Lens Review – Nikon 50mm f1.2

Manual focus. What kind of freaks still use manual focus lenses? I suppose people with un-ironic hipster film cameras?


The Nikon 50mm f1.2 is one of my top 5 all time lenses.

The glass is massive, and flawless. It is fat, feels like a suit of armour in your hand – no plastic, just metal. The manual focus grip is not a plastic textured ring, but a big, sticky chunk of rubber.

Each click of the aperture ring is satisfyingly precise. I wish modern Nikon lenses still had them. It is so much easier changing aperture using a ring than a button.

The 50mm is a great focal length for most things. I prefer it to 35mm – but I tend to like longer focal lengths as a rule.

Short Depth of Field. I missed the focus point here, but the shot actually came out better that way, I think.

Short Depth of Field. I missed the focus point here, but the shot actually came out better that way, I think.

The lens is opens right out to f1.2. The focus plane at this aperture is probably an eyelash, so it does not always work out – but focus is over-rated anyway sometimes… The wide aperture is just fantastic for low light conditions. Just be careful with your focus point.

The most amazing part about this lens is that you can still buy them new – yes, manual focus, aperture ring etc – and Nikon still supply them new. There is nothing quite like the feel of a classic camera or lens that is from the film era if you can

pick one up new. Some years ago I purchased a Mamiya 7II (yes, you can still get them new in box) just so I could experience the joy of opening up a brand new medium format camera. An experience that is going to become quite rare – Holga cameras notwithstanding.

I bought my 50mm several years ago to add to my classic “new” lens collection to prepare for the time when Nikon no longer provide lenses with aperture rings at all. It came in a box covered with slightly retro graphics from the golden age of flim. They designed the box when they started production in 1981 – and decided not to mess with it.

It is one of my overall top two favourite lenses for film, along with the Nikon 135mm F2 DC.



If you have manual focus Nikons sitting at home like my minty F3, the 50mm f1.2 is a perfect match for street photography, or general manual focus action.

Don’t bother putting it on a DSLR. What’s the point? Make the most of the 999 point AF etc. Save this for when you want to experience loading up film, thumbing the film advance lever, and not knowing what you have until the developing is complete and the scanning is done!

More info here.

You can find the lens on ebay here.

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