Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lens Comparison: Nikon Nikkor 55mm f1.2 Non-AI Versus 50mm f1.2 AIS

Not long ago, I purchased a near-mint Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AIS lens from my friend. This super-speed manual focus lens is still made by Nikon, and is simply beautiful. I've posted a few shots from it. (Click Here) to see some photos I made with it in the darkness, during a fire.
Well, for no reason other than curiosity, I just bought a much older (1970s vintage) Nikkor 55mm f1.2 Pre-AI lens. With the older lens at about half the cost of the AIS lens, I was very interested to see how the two compare. So, I mounted the 55mm lens on my Nikon Df, set the iso to 160, and began to shoot from a tripod. I shot at f1.2, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, and 8. You can click on any of the following images to see them full size on flickr.
Here's what the whole scene looked like (top row: 55mm f1.2 Non-AI, bottom row: 50mm f1.2 AIS):
(Click Here) to go to the full flickr set, where you can get a much better idea of how these lenses compare. Be sure to look at how the vignetting decreases on both lenses as I stop down, look at the focus points (the flowers), out of focus areas (like the lemon painting on the wall at right), and how out of focus highlights are rendered. Here are a couple of selected comparisions, at f1.2 and f4:
f1.2, 55mm Non-AI on Top, 50mm AIS on Bottom
f4, 55mm Non-AI on Top, 50mm AIS on Bottom
I need to look at these more closely, but immediately conclude that the sharpness doesn't differ much at all. I also see that the 55mm lens seems to let less light in at the same f-stop as the 50mm lens. This could be do to the more modern coatings on the 50mm AIS lens.
If you're interested in these super-fast Nikkor lenses and their history, (Click Here) to read more on Nikon's website. Great information!
I plan to enjoy both of these lenses. The non-AI lens will be fun to put on a matching-age Nikon F2 and shoot some film with.