Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New lens in my kit: Nikkor Ai-s 50mm f1.2

Dear reader,
 Today, I'll write a short review of the nikkor Ai-s 50mm 1.2 for Nikon body. I recently got one second hand in very good condition, so I decided to write up my tale with the beast.

I won't t go back on historical facts as some other websites do this better than I can do (here for example). So what's so special about that lens? It's simply the widest aperture 50mm available (and affordable) out there for Nikon body. There might be some 1.0 prototypes but no where available. The fact that this lense has been manufactured in really big quantities help. The maximum aperture of 1.2 just allow for very very shallow depth of field, a bit too shallow sometimes. It has a commonly hated bokeh because of its nervousness but some sees it more as a signature of the lens than anything else. It is said to be sharp but I don't care too much about that fact, as far as it is sharp enough to give me good quality picture, I am ok with it. As it is an Ai-s lens, it is manual focus only. Right now, only Canon did a AF lens with such specs but that lens flies at around 1500USD price tag. Building an AF would be easy but we might get into the limitation of the lens, the image at 1.2 is quite soft and might not be sharp/contrasting enough for the autofocus module to work correctly, hence, we never saw an AF version, partly explaining why Nikon never updated the lens and is still manufactured as is at their factory.

I got it for HKD3000 from a nice guy in Hong Kong, ebaY auctions would fetch around USD450, so I did get a good bargain, the glass are clean, no fungus, I even got the rubber hood that goes with it. Once mounted on my body, I noticed several plays. Both rings (aperture and focus) have some plays, which make the lens shifting a bit during shutter release. It's so loose that the focus ring will actually rotate a little bit during exposure. It is annoying and I might get it fixed (got some ideas, need to do some testing).

Now, about manual focusing. How hard is it? Obviously, nowadays, we are spoiled with all those automatic functions, now AF module have 50 focusing points and would be able to track a cockroach in the night with only the stars for light. So, off the original body, it IS hard to focus, and it's hard to focus really well. For online pictures, it won't be too much of an issue, but for big print, you can see that the focus is off my a few mm. So I needed to dig around to see how I could improve the situation and the solution came by going back in time and asking oneself how on earth people where doing manual focus? the answer comes in form of a splitsreen and microprism assembly, that will come in another future post, but it came in handy helping me get the focus down.

Working on a DX body. It works, but I lose half of the bokeh goodness. Next purchase, I really need to upgrade my body. When I put my AFD 35mm f2 lens on the body, it frames like a 50mm on FX body, but the bokeh is so much underdeveloped compare to the 50mm. That's my only complain, I need to switch, before throwing any more money on lens, I'll get a new full frame body.

Anyway, I'll stop talking about gears: here are the pics:

Myrtille, off focused but still good looking

 and another one:

I'll have plenty more in future posts.
Hope to post them soon.