More Digital with Vintage Lenses: NIKKOR-S 50mm f/1.4

I’ve always liked NIKKOR lenses – and especially their vintage lenses from the 50’s and 60’s. So, I was thinking, I wonder how they compare to some of the vintage Russian glass I’ve been experimenting with?

In my mind, at least, NIKKOR lenses are high quality, professional grade glass. Not the same as some of the Russian copies of German glass (which are not always the highest quality). I think the quality is as good as the German originals, but they’re different. My first impressions are that they tried to stay away from trying to enhance the bokeh like the German lenses did. The backgrounds with my NIKKOR-S wide open are smoother, and more subtle. They don’t tend to stand out as much as the German/Russian glass. I like that the SLR lenses generally allow closer focusing. Rangefinder lenses, as a general rule, didn’t focus as close – but with rangefinder cameras, close up and macro work were not really targeted. Rangefinders had parallax issues when trying to focus too close – one of the issues that SLRs resolved.

So here’s a few shots from around town, and the yard, showing the look of images shot with the NIKKOR-S 50mm f/1.4 – most shot wide open. A few shot at f/2 or f/2.8 to show the change in bokeh.

In general, I think it works well. The images are sharp (as sharp as possible when focusing in manual mode) and clear – for the most part.

You can see in a few, the bokeh appears quite pleasant, but in others it’s nothing special. I feel like Nikon’s goal when designing this lens was to keep the bokeh more tame and not too distracting. To not take your eye away from the subject. I suppose there are varying thoughts on this – but the images are quite nice – in a plane sense. I actually think the background looks nicer in the couple images shot at f/2 or f/2.8 instead of wide open. The circles in the background are a little smaller, and maybe more defined. I think nicer. But, all this is preference, and I’m just experimenting and sharing. Maybe someday I’ll find a nice vintage German lens (not a Russian copy) to experiment with – and I’ll see how good the Russian copies are (or aren’t).

Thanks for taking a look at my experiments, and feel free to share your comments.