.

It does tend to focus hunt in poor light.. (ironic given that it was built with the same lineage as the 58 f1.2).

But in most light, it does well and snaps into focus easily enough.

It rarely flares (I don’t use the supplied lens hoods) either.  It’s got fantastic contrast, the little Nano Crystals must be working overtime on this design!

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The Bokeh easily surpasses the Sigma 50, the Canon 50 f1.2 and even the Lens it was designed to replace… the Nikkor Noct f1.2.

It has bugger all Chromatic Aberrations.  One of the best in it’s class (the 50 Summilux just pips it).

It is silent and at the end of the day, when your shooting 16-18 hour Wedding hours… the lightness of the lens is a HUGE benefit.

If I was a ‘normal’ buyer, would I purchase the 58 over the 85 given that I have the 35?   No, I wouldn’t.

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As a 2 Lens recommendation, I would go with the 14-24 and 58.

3 Lens recommendation, 14-24, 35 and 85.

As a one lens recommendation, on a full frame (which of course is why your buying it right?) the 58 is just a ‘touch’ too long for overall use… just.  That is why the 35 is so popular.

The pure reason I have this is because it is welded to the Df body.  Df review is here.  They are made for each other.

So the 58 gives me a slighter flatter look without needing too much space between me and the subjects and the rendering is to die for.

It’s certainly a keeper.

V

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