Thanks to Steven McConnell for this exclusive review to pixelogist.me on the Nikkor 50mm f1.4G!
I’ve been carrying my 50mm 1.4G Nikkor with me on family photography photoshoots as a backup for my workhorse, which is the 85mm 1.4G.
In my mind, the 50mm is the one I’d use if the 85mm stopped working mid-shoot or if I allowed the subject to get too close. I just didn’t view it as a “serious” lens.
No amazing perspective shift effects that you get with long zooms, no melting-butter bokeh effects that you get with 85mm primes and no funky distortions you get with wide angle lenses.
It’s just a jack of all trades and a master of none kind of lens, right? Well, not quite.
I noticed something curious when I was flicking through my updated portfolio recently. Curiously, a lot – if not most – of my favourite images were taken with the nifty 50mm.
I could tell you about the great sharpness, the image quality, the smooth booker and the flexibility that aperture of f/1.4 gives you.
But those are pretty cliched features, and I’m pretty sure you know about them already anyway. What I want to tell you about this time is a feature that I have missed until recently.
There’s a certain and unique 3-dimensional “look” to photographs that the 50mm 1.4G produces. It’s subtle, it’s not immediately obvious and it’s not present in all photos. And you really have to get your lighting right for it to come though.
But when you do get it right and you shoot portraits and full-body shots at around f/2-2.2 there’s a distinct “pop” in the images that I find magic. It’s almost like you’re looking at a freeze frame of a 3-D movie with 3-D glasses on.
The 50mm might not be long enough for you if you’re photographing, for example, women’s portraits and it’s important for you to make facial features look flattering – you might need an 85mm or something longer to keep the ladies happy.
But I photograph kids and families and the “beauty” look is not as important as fun, edgy, dynamic perspective on things and because of this I’ve reconsidered my opinion on this little lens. It’s now on the body of my camera over 60% of the time.
It has all the other features you’d expect from a high-end prime – quiet operation, fast and precise autofocus and crisp optics.
Though, as a side note, I do think that build quality could be better – it’s not as flimsy as the f/1.8 50mm, but it’s not quite as rock-solid in feel as Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 equivalent. Then again, the Canon’s version is about 3 times the price.
The main thing here is to remember that this lens is not a “magic bullet” that will create better photos for you. As always, it helps to remember that it’s not your equipment that creates a great photograph, but you. Your equipment will only help you emphasise the great qualities of a photograph – it will not create them for you.
When I said that you have to get the lighting right before, I meant it. To get the most out of this lens, you need to really nail getting a shadow and a lit side on your subjects’ faces.
It may be a barely noticeable difference in lighting or a dramatic one, but make sure it’s there.
By Steven McConnell All images sourced by Steven McConnell to pixelogist.me
Steven McConnell is a professional family photographer at Family Photography Sydney. To see more of his work, click here
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