Monday, December 9, 2013

Nikon 58mm 1.4g

Nikon 58mm 1.4g

Bottom line: Impressive lens. It is a Nikon prime lens like the 24, 35, or 85 and as a prime it does not focus as fast or as "accurately" at 1.4 as one of the Nikon 2.8 zooms do at f 8. See my previous article on the prime focusing speed.

IF you are having trouble with AF accuracy on a Nikon 58mm 1.4g , I recommend that you send it in for warranty service and explain the problems that you are having. After sending the original lens in that was used for this article it came back:

(Yes that is how control was spelled on the sheet.) The lens works better than ever. It is now spot on for eye focus for portraits without any AF Fine tuning. I plan on experimenting with optimum distances for the best look. I now look at the 58 f1.4 as the Nikon 200 f2.0 when you can't back up to get the shot. (and you don't want to carry that beast.) The bokeh is just beautiful like the 200 f2.0 and when used properly focus is spot on.

Advice(please read below): For portraits, using eyes as the focus point, using the center AF point, I shoot it at AF Fine tune +20, saving RAW+JPG , with the JPG set at maximum sharpness on the D4 and have the center button on the multi-selector set to zoom medium on press during image review so that I can check the focus on the shot.

As usual, when a new piece of hardware comes out, there are many different initial opinions written on the spur of the moment with little actual use of the new item. That is the case with the Nikon 58mm 1.4g
The naysayers have taken to two issues. The sharpness wide open at 1.4 and the inconsistent focus. I felt like I had heard this before. Well, I did. When the Nikon 24mm 1.4g came out there were the same complaints.Ah and the Nikon 35mm 1.4g as well. So why are some people attacking this lens? Enh - who cares. With any new piece of photography equipment there are always opinions. I recommend that you rent it, give it a try with your camera setup the way you use it and if it works for you, ditch the 50mm 1.4g and use this in its place.

I got the chance to do a quick test on this lens the other day. If you are concerned about any AF front focus or back focus issues, you can look at the below images. The lens was focused on the book to the left of the ruler. The 20cm line was even with the plane of the book.
Nikon 58mm 1.4G at 1.4 on a D4 full sharpness  (crop at 6ft)

Nikon 58mm 1.4G at 1.4 on a D4 no sharpness (crop at 6ft)
This test was more of a check for myself to see if there are any front/back focusing issues with the lens that I tested. This does not determine how well the lens will focus on subjects, especially low contrast of moving subjects.

I found some good advice on on AF Fine tune that I figured I would quote:

"The fine tune adjustment is also dependent on the focus distance, and may also be dependent on the aperture and color of the light (though the latter two are less clear effects than the distance).
I think a reasonable approach is to determine the correction at around 30x focal length, and then investigate how the correction varies towards long distances. That's what I do, anyway. I think Nikon should urgently provide users with the means of storing distance dependent fine tune settings for each lens. It should be possible for the camera to determine the distance from the D or G lens, and apply the appropriate correction, interpolating linearly between the ranges.
Fine tune adjustment in my experience requires considerable care and repetition is an excellent idea; any single focus operation can give quite a large variability in the result, but by making many repetitions, a reasonable estimate of the mean error can be made. Also it is a good idea to have reasonably bright lighting conditions when doing these experiments." - Ilkka Nissila

I have had the chance to use the Nikon 58mm 1.4g for a few days now. I have to say that I am impressed. It is a Nikon prime, which means that while it does go to 1.4, it is going to have a slower and less "accurate" Autofocus than the 2.8 zooms like the 24-70mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8, or the 14-24mm 2.8. I say accurate because, as you can read by the above quote, there are many difficulties that an Autofocus encounters and these are seen very clearly at a wide aperture of f 1.4. The depth of field is so shallow that any focus errors are immediately apparent.

As you can see from above, when I shot at test targets there appeared to be little or no AF fine tuning needed. What I found when I shot at actual subjects focusing on the eyes was a bit different. I found that when I set the AF fine tune to +20 on the D4 I got more consistently focused shots. It appeared that the AF sensors were focusing on the tips of the eyelashes on my children and the eyeballs were out of focus. It may be that my children have exceedingly long eyelashes, but I found that with this setting on my D4 I had more success.

I do want to say, that I am not in the habit of checking focus on every shot, but from now on I just might be. After I had some initial frustration with checking my focus I set up my D4 the way many commercial and wedding photographers set up theirs. I set the center button of the multi-selector to zoom medium during image playback. That way I can zoom in to 100% on the image (zoom medium) and check the focus on each shot. This is under Controls, f1 Multi selector center button, playback mode, zoom on/off, Medium Magnification. Then I set my fcn button on the front of the camera to pull up the first item on my menu, which is AF Fine tune. This way I could pop the image to 100% and then pop straight to AF fine tune and adjust the fine tune settings.

Some people may say +20, that's crazy! There must be something wrong with the lens. Well, not really. I know where I need to focus and how to get the best results for my subject. With the way I shoot portraits, using the eyes as targets, for this lens, this setting works best. For sports I go with center body focus and adjust accordingly, so this shift of focus for more consistent shots is nothing new. Photographers have done this for years for landscapes, focusing to the hyperfocal distance to ensure that as much as possible in the shot is in focus. While it is not the exact same thing, it is not a new concept.

For those people who are used to zooms and lenses with apertures of f 2.8 or greater I would like to offer some advice. Don't expect any of the f 1.4 primes to focus as quickly or as "accurately" as the f 2.8 lenses. The depth of field on f 2.8 and higher lenses is so much deeper that a lot more is in focus in the frame and the picture looks sharper and more in focus from edge to edge. For group portraits where I want everyone in focus, I stop down to 5.6 or greater to make sure every face in the photo is in focus.  The Nikon f 2.8 zooms focus so quickly and are so sharp that people expect the primes to be even better. Well, optics at 1.4 are much more complicated and as a result the focus is much slower. Trying to photograph children with a prime can be exceedingly difficult. (D4 prime article)

Summary of what I found:
The 58 f/1.4 , like the 24 f /1.4, or the 200 f/ 2.0 has it's own character and look. It has a very tight focus and shallow depth of field for a 58mm. It is also a low light full color monster. By this I mean that in low light it pulls out colors like the 24mm f/1.4 in near pitch black conditions. The optical gymnastics involved in getting all of this into one lens leaves it a little less sharp at 1.4 as some distances than the 85mm is at its optimum distance. At other distances the 58 is very sharp. I will have to nail down what the 58mm's optimum distance is with some time and trial and error. (As always if you are a sharpness and chromatic aberration obsessed person who checks all of their photos at 100 or 200% then you might not be satisfied unless you get a Zeiss Otus. The Otus is a great lens (either 55 or 85mm. I have used both, but don't own either). You will need a tripod and a still subject though to manually focus that thing. It also has its optimum sharpness distances. )

 I will attempt to illustrate what I found with the below images:

I will start with a comparison of the 58mm and the 85mm at 1.4 on the same subject. Please refer to for the full size images. I have posted the full sized original JPG images to that you can pixel peep if you want. (Smugmug converts all NEF's to JPG, so I uploaded the JPG's instead of NEF's so that the original data would hopefully be preserved.) All of these were shot with AF fine tune +20 and portraits were all eye focus, AF-C focus (not focus+release) 51points d9.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Look at the color and out of focus areas. Also the eyelash color is perfect.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Very sharp, but flatter color. (less vibrant colors and less color depth) At the optimum distance for the 85mm f/1.4g
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 zoomed 100%. Sharpening is 5. It may appear a bit soft, but with some additional sharpening one would be hard pressed to see the difference from the below 85mm shot on even a 10"x14" print.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 zoomed 100%. Sharpening is 5

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Look at the color and out of focus areas. Also the eyelash color is perfect.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Very sharp, but flatter color. (less vibrant colors and less color depth) At the optimum distance for the 85mm f/1.4g.( One thing to keep in mind when looking at sharpness is, how sharp is your subject? I learned that while doing macro work. When shooting unsharp features on flowers, things aren't going to be sharper in the camera than the actual flower is in reality. (unless you set the sharpening to extra crispy) Also it can be difficult to focus, which is why we use manual for that. In this case, a baby's features are very smooth, so the auto focus tends to go with the eyelashes rather than the skin around the eye, as it does with adults. )
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/15s

(please ignore focus) In pitch black conditions. A test photo with the iphone was solid black. There is light from a clock and another behind camera. Ignore the focus, this one is about vibrant color in the darkness.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/10s

(please ignore focus) Pitch black conditions. 1/10s vs 1/15s in order to get enough light.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/40s
Nikon 50mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/25s

Again, less color depth.
 Portraits:(Keep in mind - he's a kid and doesn't stay still for long. This is all autofocus.)
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Head on, left eye focus

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

3/4, close eye focus

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Profile, close eye focus, Christmas tree in the background. 4 feet away.

 Night shots:

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Pitch black, side light from Christmas lights.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Red Christmas lights. Focusing and getting anything with red ambient light can be incredibly difficult.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 2.2

I shot this at 2.2 to get the lights and a little more depth of field. Look at the Christmas lights for the amount of halo, etc.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 2.2

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Look at the detail on the branch as well as the lights in the background.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 zoomed 100 percent

Look at the detail on the branch as well as the lights in the background. Look at the lack of color aberration on the background lights! (and the back lighting of the branch from the lights)

Additional focus discussion:

To illustrate the focus on the 58mm f/1.4g I have an additional shot, zoomed in to 100 percent.
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 AF fine tune off. Camera Focus point is on the red strip and center of the frame.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 AF fine tune plus 20. Camera Focus point  is on the red strip and center of the frame.

If you look carefully, from the above photos you can see that the Autofocus is pretty much spot on without correction and is shifted to the rear in the plus 20 photo. I added these photos to illustrate what the autofocus fine tune adjustment looks like on a different target. In this case I would use AF fine tune off. I can do that easily by setting my fcn button on the front of the camera to pull up the first item on my menu, which is AF Fine tune. This way I can turn on and off AF fine tune quickly and easily when I need to. I do the same with the fast 24, 85, and 200 primes as well with different settings. One can always go to Live view and zoom to 100 percent, or 200 percent if your eyes are like mine, and manually focus to nail the focus. That really isn't possible with the kids though. ;)

I know that buying a lens can be a difficult decision, especially with all of the advice out there.

I hope that this helps.

One last note:  The 58mm f/1.4g is significantly lighter than the 24 or the 85. I wish it was heavier so that it balanced better on the D4 adding more stability to my shots.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to review this lens:

I watched:
and I would have to agree, the 58mm f/1.4g picks up more light than the 85mm f/1.4g. I will have to do a comparison with the 200mm f/2.0. ;)

Some notes on Focusing primes in the 1.4, 1.2 range and focus issues
Main page:

No comments:

Post a Comment