The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED was first released in May 2017 and replaced the older 28mm f/1.4D lens. The older model was well-known for its capabilities. Impressive sharpness and contrast worked equally well on crop sensors or full-frame cameras. Luckily, the new version has been completely re-engineered with the latest electronic gadgetry and lens coatings to provide even better performance while still working on both camera formats.
With an aperture of f/1.4, this lens is fast enough for many types of wide-angle, low light shots, with a shallow enough depth of field to punch out the subject from the background.
It’s difficult to follow in the footsteps of a great performing lens, however, Nikon users never had to worry as the quality levels of their lenses have always been top-notch. The same is true of this latest version.
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED is a reasonable focal length. It may not be wide enough for some landscape shots or panoramas, but it’s just long enough to be ‘wide’ without perspective distortion. Depending on your viewpoint, the 28mm is perfectly capable of capturing architectural images. It even slots in nicely for wide-angle portraits. In other words, not completely wide. Not too long.
The build of the lens is as you would expect from Nikon: solid and of high-quality. The gold-ringed ED series stamps its mark as the highest quality lenses from Nikon and it shows in the specs. 14 total elements in 11 groups, which feature Nano Crystal, Super Integrated and Fluorine coatings, and ED glass elements.
There are also three Aspherical elements for good measure, all being focused by the AF-S (Silent Wave Motor) which is very quiet. The filter size is the standard high-end 77mm, and everything weighs in at 645g, or in old money 22.8 oz.
The plastic lens barrel of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED may look less sturdy than some of its counterparts, but it’s rock solid enough to last for years. So, no worries here with this version, as it’s built to last. There’s plenty of glass inside this lens and it’s a reasonable middleweight for a high-end prime.
Top-down, the focus ring works as smoothly as expected with manual override. The lens uses rear focusing, which means the lens barrel stays in place and can fit a variety of filters. The included HB-83 bayonet lens hood is substantial enough to keep out most ghosting and flaring, something which you will probably fit, set and forget. There’s a simple distance scale with aperture marks and a switch for changing from auto to manual focus. All very simple and straightforward.
Another expected feature is the lens being fully sealed against moisture and dust, with rubber gaskets to keep out the worst of weather conditions.
Featuring Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) means virtually silent focusing with only the slightest bit of noise telling you everything is working. The lens snaps into focus as quickly as other top end Nikon primes at f/1.4, neither faster nor slower. On a Nikon body such as the D850, the lens snaps into focus very quickly and only becomes problematic in very low light conditions. In this sense, it’s always better to err on using the viewfinder for focusing. There’s also the caveat that the lens is f/1.4. This means that it may not be as rapid as an f/2.8 lens at focusing, but it’s still pretty quick.
If you’re buying into a top end lens that has f/1.4, you expect very good bokeh. The lens doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Backgrounds aren’t completely blurred out, but there’s enough there to punch out the subject. Distortion levels are undetectable here with anything present easily correctable in post-processing. Vignetting is also minimal across the board, it’s only when you focus to infinity or get really close to a subject that any is apparent. Stopping down cures all as does going wide open at f/1.4.
Ghosting and flaring are minimal. The lens hood helps a lot and things only become problematic when the sun is directly in frame. Things become extreme once you stop down, but that’s if you’re purposefully sticking the sun in your shot past f/8.
When it comes to sharpness there is are no complaints across the board. Even at f/1.4 the center is super sharp, with sharpness hitting its zenith at f/8. Probably just a tad sharper than the previous version. Lastly, as per all lenses featuring f/1.4, there is some chromatism, or color fringing, when wide open, but everything goes away when you get to f/4.
How Does the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED Compare?
The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM is arguably equal in quality and very competitive in price. Compared to the older Nikon 28mm f/1.4 AF-D, the new lens is slightly bigger and heavier, but it’s also that bit sharper when wide open. The new lens also benefits from manual override simply by turning the focusing ring.
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.4E ED||Sigma 28mm F1.4 DG HSM|
|Diagram Blades||9 rounded||9 rounded|
When you’re paying big bucks for a lens, you ideally want it to crush the competition in every area. The Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.4E ED definitely improves on the older version, but there are other worthy prime lenses in the Nikon lineup which do nearly the same thing. The 24mm f/1.4G and 35mm f/1.4G are notable inclusions and if you own one already, it may be a hard convincing act to buy into the 24mm.
However, as a standalone purchase for a Nikon owner who needs a wide-angle prime, this new version definitely fills a gap and produces high-quality results. It’s not a lens that will completely blow you away in every area, but it’s a solid workhorse that will keep producing great results for years to come.