Nikon 58mm 1.4G Review!

For a while now, the 50mm 1.8G lens  had been my go-to portrait lens. I loved it for its size (not intimidating to subjects), AF speed (for the price), close focus (for intimate portraits), and most importantly, its rendering of people. When Nikon announced the 58mm 1.4G lens, I immediately took notice, as I had been waiting for a 50mm that afforded more subject isolation, and this lens seemed poised to fill that need. Building on the design of the famed Nikkor-Noct. 58mm 1.2 lens, which was optimized for night shooting, the 58mm 1.4G brings a bunch of modern updates, from the AF-S motor, to Nano coating. 

After eying this lens for a while after its release, I was fortunate enough to try out a copy at my friend Daven's camera store, Pro Photo Supply, in Oregon, and within a few minutes of shooting it, I was sold, and ordered it as soon as I flew home to Hawaii. That was 3 months ago. Since then, this lens has become a permanent addition to my camera bag. I will begin this review by saying this: the 58mm 1.4G isn't the sharpest prime or the fastest focusing out there, but it is absolutely remarkable in how it produces a 3D look to its images, particularly in portraits. For this reason, it has replaced my 50mm 1.8G as my primary portrait lens. 

Nikon 58mm 1.4G with lens hood attached

The bayonet hood allows the lens to stand on its front end. The hood clicks into place like the other Nikon primes, and unlike the Nikon 85mm 1.4G, it comes off fairly easily. 

Nikon 85mm 1.4G on the left, Nikon 58mm 1.4G on the right. Although the lenses take different filter sizes (85mm takes 77 while the 58mm takes 72), both are similar in size and shape. Click here for my full review on the Nikon 85mm 1.4G

Nikon 50mm 1.8G on the left, Nikon 58mm 1.4G on the right. Click here for my full review on the Nikon 50mm 1.8G

Build Quality
This lens follows the same polycarbonate exterior design as Nikon's other high-end primes, although it is quite lighter overall (doesn't feel like a $1700 lens). The focus ring is nice and smooth, albeit a bit more resistance than I'd like. The M/A-M switch allows for manual focus override during AF. 
 
The lens has a rear rubber gasket to protect against dust and moisture. 


Nano Coating
Nikon's special Nano coating works remarkably well in holding color and contrast against backlit situations, especially when the sunflare is in the frame. Below are some examples:

*Note: just a heads up, most of my sample images will be from my model shoots (slightly NSFW), since this is what I primarily use this lens for, apart from the getting ready shots for my weddings. All images shot between f1.8 and f2






Sharpness
This lens is decently sharp wide open, but this isn't the strength of the lens. From what I read online, Nikon's engineers sacrificed some of the sharpness to allow for smoother bokeh transitions, which is really the main draw of this lens. Below is a 100% crop of an image shot wide open. 

Bokeh
The 58mm 1.4G features a 9-bladed aperture that produces very soft and smooth bokeh with wonderful transitions. The best way to describe the bokeh rendering is to picture the isolation of the Nikon 85mm 1.4G, but at a 50mm compression & perspective. It's a killer combination for portraits, as it takes the best qualities of both worlds and merges them together. Below are examples for your bokeh viewing pleasure :)

*Note: as you can see in the above image, the front element is deeply recessed into the lens, which provides a degree of protection in the absence of a filter, although I personally keep a UV filter on my copy.





AF Speed & Accuracy
My first copy backfocused badly (my D4 & D700 couldn't correct it with AF fine tune), so I promptly returned it (thank you Amazon for their killer return policy!) My second copy was night and day better, and has been with me since then.

AF speed is a little slower than the Nikon 85mm 1.4G. Most of my shoots with the 58mm have been static with minimal tracking, so I'm not too sure about the accuracy during tracking. However, it's quick enough to track Kelly jumping rope during our lifestyle shoot!

I will say that using this lens wide open can be incredibly difficult esp. in backlit conditions, since its depth of field is even narrower than lenses like the Nikon 50mm 1.2 AI-S or Canon 50mm 1.2, due to its higher focal length. I normally shoot the lens between f1.8 and f2, to make sure I nail the focus. 
Close Focus & Portrait Rendition
While this lens only close focuses down to 1.9 ft (instead of 1.5 ft like Nikon's other 50mm renditions), it gives a very unique look, especially at that range, with a ridiculously shallow DOF. The 58mm focal length also reduces the distortion that is typically found in a 50mm lens, which helps quite a bit for close, intimate portraits.





Comparisons to Existing 50mm
I've owned a bunch of 50mm lenses in the past, so here's my take on how the 58mm fits in with them:
*Note: #1 means the best in each category (in my experience with the 50mm copies I had)

AF Speed:
1. Sigma 50mm 1.4 (pre-Art series)
2. Nikon 50mm 1.8D

3. Nikon 50mm 1.8G
4. Nikon 58m 1.4G
5. Nikon 50mm 1.2 AI-S (N/A)

Build Quality:
1. Nikon 50mm 1.2 AI-S
2. Sigma 50mm 1.4
3. Nikon 58mm 1.4G
4. Nikon 50mm 1.8G
5. Nikon 50mm 1.8D

Bokeh:
1. Nikon 58mm 1.4G
2. Sigma 50mm 1.4
3. Nikon 50mm 1.2AI-S
4. Nikon 50mm 1.8G
5. Nikon 50mm 1.8D

Sharpness (wide open):
1. Nikon 50mm 1.8G
2. Nikon 58mm 1.4G
3. Nikon 50mm 1.8D
4. Sigma 50mm 1.4
5. Nikon 50mm 1.2 AI-S

Color Rendition (for portraits):
1. Nikon 58mm 1.4G
2. Nikon 50mm 1.8G
3. Nikon 50mm 1.8D
4. Nikon 50mm 1.2 AI-S
5. Sigma 50mm 1.4






Summary

Pros:
+
A 3D look produced by a crazy shallow DOF and smooth bokeh that stands alone in Nikon's current lineup. This was the main reason why I got this lens.
+ decently sharp wide open.
+ Nano coating does a superb job with controlling flare and contrast in backlit situations
+ Weather sealed
+ Excellent color rendition, especially with skin tones
+ AF speed keeps up with my other Nikon primes (although slow compared to previous 50mm lenses that I owned)

Cons
-
For the $1700 price tag, build quality could be a little better (lens feels more like the 85mm 1.8G than the 1.4G). While the lens balances fine on my D700, it feels awkward on the D4, since it is quite light (13.5 oz)
- close focus distance is 1.9 feet vs 1.5 ft with Nikon's other 50mm lenses
- 72mm filter is slightly inconvenient, since most of my lenses use 77mm filters

-shooting this lens wide open can be particularly difficult with the AF and very thin DOF, especially under backlit conditions. 

I'm going to say this upfront...the 58mm 1.4G is a specialty lens. Everything about it is optimized for taking portraits with wonderful bokeh and DOF. It's not the sharpest, or the fastest 50mm, but it sure as heck produces a look that no other lens can match. At $1700, this lens really makes you take a long, hard look before getting it (you can get around eight 50mm 1.8G lenses for the same price). The 58mm 1.4G has also forced me to take my time shooting, as the DOF is so incredibly narrow that I find myself frequently checking my LCD screen to make sure I nailed the focus, even at f1.8 and f2.

Three months and several thousand images later, this lens continues to amaze me with what it is capable of producing. It comes with me to every model shoot and wedding, and I'm slowly beginning to use it as a walkaround lens for local events. Below are links to shoots that I used the 58mm 1.4G lens for the majority of the time.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment below with any questions you have!

Model shoot with Kaitlin
Model shoot with Lauren
Model shoot with Kelly
Model shoot with Chelsey
Pow! Wow! Hawaii 2014 Event



**Update 12/4/14:
This lens continues to blow my mind. The look it presents is unmatched, and the bokeh continues to surprise me. Given the difficulty of this lens to constantly nail tack sharp images, I've come to accept that this is part of the imperfections of this lens, and it's taught to me to look past of how sharp an image is, and rather the importance of the moment being captured, and the overall feel of it. Below are more shoots (some NSFW) where the 58mm was primarily used. 

Model shoot with Kimi
Model shoot with Chelsey
Model shoot with Rosalyn 
Musician shoot with Ashley
Model shoot with Miki
Model shoot with Sharyne
Model shoot with Kristy
Model shoot with Laura
Model shoot with Marissa
Model shoot with Vermont
Model shoot with Alexis
Model shoot with Sharyne
Model shoot with Jessica Part I
Model shoot with Jessica Part II
Model shoot with Miki Part I
Model shoot with Miki Part II
Model shoot with Natasha




4 comments :

  1. what do you think about 85mm 1.4g and 58mm for portrait ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Both lenses are my top picks for portrait lenses from Nikon...the 85mm offers a little more reach and working distance, while the 58mm gives a more intimate and closer feel...just depends on your style of shooting :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love the fact that you rated this lens high for color rendition and bookeh. Honestly, these are the characteristics I mostly love in lenses.
    I have had Sigma lenses and they are awesome as well. For products I always use a Sigma. For weddings I may buy this bad boy!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Otto, sorry for the very late response! I can say that 7 months later, this lens remains a staple in my wedding bag, and I absolutely love it for its color rendition (esp. with portraits) and bokeh. If you have the funds, definitely go for it! :)

    ReplyDelete

 

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