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Nikon 58mm f/1.4 Review and Opinion
TrueToad / Monday, November 6, 2017 / Categories: Reviews

Nikon 58mm f/1.4 Review and Opinion

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Not a technical review about this Nikon 58mm f/1.4 lens – too many Tech Reviews already exist after four years on the market, so if you are looking for charts and graphs, this article has none.

This article is more of a rebuttal to the many negative reviews floating around the internet about this particular lens.  Many of you already know the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 lens is a good lens. After using this lens for a few months, I can confirm/agree with a few of the comments.  Of course, all things being equal this lens has a very strong character and exhibits the tradition of bringing 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 over optical quality + the margin of difference to me is nowhere the price point.  I do have a few manual focus lens and for a 50 - 60mm I wanted a lens with autofocus 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 bright sun.  People are not shiny chromed objects, and this is exactly what many reviewers fail to realize.

 Comparison
 Nikon 58 f/1.4 Sigma 50 f/1.4 
 
Nikon 58 is a softer at f/1.4 - provides pleasing details with softer skin overall, more desirable in portraits.
 
Sigma is sharper at f/1.4 provides more defined details - in portraits this may not be desirable for women..
It is not always about extreme sharpness in every lens.  Admititly, Nikon 58mm f/1.4 is softer wide open but for people this characteristic seems perfectly fine for that purpose.  When I go on a technical shoot of non human things and need better wide open sharpness at f/1.4 I reach for the Sigma. For People the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 seems a better choice to me.
Look carefully at the two photographs above, Nikon shows softer shadows with better gradual falloff.  Both images are natural lighting handheld using 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 women 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 pictures at those wide apertures designed for people.  I have OTHER lenses for non-people stuff.

First thing is – 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 do 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 1/640s  Sigma 50mm f/3.2 1/640s 
Once you move past f/1.4 the sharpness seems to be with Nikon showing better color and sharpness.
 

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 the 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 lens I know of does that, at least in the Nikon line up.

 The Reason I love Nikon 58mm f/1.4 Lens
 
The Nikon 58mm f/1.4 handles the harsh unflattering lighting well.
At the Point of focus, enough sharpness to render skin details without harsh edges.
 
 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 on a daily basis 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 out, 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 others internet comment 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.

On a D850 the tonal range of the 58mm and color saturation is amazing.
To bring context to others who say the Nikon 58mm f1.4 is soft, I covered that earlier, buy another lens, geeze. Critical Focus at f1.4 is a must and if you or your camera is off by just mm so are your images at 1.4 aperture.  This lens requires attention to detail if you are careless, the 58mm is unforgiving, and the results are wrong.  You Must know how to use the 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 the best experience of a classic camera and lens I can share and remember.  Using this 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. 

Stopped down the Nikon 58mm performs very well with very good color, contrast, and fine details. The color reproduction is very good.

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 stuff, you are better off with a cheaper solution, if you shoot people consider this lens.  

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.

By now you may guess I do like the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 for the look it provides 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.

Panoramic Sunrise on Trees

For those reviewers who have NO idea what a lens is - just STFU - Yeah!

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I live at the edge of the forest in semi-moist locations, I enjoy larva, and other delights. Although I am toothless and mostly warty, I am a sight to see.

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