Nikkor AIS 50mm f1.4 

the so called ~ Standard Lens



Little History...

Nikon Nikkor 50mm lens is most probably the most popular and most owned lens among all the Nikkors in the world. Since the beginning of photography, 50mm lens often been selling together with a camera as a Standard Lens. It is also said to be the lens that represent what human eyes see naturally (though I would say 35mm lens gives a more similar view to my eyes...). The history of 50mm lens can be dated back to the 60s (or even earlier) in Nikon history. Nikon has been making and producing this lens for decades...from the earliest non-Ai to Ai to AiS to AF and to the now AFD. There are 50mm f/1.2, 50mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/2.0 variations. Among them, only the 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 are still in production. The 1.2 version is only available in the AiS version, no AF version.


Among the various versions, 50mm f1.8 is said to be the sharpest (also the cheapest ~ lowest in price)! However, the built quality is better in the 50mm f1.4 version (triple the price of the f1.8 version), with wider focusing rubber for better manual focusing, and heavier than the f1.8 version. I have the chance to buy an AS NEW AIS version of the 50mm f/1.4 in box at the price of the f1.8 lens, so I just go for it :)


I have been using the 50mm f1.4 lens for quite some times...and most of the time this is the lens that I bring out among the current Nikkors that I have. I kinda like the view angle of the standard lens...the versatility of close focusing. I will have to admit that if I still have my 60 micro lens with me, then I will leave this 50mm lens at home...


Made in Japan?


Back in the 90s or even earlier, all Nikkor are made in Japan. Nowadays, due to the production cost and high living standard in Japan, many consumer Nikkor have been brought to be manufacturered in other countries. Nikon has their factories in China and Thailand (maybe some other countries as well), and most consumer lenses are now made in China instead of Japan. Thailand is mainly for producing consumer grade Nikon cameras (F80 and D70).


A friend of mine who owns an AFD 50mm f1.4 version has his lens Made in China. This means that now all the 50mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.8 versions (both AIS and AFD) are made in China. If you ever find a Made in Japan 50mm f1.8 in store, grab it! Ok, I don't want to debate about the different in quality between made in Japan and made in other countries lens, both might be exactly the same, but still I feel that the Made in Japan lens is an assurance of product quality. I might be wrong but that's how I feel :)


My AIS 50mm f1.4 lens is made in Japan :)


Lens Extension


Nikon AIS 50mm f1.4 lens extended when focusing from infinity to minimum focusing distance 45cm. As can be seen in the above photos, the extension in length is about 1cm, which is not much. However, with this extension, it means that dust can get into the lens easily. Say when one focus the lens to 45cm, then some dust/sand particles stay on the extended ring, then he/she focus the lens to infinity, the dust/sand particles can be sucked into the lens and fall into the glass elements. This can be pretty annoying.


(move your mouse over the photo on the left to view the lens after extending)



Rubber Hood & Lens Cap

A must for my 50mm lens is the rubber hood. Nikon has produced two types of hood for the 50mm lens, one is metal type and another one is the rubber type. I prefer the rubber type as it can be extended and stored easily. With metal hood, your lens is permanently extended and it is a bit inconvenient in my opinion when storing. The rubber hood also adds as an protection to your lens when bumping into other lenses or cameras (rubber absorbs/damps force better than metal).

In Malaysia, it is hard for me to get an original Nikon rubber hood, so I opted for a 3rd party 52mm rubber hood (if I am not mistaken, mine is a product made by Hoya). Need to note that not all 52mm rubber hood is useable, as the length of the rubber when extended must not block the angle of view of the lens when using it in 135 format camera. Even in Nikon own range, there are different hoods for the 50mm f1.2, 1.4 and 1.8, although all are having the same 52mm filter ring size. So, test your lens in store before you purchase one.



By the way, the lens cap that I used for my 50mm lens is the new SNAP ON design by Nikon. This type of lens cap design has been adapted by Tamron for many years, and only in year 2003 (if I am not mistaken) Nikon starts making their own SNAP ON Lens Cap. I find this cap is a must as it allow one to cover the lens with hood on easily (especially if you are using a metal hood or permanent shape plastic hood)! Just push the center grip of the caps and snap it onto your lens.





Nikon AIS 50mm f1.4 lens aperture is a combination of 7 blades, from the maximum aperture of f/1.4 to the minimum of f/16. Nikon didn't apply their round diaphragm design into this lens, thus the light shape created by this lens when stop down is a heptagonal shape. The light shape is round when the lens opens to its maximum aperture at f1.4. I have snapped some photos of the lens at various aperture for your better understanding.












Image Quality


When I bought the AIS 50mm f1.4 lens, I have already been shooting digital most of the time (my first DSLR is Fujifilm S2 Pro, and my 2nd and current DSLR is Nikon D70). Most of my shots with this 50mm lens is made with the Nikon D70 body. The lens is sharp, very sharp on the digital body. This is the reason why I opted for a prime lens than zoom. At f1.4, depth of field (DoF) is very shallow, thus one has to be very careful in focusing (make sure you have good eyes, else what you see might not be what you get!) and make sure that neither the subject nor the photographer moves.  This is because just a slight movement will make the focus shifted. Due to this, I shoot most of the lens stopped down to aperture f2.8, unless when I really need the speed. (before using this lens wide open, it is also important to test your DSLR so that it doesn't have front or back focus problem)


The photo below illustrates how shallow the DoF the 50mm f1.4 is. I was shooting vertically a maple tree with two leaves on it. I thought I can get the trunk all in focus, but when I check at home later, I found that the top and lower part of the frames are blurred. I can't remember exactly the aperture that I used, should be quite fast speed. (ISO 200, 1/80s)






Below is another photo shot by the 50mm f1.4 lens. Mouse over to view the 100% crop. Honestly, I am not quite happy with the 100% view of the photo, but my guess is that this should be due to the dynamic range and resolution of my D70 6MP sensor. I remember when the Fuji S2Pro shot at 12MP and resize to 6MP, it delivered crispy clear image.


If you want to view more of my 50mm photos, please visit my Gallery: Here's some thumbnails.

Depth of Field

The photo showing how shallow the DoF the 50mm lens is when shot at f/1.4. This test is also good in judging if your DSLR or Lens is having back focus/front focus problem or not. Use your eyes to manual focus the lens to the desired number on the calendar shooting from about 45 degree angle (in my case I focus at number 8), at the same time the focus indicator in your camera should light up as well. Then take a shot. Make sure the shutter speed is high enough to avoid handshake.



Barrel Distortion


How well is the 50mm lens in controlling the barrel distortion? I took a few shots of the metal curtain of in my apartment, handholding and using my eyes to try get the perfect horizontal level possible, with the help from the ON DEMAND GRIDLINE in Nikon D70 (very handy!). The photo below is best representing how good/bad the AIS 50mm f1.4 lens in controlling the barrel distortion (I framed it in with a white border for clearer view. This is not a scientific method of testing, but still sufficient enough to judge if the lens produces a very distorted photo or not. I will let you do your own conclusion if you find the distortion acceptable to you or not.


An Apple A Day, Keeps the Doctor Away!


I went to an apple garden on the 19th November 2005 and brought only the 50mm lens mounted onto a D70 with me. This is the first time I saw real apple on real apple tree! The weather was so cold at around 5~10 degree C, rainy and cloudy weather. There are 7 types of apples at the garden, but I only managed to find 3. Among them, Fuji Apple is simply the best! Very juicy with thin skin and very sweep meat! When I take my first bite into it, the juice just spilt out! It is a must visit for anyone who comes to Hirohisma!


Enough talk and enough writing, here I end my 50mm lens review some nice big Fuji Apples sharing! Yummy! :^)

Happy reading! :)