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Introduction

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is the latest update to the venerable Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D. The Nikon communality has been expecting this lens for quite some time now, considering that the previous version of the lens was introduced in 1995 and has not seen any updates since then. But unlike the previous D version of the lens which was fully backward compatible with pretty much all Nikon bodies dating back to 70s, Nikon decided to limit the compatibility in favor of incorporating some of the newest technologies the company invented. While Nikon currently offers both the older AF-D as well as the new AF-S versions of f/1.4 lens, it is widely expected that the company will quietly drop the old design in the coming months. The AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is widely available from camera and lens retailers and sells for ~US$450 (as of November 2009).

The optical construction of the lens consists of 8 elements in 7 groups. The build quality of the lens is decent, but particularly special - the barrel is plastic and while does not leave you with a cheapo feel, it's a step backwards compared to the old, all metal designs of the past Nikkors. The lens is fairly compact and light, measuring 73.5 x 54.2mm (2.9 x 2.1in) and weighing 280g (9.9oz). According to Nikon site, the lens does not sport inner focusing since the lens groups slide back and forth during focusing, however, the overall length of the barrel does not change at all. The lens sports the new AF-S type auto focusing system with Silent Wave Motor (don't you love these abbreviations?). although manual focusing is also possible using the dedicated focusing ring. The AF/MF switch on the side of the barrel allows you to disable the AF-S motor in the lens, but you can achieve that by switching your body into manual focusing mode as well.

One major change in the new version is the fully electronic aperture (which is denoted by the letter G on the lens). This means that there is no aperture ring and you need to set the aperture level directly from the camera. The aperture range is f/1.4 through f/16 in 1/3 f-stop increments. The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 45cm (1.5ft) and the lens accepts 58mm screw-in type filters.

 

The manufacturer's box includes Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, front and rear lens caps, HB-47 plastic lens hood, CL-1013 soft lens pouch, registration and warranty cards. The lens can be used on both full frame as well as APS-C type digital cameras (and obviously film cameras), but the camera must have appropriate CPU coupling for electronic only aperture control. This also makes it hard to adapt the lens to alternative mount cameras - while you might be able to mount the lens, changing the aperture levels is going to be tricky (check out 16-9.net for a Nikon G to Canon EOS adapter and instructions on how to use it). If used on DX APS-C type cameras of full frame camera in DX mode, the field of view of the lens will resemble that of a 75mm prime on a full frame body. Within the scope of this review, the lens was tested on full frame Nikon D3 and D3x  and D5000 APS-C cameras.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 8 elements in 7 groups
Angular Field 46 degrees
Minimum Focus 45cm/1.5ft
Focusing Action AF-S/MF, SWM
stop Scale f/1.4-f/16, electronic
Filter Size 58mm
Lens Hood HB-47 (included)
Weight 280g/9.9oz
Dimensions 73.5x54.2mm/2.9x2.1"
Lens Case CL-1013 soft pouch (included)