Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Nikon 50mm f/1.2 Lens

This is how they used to build lenses and as far as I’m concerned it’s how they still should…

The Quick

The Nikon 50mm f/1.2 is definitely a specialty lens. Yes it’s f/1.2, but that’s not a whole lot different than f/1.4 in terms of the amount of bokeh produced or light let in. It’s also only manual focus, which some people probably think “why and how could i ever use it?” but the thing creates a wonderfully unique look that I’m unable to describe only with words. You may or may not notice it in my photo examples, but it’s there. What I didn’t realize before purchasing this lens was that it’s definitely less about getting the f/1.2 and more about the “look” the lens is able to create.

The Build

I’m a bit young to know how things were built “back in the day,” but this lens gives me a peak into the past and I’m envious. It’s solid as a rock. All metal. I’m pretty sure I could use it as a weapon and still take perfectly good photos on my Nikon D3s. Yes, it’s that solid.

The most surprising aspect of this lens (to me) was the focus ring. It’s so so smooth. I can’t believe how incredibly easy and fast it is to focus! It makes sense giving that on auto focus lenses the manual focus ring is more of an after thought vs. this thing where it’s vital to it’s very use.

I also enjoy the aperture ring. It’s useful for things like freelensing, and I really hate how Nikon lenses default to the aperture closed when off of a camera… this does me no good when using lenses with no aperture ring.

The Use

So, obviously the initial issue I had was figuring out the best way to know when I was in focus. I quickly learned that the “green dot” in the viewfinder of my camera is the most useful thing in the world for making sure focus is dead on.

As I mentioned earlier… the focus ring is a joy to use. Imagine how the zoom ring feels on a zoom lens and that’s essentially how the focus ring feels on the 50 1.2. It’s killer.

The sharpness is a bit of a mix. When your subject is 10 feet or closer it’s sharp as heck, but if it’s something a bit further away it’s probably best to switch up your lens.

The 50mm focal length combined with the 1.2 aperture this lens is pretty much built for portraits. When photographing more dynamic subjects I recommend the Sigma 50 1.4.

The Tips

  • Utilize the “green dot” in your camera’s viewfinder to make sure your focus is where you want it.
  • Probably best to shoot things that don’t move very quickly.
  • Try mounting it backwards on your camera and see how well it works as a macro lens ;)

The Conclusion

You might ask yourself, why the heck would anybody be interested in buying a 30 year old lens? Or better yet – why would nikon still be making these fresh from their factories in 2011? It’s a manual focus lens and it’s old old glass design. Well, for one – it’s Nikon’s only f/1.2 lens – aside from the insanely expensive Noct 58mm 1.2 (good luck finding/affording that beast). It also produces wonderful bokeh unlike any other lens I’ve ever used. It’s just got that “X” factor that’s really hard to relate in a simple blog post. I (for one) really like using it for freelensing and for close up portraiture work…. or both at the same time.

Summary

Rating

Want a portrait lens that has a “look” like nothing else you can buy today? Get the 50 1.2.

  • Price
    $699.00
  • Uses
    Portraiture
  • In my gear bag?
    For specific shoots
About Sam Hurd

Sam is a professional wedding and editorial photographer based in the Washington DC area. He photographs 40+ weddings a year, press events, commercial portraiture, and regularly hosts workshops in his Baltimore MD studio and around the world. His work has been published internationally including the Wall Street Journal, the NYTimes, and the Washington Post. He's available for commissions worldwide.

Blog Comments

(Show/Post Facebook Comments)

  1. Great review man! Good information, videos are a mega plus, and the bokeh vid was really impressive. If only I had a D3s to mount this too….

  2. Rad review Bro, I am definitely investing in this lens early next year.

  3. Thanks for the review man, wanting to pick up one of these to use with my NEX 7 when it comes in. I hope Nikon continues to produce these for a while longer.

  4. Great review Sam. So are you selling yours? (Lemme know ;) Can’t wait to see the Noct review.

  5. Stephan says:

    Hi folks,

    This lens is a jewel! No doubt about it. If you ever find one, do not hesitate a single moment to by it. You will have a relationship with it. As soon as it is in your hands, you feel the difference. Play with it – you will have great results.

    So, now I am hungry to get my gear out (also watch an you tube: “That nikon guy, Matt Granger” / Nikkor 50mm 1.2, he loves it, too)!

    Have a nice day,
    Stephan

  6. What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable know-how concerning unexpected emotions.

  7. This page definitely has all the information and facts I wanted about this subject
    and didn’t know who to ask.

  8. I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to
    be exactly I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content for you?
    I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write related to here.

    Again, awesome weblog!

  9. Hey Sam,

    Did you have an issue with the F-Stop displaying on your camera?
    I have a Nikon D3s and it shows 1.4 when I have the ring set at 1.2 but as i turn it
    it picks up everything after 1.4.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.2 - w/ ND filter [...]

  2. [...] | Bokeh! Small aperture – Star effect | Meer over de AiS variant van dit objectief hier, bij Sam Hurd en The Luminous Landscape [...]

  3. […] portrait job: D4 or Nikon D800 – read my review Nikon sb-900 Nikon 50mm f/1.2 lens – read my review Paul C. Buff Einsteins E640 Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikon 70-200mm […]

Facebook Comments

Leave A Comment

*