SLR Gear, an offshoot website of the Imaging Resource, one of the web's most-trusted resources for all things digital photography, has just posted an in-depth review of the new Nikon 58mm f1.4 lens, successor to the legendary manual focus 58 f1.2 Noct Nikkor. The new lens even features the same optical layout as its AIs predecessor.
So, is the new 58 a worthy successor to the old?
Optically, the lens is a mixed bag. In terms of sharpness, the lens is very soft wide open at 1.4 and doesn't get acceptably sharp until around f4, which features a good center on FF. Unfortunately, on a FF camera, the corners always display some softness, no matter how stopped down you go. On sub-frame, however, the lens produces images that are sharp across the frame starting at around f4. According to SLR Gear, sharpness improves through f8, with diffraction starting to set in slightly at f11 and then more dramatically at f16, minimum aperture. As for vignetting, it is very well controlled, with less than 1EV falloff wide open on FF, not bad at all for a f1.4 lens. Chromatic aberration and distortion,? Both are virtually nil here, a very impressive feat for any lens, especially a wide angle f1.4 model.
Mechanically, the lens uses Nikon's sonic-drive AF-S technology, which results in silent AF. Unfortunately, thanks to the large optical elements, focus is not exactly instantaneous, but it is fast nevertheless. 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.
Overall conclusion? There's some conflict here.
Overall, the lens isn't all that bad. Performance in terms of sharpness is not outstanding wide open but, when considering that the lens is f1.4, it is not wholly unexpected. As for chromatic aberration and distortion, both are virtually nil, with vignetting being very well controlled for a lens of this aperture. 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. Price point considered, the lens looks like an over-priced rich man's conversation piece considering that the new 50mm Nikkors (both f1.4 and f1.8 versions) perform about the same or better, for a fraction of the cost. In short: SLR Gear concludes that the new 58 is an 'odd' addition to Nikon's lineup considering its lack of performance and high price point.