The Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 is a special lens made for night-time photography. The "special" part comes from an aspherical glass element to combat sagittal coma flare* and spherical aberration which is a common problem with fast normal lenses. The normal way to fight this is to stop down the lens. Since the Noct-Nikkor was corrected for sagittal coma flare and spherical aberration it is possible to shoot with a much wider aperture and hand-held shooting is possible with very little visible distortions to the image corners. The Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 was manufactured in a pretty small quantity, the production started in the late 70's and in total less then 12.000 lenses was made before they discontinued the lens in 1997. The Noct-Nikkor reviewed here was the last type to be made, the AI-S version. The AI-S version has 9 aperture blades compared to 7 blades on the AI version.
* Basically what this is, is a distortion of the outer edges of the image preventing round points of light to be round, instead they look blurred/distorted.
||7 elements in 6 groups. 1 aspherical element
|Minimum focus distance:
||0.5m / 1.7 ft
||HS-7 or HR-2
||Front lens cap
Rear lens cap LF-1
74mm dia. x 63mm long
||9 straight blades
- DOF/IR markings. As usual with older optics Depth Of Field and Infrared markings are provided.
- Sagittal coma flare and spherical aberration correction. Far better then any other normal lens I've seen, although perfect results are only achieved around f/2.8.
- Wide open performance.
- Build quality.
- Price. Selling for a ridiculous second hand price of $3000 + USD, I've seen this lens for sale on ebay for as much as $ 7000 USD.
- CA visible un till f/2.8. Rather disappointing if you consider the price of the lens
The Noct-Nikkor definitely has the best sagittal coma control I've seen so far in any "normal" lens I've tested. However perfect results are only achieved @ f/2.8. The same result on f/2.8 can be seen on the Nikkor 50 1.2. Wide open the Noct Nikkor definitely performs better for night time photography, but the price difference is insane. The amount of CA was really disappointing, which is visible until f/2.8 and that's with the Nikon D3. The Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 actually perform better then the Noct-Nikkor does when it comes to CA.
Sharp pictures can be taken wide open. Focusing correctly is crucial tough.
On the Nikon D3 the Noct showed increased sharpness all the way to f/16 on close focus. On infinity, increased sharpness could be seen un till f/8, ending up with usable sharpness at f/16. The Noct-Nikkor is a great example that MTF testing can't always be trusted . On an MTF basis this is a really bad lens, however in real photographic conditions this lens is really good.
Unfortunately Nikon discontinued this lens in 1997 which has caused this lens to reach an astronomical second hand price of usually $3000 + USD. In general the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 is equally sharp at apertures from f/1.2 - f/4 the downside of the 50mm f/1.2 is that it has more light falloff .
The Noct-Nikkor does hot-spot on IR, small traces can be seen @ f/8, not really a problem un till f/11 tough.
Whether or not this lens is worth it's money to you, really depends on the shooting you do. If you are addicted to night-time shooting and you need the best corner performance available wide open in a "normal" lens, the Noct-Nikkor is the lens for you. On the other hand if all you want is a fast lens to use in available light shooting, or using a tri-pod for night shooting, I'd go with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S instead.
Performance Night time photography
Performance "normal" shooting
Purchasing items through these links helps me adding more content to this website. The links on the prices takes you to B&H's website, which is my recommended store to get equipment from. I've used B&H personally since 2005, and I get all my equipment from them these days(including the lenses used for these reviews). Thanks for your support, Fredrik.
Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL-II Price: $379.99 USD
Nikon MF Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S. From: $679.95 USD
Nikon MF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI-S From: $459.95 USD
Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D From: $289.95 USD
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G From: $429.95 USD
Zeiss MF 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 Planar T* Price: $725.00 USD
Sigma AF 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Price: $499.00 USD
For an equivalent normal lens on a DX camera:
Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZF Distagon T* Price: $826.00 USD
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX Price From: $194.95 USD
Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f/2.0D From: $319.95 USD
Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 AI-S From $999.95 USD
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Price: $439.00 USD
Prices are subject to change. Listed prices is from May 8, 2010
Images have been imported to photoshop CS3 through Capture NX 2 thus leaving the original image settings as shot, I. E white balance, sharpening, etc .etc. Full resolution sample images are in RGB color mode. Check out my copyright page for information about usage of these images.