Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G Lens Review

Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G Lens Review

Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G Lens Review

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TrueToad
/ Categories: My Reviews

The Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G lens is one of the finest general-purpose lenses you should own, and it is certainly one of my favorite lenses.  I love using the lens for general photography and especially taking photographs of people and on occasion, a few great landscapes shots as well.  Do not be fooled by those who compare shooting car bumpers, or brick walls - wide open, this lens is for people, general Photography, and Landscapes.

This is not a technical review about this Nikon 58mm f/1.4 lens – too many Tech Reviews already exist after years on the market, so if you are looking for charts and graphs, this article has none. People pictures tell the story, not car bumpers or brick walls, and the rest of the story is told in the field -

Nikon 58mm f/1.4 Photo Shot Wide Open
 
Nikon 58mm f/1.4
Nikon 58mm F/2 One Off-Camera Flash
Nikon 58mm f/1.4

there seem to be a few negative reviews floating around the internet about this particular lens- all of which are ill-founded.  Many of you already know the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 lens is a good lens and after using this lens for several months, I can confirm/agree with a few comments, but certainly not most of the negative ones.  Of course, all things being equal this lens has a very strong character and exhibits the tradition of delivering a unique look to your photography.  Below I will try to answer the questions.

Many reviews attempt to justify their expensive lens purchase, and the author writes to point out why they made such an investment. Me, I could have bought a Zeiss Otus 55 and dropped the 4K for a manual focus lens - but I wanted the convenience of automatic focus + the margin of difference to me is nowhere matches the price point.  I do have a few manual focus lens and for a 50 - 60mm I wanted a lens with auto-focus for shots I am not posing or static + wish to carry a lighter lens. 

Is the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 flawed? Of course not, I see some reviews comparing a 55mm $4,000.00 manual focus lens to the Nikon 58 1.4 - what are they talking about?  I don't consider this a comparison unless of course, you want me to turn off autofocus. In many other reviews I looked at the images posted by the reviewer and quite frankly in real life, you don't notice much difference unless you zoom 100% on your computer at f/1/4 - yes the Nikon is softer, but again I don't shoot tree bark or brick walls at f/1/4 - I photograph people who are soft-edged. If you need to convince someone to shell out 4K for a 2.1 lb 55mm manual focus lens so they can photograph car bumpers in the bright sun.  People are not shiny chromed objects, and this is exactly what many reviewers fail to realize.

 Nikon vs Sigma Comparison
 Nikon 58 f/1.4 Sigma 50 f/1.4 
Nikon 58mm f/1.4
Sigma 50mm f/1.4

It is not always about extreme sharpness in every lens you own.  Admittedly, Nikon 58mm f/1.4 is softer wide open but - for people, this characteristic is perfectly fine.  For People photographs wide open,  the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 seems a better choice for me.
Look carefully at the two photographs above, Nikon shows softer shadows with better gradual sharpness falloff.  Both images are natural lighting handheld using the same aperture and shutter speed - no post camera processing other than image reduction for web use, the Sigma renders colder less organic people pictures wide open.

The Nikon 58mm f1.4 is an excellent lens all around.  The argument around Pinpoint sharpness, it is not something I consider necessary for People photos,  only when making reproductions of something and there are lenses designed for that purpose called Macro, Pinpoint Sharpness is probably not needed when shooting people.  Show a woman two images "one that captures every wrinkle and blemish and the other a bit soft" guess which picture she likes? The Nikon 58mm f/1.4 is a people lens first and foremost, and it does an excellent job of capturing people's pictures at those wide apertures designed for people.  I have OTHER lenses for non-people stuff.

The first point– The Nikon 58mm f/1.4 is a lens designed for a specific photographic purpose above trying to be a “regular” lens, and like a DC, PCE, or fisheye type lens, the design of the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 fills a niche which "regular/normal" lens does not. Sorry to say the negative press this lens receives is based around the fact many people simply don’t understand it and buy the lens thinking it is a "better" 50mm done at 58 (which it is)and since the price is a bit overwhelming just hate it due to that fact alone.  Great lens characteristics are not measured in MTFs or delivered by a beautiful edge to edge sharpness or price, but sometimes the performance is delivered in the “unique” images you can capture with the lens that no other lens can do. 

Here it is boiled down. I want my 600mm to be razor-sharp, I want my PCE Lens to be razor-sharp, I want my macro lens to be razor-sharp, I want my "people" lens to render pleasing skin and soft dreamy photos when shot open!

Nikon 58mm f/3.2 1/125s   
Image
 

All that said above – It is expensive, and I do not argue that point, and it hurts me as much as the next person to buy one. Unlike others in the 50mm arena, you have choices and budget restraints and most of all considerations for what you plan on using a 50mm lens for.  In my arsenal of all things photographic I have nothing close to what the 58mm f/1.4 lens can deliver, so I forwent logic and bought one. This decision was based on using a rental for a few weeks – yes, the Nikon 58mm is a fantastic lens.  Love the glass you have and use it to the maximum extent possible - that is my best advice.

I love using this lens, for taking advantage of isolating the subject with a very nice depth of view and Bokeh. This lens is engineered to roll off the sharpness around the subject - making many images seem a little 3Dish from the point of sharpness.  The subject is captured in the environment and isolated by the focus. Few lenses I know of do that, at least in the Nikon line up.

 The Reason I love Nikon 58mm f/1.4 Lens
 
Image
Image
 
 I prefer the softer details the Nikon delivers at f/1.4 

Because I do like the 50 – 60mm lens range for FOV, and the 58mm is a very pleasing focal length, not too wide nor too narrow, it covers a general angle that is useable daily for most photographers.  NO, you do NOT have to use the lens WIDE open all the time just because it is a 1.4, feel free to use it.  I consider this lens a good choice if you are a seasoned photographer rounding out your photo bag. If you are just starting, I would recommend buying the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 - You will know when it is time to move to a 58 f/1.4.

To bring context to other internet comments about the lens being mostly plastic.  For these smaller lenses, it is a better way to deliver a lighter lens shell that can withstand a few knocks.  I have more pro Nikon lens that has met their match with a short drop to the ground; magnesium is not too forgiving (14-24)  Plastic rebounds and absorbs impact much better - and I know - This is a teaching moment for those who say otherwise. Plastic is not cheap when it delivers a better engineered, robust shell. 

Nikon 58mm f/1.4
To bring context to others who say the Nikon 58mm f1.4 is soft, I covered that earlier, for those who can't focus a lens, buy yourself another lens. Critical Focus at f1.4 is a must and if you or your camera is off by just a couple millimeters so will be your sharp focus.  This lens requires your attention and if you are careless, the 58mm is unforgiving, and your results will be less than optimal.  You Must know how to use this 58mm Nikon lens in all lighting situations, and your camera body matters.  If you have time, energy, and experience, this is a fantastic lens and worth the investment.

To shed background - many many years ago I had managed to acquire an older Minolta SRT 101 film camera and a Minolta Rokkor-PG 58 mm f/1.2,  this was a very good experience with a classic camera and lens I can share and remember.  Using that Minolta and lens combination was magic for emulsion film, and I always had positive experiences once the prints came back, simply put. With the Nikon 58mm f/1.4, I hope to bring back some of the magic, and like the older classic Minolta, the new Nikon 58mm f.1.4 has a similar character, and I am more than happy to experience it. 

Nikon 58mm f/1.4 Lens

There, all said and done.  Are there sharper lenses out in the wild - yes of course, and always will be? Technology changes and moves us to make decisions.  If you shoot wide open most all the time and pixel peep seeking razor-sharp files, you are better off with a cheaper solution, if you shoot people, and love a lens that renders great color and contrast, consider the Nikon 58mm f/1.4  

Disclaimer:  I own the Sigma 50 f/1.4 art and the Nikon 58 f/1.4 BOTH have a place in my life of photography.

Image
By now you may guess I do like the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 for the look it produces when photographing people, and as you can see from the other outdoor shots at apertures beyond 1.4 the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 performs very well indeed.  If you have a budget limit I would certainly not hesitate to recommend a Sigma 50mm Art f/1.4 lens to you. 

Image

My Recommendation:  If you can afford the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 G lens I would recommend you buy one

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Comment

Pat · 8/3/2019 11:00:47 PM

Great review, thanks for the insights. Have you had a chance to try it on a Z6 with the FTZ adapter?

TrueToad · 8/4/2019 4:08:44 AM

Thanks, Yes I have tested the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 on both my Z6 and Z7 and the combo works well but I would prefer a Native S lens. I know Nikon is releasing the 58 Noct f/.95 S I doubt I will purchase the Noct lens as the replacement for the f mount 58. I am in the process of transitioning all my f mount lenses to Z mounts as Nikon releases them.

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