Diving into the world of photography often leads us down the path of an exciting quest – the quest for the perfect lens. For many, this journey circles around the pivotal question: which lens should I invest in, the Nikon 28mm f/1.4 or the Nikon 50mm f/1.4? This quandary, my fellow photography enthusiasts, is what we’re going to dissect today.
These two lenses, each with their distinctive strengths, cater to diverse photographic aspirations. Whether you’re an urban explorer capturing sprawling cityscapes with the 28mm wide-angle lens, or a portrait aficionado crafting captivating stories with the 50mm standard lens, you know that the lens choice can make a world of difference.
So, why compare these two particular lenses? Primarily because both are celebrated workhorses in the photographer’s toolkit, acclaimed for their versatility and the quality they bring to various photography genres. Furthermore, understanding the nuances of these lenses and their capabilities can significantly enhance your photographic journey, regardless of whether you’re a budding enthusiast or a seasoned pro.
In this article, we dive deep into the heart of these two lenses, comparing their features, performance, and suitability across different photography genres. From landscapes to portraits, from street shots to everyday candid moments, we’ll guide you through how each lens can best serve your artistic vision. As a bonus, we’ll also tackle the technical aspects, demystifying lens characteristics such as distortion, vignetting, and bokeh, to help you fully grasp what each lens brings to the table.
So, whether you’re looking to invest in your first prime lens or seeking to expand your photographic arsenal, this comparison will illuminate your path. Let’s embark on this enlightening journey together, exploring the worlds that the 28mm and the 50mm lenses unlock, and discover the perfect lens for your unique photographic style.
So fasten your seat belts, and let the adventure begin!
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm F1.4E ED||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.4G|
|Focal Range (mm)||28||50|
|Mount Type||Nikon F (FX)||Nikon F (FX)|
|Max Format||35mm FF||35mm FF|
The Nikon 28mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, both designed for Nikon F (FX) mount and 35mm FF format, offer different characteristics ideal for specific photography needs. Both lenses have a maximum aperture of f/1.4 and fixed aperture type, promising excellent low light performance, shallow depth of field capabilities, and higher image quality. However, their focal lengths differentiate their respective uses.
The 28mm lens is a wide-angle lens, generally used for landscape, street, or architectural photography. The wider field of view captures more of the scene, making it an excellent choice for sweeping landscapes or indoor shots where space might be limited. However, due to the wide-angle, there can be a degree of distortion, especially around the edges of the photo. With a fixed, wide aperture of f/1.4, this lens could handle low light situations and provide a decent bokeh effect, although the latter is not typically a strong point for wide-angle lenses.
The 50mm lens, often referred to as a ‘standard’ or ‘nifty fifty’ lens, provides a field of view that closely resembles that of human vision. This makes it a versatile lens suitable for various photography genres, including portraits, street, and everyday photography. The larger aperture enables a shallow depth of field, great for subject isolation and creating beautiful bokeh in the background, adding an artistic touch to your images. Despite the shared aperture of f/1.4 with the 28mm lens, the effect of the aperture is more prominent in this lens due to the longer focal length.
They offer better image quality, better low light performance, and a more robust build compared to variable aperture lenses. But, they lack the flexibility of a zoom lens, which can cover a range of focal lengths.
Design and Ease of Use
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm F1.4E ED||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.4G|
|Diameter x Length (mm)||⌀83×100.5mm||⌀73.5×54mm|
|Filter Thread (mm)||77||58|
The Nikon 28mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 show stark differences when it comes to their physical characteristics, particularly diameter, length, and weight. These dimensions have significant implications for their portability, balance, discreetness, and storage convenience.
The 28mm lens has a diameter of 83mm and a length of 100.5mm, weighing in at 645 grams. This lens is significantly larger and heavier compared to the 50mm lens. Consequently, this could influence the portability of your photography kit. Carrying a larger and heavier lens around for extended periods could be more tiring, and it may take up more space in your camera bag. The increased size could also make the lens less discreet, which might be a consideration for street photographers aiming to capture candid shots without drawing attention. Moreover, a heavier lens could potentially unbalance your camera setup, especially on smaller camera bodies, making it more difficult to handle during long shooting sessions.
On the other hand, the 50mm lens is noticeably smaller and lighter, with a diameter of 73.5mm, a length of 54mm, and a weight of 280 grams. Its compact size and lighter weight make it more portable and convenient to carry around, particularly for extended periods or when traveling. This lens would also be more discreet, which could be advantageous for street photography. Furthermore, the lighter weight may offer a more balanced feel on most camera bodies, making it easier and more comfortable to handle, even during longer shoots.
In terms of superiority, if you prioritize portability, discreetness, balance, and storage convenience, the 50mm lens, with its compact size and lighter weight, would be the superior option. However, it’s important to remember that the lens choice should also take into consideration the specific photographic needs such as the desired field of view, depth of field control, and the genre of photography. Always aim to strike a balance between your physical comfort and the photographic output you desire.
Lens Mount and Barrel
Analyzing the Nikon 28mm f/1.4 first, it possesses a sturdy metal lens mount, enhanced with a rubber gasket to fortify its resilience against dust and moisture. This weather-proof feature facilitates its use in adverse conditions, furthering the range of shooting environments.
The lens barrel, mainly plastic, incorporates elements of glass, metal, and electrical components, resulting in a hybrid design that melds durability with relative lightness. The lens’ unique scalloped shape aids user comfort and reduces strain during long shooting sessions, despite its notable weight for a 28mm prime lens. An added aesthetic touch is a luxurious 14-karat gold-filled debossed metal plate around the focus distance window, lending a sense of class to the lens.
Transitioning to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, its mount is also crafted from resilient metal, possibly dull-chromed brass, providing a strong and enduring connection to the camera body. The rubber gasket wrapped around the mount further prevents dust and moisture infiltration, limiting potential internal damage.
The lens barrel of this lens, mainly high-grade plastic, enhances grip and ease of handling with its textured surface and a narrow, rubberized focus ring. A distinct feature is its linear extension focusing system, where the inner tube moves within the outer barrel; though this design is less noticeable in practical usage.
Both lenses’ mounts show similar characteristics – made of robust metal with a protective rubber gasket, ensuring durable attachment and protection against external elements. The 28mm lens stands out for its distinctive gold-filled plate, whereas the 50mm lens exhibits an ergonomic design in its barrel that improves grip and handling.
To conclude, neither lens mount and barrel is categorically superior; the choice heavily depends on your unique needs as a photographer. If you value aesthetics and a lens that offers an enhanced grip, you may lean towards the 28mm lens. However, if you prefer a lighter lens with a focus on ergonomics, the 50mm lens might be the better option.
When considering the Nikon 28mm f/1.4 first, it presents a robust weather sealing designed to perform under harsh conditions. This resilience is attributed to the meticulous internal sealing against dust and moisture, which grants photographers the ability to continue their work even in challenging environments like sandy or rainy conditions, and even when temperatures dip below freezing.
Furthermore, the inclusion of a rubber gasket on the mount enhances the lens’s capacity to keep out dust, contributing to the longevity of both lens and camera. A key feature of this lens is the fluorine coating on the front element, which not only acts as an additional barrier against dust and moisture but also allows for effortless cleaning as it repels water and grease. Such fortification underscores the lens’s dependability for outdoor photography across various conditions.
Contrasting this with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, it incorporates features designed to withstand the elements, though it is not officially designated as a weather-sealed lens. The lens mount is equipped with a rubber gasket, which provides a level of protection against dust and other minute particles that might affect the lens’s internal mechanics or the camera sensor.
Despite not being explicitly marketed as weather-resistant, the lens demonstrates good resilience against a range of conditions, granted that it is handled with care. However, it’s suggested to be cautious while using this lens in extreme conditions or changing lenses in windy or dusty environments.
Both lenses feature measures to combat environmental elements. The 28mm lens distinguishes itself with comprehensive weather sealing, including a fluorine coating for easy maintenance. Meanwhile, the 50mm lens provides a reasonable level of protection, especially considering that it’s not officially classified as weather-sealed.
Fully weather-sealed lenses, like the 28mm, offer superior protection, durability, and performance under a variety of conditions, although they can be more costly. On the other hand, lenses not fully weather-sealed, such as the 50mm, require more cautious handling in challenging environments.
To conclude, if your photographic pursuits often place you in diverse and unpredictable conditions, the 28mm lens with its comprehensive weather sealing would be a more reliable choice. However, if your photography tends to be in more controlled environments, the 50mm lens could serve your needs sufficiently, provided it’s used with an appropriate level of care.
Starting with the Nikon 28mm f/1.4, it comes with a single focus ring situated at the front of the lens barrel, rendering it easily adjustable. The lens designers took comfort and user experience into account by crafting the focus ring with a rubberized grip, wide enough for simple operation, and sufficiently grippy for manual focusing. This inch-wide ring delivers a smooth, precise rotation with a throw of 135 degrees, offering a satisfying tactile experience.
Furthermore, it employs a ‘fly by wire’ system, signaling the camera to manipulate the focus motor instead of a physical element within the lens. This design choice brings about a unique feel and response during use. Beyond the focus range, the ring still rotates, and you can identify when the focus range ends, providing user feedback. It displays no slack or play between its movement and the focus action, increasing precision. However, the small size of the lens’s windowed distance scale and the cramped depth of field scale markings make it less practical.
In contrast, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, similar to the 28mm, has a single focus ring, but it offers full-time manual focus override even when the lens is set in autofocus mode. This rubberized ring, located on the front of the barrel, is narrow but provides a secure grip. The tactile feedback may feel a bit dry due to the firmer, plastic-on-plastic feel, deviating from the plush feel of more expensive lenses.
Despite this, the ring remains firm and allows for precise adjustments without any play. It also sports a distance scale window adorned with an embossed gold surround, adding a touch of elegance to the lens. However, like the 28mm, the depth-of-field indicator is crowded and less user-friendly. The focus ring provides a generous manual focusing distance with a throw of around 190 degrees, enhancing the accuracy of manual focus.
To sum up, the 28mm lens offers a more comfortable, precise, and tactile experience with its wider, rubberized focus ring and ‘fly by wire’ system. However, the 50mm lens excels in control by allowing full-time manual focus override and boasts a more generous focus throw, providing more accurate manual focusing. The choice between the two would hinge on individual user preferences. If ergonomics, precision, and a unique tactile experience are important to you, the 28mm lens would be a great choice. Conversely, if control and accuracy are your main considerations, you might find the 50mm lens more suited to your needs.
Diving into the details, the Nikon 28mm f/1.4 presents a minimalist design, incorporating a single switch on the barrel. This AF/MF switch enables users to toggle swiftly between auto-focus and manual focus modes. This switch’s convenient placement is a definite plus, easily reachable by the thumb for rapid operation. It’s a boon for photographers needing to make quick focus adjustments, as it allows for immediate manual override when set to the M/A position, which signifies auto-focus with manual override.
Nevertheless, the lens falls short with the mounting index dot’s size and color. This dot is rather small and colored white, making it less visible than if it was a brighter color like red. Consequently, aligning the lens correctly when attaching it to the camera body could be challenging, especially in low-light scenarios.
In contrast, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 features a significant switch labeled “M/A – M,” used to switch between automatic and manual focusing modes. When in the “M/A” position, it enables manual focus adjustment even when the lens is in auto-focus mode. However, in the “M” position, it signals full manual focus operation. Thoughtfully located on the lens’s side, this switch is accessible and intuitive, allowing for easy adjustment while framing your shot – a clear nod to Nikon’s user-centric design approach.
Taking a step back, both lenses sport switches enabling easy toggling between auto and manual focus modes. While the 28mm lens allows instant manual override in auto-focus mode, its less visible mounting index dot might be a minor drawback. On the other hand, the 50mm lens provides a clear distinction between manual override and full manual operation with its switch.
When it comes to the Nikon 28mm f/1.4, we observe a standard 77mm screw-on filter thread. This size is convenient as it falls within the common range for filters, which typically makes it easier and more cost-effective to find filters that fit. The lens gains brownie points for its rear-focus mechanism that prevents the front element and filter thread from rotating or extending during focusing. This is particularly handy when using filters like polarizing or graduated filters, whose effect could otherwise shift during focus adjustments. In essence, this lens caters well to photographers who wish to diversify their work with different filters.
On the other hand, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 features a less conventional 58mm filter thread size. This stands out as a rarity among Nikkor lenses, which often bear sizes of either 52mm or 62mm. The filter threads here are plastic, lending some lightweight flexibility to the lens. Despite the thread size being less common, the lens offers user-friendly handling with filters, thanks to the static nature of the front element during focusing. Like its 28mm counterpart, this mechanism is advantageous when using polarizing filters or similar. Moreover, the lens comes with a bonus feature of an easily attachable or removable plastic bayonet lens hood, adding further ease to the use of filters.
Drawing comparisons, both lenses feature filter threads that do not rotate when focusing, a boon for photographers utilizing specific types of filters. However, the 28mm lens, with its standard 77mm thread size, offers a broader and more cost-effective range of filters. Meanwhile, the 50mm lens’ unusual 58mm filter size might limit filter options or make them slightly more expensive, despite its user-friendly design and additional lens hood.
Considering these aspects, while both lenses demonstrate thoughtful design features to aid photographers using filters, the 28mm lens holds a slight edge over the 50mm lens. Its standard 77mm thread size and rear-focus mechanism provide a seamless experience with filters, especially when quick and precise focus adjustments are required. However, the ultimate decision should align with your specific needs and the compatibility with your existing gear.
The Nikon 28mm f/1.4 comes equipped with the HB-83 bayonet lens hood, which is included in the packaging. Made of sturdy plastic, the lens hood maintains the lens’s lightweight design while effectively minimizing reflections that could lead to lens flares or ghosting. Its ergonomic bayonet style allows for quick attachment and detachment with a simple twist, and its shape is tailored to the lens’s field of view to prevent obstruction of the image. The lens hood can be smoothly rotated on the lens and conveniently stored in a reversed position when not in use, saving space during transport. It is recommended to keep the hood mounted at all times to improve image quality by reducing unwanted light artifacts and providing extra protection for the front lens element.
In comparison, the lens hood for the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 is also included with the lens, specifically the HB-47 model, which is shared with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. It offers a snug fit on the lens, sitting tightly without any wobbling. Constructed with plastic, consistent with the lens’s overall build, it boasts a modern design and finish that effectively prevent unwanted flare and stray light, resulting in enhanced image quality. The hood’s bayonet fitting enables easy attachment and detachment, and it can be smoothly rotated into position for effective shading. Similar to the 28mm lens hood, it can be reversed for compact storage when not in use. Despite being made of plastic, the hood is well-designed and serves its purpose effectively in various photography applications.
Comparing the two lens hoods, both the 28mm and 50mm lenses offer user-friendly bayonet-style lens hoods made of plastic. They share similar features such as easy attachment, rotation capability, and compact storage.
Focusing and Optical Stabilization
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm F1.4E ED||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.4G|
|AF Motor||Ring-type ultrasonic||Silent Wave Motor|
|Rotating Front Element||Does not rotate on focusing||Does not rotate on focusing|
|Min Focus Distance||0.28m||0.45m|
|Max Magnification (X)||0.17||0.15|
|Full-Time Manual Focus||Yes||Yes|
Examining the Nikon 28mm f/1.4 first, we note a robust autofocus system. While it may not stand out as the fastest in the market, it retains a solid performance, achieving a focus range from infinity to 0.4m in a span of 0.6 seconds. This lens’ autofocus system is particularly effective in low-light scenarios, thanks to its heightened EV sensitivity when used with a contemporary camera body. For those occasions where precision is key, such as at a wide f/1.4 aperture, the lens’s accuracy shines, delivering sharp images even with a slight margin of error. It is important to bear in mind, though, that at distances around 1m, where depth of field is minimal, fine-tuning may be required.
An additional advantage of this lens lies in its manual focus override. This feature enables you to fine-tune the focus at any point, making it user-friendly, especially in scenarios where you need to take control of the focus for a more accurate result. The focus ring is designed for comfortable use, making manual adjustments an effortless task. Moreover, its internal focusing design keeps the lens compact, ensuring that the lens doesn’t elongate when focusing. This, along with a non-rotating front element, greatly aids in the usage of filters.
One area where the 28mm lens could raise concern for videographers is its focus breathing. As it approaches closer focus distances, the image slightly magnifies, which could be noticeable when pulling focus in video shooting. However, the mere 4% magnification increase from infinity to 0.4m is relatively insignificant and should not distract in most situations.
Turning to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, its autofocus system has been characterized as brisk, indicating a proficient and rapid autofocus performance. Like the 28mm, this lens also follows an internal focusing design, ensuring the lens’s length remains unchanged irrespective of the focus settings. This design is particularly advantageous for users of various filters, as the front element remains stationary during focusing. It’s worth noting that while this lens is compact, the autofocus speed might not meet everyone’s expectations. Nevertheless, it offers a commendable performance considering its close minimum focus distance.
In low-light environments, the lens performs admirably, showcasing its adaptability. A useful manual focus override is also integrated into this lens, allowing photographers to make precise adjustments whenever necessary. The autofocus operation is described as quiet, with any slight noise unlikely to interfere, particularly when an external microphone is used for video recording. The lens does exhibit minor focus breathing, where the background objects enlarge as the focus draws nearer, but this effect is generally mild and should not influence most photographic applications.
With regards to autofocus accuracy, the 50mm lens consistently provides reliable results, making it suitable for shooting at wide apertures where precision is crucial. This consistent accuracy highlights the lens’s strong repeatability, a characteristic much appreciated by photographers who prioritize precision.
When considering the overall focusing performance, both lenses have their strengths. While the 28mm lens excels in low-light conditions and offers a fine-tuned focus control, the 50mm lens impresses with its consistency and quick autofocus system. If precision and consistency are your highest priorities, then the 50mm lens would likely be your preferred choice, thanks to its remarkable autofocus accuracy and repeatability. However, for those prioritizing adaptability and a wider aperture, the 28mm lens shines, with its performance in low-light conditions and manual focus override providing an edge.
Beginning with the Nikon 28mm f/1.4, it lacks an in-built optical stabilization feature, which is quite typical for wide-angle prime lenses. Wide-angle lenses generally mitigate the minor movements that image stabilization aims to rectify due to their extensive field of view. Furthermore, the large maximum aperture of f/1.4 can enable faster shutter speeds in dimly lit settings, helping to offset the influence of camera shake. However, in conditions where the user is frequently shooting in low light or high motion situations, such as video recording, the absence of in-built image stabilization may be a limitation. In such cases, options might be to either opt for a lens that incorporates image stabilization or use a camera equipped with in-body image stabilization.
Shifting focus to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, we find it also does not feature built-in optical stabilization. Nonetheless, it harmonizes with the in-body sensor-shift image stabilization (also known as IS or VR – Vibration Reduction) offered by some Nikon mirrorless Z cameras when coupled with the FTZ adapter. This cross-compatibility provides an added advantage, allowing photographers to leverage the camera’s image stabilization feature, even in the absence of in-lens optical stabilization.
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28mm F1.4E ED||Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.4G|
|Special Elements||3 aspherical + 2 ED element, Nano Crystal and fluorine coatings||Super Integrated Coating|
Starting with the Nikon 28mm f/1.4, it manifests both lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberrations, with the lateral chromatic aberration detectable in select shots, particularly at full aperture. This type of aberration, characterized by a faint purple halo around dark subjects contrasted against bright backdrops and color tints on blurred objects, can be remedied easily with photo editing software. The longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCA) in this lens is less pronounced compared to other f/1.4 lenses, appearing as a magenta cast in the foreground and greenish tones in the background when shooting wide open at f1.4. However, LoCA is typically more complex to rectify in post-processing.
Another noteworthy flaw of the 28mm lens is its poor performance in controlling coma, an aberration that results in point light sources appearing to have miniature tails, even when the aperture is reduced to f/2.8. This limitation makes this lens less suitable for astrophotography. Furthermore, the lens displays some degree of spherochromatism, or “color bokeh”, which causes colored fringes on out-of-focus highlights, particularly visible when shot at a wide aperture.
Moving on to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, it too demonstrates different levels of chromatic aberration, coma, and spherical aberration, depending on the shooting settings and aperture. It does exhibit noticeable LoCA, especially in high-contrast scenarios, appearing as a magenta foreground and greenish background, primarily at larger apertures. This effect diminishes as the aperture narrows down to f/5.6.
Spherochromatism is present in this lens as well, observable as green or bluish-green fringes around out-of-focus highlights in the background or magenta to reddish-magenta fringes in the foreground at f/1.4. Similar to the 28mm lens, the 50mm lens also demonstrates coma, primarily noticeable in image corners when shot wide open, but this is less evident when the lens is stopped down. Nonetheless, when further reduced to f/5.6 or f/4.0, this lens provides remarkably sharp images across the frame, with all aberrations being efficiently managed.
In conclusion, while both lenses display various types of aberrations including chromatic aberration, coma, and spherochromatism, the 50mm lens offers better control over these optical issues. Specifically, when the lens is stopped down to f/4.0 or f/5.6, it provides sharper images with well-managed aberrations. Therefore, in terms of aberration control, the 50mm lens seems to have a slight edge over the 28mm lens.
The Nikon 28mm f/1.4 shines when it comes to sharpness throughout its aperture range. The centerpiece sharpness of this lens is impressive, exhibiting superb results from f/1.4 to f/16. This sharpness quality is critical, especially when capturing detailed textures in architectural and landscape photography, where precision across the frame is essential. Similarly, corner sharpness is remarkable from f/1.4 to f/11, with only a slight reduction at f/16, but still delivers quite commendable results. At its maximum aperture, f/1.4, the lens is reasonably sharp but lacks some corner sharpness compared to top-performing lenses.
This is not an unusual feature, as lenses often display minor softness at wider apertures due to their inherently larger depth of field. However, this lens shows considerable improvement in sharpness when stopped down. At f/2, its performance is splendid, peaking at f/2.8, making this the optimum choice for capturing high-contrast details. Despite the slight softening at f/16 due to diffraction, this lens consistently delivers sharp images across the frame by f/5.6. Thus, for maximum sharpness, it is recommended to shoot at f/8 or larger. This lens proves its sharpness prowess in real-world applications, producing highly detailed images, whether it’s a built environment or the night sky.
Turning to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, it also possesses notable sharpness qualities. Its center sharpness is very good even at its widest aperture and becomes outstanding from f/1.8 through to f/16. This characteristic is crucial in various forms of photography, like portraits or wildlife, where the subject’s focused area is the primary concern. As for corner sharpness, it starts relatively average at f/1.4 but significantly improves from f/2.8 to f/16.
With this lens, stopping down improves the sharpness contrast in the center and marginally enhances the corners of a full-frame format, with f/5.6 delivering optimal results. Beyond this, the lens does exhibit a certain degree of softening due to diffraction at f/16. However, compared to its predecessor models, this lens outperforms in real-world settings, generating crisp, haze-free images with accurate focus, even at f/1.4.
When we sum up, both lenses exhibit excellent sharpness characteristics. The 28mm lens shines through with its exceptional sharpness across its aperture range and has a notable sweet spot at f/2.8. The 50mm lens, on the other hand, offers impressive center sharpness even at wide apertures and sees considerable improvements in corner sharpness when stopped down. However, considering its solid sharpness performance at wider apertures and its ability to deliver crisp images even in real-world shooting conditions, the 50mm lens has a slight edge when it comes to overall sharpness.
The Nikon 28mm f/1.4, despite not being a traditional choice for extraordinary bokeh, earns high praise for its ability to generate a pleasing, smooth blur. This aspect of performance allows subjects to stand out in clear focus against a softly diffused background, crafting a gentle transition from sharp to out-of-focus areas. Though it doesn’t quite reach the bokeh quality of some renowned competitors, such as the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4, it outshines its predecessor models with a notably enhanced bokeh.
For astrophotography and nature photography, this lens does an excellent job creating a desirable subject-background separation, a quality that is heightened by the wide f/1.8 aperture. It does, however, have a minor setback with onion-shaped bokeh caused by the aspherical lens elements. That being said, the overall bokeh effect is typically round, creamy, and soft, unmarred by common anomalies like ‘cat’s eye’ or ‘onion’ effects. In terms of technicalities like rendering out-of-focus point-light sources and the circle of confusion, the lens performs well, with only slight color fringing in out-of-focus areas at f/1.4, which is generally regarded as minor. The ability of this lens to distinguish subjects against blurred backgrounds lends itself well to creative scenarios, adding a layer of versatility when combined with its excellent sharpness.
Moving onto the Nikon 50mm f/1.4, its bokeh quality is more subjective, offering an appealing blur effect that is contingent on individual preferences. At its widest aperture, f/1.4, the lens provides significant background blur characterized by a somewhat soft, diffused effect. Bokeh circles at this aperture are larger, presenting a more noticeable blur than those produced by an f/1.8 lens. However, bokeh can appear a little unsettled towards the edges of the frame, particularly evident when shooting complex or high-contrast scenes.
The nine-blade diaphragm of this lens aids in creating smoother bokeh when stopped down, compared to seven-blade designs that can lead to a more defined heptagonal shape. While the bokeh quality may not be as clean or defined as other lenses in its category, like the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D and Sigma f/1.4, this lens performs well in rendering point-light sources in the background. Some imperfections like “onion rings” or bokeh refractions and minor coloration are observed. Overall, this lens provides soft and diffused bokeh when shot wide open with potential nervousness towards the corners and when the background is complex or high contrast.
When comparing both lenses, the 28mm lens delivers more consistent bokeh quality, managing to create beautiful, smooth blur effects even in wide-angle photography scenarios that aren’t usually associated with exceptional bokeh. The 50mm lens also offers attractive bokeh, but its quality can vary depending on the situation and personal taste. If we had to pick a winner based on the overall bokeh quality, the 28mm lens takes the lead due to its pleasing, smoothly graduated bokeh and its enhanced capacity for subject-background separation.
The Nikon 28mm f/1.4 is recognized for its excellent handling of flare and ghosting, a testament to its advanced lens coatings and design. When challenged with strong light sources, the lens exhibits impressive clarity, largely void of artifacts even when shooting wide open. On the rare occasion a weak ghost image appears, it is usually when the light source is near the center.
Even so, the overall ghosting remains minimal. At narrower apertures like f/8, the lens has the added aesthetic effect of producing beautiful sun stars with minimal ghosting. The lens maintains commendable performance, limiting flare and ghosting even in challenging light situations, such as during a solar eclipse or with direct sun in the frame. Its resilience against these issues can be attributed to Nikon’s nano-crystal coating technology which, in addition to reducing flare and ghosting, also enhances color and contrast in images.
Contrarily, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 shows a respectable level of flare and ghosting control, despite lacking the advanced nano-crystal lens coatings found in newer Nikon models. Strong light sources can provoke flare and internal reflections, particularly at wider apertures. However, these instances are extreme and generally well-managed. The lens exhibits occasional artifacts, but they are usually mild or barely noticeable. When exposed to the sun directly in the frame, the lens does display some ghosting and flare, though its performance is superior to older AF-D lenses.
The improved performance can be partially ascribed to the design of the AF-S lenses, which positions the front element deeper inside the lens barrel. This, coupled with the use of a lens hood, can significantly enhance the lens’s ability to combat flare and ghosting in bright light situations. Despite the worst-case scenario at f/1.4, flare and ghosting are still adequately managed, though not as well as in the newer Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens. It’s noteworthy that the use of additional lens elements like filters could potentially exacerbate flare and ghosting issues.
When comparing both lenses, the 28mm lens appears to have a superior performance in managing flare and ghosting, largely due to its advanced coatings and design. Although the 50mm lens is capable of respectable flare and ghosting control, it lacks the enhanced technology found in the 28mm lens. Therefore, if you seek superior control over flare and ghosting, the 28mm lens emerges as the stronger contender.
In the case of the Nikon 28mm f/1.4, there is a noticeable vignetting, especially pronounced when shooting wide open at f/1.4. This darkening effect towards the edges of the frame manifests as a two-stop light falloff. Yet, it may be harnessed creatively to highlight the center of the image. If undesired, lens corrections or stopping down the aperture can mitigate this effect. The vignetting significantly lessens at f/2.8 in RAW format and at f/2 in JPEG format, and becomes virtually negligible when the lens is stopped down to f/4 or smaller. The extent of this vignetting also varies with focusing distance, being more noticeable at infinity. While software corrections can be used to lessen vignetting, some users found the results unsatisfactory with this lens. Nevertheless, for some photographers, the vignetting contributes an aesthetic value to the images, making it an artistically pleasing feature depending on the photographer’s vision.
On the other hand, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 also showcases notable vignetting when shooting wide open at f/1.4, a trait often seen in large-aperture lenses. The darkening effect recedes significantly as the aperture is stopped down, becoming almost imperceptible by f/2.8, and fully resolved from f/4.0 onwards. The degree of vignetting can be influenced by the camera body used with the lens, with vignetting less apparent on a DX camera compared to a full-frame camera. Yet, if undesired, vignetting can be corrected effectively in post-processing with software tools offering lens correction features.
To conclude, both lenses experience similar levels of vignetting, particularly when shooting wide open at f/1.4. This characteristic becomes less pronounced as the aperture is stopped down in both cases. However, the 50mm lens reduces vignetting slightly faster as the aperture is closed compared to the 28mm lens. The latter may offer a more artistic look for those who value the aesthetic of vignetting, while the former may be more versatile due to its reduced vignetting effect across different camera bodies. In terms of controlling vignetting, the 50mm lens holds a slight advantage.
The Nikon 28mm f/1.4 displays a minor degree of barrel distortion, characteristic of wide-angle lenses. The distortion rates range from 0.4% to 1.2% across varying reports. Although this distortion is present, it’s often not noticeably disruptive in most photographs, especially those lacking straight lines. However, if necessary, this barrel distortion can be conveniently addressed in post-processing using software tools such as Lightroom or Photoshop. Some Nikon cameras and Adobe lens profiles are also capable of automatically rectifying this distortion in both JPEG and RAW image formats. This lens demonstrates impressive handling of distortion while still ensuring high-quality image production.
In contrast, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 exhibits a considerable degree of barrel distortion, around 2.3%, especially between f/2.8 to f/16. This phenomenon, which is not uncommon in wide-aperture lenses, can be particularly noticeable in images featuring straight lines. Despite this, the distortion pattern is consistent across the frame, which makes it relatively simple to correct in post-processing if necessary. Software tools like Adobe’s Lightroom and Camera Raw can effectively address these distortions.
To conclude, both lenses exhibit barrel distortion, an attribute common in wide-angle and wide-aperture lenses. However, the 28mm lens demonstrates a lower distortion rate compared to the 50mm lens, and it also handles this distortion subtly enough to be less noticeable in most shots. Therefore, in terms of better distortion management, the 28mm lens appears to hold an advantage over the 50mm lens.
As we’ve carefully reviewed the performance of both the Nikon 28mm f/1.4 and Nikon 50mm f/1.4 across a range of factors, a certain pattern emerges. Both lenses, in their unique ways, excel and have their strengths.
The 28mm lens, a wide-angle lens, is particularly suitable for landscape, street, and architectural photography due to its wider field of view. Its superior flare and ghosting control, courtesy of its advanced coatings and design, makes it an excellent choice for shooting in high-contrast or backlit conditions. Despite exhibiting some barrel distortion and vignetting, the effects are manageable and can even add an artistic touch to images. Moreover, this lens is designed to handle challenging weather conditions, making it suitable for photographers frequently shooting outdoors. From a skill perspective, the 28mm lens, with its need for composition consideration due to the wide field of view and distortion at the edges, is more suitable for intermediate and professional photographers.
On the other hand, the 50mm lens, often known as the ‘nifty fifty’, is versatile and suitable for a variety of photography genres, including portraits, street, and everyday photography. This lens provides a field of view that closely resembles human vision, making it instinctively easy to use. It exhibits superior control over various optical aberrations and delivers impressive center sharpness even at wide apertures, factors that contribute to the production of high-quality images. Its smaller size and lighter weight make it more portable and comfortable to handle, suitable for photographers on the go or those who prefer a less heavy gear load. It’s also a favorite among portrait photographers due to its ability to create a beautiful bokeh effect for subject isolation. As the 50mm lens offers a more intuitive perspective and requires less complexity in managing compositions, it could be considered an excellent option for beginners to professionals.
In sum, neither lens can be declared categorically superior to the other as each brings unique strengths to the table. They cater to different genres of photography and meet varying user needs and skill levels. Therefore, the decision between the 28mm and the 50mm lenses should be based on your specific photographic needs, preferences, and level of experience.