Rethinking Nikon's 50mm f1.4
Nikon’s “new” 50 f1.4 is not so new news. It was released quite a while ago in digital camera equipment years - like dog years or something. What’s new are my thoughts on it after having played with one for a few minutes. I am not going to say playing with it for a few minutes revealed anything super duper spectacular interms of what I expected. I am definitely not going to say something rediculous like “I was looking at the shots on the back of the camera and this has to be the best lens ever”. What happend is my realization of what lenses I actually use verses what lenses I own, and what would actually be really useful to me.
I couple of things that are probably old news to most of you are that I have been a Nikon shooter for years and I am lazy. Way back in the day I wss extremely glad that old Nikon lenes that I owned would fit on new Nikon AF bodies and over the years was really glad, intellectually, that old lenses fit on digital bodies. Now I know that the newer lower end digital bodies are AFS/G only but I don’t use those. Heck my D2H, D2X, D3, D200, etc all have been totaly compatible with every lens in my collection. In fact my pro level bodies have actually added functionality to my older lenses compared with my F4 and F5.
Like many Nikon shooters that have been doing this for more than a little while I have a couple of 50mm prime lenses that are F mount. I also happen to spend a lot of time in and around 50mm on both my FX and DX bodies. Funny thing though I almost never ever ever use my 50mm AIS or 50mm AF f1.4 lenses. I am almost always using my AFS 28-70 f2.8. Why? Subconsciously and maybe even consciously I consider them to be a pain in the a$$ due to the switch that I have to flick to go back and forth between AF and manual focus. This may not seem like a big thing but it is. Fact is one of the reasons that I choose the cameras that I do is because of how they feel and how they get out of my way when I am shooting.
Fast forward to 2009. In my head I have automatically discounted purchasing another 50mm f1.4 because I already have one. The reality is that I never use it based on the evolution of the way I use the camera has evolved over the last 10 years or so. With a couple of exceptions (like macro) my cameras are set to continuous AF activated by the rear thumb AF button only, not the shutter release. My lenses are AFS and set to AF/M. This way I have the shutter release and focus operations separated completely and can work really fast with people. It is completely automatic now. Focus using my thumb, fine tune with my lens’ focusing ring, release shutter. This is one continuously fluid thing not a step by step for me. If I stick a non-AFS lens on the camera I feel like I am shooting with both arms tied behind my back using my left foot.
I guess the epiphany of handling the new AFS Nikon 50mm f1.4 was the reintroduction to how different an f1.4 lens is from an f2.8 and for most things how different the handling is on AFS lenses. Most of the time the AFS is more important than the extra light. The reality is that I want both and the focal length is great for what I shoot on both DX and FX bodies. Honestly speaking my 28-70 AFS f2.8Â is sort of what I use as my 50 in a significant number of shooting circumstances as evidenced by my review of images in my Aperture library and the focal length they were shot at.
My Nikon 50mm AFS f1.4 is on order. My old 50mm Nikons will probably stay exactly where they have spent most of their time in the last 10 years - On the shelf.
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