Please allow me to introduce you to the loveliest, most versatile, and essential little lens I have in my camera bag at all times: the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G. There are two main features of this lens: it’s speed and its depth of field.
With the f/1.4 aperture, you are creating a larger space through which to get light into the camera. If you have an abundance of light getting into the camera, the camera is able to focus faster, and therefore shoot faster, thus making it a “fast lens”.
But the beauty of the f/1.4 is also its depth of field. The 1.4 f-stop offers an extremely narrow depth of field. Photographs using this f-stop promise excellent subject isolation from the background.
While this effect is achievable using a variety of other tools, including adapters, filters, and post-production, the beauty of doing it in-camera is such a delight that to bypass the opportunity would be a detriment to yourself.
Among the first things you’ll notice about the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G is it’s relatively small size. It is a chunky and weighty little lens at three inches long and 280g.
When placed on a full-frame camera body using the traditional Nikon F-mount, this 50mm lens closely mimics the human eye given the exaggeration of the depth of field. However, on non-full-frame cameras, the 50mm acts more like a 75mm.
The AF-S in the name refers to Nikon’s Autofocus Silent Focusing. Nikon claims AF-S lenses focus faster than others by using Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor. Nikon claims this represents an advance in autofocus lens technology by using a motor from within the lens rather than the camera drive.
Within the lens itself is the notable nine-blade diaphragm that creates a lovely rounded bokeh. It also takes advantage of Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating. Exclusive to Nikon products, this multi-layer lens coating effectively reduces ghosting and/or flare effects and achieves high-contrast images.
Included in the box are the lens, a 58mm snap-on lens cap (the filter size is also 58mm), one rear cap, a lens hood, and a soft bag. It comes with a limited one-year warranty with an option for a limited four-year warranty.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G in Use
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G focuses as closely as 1.5 feet which is handy for those shallow depth of field wedding ring photographs. And the crispness and sharpness of the image, especially working in tandem with the eye-pleasing bokeh, is guaranteed to deliver powerful images.
The focusing ring is responsive and easy to handle. There is little play and reacts to small adjustments. Autofocus is easily enabled with either the on-lens switch or by simply using the focusing ring.
In low-light situations, this lens is an essential tool. The wide-open f/1.4 aperture makes even dimly lit photos drenched with color. In such situations, the auto-focus easily locks onto points of light with little guidance making it both fast and extremely helpful.
In bright shooting autofocus is fast to lock on to suggested focal points and tracks subjects with ease. There is little color aberration or image distortion.
The size of this lens makes it not only helpful when shooting, but a helper in the camera bag as well. Easily able to accommodate other objects, the 50mm f/1.4G prime lens is a no-brainer when looking at limited space.
How Does It Compare?
Interestingly, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G has what I would call a little brother. He’s smaller. He’s lighter. And he’s less deep. He is the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D.
The f/1.8 is a great lens for the price, and that is just what it is, a cheaper version of the f/1.4. If you want to explore shallow depth on a prime lens but don’t want to commit to the higher price of the f/1.4G, then the f/1.8D version will serve you very well.
The first notable difference is the weight. It’s undeniably lighter suggesting there is more plastic than in the f/1.4G. Also worth noting are the fewer blades in the diaphragm, meaning the f/1.4G has superior bokeh. Of course, those playing with bokeh filters simply might not care.
Without disparaging the f/1.8D, the f/1.4G delivers superior sharpness, which is again likely due to the presence of more glass than plastic. And of course, in order to get the same dramatic depth of field, you’re going to have to work a little harder with the f/1.8D simply due to the aperture difference.
In low-light situations, I felt the f/1.8D struggled more, but it was also a lens I was willing to risk in a crowded room of tipsy drinkers.
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D|
|Diaphragm||9 blades||7 blades|
|Optics||8 elements / 7 groups||7 elements / 6 groups|
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G is one of those lenses that ups your game. It feels professional. There is a noticeable difference between it and its lighter, cheaper version. It delivers sharp detail and excellent subject isolation. Ultimately, this lens delivers the “wow factor” photographers crave and clients pay for.
If you are just starting out the f/1.8D is a great place to dip your toe but if you’re ready to jump in, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G delivers.