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Ken Rockwell tests Nikon 58 f1.4 lens

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Sometimes controversial Nikon guru Ken Rockwell has just posted an in-depth review of the much-hyped Nikkor 58 f1.4 lens, which the manufacturer bills as the successor to the legendary 58 f1.2 Noct Nikkor. The new lens even features the same optical layout as the old.

So, is the new 58 a worthy successor to the old?

Optically, the lens is good, so good in fact that Rockwell says that it's just about as good as a macro lens. For a more in-depth analysis, the center is good from the get go with only slight softening in the corners, which improve a little when stopped down. However, according to the review, any lack of sharpness with this lens is more due to missing focus and diffraction caused by stopping down too much. As for vignetting, it is very well controlled on FF cameras and virtually disappears by f2. Chromatic aberration is also virtually nil, not that it even matters (according to Rockwell) because current Nikon cameras can correct false color automatically. Distortion? It's there, and worse than other Nikon 50s, but is not that bad overall and is, like CA, possible to be corrected in-camera.

Mechanically, the lens uses Nikon's sonic-drive AF-S technology, which results in silent AF. As for speed, it's right on par with the other AF-S 50 Nikkors. The lens also has full-time manual focus capability, too, which allows for instant manual override of the AF without actually having to flip the lens from AF to MF mode. As for construction quality, the lens is made of plastic and based in a metal mount, nothing special.

Overall, the lens is good. Performance in terms of sharpness is outstanding wide open, even drawing comparison to macro optics (which are about as sharp as any lenses can be). As for chromatic aberration and distortion, both are well-controlled, with distortion being present but easily corrected (in-camera or with software). The lens uses the latest in AF technology, but is nothing special in terms of build quality. So far, the lens sounds pretty good, and then there's the price: about $1700, which causes Rockwell to avoid recommending it because the new 50 f1.4G works just as good, for a quarter of the price.

Bottom line: the 58 f1.4 is a waste of money and is nothing more than a rich man's show piece lens.

Want to buy Nikon gear in the Cleveland area? Well, there's Cleveland-based Dodd Camera, with its downtown superstore. In addition, there are many smaller Cleveland metro area chain stores in the Cuyahoga County area, too. Dodd is an authorized Nikon dealer.

For more info:
Ken Rockwell

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