Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor
Lab Test Results
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November 23, 2009
by Andrew Alexander
We first reviewed the Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4 AF-D in 2007, before the advent of Nikon full-frame digital SLR camera bodies. Consequently, we could provide full-frame data for this lens, until now - we've brought another sample of this lens back into the lab for a new test.
The Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4 AF-D has been available for some time, first introduced in 1995 as a successor to the 50mm ƒ/1.4 AF; the D version transmits subject distance information to the camera, making possible advanced metering and flash modes. The lens was designed to fill the 35mm film frame, making it functionally compatible with all Nikon digital SLR bodies. However, on certain newer digital APS-C sensor bodies (d40, d40x, d60, d3000 and d5000) which lack the mechanical focusing screw, autofocus will not work. On these ''subframe'' camera bodies, the effective field of view will be 75mm.
The lens takes 52mm filters, and an optional HR-2 screw-in lens hood is available. The lens is currently available for approximately $325.
The 50mm ƒ/1.4 AF-D is slightly soft when used wide open, or even stopped down to ƒ/2. By ƒ/2.8 it improves dramatically, and becomes tack sharp at smaller apertures.
Our sample of the 50mm ƒ/1.4 shows signs of slight de-centering. Mounted on the D200 and shot wide open at ƒ/1.4, we note an average of 2.5-3 blur units across the frame, with the top right corner showing upwards of 5 blur units. Sharpness improves as the lens is stopped down, with a sweet spot of sharpness developing in the center of the frame (~1.5 blur units) pushing out to slightly soft corners (~3 blur units). Stopping down to ƒ/2.8 shows the first dramatic improvement, with tack-sharp (1 blur unit) results in the generous central sweet spot and only marginally soft corners (1.5-2.5 blur units). From ƒ/4 onwards, it's about as sharp as it gets, with maximum sharpness obtained at ƒ/8 - it's tack-sharp across the frame. The lens stays sharp all the way to ƒ/16.
Mounted on the full-frame D700, wide open at ƒ/1.4, the lens shows results in the 3-4 blur unit range, but image sharpness is slightly uneven across the frame. This uneven quality is tamed by stopping down to ƒ/2, where (similar to the D200) a sweet spot of sharpness forms in the center of the frame. However, at this aperture setting we note much greater corner softness - upwards of 6-7 blur units in the top left and right corners. Stopping down to ƒ/2.8 improves the central sharpness, with the majority of the frame showing 1-1.5 blur units, and the corners get slightly sharper, at 3-5 blur units. Quality improves further at ƒ/4, the corners now only showing 1.5-2 blur units; at ƒ/5.6, the lens produces images which are essentially tack-sharp across the frame. Similar to the D200, the lens maintains this sharpness all the way to ƒ/16.
In summary, the lens offers fair performance wide open, but it's not until ƒ/4 that you get consistently excellent results. For tack-sharp results, you'll want ƒ/5.6, if not ƒ/8.
The 50mm ƒ/1.4 AF-D offers exceptional resistance to chromatic aberration. On either the D200 or the D700, maximum results for CA don't exceed the threshold of 3/100ths of a percent of frame height. That said, we do note some blue fringing on areas of high contrast when using the lens at large apertures: review our sample images for more detail in this regard.
Corner shading isn't over significant with the lens mounted on the sub-frame D200: at ƒ/1.4, the corners of the image are just 2/3 EV darker than the center. At ƒ/2, this light falloff reduces to just over a quarter-stop difference, and at apertures smaller than that, light falloff is negligible.
On the full-frame D700 however, the lens shows much more light falloff at larger apertures. Wide open at ƒ/1.4, corners are up to 1.5 stops darker than the center. At ƒ/2, this falloff reduces to 1.25 stops; at ƒ/2.8, it's 3/4 of a stop. It isn't until ƒ/4 that the corners are just over a quarter-stop darker than the center; at smaller apertures, light falloff is negligible.
Distortion isn't overly significant on the D200; the lens produces +0.25% barrel distortion in the corners. On the D700 however, distortion is slightly more significant: +0.38% in the corners, and +0.2% on average.
The 50mm ƒ/1.4 AF-D uses the body-mounted screw to drive autofocus, meaning it will not autofocus on screw-less Nikon bodies such as the D40, D60 and D5000. On other bodies it focuses very quickly, slewing through focus in less than a second. As focus is conducted mechanically there is a fair amount of noise during autofocus operations. As well, the focus ring will move during autofocus. Attached filters will not rotate during focusing.
The lens is not rated for remarkable macro, with a magnification rating of just 0.15x. The minimum close-focusing distance is 45cm (18 inches).
Build Quality and Handling
The lens shows off a smooth black finish, built with dense plastic, making for a very small and light package (just 255g, or 9 ounces). At this size and weight there isn't much of an excuse not to drop the lens into a spare corner of the camera bag. The lens mount is metal and the filter threads are plastic.
Given the age of the design, it's not surprising to find an honest-to-goodness aperture ring, complete with a lock switch to keep it in its ƒ/16 position. A distance scale is featured under a clear window, marked in feet and meters. A depth-of-field scale is also present, showing markings for ƒ/11 and ƒ/16. An infrared index is also present.
The 3/8-inch wide focus ring is rubber, using a pattern of deep segmented ribs running parallel to the lens body. There is a generous amount of travel in the focus ring, about 160 degrees from close to infinity focus. These points in the focus spectrum end in hard stops, and you shouldn't hold the focus ring while the camera autofocuses, as the ring will rotate and you don't want to work against the gearing. During autofocus there is significant (3/4'') extension of the lens. Mounted 52mm filters won't rotate during autofocus.
The HR-2 lens hood, sold separately, is a circular-shaped hood that screws onto the lens' filter threads and offers improved resistance to both specular and veiling flare.
Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4G AF-S Nikkor ~$450
Nikon's updated version of this lens is slightly larger and heavier than the AF-D, taking 58mm filters instead of 52mm and coming standard with a bayonet-mounted lens hood. Optically, the new lens is almost identical, which I suppose shouldn't be much of a surprise. Our tests have shown though that the older AF-D lens is much faster to autofocus with the screw-driven motor.
Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.8D AF Nikkor ~$130
If you don't need the fast ƒ/1.4 aperture setting, you can save several hundred dollars by buying this version of the 50mm lens. Wide open, the ƒ/1.4 version is significantly sharper, but stopped down the two lenses are quite similar. Results for CA, distortion and corner shading are actually significantly better in the ƒ/1.8 lens.
Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 EX DG HSM ~$500
Mounted on a sub-frame (APS-C) dSLR, the Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4 shows slightly sharper performance than the Nikon when used wide open; stopped down, the Nikon overtakes it for maximum sharpness. When used on a full-frame dSLR, the Sigma shows sharper central performance, matched with off-the charts corner softness. Which is better? That's in the eye of the beholder. Results for CA and distortion are similar; light falloff is a bit more noticeable on the Sigma 50mm, especially on a full-frame body. The price tag on the Sigma is also a bit more significant.
Carl Zeiss 50mm ƒ/1.4 Planar T* 1.4/50 ~$500
Carl Zeiss' 50mm offers excellent results for sharpness by ƒ/2.8, meeting and exceeding the Nikon, but wide open at ƒ/1.4 it isn't as sharp as the Nikon. The Carl Zeiss also doesn't feature autofocus. Results for distortion are similar; light falloff is slightly better than the Nikon. CA, in the D200 or the uncorrected D3, is higher than the Nikon.
Despite using a 15-year-old optical formula, the lens still stands up to scrutiny: while it's not tack-sharp when used wide-open, it's still quite good, and stopped down to ƒ/2.8 image quality is excellent. At ƒ/8, it's as sharp as sharp gets.
There are a couple of reasons that the 50mm has been consistently popular: while it visually approximates the field of view seen by the human eye, it could also be argued that the price tag isn't terribly prohibitive, either. As cameras are capable of giving better and better quality images at higher and higher ISO ratings, the need for extremely wide apertures seems to be receding. However, for the creamy, out-of-focus background behind the subject, there's no digital solution, and in these scenarios, sometimes ƒ/2.8 just isn't wide enough.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor
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Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor User Reviews
4 out of 10 points and not recommended by dw_js (3 reviews)has an aperture ringsoft, soft soft
I purchased this lens new. It was very soft from wide open to F8. Usable from 11 to 16. Maybe I had a bad copy but this was the worst Nikon lens I ever owned. Returned it within days. This copy was made in China. I don't know if that makes a difference in the build/optical quality. It was almost like a slight fog to the image. My 50 1.8 works better.reviewed July 24th, 2013 (purchased for $300)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by photospots (5 reviews)Low light, speedautofocus speed
This is a great lens that you should consider to buy, but be aware that it doesn't work with all Digital camera bodies these days.reviewed October 22nd, 2012 (purchased for $250)
It takes great pictures, but these days you should consider the 50mm 1.8g
10 out of 10 points and recommended by mskitty (4 reviews)EXCELLENT CRYSTAL SHARP LENS! Nothing comes close.NONE
I have had the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens for two years now. I use it for my studio work. Nothing comes close in sharpness, Bokeh, clear shot making..in the Nikon Family of Lens.reviewed December 1st, 2010 (purchased for $300)
The Nikkor 50mm 1.4 is perfect for Studio Work, Head and Body Shots. I am still amazed how clean from 1.4 all the way up..my own photography is now with the 50mm 1.4.
I recommend this lens to all..who wants to shoot stunning pictures. IT out performs the expensive over priced 24-70...16-35... Nothing in Nikkor's line up can touch this beautiful lens.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by andre_ (31 reviews)bokeh at TA, no CA, well built, definition from f2out of focus could be better from f2 to closed apertures
It's my preferred partner of both my FF and DX bodies.reviewed December 8th, 2008 (purchased for $300)
I use it until f5.6, never more, and the results are alwais outstanding.
No CA, no flare and high definition.
This lens work better at mid distances, and the general rendition is alwais very high
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Keyroo (8 reviews)Very sharp, fast lens, small, light weight, cheapso small it's almost hard to hold on a big camera
Great lens for day to day, great price, best quality lens for the money, highly recommendedreviewed October 3rd, 2008 (purchased for $270)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by BevanW (3 reviews)Very fast, sharp...good build qualityMore expensive than the 50mm f/1.8
I struggled with the thought of buying this lens because I already have the 50mm f1.8 which is very fast and very sharp. I finally decided to pick one up when I got a like new copy for $230. First, thing I did was set up the tripod and do some test shots between the 50 1.4 & 50 1.8. In short the 50 1.4 is slightly sharper than the 50 1.8...these results compare favorably with the slrgear reviews. Now this lens is a little sharper at 2.8 than at 1.4, but all of my lenses are sharper when you stop down two stops. I would definately not call this lens soft at any aperture...even wide open. Of note...at f/1.4 the depth of field is very shallow so care must be taken when focussing.reviewed December 21st, 2007 (purchased for $229)
In closing if you want a little better build quality and the extra speed I would get the 50mm f/1.4. If you want to save a few bucks, get the 50mm f/1.8. You can't go wrong with either lens.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by bfischer (15 reviews)sharp wide open, extremely sharp stopped down, fast AF, cheapbuilt like a plastic toy, no IF, no CRC, no AF-S, longitudinal CA, mediocre bokeh, flare
Some people call this lens soft wide open -- I think they are wrong. Ok, contrast is low wide open, you can see a slight degradation in resolution at near limit and in the corners. But detail is plenty. Maybe photographers who call this lens soft at wide open have a bad sample -- maybe their f/1.4 images are not focused properly. The DOF at f/1.4 is ultra thin -- a few mm at 45-70cm distance. The slightest subject or camera movement renders a very soft image.reviewed November 19th, 2007 (purchased for $400)
From f/2 on contrast and corner sharpness are very good, increasing up to f/4. From f/4 to f/11 the image quality is all you can wish for.
Keep the front element aseptic: The lens already has bad flare and ghosts in backlighted situations, and even the smallest dust spot makes it even worse.
There are very few lenses that are performing better (optically) under real life conditions, but not enough for a score difference. So I gave this lens a 10- (optics).
You are a fan of large aperture lenses? Then the 50/1.4 is a must.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by acarodp (4 reviews)fast,sharp,lightweight and smallsome flare, contrast loss and aberrations around poin light sources at 1.4, but nothing unesected at such apertures.
I have the impression that some reviewers forget that build a 1.4 lens nears an optical nightmare. No lens can have high contrast and corner sharpness at such an aperture.reviewed April 27th, 2007 (purchased for $460)
This one fares very well, for its f1.4 images are pretty exploitable (Nikon D200 here). Nevertheless you have to know that contrast is going to be low, sharpness suffers somewhat, flare is a problem, and you should be aware that bright point light sources over a dark background will cast funny aberration patterns around them, especially if off-axis. But stopping down a bit quickly reduces these problems to a negligible level, and the lent is basically OK from f2 onwards. This is actually the main difference with respect to the 50 1.8, that is still suffering a lot at f2.
At f4-f5.6 it fully exploits the D200 resolution corner to corner.
I find this focal length also very pleasant on DX cameras, and like to walk around with only this one. But of course this depends on your tastes and photographic interests. It is also great for low light shots of events. It is not the lens I use more, but when you need it, nothing can really replace it. And it is so small, light and (relatively) inexpensive that I cannot think going out without it.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by italy74 (8 reviews)Very versatile lens
Just to clarify, this is not the sharpest of my lenses but does its work very well indeed. I appreciate so much its compactness and versatility for low light whole figure portraits. It's just a pity that Nikon doesn't supply the related hoodreviewed April 23rd, 2007 (purchased for $470)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by wishbone (6 reviews)low-light, sharp, constrasty, good portrait lens on a digitalsoft wide open
This is my favorite lens. On a digital, it turns into a 75 and no longer is a good walk-around lens. However, it is an excellent low-light performer. I plan to mainly use this for the first two months when my daughter is born. The bokeh is nice too. I usually stop it down to f/2.8 for better sharpness.reviewed January 6th, 2007 (purchased for $250)
I wish the minimum focus was shorter but I suppose I could get the 60mm micro too. When I am shooting portraits, I usually carry this 50mm and my 85mm 1.8.
6 out of 10 points and recommended by xnecrontyrx (3 reviews)Fast, easy to separate subject and backgroundsoft at most apertures
For the price, its just not worth changing over from the 50 f/1.8. I own both as well as a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and the sigma is sharper all the time, at every aperture. This lens is light, and comfortable on the camera, and its nice to be able to hand hold in low light without resorting to insane ISOs, but it just doesn't measure up for the additional cost over the f/1.8.reviewed January 5th, 2007
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Matthew Saville (21 reviews)fast apeture, size / weight, affordability, sharpnessnon AF-S
I'm so glad I bought this lens, and I don't know what I'd do without it sometimes.reviewed December 29th, 2006 (purchased for $200)
Most people should probably just get the 50mm f/1.8 for half the price and be happy, but when you shoot in insanely poor light, you need all the apeture power you can get. And this lens, aside from getting an AIS f/1.2 lens, is the best thing you can get.
Some complain that it's soft, but mine (an older, non-D version) is amazingly sharp even at f/1.4. It has the kind of wide open sharpness that allows me to shoot at any apeture I want without having image quality ever cross my mind.
The only thing is, I hope and I bet that Nikon is going to release an AF-S version sometime, at which point I'll want that lens instead, because while AF-D lenses are lightning fast on the better Nikon bodies, I dislike the noise and the necessity to flip a switch whenever I want to focus manually.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by aryko (9 reviews)Great depth of fieldSoft wide open
It's not an AF-S lens, so it a bit noisier than you'd like; as well, while it's fast to focus, it's no match to AF-S. It's quick and responsive, so when using the lens in the AF-C focusing mode, you won't be let down.reviewed December 26th, 2006 (purchased for $199)
As other posters have noted, I find it's a bit soft at anything less than f/2. That said, the real usefulness of the lens is to be able to shoot at f/1.4 and get the razor-thin depth-of-field that aperture provides, so the softness accentuates that effect.
The bokeh on this lens is very nice.
Is it worth the extra money over the f/1.8? Only if you absolutely want or need the extra 2/3 of a stop for speed or depth-of-field. Otherwise, save your money; you won't be particularly wowed.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by catatac (1 reviews)Crisp Colors, Available / Low Light Photos, Light & Small, Easy Focus Ring for Manual FocusNot as Fast Focus as my 18-70 AFS (though still quite good AF), F1.4 should be used with care
I've had this lens for 7 months, and I use it for special occasions where I can not (or should not) use a flash.reviewed December 22nd, 2006 (purchased for $278)
I also use it for portrait shots where I want to isolate the subject from the background.
I have been able to take great campfire shots & Christmas play shots where use of a flash is either prohibited or (and) just plain annoying.
I Love the color, contrast, sharpness, & background-blur (bokeh) of this lens.
The only reason I put my 18-70 AFS Lens on is if I need just a little more zoom, a lot more in the picture, or If the lighting allows and I need super-fast focus.
This Lens is very light on my D70s, making it a smaller & lighter kit.
Highly recommend this lens to anyone who needs to shoot low-light or would like to isolate the subject from the background.
[The care to be taken is that your subject can end up being someone's nose; thus isolating the eyes & ears at F1.4 ... but If you focus on the eyes you'll be fine]
8 out of 10 points and recommended by stib (4 reviews)compact; speed of lens; produces very sharp imagesplastic construction; CA at wide open
I own a D200, which I purchased with the 18-200VR. I was a little disappointed with the speed and sharpness of that lens, so I thought I'd try my hand at a fast prime. I bought this lens to take portraits of our daughter.reviewed December 11th, 2006 (purchased for $290)
I was pleasantly surprised by how much more I could shoot in low light compared to my zoom lens, despite the VR. The images produced by the lens are very sharp. And its compact size makes it great to take along for taking pictures on the street.
I was a little disappointed by the build quality of the lens. It is very plasticky, particularly compared to my old Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. That lens just seems much more robust and built to higher tolerance. I can feel quite a bit of play between the plastic pieces of the Nikkor. There is also quite a bit of CA at wide open, but it probably isn't that smart to shoot wide open in well lit conditions anyways.
Overall though, I am happy I purchased this lens, and I'm looking forward to buying more primes in the future.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by duffer18 (3 reviews)Low light, decent price, ruggedBlooming, Lens flare
Looking for a solid prime, you have found it.reviewed December 9th, 2006 (purchased for $300)
This classic is still here and still delivers the goods.
Great for portraits with difficult lighting situations.
Only issues seen are a bit of blooming and very touchy for lens flare... Just watch out for these issue and you will not be disappointed.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by mimic (7 reviews)huge aperture, portrait lens on DSLRs, quite inexpensive when bought useda bit soft wide open, not standart lens on DSLR
very good lens, I used it for only few weeks, and felt in love with it.reviewed December 1st, 2006 (purchased for $150)
the lens is very tiny and lightweight, so a pleasure to handle.
it's a bit soft a wide aperture, but I don't care since I use it mostly for portrait so I can say I like its touch of softness, and its a pleasure to play with its shallow depth of field. However it's sharp stopped down to 2/2.8.
its low light capabilities are fantastic, you can really catch candle lighting atmosphere, but those candles in the frame can lead to flare, it's also the case with streets lights.
Build quality seems a bit cheap, due to plastic but the lens is so lightweight, i don't worry about that.
autofocus is average on my d70, and manual focus is pleasant to use.
To conclude, it's an awesome prime lens, and a really fun toy to play with.
PS : sorry for my poor english.
7 out of 10 points and recommended by Neogene (8 reviews)f1.4, size, sharpenessFlare.
I preferred this lens to the 1.8 because it usable also at max aperture. I always use it at 2.8 because at that value it has the max sharpeness from tests i've seen and from my personal tests.reviewed November 30th, 2006 (purchased for $280)
Flare is really hard to accept in this lens, it's a really mess.
I love it and use when walking around, the 50mm (circa 75mm on film cameras) is nice and i change to my 18-55 only to have a wide angle for landscapes or to the 70-300 if i'm not able to come closer to the subject.
Many pros, and some cons.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by ultrafast (8 reviews)f/1.4, light and small, sharp, inexpensivenot AF-S, MF is not great
This lens is a lens that no serious photographer should be without, for a variety of reasons. For the indoor sport photographer, there is nothing better than f/1.4. For the nature and landscape photographer it is extremely convenient to be able to pick up two small primes and leave the heavy zoom kit at home while on an overnight or backcountry hike.reviewed November 23rd, 2006 (purchased for $270)
The lens is super sharp, when stopped down a bit and entirely acceptable wide open, when keeping in mind that there is very very little depth of field. For the price there are few reasons not to get it. The construction doesn't feel amazing, but the lens survived a drop from waist level to the ground, on a concrete sidewalk with no damage other than a large scuff on the AF distance window.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by freundez (9 reviews)Compact fast prime, good portrait lens w/ 1.5x sensor cropSoft wide open
I bought a used sample of this lens, so take that for what it is worth.reviewed November 22nd, 2006 (purchased for $220)
The sensor crop on my D70s essentially makes this a short telephoto lens, and most of the keepers I've taken with it have been portrait shot between f/2.8 and f/4. The fast maximum aperature offers great depth of field flexibility, but as has been noted in some of the other reviews, things are quite soft and flat at f/1.4. On my sample, the lens is still soft at f/2, but image contrast seems to pop a bit more than at f/1.4.
Build quality is fine - polycarbonate body keeps the lens light but doesn't have a pro-glass feel that a metal body would.
AF speed is good. My 35 f/2 seems a little bit zippier, but not by a noticeable margin.
Of my current set of lenses, this lens probably sees the least use, but when I do shoot with it I'm typically happy with the results - just don't expect magic wide open.
6 out of 10 points and recommended by colourperfect_co_uk (18 reviews)fast f1.4, sharpness when stopped down to f2flares a bit
Mine is the older non-D version but I believe they are otherwise very similar.reviewed November 21st, 2006 (purchased for $200)
Produces excellent sharpness at f2 and above with f1.4 being really quite soft.
The manual focus is very light but smooth.
Had a few flare problems at f1.4 and f1.8.
Not really found a use for it other than the odd portrait.
May keep it, may not.....
9 out of 10 points and recommended by julioalperi (15 reviews)
This is a very good lens. At f/1.4 the borders are a little soft, but at larger apertures the performance is excelent. Distortions are low. CAs are very low and vignetting is med-low at f/1.4 . Good construction and AF.reviewed November 17th, 2006 (purchased for $307)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by gerrysnaps (5 reviews)Fast f/1.4 aperture, sharp at the large apertures and smaller, compact and lightTypical price makes it hard to justify over the f/1.8; maybe not as durable as other f/1.4 Nikkor lenses
The Nikon 50mm f/1.4 is encased in lightweight yet well-built plastics and some metal components. The lens mount is metal, as is the 52mm lens thread. The focus ring is made of grippy rubber. It has an aperture ring which locks at minimum aperture for mounting on most Nikon DSLRs up to the D100. As with other f/1.4 primes, the lens has a window for the distance scale.reviewed May 2nd, 2006 (purchased for $160)
Sharpness of this lens has been the subject of much debate, especially when put against the f/1.8. I have found it to hold up well in sharpness at the large apertures against the 1.8, and obviously it has the advantage of going a stop faster. It only gets sharper as you stop down to f/4 and up. Contrast does go away as your aperture gets larger but is not a problem.
On its own, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 D is a great lens for the candid shooter who likes to shoot in natural light. That said, the 50mm f/1.8 D does the same job but at slightly lesser capability. Put it beside the 50/1.8 which is easily half the price, and it becomes harder to justify the cost, but the quality is there for those who will pay the premium for it.
I wrote a more complete review here:
8 out of 10 points and recommended by priller (1 reviews)Fast!Slightly soft at large apertures
Nice, fast lens! Slightly soft at larger apertures, but the images take sharpening very well, so there's no reason to avoid that end. That's one of the main reasons for getting this kind of lens, right? Nice soft bokeh. Metal mount, unlike the plastic mount on the cheaper 1.8 lens. A bit noisy on my D70s when focusing. Overall, an excellent value.reviewed April 15th, 2006 (purchased for $309)
7 out of 10 points and recommended by Das Bosun (7 reviews)Creatively a very flexible portrait lensImage quality at f/1.4 & f/2 leaves a lot to be desired
AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lensreviewed November 23rd, 2005
All of my lens test/comparisons were performed on a Nikon D2x (reduced frame, 1.5x 12.2MP CMOS sensor). The camera was set to mirror lock-up, mounted on a tripod and fired with the MC-30 cable release. The test exposures were captured as NEF raw files and compared with no image sharpening.
The AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens is quite unusable for critical sharpness at f/1.4, as the results look like they have a soft focus filter over the lens. Images created with this 50mm at f/1.4 are useable, but not for critical sharpness.
The 50mm f/1.4D lens starts to become usable for critical center sharpness around f/2.5. At f/1.4 and f/2 this lens seems to be rather flat/ lacking micro contrast. By the time this lens is stopped down to f/2.8 it starts to exceed the center sharpness of the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G when it is set to 50mm @ f/2.8.
The best results arrive with the 50mm f/1.4D lens set to around f/5.6. Vignetting is noticeable at f/1.4 and f/2, but is all but gone by the time this lens is used at apertures f/2.8 and smaller.
I have no doubt that the 50mm f/1.4D lens can be looked upon as a cheap and creative addition to any photographers arsenal, but just don’t expect the wide open results (micro contrast) that the much more expensive AF Nikkor 28mm f/1.4D is capable of.
Mounted on a D2x the auto focus of the 50mm f/1.4D is not too far off the quiet and speed offered by an AF-S lens. Mounted on the Nikon D70 the same lens becomes noisier and is more prone to ‘searching’ in low light.
Note: these are subjective results that may not reflect your particular sample OR use of this lens.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by WCranston (4 reviews)Small & Super FastNone
This is plain a simple a great prime lens. It is small and super fast. You can really use that speed & really lets you take ambient light shots indoors w/out flash. Full open looks great, but you of course get the shallow DOF. A great creative addition for someone with only slow zooms!reviewed November 3rd, 2005 (purchased for $250)