In search of the definitive 50mm lens for Nikon FF

Messages
232
Edit My Images
No
#1
My Nikon D800 usually either sports an AF-S 50mm f/1.8D or an AIS 55mm f/2.8 Micro. For general work, I don’t see much to choose between them. Both are fine. But I would like something exceptional, something that would recall the excellence of the 50mm Summicron I used in days of film. The short list consists of the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar; the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Milvus; or the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art. The Otus is out the question on price grounds.

Am I really going to see much of a difference? And is there anything else I should be looking at? Macro is nice-to-have but not essential; Indifferent to manual/auto focus; I don’t do zooms!

Thanks,
Neil
 
Messages
3,310
Name
Joe
Edit My Images
No
#2
I've not owned or tried it — and it's not 50mm either — but have you considered the Nikon 58 1.4? I've seen some very nice images made by that lens.
 
Last edited:
Messages
3,095
Edit My Images
No
#4
If the Makro planar is anything like the M mount 50/2 planar T then its going to be a cracking lens, sharp as a tack across the frame and with outstanding contrast/rendering. I also read something earlier tonight about Cosina ceasing production of the Zeiss DSLR lenses.
 

GTG

Suspended / Banned
Messages
1,795
Edit My Images
Yes
#5
From what I read there is no 50mm that can match it. I think the people really into that lens still use old copies on modern Leica or something like that
 
Messages
8,157
Name
Chris
Edit My Images
Yes
#6
Its probably the Sigma Art 50 unless your doing a lot of portraits, the 58mm f1.4 is a cracking lens but its pricey and (subjectively) not that sharp.
The Sigma you need to handle with safety gloves its so sharp!
Remember that manual focus on a DSLR isn't always ideal, unless on a tripod with LiveView.
 
Messages
5,968
Name
Bazza
Edit My Images
No
#7
Why not upgrade your camera to the Nikon d810? I have both the D800 and the D810 and I find the D810 is far better, it seems to give a sharper picture. Maybe because that anti- aliasing filter has been removed
 
Last edited:
Messages
1,857
Name
Tommy
Edit My Images
No
#8
I have owned the following 50mm lens for Nikon

50mm f1.8D
50mm f1.4D
50mm f1.8G
50mm f1.4G
58mm 1.4G
Sigma 50mm 1.4
Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art

I have had at one time or another several copies of these as I could never really nail down one that I really liked. I really liked the Sigma Art but went through 5 trying to find one that didn't have pretty severe focus issues.

I had actually decided that 50mm lenses were just not a good fit for me however a while back I seen a Sigma 50mm Art for sale locally at a really good price so snapped it up thinking it would do my wife but this one as it turned out had perfect focus and I absolutely love this lens so much so that having shot with a combination of a 35mm and an 85mm lens for several years now I have switched to using a 20mm f1.4 and the 50mm f1.4 as my go to lenses for pretty much everything.
 

GTG

Suspended / Banned
Messages
1,795
Edit My Images
Yes
#9
Why not upgrade your camera to the Nikon d810? I have both the D800 and the D810 and I find the D810 is far better, it seems to give a sharper picture.
I have seen that on a test someone did. They took images of people from a distance with same lens and settings and the 810 images you could see the people much clearer
 
Messages
5,968
Name
Bazza
Edit My Images
No
#10



Ok here goes absolutely everything setup the same

using D800 and D810 with a Nikon SB900 flashgun and same Nikon 50 mm f1.4G lens, both settings exactly the same in Aperture mode.on the same tripod same distance and both on spot focus. Both cameras in flash mode No fine camera adjustment on either camera. Should have used remote trigger to eliminate any camera shake which there wasn't anyway.And that would not account for better definition on the grey box. so take it from me both shots taken exactly the same way

Top photo Nikon D800
bottom D810

look at the grey box (bar lines) below the spyderlenscal cal the D810 has more defination Even the back wall is the correct colour with the D810. Check the scales on the spyderlenscal the D810 is sharper

Both shot with same CF card in RAW and changed to Jpeg to put on here. No other editing involved and exif left in

So going by the above NielMack I think the answer to your problem is the camera more so than the lens
 
Last edited:
Messages
22,771
Name
Richard
Edit My Images
No
#11
<snip>

Ok here goes absolutely everything setup the same

<snip>
Apart from the two images being focused at different distances - clearly visible on the LensCal :eek:

What you say is true though, there is a visible increase in fine detail when the AA filter is removed, but you have to look damn close to see it.

Back to the OP, the biggest and most useful difference between a cooking-grade 50/1.4 like the Nikon or Canon versions, and a really top-grade modern lens, is performance between 1.4 and 2.8-ish. Those older primes tend to have a slightly soft and dreamy look wide open that is absent from top class glass. Sigma 50/1.4 Art is a bit of a no-brainer TBH.
 
Messages
1,857
Name
Tommy
Edit My Images
No
#13
I think the bars on the box shows the difference clearly as to sharpness
Looks more like you have a focus issue with the d800 to be honest or possible user error.

I have had both cameras and never noticed much of a difference in sharpness between either. On the D800 it seems focus has locked slightly below the lens cal and the dof has changed from the d810 image. The Sekonic box is sharper on the D800 image so something not right there. Perhaps you need to retune the lens you were using.
 
Last edited:
Messages
1,072
Edit My Images
Yes
#14
I have used

50 1.8d (sold to get the 1.4 below)
50 1.4g (own but no longer use)
Sigma 50 1.4 Art (own)

Out of the three above I would always go for the Art. For me, the image quality of the 50 Art is noticeably better than the Nikons at 1.4 / 1.8 which is more important than weight as the Sigma is heavy. I dont tend to stop down much so haven't checked whether things improve at 5.6 etc as I imagine they would. The performance of the Sigma has lead me to consider selling my Nikon 1.4 as it never gets used any more. I would also say I have not, to date, experienced any focus issues with the Sigma. I would not consider a manual focus 1.4 because I am no good at manual focus but the Zeiss lenses that I have used are generally excellent.
 
Messages
5,968
Name
Bazza
Edit My Images
No
#15
Looks more like you have a focus issue with the d800 to be honest or possible user error.

I have had both cameras and never noticed much of a difference in sharpness between either. On the D800 it seems focus has locked slightly below the lens cal and the dof has changed from the d810 image. The Sekonic box is sharper on the D800 image so something not right there. Perhaps you need to retune the lens you were using.

If you read i have not tuned anything so as to make it fair on both cameras
 
Messages
1,857
Name
Tommy
Edit My Images
No
#16
If you read i have not tuned anything so as to make it fair on both cameras
That's a bit of an odd comparison to make then as two d810's that haven't been tuned could easily give very different results. This sort of testing only makes sense if everything is working properly otherwise its a waste of time. :(

You posted these as a recommendation for the o.p to purchase a new camera rather than a new lens but all you have really proved here is that equipment should always be checked before you use it. :D
 
Messages
22,771
Name
Richard
Edit My Images
No
#17
If you read i have not tuned anything so as to make it fair on both cameras
But that's precisely why it's not fair on both cameras. The point of sharpest focus is clearly different in the two images, for whatever reason - could be that AF calibration is slightly out, or just an error. Focusing in live-view would eliminate calibration issues.

Immaculate technique is essential if you want to get the best from the very fine equipment you have.
 
OP
OP
Neilmack
Messages
232
Edit My Images
No
#20
Thank you for all the inputs, and particularly to Bazza for the trouble he took to stage a comparison between the D810 and the D800.

I can't afford a new camera and lens, so for now I shall investigate the Sigma 50mm ART option.

cheers, guys.
 
Messages
22,231
Name
Phil
Edit My Images
No
#21
Thank you for all the inputs, and particularly to Bazza for the trouble he took to stage a comparison between the D810 and the D800.

I can't afford a new camera and lens, so for now I shall investigate the Sigma 50mm ART option.

cheers, guys.
The joy of the internet forum, where a technically inaccurate (to the point of ‘wrong’) answer is what the OP takes heed of.o_O

For clarity, one of the posters above has tested thousands of lenses and cameras professionally (if you’ve been buying magazines for the last 30 years you’ve almost certainly read his reviews), and hes respectfully told you nicely that the side by side test is flawed. :confused:

I’ve never owned a Nikon, but the best bang for buck 50mm has to be the Sigma Art.
 
Messages
2,753
Name
Phil aka Phiggys
Edit My Images
No
#22
I have had at some time or other had most but not all 50mm of various speeds for Pentax Canon Olympus Minolta Nikon and even m42
and price doesn't always bring the best quality.
Some perform wide open better that others that can cost 3 0r 4 times as much.
I remember a good few years back when amateur photographer where they tested a vast number of 50mm primes from all manufacturers the final conclusion was in the opinion of the tester that the Nikon AF -N 50mm f1.8 was the pick of them.Included were Leitz Contax Zeiss Planer and many others.
But we have had many new 50mm lens come along since.
Especially from Sigma who first had the HSM 50mm f1.4 and now have the art version I have the first version on my Canon FF but i haven't tried the Art version.
I do know the following company link make some very desirable and well respected lenses.
https://voigtlaender.com

Final word if you want a truly stunning piece of underrated glass the Nikon AFD 60mm f2.8 is stunning and can be picked up at a remarkable bargain price.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
Neilmack
Messages
232
Edit My Images
No
#24
The joy of the internet forum, where a technically inaccurate (to the point of ‘wrong’) answer is what the OP takes heed of.o_O

For clarity, one of the posters above has tested thousands of lenses and cameras professionally (if you’ve been buying magazines for the last 30 years you’ve almost certainly read his reviews), and hes respectfully told you nicely that the side by side test is flawed. :confused:

I’ve never owned a Nikon, but the best bang for buck 50mm has to be the Sigma Art.
The joy of the internet forum, where someone who evidently can't be bothered to read what is said, nonetheless offers an opinion.
I thanked him for the trouble he took.
That's good manners, something you might ponder upon.
 
Messages
18,918
Name
Alan
Edit My Images
No
#28
I assume those are manual lenses and if so, I love my manual lenses but manual focusing with a DSLR just isn't for me. IMO if you want to manually focus a CSC is a much better tool. If using a DSLR I'd choose AF for everything but macro and hyperfocal shooting.

Good luck if you go the manual route but I just thought it was worth saying that the possible difficulty of focusing with a DSLR might take a bit of joy out of the experience. YMMV.
 
Last edited:
Messages
1,098
Edit My Images
No
#29
I had wondered about that, but is a Summicron-R as formidable a lens as the Summicron-M?
Perhaps worth investigating.
I can't speak from personal experience (I have an old 50 Summilux M, and my only Summicron is a 35 ASPH), but arch Leica lens geek Erwin Puts says in his 'Compendium' that the final R version is very similar to the contemporary M, with the same glass types and a very similar design, and has comparable performance.
 
Last edited:
Messages
1,344
Name
Andy
Edit My Images
Yes
#30
Interesting thread, I’ve been meaning to swap my 1.8D for a while but not sure what to. I was thinking the 1.4G but it doesn’t get a lot of love on here, then again I’ve also read people that weren’t blown away by the 24-70 but I love mine so maybe I’ll love the 1.4G too. I know the art is a contender, I have the 35 and like it but the AF speed always seems a little sluggish with fast moving subjects (my daughter!) AF speed may be more important to me than all out sharpness so I think me and the OP may have different needs but still nice to see some thoughts from everyone :)
 
Messages
1,098
Edit My Images
No
#31
I have the old 1.4 D, which has pretty quick AF, reportedly faster than the AF-S G version. It's also small and light and performs very well, though you get angular out of focus highlights from the heptagonal aperture (except at the widest couple of stops).
 
OP
OP
Neilmack
Messages
232
Edit My Images
No
#32
I have the old 1.4 D, which has pretty quick AF, reportedly faster than the AF-S G version. It's also small and light and performs very well, though you get angular out of focus highlights from the heptagonal aperture (except at the widest couple of stops).
What's it like between f1.4 and f2.8? Years ago I had an AIS f1.4 which was distinctly disappointing when used wide open - which I had always thought the point of paying a premium for a 'fast' lens.
 
Messages
1,098
Edit My Images
No
#33
I haven't used the AIS, but from what I've read it's a very similar design to the AF-D, so I expect you'd be disappointed with it wide open. The AF-D looks a bit soft to me at f/1.4, but is already better at f/2 - I have f/2 environmental portraits I really like, certainly not clinically sharp but that wasn't what I was after. It'll be sharper again at f/2.8, but by then I think the heptagons start to appear. I've just looked at a photo I shot at f/2.2 and the OOF highlights are not yet angular - perhaps the optimum wide aperture for this lens? The value of the fast lens premium is always debatable (and of course you really have to nail the focus at f/1.4 as DOF is so narrow at moderate distances, which limits its usefulness). I suppose the counter-argument is that the faster lens will generally be better than the slower at the maximum aperture of the slower lens, and there are some situations where you need the faster lens just to get an acceptable shot.
 
Top