Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 lens

Interestingly, both my father and my father-in-law are photography enthusiasts too! I think this is partly why I’ve taken up the hobby myself.   And like me, my fathers have accumulated various photographic gear over the years…  but old gear!

I’ve recently found that my father has a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 lens!   That’s a huge aperture!  I wonder if there’s anything larger.  Anyway, I borrowed it recently and tried it on my D80.   Unfortunately, it’s a manual focus lens.  But I was hoping that the D80 would be able to read or even set the aperture on the lens.   But after trying it on, no such luck.   After some googling, I’ve confirmed that the D80 does not support metering with non-CPU AI lenses.

Oh well, I decided to have a play today- having to set exposure manually (shutter speed on the camera, aperture ring on the lens) as well as focus manually.  But it was fun – and the pictures are amazingly silky smooth!   The bokeh at f/1.2 is amazing, and the depth of field is so thin!

The lens looks mighty on the FE2.

Nikon FE2 with 50mm f/1.2
Nikon FE2 with 50mm f/1.2

Here’s a comparison of my cheap but excellent value for money $150 50mm f/1.8 with the 50mm f/1.2.  You can see that the 50mm f/1.2 has no CPU contacts on the mount.

50mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.2
50mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.2

I took some shots of the music of the Presto from Bach’s G minor violin sonata.  This is at f/1.2 on my D80.   A nice small depth of field and creamy out of focus areas.    The only problem I see is that there seems to be a slight green aberration just outside the in-focus area.   And I seemed to have some problems getting the right area to focus – it was almost like something was causing a back or front focus (I haven’t quite figured which yet).   I wonder if my diopter isn’t adjusted correctly, if it’s the lens, the combination of lens and body, or just my lack of experience focusing manually.

Music manuscript with 50mm f/1.2
Music manuscript with 50mm f/1.2

Later this evening, I thought I’d try the lens out with some low light shots.   Unfortunately, with manual focus, and no viewfinder split image focus screen on my D80, I found it extremely hard to get a shot with what I wanted in focus correctly.

My only other complaint is no metering support on the D80.   I don’t mind shooting manual once in a while (especially when the lighting is quite constant), but when I do, I usually rely on the camera to tell me about the exposure.   With this lens, I have to either chimp, or use a light meter.

I think I’ll leave the lens on my D80 for a while to play with.  It’ll definitely be a learning experience, and hopefully force me to learn how to focus manually and judge exposures manually.

Photo of the 50mm f/1.8 taken with the 50mm f/1.2
Photo of the 50mm f/1.8 taken with the 50mm f/1.2

More info here:

Nikon’s Product page – http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/Product/Camera-Lenses/1435/NIKKOR-50mm-f%252F1.2.html

Ken Rockwell’s Review – http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/50mm-f12.htm

PBase photos – http://www.pbase.com/cameras/nikon/50_12_ai

Flickr photos – http://www.flickr.com/groups/nikkor50s/

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