• Dave Raaum

Nikon D810 Nifty 50 (Old School)

I have a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 manual focus lens that I have been using for years with my Nikon manual focus cameras. And, over the years, those cameras included the Nikon FM2N (long gone) the Nikon FM2T (titanium, also long gone, but I wish it wasn't), the Nikon FM3 (gone, sadly) and my current FM2 (not the N version), which is a real treat to focus because of the way they did the prism screen. Nikon still manufactures the 50 1.2 and you can buy it for around $600 new or $450 used; that's a lot of money for a manual focus lens, but the low light capability and the bokeh is something special. I am probably not going to use it for sport pictures since it's much slower to focus. What I hadn't done until late yesterday afternoon was attach the old "nifty 50" to my Nikon D810 and see what happens.

Sharp focus on the flag, soft background at f1.2

The first picture was shot at f1.2 ISO 64 and the depth of field really emphasizes the flag, everything else, foreground and background, is very soft and just what you want when shooting with that aperture. This would look better and probably make the point better if it was focused on the eyes of an attractive woman, but I was working with the flag. Sorry...

The next shot is the same scene but with the aperture set to f4. The flag is still in focus but the depth of field is such that you can make out what's in the background.

Nikon D810 and manual focus 50mm f/1.2 at f4

So the settings on the camera are aperture priority, ISO 64 (no auto ISO for these tests) and I am adjusting the shutter speed to light the image properly. The second picture is a tad underexposed and I could adjust while taking the picture or in post using the exposure (or shadow) slider in Lightroom, but for now I like it the way it is.

This last shot was with a small whisk broom leaning up against the clay pot, and I'm adding it here because it really shows off the sharpness that can be achieved with this lens at any setting above f2. I haven't compared it to my Zeiss 50 manual focus and I'll save that test for another day. The Zeiss lens is about twice as heavy as the Nikon lens so unless the differences are readily seen, I would prefer to carry the Nikon 50. This was shot at f5.6 to really emphasize the sharpness and an expanded depth of field. This would be a great aperture for a group shot when you've got four or five people at slightly different distances from the camera.

Sorry if this is boring and I won't do it very often, but I had just had to try my old 50 with the modern 36MP Nikon D810. I like it! I will put the Zeiss 50 through the same process in the next week or so. Till then, happy shooting.

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