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  Reviews by: James Harringt  

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Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor

Review Date: Apr 13, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharpness and color rendition are very crisp and contrasty. Light weight, and great for low light
Manual focus not smooth, I've exprienced unusual flare in high key settings

This is a recent copy of the venerable 50mm 1.4, and was made in China. Now I've owned other lenses made in China such that were excellent, but in the higher priced Nikon glass I'm surprised to see this. I've also in the past used a Japan-made 50mm 1.8.

The lens is sharp enough for what I do wide open, and just excellent when stopped down. I'm normally burning or blurring the edges and cropping in from the 4 x 6 Dslr ratio to a 4x5 print ratio, so a bit of softness at the eges is not of concern to me and what there is has not been objectionable. The color rendition has the snap and contrast you expect in Nikon's pro line, and is, to my eye, nicer than the 1.8 I have. But that may depend on the user's preference.

Build quality is not what I expected from Nikon. The manual focus is not very smooth. I also use a fairly light Lindahl lens hood in the studio, and the auto-focus mechanism of this 50mm and the D200 can't handle focusing with the hood, I think due to the added weight of the hood. I don't have this problem with the 85 1.8, 80-200, or 20-35 that I also use.

If you are purchasing from a camera store, I would reccomend trying several samples from the shelf and make sure you get one with smooth manual operation, and maybe shoot a few test images to make sure your copy went through good quality control. I didn't do this, but will on all future Nikon purchases.

In high key settings I've found the lens a bit prone to flare. When it's not just been poor light placement on my part, it's been due to brightness on the white background causing the flare. Adjusting the lighting to proper ratios solves the issue, but the 50mm has more flare than my 85 or 20-35.

Outside or in low light, I can't say enough good things about the images I get with this lens. For those of you who still use a D100, as i often do, try this lens on the D100 in low light and high ISO's. The D100's low light performance may surprise you (especially if you were a fan of the high ISO BW films from Ilford and Kodak).